Summary

And that’s where we’ll leave the blog for today. Thanks as always for reading, we’ll be back tomorrow, with Amy Remeikis at the helm in the morning.

Here’s what happened today:

Updated

And in further weather news, severe thunderstorms are set to hit Sydney in a few minutes. The Bureau of Meteorology has warned of damaging winds and large hailstones.

⚡Detailed Severe Thunderstorm Warning⚡
for DAMAGING WINDS and LARGE HAILSTONES. Forecast to affect Hornsby, Parramatta and Richmond by 7:05 pm and Sydney City, Sydney Olympic Park, Mona Vale and waters off Bondi Beach by 7:35 pm.
⚠️Warnings: https://t.co/qF3XejM6Tv pic.twitter.com/qnSGNfqZND

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) December 1, 2020

Updated

On that news, a bushfire has broken out near Rosedale Road in Dubbo in NSW, according to the Rural Fire Service.

The fire broke out about an hour ago.

The RFS has also brought a bushfire under control nearby on Twiggs Road near Maryvale.

Firefighters are responding to a grass fire burning near Rosedale Rd in Dubbo. Currently there are no homes at threat. In the past couple of hours there have been a number of new fires reported as a result of lightning activity. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/PkOtlHxO8J

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 1, 2020

Advice: Firefighters have the been able to bring a number of fires in the Maryvale area under control. They will remain on scene for a number of hours as they mop up and black out. #NSWRFS https://t.co/XFQgTpo7hl

— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) December 1, 2020

Updated

Australia records hottest spring ever

The nation has officially recorded its hottest spring ever, with average temperatures more than 2C above average.

And it was also Australia’s hottest November ever – nationwide – despite a La Niña event, which typically brings cooler patterns.

Temperatures in spring were 2.03C hotter than average across night and day, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. In November, they were 2.47C above the long-term mean, which is measured across the years 1961-90.

Updated

Warren Entsch urges Coalition to adopt net zero by 2050

Warren Entsch, the government’s special envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, has urged his Coalition colleagues to adopt net zero emissions target by 2050.

Entsch made the comments in the Coalition party room meeting today, which is the second last for the year.

Entsch told the party room that when it came to climate action, Australia should be seen as leaders and not “reluctant followers”.

Political editor Katharine Murphy has the full story.

Updated

Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here taking over the blog for the rest of the evening. Thanks as always to Amy Remeikis for her work today.

In Queensland, the state’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry has criticised the new state budget for “lacking any significant new measures to support small businesses”, AAP report.

The Queensland Council of Social Services also said the government had missed its chance to build back better after Covid-19.

Chief executive Amy McVeigh said: “What we’ve seen today in terms of stimulus spending is a hard-hat pantomime.”

And Australia has one less big thing

The derelict Giant Worm in Bass is currently being demolished after becoming a hotspot for squatters, drug users and feral animals. It could take up to two weeks to remove all the structures on the site. @BassCoastNews #gippsnews pic.twitter.com/JKrzvngwEC

— Brooke Grebert-Craig (@brooke_gc) December 1, 2020

2020 man.

On that note, I will hand you over to Naaman Zhou for the evening – I will be back early tomorrow morning, for national accounts day! Thank you to everyone who followed along – I am trying to get back to all your messages. If it was urgent, and I haven’t responded, try me here (sometimes I miss messages, because they can go to different folders).

As always – take care of you.

Updated

Legionella bacteria found in parliament house bathrooms

Having trouble keeping up to date with all of 2020’s outbreaks? Here’s another one to keep an eye on.

Parliamentary officials are urgently testing the water supply at parliament house after legionella bacteria was found in at least nine bathrooms across the Canberra building.

According to an internal Department of Parliamentary Services email seen by Guardian Australia, maintenance workers on Tuesday were sent into nine bathrooms to resample the water supply, after recent tests across the building returned “a stack of positive” results for legionella bacteria in water drawn from showers and hand basins.

Guardian Australia has also spoken with someone who saw the resampling take place at a bathroom on the House of Representative side of the building at about 1.30pm today, shortly before question time began.

Guardian Australia has contacted the Department of Parliamentary Services for clarification.

Legionnaires disease can be contracted by inhaling droplets of water that contain the legionella bacteria, and the disease can lead to a sometimes life-threatening form of pneumonia.

Legionella was previously detected in parliament in house in 2014.

The detections of legionella follow warnings from the NSW health department last week to the public to ensure air condition cooling towers are properly maintained to avoid legionella, as part of guidance on managing risk factors associated with the seasonal operation of cooling water systems and managing shut-down periods.

Updated

Photo shows Australian soldier drinking beer from dead Taliban fighter's artificial leg

Earlier today, we posted a statement from the Afghanistan foreign ministry saying it had become aware of a photo and was investigating it.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is aware of a photo showing an Australian soldier’s misconduct with an Afghan and has started investigating the case.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Government are jointly working to investigate the misconduct of the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The aim of the investigation is to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes that both Australia and China are key players in building and maintaining international and regional consensus on peace and development in Afghanistan. Afghanistan hopes to maintain and strengthen cooperation with the two countries.

Rory Callinan has this story:

Updated

Asked about Labor’s bipartisan support for the government’s reaction, and then asked what he would do, Joel Fitzgibbon says:

We should absolutely reject the proposition and we should on every occasion put all of our energy into defending our values and protecting our national interests but when you look at the China response since the Prime Minister spoke yesterday, you can tell from their perspective it is mission complete.

He could have been robust in his language. He set a test for himself by insisting on an apology.

Now, we know an apology was never going to come or at least, PK, anyone with any experience in foreign relations knows the apology was never going to come.

So he set us up for fail in the way that he responded to the tweet.

Joel Fitzgibbon is walking both sides of China argument here, as he speaks to Patricia Karvelas on ABC TV

Asked about his thoughts about the approach so far, Fitzgibbon says:

I am as [appalled] at the Chinese government as response as anyone. It is most disappointing. It is almost without precedent. They need to recognise that, unlike many countries around the world, we have taken note of the Brereton report and we have taken appropriate action and that action will be ongoing and as a country we will ensure that anyone who has been guilty of unlawful action will pay a price for that.

Conflating the two issues in itself has been a great disappointment, but the real worry here of course is the deterioration of the relationship, a relation ship which has been in a downward slide now for at least five years and too many Australians are now paying a price for that in the sector, in the coal mining sector and many others and we are going to be losing a lot of export income and lots of Australian jobs and it is time the government found a way through repairing this relationship.

Then asked if the response was what the Chinese government wanted, Fitzgibbon says:

I agree that it was an over reaction. It was probably exactly what the official was hoping for and I think the overreaction can be best explained by Scott Morrison’s belated recognition that he’s done great damage and Malcolm Turnbull before him had done great damage to the relationship and now it is starting to really hit the economy.

Therefore, the Prime Minister is under pressure and when you are under pressure you tend to overreact. Now, Matt just admitted that for the last almost eight years the government hasn’t been doing all it could to diversify our markets. I mean, that is the day job of any government.

So to say now in the face of a China crisis that we should now be rushing to diversify our markets is a little bit too late. We need to be doing both of course, but this is our largest trading partner, PK. We must fix this relationship. The government must put every effort and resource into doing so and yet they are not even capable of having a conversation with their counterparts.

Labor supported Morrison’s reaction.

This is something the Greens have also advocated for

Labor will introduce into the parliament a private member’s bill to give Australian women access to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave. pic.twitter.com/DIT6WgJ4Ck

— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) December 1, 2020

Here is part of the ‘Our Comeback’ campaign.

PMO and the Treasurer’s office will be thrilled to see it posted, because that means its getting attention, which is all they want, but you need to know where the government is heading with all of this.

You’ll find a very earnest statement, complete with green and gold (a friend in advertising told me once that we feel more warm and fuzzy over the green and gold than we do the flag, mostly because it reminds us of sport and winning) branding here.

Updated

Here is Anthony Albanese on Labor’s decision to support a royal commission into veteran suicide.

Jacqui Lambie has been calling for this, for years.

The Morrison Government has ignored these families.

