Anthony Albanese Scott Morrison
(Image: AAP/Lukas Coch)

TAKEN FOR GRANTED

Coalition-held seats were given $1.9 billion in grants in the last three years, compared to Labor-held seats which received less than $530 million, the SMH reports this morning. The paper looked at 19,000 federal grants across our 151 electorates since 2018. Most unsettling were the discrepancies dictated by an invisible boundary line — in Brisbane, for instance, the Labor-held seat of Lilley saw $932,400 worth of grants, and the neighbouring Coalition-held seat of Petrie got $18.3 million.

Labor Leader Anthony Albanese’s seat of Grayndler in Sydney received $718,000 during that time, while the electorate next door, the marginal Liberal seat of Reid, received $14.8 million in grants. Incidentally, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s seat of Cook received $8.2 million, and 15 of the 20 least-supported seats were held by — you guessed it — Labor.

This analysis comes on the eve of the mid-year budget update — we’ll get a look at it tomorrow. There has been tentative optimism floating around about our bottom line — on Sunday Deloitte projected we’d see about $100 billion worth of improvement compared to the last budget, as Business Insider reports, largely thanks to our speedy vaccine uptake. But The Australian ($) reports this morning that we’re in for a rude shock — it claims any windfall has been wiped by a $50 billion “blowout” caused by the NDIS and COVID support payments.

WHO WILL WATCH THE WATCHDOG?

Top litigator Gina Cass-Gottlieb has become the first woman to head up the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), the AFR reports. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the appointment yesterday. The watchdog’s chair Rod Sims is leaving his 11-year tenure a few months early, which’ll see Cass-Gottlieb in the hot seat before the federal election. So what’ll be different this time around? Well, Cass-Gottlieb’s a lawyer, not an economist like Sims, as The Australian ($) reports, and a former chairman told AFR Sims’ legacy of law reform would probably not continue.

Interestingly, Cass-Gottlieb has a bit of a reputation for flattening the ACCC in court, as Guardian Australia expands. She actually represented JP Morgan in a big banking cartel case brought against ANZ and Deutsche Bank CitiGroup by the ACCC (it’s since gone further, to the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions). Cass-Gottlieb also worked on the 2017 Tabcorp-Tattersalls merger, as Reuters reported at the time, which ACCC unsuccessfully opposed. Sims says her experience on the other side of the courtroom makes her the right fit.

BUBBLE, BUBBLE, TOIL AND TROUBLE

House prices surged 23.4% during the last year, making it the highest growth rate in two decades, news.com.au reports. Your average house in an Australian capital city is now $961,642 — but Sydney’s average house price is more than 50% higher than that, at a staggering $1,499,126, according to The Real Estate Institute of Australia’s analysis. Cripes. Head west — about as west as you can go — and pick up your average place in Perth for half a million, making it the most cost-effective metro market to buy in.

So what’s next for this ballooning market? Economists say it could pop in 2023, where we’ll probably see prices fall by as much as 10% as interest rates rise. But allowing first homeowners to use their superannuation to buy would see the opposite happen, the AFR reports. Houses in Melbourne would be $108,000 more expensive and $159,000 more expensive in Adelaide, analysis shows.

Liberal MP Tim Wilson has long backed a scheme where people could take a portion of their super out of their fund and put it towards a house. It would help young people get in the market, and almost half of young Australians told Business Insider they’d go for it, but it’s a poisoned chalice. As Noel Whittaker writes for The Canberra Times, aside from the tax issues, you’d be crazy to forfeit the gains from compounding interest. If you take $50,000 out at 30 years old, he says, you end up with about $1.1 million less when you retire, and that’s if the contribution rate doesn’t increase — which it will.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

There are some instances in life where one simply must lie. Have you read all of the terms and conditions, an unassuming computer prompt queries? Did you read the course syllabus for this class, a university lecturer might politely inquire? Well, a whole class was caught out in that last one in the US last week. A music professor from Tennessee requested his students read their syllabus, as he does each year. It’s three pages, he reasoned, not much to peruse, and the students will know more (and ask less) about grading and the course if they do.

So the professor, Kenyon Wilson, hides $50 in a locker, and then inserts mid-way through the syllabus a passage containing the combination and location of the locker — reading “free to the first who claims; locker 147; combination 15, 25, 35”. The end of the term comes and Wilson excitedly hurries along to the locker, turns the combination and is met with the crisp $50 staring straight back at him. Wilson revealed his ruse on Facebook, and his students were “all very good sports” about it. He says he won’t try it again next year — the jig is up — but suspects next year will see some of the most well-read syllabi of all time.

Wishing you a little fun in your Wednesday, too.

SAY WHAT?

Every dollar a municipality spends is a dollar lost to the community. If the six councillors who voted for it had any decency they’d pay for it themselves.

Jeff Kennett

The former premier has sneered at ($) the decision to rename Moreland Council, which was named after a Jamaican slave estate six years after Britain outlawed slavery as an apparent snub to the law. Independent councillor Oscar Yildiz voted against it — he reckons the name change could cost $9 million — but says that doesn’t make him racist, continuing that “latte-sipping Brunswick trendies” couldn’t match his record in helping Indigenous Australians. Moreland mayor Mark Riley isn’t worried, saying the change is an important symbolic move and has allocated $500,000 for the rollout so far.

