Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (Image: Wikicommons)

SPYING CHARGES

Iran’s judiciary has confirmed that it is holding three Australians on suspicion of spying, believed to be travel bloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King and Melbourne University lecturer Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert. A judiciary spokesman was quoted in Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency as saying, “Two of them had taken pictures in military areas and the third [was detained] for spying for a third country.” Firkin and King face up to six months imprisonment for flying a drone over a military precinct, while Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic Studies, has been sentenced to 10 years.

It comes as tensions rise between Tehran and the West, with Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei saying there will be “no talks with the US at any level”, ending speculation about a possible US-Iran meeting.

MO MONEY MO PROBLEMS

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is seeking a formal ­directive from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg to conduct another ­inquiry into the banks ($), The Australian reports. The competition watchdog wants to examine the industry’s competitiveness, including what consumer group CHOICE  calls “catch and keep” tactics, which deter customers from switching banks. Frydenberg will be under pressure to issue the ­directive, the paper notes, given the strong anti-bank community sentiment and the political ­embarrassment the government faced in putting off the royal commission so long.

The Reserve Bank, meanwhile, is signaling another record-low rate cut ($), warning that the government’s tax rebates­ have failed to get consumers to open their wallets.

RESTORING THE CLIMATE

The UN will play host to the first annual Global Climate Restoration Forum, aiming to “restore” the climate by reducing carbon levels using emerging and controversial methods, The Guardian reports.

The New York forum will attempt to rally governments and corporations behind technologies that suck greenhouse gases back from the atmosphere. The report lists Climeworks, a Swiss company that uses giant machines to pull CO2 from the air and use it in greenhouses to boost plant growth, and Blue Planet, a company that turns CO2 into limestone that can be used as building material. The group behind the forum, the Foundation for Climate Restoration, has released a manifesto stating that it aims to “restore” atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to those of a century ago,

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Treasurer, will you get the ­shovel and join our chain gang?

Bob Katter

The independent MP calls on Josh Frydenberg to stimulate the economy by joining his chain gang ($) — a one-man effort to start work on a North Queensland-owned rail line.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

How a Melbourne seminary became a breeding ground for paedophile rings

Cash only: $100 political donations cap in NSW

Sidoti stands aside in bruising day for Berejiklian

‘Part of the community’: Albanese backs corporate Australia to speak out

Governor-General David Hurley’s bid to bolster Islamic ties ($)

Legal challenge against Gladys Liu’s election win heads to High Court

Public warned to check superannuation after $10 million scam

Andrews government gives public servants green light to skip work for protest

Double pay lift for Premier: Andrews best-paid pollie bar PM ($)

‘Politically driven’: Senate inquiry into Great Barrier Reef seen as bid to discredit Queensland laws

EU given Brexit draft with backstop scrubbed out, UK sources admit

Boris Johnson abused prorogation more than any PM for 50 years, UK supreme court hears

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Australia’s other army: the government bureaucrats who spin, obscure and feed the media

“But that’s just the top tier of the government media machine. Below those political spinners is another layer of bureaucracy — departmental media staff. Every day, hundreds of nameless and faceless public service employees tick away in the bureaucratic media spin apparatus at federal government agencies, responding to media inquiries, monitoring social media, preparing information campaigns and liaising with ministers’ offices. Across 14 federal government departments that responded to INQ, the agency with the biggest media and public affairs units is the Department of Defence, with 145 people working on communications. Additionally, there are 117 staff who give public affairs advice to the navy, army and air force.”


The big muzzle: how a government turns information into political propaganda

“Logan, who was controversial during his tenure because of his openness in engaging with the media and his propensity to hit back at critics of the department’s implementation of asylum seeker policies, made sure weekly briefings were sent out to journalists in a spreadsheet detailing the number of asylum seeker arrivals. The department also announced the arrival of asylum seeker boats, providing near-real-time transparency about the failure of the government’s maritime arrivals policy. When Scott Morrison became the immigration minister, such transparency was mocked as “the shipping news” and there was direct instruction to stop handing out the information on an “on water basis”. If it was “on water” — meaning in relation to boat arrivals, or anything that could even remotely be connected to boat arrivals, including issues such as naval equipment — journalists would get nothing (and nor would non-government senators asking at Senate estimates).”


