Michael Sukkar
(Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

FRIEND WITH BENEFITS

In their second major investigation in as many days, The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar used taxpayer funds to employ close friend and graphic designer Matt Pham as a casual electorate officer and, in potential breaches of parliamentary rules, to design political smear files against factional enemies and materials aimed at soliciting Liberal party donations.

Following Sunday’s branch-stacking investigation, powerbroker Marcus Bastiaan has resigned from the party, Labor has called on Scott Morrison to sack Sukkar, and the Victorian Liberals announced a forensic membership audit.

ANOTHER POLICE SHOOTING IN THE US

CNN reports that protests have erupted in the US state of Wisconsin after police repeatedly shot yet another black man, identified as Jacob Blake, after he apparently broke up a fight between two women.

Attorney Ben Crump has released footage of Blake being shot in the back while entering his car, where his three sons watched. Protesters have since set fire to a Kenosha courthouse, and follow separate demonstrations a night earlier in Lafayette, Louisiana, after police killed another black man — Trayford Pellerin, 31 — outside a convenience store.

PS: In a reminder of just how far the US’ precious “freedom of speech” really gets them, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee last week bumped up the punishment for camping on state property — a tactic Black Lives Matter protesters have deployed outside the Tennessee Capitol lately — from a misdemeanour to a class E felony with a maximum sentence of up to six years in prison and automatic loss of voting rights.

POURING GAS ON THE FIRE?

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, a group of leading Australians scientists and co-authors with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have written to denounce Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel’s qualified support for gas as having a “critical” role in decarbonising Australia.

While Finkel is a proponent of scaling-up renewable generation, storage and transmission technologies, the group takes issue with Finkel’s support for the Morrison government’s ongoing advocacy for gas — which releases highly-potent methane — as a transition and recovery fuel.

The news comes as the government’s gas-stacked National COVID-19 Commission calls for taxpayer-funded construction and, apparently, maintenance of new gas pipelines, despite a drop in domestic and global demand; it also comes after the mining and transport of LNG were partly responsible for Australia’s recent increase in total greenhouse gas emissions.

PS: For a more promising sector with a legitimate need for government intervention, a new Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis report puts green hydrogen as a high-demand, low-supply fuel that, as RenewEconomy explains, faces significant transport costs to develop as a genuine export.

COLBECK DEMOTED

According to The Australian ($), under new national cabinet protocols Aged Care Minister Richard Colbeck has reportedly lost responsibility for activating new aged-care emergency measures to Health Minister Greg Hunt.

News of the shakeup comes as the government faces criticism at the aged care royal commission for ignoring previous inquiries, specifically, according to The Conversation, calls for independent monitoring and reporting of aged care quality outcomes.

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT

Finally, The Guardian reports that legal groups including the Grata Fund and Police Accountability Project have warned against the Victorian government’s push to extend its state of emergency by 12 months, with the latter specifically hitting out at examples of discriminatory policing.

Dan Andrews announced the proposal yesterday following news of 116 new cases, the state’s lowest daily figure since July 5.

PS: In the latest from the state’s hotel quarantine inquiry, the Herald Sun ($) and The Guardian report that a security guard was told to reuse masks and gloves in order to ration PPE while overseeing infected travellers at Rydges hotel, and to make sure not to do this in front of the hotel cameras.

THEY REALLY SAID THAT?

I just think everyone needs to take a chill pill and realise this is a good news story, not a bad one. They’ve been purposely designed this way so that commuters and those who enjoy the river cats can get outside.

Andrew Constance

It might not seem easy to spin reports that 10 brand new ferries risk cutting passengers in half any time they go under a bridge, but, credit to the NSW Transport Minister, he’s given it a red hot go.

CRIKEY RECAP

AMP coup: rainmaker stays as old blokes go — and more to come

“The board coup at AMP over the weekend was the right outcome and the share market agrees, with the company’s shares recovering in a falling market this morning.

