TERRORIST PLANE PLOT

Airport security will be tightened as Australia’s security agencies react to a series of raids on homes in Surry Hills, Punchbowl, Wiley Park and Lakemba in Sydney. Four men have been detained under terrorism provisions in the raids, with reports the four are two fathers and two sons, linked by marriage, all Lebanese-Australian. The Daily Telegraph reports the plot was to use a homemade bomb disguised as a kitchen mincer to blow up an airplane bound for the Middle East. Fairfax is also reporting the bomb story, saying a homemade bomb was allegedly found in the Surry Hills residence. “We have taken this threat very seriously,” Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin said on Sunday. “You should infer we think this was credible and there was an intention and quite possibly a capability as well.” According to The Australian, the plot was to use a “non-traditional” device to release poisoned gas in the plane, killing everyone on board. 

DASTYARI CALLS FOR END TO POLITICAL DONATIONS

Labor Senator Sam Dastyari has called for a complete ban on political donations in Australia, while The Age has also revealed that the Labor Party received donations from the director of a tobacco company. The report says:

Peter Chen, the sole Australian director of Sydney tobacco company ATA International, donated to the NSW and federal Labor parties via another of his companies, Wei Wah, which retails the cheap Chinese brand cigarettes ATA imports.”

Chen donated $200,000 to the NSW branch of the ALP in 2011, when Dastyari was state secretary, and $200,000 to the federal branch in 2013. The ALP has banned taking donations from tobacco companies since 2004.

The Fairfax scoop is well timed — as part of the publicity push for tonight’s episode of Australian Story, which chronicles the life of Dastyari, who lost his place on Labor’s frontbench over a donations scandal last year. The senator says his experience with political donations is the reason for the call to ban them completely.

“I come at this from someone who wasn’t just part of the arms race … I was one of the weapon suppliers in this arms race … and responsible for fundraising across the party. It needs to come to an end, and the time for that is now,” he says on the program.

A MATTER OF TRUST

Labor has promised to tax distributions from family trust at a rate of at least 30% in order to try to address inequality. “Our system should not be subsidising those who are already wealthy — and our budget cannot afford to,” Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told the NSW Labor conference yesterday. Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen says the change will only affect 2% of taxpayers and 315,000 trusts, emphasising that farmers and charities would be exempt. Treasurer Scott Morrison, however, says Labor’s plan would in fact hurt farmers. “Now they’re coming after small businesses trusts, they’re coming after farmers’ trusts,” he told ABC radio. Shorten says the change would raise $17.2 billion over the next 10 years, but Morrison says Labor is planning to “put the white flag up on growth”.

MARRIAGE EQUALITY PUSH

The push for marriage equality from within the Liberal Party is cracking along, with Queensland MP Trevor Evans calling for the government to give up the plan to hold a plebiscite and resolve the issue by parliamentary vote. On the front page of The Australian, the first-term MP, who holds the marginal seat of Brisbane, says there are plans afoot to pass legislation. “I think the quickest and most likely course now is to allow politicians to have a free vote … and I support that.”

Fellow Liberal Dean Smith is also pushing for the Liberal Party to pass marriage equality through a parliamentary vote, and sooner rather than later. He has written in both the Oz and The Australian Financial Review today on the topic. In the Oz, he writes that marriage equality passed by Liberals would protect religious concerns:

“Clinging to a plebiscite that has no prospect of passing through parliament will simply allow a future Labor-Greens government to usher in changes to the Marriage Act on its own terms — binding its parliamentarians to legislation that may contain insufficient protections for religious views about marriage.”

And in the AFR he writes:

“The government should not feel obligated to commit political suicide by handing its opponents a massive political cudgel by allowing the question of marriage equality to remain unresolved and fester over the next two years.

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne: The coroner’s report into the police shooting of 18-year-old Numan Haider at Endeavour Hills police station in September 2014 will be handed down today.

Perth: Federal cabinet will meet in the West. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is expected to be in Western Australia for the next four days.

Sydney: Former Westpac CEO Gail Kelly will speak about her memoir Live Lead Learn.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Still a faceless man, but nobody calls Bill Shorten a lapdog anymore — Peter Hartcher (The Age): “[Shorten] has, without fanfare, become the longest serving Labor leader since Kim Beazley. Shorten has held the post for three years and nine months now, longer than Rudd, Gillard, Mark Latham or Simon Crean.”

Liberals and tradition of conscience is a marriage made in heaven — Dean Smith (The Australian $): “Clinging to a plebiscite that has no prospect of passing through parliament will simply allow a future Labor-Greens government to usher in changes to the Marriage Act on its own terms — binding its parliamentarians to legislation that may contain insufficient protections for religious views about marriage. “

No stopping shift from Israel — Troy Bramston (The Australian $): “It is a significant defeat for Bill Shorten, his belligerent Victorian right faction and the aggressive Israel lobby, who applied immense pressure on Labor MPs and party officials in recent weeks.”

THE WORLD

Venezuelans have voted in a special election for a new constitutional assembly that embattled socialist President Nicolas Maduro has vowed will bring an end to the country’s ongoing political strife. At least two people were killed during voting, which was boycotted by major opposition parties, who would prefer to see presidential elections brought forward. — BBC

German police say a shooting in a nightclub that left one person and the gunman dead was not a terrorism incident. The shooting in the city of Konstanz followed a stabbing in Hamburg on Friday, which also led to the death of one victim. That attack was carried out by an Islamist who had mental health problems. — The Guardian

Russia will expel 755 US diplomatic staff in retaliation to a bill passed by the US Congress that places new sanctions on Russia. — Reuters

WHAT WE’RE READING

A Microsoft font really did take Pakistan’s prime minister down (Gizmodo): “Nawaz Sharif will resign his position immediately following a landmark decision by his country’s Supreme Court. Sharif has been under fire since last year, when leaked documents appeared to show his family had hidden wealth in shell companies overseas … investigators revealed that crucial financial documents provided by the Sharifs used Microsoft’s Calibri font but were dated from before that font was publicly released.”

Putin’s media czar was murdered just before meeting feds, officials say (BuzzFeed): “The two FBI agents — as well as a third agent and a serving US intelligence officer — said Lesin was actually bludgeoned to death. None of these officials were directly involved in the government’s investigation, but they said they learned about it from colleagues who were.”

Justine Damond’s murder deserves sympathy and outrage. So does every incident of police violence (The Nation): “We haven’t yet learned of Damond’s mistakes in life or been shown an unflattering photo of her. We don’t know about her expressions of anger or anxiety, grief, or sadness. Instead, most of the articles written about her death highlight her achievements: a yoga teacher, a soon-to-be wife, a motivational speaker, a caring individual.”

Rising tension on Manus Island (The Saturday Paper): “The scene in the prison has become more like a haunted house. Right at this moment there is no one engaging in any kind of activity. The little canteen inside the prison camp has also been practically closed. The only products available to refugees are telephone cards, smokes and some soaps and shampoos.”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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