HUNT’S HEALTH HOPES

Health Minister Greg Hunt has outlined a major shake-up of the rules governing private health insurance, in a bid to stop customer numbers dropping and premiums rising, Nine reports. The proposed changes, to be rolled out by mid-2020, would enable insurers to cover specialist treatments delivered outside hospitals, allowing customers to claim mental health and orthopaedics treatment on their hospital cover, for example.

The Grattan Institute has released a report into the private health system, saying it will continue its “death spiral” unless unnecessary costs and “greedy” specialist bills are reined in. The think tank has made a raft of recommendations, which if adopted, could see premiums drop by as much as 10%.

ASSANGE’S LIFE AT RISK

More than 60 doctors have written an open letter calling for Julian Assange to be moved to a hospital, saying his health is so bad he could die in prison, the ABC reports. The letter, addressed to British Home Secretary Priti Patel, says Assange is suffering from depression, dental issues and a serious shoulder ailment, arguing he requires urgent medical assessment.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd has spoken out in a letter to the Bring Julian Assange Home Queensland Network, saying he would face an “unacceptable” and “disproportionate” punishment if extradited to the US. Meanwhile, longtime advocate Pamela Anderson plans to directly appeal to Scott Morrison, arguing Assange is facing “psychological torture”.

THE AFTERMATH

MPs on both sides are calling for increased safeguards against foreign interference following allegations of an attempt to install a Chinese agent in parliament, Nine reports. Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching is calling for greater transparency on campaign funding and group membership (and for Liberal MP Gladys Lui to front parliament over donations), while opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong has suggested all MPs should be able to seek briefings from the Office of National Intelligence.

The Chinese intelligence operative suspected to be behind the alleged power-grab made a multimillion-dollar bid for a biotech startup based in CSIRO’s building in Parkville, and while the deal failed, security experts say it “raises a lot of questions”, Nine reports. Meanwhile, other experts say defected Chinese spy Wang Liqiang is now a target, raising fears for his safety.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Unfortunately in the heightened media environment it will not look good if we have our staff whooping it up with alcohol.

Brian Hartzer

The embattled Westpac chief told ­executives on Monday that he was “very sorry” ($) the bank would be forced to cancel Christmas parties.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Essential poll: Most Australians back medevac as is or want it to be more humane

Report: It’s the climate, not immigration, that keeps Australians awake at night

No sign of slowdown’: Atmospheric greenhouse gas levels hit new high

The China cables: Leak reveals 23 Australian citizens ‘red-flagged’ in Uighur crackdown

Man in truck deaths case pleads guilty to immigration, property offences

Angus Taylor: Government blocks access to emails about attack on Clover Moore

Give 10 regional towns ‘priority status’ to power the economy: Business Council

‘It’s like a war zone’: Farmers respond to governments’ bushfire recovery package

Defiant Hong Kong delivers Beijing a hiding in elections ($)

Money-laundering scandal: Westpac in crisis talks with largest investors

Conservative commentator uses N-word three times at book launch

Government accused of double standard on unions, white-collar crime

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

China — boldly doing what corporations have been doing for decades

“There’s a common theme uniting claims the Chinese government offered to fund the election campaign of a Liberal Party member in Victoria, recent revelations of the role of Beijing-backed community groups in supporting local government politicians in Sydney, and the NSW Labor party’s ongoing problems with Chinese influence. And it’s one that goes well beyond the efforts of the Chinese government to interfere in Australian politics. It’s money, the dominant role it plays in Australian politics, and the lack of transparency around it.”


Baby in detention could be separated from mother despite UN requests

“We are two women looking at a little child who has lost weight and gone off her food. We are two women trying to crack a puzzle — and after a minor victory we want to know how we did it so it can be repeated. We could be nurses, mothers, teachers, or sisters, but we aren’t. We are a Serco guard and a journalist. We are in the visiting room of the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA), Melbourne’s immigration detention centre, where Isabella has spent her entire life.”


