A MODEST BOOST

The government will today announce plans to fast-track $3.8 billion in infrastructure spending in a bid to boost the economy, Nine reports.

The government will bring forward some of its $100 billion in infrastructure commitments, making deals with the states to speed up construction and approvals, following a blame game over delays. Prime Minister Scott Morrison will use a speech to the Business Council of Australia to outline the plan, while also warning against a “panicked reaction” to economic challenges, describing those calling for direct cash injections as “panic merchants” ($). There are signs the Reserve Bank will start 2020 with another interest rate cut, with wage growth and consumer confidence low and household debt at a record high.

ASSANGE ALLEGATIONS DROPPED

Swedish prosecutors have dropped the remaining rape investigation into WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying the evidence is now too old to indict him.

Deputy director of prosecutions Eva-Marie Persson  who reopened the case after Assange was dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy — emphasised that the complainant’s evidence was deemed credible and reliable, but said witnesses’ memories had faded in the decade that had elapsed (the statute of limitations had already run out on other complaints). Assange has long denied the allegation that he raped a woman in Stockholm in August 2010, and initially entered the embassy after the UK Supreme Court rejected his final appeal against extradition to Sweden, claiming he risked further extradition to the US if sent there.

AFTER 171 WEEKS

Australian university professor Timothy Weeks has been freed in a Taliban prisoner swap, putting an end to more than three years in captivity, The Guardian reports.

Weeks and American hostage Kevin King were handed over to US forces early on Tuesday afternoon, a day after three prominent members of the Taliban were set free by the Afghan government. The pair were abducted at gunpoint from a car in August 2016, outside the American University in Kabul where they both worked, and have appeared in Taliban hostage videos over the years. Weeks’ family released a statement on Tuesday night saying they were “overjoyed” at the news, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison praised US President Donald Trump for securing the exchange.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Not a single person … can nominate a single, solitary achievement of Malcolm Turnbull as prime minister. It was a prime ministership without distinction, zest or unifying intelligence.

Bob Carr

NSW’s longest-serving premier in a single term hit back ($) at Turnbull’s claim he achieved nothing in office.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

ASIC chair to intervene as AMP continues ‘disappointing’ charging of dead customers

Private health premiums tipped to soar as more young people drop cover

Subsidised cyclone insurance for northern Australia back on agenda

Corruption probe: Developer bankrolled Labor Party campaigns

Victorian Labor elects new party president

‘Not us versus them’: Ken Wyatt says all students can benefit from Indigenous languages, history

Northern Territory corruption boss steps down from Yuendumu probe over comments

Right-wing warrior Cory Bernardi calls time on his political career

Older Australians hit back at Treasurer over work plea

Ad campaign targets crossbench senators over union-busting bill

Residents warned it’s too late to leave as NSW bushfire upgraded to emergency

South Australia braces for record heat and catastrophic fire danger

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Inside the debt-collecting machine that’s chasing billions from people on government benefits

“The federal government’s botched robo-debt scheme has proved to be particularly lucrative for the industry. More than $2 billion worth of so-called debt has been outsourced to debt collectors since the scheme began in 2015 as part of a giant debt-chasing machine that has so far cost the government $534 million — almost as much as the amount of alleged ‘debts’ the program has clawed back ($658 million). One of those debt collectors is Panthera Finance, a little known Brisbane-based company that’s playing hardball in the collection game and entered the Centrelink debt collection business via it’s purchase of ARL Collect, which came with millions of dollars in Department of Human Services (DHS) contracts.”


China Matters, especially for big business

“But the presence of numerous business figures in China Matters is the key to understanding it. This is no China front group or Beijing-funded ‘study centre’, nor is it funded by Beijing-aligned billionaires. It is backed by Rio Tinto, PWC, minerals hauler Aurizon, Star Casino and ANU — all of whom have a strong financial interest in maintaining good relations with China. The group is chaired by business doyen and long-time China booster Kevin McCann and includes mining industry veteran Andrew Michelmore. Star’s John O’Neill is on the advisory council, as is Australia China Business Council member Laurie Smith and CHAMP Ventures’ Su-Ming Wong and Vantage Asia’s Jason Yat-sen Li.”


Climate polls suggest most Australians are ‘raving inner-city elites’

“But despite the Nationals’ claims that climate change is only a concern for a narrow urban elite out of touch with middle Australia, the data keeps proving them wrong. As the AFR reported last week, a recent survey from JWS research found climate change was the number one voter concern. When asked unprompted to name issues of concern, 34% of respondents named climate, more than any other issue, and a jump of 12% since the last survey in June.  Several other polls released in the last six months appear to say the same thing. According to a Lowy Institute poll conducted in March, nearly two-thirds of Australians viewed climate change as a critical threat to the nation, requiring urgent action.  This is the highest level of concern since Lowy started asking about climate in 2006.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

Police culture must be examined as part of investigating Kumanjayi Walker’s deathMelinda Hinkson and Thalia Anthony (The Guardian): “It is not our intention to doubt or disparage these expressions of compassion and care from the NT’s most powerful men. However, it is glaringly obvious that these leaders of government and police have direct oversight of a legal regime that has been systematically and adversely brought to bear on Aboriginal lives over the past two decades. Walker’s death is not an abhorrent event but a predictable outcome of an expanding law and order complex that has increasingly penetrated NT Aboriginal communities. If more deaths are to be avoided, any interrogation into Walker’s death needs to examine the constellation of coercive measures affecting the everyday lives of Aboriginal people in the territory.”

As a former top cop, I feel a duty to speak out Mick Palmer (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald): “I am no bleeding heart drug use advocate. I was drawn – sometimes dragged – to where I am now by the evidence. Stark, in your face, compelling, evidence which was way beyond “reasonable cause” and, indeed eventually left me with “no reasonable doubt”. I again sincerely urge the Premier and the Commissioner to be prepared to examine the facts and change their minds or at least discuss the options. It is the only way we will make a difference and, in regard to the recent coronial inquiry, six families are sitting on the sidelines watching.”

China is closing itself off to criticism ($) – Andrew Hastie and James Paterson (The Daily Telegraph): “Raising these issues might not make us popular with the CCP. But we would be failing in our moral duty if we ignored or glossed over them. We remain interested in learning more from China. But we can never accept the precondition that we compromise our beliefs and self-censor. Repenting and being born again into CCP thinking will get us nowhere. Doing so would only encourage further demands that we forgo our values in order to get along. Any relationship which is based on the premise that we cannot freely share our sincere concerns is built on a shaky foundation. Australia can only build a healthy relationship with China through ­mutual respect and self-confidence, not acquiescence.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The National Gallery of Australia’s 2020 season will be unveiled by director Nick Mitzevich.

  • Attorney-General and Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter will speak at the National Press Club.

Melbourne

  • A public forum on the City of Melbourne’s future plans for Queen Victoria Market will hear from Fiona Patten MP, traders and local representatives.

  • Parents and children will gather on the parliament steps to protest about children’s health and safety in the face of climate change, as part of World Children’s Day.

Sydney

  • MP Michelle Rowland will attend the Good Hoods initiative charity fundraiser, with Bankstown residents called to “high five” one another in order to raise $100,000 for 15 selected community charities.

  • Protesting food delivery riders will deliver a charter of rights to Uber and Deliveroo.

Hobart

  • A coronial inquest will be held into the death of young Iranian asylum seeker Saeed Hassanloo who spent more than four years in immigration detention before taking his own life.