Westpac Acting CEO Peter King (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

“HELP WHEN IT MATTERS”

Westpac has been linked to an international paedophilia case over allegations an Australian sex offender used the bank’s transfer system to purchase live-streamed child-abuse videos.

A Victorian man stands accused of using Westpac’s services to send tens of thousands of dollars across more than 100 transactions to a south-east Asian country. The man is currently in custody on child abuse solicitation and possession charges.

In November, AUSTRAC accused Westpac of 23 million breaches of anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism finance laws. The watchdog said each breach attracts a civil penalty of between $17 million and $21 million.

AN ECONOMIC TOLL

Aussies are cancelling plans to travel to bushfire-affected regions, with resulting economic losses of up to $1 billion. Cancellation rates in unaffected areas in regional Victoria and New South Wales have surpassed 60%, and in bushfire-affected areas, cancellation rates have risen to nearly 100%.

Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham will today meet with tourism industry representatives to discuss efforts to boost the country’s image in the wake of the bushfires. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has had to personally request the US State Department downplay its “exercise increased caution” warning to American tourists looking to travel Down Under.

WE GOT BEEF

The newly signed US-China trade deal could hurt Australian agricultural and energy exporters, The Australian reports ($).

As part of the agreement’s first phase, China will purchase an additional US$200 billion of goods from the US over the next two years. Of this, China has vowed to spend an extra US$32 billion in agriculture and US$52.4 billion in liquefied natural gas.

The deal covers almost every sector from which Australia already exports to China, with the exception of iron ore. Last year, Australia exported $900 million worth of beef and $1.7 billion worth of dairy to China. Commonwealth Bank analyst Vivek Dhar predicts up to 10% of Australia’s $50 billion LNG exports could be lost to American competitors as a result of the deal.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

As Prime Minister, I tried to ensure that our climate and energy policies were governed by engineering and economics, not ideology and idiocy.

Malcolm Turnbull

In a TIME article, the former prime minister reflects on the state of Australia and how right-wing forces led to his downfall. Twice.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Weathering the storm: inside the Murdoch family climate schism

Peter Gutwein, Michael Ferguson confirm showdown to be Tasmania’s next premier

Beijing may let Hong Kong retain independence beyond 2047: Carrie Lam

Former Minerals Council spinner poised for National Party top job

Company approved to take 96 million litres of water from drought-ravaged Queensland town

Julie Bishop takes job with Greensill, the firm pushing controversial financing practice

Rudy Giuliani aide Lev Parnas claims Donald Trump knew Ukrainian investigation into Bidens was politically motivated

Queensland archbishop opposes planned law to compel priests to report child sexual abuse

Donald Trump impeachment: Senate prepares for first day of trial

Elizabeth Warren told Bernie Sanders he called her a liar on national TV

Pauline Hanson says regional Queensland says ‘no’ to Olympics ($)

Billion dollar NSW privatisation plan delayed by bushfire crisis

‘This is the modern Rome’: Joe Hockey reveals plans for a future in the US

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Anatomy of a rort: how the Coalition spent $100 million in grants to help its election campaign

Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie and her office systematically abused the $100 million Community Sport Infrastructure Program, ostensibly administered by the Australian Sports Commission, to help the government’s 2019 election campaign. Here’s how they did it.”


Rorting is one of Australian politicians’ favourite pastimes

Bridget McKenzie’s rorted sports grants have been described by Labor as “industrial-scale pork barrelling”. But where do they fit in Australia’s broader political history?

Is this on the softer, “bottle-of-wine” end of the corruption spectrum, or could McKenzie conceivably face serious consequences? Check out Crikey’s guide to recent rorts and decide for yourself.”


News Corp’s biggest Australian investor quietly leaves the building

Murdoch’s Australian newspapers have been slammed for their biased and troubled reporting of the bushfire crisis — even his own son has joined the criticism — leading this week to a $5 million donation to various appeals in a sort of guilt payment. While James and Kathryn Murdoch’s comments are getting plenty of attention, there are more pressing business matters that remain undiscussed.

One such matter is the quiet move by the company’s biggest Australian investor, Sydney fund manager Perpetual, to sell all but a handful of its voting shares in News.”

THE COMMENTARIAT

Some of the most predatory companies thrive in times of disaster — Elizabeth Minter (The Age): “Insurance claims management services and payday loan companies (also known as providers of short amount credit) are circling. Anecdotal reports are coming in from financial counsellors about insurance claims management companies encouraging bushfire victims with insurance policies, to sign up to their services. For a fee, these companies undertake the administrative work on an insurance claim. It’s a seductive pitch to traumatised people.

Who’s not doing enough on climate change ($) — David Haslingden (The Australian): “Insurance claims management services and payday loan companies (also known as providers of short amount credit) are circling. Anecdotal reports are coming in from financial counsellors about insurance claims management companies encouraging bushfire victims with insurance policies, to sign up to their services. For a fee, these companies undertake the administrative work on an insurance claim. It’s a seductive pitch to traumatised people.”

Fires could melt PM’s anti-establishment vote back into the earth — Tom Akhurst (The Age): “There is likely to be a coalescing of views across the community about climate action. Australians reject anything that threatens their security, drives up their bills or risks their jobs. Now climate inaction presents that challenge – they are choking on smoke, homes and property have been destroyed, farmers are unable to grow crops or feed their stock, and fireys have had to risk their employment to protect their communities. Morrison has not yet fully articulated any means to reconcile climate action with the genuine concerns around its economic cost.”

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The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison will join the Red Cross, National Farmers’ Federation and other peak bodies for a bushfire roundtable.

New South Wales

  • The funeral of Rural Fire Service NSW firefighter Sam McPaul will be held today in the town of Holbrook.

Adelaide

  • The funeral of Kangaroo Island bushfire victims Dick and Clayton Lang will be held today in Golden Grove.

National

  • Vigils organised by School Strike 4 Climate will be held in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide and Perth in solidarity with those affected by the bushfires.