Bridget McKenzie (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

WELL THE RORTS START COMIN AND THEY DON’T STOP COMING, NA NA NA NAH COMING!

In a statement simply labelled “Senate Estimates” on her personal website, Bridget McKenzie has rejected Labor’s repeated accusation that she backdated a decision on the sports rorts grants last year after the government had entered caretaker mode for the May election.

TALKING POINT: However, as The Sydney Morning Herald notes, McKenzie does not explain the discrepancy in dates or clarify whether changes to the colour-coded spreadsheet were made by the prime minister’s office or her ministerial advisers.

GET THE SHOW ON, GET PAID

Bad news if you’re sick of sports rorts, because a Sydney Morning Herald investigation has found, as NSW minister for sport, Liberal member for Penrith Stuart Ayres pushed for other departments to provide a $12 million grant to a Penrith facility — with no relevance to sport — weeks before the 2019 state election.

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TALKING POINT: Senior executives noted in correspondence that Ayres did “not want to have his signature on anything to do with the Panthers project” and that funding it directly would have created a “reputational risk for the office of sport and the government”.

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE

  • Australia has now recorded more than 50 coronavirus cases, including a baby in South Australia (ABC), and a year 11 student from Sydney’s Epping Boys High School, which NSW Health last night ordered to close (The New Daily).
  • Doctors will today demand clarity over Australia’s long-term plan and raise concerns over capacity and preparedness at a meeting with the chief health officer (The Guardian).
  • Tourism Australia has released data showing the crisis has knocked 36% off international airline bookings since December (The Australian $), and will now launch a new ad campaign aimed at assuring UK and US tourists that Australia is “safe” (The Herald-Sun $).
  • Relatedly, the International Air Transport Association is at pains to say that passengers still face an extremely low risk on flights (ABC).
  • Four Australians are stuck aboard yet another virus-infected ship, this time, the ‘Grand Princess’ (The Australian $).
  • Scott Morrison has pledged to share increasing health and aged care costs with states (The Age) and is, apparently, focusing on wage subsidies for small and medium businesses as part of its stimulus package (AFR $).
  • Australians returning from Italy have been asked to self-isolate for 14 days if they feel sick, amid new travel restrictions also covering South Korea, Iran and China (The Age).

For rolling global updates — most of which, at least overnight, are limited to increasing case numbers and new travel restrictions — see The Guardian’s live-blog.

HANSON-YOUNG ON THE DEFENSIVE

According to The New Daily, Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has defended her decision to write a character reference for a friend and political lobbyist who pleaded guilty to domestic violence charges — in part because the man’s wife supported her decision.

LESSONS FROM DAY FOUR OF SENATE ESTIMATES

  • Treasury hasn’t modelled the cost of global warming since the 2008 Garnaut review (SBS).
  • Celebrity tradesman Scott Cam has, in his $347,000 role as Australia’s first careers ambassador, attended just one event, delivered three videos and made four social media posts since taking on the gig in October (ABC).
  • More than 1200 people died over a three-year period waiting for the NDIS (AAP).
  • The Coalition has declined to sign a UN pledge for press freedom — already signed by US, UK and Canadian governments — for nine months now because it would require financial support for a journalism fund (news.com.au).
  • The Fair Work Ombudsman has accused PwC of sharing “misleading” and “inaccurate” data on corporate Australia’s underpayment crisis (AFR $).
  • Labor has found yet another multimillion-dollar fund to grill the Coalition over, with Kristina Keneally questioning Michaelia Cash over a $50 million industry hubs program that saw 90% of training centres aimed at youth underemployment located in Liberal or marginal Labor seats (Twitter).

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

At the end of the day this is a threat to the Greens business model. I say to the Greens and to the Labor Party and to any other party that routinely endorses on council: get out of council politics.

Adem Somyurek

Ahead of passing a Labor-Coalition-backed bill implementing, among other changes, single-member wards, Victoria’s Minister for Local Government says the quiet part loud.

CRIKEY RECAP

The world is talking about the wrong virus

“Amidst all this, and the great Australian toilet paper scare, was the announcement that Australian Associated Press was being wrecked by its major shareholders Nine and News Corp in order to stop cross-subsidising smaller news providers — which was the point of AAP in the first place.”


Crown and corona: how the flow of Wuhan high-rollers stopped just in time

“Did investigative journalists help Melbourne and Australia dodge another bullet?

“A central piece of the ongoing Crown Casino revelations is a local network of wealthy and well-connected businessmen from Wuhan associated with gaming, racing, hunting and golf in Melbourne.”


Polls apart: rumours of Ardern’s demise greatly exaggerated in Australia

“In an age of resurgent nationalism and populism, Jacinda Ardern has provided a rare beacon of hope for centre-left politics since she led New Zealand’s Labour Party out of the wilderness in 2017.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

News Corp, Nine accused of closing AAP to damage competitors

Newsagents’ pre-emptive strike against lotto credit card ban

Qld bosses who underpay staff face 14 years’ jail under proposed laws

Berejiklian government prepares to privatise WestConnex

Liberals demand probe over Greens councillor’s $17,500 childcare bill

NAB banker Mike Baird withdraws $4m in fast exit ($)

$20 million flows for bushfire recovery, but small businesses struggle

Green ‘lawfare’ a $65bn deal hit to projects ($)

Australia dodge rain and hold nerve to beat South Africa and reach Women’s World T20 final

Greece says it will deport asylum seekers who arrived after Turkey opened way to Europe

Elizabeth Warren drops out of 2020 Democratic presidential race

THE COMMENTARIAT

Ocean degradation falls heaviest on those least responsibleTommy Remengesau Jr (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Humanity is waking up to the crisis happening in our oceans. Warming and rising seas, acidification, plummeting fish stocks, and pollution are finding more space in newspapers and on political agendas.”

The Herald Sun explains its decision to close comments on AFL Women’s stories ($) — Lauren Wood (Herald Sun): “Comments are no longer available on Herald Sun AFLW stories — and haven’t been since pre-season. We have closed them deliberately. The measure was taken because of the constant trolling, harassment and disgraceful commentary by some members of our community.”

Even as behavioural researchers we couldn’t resist the urge to buy toilet paperLiam Smith and Celine Klemm (The Guardian): “Neither of us had intended to get caught up in the hype but then asked each other … if there was a packet left or if we happened to be there when they were restocking the shelves, would we have bought additional toilet paper? Of course we would.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The final day of Senate estimates for this session will include cross-portfolio hearings on Indigenous matters and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

  • ACT Emergency Services commissioner Georgeina Whelan will speak at Women in Media’s International Women’s Day event at the National Press Club.

Melbourne

  • The Melbourne Press Club will announce the 2019 Quill Award winners.

  • Lord Mayor Sally Capp, Richmond president Peggy O’Neal, Hawthorn VFLW head coach Bec Goddard and others will speak at the Office for Women in Sport and Recreation’s “Change Our Game Community Sport Symposium” at Deakin Edge, Federation Square.

Brisbane

  • The Minister’s Award for Urban Design 2020 will be presented at Queensland’s Parliament House.

Hobart

  • After being launched last night, the Spiegeltent Hobart will run until March 29.

Perth

  • WA Minister for Women’s Interests Simone McGurk will launch West Australian Music’s Fair Play WA report at The Bird.

Australia

  • The ABS will publish data on retail trade and consumer spending for January.

  • International Women’s Day events will be held across the country, ahead of the day itself this Sunday, March 8.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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