SOUTH AUSTRALIAN OPPOSITION TO BLOCK BANK LEVY

In news that could potentially spark an early election in the state, South Australia’s Liberal Party has announced it will block Jay Weatherill‘s proposed bank levy. This, combined with the opposition to the bill from members associated with Nick Xenophon and Cory Bernardi, means the measure is unlikely to pass the SA upper house. Despite initial indications the party would support the measure, Opposition Leader Steven Marshall described the tax as “toxic” and the act of a “tired and arrogant government”. Commonwealth chief executive Ian Narev, ANZ boss Shayne Elliott and NAB chief executive Andrew Thorburn have all welcomed the opposition’s move, with Thorburn saying it’s in South Australia’s best interests.

The SA levy was explicitly modeled on the federal government’s controversial $6.2 billion levy on the major banks. The Australian reports that interest rate increases from the banks have already recouped about half the cost of the levy. The major banks deny the rise of 30-35 basis points on ­interest-only borrowers is related to the levy.

ABF HEAD ‘ON LEAVE’

As reported in Crikey yesterday afternoon, the head of the Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg, is “on leave” pending an investigation. The vague nature of the issue and official reluctance to say anything concrete has presented challenges in coverage, with The Age reporting “sources” saying he is on leave “for a matter relating to his personal behaviour, rather than his official duties” while The Australian is more specific and more damning: “Three sources told The Australian the probe was believed to be into allegations about a protocol breach ­surrounding a ­personal relationship”. Both cited his feud with former Immigration Department spokesman Sandi Logan, who initially tweeted about the investigation.

BORAL THREATENS TO SACK WORKFORCE

Buidling materials company Boral has escalated its ongoing fight with the CFMEU, threatening to sack the entire workforce of subsidiary De Martin & Gasparini in New South Wales. The majority of employees have refused to vote up changes to the enterprise agreement covering the plant. The changes would make the agreement compliant with the new building code administered by the Australian Building and Construction Commission — non-compliance could result in the company being blacklisted from all government work.

In a letter to staff on Monday, De Martin & Gasparini general manager Louie Mazzarolo said this could mean the entire workforce would have to be made redundant, while CFMEU national secretary Michael O’Connor said the the new building code was being used as a smokescreen to undermine workers’ conditions.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

The Reserve Bank of Australia will make a decision on interest rates today. Most economists think the bank will keep rates where they are.

Melbourne: The Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission is holding a public examination into possible corruption the South West TAFE, Bendigo Kangan Institute and V/Line

Sydney:  Nine Network journalist Ben McCormack is due back in court facing child pornography charges. The matter was adjourned on May 9 because he was in hospital.

THE COMMENTARIAT

The web belongs to the bad guys and getting it back won’t be easy — Peter Hartcher (Sydney Morning Herald): “According to current and former Australian defence and intelligence chiefs, there is nothing preventing a catastrophic cyber attack on Australia’s economy. Only good luck has protected Australia to date.”

Labor’s Palestinian shift wrong and bad politics, too — Greg Sheridan (The Australian $): “Shorten is also a political realist. If forced to declare some ridiculous recognition of a Palestinian state, he will do so. But he will run a pro-Israel government and a government that will maintain every element of the close friendship and association with Israel that Australian governments have intensified over recent years.”

Tony Abbott’s manifesto on federal power is far from conservative — George Williams (Sydney Morning Herald): “Enhancing government power has been a key plank of Abbott‘s advocacy over many years. His vision is for a federal government that can pursue its policy agenda unfettered by the Senate or other constraints.”

The new class war pits boomers against millennials — Nick Cater (The Australian $): “Most of the 20 Coalition and 14 Labor seats vulnerable to a swing of 4 per cent are overweighted with baby boomers and underweighted with millennials. In five — Braddon and Lyons in Tasmania, Gilmore, Richmond and Robertson in NSW — one in four voters is over 65”

Assisted dying is an option we should all have — Peter Singer (Herald Sun $): “Careful study of the statistics from Oregon indicates the people who make use of the legislation are, compared with the state’s population as a whole, more likely to be white and more likely to have a university degree, while 99 per cent of them have health insurance.”

THE WORLD

French president Emmanuel Macron has promised to cut the number of representatives in the country’s parliament by a third, in a major speech at Versailles. Macron said that if parliament did not pass the proposed changes he would take them to a referendum. The speech was also controversial for its location, delivered to Congress at Versailles after Macron indicated he would skip a Bastille Day interview traditionally granted by the French president. — BBC

Venezuelan opposition groups will hold an unofficial referendum in response to a move by socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who has announced voters will head to the polls to elect a special congress which will change the country’s constitution. Both sides are attempting to end a political conflict that has left 84 people dead since April. Opposition groups want the 2018 presidential elections to be moved forward. — Reuters 

Qatar has responded to a list of demands sent by Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. While the details are not known, Qatari officials have previously said the demands — which include shutting Al Jazeera, discontinuing funding for terrorist groups, and changing the country’s foreign policy — are unworkable. Western leaders are now pushing both sides to resolve the dispute. — The Guardian

WHAT WE’RE READING

When Dad’s the president — a look inside Ivanka Trump’s complicated world (Washington Post): “Moving to Washington has been a master’s course in the zigzagging political process. But there is no rule book for dealing with a president’s discombobulating tendency to overshadow everything she and everyone else in his administration is trying to do. Her response to what she called ‘all the noise’ has been to retreat into a cocoon of carefulness, to put her head down and work.”

The Epic Untold Story of Nike’s (Almost) Perfect Marathon (Wired): “Kipchoge’s anxiety came not from the mere prospect of having to race, which he always welcomes, or from the expectations of Nike, which had spent millions of dollars applying the most advanced technology and sports science to get a marathon runner across the finish line in under two hours. Kipchoge was nervous because he simply didn’t know how his body would react to the stress of running so fast for so long.”

America’s future is Texas (The New Yorker): “The redistricting had a revolutionary effect. Today, the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives includes twenty-five Republicans and eleven Democrats — a far more conservative profile than the political demography of the state. The Austin metropolitan area, the heart of the Texas left, was divvied up into six congressional districts, with city residents a minority in each.”

What’s the greatest risk cities face? (Politico): “In too many cities ‘public’ means shoddy, dirty, dangerous and second-rate. The low quality of, and low expectations for, public services and spaces might not seem like an existential threat to cities, but when people stop believing in the value of public provisions, stop using them and paying for them, cities lose their core function: to be places of opportunity, places of mixing of people, ideas, cultures and habits, which produces more innovation and more mixing — a virtuous cycle”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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