A lesson from Hong Kong to Australia: be vigilant

“I have no knowledge of whether the allegations against Gladys Liu are true. That is a matter for journalists in Australia to look into further. But it’s surreal for me and my friends to watch, at a distance, as the allegations and howls of “racism” pour in — some of the allegations to date bear similarities with what we have long seen in Hong Kong. We must all be careful of xenophobia and witch-hunts, but it’s foolish to dismiss allegations of CCP influence as mere “racism”. To do this — to look to the individuals rather than the systems they inhabit, to not interrogate methods and results — would be to play directly into the United Front playbook.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

I now look back on my 20 years of climate activism as a colossal failureTim Flannery (The Guardian/The Conversation): On Friday in Australia and elsewhere, school principals must decide whether they will allow their students to march in the global climate strike in an effort to save themselves from the climate predators in our midst, or force them to stay and study for a future that will not, on current trends, eventuate. I will be marching with the strikers in Melbourne, and I believe teachers should join their pupils on that day. After all, us older generation should be painfully aware that our efforts have not been enough to protect our children.”

A state’s system of  justice put on trial ($) – Chris Merritt (The Australian): In order to succeed, Pell’s legal team merely needed to show there was a reasonable doubt about the prosecution’s case. The onus of proof was up to the prosecution; it was not up to the cardinal to prove his innocence. Yet the special leave application asserts that the Court of Appeal majority decided the cardinal’s fate on the improper basis that it was up to the defence to prove that the prosecution case was impossible. If this is what happened — and a conclusive ruling is up to the High Court — it will devastate Victoria’s system of criminal justice.”

Jehovah’s Witness destroyed my family ($) – Lara Kaput (The Daily Telegraph): I was ill-prepared for ultimate freedom. I went nightclubbing every week and danced until 2 or 4am. The next day I’d be hungover well into the evening. I was completely lost. Finally, I had a breakdown and hardly left the house for two years. Eventually I got help from my GP who referred me to a psychologist. I read self-help books and learned how to breathe deeply again. I embraced cognitive behavioural therapy. I acknowledged my body dysmorphia. I rediscovered the outdoors. I finally felt in control of my own life. Other family members were treated similarly when they left. The Human Rights Commission should speak out against the practice of shunning. Family estrangement is the norm in Jehovah’s Witness families. Every Jehovah’s Witness suffers from shunning — either you’re being shunned, or you have to shun. We learned to shun each other and that broke us.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The federal parliamentary press gallery will stage its annual Midwinter Ball.

  • UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will hold talks with her Australian counterpart Simon Birmingham, putting priority on a post-Brexit deal.

  • Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Virgin CEO Paul Scurrah will address the National Press Club, with the talk “The Great Australian Monopoly: Where nobody wins but the airports.”

  • The environment and energy committee will hold a public hearing in its inquiry into the prerequisites for nuclear power in Australia.

  • The Lord Mayors of Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart will join ACT Chief Minister, Andrew Barr to call on the Federal Government to make social and affordable housing an urgent infrastructure priority.

  • Opposition leader Anthony Albanese will seek to reframe Labor’s approach to business in an address to the Business Council of Australia.

Melbourne

  • A Federal Court interlocutory hearing will determine the fate of the Biloela asylum seeker family, with their legal team granted an extension until today.

  • Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and embattled MP Gladys Liu are listed for a directions hearing in the High Court over their elections to parliament.

  • RBA deputy head of payments policy Chris Thompson will speak at the Asia Pacific Fuel Industry.

  • A celebration to honour the life of Danny Frawley will be held at RSEA Park/Moorabbin Oval.

Brisbane

  • Hedley Thomas, who investigated, co-produced and presented the hugely successful Teacher’s Pet podcast, will be a keynote speaker at the 2019 Radio Alive national conference.

  • Queensland politicians will continue to debate a law proposing to slash the amount of fertiliser and sediment flowing into the Great Barrier Reef.

Binna Burra, Queensland

  • A worker’s transition group is set to meet for the first time to help find new jobs for 70 employees laid off after bushfires gutted the historic Binna Burra Lodge.

Darwin

  • The accused Darwin shooter will face the Local Court over the June attack that left four dead.

Sydney

  • The 4th World Congress on Probation will bring together experts and practitioners from around the world to promote and develop probation and community corrections.

  • The NSW ICAC inquiry into the Chinese Friends of Labor dinner will continue, with witness Ian Robertson.

Lorne, Victoria

  • Great Ocean Road Regional Tourism Chair Wayne Kayler Thomson will join filmmakers, local historians and the local community for a premiere screening of new documentary “The Story of the Road”, with Thursday marking 100 years since work started on the road.