CRIKEY RECAP

I’m suspended from Twitter for tweeting public business records. Is this privacy taken too far?

“I had fallen afoul of Twitter’s private information policy, one of the platform’s rules that forbids sharing content that would violate someone’s privacy. Originally this included data like phone numbers and addresses but late last month expanded to include media such as photographs and videos of individuals taken without their permission, even if they’re depicted in public …

“Soon after it was enacted, Twitter users who’d used the platform to document the behaviours of people like QAnon adherents and Proud Boys were suspended from the platform for sharing footage of these groups taken in public.”


Wanted, one large mirror: do Liberals seriously want to whine about ‘secrecy’?

“What’s amusing about Morton’s demand that such groups and those supporting them should ‘no longer be able to shroud their electoral income in secrecy’ is that the Liberal Party is the biggest offender when it comes to just that.

“Unlike most other parties, the Liberals refuse to report any contributions below the statutory threshold. Labor, the Greens, Clive Palmer and One Nation all report either all amounts above $1000, or every dollar … It seems transparency is for the little people. But those who buy influence with the Liberals should be left undisturbed.”


Queensland: open one day, wary the next. The battle to win in 2022 has just begun

This pandemic has been treated as a political rather than a health issue from day dot, and rising COVID cases will give the Liberals ammunition to take on Labor in a state where Morrison’s biggest threat is Palaszczuk’s popularity.

“And what makes Palaszczuk vulnerable is that absence of any COVID policy depth. How will COVID be dealt with in schools from February? Will the thousands of public school teachers refusing the mandate to be vaccinated really lose their jobs?”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Belarus: Opposition leader Tikhanovsky jailed for 18 years (Al Jazeera)

Fox News hosts sent texts to Meadows urging Trump to act as January 6 attack unfolded (The New York Times)

How Beijing influences the influencers (The New York Times)

Taliban rule marked by killings, ‘litany of abuses’, UN says (Al Jazeera)

Outcry over ‘blatant misogyny’ in Indian English exam (The Guardian)

Dogecoin soars After Elon Musk says Tesla will accept it as payment for merchandise (The Wall Street Journal)

Arctic heat record is like Mediterranean, says UN (BBC)

Canada allocates $44b to compensate Indigenous children for ‘historic injustices’ (SBS)

‘Colossal waste’: Nobel laureates call for 2% cut to military spending worldwide (The Guardian)

Fuel tanker explodes in Haiti, killing more than 50 (The New York Times)

China fines Weibo for spreading ‘illegal information’ (The Wall Street Journal)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Back so soon, La Niña? Here’s why we’re copping two soggy summers in a rowAndréa S. Taschetto, Agus Santoso (The Conversation): “Last month was Australia’s wettest November on record, and summer in Queensland and parts of New South Wales is also expected to be soggy for the second consecutive year. So why is our summer parade being rained on yet again? … But this year, three climate phenomena also converged to drive the Big Wet over Australia’s eastern seaboard: a negative Indian Ocean Dipole, a positive Southern Annular Mode, and a La Niña.

“… So why are we seeing it back so soon? It’s actually not uncommon for La Niña to occur in two consecutive years. In fact, since 1958, about half of La Niña events reoccurred the following year … The Bureau of Meteorology’s seasonal outlook shows an increased chance of rain this summer (January to March) over parts of Queensland and the NSW coast, but not much for the rest of Australia. So while it’s unlikely to be the wettest ever summer in Australia overall, we can’t yet rule that out for the east coast.”

PM’s reckless spending puts Australia in inflation firing lineKevin Rudd (The AFR): “As the Morrison government prepares to unveil the annual budget update, it’s important to consider the facts underpinning the Australian economy and the serious policy challenges we now face. The federal government’s net debt is now forecast to reach $1.3 trillion — more than seven times our government’s alleged ‘debt bomb’ of $184 billion in 2013 — according to the independent Parliamentary Budget Office. That’s 55% of GDP, compared with 12% when we left office.

“The budget position is even worse. The Morrison government’s eye-watering deficit of $161 billion, or 7.8% of GDP, was fuelled by mind-boggling spending of 32.1% of GDP — a modern record. Compare that with a deficit of $19 billion, or 1.2% of GDP, under Labor in 2012-13 … If the Liberals described our 2012-13 deficit as a ‘budget emergency’, how do they describe a deficit more than eight times the size?”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Australia

  • FamilyVoice NSW/ACT’s Greg Bondar and Attorney-General Michaelia Cash will discuss the religious discrimination bill, held online.

  • Women for Australia chats with independent candidates Zoe Daniel, Jo Dyer, Kim Rubenstein, and Georgia Steele to find out their plans to take on gender inequality.

Eora Nation Country (also known as Sydney)

  • A state memorial will take place at Sydney Town Hall for author and Holocaust survivor Eddie Jaku, who wrote The Happiest Man on Earth about his experiences.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Author Jacqueline Bawtree will launch her memoir, Coming Home, which recounts her Italian travels during a career break. You can also catch this one online.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is speaking at the book launch of Transitioning to a Prosperous, Resilient and Carbon-Free Economy: A Guide for Decision-Makers, held at the Kambri Cinema.