SPY CATCHERS

A former Russian spy found unconscious in the quiet English city of Salisbury was deliberately targeted with a nerve agent, according to British police.

The attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter has also left one British officer in hospital in a serious condition. Police have declined to name the substance used, but the attack has drawn immediate comparisons to the murder of Alexander Litvinenko, another former spy who died in 2006 after having Polonium-210 slipped into his tea.

DAMN, DANIEL

Victorian Premier Dan Andrews is on track to be returned to power when the state goes to the polls in November, according to a Newspoll released today ($). Labor leads the Coalition 52-48, with Andrews’ holding a healthy lead over Opposition Leader and lobster fancier Matthew Guy. In spite of running hard on crime, there’s little evidence Guy’s message is cutting through.

Guy’s position won’t be helped by trouble flaring in the Victorian National Party, which has been referred to the state’s anti-corruption body ($) after $8000 was withdrawn from a branch bank account and then later returned. 

LEIFER TO BE RELEASED

A 54-year-old Melbourne woman wanted by Victorian police over 74 charges of sexual abuse is set to be released from custody in Israel, angering victims.

Malka Leifer fled Australia for Israel to avoid the charges and is now fighting efforts to extradite her to face charges in Victoria. She had been held in custody but the intervention of a senior Rabbi appears to have swayed the opinion of an Israeli court, which has now agreed to release her to house arrest later this week.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

“A political with-hunt.”

That was how Pauline Hanson staffer and one-man controversy machine James Ashby described the latest investigation into his conduct.

In Donald Trump’s America, right-wing politicians fear the mendacious habits of disloyal FBI chiefs and deep state operatives. But in Australia, conservative politicians wrestle with an even more devious foe: the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority — or to those of us deep in the deep state, “CASA” — is investigating Ashby for flying Pauline Hanson’s campaign plane with the wrong licence.

“I will comply with CASA’s request for documents,” Ashby told the ABC. “However this is just a further waste of taxpayers’ money where their findings will result in the same outcome as previous investigations.”

Fight the power, James.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Turnbull’s son: I was sidelined for blowing whistle on 1MDB bank scandal ($)

Nationals were warned of an impending ‘avalanche of allegations’ against Barnaby Joyce: secret review

Official connected to Michaelia Cash media leak controversy quits

Police question Bureau of Meteorology staff over cryptocurrency operation

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Around the World: International Women’s Day celebrations.

Sydney: The 2018 NRL season kicks off, with the St George Illawarra Dragons taking on the Brisbane Broncos.

Sydney: The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School begins a two-day conference. David Gonski, Frank LowyMichelle Guthrie, and Kristina Keneally are among Thursday’s speakers.

Sydney: The NSW Greens return to court in a case brought by their own former MP turned chief-of-staff to Richard Di Natale.

Melbourne: Actress Rebel Wilson’s defamation case returns to court. She is seeking costs from Bauer Media, which is appealing the original verdict.

Melbourne: ACTU figures including Secretary Sally McManus will launch three billboards, which will be placed near the offices of Minister for Women Kelly O’Dwyer. The stunt is an allusion to the film Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and will draw attention to the issue of paid domestic violence leave.

Melbourne: Greens big-wigs including federal leader Richard Di Natale hold a public forum in Batman to promote their byelection candidate Alex Bhathal.

New York: Foreign Minister Julie Bishop speaks at the Asia Society Policy Institute and then joins a discussion moderated by Kevin Rudd. Yes, that Kevin Rudd.

THE COMMENTARIAT

Liberals only harm their own chances by not promoting women — Peta Credlin (The Australian $): “The Liberal Party must establish a well-funded national body to drive the preselection of women and work with divisions to achieve 50:50 by 2025.”

Have feminists gone too far? We’re just getting started — Clementine Ford (Sydney Morning Herald): “The idea that a liberation movement for women has gone ‘too far’ is a common one, an admonishment designed to make us feel like naughty schoolgirls. Patriarchy is maintained in part by keeping women in our place and punishing us when we dare to step outside of it.”

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Reserve Bank head spoils the tax cut narrative at neoliberal frolic — Glenn Dyer and Bernard Keane: “Lowe is pointing to evidence infrastructure spending is a highly productive way of stimulating demand, employment and investment. A damn sight better, one might conclude, than blowing $64 billion on tax cuts and hoping business is nice enough not to hand it all back to shareholders as US companies are doing.”

Turnbull lures Trump with Aussie retirement savings — but would it be a win for Australians? — Elisa Sylva: “Good infrastructure assets are notoriously hard to come by. Airports are not built every day, and particularly not in industrialised nations. When the world’s largest developed economy has a crumbling infrastructure network in need of a cash injection, Australian investment managers spy opportunities.”

Ged Kearney won’t commit Labor to blocking AdaniGuy Rundle: “Given Bill Shorten’s entanglements with the mining union, with Adani itself, his own six different opinions on the matter, and Kearney’s refusal to unequivocally commit to fighting Adani in the party, and in cabinet, the question has to be asked: if Adani were a factor in your vote in Batman, why would anyone trust Labor to make a real effort to stop it?”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

Peter Fray

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