“The move reaffirms AMP’s status as Australia’s number one board coup company in the past 25 years with old-fashioned chairman David Murray, 71, out with immediate effect after a controversial two-year-and-three-month stint as the nominated chair.”


Morrison’s mates team up for new advisory firm. But don’t call it a lobby group

“Three of Scott Morrison’s closest friends and associates have teamed up to form a new advisory firm that will help foreign companies get government approval to buy up Australian assets. The new venture, FIA Australia, says it can help ‘guide complex transactions through the Foreign Investments Review Board (FIRB)’.”


Taxpayers continue to foot the bill for factional playgrounds

“The recurring theme of branch stacking stories — apart from rampaging egos, sundered alliances and political self-obsession — is the misuse of taxpayer-funded staff for internal party politicking.

“There’s a long list. The claims that electorate office and ministerial staff were involved in Adem Somyurek’s branch stacking within the Victorian ALP. Claims of branch stacking by an electorate officer for that most expired of political has-beens, Kevin Andrews, that led to a resignation. The employment of family members as electorate office staff. The involvement of electorate office staff in the misuse of taxpayer funding for political purposes.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Hundreds of university staff vote to take unprotected strike

Bogged down: Industrial relations talks struggling over old ground

ASIO alert to universities over China links ($)

Landowners in fire-prone areas to be required to do hazard reduction burns

Icare CEO’s wife was paid $800,000 over three years to train staff, NSW parliamentary inquiry hears

Labor welcomes backdown on ‘most extreme part’ of JobKeeper 2.0

Nationals put squeeze on Michael McCormack; leadership strike tipped after Queensland election ($)

Di Natale bids a less than fond farewell

Crossbench pushes Coalition to support ISP and community renewables projects

German doctors say tests indicate Putin critic Alexei Navalny was poisoned

Justin Trudeau just shut down Canada’s parliament to escape a scandal

Tilting at windmills: The FBI chased imagined eco-activist enemies, documents reveal

THE COMMENTARIAT

Anthony Albanese needs to box clever, not just throw haymakers at Scott Morrison ($) — Dennis Shanahan (The Australian): “After months of COVID-induced irrelevance Anthony Albanese and federal Labor sense a chance to at last get some political traction and dim the resurgent aura of Scott Morrison. In a historic day of parliamentary procedural changes that may herald a leap from 19th to 21st-century representation, it was still the Opposition Leader’s first chance to stand at the dispatch box in the House of Representatives, conveniently a social-distance sword length away from the Prime Minister, and prosecute his case on failures in aged care.”

There must be a full scale inquiry into icare. Anything less is a cop outAdele Ferguson (The Sydney Morning Herald): “Nothing to see here. That was the resounding message from the icare board directors and senior executives who fronted a parliamentary hearing into its performance on Monday. Their comments were reminiscent of banking royal commissioner Kenneth Hayne’s observation in his final report about ‘a wide gap between the public face NAB seeks to show and what it does in practice’.”

We don’t show our papersSanmati Verma (Peril): “By July, the only people I know who have COVID-19 in Australia are on temporary visas. A friend who lives in a house of six tells me he got it from his housemate, who used to work overnight shifts, cleaning trains when they came to rest in a yard outside the Docklands. He’d taken double shifts, because there was extra work, and he didn’t know when it would dry up, or who would support him when it did.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Canberra

  • The Finance Department is set give evidence at the Senate COVID-19 inquiry.

Melbourne

  • State Education Minister James Merlino and president of the Australian Education Union Meredith Peace are set to speak at the state government’s COVID-19 inquiry.

  • Grassroots group Stand Together Against Racism will host online forum event, COVID: Exposing racialised exploitation of migrant and gig workers.

Adelaide

  • Day one of the five-day emergency management conference AFAC20.

North Carolina, USA

  • Day one of the four-day Republican National Convention.

Peter Fray

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