ASIO RETURNS

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officers have taken custody of controversial government documents, found by the ABC in a locked filing cabinet, after an agreement was reached between Aunty and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Officials retrieved the files from ABC’s Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane offices late on Thursday after an earlier visit from ASIO, in which the documents had been temporarily placed in safes to secure them before ASIO would later return. ABC director Gaven Morris yesterday emphasised that the initial Canberra and Brisbane operations were not raids.

These events follow news that former prime minister Kevin Rudd will be suing the national broadcaster over their publication of documents relating to the “pink batts” home insulation scheme. Rudd described reports that he ignored warnings on risks to the project as a lie, and said that the document’s reference to “critical risks” were not related to safety but finance and administration.

The documents were found by the ABC in a locked filing cabinet, reportedly sold at an ex-government furniture auction in Canberra, and included reports that: Tony Abbott’s “razor gang” considered denying welfare payments to anyone under 30; Andrew Bolt was consulted on proposed changes to section 18C; former immigration minister Scott Morrison agreed to ask ASIO to slow down asylum seeker security checks; and John Howard‘s government seriously considered removing the right to remain silent.

FEENEY QUITS, LABOR SPLITS

Now-former MP David Feeney’s decision to quit parliament yesterday has both opened the way for Australian Council of Trade Unions boss Ged Kearney to stand for the seat of Batman, and exposed factional hostilities in the Labor party.

Feeney announced his resignation yesterday after he was found to be the ninth politician to fall victim to Australia’s citizenship fiasco, sparking a byelection for the marginal Melbourne seat. Reports from The Australian and the ABC indicate that Opposition Leader Bill Shorten will nominate Kearney, a nurse of 20 years and self-described proud union “boss”, for preselection.

However, The Australian also reports that Feeney’s resignation and Labor’s impending fight with the Greens over Batman has contributed to a worsening factional row for Shorten. Along with his Labor Right faction, the Opposition Leader is already moving to block the re-appointment of Labor frontbencher and national president Mark Butler, at the ALP’s July national conference in July, following Butler’s pointed speech on internal reform.

But the loss of key ally Feeney and the looming threat of four byelections this year have reportedly led to escalating factional hostilities. Senior federal Labor Left MP Andrew Giles took the upcoming byelection as an opportunity to attack the party for turning its back on socially progressive ideals and Gough Whitlam’s legacy, while Shorten-rival Anthony Albanese has also recently supported Butler’s reforms. 

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“Frankly, the state governments should be putting out publicly the names of people that they’re believing they should appoint to the magistrates court and let there be public reflection on that.”

— Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton, chatting with good mate Ray Hadley, voices the same respect for the rule of law and separations of power you’d expect from the man responsible for offshore gulags, arbitrary and punitive visa changes, and confected gang crises.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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Craig McLachlan files defamation proceedings against Fairfax Media and ABC

China reacts to ASIO claims of ‘extreme threat’ with a joke

City of Melbourne staff report ‘culture of fear’ in council survey

Coal industry campaign dwarfs political spending by green groups

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Adelaide: SA political leaders Jay Weatherill, Steven Marshall and Nick Xenophon to take part in pre-election leaders’ debate at SA Press Club.

Canberra: Closing date for submissions to the child sexual abuse redress scheme Senate committee inquiry. Due to report on March 13.

Canberra: Kristina Keneally is set to be endorsed by the ALP to replace Sam Dastyari.

Melbourne: Round one of the AFL Women’s second year starts with Carlton vs Collingwood.

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Inside the (notably low) numbers of today’s political donations dump — Bernard Keane: “The data, released under the Commonwealth’s antiquated donation disclosure laws, shows just 205 donors contributed to political parties in 2016-17 — the lowest number since the Howard government lifted the reporting threshold to reduce transparency in the mid-2000s, and nearly half the 396 donors in 2015-16. With only the West Australian election falling fully within the reporting year (the 2016 federal election was held on July 2; the ACT also had an election), the parties were more focused on paying off previous election debts with taxpayer funding.”

New corrections policy accused of putting West Australian prisoners’ health at risk — Charlie Lewis: “Until December of last year, Department of Justice process was that a new prisoner would see a doctor for a full medical assessment within 28 days of admission. This would allow the prison to identify chronic problems, manage a prisoner’s medications and identify psychological or psychiatric issues among other issues. Now, groups of prisoners will see a nurse as they arrive at a facility.”

What is behind the decline of Vice Media? — Emily Watkins and Glenn Dyer: “Last week, the joint venture between Vice Canada and Rogers Communication ended, and the Viceland channel will now only be available online in the company’s original home country. As Crikey reported last week, in 2016, Viceland Canada posted a CA$2.49 million pre-tax loss in 2016, the last fiscal year measured, against a pre-tax profit of CA$236,938 in 2015, with overall revenue for the channel falling 14% from CA$6.36 million in 2015. It’s likely the 2017 losses were even more.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

Shorten touched on key problem with politics — but he only did it to score a few more pointsJohn Hewson (SMH): “But as long as our politicians are still preselected the way they are, leading to Parliament being dominated by apparatchiks, focused more on political point-scoring and blame-shifting, not governing; as long as our ministers are mostly inexperienced amateurs, few of whom have ever had a ‘real job’; as long as campaign funding is so opaque and corruptible; as long as lobbying, too, is so opaque; as long as question time and other parliamentary processes remain a ‘circus’; and as long as those in government continue to ‘kick issues down the road’ rather than meeting challenges and solving problems, that ‘corrosive sentiment’ will persist and fester.”

Taxi and Uber passengers are being forced to compensate an industry that doesn’t deserve it — James Chessell (SMH): “If there is one consolation to the NSW government’s decision to slug taxi and ride-sharing passengers $1.10 for the next 250 million trips they take, it is that the levy reminds us that political donations can only get an outmoded industry so far these days.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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