CIAO, EUROPE

Populist insurgents and a coalition including far-right extremists are vying for power in Italy after national elections delivered a hung parliament.

It had been expected the country’s vote would be roughly split between three groupings including the ruling centre-left party of former prime minister Matteo Renzi. In the end, the centre-left suffered a crushing defeat and Renzi has now resigned as leader.

Not even a decade old, the populist Five Star Movement has become the biggest single party in Italy, winning 33% of the lower house vote. Its rival for power will be a coalition of right-wing groups that ran with Silvio Berlusconi‘s Forza Italia. Berlusconi is banned from public office because of a fraud conviction but has been a key player in the election.

The former prime minister’s return was not enough to help his centre-right party become the largest in its own coalition. Far-right group Northern League took out almost 18% of the vote, and will now try to form government. The party vowed to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants from Italy, helping turn migration into the key election issue in spite of falling numbers of arrivals over the last year.

What happens next is unclear, with Italian President Sergio Mattarella to decide which party is offered the first chance to form government.

One thing easier to read is what the result means for Brussels. Both the populists and the right-wing coalition have been hostile to the European Union. Anti-EU rhetoric was eased somewhat during the campaign, with Five Star backing away from support for referendum on an Italian exit, but the combination of surging Euro-scepticism and the possibility of unstable government won’t please European leaders.

TRADING BLOWS

The effort to talk Donald Trump out of slapping tariffs on Australian steel and aluminium goes on.

Fairfax reports today that Australian ministers in key portfolios have been lobbying their US counterparts hard over the issue, making the same national defence argument the Trump administration has used to justify the shift to protectionism. Defence Minister Marise Payne has made the case to US Defence Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis, while Julie Bishop has also reached out to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The efforts come as a busy Trade Minister Steve Ciobo heads off to sign the re-booted Trans-Pacific Partnership. The Australian reports ($) that the UK is now considering joining the deal after it goes through the Brexit process.

HOPPING FOR A FIGHT

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon is on a trip of her own, off to Europe to promote a documentary warning about the number of kangaroos being culled in Australia. The film has left some in the kangaroo meat industry ($) less than amused.

The National Farmers Federation (NFF) has hopped into the fray, telling News Corp that, actually, killing kangaroos is a lot nicer than not killing kangaroos, because that can be fatal.

“It is inconceivable to think that anybody would see the ­humanity in allowing hundreds, possibly thousands of kangaroos [to] die a prolonged and painful death caused by starvation and dehydration, while rallying against a pain-free and instant option, available via the controlled, regulated culling,” NFF president Fiona Simson told News Corp.

Says Rhiannon: “We will use the evidence to show that kangaroos are in trouble.”

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Federal Circuit Court in controversy over Sandy Street ($)

Former Russian spy critically ill in UK ‘after exposure to substance’

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra: Two-day conference run by the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics kicks off.

Canberra: Revenue Minister Kelly O’Dwyer has her day at the National Press Club.

Sydney: The Reserve Bank board meets to discuss interest rates.

Melbourne: Candidates for the byelection in the federal seat of Batman face a forum on climate change. 

THE COMMENTARIAT

Why do media organisations like News Corp, Reuters and The New York Times still use words like ‘Aborigines’? — Robert Burton-Bradley (NITV): “Aboriginal is preferred by some, and others Indigenous, because Aboriginal does not include Torres Strait Islanders who have a separate and distinct identity. However these terms are still broad and nondescript when referring to a people with more than 250 unique languages.”

Xenophon fails to steal the show at South Australia leaders debate — Katharine Murphy (Guardian Australia): “During Monday night’s debate, an entirely civilised affair, even at its most fractious moments, Xenophon dutifully recited his offering, which sounded thin when proffered as a putative premier.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF THURSDAY

Barnaby Joyce’s overshare leaves media with a choiceRebekah Holt: “There comes a difficult stage in every relationship break up when one person knows it’s over but the other person is Barnaby Joyce.”

How the rich weaponised NIMBYism to wage class war — Bernard Keane: “the biggest problem is in housing supply. Across Australia, the supply of new housing fell away in the 2000s, and only recovered in the current housing construction boom — though we’re still not back to where we were in 2003, nationally. In this regard, the New South Wales Labor Party — supposedly a party dedicated to looking after workers’ interests, but more famous for its blatant corruption — should be singled out for stunning negligence. “

‘Disappointing’ internal ABC survey shows staff distrust management — Emily Watkins: “Only 18% of staff thought the leadership team inspired them about the future of the ABC”

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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