News Corp’s bushfire coverage a sad case of smoke and mirrors

“With this, News Corp floated free from the truth-seeking values of its journalistic roots, values once shared across the Australian media. Sure, it continues to use the semiotics of journalism to borrow a fig leaf of credibility, as a defence against criticism (free speech!) and as a comfortably familiar presentation format. But gaslighting is when you stop pretending. It’s the moment when an organisation is openly unembarrassed about saying one thing to a public audience, with a staged wink to its right-wing readers that assures them that they’re all in on the joke.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

Christian Porter’s defamation reform would be a catastrophic mistake Chris Berg and Aaron Lane (The Age/Sydney Morning Herald): “In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, the Attorney-General declared he wants to eliminate the distinction altogether: ‘Online platforms should be held to essentially the same standards as other publishers.’ The Attorney-General’s proposal is fundamentally confused. Removing the distinction between digital platforms and newspapers would have a devastating effect on both those platforms and our ability to communicate with each other. The proposal is bad on its merits. But even besides that, the conservative government needs to understand how destructive it would be to the conservative movement online.”

Loving alternatives to euthanasia ($) – Mark Coleridge (The Australian): “I acknowledge that it may be tempting to think of euthanasia as more humane, more compassionate, more loving. I do not dispute the fact many of those who support the idea do so because they really believe it is a loving solution to suffering. Seeing loved ones suffer and wanting to end that suffering is of course a response motivated by care, and concern, and love. There is another pain that can lead to thoughts of death, and that is loneliness, which often goes hand-in-hand with depression. Loneliness, depression and acute physical pain are a powerful cocktail that seems to be fuelling the call for euthanasia. Yet the irony of it all is that these are all things we can do something about that does not entail legalising the killing of those who experience these things.”

Morrison caught in his own carbon spin cycle ($) Michael Pascoe – (The New Daily): “And the trap of preferring per capita emissions figures is that it highlights Australia’s status as among the world’s very worst carbon polluters. Man, woman and child, Australians are bloated with greenhouse gases, CO2 bullies on the global stage. There are a few minor oddities (New Caledonians, Luxembourgers, Gibraltarians) who burn more carbon than individual Australians, but otherwise it’s only the folk of oil and gas dictatorships who manage to flare more than our 16.8 tonnes of carbon dioxide per head each year. We are worse than the infamously gas-guzzling Americans on 16.1 tonnes. We pass more than three times the CO2 of the average global citizen, more than double the individual Chinese, more than eight times the 1.9 tonnes of the individual Indian.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The Australian Council of Social Service will hold its national conference, with the theme “Harnessing Community for Effective Action”.

  • Former prime minister Kevin Rudd will launch the latest Quarterly Essay, Red Flag: Waking Up to China’s Challenge, by Peter Hartcher.

  • Business Council chief Jennifer Westacott will address the National Press Club on playing to the strengths of the Australian economy.

Melbourne

  • Governor Linda Dessau will host an afternoon reception for Victoria’s centenarians.

  • Unions and affected families will condemn industrial manslaughter laws by placing 136 pairs of work shoes on the steps of Victorian parliament, representing each of the workers killed on-site in the past five years.

  • The original Ashes urn will arrive at the State Library to feature in the exhibition Velvet, Iron, Ashes.

Sydney

  • RBA governor Philip Lowe will speak on “Unconventional Monetary Policy: Some Lessons from Overseas” at the Australian Business Economists’ annual dinner.

  • Rabobank will launch its annual Food Waste Report, shedding light on the nation’s food waste habits.

  • Former NSW premier Bob Carr will launch economist Leith van Onselen‘s discussion paper on population growth and infrastructure.

  • The Australian co-captains for 2020 Tokyo Paralympics will be named.

Hobart

  • The disability royal commission will hold a community forum.

Perth

  • A parliamentary report into mining at Pinjin Station will be tabled, looking into allegations of intimidation, abuse and racial discrimination towards the Aboriginal owners of a neighbouring station.

Adelaide

  • Professor Anne Pende will deliver the 2019 Sir Sidney Kidman Public Lecture, examining courage in the life and work of prominent Australians Geraldine Brooks, Wesley Enoch and the late John Clarke.