Malcolm Turnbull addresses the media

WOOHOO! BONK VAN! … HUH? … OH, COME ON!

Malcolm Turnbull has introduced a ban on sex between ministers and staff members as part of a highly critical response to Nationals leader and Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce’s “appalling” extramarital affair.

The Australian ($) reports that Turnbull’s call for Joyce to “consider his own position” — and his unprecedented sex ban — is a “captain’s call” made following discussions with his leadership team yesterday morning, sets up a potential showdown with Nationals MPs who were quick to warn the PM over the party’s leadership.

During question time yesterday, Labor MPs also attacked Joyce’s relationship with businessman friend Greg Maguire, who has let the Deputy PM stay in an Armidale townhouse free for six months and whose hotel received a $5000 payment from Joyce’s department. The Senate also voted 35 to 29 yesterday in favour of an entirely symbolic motion calling on Joyce to resign for “clearly breaching the standards required of ministers”. 

Joyce will now take paid personal leave rather than sub in as acting prime minister when Turnbull travels to the US next week. With Deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop also engaged in international travel, Turnbull took the unusual step of putting his Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, in charge.

REFUGEE SWAP

The US expects to take a fourth group of refugees from Papua New Guinea and Nauru by the end of February, bringing the total number of people accepted to roughly 200 since the deal was negotiated in September 2016, at a time when the United Nations has again urged Australia to transfer people from dangerous and harmful conditions.

According to The Australian, the US expects to accept almost 1250 people from Australia’s offshore detention centres, the number agreed to under the Obama-era deal, but it would remain a slow process. Concerns also remain for those who either are not found to be refugees, do not pass the US Department of Homeland Sec­urity’s vetting procedures, or are not included in the agreed-upon 1250 figure.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton announced this week that 135 refugees have been transferred to America, including 18 who left from Manus on Wednesday, although more than 1000 people seeking asylum remain on Nauru and roughly 750 on Manus. 

The news comes as the United Nations refugee agency warned that people in offshore detention, specifically those stuck with inadequate new shelter and medical conditions on Manus, are showing “a pervasive and worsening sense of despair”.

“We cannot emphasise enough that solutions must be found for all, outside of Papua New Guinea, as a matter of urgency,” UNHCR’s regional protection officer, Rico Salcedo, said this week. “Australia remains ultimately responsible, as the state from which these refugees and asylum seekers have sought international protection, for their welfare and long-term settlement outside of Papua New Guinea.”

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“Negotiations on DACA [Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals] have begun. Republicans want to make a deal and Democrats say they want to make a deal. Wouldn’t it be great if we could finally, after so many years, solve the DACA puzzle. This will be our last chance, there will never be another opportunity! March 5th.”

“… So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

– US President Donald Trump responds to the death of 17 people, and the 18th school shooting in America this year, with a tweet tastelessly attached to another, entirely unrelated statement on immigration policy. Not for nothing, Trump actually rolled back Obama-era regulations early last year that would have made it harder for people with mental illnesses to buy guns.

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WHAT’S ON TODAY

Adelaide: SA Liberal leader Steven Marshall and NXT’s Nick Xenophon to take part in Property Council debate (Premier Jay Weatherill has decided to skip the event).

Hobart: The Whitlams’ Tim Freedman will play a Tasmanian Labor Party fundraiser in Hobart in support of the party’s intention to ban pokies from pubs and clubs if they win the March 3 election.

Perth: Premier Mark McGowan will attend the WA Business News function, followed by a door stop.

Melbourne: Interim Victorian youth homelessness report released, set to show that youth homelessness could be reduced by 40 per cent and early school leaving by more than 20% if the Geelong Project model is adopted nation-wide.

Canberra: Survivor groups, counsellors, Scouts Australia, government departments and a range of church organisations will give evidence in abuse redress inquiry.

Canberra: Inquiry into political donations reform will hear from academics, lobbyists, charity heads and economists. 

Canberra: Senate report due into ABC “fair and balanced” and regional programs legislation.

Canberra: High Court sits to discuss former-NXT senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore’s dual-citizenship case.

Sydney: Roundtable on violence against paramedics will feature HSU NSW Secretary Gerard Hayes and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

Sydney: TWU protests by airport workers at all major airports over attempts in the Federal Court today to introduce split shifts across the industry.

THE COMMENTARIAT

The Senate was right on the Murray-Darling proposal. Here’s why — Jamie Pittock (The Guardian): “The Senate’s decision this week to block a proposal to reduce the return of water to the river system was the only way to get the Murray-Darling basin plan back on track. Threats by the New South Wales and Victorian governments to now walk away from the Basin plan only serve to underline their failure to put in place the reforms they agreed to in 2012.”

The unintended consequences of Barnaby Joyce’s affairWaleed Aly (SMH): “What a shame that Barnaby Joyce’s extra-marital affair had to explode into our news cycle around the 10th anniversary of Kevin Rudd’s apology to the stolen generations. Here was something that finally gave all that ‘Close the Gap’ reporting some modest journalistic zest: the parade of dry, frequently ignored statistics animated by being hitched to our memories of an emotion-laden landmark. I remember thinking it was the most concerted media coverage of this report card I could recall. Barnaby soon put an end to that.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Phillip Adams warns cancelled Indian visa is bad news for the rest of the ABC — Emily Watkins: “Two weeks after the ABC’s Late Night Live program was due to fly out to India, authorities have still not explained why their visas weren’t granted. Veteran broadcaster and the show’s host Phillip Adams told Crikey that his team had planned interviews with a ‘who’s who of prominent Indians’, for stories to be played out over several months on his Radio National program.”

Joyce on the brink after trainwreck question time — Bernard Keane:Barnaby Joyce has been comprehensively isolated by the Prime Minister after Malcolm Turnbull revealed Joyce would be taking leave rather than acting as Prime Minister next week while Turnbull visits the United States.”

Mayne: Kennett should also say ‘time’s up’, and retire on his 70th birthday — Stephen Mayne: “Crikey turned 18 yesterday. And on March 2, Jeff Kennett, the man who inspired Crikey’s launch, will turn 70. As a mark of respect to our history via the whistleblower website Jeffed during the 1999 Victorian election, it is sadly once again our solemn duty to call on Jeff Kennett to resign — from all public positions.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

 

Peter Fray

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