Bret Walker Murray Darling Basin Royal Commission fish kill
Bret Walker SC during the Murray Darling Basin Royal Commission (Image: AAP/Morgan Sette)

ROUGH WATERS

The head of South Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission, Bret Walker, has indicated his inquiry will find parts of the original Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) breached the Water Act, as he prepares to deliver the final report to South Australia’s government today and publish publicly by February 1.

According to the ABC, Walker has dismissed recollections from former water minister Tony Burke that the sustainable level of water “take” under the MDBP was determined solely by environmental concerns and that factoring economic and social concerns into environmental flows “misinterpreted the Water Act … in a crucial way”.

The news comes after the town of Menindee, NSW, yesterday recorded its third and reportedly worst mass fish kill, a catastrophe Walker had offered to include in the inquiry but was rebuffed by the South Australian government citing financial costs.

NEW YEAR, NEW ME

The Coalition has received its equal-highest Newspoll ratings since the removal of Malcolm Turnbull, with a new year bump of four points putting the party behind Labor 53-47 on a two-party preferred basis.

The Australian ($) reports that Scott Morrison, while recovering from news of his third minister announcing retirement in the space of two weeks, has also maintained his preferred PM lead over opposition leader Bill Shorten 43-36. The poll coincides with a quarterly report from Deloitte Access criticising the government for prioritising electoral promises over financial responsibility, and comes as Morrison begins a tour of south east Queensland, where he will announce one major project per day until Friday ($).

A LOW-ENERGY RESPONSE

Both energy giant AGL and large industrial energy users have slammed the federal government’s “big stick” energy legislation for potentially driving up prices.

In faintly ironic post-carbon tax news, The Australian Financial Review ($) reports that AGL has told an inquiry into the Treasury Laws Amendment Bill on prohibiting energy market misconduct that “draconian” forced divestment rules would degrade investment, an argument echoed in submissions from the Energy Users Association of Australia. The Coalition looks to have ensured lower house support for the legislation that reportedly enables the government to underwrite investment in coal-fired power plants, although this will be challenged by a planned Greens amendment.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Ironically these kind of mining projects create security of habitat that otherwise would not exist… Without the Adani conservation area, this protection won’t exist.

Unnamed ecologist

While forced to remain anonymous for fear of “Green-Left reprisals”, an ecologist working on Adani’s proposed Carmichael mine tells a very trusting Courier-Mail ($) that digging up 10-27.5 million tonnes of coal a year is the only way to save the endangered black-throated finch.

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

It’s time for Australia to face reality on China

“China’s authoritarian regime has resumed its outrageous practice of treating Australian citizens who were born in China with the same extrajudicial disregard as it treats its own citizens, with the effective kidnapping of writer and popular online commentator Yang Hengjun, 53, and his family at Guangzhou airport on January 19 as he tried to board a plane to Shanghai.”


The political evolution of Warren Mundine

“But even if he doesn’t become the next member for Gilmore, Mundine’s candidacy marks the final stage in a decades-long political evolution, from rising star touted as ‘Labor’s great black hope’ by The Australian in 2005, to wannabe Liberal MP chummy with mining magnates and conservative politicians.”


When it comes to data, Big Tech isn’t the only threat to our privacy

“While the concept of ‘surveillance capitalism’ has been around since at least 2014, a new book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, by US academic Shoshanna Zuboff — one of the originators of the term — has resonated strongly following two years of revelations of the manipulative power wielded by major tech platforms and the lack of effective internal or external constraints on them.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Use of cashless welfare cards set to double ($)

Kangaroos face cull in Baldivis to make way for housing development in Perth’s south

On air clash between Kerri-Anne Kennerley and Yumi Stynes over Australia Day protesters

‘Canberra Swamp’ costs us $8bn a year ($)

Huon on high alert as wind drives fire towards river ($)

No longer safe: Researcher harassed by China in her own country

CommSec report shows NT economy worst in Australia ($)

Police investigate claims senior WA Liberals sent pornographic memes

Fears grow as bat-wielding vigilantes menace youths at Wyndham Vale ($)

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rebuffs Rupert Murdoch on US meeting

THE COMMENTARIAT

Palmer splashes the cash but he hasn’t a hope ($) — Graham Richardson (The Australian): “Not content with the debacle of his first foray into federal politics when members of his Senate team began deserting him almost as soon as they were elected, he is ­determined to embarrass himself again. Few people in far north Queensland have forgotten his role in the closure of the Yabulu nickel refinery.”

Aircon refusal reveals Labor’s cowardice ($) — Hayley Sorensen (NT News): “It’s unpleasant but most Centralians have access to airconditioning, Zooper Doopers, swimming pools or a garden hose to stay at least a little bit cool and preserve their sanity. Not so for the close to 600 blokes in the Alice Springs Correctional Centre. Instead, they’ve endured every one of those 42-plus degrees and then some from the inside of cinder block cells.”

Do we still need Australian troops in Afghanistan? — Clive Williams (Sydney Morning Herald): “There seem to be encouraging new prospects for a major downturn in the foreign military presence in Afghanistan. President Donald Trump has been pushing since last year for a quick US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, while the Taliban is now claiming to have reached a draft agreement with US negotiators on foreign troop withdrawal within 18 months of an agreement being signed.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Adelaide

  • The royal commission into the Murray Darling Basin will hand their final report to the South Australian government today, ahead of the February 1 deadline.

Canberra

  • The High Court will issue a judgement on Unions NSW v NSW relating to the Electoral Funding Act 2018 (NSW).

Brisbane

  • Scott Morrison will begin day two of a three-day tour of southeast Queensland.

Melbourne

  • A plea hearing will be held for Bourke St murderer James Gargasoulas, set for two and a half days.

Sydney

  • ICAC will resume its inquiry into allegations of dishonest Canterbury councillors behaviour between 2013-16 (Operation Dasha) for five days.

  • Lord Mayor Clover Moore will announce details of Sydney’s Lunar New Year Festival program.

Perth

  • The Senate Education and Employment References Committee and Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee will hold hearings into the controversial Jobactive program, and sleep health awareness, respectively.

  • Millionaire Zhenya Tsvetnenko will appear at Perth Magistrates Court facing extradition to the US over an alleged SMS scam, of which he says he is innocent.

Hervey Bay and Bundaberg, Queensland

  • The federal government will expand its pilot program for cashless debit cards in the towns of Hervey Bay and Bundaberg.

Townsville, Queensland

  • The House Of Representatives’ Standing Committee On Economics will hold a public hearing for the inquiry into the implications of removing refundable franking credits.

Get Crikey for $1 a week.

Lockdowns are over and BBQs are back! At last, we get to talk to people in real life. But conversation topics outside COVID are so thin on the ground.

Join Crikey and we’ll give you something to talk about. Get your first 12 weeks for $12 to get stories, analysis and BBQ stoppers you won’t see anywhere else.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
12 weeks for just $12.