It is almost time for the question time.
Four left for the year though.
Given the chat today, I would expect stranded Australians to be on the list of topics, along with the IR changes, and what is happening the agricultural sector.
Luke Henriques-Gomes has done excellent work following the research on the benefits - if any - of the cashless welfare card (a suggestion put forward to the government by Andrew Forrest in 2014).
He now reports the government’s own research has found the card has underwhelming support.
As he reports:
Researchers say there is “little consensus” the cashless debit card is fulfilling its intended aims of reducing drug and alcohol abuse in one of the trial sites, according to unpublished findings of an evaluation commissioned by the federal government.
Guardian Australia can reveal the University of Adelaide team also found “only a minority” of those interviewed in the Western Australia’s Goldfields who back the card actually want it to continue in its current form, with most preferring a more “targeted” approach.
It comes as the government faces internal dissent over a bill to make the controversial welfare policy permanent at four trial sites – East Kimberley and the Goldfields in WA, Ceduna in South Australia, and Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in Queensland. The bill would also expand the card into the Northern Territory.
While ministers have insisted they are confident the card has a “positive impact on participants and the broader community”, the government has refused to release the University of Adelaide’s $2m final evaluation of the scheme.
You can read the whole story here:
The amazing Calla Wahlquist tells me that Mark McGowan and Roger Cook will be holding a press conference at 2.30 (eastern daylight saving time) which is when we should have an answer on what WA has decided in regards to NSW residents entering the state without the need to quarantine.
They delayed the decision after a woman, who worked at one of the hotel quarantine sites, tested positive for covid
One of the issues with the Fraser Island fire (which has been burning for about seven weeks) is the biosecurity issues with using some of the water which is nearby. Fraser is a very delicately balanced eco-system - and world heritage site - and there are also cultural concerns for the local Indigenous people - no one wants to empty some of those amazing fresh water creeks unless they have to.
David Littleproud (speaking to Sky News) says all agencies are working together together to reach solutions:
I think originally most of the management, as I understood, of the fire was taking place at a national parks level, then when it hit a certain juncture the Queensland Emergency Fire Service took over. They’re still confident, in fact, there’ll be retardant that will be dropped today in supporting the efforts on the ground. So, obviously they’re moving through this, understanding the local environment, but when the trigger points need to be pulled, they do pull them - and that’s an important point to understand that the emergency service personnel that we have around the country are well, well equipped and well- and have planned well for these types of events. And particularly when you look at unique environments, about how you can actually intersect that with protecting lives and the environment itself.
Kristina Keneally had some things to say this morning about stranded Australians discovering they are no longer on the Dfat list of stranded Australians:
We have been contacted all weekend by stranded Australians with stories of how they’ve been contacted by Dfat and then dropped off the stranded list, or even people who thought ‘oh my goodness what’s happening’, went and checked and they’re no longer on the list.
This looks like a Prime Minister who is attempting to cook the books, so that he can stand up in a few days time and say ‘well everyone who wants to come home has come home’. The reality is there are stranded Australians - 38,000 of them around the globe who want to come home, who’ve been trying to come home and they can’t get a quarantine space, they can’t get a flight on a plane and they’re losing their jobs and their homes.
It’s really quite tragic. It’s infuriating as well. I mean these are our fellow citizens. If there’s any Australian value than it’s don’t leave your mates behind, and especially when you make a promise like the Prime Minister did to get them home by Christmas.
He should deliver - not a slogan, not a marketing ploy and not a cynical scheme. He should deliver the planes and the quarantine spaces to get them home.
Adelaide and Melbourne are both accepting international flights again, for hotel quarantine, which means the number of Australians who can come home each week is sitting at just over 6,000
Australia should introduce Magnitsky-style laws to allow targeted sanctions to be imposed on individuals, companies and organisations for human rights abuses, a parliamentary committee has said.
This would allow for Australia to impose travel bans and asset freezes.
Kevin Andrews, who headed a parliamentary inquiry, tabled a report a short time ago titled “Criminality, corruption and impunity: Should Australia join the Global Magnitsky movement?”
The main recommendation is that the Australian government “enact stand alone targeted sanctions legislation to address human rights violations and corruption, similar to the United States’ Magnitsky Act 2012”.
Sanctions should be able to be imposed on the immediate family and direct beneficiaries of human rights abusers, and that they can be imposed on “all entities, including natural persons, corporate entities and both state and non-state organisations”.
The report, by the human rights subcommittee of the joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade, has bipartisan support.
