Billionaire’s bid to kill AGL coal

Tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has launched an $8bn takeover bid for Australian energy giant AGL, as he moves to force the closure of its remaining coal-fired power stations.

What we know:

  • Cannon-Brookes teamed up with Canadian asset manager Brookfield to make the offer on Saturday, valuing the company marginally above its current share price (AFR $); 
  • AGL called an emergency board meeting on Sunday afternoon ahead of making a formal response today;
  • Cannon-Brookes hopes to accelerate the shut down of AGL’s coal plants and encourage new power purchase agreements for renewables (Renew Economy); 
  • AGL is Australia’s biggest energy utility and its power stations are the country’s biggest source of carbon emissions (The Age); 
  • The bid comes in the middle of a complex demerger that will split AGL in two, with the company separating its fossil fuel and renewable energy assets;
  • AGL this month brought forward the closure of two coal-fired power stations, but only by 2-3 years, with the Loy Yang A plant in Victoria to run to 2045 (ABC); 
  • Origin Energy last week brought forward the closure of Australia’s biggest coal plant, Eraring in NSW, by 7 years to 2025 (The Guardian); 
  • Cannon-Brookes is part of a new generation of Australian entrepreneurs moving to capitalise on the shift to renewables (The Saturday Paper). 
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Australia’s borders reopen

Two years after closing, Australia’s borders will today reopen to vaccinated tourists and visitors.

What we know:

  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there are 1.2m people globally who are “visaed-up” and can now come to Australia (SBS); 
  • “Pack your bags and come and have one the great experiences you could ever imagine. And don'’t forget to bring your money with you because you will find plenty of places to spend it,” Morrison said to tourists;
  • In the next 24 hours 56 flights are set to touch down in Australia;
  • Victoria is opening its newly built $200m quarantine hub on Monday for those international travellers who are not vaccinated;
  • Queensland also has a purpose built 500-bed quarantine centre near Toowoomba, which is likely to house unvaccinated international arrivals;
  • The reopening also brings relief to temporary visa holders in Australia who were prohibited from visiting family overseas and returning (SBS); 
  • It comes as WA announces it will bring down its hard border with the rest of the country on March 3 (ABC). 
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Chinese navy ‘intimidates’ RAAF plane

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused China of  an “act of intimidation” after a Chinese naval ship allegedly shone a laser at an Australian maritime aircraft.

A RAAF P-8A Poseidon allegedly detected a military-grade laser illuminating the aircraft while in flight on Thursday (ABC). 

It came as two Chinese navy vessels sailed east through the Arafura Sea north of Australia.

Morrison said the matter will be raised directly with China through “diplomatic and defence channels”.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said it was “an outrageous act of aggression”.

It comes amid a sustained campaign by the Coalition to paint Labor as Chinese collaborators.

Liberal senator James Paterson on Sunday said both sides of politics should listen to ASIO warnings about the dangers of referring to classified information in public (SMH). 

Highly respected former ASIO boss Dennis Richardson accused the Morrison government of attempting to create “artificial” differences between the Coalition and Labor on China policy, which had prompted criticism from Paterson.

Paterson declined to apologise for his commentary on Richardson.

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Crackdown on anti-vaxxer threats

Police are moving to crack down on incitements to violence by anti-vaccine protesters, with high-profile leaders of the “freedom” movement set to be charged.

Charges may include incitement to commit offences of violence and deprivation of liberty, following explicit death threats to MPs and state premiers (The Australian $). 

Ex-SAS officer Riccardo Bosi, who leads the unregistered AustraliaOne Party, publicly called for Foreign Minister Marise Payne to be hanged by a wire cable at the Canberra protests.

WA police charged a protest leader who threatened Premier Mark McGowan.

At the Canberra protests a sovereign citizen leader was allegedly found with a loaded sawn-off rifle and plans of Parliament House in his truck.

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Payne offers cyber support to Ukraine

Australian cyber spies could help train Ukraine to defend against escalating hack attacks from Russia, as tensions continue to rise in eastern Europe.

Australia on Sunday night joined the US and UK in blaming recent cyber attacks against Ukrainian banks on Russia (SMH). 

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was set to make the offer for cyber support in a call scheduled overnight with Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba.

Russia announced extended military drills in Belarus that were due to end on Sunday (Reuters). 

Belarus claimed the drills will be extended because of military activity near the border, as shelling escalates in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Everything we are seeing suggests that this is dead serious, that we are on the brink of an invasion.”

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PR campaign is shaping up nicely. It was a master stroke having the number 1 swerve around big issues by demonstrating his wild, hats off welding technique.

H.G. Nelson applauds the unorthodox welding approach of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who removed his protective mask in an apparent bid to blind himself by staring directly at the sparks (news.com.au).

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Postscript: Elk move to private land when hunting season starts

A new study finds that elk in Utah may have figured out when the hunting season is, and that they move accordingly. This information is the result of a collaborative effort between the Division of Wildlife Resources, Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, Rocky Mountain Elk, and Brigham Young University. They wanted to learn why, when hunting season starts, elk move from public lands to private lands (KSL).

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