A Labor Government will hold a Royal Commission into veteran suicide.

It should be independent. And it should be fully funded.

The people who have served this country in uniform deserve nothing less. pic.twitter.com/vU5d8mfAsQ

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) December 1, 2020

One Nation is out, however

One Nation says it won't support a Royal Commission into veteran suicide because will take two years before it delivers its final recommendations.

So they're supporting the Government's national commissioner — which *never* delivers its final recommendations.

🤔

— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) December 1, 2020

Labor supports Lambie call for veteran suicide royal commission

Labor has joined Jacqui Lambie in fighting for a royal commission into veteran suicide.

From Anthony Albanese, Richard Marles , Shayne Neumann and Luke Gosling:

Labor will oppose the Morrison Government’s National Commissioner for Defence and Veteran Suicide Prevention legislation in the Senate, following a decision taken by the Caucus today.

When the Government introduced the legislation for a National Commissioner, Labor were sceptical it was not “bigger and better than a Royal Commission” as the Government claimed.

We supported referring it to a Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Legislation Committee inquiry so it could be thoroughly examined, and so veterans and families could have their say.

The inquiry reported back yesterday. It confirmed Labor’s, and many people’s concerns, that the National Commissioner won’t have the independence, scope or resources to ask the really hard questions only a Royal Commission can.

The overwhelming feedback from submitters and witnesses to the inquiry was that the scope of the role was too narrow and that interim National Commissioner Dr Bernadette Boss was not sufficiently independent given her long association with the Australian Defence Force.

A number of stakeholders have said we need a proper inquiry through a Royal Commission to get to the bottom of systemic problems and to propose practical solutions, which could include a body like the National Commissioner.

Thank you for listening. https://t.co/h00W3DWlXI

— Jacqui Lambie (@JacquiLambie) December 1, 2020

Updated

You may have noticed there is quite the break between August and October sittings – about six weeks.

Scott Morrison can call an election any time from August.

He has said he would go full-term, but I doubt that is a core promise.

Updated

Just for those playing at home, the market research inspired phrase “comeback” – offered up as part of a $15m advertising spend – was mentioned by government MPs 25 times during question time.

Twenty. Five. Times.

Updated

The Global Times editor is back.

Pauline Hanson hasn’t had a lot of media attention lately, so she will be thrilled.

So far, no opinion leader, let alone political figure, in China, has called for boycotting Australian products. Australia extremely lacks a proper understanding of itself. It can’t even be counted as a paper tiger, it’s only a paper cat. pic.twitter.com/DS164cjf3o

— Hu Xijin 胡锡进 (@HuXijin_GT) December 1, 2020

Let’s take a look at how Mike Bowers saw question time:

The home affairs minister loses something.

Peter Dutton during question time
Peter Dutton in the House of Reps. All photos: Mike Bowers/The Guardian Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Finds it.

Peter Dutton
Dutton drinks it in Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Jason Falinski was very concerned.

Jason Fallinski and Peter Dutton
Dutton and Jason Falinski Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

My nightmare.

Deputy PM Michael McCormack in the prime minister’s seat
Deputy PM Michael McCormack in the prime minister’s seat Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Peter Dutton has glasses now. All the better to see your answering smiles.

Peter Dutton wearing glasses in the chamber
Dutton in view Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Joe Hockey and friends.

Former treasurer Joe Hockey watches question time
Former treasurer Joe Hockey is acknowledged by speaker Tony Smith while watching proceedings Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Pick the prefects.

Scott Morrison answers a question via video link during question time
Scott Morrison answers a question via video link Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Chinese embassy in Australia accuses MPs of overreaction

The Chinese embassy in Australia has accused Australian politicians of overreacting to foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian’s tweet, and of attempting to “stoke domestic nationalism”.

In a blistering statement, issued just now, a spokesperson for the embassy said the Chinese ambassador to Australia had rebutted “unwarranted accusations” about the matter when he received a call from the secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade yesterday. The spokesperson said:

We would like to further stress the following: the rage and roar of some Australian politicians and media is nothing but misreading of and overreaction to Mr Zhao’s tweet.

The accusations made are simply to serve two purposes. One is to deflect public attention from the horrible atrocities by certain Australian soldiers. The other is to blame China for the worsening of bilateral ties. There may be another attempt to stoke domestic nationalism.

All of this is obviously not helpful to the resetting of bilateral relationship. It’s our advice that the Australian side face up to the crimes committed by the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan, hold those perpetrators accountable and bring justice to the victims.

And we also urge the Australian side face up to the crux of the current setback of bilateral relationship and take constructive practical steps to help bring it back to the right track

The Chinese flag outside its embassy in Canberra
China’s flag outside its embassy in Canberra. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Updated

This seems like an interesting edit.

Melbourne Wikipedia article edited anonymously from Northern Territory Government https://t.co/eEPUJhjBee pic.twitter.com/dSecgWSB1Z

— Aussie Parl&Gov WikiEdits (@AussieParlEdits) December 1, 2020

Updated

Mark Butler, who has had a pretty rough couple of months thanks to Cyclone Joel, seems to have found his smile.

I think he very much enjoyed signing off on this press release.

For as much as there are (valid) questions about Labor’s climate policy, including a mid-term target, it is the Coalition that is actually in government and control of Australia’s policy. And there are plenty of questions going unanswered there

Butler:

Death, taxes and the Coalition party room coming to blows on climate policy. The three certainties in life.

The Coalition party room today saw Senator Matt Canavan, backed by Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly, calling for his government to rip up the $2 billion energy plan Scott Morrison and Gladys Berejiklian signed only this year.

Senator Canavan has again called for the government to spend billions of taxpayers’ dollars building a new coal-fired power station in the Hunter Valley, which private investors won’t touch with a barge pole and would lead to higher power prices.

Queensland senator Gerard Rennick told Scott Morrison he needs to use Kyoto carryover credits rather than actually reducing emissions.

All this while Warren Entsch has joined federal Labor, all the state and territory governments, over 70% of our trading partners, all major Australian businesses and the National Farmers Federation in backing net zero emissions by 2050.

The Coalition is divided as ever on climate change and Scott Morrison needs to be up front with the Australian people. Does Scott Morrison support spending billions of dollars on a new coal-fired power station and higher power bills or will he join Labor and back net zero emissions by 2050?

Updated

RBA governor Phillip Lowe will front the parliamentary economics committee tomorrow.

Updated

Parliament continues until next Thursday and then it is over for the year – but it will return on 2 February.

Parliament resumes on February 2 pic.twitter.com/6dccK9O57c

— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) December 1, 2020

Updated

Question time ends with a dixer on protecting koalas and OMG I am DONE with this day.

Let’s take a look at Stuart Robert’s argument here.

Income averaging has been used since the Keating government to raise Centrelink debts – but for some reason, some unknown reason, only the Coalition has found out it is illegal (ignoring the multiple warnings it received, over years, including its own legal advice, that was the case). And now, it is having to clean up a mess it has no idea how it got into.

Or something like that.

So what could be the difference?

What, out of all the years, and the changes to the debt-raising program, could possibly be the difference?

COULD IT BE THAT THE COALITION AUTOMATED THE GOD-DAMNED PROGRAM AND DIDN’T HAVE HUMANS CHECKING THE DEBT NOTICES BEFORE THEY WENT OUT?

COULD THAT BE IT?

FFS.

Robert has two masters degrees. He served in the army. He has written a book (Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus) and yet this point appears to be beyond his comprehension.

Blah, blah, blah – no one is responsible.

Updated

Kylie Moore-Gilbert is releasing her first message since being freed from an Iranian prison – including a photo:

I am totally blown away by everything you have done for me, I honestly have no words to express the depth of my gratitude and how touched I am. I can't tell you how heartening it was to hear that my friends and colleagues were speaking up 2/

— Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert (@FreeKylieMG) December 1, 2020

And finally, here is the first photo of Kylie as a free woman, taken at Doha airport soon after her release.

In the end, love was enough. She's safe and home. Bless you all ♥️ pic.twitter.com/0XQpFDZeMt

— Free Kylie Moore-Gilbert (@FreeKylieMG) December 1, 2020

Updated

I mean honesty, just make it end.

