alex hawke
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

PRESELECTIVE ATTENTION

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke will head to the Supreme Court after the NSW Liberals launched a legal challenge to stop its federal counterpart sticking its nose in, The Australian ($) reports. It’s all centred around the preselection drama raging in NSW — as it stands cabinet Ministers Sussan Ley and Alex Hawke, as well as MP Trent Zimmerman, are still waiting to be endorsed just three months from the election.

But the state executive is gridlocked by factional warring, so the federal executive will reportedly “almost certainly” be asked to do something when it meets on March 3 — probably dissolve the whole state executive and replace it with an admin committee. It goes back to November when the NSW Liberal Party was supposed to meet to elect the members of the executive but, because of the Omicron outbreak, the meeting never took place, as ABC reports. It means by February 28 the power of the state executive could be kaput.

So why a summons issued for Hawke? The state executive says he purposely stalled things to run down the clock until next week’s deadline, an alleged move that is at odds with the Liberal Party’s constitution, the Oz ($) continues. If the state executive loses the case, NSW’s branches could be stripped of the power to choose their own candidates as it goes into federal hands, ABC reports — meaning Prime Minister Scott Morrison would likely get a much bigger say in grassroots preselections. The New Daily spoke to a Liberal source that said Morrison is “strongly in favour of intervention”. And the drama could plunge the NSW Coalition into a deeper minority, Guardian Australia adds, as NSW state MP Melanie Gibbons has indicated she might quit if she’s not preselected for Hughes.

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TRAINSTOPPING

A limited number of Sydney trains will run this morning, according to Transport Minister David Elliott, after they all ground to a stop yesterday. Elliott slammed the Rail, Tram and Bus Union for “hijacking the city” with “terrorist-like activity”, but the union responded that it still doesn’t get why the government shut the trains down. Confused? It all began months ago, Guardian Australia explains — the NSW government and transport workers have been negotiating pay and privatisation gripes, but it wasn’t going anywhere.

So the union decided on two weeks of limited work bans slated to begin Monday — secretary Alex Claassens says it wasn’t a strike, just a “low level” action to make their point to transport management. Everyone went to Fair Work on Saturday to try and fix things, and it appeared the government and the union had struck a deal. But Elliott says there was an, ahem, “misinterpretation” on the government’s part — so it ended up just pulling the plug on all trains yesterday, and everyone from Premier Dominic Perrottet to Prime Minister Scott Morrison blamed the union (and Labor, as AFR writes). Claassens says it was a Coalition fear campaign against unions, and NSW Opposition Leader Chris Minns was flabbergasted the network shut down even though there was no strike, the SMH reports.

SAFE AS HOUSES

A new idea to solve the Australian housing crisis has been suggested by The Grattan Institute’s Brendan Coates. It would work like this: the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (NHFIC) would cover 30% of an eligible first-home buyer’s new home. Then, low-income renters could purchase their first home with just a 5% deposit (the average house cost $994,579 in September, according to Domain) — the condition would be that the federal government could share in the equity gains as house prices rise. That means the NHFIC would get a third of the profit when the property sold (unless the homeowner chooses to buy them out), ABC explains.

So what is the NHFIC? It’s a taxpayer-funded government entity that gives finance to community housing providers and housing infrastructure projects. Coates says he imagines 5000 places would be offered at first, costing the budget about $220 million over four years (but bringing in a long term budget gain considering those tasty equity gains). But Coates says he envisages a few rules: buyers would need to stick to houses under the median price in their city (so housing prices don’t surge) and be earning no more than $60,000. Could it work? Well, similar schemes actually already exist in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, The New Daily points out. The long-running WA Keystart scheme, for instance, could be used as a model.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

It’s the question dividing fans across the world — has Wordle changed since The New York Times bought it from software boffin Josh Wardle for a lucrative seven-figure sum? The Age’s David Astle thinks so — he says playing the five-letter guessing game was a “mental birdbath” for several months until late January, when something changed. But what was it? One person replied to American TV host Trevor Noah’s query about the difference with “I know this sounds crazy, but the energy is different. It used to feel pure. Now it feels antagonistic, like facing an opponent”.

Except, well, nothing’s changed. Granted the Times has removed some words from the word list — guessing “SLAVE”, for instance, no longer works. But accusations that the Times stamped their grubby big corporation fingers over the answers appear to fall flat. The Times’ Jordan Cohen confirmed, “nothing has changed about the game play”. Then, a bunch of code-breakers hacked into the answers and found… nothing. Every word was preloaded until October 2027 and there have been no changes. So what is it about something pure and new being swallowed and rebranded by a behemoth that makes us feel jipped? The mob is fickle folks — and, on the upside, the end of our Wordle honeymoon period leaves us open to the next “birdbath”, whatever it might look like. When you’re disappointed, it’s easy to feel like something is the last good thing — but there’s always another.

