SPEAKING UP

Liberal Senator, former attorney-general, and reluctant fashion icon George Brandis has delivered his valedictory speech, blasting both left- and right-wing populists in a farewell many have read as an attack on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.

In a contradiction that has defined his time at the top of politics, Brandis both re-affirmed his love of free speech and boasted of his record on national security legislation, much of which has targeted acts of speech, including the latest round of anti-espionage laws. (New Attorney-General Christian Porter has now committed ($) to altering some of the most aggressive aspects of the laws but has ruled out blanket exemptions for journalists).

Hitting out at both sides of politics, Brandis blasted ($) “right-wing post-modernism” and said that “powerful elements of right-wing politics have abandoned both liberalism’s concern for the rights of the individual and conservatism’s respect for institutions, in favour of a belligerent, intolerant populism which shows no respect for either the rights of individual citizens or the traditional institutions which protect them.”

The speech was delivered on the same day Liberal Senator Jim Molan continued to refuse to apologise for sharing two unverified and anti-Muslim videos produced by extremist group Britain First on his Facebook page. “I did nothing wrong,” Molan told Sky News, insisting he didn’t know who Britain First was.

In fact, Molan believes he is owed the apology. The former general is considering defamation action ($) against Greens MP Adam Bandt who accused Molan of being a “coward” for sharing the videos and said a proper inquiry into the Iraq War “would find Jim Molan would probably be up for prosecution rather than praise for his role in the atrocities in Fallujah”. 

Not everyone is speaking as freely as George, Jim, and Adam.

Last night, Barnaby Joyce fronted Leigh Sales after his ex-wife Natalie Joyce claimed the Deputy Prime Minister had started an affair with a staffer while he was still her employer. A crestfallen Joyce said little on the ABC’s 7.30 program, repeatedly insisting “private matters remain private”.

MERKEL MAKES A DEAL

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is one step closer to being returned to the country’s top job after her conservative coalition came to an agreement with leaders of the socialist SPD to form government.

Germany remains without a new cabinet more than four months after the country went to the polls. Initial talks between Merkel’s grouping, the German Greens, and a pro-business party broke down, forcing the Chancellor to turn once again to Martin Schulz‘s SPD, who helped her form government in the previous term.

Both parties saw their votes collapse at the 2017 poll and Schulz initially vowed not to return to government. But after offering the SPD key positions including the much-coveted finance ministry, Merkel has her deal.

To claim her fourth term as Chancellor, Merkel will still have to wait for the SPD’s grassroots members to sign off on the agreement. There has been significant pressure on Schulz to stay out of government, especially from his party’s youth wing, who worry another “Grand Coalition” will continue to dissolve support for the centre-left.

If Merkel and Schulz do get final approval, the far-right Alternative for Germany Party will emerge as the largest opposition group — an unofficial role that would nonetheless afford them some parliamentary privileges.

BELEAGUERED BRAINS

A new study has found former rugby league players with a history of multiple concussions performed worse during cognitive testing compared to a group of men who had never suffered concussions.

Published in the journal Brain Injury and picked up by Fairfax, the study found the retired players did worse on learning and memory tasks, and were less able to hold their concentration.

One of the players who took part in the study was former NRL great Ian Roberts.

“We all thought we were 25, 10-foot and bulletproof,” he told Fairfax. “Young people coming in to the sport need to be made aware of the long-term consequences.” 

READ ALL ABOUT IT

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More than 20 Sydney Uni staff under investigation

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Close the Gap review breakfast including Malcolm Turnbull, Bill Shorten and Richard Di Natale. Also at the breakfast will be Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner June Oscar, who will launch a report critical of the government’s efforts to close said gap. 

Sydney: The UNSW and the Australian Council of Social Service announce a new five-year collaboration to research poverty and inequality.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Truth about toxic banking culture may never be told — Julia Angrisano (Sydney Morning Herald): “Employment contracts and policies in the finance sector usually contain onerous confidentiality clauses that limit employees’ ability to talk publicly about their employer.”

Turnbull picking up as Labor faces by-election test — Niki Savva (The Australian $): “Senior Victorian Liberal and Labor figures have been whispering about a deal. If Labor agrees to preference Kelly O’Dwyer in Higgins or Liberals in the state seat of Prahran ahead of the Greens, the Liberals could be prepared to run a candidate in Batman.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Media roundtable: was it ethical of the Tele to publish its Barnaby Joyce story? — Emily Watkins: “Chris Dore, editor, Daily Telegraph: How is it not in the public interest? Would it be in the public interest if we were talking about the prime minister or the opposition leader? He’s the Deputy Prime Minister. Of course it’s public interest.”

Turnbull is the most contemptible modern prime minister we’ve had — Guy Rundle: “Maybe it’s the nostalgia effect, but Mr Tony is absolutely thrown into relief by the abysmal horror that is Malcolm Turnbull. Sartre spoke of the nausea, the actual physical sickness one feels at the contingency of things, how everything could just as well be otherwise. Turnbull goes one better; he channels a sort of existential dry retching, a product of the vast disappointment with the politician, combined with a rich contempt for the man he has decided to be, or always was.”

Australia’s most notorious political turncoats — Part II — Charlie Lewis: “‘He came in with federation and went out in a coffin,’ associate professor of history at Curtin University Bobbie Oliver says of perhaps Australia’s most famous (and certainly most prolific) political turncoat, William Morris Hughes.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Peter Fray

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