Angus Taylor:

We are getting on with the job of bringing down emissions, deploying technology not taxation – because if it is not technology, it is taxation, Mr Speaker.

Updated

This question time looks like ending with an Angus Taylor dixer, because whoever has my voodoo doll doesn’t look like quitting using it anytime soon.

Stuart Robert is still going on about income averaging, but not how the Coalition government removed humans from the process, and reversed the onus of proof.

Is that ... a gaslight I smell? It seems to be wafting from the chamber, but it’s hard to tell for sure.

Updated

RBA leaves interest rate unchanged at 0.1%

The board of the Reserve Bank has surprised no one by leaving the official cash rate unchanged at a historic low of 0.1% at its meeting today.

It cut the rate from what was already an all-time low of 0.25% last month in what was widely seen as a rebuke to Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg for moving to cut Covid recovery stimulus too quickly.

The board won’t meet again until February – they get January off – but governor Philip Lowe reckons that due to rampaging unemployment and a lack of inflation it will be another three years before rates go up again anyway.

Economists expect gross domestic product figures, due out tomorrow, will show a return to growth – but not much of it.

KPMG’s chief economist, Brendan Rynne, said:

The economy is still limping and the RBA’s accommodative stance is not only welcome but necessary.

In a post-meeting statement, Lowe again said that the RBA board “views addressing the high rate of unemployment as an important national priority”. He said:

Given the outlook for both employment and inflation, monetary and fiscal support will be required for some time.

For its part, the board will not increase the cash rate until actual inflation is sustainably within the 2 to 3% target range.

For this to occur, wages growth will have to be materially higher than it is currently. This will require significant gains in employment and a return to a tight labour market.

Working against this will be the further withdrawal of the jobkeeper employment subsidy in March and the Morrison government’s decision to cap wages growth in the public sector – a move that will both reduce growth in household spending and crimp wages growth in the parts of the private sector that compete with the public sector for employees.

Workers outside the RBA building
The RBA board ‘views addressing the high rate of unemployment as an important national priority’. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Updated

Stuart Robert is deliberately misconstruing “income averaging” with “robodebt”, which was income averaging without the humans.

That sound you hear is me Josh Frydenberging at the television

Updated

Mark Dreyfus to Christian Porter:

In January 2017 the attorney general described Labor’s call to stop the illegal robodebt scheme “one of the dumbest things I have heard”. Given the government has now agreed to pay $1.2bn of taxpayer money to settle the claims of robodebt victims, does the attorney general regret that statement?

Porter:

It was the reference to it as a scheme solely of the government, when Labor maintained income averaging for many years, which to me made the question appear stupid, which it still is.

That was the question time version of “your face is”.

Updated

Sharon Bird to Stuart Robert:

Can the minister confirm the administrative appeals tribunal first determined that robodebt was illegal in March 2017, and on at least 75 other occasions, but the government persisted with its illegal scheme right up until December 2019.

Robert:

As we all understand, the AAT is independent in reviewing decisions. Each matter decided is of course made on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the particular facts and circumstances of each case. AAT decisions are usually supported by clearly written statements of reason in regard to the additional information the AAT has considered during its hearing.

As it reviews administrative decisions, the commonwealth is always looking at those decisions, and in terms of the refund process – just [as the] member is aware, having raised the issue of the AAT, and I’m sure she has concern for those who have a debt raised insufficiently because of the longstanding, 26-year practice of average income data – Services Australia will work closely with the AAT for debts raised wholly or partially based on income averaging that has been decided by the AAT.

For those Australians who believe that they may have had a debt raised over the last 26 years because of the use of average income data, those Australians are able to seek from Services Australia, at any time, a review into a debt that they believe may have been used by average income data over the last three decades.

The short answer is: yes.

Updated

Stuart Robert denies self-harm link to robodebt

Bill Shorten to Stuart Robert:

Yesterday, in this house, the minister promised parliament to deliver me data relating to the reports the government received of victims of the illegal robodebt scheme threatening self-harm.

Why has the minister renege and not delivered this information? [When will] the minister admit the government received a least 14 official reports of robodebt victims threatening self-harm? Is it because the number is even higher?

Robert:

Let me thank the member for his question, for the benefit of the house I will table the letter that I wrote for the member so everyone is clear what we’re talking about. The member raised issues that were presented to the court as part of a second further amended statement of claim. And all members will be aware that commonwealth and Gordon legal have acknowledged that there is a settlement, but ... that it is not an admission of liability, and does not reflect any knowledge of unlawfulness.

... The actual issues that the member raised ... were presented by Gordon Legal as part of the second further amended statement of claim. They were simply what Gordon Legal put through and if the commonwealth and indeed Labor’s lawyers can reach settlement and acknowledge that there is no admission of liability, and a reflection of acceptance or no acceptance of knowledge, why can’t Labor accept that?

Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

Updated

The former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has called on the Morrison government not to give into “bullying and intimidation” from the Chinese government that is “becoming more and more blatant”.

Addressing a McGrathNicol webinar this afternoon, Turnbull urged the government to hold its nerve while deploying strong but civil language.

“You don’t have to get into the abusive language of the Global Times, let alone rogue tweeters,” he said, referring both to the Chinese Communist party media mouthpiece and the tweet from a foreign ministry spokesman yesterday.

Turnbull described China as an “increasingly assertive authoritarian superpower” that had dramatically changed in the way it approached the rest of the world, including Australia, under Xi Jinping’s leadership.

He described the tweet as bizarre and “outrageously abusive”.

Turnbull defended his government’s decisions to exclude China’s Huawei and ZTE from the 5G network and foreign interference laws as “vitally important decisions to defend our national security”. He described the current trade actions against Australia as a “pressure play”.

Unless there is a change in attitude in Beijing, tensions are going to continue indefinitely. I think the thing that will change this period of tension is not some backdown or grovelling or apology from Australia … but simply the Communist party in China realising their tactics are not working.

We’re just going to have to hold our nerve.

Updated

That’s a different tone from Stuart Robert than we heard yesterday.

But Bill Shorten goes to table the statement from Jarrad’s mum Kath:

She says if it were not for the compliance letter and the threat of debt, he would not have taken his own life.

But leave is denied.

“Oh come on,” someone from Labor yells.

Updated

Bill Shorten to Stuart Robert:

I refer to his answer yesterday of the tragic suicide of robodebt victim Jarrad Madgwick and I spoke to his mum last night. She asked me to ask: can the minister explain how chasing Jarrad for almost $2,000 has been a sound economic decision given at that Jarrad and I would have had full employment now but due to my grief, PTSD and depression, I am forced to rely on the welfare system. Minister, what is the answer?

Robert:

I thank the member for his question and first of all, let me acknowledge her grief – the grief of the loss of any child is truly [devastating].

I think that is something the whole house accepts.

The government has a requirement in terms of raising that. I think we all accept that and we all respect that. In the case of this man, her son’s debt was sufficient and not [raised] by income averaging.

This is a very important point and I can’t even begin to understand her pain. But it was not income averaging.

That is the issue in the case of the settlement. It was a legitimate debt. And a million Australians right now will be receiving legitimate debts, ones started being raised from the 2 November and collecting from February, and it is going to be hard. Governments of all persuasions have raised legitimate debts.

We have all done – as many ministers on the frontbench and I respect what you have done ... It is a lawful part of what we have been required to do and we do it sensibly and respectfully.

Every day, my department, just to give you some context: my department gets from the social worker census database, the numbers I’m drawing on, and from escalation, we receive on average about one escalated harm per day, which is of such significance, and we get many more every day that are dealt with.

This has been going on for decades. The numbers have an increase per se. This is just what our Services Australians do in our name.

We deal with vulnerable Australians. At the same time, in the last financial year, we answer 29.2 million calls of Australians who need service and support and will continue to do so. Dealing with human loss of life and tragedy is something we do every day and it is hard. I wanted to quite generally shout out to the Services Australia staff who deal with this every single day.

Can I encourage all of us – there are 325 service centres, many of you have got them in your electorate – to get a chance, pop in and say thank you. That is all.

