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August 2016

29 August 2016
by Paul Bongiorno

Jelly roll Shorten

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann sounded every bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator as he tried to bludgeon Labor into supporting $6.5 billion worth of budget savings this week. “Will Bill Shorten step up to the plate on budget repair in this parliament, or will he be like a jelly on that plate?” he asked without a trace of humour. “The wibble, wobble, wibble, wobble jelly on a plate?”

With his Belgian accent he actually said “vibble, vobble” but Bill Shorten got the idea and while he wasn’t cowered by it, nor was he amused. Although the amount specified had been identified by Labor in the campaign as savings it would either implement or seriously consider, Shorten was giving no easy wave through on any of the measures: “They don’t give us the detail. Many of you have negotiated in your private lives and other commitments you’re involved in – have you ever heard of someone negotiating by getting a megaphone and just saying, ‘Trust us’? This is not a negotiation.” And then the cruncher: “These guys are acting like they still have a 90-seat margin in the house of representatives. They don’t; they have a one-seat majority.” [Read More...]

29 August 2016
by Karen Middleton

Tortured Chamber

As the new senators arrived at Parliament House on Tuesday for three days of political induction, some were celebrating their anonymity.

“Hi, I’m Murray Watt,” one Labor senator-elect for Queensland announced brightly, sparing journalists the need to scan clutched pages of headshots.

Later, Watt told Radio National what he found most surprising was that he was there at all, “sitting in the same room as Pauline Hanson, Derryn Hinch and Pat Dodson and a whole bunch of other people”.

“I never expected to find myself in that situation,” he said. “But it was a really good day.”

Nick Xenophon is firing an early warning shot over what his team’s support will cost.

While some of the 14 newcomers may be able to tuck quietly inside a major party, those on the crossbench are unlikely to remain low profile for long. And some, such as those Watt mentioned, arrive with profiles that are already well and truly established. [Read More...]

10 August 2016
by John Passant

The Big Four, super profits and a Royal Commission

The super profits of the Big Four banks continue to impact on the rest of the economy and Malcolm Turnbull's solution of ordering them to appear before the Economics Committee is not likely to make them give up those profits.
Four years ago I pointed out that Australia’s banks were, in 2010 and 2011, the most profitable in the world. Nothing has changed. Australian banks in 2015-16 were, once again, the most profitable in the world.
[Read More...]

10 August 2016
by Michael Chammas

'He pisses purple': French swimmer's attack on Chinese Rio Olympic champion Sun Yang

Sun Yang pumps his fist after winning the 200 metre freestyle

French swimmer Camille Lacourt has taken a swipe at controversial Chinese swimmer Sun Yang, declaring: "he pisses purple".

The swimming world has erupted after Australian Mack Horton called Sun a drug cheat on the opening day of the Rio Olympics, with the veteran French backstroker expressing his dismay over FINA's decision to allow him to compete. [Read More...]

10 August 2016
by James Eyers

Bill Shorten targets bank profits, banks target Shorten

Labor leader Bill Shorten is using banks' reporting of profits to ramp up his campaign for a royal commission, demanding that the "greedy" banks should be investigated for putting profits and executive rewards before customers. Mr Shorten did not rule out supporting a new tax on bank profits.

But the banks are preparing to hit back at Labor, arguing its attacks would ultimately hurt shareholders, superannuants and depositors. [Read More...]

09 August 2016
by AAP

Australia set to tumble in cricket rankings after Sri Lanka debacle

Bails fly as Angelo Mathews and wicketkeeper Dinesh Chandimal celebrate the wicket of Australian cricketer Adam Voges during the third day of the second Test match between Sri Lanka and Australia.

Labelled Australia’s worst touring team to Sri Lanka, Steve Smith’s team now face the prospect of giving up their No1 Test ranking.

Down 2-0 in the series, even if Australia win the third and final Test starting in Colombo on Saturday, they will relinquish top spot if other results go against them. [Read More...]

