Bridget McKenzie (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

AND SHE’S GONE

Bridget McKenzie has finally stepped down as minister of agriculture after the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet finalised a report into the sports rorts scandal and McKenzie’s membership of the Wangaratta gun club.

However, as The Guardian reports, both McKenzie and Scott Morrison have framed her decision to step down as limited to that particular conflict of interest, with the PM&C apparently denying that the scandal amounted to pork barrelling, broke any rules, or is anything much to worry about at all.

This is in spite of the auditor-general’s explicit finding of a distribution bias, the ABC’s colour-coded spreadsheet, Sports Australia’s private complaints, and over two-weeks’ worth of other reports of political interference — including from Morrison’s office.

… TO THE BACKBENCH

McKenzie now moves to the backbench (with a salary of more than $211,000) while Nationals leader Michael McCormack will act as agriculture minister. The Nationals will elect a new deputy leader and cabinet minister this week — with Barnaby Joyce, The Australian ($) reports, currently circling.

However, the decision to pin McKenzie’s resignation from cabinet to her conflict of interest sets an interesting double-standard that, if Anthony Albanese’s tweets are anything to go by, Labor plans to run with — namely, why the hell is Energy Minister Angus Taylor is still here?

SCANDALS TAKE THEIR POLL TOLL

In the first of two shocking polls following the bushfires and sports-rorts scandals, the latest Newspoll ($) has both Labor and opposition leader Anthony Albanese consolidating positive swings from January, leading the Coalition 52-48 and Scott Morrison 43-38 respectively.

Meanwhile, participants of an Ipsos-run focus group see “Morrison as irretrievably damaged by the bushfire crisis” — specifically over a lack of “empathy” and “organisation” relative to his NSW and Victorian counterparts. Others doubt whether the public anger will last until the next election.

DJOKOVIC KEEPS ANOTHER GRAND SLAM AWAY FROM THE YOUTH

Finally, the ABC reports that Novak has come from behind to grab his eighth Australian Open, beating Dominic Thiem to take his 17th grand slam singles title.

Elsewhere, activists protested the Australian Open’s partnership with Accor Group, owner of Mantra Hotels, where roughly 50 medevaced refugees have been held for months.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

Elected representatives are responsible for public expenditure and take advice, not direction, from the public service and others. The operation of ministerial discretion is important to our democratic process.

Bridget McKenzie

Continuing the government’s new tradition of condescending public servants, the former agriculture minister clings to the false argument that ministerial discretion applies to corporate entities like Sport Australia.

CRIKEY QUICKIE: THE BEST OF YESTERDAY

Grubby political donation laws enable corruption

“Ever wondered how much Clive Palmer spent on the 2019 election campaign? That question will be answered, along with many others, at 9am on Monday when the AEC does its annual political donations dump, this time for the 2018-19 financial year. Watch for it here.”


Morrison delivers big fossil fuel win for major donor Santos

Scott Morrison’s energy deal with NSW, announced this morning, is a huge win for fossil fuel company Santos, a major political donor with extensive ties to the Coalition.”


Parliament faces an age-old problem

“After years of being maligned as lazy, millennials are now running countries. Sebastian Kurz, sworn in as Austria’s chancellor in January, is just 33. Shockingly, it isn’t Kurz’s first rodeo — he held the position between 2017 and 2019, first elected at the tender age of 31.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

No compromise on the environment in any energy deal, says Labor

Media Diary: Mathias Cormann first up in Malcolm Turnbull’s bad books ($)

Koala deaths in Victoria’s south-west to be investigated

Green light for $430m redevelopment of naval training base

Coronavirus: Qantas flight leaves Sydney to evacuate Australians stuck in China

Scott Morrison ‘chooses’ former premier John Olsen to lead Liberal Party ($)

NSW Parliament to devote week to bushfire condolences

Drug decriminalisation would ‘save hundreds of millions’, but Queensland Premier rules it out

International student market faces $8 billion hit from coronavirus travel ban

Review unearths years of sex abuse by Jesuits priests ($)

Man shot dead following fresh terror attack in London

THE COMMENTARIAT

Sport grant scandal a stain on Prime Minister’s tenure — Editorial (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Honouring the ministerial standards. That’s what Prime Minister Scott Morrison said was being done yesterday as Senator Bridget McKenzie handed back her ministerial badge after revelations about the sports rorts scandal. Honour. Transparency. Accountability. Those words rolled off his tongue as though saying them somehow righted all wrongs. It doesn’t.”

Indigenous culture not to blame for alcohol abuse, violence ($) — Yingiya Guyula (The Australian):[Jacinta] Price wrote on this page about Yolngu law, but she is not a member of the Yolngu nation and she is not from Yolngu country. She has referred to an article titled Ngarra Law that has no authority.”

Scott Morrison is stuck in a time warp – more gas is not the answerSimon Holmes à Court (The Guardian): “His claim that ‘there is no credible energy transition plan, for an economy like Australia in particular, that does not involve the greater use of gas as an important transition fuel’ is demonstrably wrong. There are many.”

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Melbourne

  • A state memorial service will be held for former Victorian premier John Cain, who died on December 23 following a stroke.

Adelaide

Port Macquarie, NSW

  • The NSW Upper House Committee inquiry into koala populations and habitat will begin two-days of hearings along the mid-north coast.

Australia

  • The Australian Electoral Commission will release annual political donations for the 2018-19 financial year at 9am AEDT. Watch for it here.

Florida, USA

  • The San Francisco 49ers will play the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV (starts 10:30 am AEDT).