Barnaby back with demands

Barnaby Joyce is set to broker a new Coalition agreement with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, after taking back the Nationals party leadership from Michael McCormack in a partyroom spill.

What we know:

  • Joyce said he returns to the deputy prime ministership a “better person”, after resigning three years ago amid accusations of sexual harassment, which he denies (Nine); 
  • The longtime climate sceptic pledged to be guided by Nationals policy, “not Barnaby policy”, on obstruction of a net zero emissions target by 2050 (SMH); 
  • Nationals MPs who voted for the leadership change called for mining and agriculture to be carved out of any target, lifting the ban on nuclear energy, and new coal-fired power for central Queensland;
  • Supporters tipped to benefit in a ministerial reshuffle include Senator Bridget McKenzie, expected to return to cabinet in the wake of the sports rort scandal (The Australian); 
  • Refugee advocates hope Joyce will use his new power to continue his advocacy for the return of the Murugappan family to Biloela (The New Daily); 
  • Labor leader Anthony Albanese noted the spill had resulted in “the sixth combination of prime minister and deputy prime minister under the eight long years of this government”.
  • Repeated spills in recent years mark a departure from the Nationals’ long history of leadership stability (The Conversation). 
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Bills rise after mobile merger

New Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) data indicates phone bills have soared in the wake of the merger between TPG and Vodafone last June.

ACCC chair Rod Sims warned the loss of budget competitor TPG meant “three lookalike players” in Telstra, Optus and Vodafone could raise prices as they controlled 87% of the market (The New Daily).

The consumer watchdog said the companies had either directly increased prices or cut expiry periods tied to pre-paid mobile offers, forcing customers to top up their credit more often.

The ACCC found: 

  • Telstra increased its post-paid mobile plan prices by $5 to $15 a month in the past year;
  • Optus raised the price of all of its post-paid plans by $6 a month in May;
  • Vodafone’s post-paid plans have increased by $5 to $40 a month, though so far it has applied heavy discounts.

Sims will recommend changes to Australia’s merger laws later this year.

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Call for anti-corruption body

A group of 59 former judges, politicians and academics have called for Scott Morrison to keep his pre-election promise to establish a national anti-corruption body.

In an open letter organised by The Australia Institute, the group warned such a body was “urgently needed to fill the gaps in our integrity system” and that existing agencies did not have adequate scope and powers (SMH).

Signatories to the open letter included jurists Mary Gaudron, Margaret White and Paul Stein.

The Morrison government, which pledged to create the body within 12 months of the 2019 election, is still consulting on its exposure draft, which has been criticised as weak and ineffective.

The proposed model would have to hold hearings in secret and could not make findings or recommendations relating to a member of Parliament.

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Prosecutors consider Higgins case

Prosecutors are set to consider recommending charges over the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins, after receiving a brief of evidence from police.

“I confirm I have today received a partial brief of evidence, and a request to provide advice for consideration of prosecution,” said ACT Director of Public Prosecutions Shane Drumgold on Monday (news.com.au). 

The requested advice is over whether to prosecute the man Higgins alleges raped her inside the office of her former boss, then-defence minister Linda Reynolds.

Reynolds, who is now Government Services Minister, last month said she had provided a  statement to police and was prepared to be interviewed if required.

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Crowds allowed into Olympics

Up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed at each Tokyo Olympics venue but no cheering will be permitted, organisers announced on Monday.

Tokyo Games minister Tamayo Marukawa revealed attendance will be capped at 10,000 per venue or 50% of the venue capacity — whichever figure is lower (Japan Times). 

A limit of 20,000 was set for the opening ceremony.

Spectators will be asked to wear masks and refrain from shouting or cheering, with only clapping allowed.

Tokyo has only just lifted a state of emergency imposed to control a Covid-19 outbreak in the city.

Japan's top medical adviser, Shigeru Omi, recommended last week that the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans.

Spectators travelling from overseas had already been banned.

Athletes will also face tight restrictions — only allowed to drink alcohol alone in their rooms, and provided condoms but told only to use them once they’ve returned to their home countries (USA Today). 

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A community destroyed so that private interests could make a quick buck out of Sydney’s hotly inflated real estate market.

In a new land speed record for gentrification, the penthouse of Sydney’s iconic Sirius Building sells for $35m just three years after housing commission residents were forcibly evicted from the tower (Junkee).

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Postscript: A Threatened Toad’s Hallucinogenic Secretions Are in High Demand

Late on a Thursday evening in July 2018, three intruders were caught on a wildlife camera at the Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area, a park north of Phoenix. Holding flashlights, they scoured a Mexican lily-filled pond near a popular hiking trail, on the hunt for Sonoran Desert toads. One girl squealed as she held up a fat one — both hands wrapped around its belly — and dropped it into a plastic bag (Undark).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.