09 August 2016
by Katharine Murphy

Conservative Liberals use Four Corners to put Malcolm Turnbull on notice

Eric Abetz warns ‘it will only take one person’ to cross the floor, and says it would have been gracious to return Tony Abbott, Kevin Andrews or himself to cabinet

Malcolm Turnbull faces pressure to reconcile the conservative wing of the Liberal party to elements of his agenda, like superannuation changes.

Conservative senator Eric Abetz has warned Malcolm Turnbull to govern inclusively, noting the Coalition’s slender post-election majority, and observing “it will only take one person or two in the House of Representatives to cross the floor to defeat government legislation”.

Abetz has used an interview with the ABC’s Four Corners program to renew his criticisms of Malcolm Turnbull on a range of fronts, airing his grievances about Turnbull’s refusal to restore Tony Abbott, himself or the former defence minister Kevin Andrews to cabinet, and repeating his opposition to the Coalition’s superannuation policy. [Read More...]

09 August 2016
by Aaron Patrick

'Brazen' Chinese spying hardens opposition to $10b AusGrid takeover

Chinese spies have been caught by the intelligence services conducting "brazen" espionage in Australia over the past year, hardening concerns within the federal government about allowing a Chinese company to buy a $10 billion power company from NSW.
Senior government officials were "deeply concerned by the consequences" of a Chinese state-owned company, State Grid Corp, being issued a 99-year lease to operate Ausgrid, which provides all of Sydney's electricity, according to a security source. There were at least 60 cyber attacks on energy networks last financial year, according to official figures. [Read More...]

08 August 2016
by David Donovan

The lazy prime minister

The dilettante PM

Malcolm Turnbull is too lazy to govern, but too in love with glory to leave. But leave he should. Because he doesn't have what it takes. Not any more.

Turnbull is rich and has been pampered too long. Now he doesn't have the energy or the inclination to really run the country. Once, long ago, when he was hungry and ambitious, and full of ideas, he may have made a good prime minister. But now – now he is broken and bowed, and fast, fast growing old – he doesn't have what it takes. No. Not any more.

Once upon a time, a young, bright Turnbull was a Rhodes Scholar, and he won the Spycatcher case, and he fixed things for Kerry Packer, and ran banks, and made gold deals with Russian gangsters. Back then, Malcolm may have run the country with flair and panache. Maybe he would have. Or maybe not. [Read More...]

08 August 2016
by Philip Wen

Chinese fury after Mack Horton defeats Sun Yang for 400m freestyle gold

Brave face: Sun Yang and Mack Horton shake hands after the medal presentation.

Beijing: Chinese sports fans and local media have turned on Australia's newest Olympic swimming sensation Mack Horton, accusing the 20-year-old of "taunting" home favourite Sun Yang by calling him a "drug cheat" to his face in a post-race press conference.

Horton had already raised the stakes in the electrifying rivalry between the two swimmers before their 400-metre freestyle final, saying he had "no time or respect for drug cheats", referring to Sun's three-month doping ban in 2014. He then backed up his talk with a nerveless swim to hold off a fast-finishing Sun, clinching Australia's first gold at the Rio Olympics. [Read More...]

08 August 2016
by Nick McKenzie

Jockey Danny Nikolic linked to new betting scandal with Sydney punter

Jockey Danny Nikolic (right) with partner Tania Hyett (left) entering court in June.

In December last year, a mysterious punter walked into a Sydney TAB and deposited $10,000 in cash into the TAB account of a young Victorian woman.
It was just one of several unusual transactions involving Tania Hyett's account.

Betting records suggest the punter, a "colourful racing identity", and his associates were accessing the account, having obtained Hyett's account number and PIN code, to place bets on horse races as large as $80,000, or to shift funds. [Read More...]

06 August 2016
by Max Oprey

A Window on Rio

Life in Rio de Janeiro as the Olympics arrive

Needing a break from the hustle of Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest hillside favela, Andre Felix scales right to the top. From there the 25-year-old gazes eastward, briefly glaring at the elite international school bordering his community before lifting his eyes to the distant ivory towers of Ipanema and, beyond that, Copacabana. That’s where the Olympic beach volleyball will be, but as much as he’d like to go, Felix can’t afford a ticket.

Andre Felix
“The Olympic Games is not an event for poor guys, it’s for rich guys,” he says.