Wishing you a good hot coffee this morning.

SAY WHAT?

They create the dysfunction, and then use it as an excuse to get what they want. We need to stand up to those seeking to pull strings in the background.

Concetta Fierravanti-Wells

The Liberal senator pointed the finger at Immigration Minister Alex Hawke (who represents the prime minister) for the preselection drama raging in NSW at the moment, saying he created a sense of crisis to make sure the federal Coalition could get involved.

CRIKEY RECAP

‘Strike action’ grinds Sydney to a halt? Not exactly…

“And in response to any employee action — hell, even any threat of a strike — the employer, without having to follow any of those steps, can lockout their whole workforce. The RTBU is claiming it only planned to undertake low-level protected industrial action, which would not have impacted commuters.

“We’ll never know if that’s true, I guess — because the NSW government responded by shutting down all Sydney train services. ‘Disruptive unions’ and ‘commuters blindsided by strike’ might be an easier headline, but it doesn’t reflect the power dynamic between worker and boss in Australia, and hasn’t for a very long time.”


When you don’t have an energy policy, the market takes over while the minister shouts at clouds

“Some outlets — especially the climate denialists at News Corp — are portraying the Brookfield/Cannon-Brookes bid as driven by a desire to shut down AGL’s coal-fired plants. In fact it’s driven by commercial opportunity.

“AGL contains a range of renewable and gas assets as well as a dominant energy retail business, but Bayswater and Loy Yang A are poison. The bid is aimed at securing a range of high-value assets at a discount price because of the poison of coal-fired power.”


Electoral commission moves to quell voting misinformation campaigns

“The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has asked social media platforms to remove posts casting doubt on the security of Australia’s postal voting system in order to quash misinformation in the lead-up to the federal election.

Evan Ekin-Smyth, the director of media and digital engagement for the independent body, told Crikey that the AEC has as recently as last week asked the social media giants to remove misleading social media posts.”

READ ALL ABOUT IT

Three people killed as fighter jet crashes in Iran (Al Jazeera)

How Europeans are responding to exorbitant gas and power bills (The New York Times)

Trump’s social media app goes live in Apple’s App Store (CNN)

EU mulls ways to ease tensions in Bosnia, to prevent break-up (Al Jazeera)

Accidental killing of hiker fuels bitter debate over hunting in France (The Guardian)

Ukraine crisis: Five reasons why Putin might not invade (BBC)

Taliban looks to private sector to save Afghanistan’s economy from collapse (The Wall Street Journal)

At 16, Larry Miller killed another teen. At 72, the Nike executive is ready to apologize (CNN)

THE COMMENTARIAT

Consumers caught in the AGL crossfireJoel Fitzgibbon (The AFR): “So, what is really going on here? AGL’s plan has been clear for all to see, its decision to split off its coal generation assets is clearly part of its commitment to reduce emissions, although some might accuse it of ‘green washing’. The irony is that no matter who owns them, coal generators emit the same volume of carbon dioxide.

“Unlike AGL, Brookfield need not worry about pesky ESG fund managers who eschew publicly traded companies with large carbon emissions. In its hands, the coal generating assets are worth purely the net present value of future profits with no ESG loading on their cost of capital, and without the risk of fund managers with big ESG mandates selling down the value. It’s an arbitrage.”

Lethal lovers: National strategy needed to end domestic homicidesAnne Summers (The Age): “The Pathways to Intimate Partner Homicide project, by a team from the AIC, has sampled 199 intimate partner homicides between 2007 and 2018 to try to identify whether there is a distinct progression of characteristics that led to these murders. Their report is fascinating for its identifying three key pathways, which cover 181 of the 199 cases, that may serve as trigger points for intervention to prevent future murders.

“First, ‘fixated threat’ accounted for 33% of the murderers who ‘despite being jealous, controlling and abusive in their relationships … were relatively functional in other domains of their life’. These 59 murderers were ‘typically middle-class men who were well respected in their communities and had low levels of contact with the criminal justice system’. Often described as ‘a good bloke’ in media reports of the slaughter.”

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE

The Latest Headlines

WHAT’S ON TODAY

Online

  • Youth advocate Yasmin Poole and Edelman’s Susan Redden Makatoa will speak at a live-streamed event called “The 2022 Trust Barometer: The Cycle of Distrust”.

  • Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy and Essential Media’s Pete Lewis will discuss the fortnight’s political news in a webinar for The Australia Institute.

Ngunnawal Country (also known as Canberra)

  • United Australia Party founder Clive Palmer will deliver an address to the National Press Club about the direction of his party and its financial policy.

Yuggera Country (also known as Brisbane)

  • Australian economist Richard Denniss will speak about his new book Big: The Role of the State in the Modern Economy at Avid Reader. You can also catch this one online.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief
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