I’m not going to respond to those opposite because I am quite genuine about this. Our staff deal with genuine tragedy and I think they do it really well. I think they do. Let’s be cognisant of it, this is a difficult issue so we try to deal with them respectfully, but suicide and self-harm, it is tragic.

It occurs every day in our community and it is something we are all cognisant on, and even my agency is cognisant of. We will continue to do our legislated and mandated task and we understand the challenges that come with that.

Updated

Stuart Robert is spending this question time explaining how the government had a great response for NDIS recipients, despite the royal commission into disability care finding the government did not have a specific plan. Sound familiar? That was the aged care response as well.

Thankfully, we didn’t see the same impact on the disability sector, as we did with aged care. Much of that is down to luck and the hard work of carers who went above and beyond to try to meet their clients’ needs, while protecting their lives.

Robert does not take any criticism, saying:

We reject his premise completely and the facts bear witness to themselves.

As my last answer went through, all of the responses in all of the areas where the government responded quickly including 81,000 individual calls to vulnerable participants.

At the same time, in terms of disability support plans, they are extended by 24 months, ensuring continuity of support and increasing capacity of staff to focus on urgent and required changes.

Massive phone occurred to ensure face-to-face wasn’t required. Increase less ability was put in place to allow participants to purchase additional hours of support coordination from their core capacity building budgets, and more importantly, the rate of expenditure of the NDIS ostensibly did not reduce.

The same amount of payments which is now upwards of $5 billion per quarter increased. We temporarily increase flexibility for participants to purchase low-cost items like smart devices to enable them to continue to receive their disability support.

We enable priority access to home delivery services from major supermarket chain so that Australians with a disability received priority above all other Australians for Coles and Woolworths to deliver their groceries. We allowed it parents living in restricted areas to purchase PPE for their own use.

At the same time, we moved away from Labor’s record of waiting 90 minutes on the phone to 60 seconds. Answering over 160,000 calls, we moved away from 500,000 logins a day in terms of digital platforms to 2.6 million Australians logging in a digital platforms per day.

Rather than thousands of Australians going to services centres every day, that is now down to 30,000 because of the high-volume and high grade of servicing telephone and digital channels Australians can receive. This is the amount of effort this government put in place to delivering services to vulnerable Australians.

That is whether they were Australians of a disability or otherwise. And we continue to deliver this level of service. We will continue to follow the public health orders that come out from the state and that is as we continue to deliver the essential items that Australian citizens require.

I am proud of what this government has done to stump up for Australians during this pandemic and I think everyone on the side should be extraordinarily proud of what we have done.

The results globally speak for themselves and while I appreciate that those opposite are the opposition, it would be good for us to sit back and reflect how any concert of nations, the performance of this government in taking care of Australians in a once in 100 years pandemic has gone compared to other nations in the world.

Updated

Labor’s staff, on the other hand, never seem to sleep.

They have just alerted me that “our comeback”, which is one of the favourite terms of the government MPs today – along with “the comeback is on” – is straight from an advertising agency, as was revealed in estimates:

Senator Katy Gallagher: I’m particularly interested in the “Our comeback” campaign, which Finance confirmed on Thursday was a Treasury campaign. Ms Kelley, is this your area?

Roxanne Kelley (deputy secretary, corporate and foreign investment): Yes, senator.

Gallagher: When was the decision taken to launch an economic recovery advertising campaign?

Kelley: The funding for the economic recovery campaign was announced as part of the 6 October budget, and $15 million in funding was allocated for the campaign.

Gallagher: The $15 million is provided in the budget – is it as part of the extra money for the Treasury?

Kelley: Yes.

...

Gallagher: This $15 million is for the “Our comeback” campaign? ... How much has been spent to date on that campaign?

Shannon Kenna (branch head, communications branch): We don’t have a spend-to-date figure for that campaign, as it has only just commenced.

Gallagher: When did it start?

Kenna: The campaign launched on 14 October.

Gallagher: Where did the “Our comeback” slogan come from? How was that determined?

Kenna: That was one of the concepts that was put forward by an advertising agency as part of the pitch process.

Gallagher: Which company is that? Is that the one that’s got the contract?

Kenna: That’s correct – it’s TBWA\Melbourne.

Updated

The South Australian government’s comms could really, really do with some work.

Apparently there was a recent issue with QR codes that could not be resolved because authorities were waiting on people in California to wake up.

can someone please get south australia a communications advisor? our brains are all melting https://t.co/yaJG3ssvhA

— Jane Howard (@noplain) December 1, 2020

Updated

Josh Frydenberg gets about a sentence into a dixer before he once again gets stuck in a coughing fit, which is what happens when you strain your vocal cords by answering questions as if you are trying to be Jimmy Barnes shouting at the mountains.

Clare O’Neil to Josh Frydenberg:

Why congratulate yourselves on the economy when the data shows an employment won’t return to levels before Covid in four years?

Frydenberg:

It might be known to the member for Hotham that Australia has been hit by a once-in-a-century pandemic. To put it in the perspective for the member for Hotham, during the GFC, the global economy contracted by 0.8 %. It is the IMF’s forecast that the global economy will contract this year by 4.4%. And with 1.3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero early on in this pandemic, it has been a huge task for the Australian economy to start the recovery – and that recovery is now under way, with 80% of those people back at work.

The fact that 178,000 jobs were created last month – that is something that goes to the heart of the Australian economy and its resilience. The effective unemployment rate has fallen from 9.3% to 7.4%.

The state of Victoria, the member for Hotham’s own state, we saw the effective unemployment rate rise to the highest in the country at 14%, and it is now down to 10.5%.

And today’s economic data has shown that consumer confidence is up for 12 out of the last 13 weeks, that house prices are up. The building approvals are up. All go as extra indicators to show that the comeback is on ... Now, it might be uncomfortable for those opposite who like to talk down the Australian economy. Every opportunity, looking to talk down the Australian economy.

Even yesterday, even yesterday when the jobkeeper numbers came out for the month of October, you had a member ... come out and say, oh, that is entirely unsurprising; and only two weeks prior he was saying that the decisions by the Morrison government were going to lead to a deeper recession.

You can’t have it both ways ... He can’t be talking about a deeper recession and then say that the comeback, a strong comeback, is entirely unsurprising. The former treasurer Joe Hockey was part of a government that helped to see jobs created (Note – ummmm does anyone remember that 2014 budget?!).

Our prime minister, who was formerly the treasurer, has helped put the bricks in place to help see the Australian economy become the resilient economy it is, and right now, we are saying to the Australian people that we have their backs ... at the start of this crisis, through this crisis, to the end of this crisis.

Updated

US tweets at China over Australian wine tariffs

The US national security council is engaging in some twitter diplomacy of its own.

Australian wine will be featured at a White House holiday reception this week. Pity vino lovers in China who, due to Beijing’s coercive tariffs on Aussie vintners, will miss out. #AussieAussieAussieOiOiOi!

— NSC (@WHNSC) December 1, 2020

Updated

Just a reminder...

Unemployment isn’t forecast to return to pre-covid levels for four years #DontCallitAComback #QT https://t.co/j7TlK8CbXe

— Tim Watts MP (@TimWattsMP) December 1, 2020

Updated

The sun is shining directly on Michael McCormack, and given he is the whitest man in Australia, he looks almost translucent.

He calls Joe Hockey a “very fine treasurer” and weirdly adds:

I bet you he didn’t think he would come back from America and see me sitting in the chair.

Dude – no one thought we would ever see you sitting on the frontbench, let alone standing in for the prime minister. Why draw attention to that?

Updated

Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg:

Why is the treasurer congratulating himself on the economy when, in the eighth year of this liberal government, wages growth has never been weaker?

Frydenberg (still as a race caller):

Well, Mr Speaker, I’m not going to take a lecture from an opposition spokesman, where we know when they were in government for over six years, they saw a reduction in real minimum wages when Labor was in office.

The fact of the matter is, we are celebrating the Australian people and the Australian economy’s resilience in the face of a once-in-a-century pandemic.

