Morning mail: Coalition's 'dirty deal' on media laws

Morning mail: Coalition's 'dirty deal' on media laws


Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Thursday 14 September.

Top stories

The Turnbull government has secured the numbers to scrap longstanding controls on media ownership, and trigger a range of consolidations in the news landscape that are likely to lead to further market concentration. After weeks of negotiation, the Nick Xenophon Team agreed on Wednesday night to support the government package in return for limited concessions designed to enhance media diversity, including a new $60m fund for independent and regional publishers, and funding for young rural journalists.

The core of the government’s proposal will involve scrapping the two-out-of-three rule, which means media moguls will be able to own television, newspapers and radio stations in the same market. The government will also ask the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to conduct an inquiry into Google, Facebook and the other internet giants, which are contributing to a loss of advertising revenue that is challenging the commercial viability of news organisations.

The Labor senator Sam Dastyari rounded on Xenophon after he outlined the deal to the Senate, saying: “You are better than this dirty deal, which has been done at the 11th hour.”

Opponents of marriage equality have so far outspent the yes campaign by about five-to-one in television ads for the postal survey campaign, according to research by an advertising analytics firm. Ebiquity also found the no campaign’s $312,000 and yes campaign’s $64,000 of TV ad spending is dwarfed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which has spent $1.7m so far. Both the Coalition for Marriage and Equality campaigns claim their opponent has more cash but the new figures call into question the claim that the no side faces a “David and Goliath battle”, as the Australian Christian Lobby director, Lyle Shelton, put it at the National Press Club on Wednesday.

Malcolm Turnbull signed a joint statement released today by 23 Coalition parliamentarians urging Australians to vote yes in the same-sex marriage postal survey and highlighting their support for equality, freedom and individual rights.

Scores of villages that were home to Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority are now completely empty, a government spokesman has said. Of 471 villages targeted in “clearance operations” by the army since late last month, 176 were empty and at least 34 others partially abandoned, Zaw Htay said. The crackdown, launched in response to attacks by militants, has forced at least 370,000 Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh and prompted a barrage of criticism of Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader. The Nobel laureate had been due to attend the UN general assembly next week but Htay said she would now skip the event.

The head of the competition watchdog has quashed accusations from government MPs that AGL is misusing its market power by refusing to sell the Liddell power station to a rival – but says a lack of competition in the energy sector is inflating power prices for consumers. Before a major speech next week to the National Press Club on energy, Rod Sims, the chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, said AGL refusing to sell Liddell was not a breach of competition laws. But Sims told Guardian Australia in an interview on Wednesday the energy market was too concentrated both in generation and in retailing, and that lack of competition, combined with tight supply, meant higher power prices.

The global lust for chocolate is driving a rainforest disaster in the Ivory Coast, with “dirty” beans from deforested national parks entering big business supply chains. In this exclusive, the Guardian has found evidence of cocoa traders who sell to Mars, Nestlé, Mondelez and other big brands buying beans grown illegally inside protected areas in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% since 1960. The illegal product is mixed with “clean” beans in the supply chain, meaning that Mars bars, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Milka bars could all be tainted with “dirty” cocoa. As much as 40% of the world’s cocoa comes from Ivory Coast.


A raft of Champions League matches have just finished up, with Spurs, Manchester City and Liverpool all in the mix. City cruised past Feyenoord in their group F opener after a supreme display of attacking power, writes Jamie Jackson.

The Wallabies have finally started to attack at turnover ball but have they arrived at the party too late? Bret Harris asks: are Australia doomed to continually play catch-up?

This week our resident cartoonist David Squires analyses the riches that await female Australian footballers after this week’s news of a new collective bargaining agreement.

Thinking time

Mansour Shoushtari, an animal lover, is an Iranian refugee who has been detained on Manus Island for four years.

Mansour Shoushtari, an animal lover, is an Iranian refugee who has been detained on Manus Island for four years. Illustration: First Dog on the Moon

Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist and refugee held on Manus Island, writes about a fellow prisoner who lives to take care of animals, with illustrations from First Dog on the Moon. Mansour Shoushtari, a 43-year-old fellow Iranian refugee on Manus, lives by a simple philosophy that animals have the right to live life well. Shoushtari’s personality projects kindness and tenderness and he strongly opposes the culture of violence at Manus prison. “At sunset he puts the leftover food from the dining area on to a plastic dish and gives it to the crabs that live underneath the containers and tents,” writes Boochani. “When I asked him why he feels obliged to feed the crabs, he said: ‘The crabs have been living here on this island for ages – they were here before the prison was built. However, by constructing this prison, we humans have violated their territory. They have every right to eat our food.’”

Opera has long been critiqued for its gender imbalance, its lack of diversity and the sexism and misogyny of its canon that often goes unquestioned by creative teams. As she unveils her final program as artistic director of Opera Queensland, Lindy Hume discusses why opera is still important – and what needs to be done to keep it relevant. “Despite a large female audience, opera is controlled largely by middle-aged blokes who commission other blokes,” she writes. “Some of my favourite composers are dead white men but the world has changed.”

The American literary heavyweights Paul Auster and George Saunders are to go head-to-head on the Man Booker prize shortlist. Alongside Auster and Saunders, the 29-year-old British debut novelist Fiona Mozley has secured a place in the final line-up, as has Ali Smith, who is shortlisted for the Booker for the fourth time with her post-Brexit novel, Autumn. But a host of award-winning writers failed to make the cut, with former winner Arundhati Roy missing out on a place, as did Sebastian Barry and Zadie Smith.

What’s he done now?

It is a little hard to see how the two are obviously related – the destruction of Hurricane Harvey and Irma and tax cuts – but Donald Trump has somehow managed to in his latest tweet, cheering on Congress like a sports fan.

“With Irma and Harvey devastation, Tax Cuts and Tax Reform is needed more than ever before. Go Congress, go!”

Media roundup

The Age says the government has been called on by a federal inquiry to set up a new body to protect whistleblowers and offer them bounties for exposing corruption. The ABC reports that MPs in four electorates showing the lowest support for marriage equality might ignore the weight of feeling in their region if the national vote is sufficiently high.

The Daily Telegraph goes big on its special investigation with everything you ever wanted to know about John Ibrahim and the NT News gives an air guitarist’s tilt at the world title plenty of space, plus a piece about a Darwin incident in which a business owner sprays the pavement apparently in order to force an Indigenous man to move away.

Coming up

Documents from the 1986 commission of inquiry into the high court judge Lionel Murphy will be tabled in parliament at 9.30am. The inquiry was set up in response to allegations of misconduct by Murphy but it was never completed after he was diagnosed with inoperable cancer.

An application by government-appointed liquidators to freeze Clive Palmer’s assets is scheduled to be heard by the supreme court in Brisbane.

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