CAN’T KILL THE BILL

The government’s plan to claw back its position in the polls by undermining Bill Shorten’s credibility is failing, according to the latest Newspoll ($).

Labor’s lead over the Coalition on the two-party-preferred measure remains 53-47, after the Coalition’s position improved by a point in early February, only to slip back again. It’s the 28th Newspoll the government has lost in a row.

And that’s just the good news for Malcolm Turnbull. Turnbull’s personal lead over Shorten as preferred prime minister has almost disappeared, falling to just a two-point gap. At the start of February, Turnbull led Shorten by 14 points.

The poll covered the period that included the incredible incineration of Turnbull’s then-deputy PM Barnaby Joyce, who continued to dump fuel on the fire over the weekend, telling Fairfax that there are questions over the paternity of his girlfriend Vikki Campion’s yet to be born child.

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In a rare bright spot for the Liberal party, Will Hodgman’s state government in Tasmania was returned over the weekend, winning at least 13 of the state’s 25 lower house seats. 

STEELING FOR A TRADE WAR

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says President Donald Trump is not currently considering any exemptions to the sweeping steel and aluminium tariffs announced last week.

Trump surprised many when he said the US would impose a 25% tariff on steel imports and a 10% tariff on aluminium. The Australian government has been among those lobbying for an exemption, but on the weekend Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said he was unsure whether those efforts had been successful. For now, at least, it appears they have not.

In response, Ciobo did not rule out some form of retaliation. The European Union has already threatened retaliation, and Canada and China have vowed to respond with tariffs of their own.

If a full-blown trade war does break out, the impact could be extremely damaging to the Australian economy; Deloitte Access Economics warns ($) 20,000 jobs could be lost.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Protection agencies swamped by ‘tsunami’ of sex abuse ($)

Housing report says migration may need to be cut to preserve quality of life

Caltex franchise model ‘non-compliant and unsustainable’: Fair Work Ombudsman ($)

New ABCC chief targets CFMEU repeat offenders ($)

‘Global deforestation hotspot’: 3m hectares of Australian forest to be lost in 15 years

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Los Angeles: The 2018 Oscars are awarded.

Canberra: Labor Senator Katy Gallagher‘s lawyers make their submissions to the High Court as part of her section 44 case.

Melbourne: Hearings to determine whether Cardinal George Pell will face charges over alleged historic child sex offences begin.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Malcolm Turnbull sweats on Donald Trump’s tariff exemption pledge — Phillip Coorey (Australian Financial Review $): “Mr Turnbull and Trade Minister Steve Ciobo left Washington virtually clueless about whether Australia’s Bluescope Steel and Rio Tinto’s Canadian aluminium smelter would be exempted from the tariffs that Trump is about to impose.”

From world’s most liveable city to Australia’s most expensive city? — John Daley (Sydney Morning Herald): “Fewer small-scale urban infill projects should require council planning approval. We recommend a new small redevelopment housing code that would protect neighbours, reduce planning uncertainty, and improve the quality of new developments.”

Tasmanian election: Antony Green on Will Hodgman’s historic victory — Anthony Green (ABC): ” While Labor has recovered from its 2014 drubbing, Labor’s vote share of just under 33 per cent is its third worst result since the Second World War. Green support at ten per cent is below its previous low, recorded in 1998, and the party may yet be reduced to the single Denison seat it won in 1998.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF FRIDAY

Character comes to the fore but not in the way the government hoped — Bernard Keane: “In that context, Michaelia Cash’s threat to name young women in Shorten’s office about whom there were “rumours” looks less like a brain snap than Cash’s typically cack-handed implementation of the government’s political tactics. Well, cack-handed, cack-legged, cack-limbed. And a giant pile of cack for the government. By the end of the week, Chuckles was in witness protection from the media, with that whiteboard being deployed, to national mockery.”

The Gina TimmsiadGuy Rundle: “The personal and the collective are so intertwined, the narratives of struggle now individual, psychological, triumphs over loss, futility, self-annihilation, that this is what is continually bodied forth. Spot policies remain – Bass catamarans now! – but there is no program, no argument about what would be done with power.”

Alan Sunderland sent a video to ABC staff saying everything is fine — Emily Watkins: “Management are still to publicly back chief economics correspondent Emma Alberici, or to list the errors found in her work (even when asked to at estimates). The debacle comes just weeks after the blundering over the so-called cabinet files, where the ABC pandered to the government in handing back the documents obtained, and then apologising to Kevin Rudd for one of the resulting stories.”

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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