US ABANDONS UNESCO
The United States will withdraw from the UN’s heritage agency UNESCO, citing the organisation’s “anti-Israeli bias” and troubled financial position. In a statement, the US State Department said the decision had not been taken lightly and that the US would stay on as a non-member observer state.
The news was shortly followed by an announcement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his state would also be splitting from the agency.
UNESCO has angered Israel and the US in recent years by admitting Palestine as a member in 2011 — which provoked the US to cut off funding — and by declaring the West Bank city of Hebron as a Palestinian world heritage site. The agency is pursuing $500 million it says the US owes it.
The US and Israel are also unhappy about the direction of the ongoing election of a new UNESCO director general, with Qatari diplomat Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari leading the race.
Save up to 50% on a year of Crikey
Choose what you pay, from $99.
Aside from its famous cultural heritage program, UNESCO also focuses on education, literacy, and equality for women.
The US has previously split with UNESCO during the presidency of Ronald Reagan, only to return in 2003 under George W. Bush.
The news came as US President Donald Trump signed an executive order undermining the signature healthcare policy of his predecessor Barack Obama by allowing small businesses to buy cheaper, less regulated healthcare plans.
HEALTH INSURANCE CHECK-UP
Private health insurance is set to get its biggest shake-up since the Howard era, with Health Minister Greg Hunt expected to officially unveil the changes today.
Among the expected reforms, private insurers will be able to charge higher excesses in a bid to lower premiums, and will also be allowed to offer discounts to young Australians, who are proving hesitant to take out expensive plans. Those aged 18-29 will be offered premium discounts of 2% per year, capped out at 10%. The discounts will then be phased out once they reach their 40s.
Hospital policies will also be given a rating of gold, silver, bronze, or “bronze basic” to help consumers assess them and the government will lower the cost of prosthetic devices, saving insurance companies an estimated $1 billion over four years.
The package is part of an effort to turn around the private insurance industry in Australia, which faces a vicious cycle of lower numbers of participants and higher costs for those who remain or are considering entering. According to the Australian Prudential Regulation Authroity, the number of Australians with insurance declined in June for the first time in 10 years.
SECTION 44 NO SMOKING GUN
Hearings for the “citizenship seven” have wrapped up in Canberra, with the High Court — which is sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns — acknowledging the need for a rapid decision on the fate of the MPs who have had their eligibility to sit in Parliament called into question.
On the closing day, Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue QC warned the court not to let section 44 of the constitution be used as a “political weapon”, while representatives for One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts argued the court should not distinguish between “natural born” Australians and those born overseas. The legal argument will no doubt he recalled next time One Nation tries to explain its immigration policies.
According to The Australian, the court’s final decision could have a far greater impact on Nick Xenophon’s team than the Coalition. Because Xenophon signed off on the registration of the federal party bearing his name, his eligibility as a senator could cause a problem for the group’s registration.
The news is better for Barnaby Joyce, with Nationals polling indicating he would comfortably win a byelection over rival Tony Windsor should the court rule his election invalid.
READ ALL ABOUT IT
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Brisbane: Fresh from his brush with the High Court, Senator Malcolm Roberts will host a cost of living summit featuring Mark Latham and Ross Cameron.
Sydney: Final day on which Ten shareholders can challenge CBS’ planned takeover of the company.
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE