CONGRESS PASSES TAX CUTS

US President Donald Trump has scored his biggest legislative win, with Congress passing major tax cuts overnight.

Republicans used special provisions to avoid a potential filibuster by Democrats in the Senate, which passed the changes by 51 votes to 48. The bill was then sent back to the House for final approval, which has now been granted.

Among the bill’s key provisions are cuts to personal income tax and corporate tax. The latter will plunge from 35% to 21% as of January 1, 2018. Income tax brackets will all start at a higher mark with various levels of relief to rates applied across the brackets.

The new laws will also undermine Barack Obama’s signature healthcare reforms by removing fines for individuals who fail to take out insurance, and allows oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Despite promises from Trump, the bill does not close the lucrative “carried interest” loophole used by private equity and hedge fund managers.

In Australia, the Coalition government has repeatedly pointed to the planned US tax cuts to justify its own ambitions, which have been stalled by the Senate, with Treasury now warning ($) Australia’s GDP could face as much as a 1% hit.

HAYNE DENIES RAPE ALLEGATION

Lawyers representing NRL star Jarryd Hayne have issued a statement saying the footballer “unequivocally and vehemently” denies allegations that he raped a woman in the US in December 2015.

The claims are made in a civil lawsuit lodged in the US. A woman known as Ms V says Hayne brought her back to his house in San Jose when she was heavily intoxicated and then had sex with her. “[Hayne] put his hands on her shoulders and flipped her around … instructed ‘no kissing’ and shortly thereafter she felt extremely sharp pain in her vagina,” the document says.

The case alleges Hayne committed sexual battery and said the woman suffered both physical pain and psychological distress after the incident.

The case had previously been brought to police for potential criminal prosecution but was turned away because of a lack of evidence.

After a spell in the US as an NFL footballer, Hayne returned to Australia to play rugby league and is set to reunite with his former club Parramatta in 2018.

SNOWY HYDRO GETS THE GO

The planned expansion of the Snowy Hydro scheme is technically feasible and would finance itself, according to a report to be released today.

The plan would almost double the scheme’s electricity generating capacity and would cost at least $2 billion, a figure some experts have suggested is wildly underestimated. There are reports the official cost of the development has already been upped to $3 billion.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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WHAT’S ON TODAY 

Adelaide: The South Australian government releases its mid-year budget review.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Shorten hurts Australia by blocking corporate tax reform — Scott Morrison (The Australian $): “On economic policy, Shorten is working for Australia’s compet­ition. He’s helping overseas countries take business, investment, jobs, wages and tax revenue away from Australia.”

Bold and successful experiment comes to premature end with $2.2 billion university funding cut — Andrew Norton (Sydney Morning Herald): “The funding freeze will most affect states with fast-growing populations, because they won’t be able to adjust to increased demand. Victoria will be disadvantaged, as it was under the previous funding scheme.”

    CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY 

    The 2017 Pollie of The Year is Dean Smith — Bernard Keane: “Smith has doggedly pursued marriage equality within his party since his own shift on the issue in the wake of the death of Tori Johnson in the Lindt Cafe siege (he admits he has been a latecomer to the issue when others have pushed for far longer).”

    How media reporting can prompt health scares — Emily Watkins: “In 2013, a widely criticised Catalyst two-part program on the ABC was dedicated to the over-prescription of heart medication statins. Two years later, researchers estimated that 60,000 Australians had stopped taking the drug, which they said could have resulted in between 1522 and 2900 fatal heart attacks.”

    Congratulations, you’re going to Bethlehem! — Guy Rundle: “My wife Mary is the sole human being born without sin, and is with child which, following her impregnation by the creator of the Universe, will be born as both the God himself and his Son who will cause himself to be put to death by the people he created in order to expiate the sins he gave them, causing her to ascend to transitional Godhead status in two world religions. Me, I’m a carpenter. Shelving, mostly. Bit of shop fitting.”

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