Felix turns to the west, where looms the dramatic peak of Pedra da Gávea, behind which lies the epicentre of the Olympics – the sprawling gated communities and shopping malls of Barra da Tijuca, transformed by property tycoon Carlos Carvalho into, as he described it last year, an enclave of “good taste” and “noble housing, not housing for the poor”. [Read More...]

06 August 2016
by Paul Bongiorno

Malcolm Turnbull's week of missteps

Two weeks into the new Turnbull government the prime minister is in urgent need of someone to patch a few holes. The refloated ship of state has sprung more leaks than we have seen in quite a while. It’s not yet time to take to the lifeboats but out the portholes have gone cabinet solidarity, confidentiality and cohesion. This is an administration at war with itself, and the parliament hasn’t even sat yet.

The immediate issue was the nomination of former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd for the job of secretary-general of the United Nations. As a piece of political management, it was amateur hour. That in itself is a real worry given that the government holds power with a wafer-thin majority of one and lacks the numbers in a senate with the most unwieldy crossbench in history. [Read More...]

06 August 2016
by Paul Karp

Kevin Rudd says Malcolm Turnbull's rejection of UN bid a 'monstrous intrusion'

Former PM says Julie Bishop championed compromise for cabinet to decide on bid to be secretary general of United Nations

Kevin Rudd has given an account of his bid to become the UN secretary general, heaping praise on the foreign affairs minister, Julie Bishop, for championing a compromise for cabinet to consider the bid after the prime minister withdrew his support.
Rudd said that Bishop gave him assurances Malcolm Turnbull supported a plan to have cabinet decide his nomination for UN secretary general after the election, despite Turnbull telling Rudd he had no support on 1 May. [Read More...]

05 August 2016
by Michael West

Australia's lax foreign bribery laws sees U.S. clean up on corporate penalties

Shining a light on corporate foreign bribery! White collar crime pays under Australia's lax corporate foreign bribery laws while the U.S. government cleans up on penalties.

A LIGHT chuckle rippled through the audience at a breakfast event last Thursday morning in offices of McGrathNicol in Sydney’s Martin Place.

The cause for mirth was the suggestion that the worst punishment a company director could face in Australia, if busted for bribing a foreign official, was a ban from acting as a director ten years’ down the track. It was weary acknowledgement that white collar crime does pay, as few perpetrators are ever prosecuted and far fewer punished. [Read More...]

05 August 2016
by Waleed Aly

Malcolm Turnbull: boxed in with nowhere to go

Everyone remembers Julia Gillard's "no carbon tax" moment. And everyone remembers the crippling broken promise that followed. What almost no one remembers is the policy disaster that preceded it: her "citizen's assembly".

This was a collection of ordinary Australians who would spend 12 months thinking about the best response to climate change and help the government develop a policy to price carbon. At no point did this make much sense. If the best climate change policy was to price carbon, then why bother with the assembly to deliver a predetermined result? [Read More...]

05 August 2016
by Tom McIlroy

Government defies PNG Supreme Court over Manus Island detention resettlement deadline

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton.

The Australian government has denied any role in a Papua New Guinea court order for resettlement of refugees and asylum seekers held in detention on Manus Island, saying it is not a party to the case.

PNG's Supreme Court is expected to consider Australia's legal responsibility in resettlement of about 900 men being held in the controversial detention centre, but the Department of Immigration and Border Protection denied Chief Justice Sir Salamo Injia had summoned an Australian representative to the court on Thursday. [Read More...]

05 August 2016
by Mark Kenny

Turnbull into the unknown as Pauline Hanson wins four Senate seats

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull may now be held hostage to minor party ransom.

Malcolm Turnbull will be forced to negotiate with either the left-wing Greens - reviled by conservatives - or Pauline Hanson's resurgent right-wing One Nation party, to pass any legislation after the last Senate results revealed his government's position in the Senate has been severely weakened.

In a stark demonstration of how sharply his double dissolution strategy backfired, the final picture of the 45th Parliament shows a Prime Minister pared back to a one-seat majority in the House of Representatives, and down another three senators upstairs where the crossbench has swelled by the same number. [Read More...]