We are celebrating the fact that Australia has fared better than nearly every other country in the world in both the health and economic front. ... We still have a long way to go and a lot of ground to make up, but we are celebrating the fact that Australians are getting back into work. Australians are getting back into work and the member for Rankin would know that payroll jobs data was up-to-date up today and is now up for three consecutive fortnights. When it comes to real wages and taking into account inflation, they have grown at a rate of 0.7% under the Coalition.

That is in line with the 20-year average. Of course we have had a terrible hit to the economy with the pandemic, and as the RBA governor has said, this is a very challenging time for the economy. Our focus has been on jobs, creating more jobs and helping Australians get back into work. And that is what has occurred and that is what the numbers are showing.

So pandemics are one thing, but the global financial crisis was a mere bump. Got it.

Updated

Joe Hockey is in the public gallery.

That’s it. That’s the post.

Question time starts with a question on the economy and Josh Frydenberg answers like he is calling a race at a western Queensland meet.

Scott Morrison calls it “eloquent” in his dixer.

The gist – everything is fine, I’m fine, you’re fine, we’re fine. Oh, and it might get rough, but it will be fine.

*sips tea*

Updated

It is almost question time - the second one Scott Morrison will spend at the Lodge, appearing virtually.

Yesterday, Labor directed questions away from him (the audio link is not great).

Let’s see what they do today.

Updated

The office of government services minister Stuart Robert told my colleague Elias Visontay yesterday that part of the reason the government would not move from Covidsafe to using Apple and Google’s exposure notification framework was in part because it “puts health information in the hands of IT companies”.

When I asked a spokesman in the office what was meant by that, because Apple and Google never holds the data – it remains on a person’s phone – the office sent back a lengthy response stating the aims of the two systems are different: Apple and Google’s version only serves to notify people who might need to isolate and get tested, but by passing on details of every identified close contact to state health authorities, Covidsafe is a fuller contact tracer feeding back into the state contact tracing systems.

The spokesman said:

The inherent risk is that a person does not notify public health officials – ie a potentially Covid-19 infected person does not quarantine or seek health advice or allow extensive contact tracing to stop the spread of the virus.

Similarly, the ENF framework doesn’t lend itself to identification of hotspots and clusters, which are of critical importance to the heath response.

The spokesman said a switch to the Apple/Google model would mean the loss of 21 days of data (although experts have said the two systems could run parallel for a time), and then pointed to the high number of daily cases in the United States, Russia, Brazil, Italy and elsewhere that have adopted the Apple/Google version.

That could be viewed as being in spite of the app, just as our next-to-zero case numbers are also in spite of the app.

Updated

Helen Haines has held her press conference calling for a stronger national integrity commission proposal – with former judges, as well as the crossbench, including Pauline Hanson.

Hanson’s attendance means nothing in terms of how she will actually vote. We should all know that by now.

Updated

A bit more from Mike Bowers this morning:

The nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean with family and officials in Canberra
The nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, Garry Ivory (centre), with governor general David Hurley and Linda Hurley, defence minister Linda Reynolds, Defence Force chief Angus Campbell and the extended Sheean family in Canberra after Ivory received the Victoria Cross for Sheean’s actions. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

The parliamentary sitting calendar for 2021 will be tabled today, so we can all actually make plans beyond the end of the next fortnight.

Lols at the idea housing prices ever dipped into something remotely affordable, but anyway.

AAP has an update on the housing market:

House prices rose across the nation for a second month in a row in November and could surpass their pre-Covid levels in early 2021 if the pace of the current trend persists.

Backing this positive outlook, one of Australia’s biggest retail banks said demand for its home loans was the strongest seen for more than two years.

At the same time, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said approvals for private sector houses rose for the fourth consecutive month in October to the highest level since February 2000.

The CoreLogic home value index for November rose 0.8% to be 3.1% higher over the year.

CoreLogic’s head of research, Tim Lawless, said:

If housing values continue to rise at the current pace, we could see a recovery from the Covid downturn as early as January or February next year.

The recovery in Melbourne, where home values remain 5% below their recent peak, will take longer.

Housing values moved to record highs in Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra through November.

In Sydney and Melbourne, home values remain at levels similar to those seen in early 2017.

Updated

Other points of interest out of caucus include that Labor will oppose the government’s bill for a veteran suicide commissioner.

The shadow veterans’ affairs minister, Shayne Neumann, said Labor did not support a “glorified coroner doing desktop reviews in a corner office” because it is “not a royal commission – and Labor supports a royal commission”. That puts them on team Jacqui Lambie, who is outspoken on the issue.

Labor will seek to amend the coronavirus supplement bill to give the social services minister the ongoing power to extend the boost to jobseeker beyond 31 March, the current drop-dead date in the bill. The party’s final position will be decided by the leader and shadow ministers.

Labor will support several other government bills, including tightening foreign investment review for national security grounds and removing the upper limit on English language tuition for visa-holders.

Anthony Albanese summarised 2020 by discussing the gap between the government’s announcements and delivery, its “waste and corruption” and holding people back and leaving people behind.

A few more specific jibes at the government:

  • Australians would be “shaking their heads” that more than 30,000 Australians are stranded overseas while the government has let Mathias Cormann use an RAAF jet to campaign to lead the OECD.
  • And Scott Morrison has gone from “hollow man to hologram” by beaming into parliament, which Albanese characterised as a vote of no confidence in the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, to fill his shoes for a week.

Labor will also establish a pandemic recovery jobs and industry taskforce lead by MP Lisa Chesters to hear people’s “real life experience” of the recession – and gather case studies of those left behind and held back.

Updated

Big Brother, net zero and anti-vax

As well as a lively session in caucus, the Coalition party room was also jumping on a few fronts this morning. Here’s the short version.

There was a lively debate about emergency powers recommended as part of the response to the bushfire royal commission. A number of speakers – including Senate president Scott Ryan, Paul Scarr, Katie Allen and Trent Zimmerman – were concerned this would be the thin edge of the wedge.

Concerns were raised that the current definition was too broad and the proposal wasn’t subject to a sunset clause or disallowable.

Ryan told his colleagues they had to think about emergency powers through a different prism after the experience of Covid, where there had been police moving people on from parks, and the army deployed on the streets of Melbourne. Ryan said that when it came to executive power, we’d entered the world of the unimaginable.

More interesting interventions: Warren Entsch, the government’s special envoy for the Great Barrier Reef, told colleagues the government needed to adopt a net zero target by 2050.

This was in response to his Queensland colleague Gerard Rennick telling the room the government needed to use carryover credits rather than actually reducing emissions.

Sticking with the environment: the trio of Matt Canavan, Barnaby Joyce and Craig Kelly opposed the NSW government’s recent commitments to get more renewables in the power grid.

Kelly declared that NSW plan was objectionable because it would need 400 of the world’s biggest batteries to work.

Kelly was also voluble about vaccines, aided by George Christensen.

He expressed objections to a compulsory vaccination register. Kelly wondered who would get access to the information on the register, and warned that if the government looked too heavy handed on the Covid vaccine, it would energise the anti-vax movement.

Warren Entsch with Scott Morrison in Cairns in October
Warren Entsch with Scott Morrison in Cairns in October. Photograph: Brian Cassey/AAP

Updated

The Coalition’s Fiona Martin and Labor’s Andrew Giles have come together to form a bipartisan “Parliamentary friends of ending loneliness” group.

These groups are like very fancy book clubs for issues impacting Australia, where researchers and experts come speak and the MPs work on cross-party proposals for addressing the issue, including working – if necessary – on gaining their own party’s support.

With the pandemic highlighting just how much of an impact loneliness can have, this is one of the good ones.

Updated

We have a bit more detail on Joel Fitzgibbon’s contribution in caucus on judicial pensions.

Fitzgibbon said the shadow attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, would not be surprised to hear him speak against the bill to strip misbehaving judges of their pensions – because the issue had been discussed before in shadow cabinet.

Apparently Fitzgibbon objected in that forum but Anthony Albanese deferred consideration of the issue – until after Fitzgibbon resigned in November.

Nobody spoke in defence of Fitzgibbon’s position – one imagines it would be hard to do so, lest it be viewed as supporting leadership destabilisation.

