Friday, October 09, 2020

Sharkie wins ‘slush fund’ support

The Morrison government allocated an additional $103 million in the latest federal budget towards the controversial community development grants program, described by Labor as a “slush fund”. The program previously awarded a $23 million grant to build a 16,000-seat sports stadium in Rockhampton announced by Pauline Hanson. The additional funding includes two $5 million grants in the seat of Mayo, held by Centre Alliance MP Rebekha Sharkie, for a regional indoor aquatic and leisure facility and a sports precinct, reports Guardian Australia. Sharkie claimed credit for the grants, announcing that her lobbying had been responsible for $40 million of spending in her electorate. Sharkie also noted a further $136 million in the budget for “other projects” in Mayo that she said were not related to Centre Alliance lobbying. A spokeswoman for Sharkie denied the grants were linked to Centre Alliance’s vote in favour of the Coalition’s higher education reforms, which passed through parliament yesterday more than doubling course fees for humanities students, while making other courses cheaper.

Federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese has committed to creating a $20 billion electricity infrastructure corporation to prepare the energy grid for renewables, in a budget reply speech detailing Labor policies ahead of the next election. The Rewiring the Nation Corporation would help deliver transmission requirements set out in the Integrated System Plan produced by the Australian Energy Market Operator. The corporation would capitalise on low interest rates to integrate renewables into the power grid at least cost, Albanese said. He would also mandate the use of Australian products including steel in the energy rollout. Albanese also promised to boost local manufacturing through a national rail manufacturing plan and more places for apprentices on Commonwealth-funded infrastructure projects. He would look to implement a $6 billion childcare plan that scraps subsidy caps and lift the maximum rate from 85 per cent to 90 per cent for families on combined incomes of up to $80,000.

Former Crown executive chairman James Packer has pledged to never rejoin the company’s board, in his final day of questioning by an inquiry into whether Crown is fit to hold the licence for the Barangaroo casino. Packer suggested to the New South Wales Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority that the company board be restructured and caps implemented on shareholdings. The inquiry is also investigating claims that the company was turning a blind eye to money laundering from high roller VIPs brought in to gamble at its Perth and Melbourne casinos by private junket operators. Packer admitted casinos were vulnerable targets for infiltration by organised crime groups.

In the United States, the Commission on Presidential Debates has declared that the second debate between Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden and President Donald Trump would be held virtually, due to Trump’s Covid-19 infection. Shortly after the change was announced, Trump said he would refuse to participate. His campaign then said Trump would join in if it was pushed back a week. Biden plans to use the virtual event as a town hall if Trump does not attend. It comes after a vice-presidential debate between Senator Kamala Harris of the Democrats and vice-president Mike Pence, in which Pence echoed Trump in refusing to commit to a peaceful transfer of power should the Republicans lose the election.

Albanese draws the political battlelines
In his budget reply speech last night Opposition leader Anthony Albanese outlined his response to the economic crisis and criticised the federal government for spending in the wrong places. Today, Paul Bongiorno on how the political battlelines between the major parties are being drawn.

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