04 August 2016
by Clancy Yeates

How much did the Big Four save by not passing on full rate cut?

Australia's major banks stand to hang on to $917 million in combined profit by only giving mortgage customers roughly half the Reserve Bank interest rate cut, according to analyst estimates.

In a move to limit a squeeze on their profit margins, Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, ANZ Bank and National Australia Bank are lowering mortgage rates by between 0.1 and 0.14 percentage points, compared with the Reserve Bank's 0.25 percentage point cut on Tuesday. [Read More...]

04 August 2016
by Rio: 2016

Rio 2016 Olympics: Matildas downed by Canada in women's football opener

Hard to take: Canada celebrate their second goal.

Australia conceded the fastest goal in Olympic women's football in a spirit-sapping 2-0 loss to Canada.

In a terrible start to Australia's campaign at the Rio Games, the Matildas copped a goal in just 21 seconds in a draining defeat at Sao Paulo's Arena Corinthians on Wednesday (Thursday morning AEST). [Read More...]

04 August 2016
by Simone M Scully

The entire continent of Australia has shifted -- and it's causing problems for GPS systems

Australia might not be as far away as it used to be because the entire continent has moved 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) since 1994, according to Reuters.

How did this happen? Tectonic shifts are the reason. The Australian tectonic plate is the fastest moving continental plate on Earth. [Read More...]

03 August 2016
by David Tyler

Turnbull government raises serious questions of judgement.

Turnbull and Martin

Senator Lisa Singh’s re-election provides a rare beacon of hope in a week clouded by injustice, ignorance and petty recrimination as the nation is shocked by ABC Four Corners’ expose of child abuse within the juvenile detention in the Northern Territory and disappointed in PM Turnbull’s decision not to endorse Kevin Rudd’s nomination for the UN Secretary-General a mutually demeaning betrayal which Barnaby Joyce blames upon the Labor Party.

Labor is of course totally to blame for the shock news of the week announced by the AEC Sunday morning – which is that Labor’s Cathy O’Toole has won Herbert, a turn of events which MSM have spun as unlikely in an echo of the Prime Minister’s ugly election night victory speech at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel in which he claimed the coalition would have “a solid majority”. [Read More...]

03 August 2016
by Amanda Macias

This is what the next flash point in the South China Sea looks like

Satellite image taken in June 2015 of China’s land reclamation efforts on Mischief Reef in the Spratly Islands.

Perhaps the most significant portion of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s July 12 500-page unanimous ruling on the South China Sea is the decision on Mischief Reef.

According to the ruling, the reef and everything on it legally belongs to the Philippines. This is in spite of China’s reclamation of approximately 5,580,000 square meters of land, and the construction of a 9,800-foot runway, radar nests, and what some experts have speculated is a soon-to-be naval base. [Read More...]

03 August 2016
by Jacob Greber

Your smartphone is worth more than GDP

Free web-based goods and services like Australian invention Google Maps may be invisibly boosting the economy by as much as $4.3 billion a year, or more than double the amount captured in official economic growth figures, new research shows.

The calculations by consultancy AlphaBeta, commissioned by the search-engine giant, support the view that traditional measures like gross domestic product - developed after the industrial revolution - aren't capturing a growing share of activity delivered by the so-called new economy. [Read More...]

03 August 2016
by Phillip Coorey

Bill Shorten says Malcolm Turnbull can't protect the banks

Labor leader Bill Shorten has challenged the authority of Malcolm Turnbull, saying the Prime Minister's narrow election victory meant he may not be able to protect the banks from a Royal Commission and other policies with which the Prime Minister disagrees.

In Townsville to claim victory in the final seat of Herbert, Mr Shorten said Mr Turnbull's bare majority of 76 lower house seats meant he was "on probation" and his ability to govern now relied on the goodwill of others, including Labor and troublemakers on the Coalition backbench. [Read More...]

02 August 2016
by Simon Thomsen

Doctors in NSW can prescribe cannabis from today

Seriously ill people can be prescribed cannabis-based medicines in New South Wales under changes to the law that come into effect today.