Updated

Joel Fitzgibbon defends judges' pensions, regardless of 'serious misconduct'

Labor caucus has finished – and of most interest was a debate on a Rex Patrick bill to give parliament the power to revoke judges’ pensions if they engage in “serious misconduct” while a judge.

Recent backbencher Joel Fitzgibbon spoke up against the bill.

He argued: that Labor’s default should be to oppose crossbench bills; that it sent a bad message to future judges; that it would be seen as targeted at Dyson Heydon, and particularly as revenge for Bill Shorten because of his treatment at the trade union royal commission; and that after judges, punters will be coming for pollies’ pensions next.

An independent investigation found that Heydon had sexually harassed six junior court staff. He’s not been charged with anything but it’s the sort of conduct that parliament could use to revoke a pension.

Fitzgibbon’s contribution went down like a lead balloon, with female MPs upset and others describing it outside the meeting as tone deaf.

In caucus, several spoke in favour of the bill – including one that said it was important to stand against poor treatment of women; and another explaining it was the “right thing to do” to further equality.

Joel Fitzgibbon
Joel Fitzgibbon’s argument didn’t go down well in caucus. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Meanwhile, I’m as shocked as Captain Renault at this report.

Shocked, I tell you.

Gas led recovery to cost farm jobs says new report. https://t.co/DFk8RCgxrO

— Kath Sullivan (@KathSully) December 1, 2020

Updated

Paul Karp will have a report for you very soon on what Labor’s caucus meeting was like this morning.

I’m hearing Joel Fitzgibbon had a lot to say – not about climate this time, but parliamentary pensions.

It went down like a Paddle Pop on a summer’s day, apparently.

Updated

It was a very long campaign, but Teddy Sheean’s family received an honour for the ordinary seaman for his actions.

The nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, Garry Ivory, receives the Victoria Cross from the governor general, David Hurley
The nephew of Ordinary Seaman Edward ‘Teddy’ Sheean, Garry Ivory, receives the Victoria Cross from the governor general, David Hurley. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

I should also point out, because I keep getting messages about it, mainly because it seems like a very funny sentence, but one of the border entry requirements for WA is travellers must confirm they have “not knowingly mixed with anyone from South Australia”.

Updated

It’s national accounts day tomorrow (very low-energy huzzah to that) – but the ABS believes at least 2 points will be knocked from the GDP from a drop in trade. It says:

Australia’s current account surplus in seasonally adjusted terms decreased $6.3bn to $10.0bn in the September quarter 2020, driven mainly by a decreased goods and services surplus, according to latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

... In seasonally adjusted chain volume terms, the balance on goods and services surplus decreased $8.9bn, narrowing the surplus to $12.8bn. The balance on goods and services is expected to detract 2.0 percentage points from September quarter 2020 gross domestic product, assuming no significant revision to June quarter 2020 estimates of GDP.

Updated

That means most of Australia is now open to everyone, without restrictions.

Am keeping it all crossed that South Australia will follow very shortly. No one should ever underestimate the burden, or the cost, of the border closures in our spread our land (which you can do while also recognising the reasons the closures occurred).

Updated

Western Australia to open border to Victoria and NSW next Tuesday

Western Australia’s premier, Mark McGowan, is announcing his state’s new border arrangements.

From 12.01am Tuesday 8 December, the border will be open to Victorian and New South Wales – without major restrictions.

Perth airport arrivals will undergo a health screening at arrival and be potentially tested.

Travellers will need to complete a border pass and land arrivals will be met at the border for a health screening.

But no one will have to self0quarantine from NSW and Victoria.

Hopefully, South Australia will soon follow.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan
Western Australian premier Mark McGowan. Photograph: Matt Jelonek/Getty Images

Updated

Scott Morrison will give a virtual address to the Investiture Ceremony for ordinary seaman Edward “Teddy” Sheean.

Updated

Bob Katter has released a statement, that, well, as in usual Bob Katter fashion, goes places.

He argues the chief of the defence force should be sacked for recommending Meritorious Unit Citations be stripped from SAS personnel (a merit which is given as a group, not individually earned), moves on to a need to increase trade with the “VIP countries” (Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines) and then drifts into an Australian invasion.

Australia must arm itself with ‘defensive’ weaponry – 300 missile-equipped patrol boats, will cost 2.5% of government spending,” he said.

In the late 1930s, Winston Churchill was crying out about the Nazi danger. No one listened to him. Now we know who was right and who was wrong. We all know he said ‘fight them on the beaches’, but he also said, ‘when you try to cross that water for every naval gun you have, we will have 30 naval guns. For every fighter plane you have, we have a fighter plane, so just try and cross that water’.”

Australia is a vast, expansive, resource-rich landscape and yet no one is living on it. We have no way to defend it. We need patrol boats, missiles, an army, weaponry and must build it up to defend ourselves. We are a bunch of Europeans occupying only 5% of our continental land which is one of the most resource-rich parts of the world. We should have a population of 60 to 70 million people and a capable army, but we are an empty nation. A people without land will seek a land without people.

Australia’s current defence force is severely under-resourced, meaning that China sees us as a drought-stricken lamb, and not as a fearsome cassowary or boxing kangaroo capable of defending itself.”

Bob Katter.
Bob Katter. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Queensland and NSW report no new locally acquired Covid cases

Queensland and NSW have also reported no new locally acquired cases of Covid in the last 24 hours, which is another zero day for Australia.

NSW recorded no new cases of locally acquired COVID-19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Five cases were reported in overseas travellers. This brings the total number of cases in NSW to 4,393 since the start of the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/su66ZCiRp2

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) December 1, 2020
Passengers are reunited with loved ones after arriving on the first flight from Melbourne at the Brisbane domestic airport following the easing of coronavirus border restrictions on Tuesday.
Passengers are reunited with loved ones after arriving on the first flight from Melbourne at the Brisbane domestic airport following the easing of coronavirus border restrictions on Tuesday. Photograph: Reuters

Updated

Tasmania to open border to South Australians on Thursday

From 12.01am Thursday, South Australian residents will no longer have to quarantine when entering Tasmania – meaning the island state is open to all jurisdictions in Australia, as well as New Zealand.

Updated

You can’t reply to Paul Fletcher’s tweet with the list of questions for the ABC over the Four Corners episode, one of which is why is the personal life of politicians newsworthy, because whoever hit send turned off replies.

So they know how this will go.

But hey, what a lovely end-of-year gift for the culture warriors who lost Donald Trump, and then had to spin the Bereton report. Let a million keystrokes bloom.

Updated

South Australia records no new Covid cases

South Australia has reported no new locally acquired Covid cases.

Updated

Many of Paul Fletcher’s questions were different versions of “why wasn’t Labor or the Greens involved”.

That ignores that it was the government’s bonk ban, which was put in place after a relationship between a MP and his staffer began impacting his public duties (Barnaby Joyce) and also – it is the government.

The woman who went public over her relationship with Alan Tudge, Rachelle Miller, did so after she said she was chased from her job. Miller has lodged an official complaint against both Tudge and her later boss, Michaelia Cash, over what she says was her treatment in the workplace. There has been no comment on that. But there is now a complaint to the ABC.

Updated

Communications minister writes to ABC chair over 'Canberra Bubble' Four Corners

It has been some time since the government complained to the ABC, but Paul Fletcher has officially written to ABC chair, Ita Buttrose, over the Louise Milligan Four Corners report “Inside the Canberrra Bubble” which aired three weeks ago.

The government had tried to have it pulled before it was aired.

Fletcher wants to know why the board supported the airing of the program, and has many, many questions.

Today I have written to ABC Chair Ita Buttrose with questions concerning the Four Corners program “Inside the Canberra Bubble” that was broadcast on 9 November 2020. pic.twitter.com/7acqFpdAL4

— Paul Fletcher (@PaulFletcherMP) November 30, 2020
Communications minister Paul Fletcher.
Communications minister Paul Fletcher. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Jacinda Ardern has not spoken to Scott Morrison about the tweet, or image, however (although their offices are in regular contact).

