TURNBULL SAILS TO NEXT TEMPEST

With parliament returning for its final sitting week of the year, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is seeking to clear two of the year’s biggest political controversies from the decks as he sails towards whatever new shitstorm Canberra will deliver in 2018.

MPs in both houses will have their citizenship declarations made public this week as Turnbull tries to take the upper hand in the tussle over section 44. Having had his deputy Barnaby Joyce returned by the voters of New England with a crushing victory at the weekend (albeit in a weak field), Turnbull will now turn the heat on Labor with ministers able to refer those opposite to the High Court.

Parliament is also expected to pass Senator Dean Smith’s cross-party marriage equality bill this week. No points for guessing who in the lower house is seeking to propose further religious exemptions; Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison are among those expected to chance their arm. With a group of Anglican bishops breaking ranks to support the Smith bill and Labor solidly backing the legislation as is, those amendments will likely come to nought.

You wouldn’t exactly call it going out on a high, but a pair of new polls at least mean Turnbull will make it to Christmas as PM. In The Australian ($), a fresh Newspoll has the Coalition up from its last result, though still sitting at an election-losing 47-53 disadvantage to Labor. That’s 24 consecutive Newspolls the Coalition has lost under Turnbull. At least his position as preferred PM over Bill Shorten has improved slightly.

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The good folk at Fairfax have also been doing some counting, with a joint Ipsos poll finding 71% of Australians think a prime minster should serve their entire term. That number jumps to 80% among Coalition voters, who also nominate Turnbull as their preferred leader. The general electorate does not agree: Julie Bishop is ranked as the preferred Liberal leader overall.

SHORTEN HUANG OUT TO DRY

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten took a meeting at the home of controversial political donor Huang Xiangmo in 2016 after the Labor party was warned by ASIO about Huang’s alleged ties to the Chinese Communist Party. It is not clear if Shorten was aware of the warning, given to the ALP’s then-national secretary George Wright at a meeting with ASIO in 2015.

The government has continued to pursue Labor Senator Sam Dastyari over his own meeting with Huang, with Malcolm Turnbull telling reporters on the weekend they should not assume he was not under investigation. Former Office of National Assessments head Ross Babbage has now weighed in ($), telling The Australian Financial Review that Dastyari may have been targeted as an “agent of influence”, i.e. a person targeted by China as part of a campaign of influence and relationship-building.

With the Turnbull government reportedly set to introduce a range of new restrictions on lobbying, donations, and spying this week, some of the heat from the Huang affair may blow back onto the government. The Daily Telegraph reports ($) that Huang’s close adviser Tim Xu hit the hustings in Bennelong this week in support of Liberal candidate John Alexander.

WOMBAT OUT OF HELL

In a world exclusive ($), The Australian reports an “angry combat wombat that terrorised several people” in Tasmania has been caught and killed. The unnamed marsupial attacked several members of the public by biting and scratching.

After several reports to the Environment Department and some ruined socks and trousers, the raging beast was sadly put down.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Fair Work plays key role in gender pay gap

NSW hospitals accept $1.3 million in donations tied to poker machine increases

Taxman targets specific suburbs in cash-only business blitz ($)

WHAT’S ON TODAY 

Canberra: Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce is expected to take part in a party room meeting after winning the New England byelection.

Canberra: Parliament sits for its final week before Christmas. Details about the citizenship status of all senators are to be published at midday.

Brisbane: Five Christian protesters who entered the Pine Gap Defence facility near Alice Springs to be sentenced.

Melbourne: Far-right groups and anti-fascists plan to rally outside a Milo Yiannopoulos event.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Fairfax-Ipsos poll buys Malcolm Turnbull some time — Phillip Coorey (Australian Financial Review $): “Tony Abbott rates at only 14 per cent as preferred leader whereas Peter Dutton and Scott Morrison are in low single figures. These are the names most thrown around in conservative echo chambers but the poll shows out there in the real world, they still have a lot of work to do.”

The ‘open secret’ of sexual harassment in the media is staggering. There’s plenty yet to come — Sarah Hanson-Young (The Guardian): “Some of what’s been reported has been an ‘open secret’ for decades. From what I’ve been told, there’s plenty yet to come. I’ve been told directly from women in the industry that these stories are credible, commonplace and even widely known.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF FRIDAY

Turnbull urged to present his head as a ‘Christmas gift’ — Bhakthi Puvanenthiran: “The words of Barilaro’s boss are perhaps the greatest cause for concern for Turnbull. NSW Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a statement this morning that: ‘Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has my full and absolute support.’ Such language would be awfully familiar to former prime minister Julia Gillard, said by powerbroker Mark Arbib in 2011 to have the ‘full support of the party’.”

Milo and his groupies think they’re ‘lions’. Really, they’re UFC fanboys who smell like Dencorub. — Guy Rundle: “It’s all energised by the distinctive mix of triumphalism and ressentiment, the old hard-right double game. We are lions! But somehow held at bay by lesbian feminists/affirmative-action promoted POCs/Jews. How did they break us? The flow to conspiracy is inevitable.”

After failing to find its feet, HuffPost Australia closes — Emily Watkins: “Despite producing some solid reporting, the site failed to make much of a splash in the market over the next two years, either in impact or in audience. Its unique audience was decent — 1.89 million last month — but wasn’t even close to the top 10 news websites. It was well out-ranked by the 10th most-viewed news site last month, the BBC, which had audience of 2.33 million.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

As a Crikey subscriber and someone who began working as a journalist in 1957, I am passionate about the importance of independent media like Crikey. I met a lot of Australians from many walks of life during my career and did my best to share their stories honestly and fairly with their fellow citizens.

And I never forgot how important it is to hold politicians to account. Crikey does that – something that is more important now than ever before in Australia.

Liz
North Stradbroke Island, QLD

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