The medicines were only available under clinical trials up until now, but NSW premier Mike Baird says doctors can now consider them for patients who have exhausted existing treatment options. [Read More...]

02 August 2016
by david Scutt

It may be small, but Australia's manufacturing sector is looking mighty

While there is little doubt that Australia’s manufacturing sector is now far smaller than what it once was, those who remain are doing more than alright at present.

This is no better demonstrated than in the latest manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI), released by the Ai Group today.

In July the index surged by 4.6 points to 56.4, leaving it at the highest level since March this year.

Like those in other nation’s, the PMI measures changes in activity levels from one month to the next. Anything above 50 signals growth, while anything below that level means contraction -— so the higher the number the better. [Read More...]

02 August 2016
by Joanna Mather

Tax battle over $200m bonus headed for High Court

Vaughan Blank

A long-running battle between former Glencore trader Vaughan Blank and the Australian Tax Office over $200 million in bonuses will reach its climax when the matter is heard by the High Court this month.

The dispute is over whether money Mr Blank received when he cashed out of Glencore's employee profit plans should be assessed as ordinary income, as the ATO claims, or as a capital gain, which entitles Mr Blank to a tax discount. [Read More...]

02 August 2016
by Phillip Coorey

Malcolm Turnbull's new reign gets off to a ratty start

A week ago, Malcolm Turnbull was being lauded for moving so swiftly to establish a Royal Commission into juvenile detention in the Northern Territory.

Now, he and Attorney-General George Brandis are being labelled dunderplunkens because the rush to establish the inquiry failed to anticipate or take into account various factors that resulted in the selected commissioner Brian Martin resigning on Monday. [Read More...]

01 August 2016
by Grag McKenna

Major Chinese state paper calls for a military strike on Australian ships that enter the South China Sea

China’s state-run Global Times has published an editorial attacking Australia for supporting the recent international ruling on China’s activities in the South China Sea and called for strikes on any Australian ships which might undertake “freedom-of-navigation” activities in the region.

The editorial said Australia “is not even a ‘paper tiger’, it’s only a ‘paper cat’ at best”. It says that even though “Australia calls itself a principled country… when it needs to please Washington, it demonstrates willingness of doing anything in a show of allegiance”. [Read More...]

01 August 2016
by David Wroe

With one-seat majority confirmed, Malcolm Turnbull's job of managing his party is that bit harder

The confirmed loss of the Townsville-based seat of Herbert leaves Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull with the most wafer-thin of majorities.

Whether Malcolm Turnbull wound up with a one-seat or a two-seat majority, life was going to be tough for the next three years.

But the confirmed loss of the Townsville-based seat of Herbert, which leaves Mr Turnbull with the most wafer-thin of majorities, is a psychological and a practical blow. [Read More...]

01 August
by AAP

Laptops, shirts stolen as Australian athletes are evacuated

The Australian team was evacuated from the athletes' village due to a fire alarm.

Two laptops and team shirts were stolen from Australia's Olympic residence during a fire evacuation, it has been revealed.
The computers and shirts were stolen while rooms were vacant during a fire in the basement of the Australian building at the athletes' village on Friday.

"We did lose some shirts and a couple of laptops, one on the fifth floor from a cycling official and one in the office downstairs," Australian Olympic Committee spokesman Mike Tancred said.

The thefts are another headache for Australian hierarchy, who suspect the fire was caused by a cigarette tossed by a local worker into piles of rubbish in the basement. [Read More...]

29 July 2016
by John Lord

“Unqualified”. Careful you’re not talking about yourself.

Kevin Rudd.

The problem with evaluating the comments made about former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s suitability or qualifications for the position of Secretary General of the United Nations is that the people making them are, compared with Rudd himself, intellectual nobodies.

After giving Rudd assurances that he would have the full support of the Government the Cabinet rolls him and Turnbull is forced to tell Rudd he is not qualified. To tell a formidable mind of the intellect of Rudd that you are not qualified must in itself, even for Turnbull, be an unnerving experience.

I mean, what do you tell a man who has had a career in the Foreign Diplomatic Service, speaks Mandarin, served as Foreign Minister and enjoys an international reputation for his knowledge of international affairs? [Read More...]