Updated

New Zealand officially raises concerns over tweet with Chinese government

Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand is watching what is happening between Australia and China, and is particularly concerned with the circulation of a fake image from a Chinese government official on their official Twitter account:

Of course we do observe closely what happens across the ditch, as they do with us.

I’ve seen some of the latest discussion of over what was a Twitter image which we’ve seen a lot of commentary over.

New Zealand has registered directly with Chinese authorities our concern over the use of that image.

It was an unfactual post and of course that would concern us.

So that is something that we’ve raised directly in the manner that New Zealand does when we have such concerns.

And so, look, whilst that is an exchange that’s happening between Australia and China, it will, of course, tip into spaces where, as a general principle, we may have concerns and we’ll raise those.

In this case, an image has been used that is not factually correct. It’s not a genuine image, so we have raised that directly with Chinese authorities in keeping with the way that we would raise areas of concern for us.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern.
New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern. Photograph: Marty Melville/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

Penny Wong was asked whether Scott Morrison’s reaction yesterday to the tweet was exactly what the Chinese government wanted.

The Australian community I think is unified in our response. But I do think this: in the face of deliberate provocation, whether it’s in this context or elsewhere, it’s always best if we respond calmly and strategically rather than emotionally. And I think all of us need to focus on what we together have to do, given where the relationship is, in the coming months and beyond.

Updated

It’s all but officially reversed.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester tells @SkyNewsAust he is opposed to stripping meritorious unit citation -"it does trouble me that we would somehow take away an award for people who have done nothing wrong... I don't know what good would come from stripping the citation"

— Trudy McIntosh (@TrudyMcIntosh) November 30, 2020

Updated

Cassandra Goldie, the head of the Australian Council of Social Service, will be in parliament today to deliver holiday cards – from people impacted by the recession and threatened by insecurity over what will happen come March when the Covid supplement attached to the unemployment payment expires.

Goldie:

This Christmas is set to be a devastating one for millions, with record-high unemployment.

There is currently only one job vacancy available for every 12 people without a job or enough hours, with even fewer jobs in regional areas.

Even though so many are struggling to find paid work, the government is cutting income support at Christmas time, almost taking us back to the old, brutal Newstart rate.

From the end of the year, people on jobseeker will receive only $50 a day, just $10 more than the old, unliveable Newstart rate. Jobseeker will be cut down to just 48% of the minimum wage. Newstart had not been increased in real terms in more than a quarter of a century.

To make matters worse, the government has not ruled out going back to the old, brutal Newstart rate of just $40 a day in March.

The financial distress and insecurity is wreaking havoc on people’s mental health and leaving them to face impossible decisions, including whether they’ll be able to afford to live in their homes next year.

Updated

The Afghanistan ministry of foreign affairs has released a statement:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is aware of a photo showing an Australian soldier’s misconduct with an Afghan and has started investigating the case.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Government are jointly working to investigate the misconduct of the Australian soldiers in Afghanistan. The aim of the investigation is to ensure that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan believes that both Australia and China are key players in building and maintaining international and regional consensus on peace and development in Afghanistan. Afghanistan hopes to maintain and strengthen cooperation with the two countries.

The photo used by the Chinese foreign affairs official, was doctored.

Meanwhile, not everyone is buying the “meet and beat” emissions reduction talk.

Open letter to Scott Morrison on climate change - “Australia’s target remains one of the weakest amongst wealthy nations.” Signed by former Pacific Island leaders Enele Sopoaga, Anote Tong, Hilda Heine. Also ⁦@kenilorea⁩ and Vanuatu Opposition leader ⁦@RRegenvanupic.twitter.com/vDUgPgecks

— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) November 30, 2020

Updated

This is quite the call list for Helen Haines’s upcoming presser calling for a federal integrity commission that would actually resemble a federal integrity commission.

Who:

The Hon Stephen Charles AO QC – former judge of the Victorian supreme court of appeal

The Hon Anthony Whealy QC – former judge of the NSW supreme court of appeal

Helen Haines MP – independent member for Indi

Hon Mark Dreyfus QC MP – shadow attorney general

Rebekha Sharkie MP – Centre Alliance member for Mayo

Andrew Wilkie MP – independent member for Clark

Bob Katter MP – independent member for Kennedy

Zali Steggall MP – independent member for Warringah

Senator Larissa Waters – Greens leader in the Senate, spokesperson on democracy

Senator Jacqui Lambie – independent senator for Tasmania

Senator Rex Patrick – independent senator for South Australia

Professor AJ Brown – Transparency International Australia

Geoffrey Watson SC – Centre for Public Integrity

Troy Roberts – Australian Federal Police Association

Ben Oquist – executive director of The Australia Institute

Updated

The Global Times, the outlet the Chinese government uses to get out its particularly petulant takes, included an op-ed overnight accusing Scott Morrison of losing his manners.

It was in relation to a tweet, sent out by a senior official in the Chinese foreign ministry, depicting a photoshopped image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child’s throat.

Morrison said it was “repugnant” and demanded an apology. No apology has been offered.

Richard Marles was asked about whether or not the Global Times assessment was correct:

No, I wouldn’t agree with that statement. The tweet that we saw yesterday was extraordinary. In my experience, over some time now of foreign relations, I’ve actually never seen an intervention of this kind. It was an extraordinary statement for China to make. And I think it was essential that in that moment, that the country speak with one voice in expressing our dignity and our honour, but also condemning this tweet, which was obviously outrageous. So I think the prime minister has done the only thing that he could do in the face of this statement from China yesterday, and frankly, I am gobsmacked by the intervention by China yesterday.

Updated

Victoria records no new coronavirus cases

Victoria has recorded 32 days with no new Covid cases.

Yesterday there were 0 new cases, 0 deaths reported, and 6,874 tests received. There are no active cases. Thank you to everyone for helping Victoria #StaySafeStayOpen. https://t.co/pcll7ySEgz #EveryTestHelps #COVID19Vic pic.twitter.com/tMDsUCMM1E

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) November 30, 2020

Updated

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan and health minister Roger Cook are making an announcement about WA border conditions today.

They will give a press conference at the airport at 8.15am in Perth – that’s 11.15am on the east coast. McGowan had previously said he would drop the requirement for domestic travellers to quarantine once a state passed 28 days with no local cases.

Victoria hit 31 days with no new cases today; NSW is currently sitting on 22 days.

Queensland and South Australia are now open to both Victoria and NSW – WA is the last to move.

Fingers crossed for all those trying to get home to Perth for Christmas.

Updated

If you have a moment, please take the time to read this, from Else Kennedy

For the record, Twitter has flagged the tweet Scott Morrison wanted removed, but it has not pulled it down.

The image contained within the Tweet in question has been marked as sensitive media. For more information on these policies and how to control your individual media settings on Twitter, see here.

Travel agents will receive a one-off payment from the government, under a $128m program, given they remain at work processing travel refunds while receiving no income stream from international travel.

From Simon Birmingham’s release:

This one-off payment recognises that travel agents are operating in an exceptional set of circumstances where most are having to refund last year’s income while continuing to work with no additional income,” minister Birmingham said.

Providing further assistance to travel agents in the current environment will help keep them afloat at a time when they are continuing to hold travel credits for consumers who have previously cancelled travel.

Payments will be scaled, with a minimum payment of $1,500 for a business with a turnover of $50,000 up to a maximum payment of $100,000 for a business with a turnover of $20m.

Updated

Penny Wong was also asked about the number of Australians stranded overseas. Scott Morrison says the goal was to bring them home by Christmas. That is not going to happen. Wong is asked whether that is because there are now more people registering to come home:

No, see, you’ve picked up what he said, one of the shifty things he uses to try and get out of the broken promise. Even if you looked at who was overseas, and on the list at the time he made the promise, they won’t get home. So, let’s be very clear about that. The reality is the prime minister is not going to deliver on his promise, and that is because he is refusing to take responsibility, he’s refusing to ensure that the federal government takes some responsibility for quarantine, that it sets up a federal facility. It was told months ago by its own adviser it could do so. And it has refused to do so. And so, what has happened is, since the prime minister’s promise, not only have more people been added to the list but more people have been classed as vulnerable, and they will not be home by Christmas. Now, that is, I think, a great sadness for them and their families, and a great abdication of responsibility by Mr Morrison.