Among the 33 recommendations is that the new framework acknowledge that “the importance of maintaining journalist and human rights defenders’ human rights” and that it should “expressly state that systematic extrajudicial actions that intend to limit media freedom can be considered human rights abuses”.
Andrews told parliament that freedoms had been “jeopardised by persons and entities who have engaged in and profited from human rights abuses and acts of serious corruption and who are not likely to be punished or otherwise sanctioned for their crimes”.
“There has also been a growing awareness that country or sector-wide sanctions such as Australia currently has enacted often impact innocent parties disproportionately, and a new way to instigate consequences for unacceptable behaviour is required. It has long been the case that kleptocrats and other perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption have transferred assets to enjoy in western countries with safe stable democracies and secure financial systems such as Australia.”
Andrews said while it would be preferable for the perpetrators to face punishment in this home countries, this was often not what happened.
“The subcommittee has heard evidence of Australians and their families being threatened and instances of human rights abusers investing the proceeds of their crimes in Australia, gaining access to Australian education and health case systems. This is simply unacceptable.”
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:
- The Australian economy rose 3.3% in the September quarter, which has technically ended the recession (defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth). Through the year, however, Australia’s GDP is still down 3.8%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
- The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, said the statistics showed “Australia’s economic recovery is under way” and “the Australian economy is coming back”.
- New South Wales announced further easing of Covid restrictions from Monday, with the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, calling it “freedom day”. It will allow, among other things, 100% capacity for stadiums and no cap on the number of people at weddings and funerals.
- The UK and US vowed to “stand with” Australia in its diplomatic row with China over a photoshopped tweet from Monday. The US ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, accused the Chinese government of spreading “disinformation” with the image, which showed an Australian soldier cutting the throat of a child in Afghanistan.
- However, New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she was “not taking sides”, after yesterday saying the government had raised concerns with China.
- South Australia police said they would not be laying any charges against any staff at a pizza bar that prompted a short-lived lockdown.
- The high court has rejected the home affairs minister Peter Dutton’s argument in a ruling that migration lawyers said was a “partial victory”. The court ruled that asylum seekers who transit through Australia could sue the commonwealth for negligence.
- Fragments of Covid-19 were found in sewage in Colac in the south-west of Melbourne, prompting calls for more testing.
- South Australia abolished the “gay panic” defence, which downgrades a charge of murder to manslaughter if a person proves they were “provoked” into violence by an unwanted sexual advance from another man. It was the last state to have the defence on the books.
The Liberal MP Bridget Archer has given a passionate speech against her own government’s policy on the cashless debit card.
Archer argued that the measure increases the stigma felt by welfare recipients, as they are forced to stand in separate lines in supermarkets or are unable to shop at some stores at all.
“If that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable, it should,” she said. “Applying a broad brush to all recipients in the sites, no matter the circumstances, is unhelpful.”
Archer said she had been approached by concerned members of her community, including pensioners, who are worried they could be put on income management.
Archer said income management was “anathema to me” and would “never be accepted by my community” in northern Tasmania. Although she would not vote against the bill, she warned any future expansion of the cashless debit card “will not have my support”.
The contribution also had a swipe at the government for its delay in reforming pay-day lending, arguing that it was a “complete contradiction and a damaging one at that” to seek to manage people’s incomes while allowing payday lenders to prey on them on the other.
And here is Lidia Thorpe making her first speech to parliament, as captured by Mike Bowers:
An 81-year-old snapper, caught by the Australian Institute of Marine Science in 2016, has been revealed as the oldest tropical reef fish known to science.
Graham Readfearn has the story:
The Greens senator Lidia Thorpe is currently giving her first speech in parliament.
She is calling on the federal government to sign a treaty with Indigenous and First Nations people.
To truly bring this country together, we must not only treat the symptoms of disadvantage, but the cause. We do this with a treaty.
A treaty is a written agreement between sovereign nations. Australia is the only commonwealth country without one with its first people.
There can be no justice without peace. Treaty could bring that peace.
Treaty must come before other debates, such as constitutional recognition, changing the date of Australia Day or a voice to parliament.
Thorpe is the first Indigenous senator from Victoria, and the first Indigenous Greens senator.
Adelaide man accused of misleading contact tracers will not face any charges
Hi all, it’s Naaman Zhou here. Thanks to Amy Remeikis for her blog-helming as always.
Some more detail on the announcement by South Australia police that there will be no charges for the man who misled contact tracers about working at a pizza bar that sparked a short-lived lockdown.
