Morning mail: Taylor’s lobby letter, Asic v ANZ, Brussels rebuffs Johnson

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Friday: A purported letter from a constituent killed a motion for a formal inquiry into Angus Taylor – for now. Plus: Katharine Murphy on medevac

by Richard Parkin

Good morning, this is Richard Parkin bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Friday 26 July.

Top stories

The government has attempted to fend off a formal inquiry into controversial meetings between Angus Taylor and the environment department over endangered grasslands by producing a letter that purports to show the minister was acting in the interests of his constituents and not himself. But the letter, which was said to have come from a concerned farmer, was actually from a lobby group, the NSW Farmers Association, and was written nearly six months after the meetings were held. Confusion about the letter led to the crossbench voting down a Labor motion for a parliamentary inquiry into the conduct of Taylor and the then environment minister, Josh Frydenberg. But Penny Wong, Labor’s Leader in the Senate, said she would move again for an inquiry on Monday.

ANZ charged its customers fees for four and a half years after it was warned they were illegal, the corporate regulator Asic has told the federal court. The Australian Securities and Investments Commission initiated legal action against ANZ that could cost the bank tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties, accusing the bank of making false or misleading statements on “at least” 1.3m occasions when it charged fees between 26 July 2013 and 23 February 2016. ANZ has denied any wrongdoing, telling the ASX it intends to “vigorously defend” any such allegations.

Some 30,000 native animals have been moved by environmental contractors at an LNG plant in Western Australia in a seven-year program that’s been lauded as the largest yet undertaken on an industrial site in Australia. Relocating terrestrial fauna was not part of the environmental conditions placed on the project but the project’s zoologist, Scott Thompson, is urging other companies to follow Chevron’s lead: “This company went above and beyond what they had to do [and]had exceptional outcomes.” The animals included echidnas and more than 1,000 goannas, 1,000 snakes and 10,000 frogs. A rare northern quoll was also recorded.

World

Brussels has rebuffed Boris Johnson’s outline of a revisited Brexit deal, with the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker signalling the deal negotiated with Theresa May, including the Irish backstop, would remain.

Papua New Guinea’s new prime minister, James Marape, has vowed to be free from Australian aid dependence with 10 years, thanking Australia for its assistance, but flagging greater need across the Pacific.

Four teenage boys have been charged with an aggravated hate crime for a London bus attack on a lesbian couple that captured global attention. The boys face a youth court on 21 August.

Spain’s caretaker prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, has failed once again to form a functioning government after potential coalition party, Unidas Podemos, abstained during a key vote. A third failure could see the Spanish people head back to the polls for a fourth time in as many years.

The professional boxing world is reeling from a second death inside a week after the 23-year-old Argentinian Hugo Santillan died from injuries sustained during a bout. It follows the death of the Russian fighter Maxim Dadashev.

Opinion and analysis

On Wednesday night the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, stood up in the House of Representatives and shared a terrible story – involving an Iranian family, a suicide, multiple more attempts, countless medical reports and a wait of many months despite five appeals, writes Katherine Murphy. Now the legislation that finally secured medical evacuation for the family off Nauru faces parliamentary repeal – and the Senate crossbench could play a decisive role.

Luxury travel has been democratised for millions of Australians, writes Brigid Delaney. Things once out of reach to anyone but celebrities or the mega-rich have filtered down to the middle classes, courtesy of cheap flights, budget airlines, travel companies and the opportunity to take short-term leases on high-end private residences via Airbnb. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, outbound international travel by Australians nearly doubled in the past decade. “I got to wondering (after being wedged off a footpath in London’s Regent Street by four Australian women, walking abreast, their arms heavy with posh shopping bags): are Australians the new jet set class? Should the term Eurotrash be amended to Oztrash?”

Sport

A week after an epic Netball World Cup final, most of Australia’s Diamonds are straight back into action in the domestic Super Netball competition. As former star Sharni Layton writes, the ramifications of this for player welfare are huge.

Frenchman Julian Alaphillipe’s remarkable Tour de France yellow jersey defence has continued after Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal failed to register significant time gains on a bruising stage 18 in the Alps.

Thinking time: How the state runs business in China

Private enterprise was once the driver of much of China’s prodigious economic growth, responsible for half of all investment in the country and about 75% of economic output in 2012. But since then, under President Xi Jinping, the Communist party has returned to being the ultimate arbiter in business as well as politics, writes Richard McGregor.

Surrounded by an “early optimistic glow” after his ascension to the leadership, Xi was welcomed by western commentators as an appreciator of the market system – but that has shifted dramatically. Why does this matter? With the Chinese state wielding a heavier touch over corporations the blurring of economic and political aims – as seen through the Huawei scandals – this becomes increasingly concerning for the west.

Media roundup

Scott Morrison continues to shake up Australia’s defence agencies, with a new Asio chief set to start in September, in addition to last week’s announcement of a new federal police commissioner, writes the Australian. Thirty-three years after the death of Anita Cobby, the man handed a life sentence for her murder has ended up in the same hospital as her widower, John Cobby, reports the Daily Telegraph. And, the last time the Australian stock market was riding this high was November 2007, prompting as much concern as confidence, writes the Sydney Morning Herald. Global debt has just hit 300%, but the picture isn’t as bleak on the local front.

Coming up

A test case against Centrelink’s robodebt system will be heard in Melbourne’s federal court.

A trial date in body modification case that ended in death will be set in NSW district court.

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