Updated

Penny Wong appeared on ABC News Breakfast this morning, where she was asked about Australia’s relationship with China, following a foreign ministry senior official tweeting a PhotoShopped image of an Australian soldier holding a knife to a child’s throat.

I think we are unified in our response in our condemnation of this image. And I made a statement, as did Anthony Albanese, yesterday. But if we throw forward – and in your introduction you rightly pointed out we have a range of very substantial difficulties in our relationship with China at this point. We have economic challenges with the problems we’ve had with a whole range of exports, which is obviously a major issue for the Australian economy, for jobs, and for all the Australians who rely on those industries. And we have this deliberate provocation. I think it’s very important that we respond in a calm and measured way and make very clear what we believe is acceptable. This isn’t the behaviour, as I said yesterday, the offensive doctored photograph is not the behaviour of a responsible, mature international player.

Penny Wong.
Penny Wong. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Updated

Alan Tudge had a (virtual) meeting with Chinese-Australian community leaders last night, where the multicultural minister made this observation:

Australia has welcomed migrants from China for more than 200 years and Australians of Chinese background have added immensely to our nation.

Except for, you know, the 1901 Immigration Restriction Act being one of the first acts passed by the Australian federated parliament. Its whole point was to keep out immigrants from Asia and kick out those who had already arrived. Before that, there was the whole indentured labour thing. Oh, and the Victorian Chinese Restriction Act, and The Walk from Robe.

And if you need some more recent history – the White Australia Policy. It’s there in the name, in case it wasn’t clear what it was all about.

Much like Scott Morrison’s there was “no slavery in Australia” comment, (another furphy, as there obviously was slavery in Australia – Blackbirding being just one example – it does the nation no favours when its leaders try to erase its past, no matter how well intentioned the warm and fuzzy falsehoods seem.

Updated

Winter crop production up 76%

There’s some good news for farmers in a new report from the agricultural forecaster, with winter crop production in Australia expected to increase by 76% in the 2020-21 financial year to 51.5 million tonnes.

After years of drought that result would be “second only to the record high of 56.7 million tonnes in 2016-17”, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (Abares). The outlook released today is an 7.4% upward revision from the forecast Abares published in September.

Here are a few key stats from the latest Australian crop report:

  • Wheat production forecast to increase by 106% to 31.2 million tonnes, the second highest on record.
  • Production of barley – the product hit with hefty tariffs by China earlier this year – forecast to increase by 33% to 12 million tonnes, the second-highest on record.
  • Canola production forecast to rise by 59% to 3.7 million tonnes, the fifth-highest on record.
  • Chickpeas production is forecast to increase by 162% to 737,000 tonnes.

In a statement, the executive director of Abares, Steve Hatfield-Dodds, said production in key cropping regions in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia was “boosted by favourable conditions during the critical grain development phase”.

“Crops in these states were generally in very good condition at the end of winter, and the favourable rainfall during September and October was perfectly timed for the growth cycle. Production is expected to be a record high in New South Wales, the second-highest on record in Victoria and well above average in South Australia.”

However the report notes the outlook is not uniform across the country, with crop prospects in Western Australia and Queensland “less favourable than other states at the end of winter and yield prospects deteriorated in these states during early spring because of unfavourable seasonal conditions”.

Barley seeds in Western Australia.
Barley seeds in Western Australia. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/EPA

Updated

Josh Frydenberg spent quite a bit of time talking up the economic recovery yesterday, after ATO figures showed less people and businesses were relying on Jobkeeper.

But that doesn’t mean there aren’t still a lot of people suffering. More than a million Australians are unemployed at the moment.

As AAP reports:

Thousands of Australian households and small businesses have struggled to pay their power bills during the COVID-19 crisis, a new report shows.

The Australian Energy Regulator’s annual retail markets report, published on Tuesday, reveals a $10 million jump in small business energy debt in the first three months of the pandemic.

After coronavirus hit in late March, that figure has blown out from $35 million to $45 million in June.

Long-term residential electricity debt also grew 21 per cent to $124.5 million from late March to early November.

Almost 60,000 households opted to defer paying their energy bills under retailers’ hardship offers.

At the end of June, a total of 171,464 customers were in debt at an average of $908.

“This report really underscores the struggle it has been for many customers to get on top of their energy bills during the pandemic,” AER Chair Clare Savage said in a statement on Tuesday.

“If you are struggling to pay your bills talk to your retailer about your debt - even if you can’t afford to pay anything right now.

“You won’t be disconnected, and your retailer will work with you to set up a plan and help you start paying off your debt.”

The Senate will consider a range of amendments to the Morrison government’s foreign veto bill amid a push by the Coalition to have the new powers pass before the Christmas break.

The bill would allow the foreign affairs minister to veto certain types of agreements state, territory and local governments reach with foreign government entities if deemed to harm Australia’s foreign relations.

The Coalition has already moved its own amendment to clarify universities will only have to tell the Australian government about agreements with foreign universities where the government of that country or region “is in a position to exercise substantial control over the university”.

But Labor, the Greens and the independent senator Rex Patrick are seeking broader changes to the government’s bill.

Labor will move an amendment to force the minister to prepare a report on the implications of the new veto powers on the current 99-year lease of the Port of Darwin to a Chinese company, while also spelling out how the new law would apply to similar leases of major infrastructure if those such arrangements were reached in future.

Labor wants an annual report tabled in parliament detailing how the minister has used the powers.

Labor’s Penny Wong also put forward amendments to ensure the foreign minister’s decisions to veto agreements can be reviewed by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal - something the Greens have also proposed.

Amid concerns the definition of foreign policy is vague, the Greens also want to ensure the foreign minister must publish a statement at least once a year outlining Australian foreign policy as it applies to the veto powers, so that bodies making agreements can have more certainty about what is in the government’s sights.

The Greens have proposed amendments removing Australian universities entirely from the reach of the bill. But if that fails, the Greens will move to ensure university agreements are only covered if worth at least $250,000.

Patrick has proposed an amendment to ensure the bill is broadened to cover deals reached between the Australian Olympic Committee and foreign Olympic bodies including the International Olympic Committee.

Good morning

Pinch and a punch and all that – happy December!

It being 1 December means you can now eat anything you’d like, it being “the season”, which is how I’ll be explaining away the chocolate I had for breakfast.

It also means the Queensland border is open to greater Sydney and Victoria (having already opened to regional NSW earlier) with a date for South Australia to follow, hopefully, in another week’s time.

Queensland’s economy needs it – the state debt is to hit $106bn – although the pandemic isn’t to blame for most of that. Queensland’s budget position hasn’t been great in years – it was one of the main reasons Campbell Newman was elected back in 2012 – but Queenslanders also love their services, which is one of the reasons Newman lost just three years later. Following the federal government’s lead, Queensland is the latest state to use its budget as the lynchpin in an economic stimulus plan. If there is one thing 2020 has taught us, it’s that government budgets are NOTHING like household accounts and debt and deficit is not the world ender the Howard government claimed it was. Plus, money is super cheap for government’s right now and those bonds have long-term low interest rates locked in, so given how rough the next few years will be, economically, for the world, governments need to do all they can to cushion the blow.

Speaking of cushioning the blow, the RBA is meeting today. It’s been talking about the need to focus on full employment over inflation and warning the federal government not to withdraw its stimulus too early. Australia has record low interest rates and the central bank has embarked on a mass bond-buying scheme, but it’s running out of levers. Governments have to step up.

Politics at the moment is all about China. The Chinese government did not back down yesterday, and China’s state media was defiant. Scott Morrison is still in quarantine at the Lodge (where he will be until Thursday) but the Coalition and Labor party is as one condemning China’s latest salvo in an escalating diplomatic spat, so we’ll keep you updated with that and everything else which happens in the corridors of power today.

You have Amy Remeikis with you, as well as Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst.

I’ve had two coffees to wash down that chocolate. It’s gonna be that sort of day.

Ready?

Updated

Contributors

Naaman Zhou (now) and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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