The assistant commissioner, Peter Harvey, said:
Based on the limited evidence available for presentation to a court, the matter will likely not succeed or progress. Based on that advice, no criminal charge will be laid by the task force investigators against the male at the centre of the investigation.
“From a criminal investigation perspective, this matter is complete.”
On that note, I am going to hand you over to Naaman Zhou for the evening.
Scott Morrison gets out of quarantine early tomorrow morning, so he will be back in the House, which means no more big brother screens.
I’ll also be back early tomorrow morning – in the meantime, take care of you.
It shouldn’t be up to social media to make this happen, and yet here we are:
And there is a bit more from our international desk on New Zealand’s involvement in the China spat:
Jacinda Ardern said this country had valid concerns and was not taking sides.
“If we saw a visual representation published by Australia that was incorrect, that was a doctored imagine for instance, we would raise that concern also.
“For us, it was a matter of principle – we’ve raised that concern,” Ardern said.
Ardern said she does not believe there would be any economic retaliation from China.
The trade minister, Damien O’Connor, was also unconcerned that the escalating row will harm New Zealand’s trade relationship with China.
He described the relationship between the two countries as “healthy” and “mature”.
“There’s been a lot of rhetoric around, we don’t engage in that at all, we don’t support it,” he said.
“We’ll just continue with what is a solid, sensible relationship with all of our international partners.”
AAP has an update on a Tasmanian logging court case:
Fewer than 300 critically endangered swift parrots could remain in Australia, a new study has revealed on the day of a court challenge against logging in their Tasmanian habitat.
The former Greens leader Bob Brown has taken state-owned logging group Sustainable Timber Tasmania, and the state and federal governments, to the federal court over forestry agreements his foundation believes are unlawful.
DNA sampling by researchers at Australian National University has found there’s likely to be fewer than 300 parrots remaining – significantly less than previously thought.
The researcher Dejan Stojanovic said the parrots were threatened by a range of factors including deforestation.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, given no one could actually come up with what law had apparently been broken
Lidia Thorpe will give her first speech as a senator in about 30 minutes.
The numbats are back!
(Not to be confused with the numpties, which never left.)
Jim Chalmers expanded on his response to the national accounts:
Today’s quarterly GDP number is welcome but it’s not surprising. Australians are going through an extremely difficult year in the economy, the worst year in the economy since the Great Depression here in Australia.
We have always wanted the recovery to be swift, broad and enduring but we’ve also always known that it’s most likely to be patchy. Some parts of the economy will recover relatively quickly and relatively strongly, but other parts of the economy will struggle in different parts of Australia and in different parts of our industrial base as well.
Our biggest concern has been the impact on real people, particularly in the labour market. We were very heartened and encouraged to see the Reserve Bank governor make many of the same points earlier today about the patchiness of the recovery. It’s important that we recognise that, but also about the enduring challenges that we have particularly in the labour market in this recovery which will be uneven around Australia and for different people.
Our international desk has an update on New Zealand responding to China’s criticism:
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern this afternoon said her government had not taken sides.
The response would have been the same irrespective of what country was involved.
“We raised it as matter of principal. We’ve said our bit and we will be leaving its at that.”
Damien O’Connor, the minister for trade, said it’s business as usual.
From Mike Bowers to you:
Daniel Wordsworth will take over from Tim Costello as the new CEO of World Vision Australia.
He’s a Tamworth boy, with a long career in social and refugee advocacy work:
In 1989 I was helping homeless people in Kings Cross, Sydney. Since then, I’ve helped lead teams in places such as Afghanistan, Somalia, El Salvador and in refugee camps the world over.
My upbringing in country New South Wales shapes my attitude when trying to help people. I have lived through droughts. I grew up on a farm, experienced severe water shortages and saw families around me really struggling.”
Before World Vision, Wordsworth was the CEO of Alight, which was formerly the American Refugee Committee and was based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
In light of these articles
This article from AAP on legislation in the SA parliament is interesting:
Legislation to outlaw a range of intimidating, controlling and threatening behaviours, often a prelude to domestic violence, will be considered by the South Australian parliament.
The Labor opposition’s coercive control bill refers to a pattern of behaviours including emotional abuse, isolation, sexual coercion, financial abuse, cyber-stalking and various types of intimidation.
They are overwhelmingly perpetrated against women by a current or former intimate partner and often precede other forms of domestic abuse.
Opposition spokeswoman for the prevention of domestic violence Katrine Hildyard says those who experience it are dominated and controlled through intimidation, humiliation, exploitation, isolation and by removing their sense of self-worth.
She said the controlling behaviour often includes threats and actual violence, and in some cases, precedes murder.
“With 48 Australian women already killed this year as a result of violence and with coercive and controlling behaviour often a precursor, it is imperative our parliaments act,” Hildyard said.
“The current suite of laws are not deterring repeat offenders and are not detecting nor dealing with particular types of insidious abuse like coercive control.”
Labor said it would work with the state government, all MPs, service providers, legal services, women experiencing domestic violence and other stakeholders to effectively deal with the issue.
Similar legislation has been introduced in Ireland, Scotland and the UK while Tasmania has included some offences in its criminal code.
Queensland, Victoria and NSW were also introducing or considering similar bills.
In other jurisdictions, the laws address the distribution of private photos, threats to self-harm when partners try to leave, taking and constantly monitoring a partner’s mobile phone, harming partner’s pets, stopping them working, constant paranoia about infidelity and controlling partner’s finances and movements.
Bill Shorten takes advantage of the time after question time to give a personal explanation.
Yesterday Stuart Robert said Labor had not raised concerns over disability care during Covid before the royal commission handed down its interim report – Shorten uses the time to list all the times Labor spoke about the issue.
And with 28 comebacks in that QT, we are done.
I’m very angry over that answer.
Very, very angry
Anthony Albanese to Stuart Robert:
I refer to threats by the then human services minister in 2016, to the victims of the prime minister’s illegal robodebt scheme and I quote, “We’ll find you, we’ll track you down and you will have to repay those debts as you may end up in prison.”
Why was the government threatening victims with prison when it was its own ministers that were breaking the law?
Robert: Thanks, Mr Speaker. I thank the leader of the opposition for his question. On 9 May last year, the member for Maribyrnong did a press conference in front of Redcliffe hospital. When asked a question he said: “We want to make sure people aren’t receiving welfare to which they’re not entitled to and no one gets a leave pass.”
Tony Smith: I won’t call the manager of opposition business. The minister has to be relevant to the answer. I have allowed him latitude as I do to compare and contrast but you cannot start your answer with material that isn’t relevant to the question. The minister has the call.
Robert: Thanks, Mr Speaker. The government has a lawful requirement as we all know to ensure the appropriate collection of debts. That’s something the member for Maribyrnong made clear on May last year when he said people aren’t receiving welfare to what they’re not entitled to and no one gets a leave pass on it.
The member for Sydney in 2010 – if people fail to come to an arrangement to settle their debts, the government has a responsibility to taxpayers to recover that money.
... Labor’s own words make it very clear that the responsibility to recover debts ...
Tony Burke: On direct relevance. The minister should be able to give a direct answer to an issue where people died, where ministers broke the law and the minister threatening people with prison while he was breaking the law.
Smith: I’m going to remind the minister again that there wasn’t a preamble to the question. It was a specific question. He needs to be directly relevant in his answer and in doing that, he needs to address the question that that was asked, not just deal with material that is on the policy topic but not having dealt with the question itself.
The minister’s concluded his answer.
Twitter should remove Afghanistan tweet, Florida senator Marco Rubio says
We brought you comments earlier today from the US ambassador to Australia.
In a similar vein, the US state department’s deputy spokesperson, Cale Brown, has now tweeted out a message of support for Australia, while describing the now-notorious Afghanistan tweet as “a new low, even for the Chinese Communist party”.
(Brown serves as the deputy state spokesperson under the outgoing secretary of state, Mike Pompeo.)
Meanwhile Florida senator Marco Rubio has written to Twitter chief Jack Dorsey to ask why the tweet has not been taken down, as requested by Scott Morrison. In the letter posted online, Rubio writes that Twitter “has had more than 36 hours to identify, investigate, and evaluate a tweet sent by Zhao Lijian, the deputy director general of China’s information department, that contains a doctored image that depicts a violent act that may in turn inspire other violent acts”. Rubio ends with the following barb:
“The American people increasingly see mainstream social media, especially Twitter, as little more than a liberal echo chamber inclined to censor conservatives. I share their concern, especially when enemies of America are allowed to post falsified and dangerously misleading images with no consequence.”
A Twitter spokesperson said on Monday: “The image contained within the Tweet in question has been marked as sensitive media.” (That means the image doesn’t automatically show up, and people are issued with a warning before seeing it. But it’s understood that the tweet itself won’t be taken down, in part because Zhao’s account is marked as an official government account.)
A friend of the blog has pointed out that it’s not the first time the Liberals have used “comeback” as marketing message.
Except last time, the comeback was not portrayed quite as positively.
Bill Shorten to Stuart Robert:
Can the minister confirm that by 25 January 2017 the government was in possession of commonwealth data warning the Government that almost nine out of every 10 robodebts issued were wrong and needed to be reassessed resulting in a decrease to the debt?
Look, thanks, Mr Speaker. And I thank the member attempting a comeback for his question. The member’s reading from the second further amendment statement of claim put forward by Labor’s lawyers ... it’s a statement of claim that both the commonwealth ... and Labor’s lawyers have acknowledged is not an admission of liability, does not affect any acceptance of the allegations and does not reflect any knowledge of unlawfulness.
I’m sorry, but that is frankly disgusting. I get accused of snark all the time, so obviously I know it when I see it – and making a snarky remark about a question about robodebt, after the years of pain and trauma that unlawful program caused? Honestly – it’s fricking low.
Robert goes on to talk about how long income averaging had been used by governments, but I can’t hear it because I am too busy swearing at the television in a variety of volumes.
Victoria’s head of Covid-19 testing, Jeroen Weimar, has just given an update about high levels of the virus that were identified in wastewater at Colac in the previous few days.
Weimar said on Tuesday afternoon the source appeared to be a man who had previously tested positive to the virus, and who had recently moved back into the area. These shed fragments of the virus are not necessarily infectious in those who have recovered from the virus, but is due to genetic material from the virus in stools being detected in wastewater. It can also be shed into used tissues, and from the skin.
“We’ve identified somebody who has come back [to Colac] and we have good reason to believe they are still shedding virus in significant volumes,” Weimar told reporters.
“We’re pleased we’ve made connection to this individual, but in a town of 1,500 people if you are unwell come forward for testing, and we’ll be targeting major employment sites in the town. This person was an old Covid case, and there’s really no concern about this individual, this individual has been on our radar for a while and we are pleased they are back home.”
However, out of caution the health department is urging anyone with symptoms in the Colac area to get tested. Anyone who has visited Colac or been in the Colac area on Monday or Tuesday and has even the mildest of symptoms should get tested, Weimar said.
Testing is available at Colac Neighbourhood House, 23 Miller Street from 9am–12.30pm tomorrow and Friday.
Peter Dutton is taking another dixer as the minister representing the minister for defence.
There is a cabinet reshuffle coming up and Dutton is rumoured to be moved to the defence portfolio. Nothing is confirmed, obviously – but it is something to keep in mind.
Josh Burns to Christian Porter:
My question is to the minister for industrial relations: I refer to the tragic death of a delivery driver who was killed bill riding his scooter on a delivery run in Melbourne in October.
He dreamed of one day owning a restaurant with his family and working as a chef.
Will the government’s industrial relations changes include basic protections for workers like this man so they can work safely?
I thank the member for his question. I had a very productive and informative meeting with Michael Kaine from the transport worker’s union and representatives of the types of workers you’re speaking about. Some of the things we discussed in that meeting was the occupational health and safety for those drivers is not just predominantly, but essentially a state-based responsibility.
Well, this is how these laws work and understanding how they work actually allows you a path through to whatever changes can be made here to ensure greater safety.
But there’s no doubt that there are issues to be addressed here as the gig economy gets well and truly indentured into the area of deliveries and food deliveries. We had a conversation about that.
There’s no doubt that there is a leadership role for the commonwealth to play and what I have undertaken to do is to ensure that that issue as to how these particular sectors of the gig economy are operating under state-based occupational health and safety laws goes right on to the agenda of the relevant ministerial council that deals with those and that we can use Safety Work Australia to accept that process to try to understand exactly how those laws are not operating in the most efficient way with respect to those those drivers.
There clearly is an issue here and my deepest sympathies exist for those families and those drivers who have had these accidents. That was a productive meeting that we had yesterday.
There is work to be done here, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that there is a predominant effect here of state occupational health and safety laws. There’s a leadership role for the commonwealth to play but the primary response is at a state level.
Qantas is outsourcing its ground staff. So, there is also that, which was missing from Michael McCormack’s answer.
Matt Thistlethwaite to Michael McCormack:
Darren is a 52-year-old single dad who’s been working as Qantas ground crew for 24 years. He was stood down in March. Darren said he was forced to sell his house to care for his kids and dad who has dementia. He’s one of the 2,000 Qantas workers sacked this week. Why is this government congratulating itself and using marketing slogans while workers like Darren are left behind?
I thank the member for Kingsford Smith for his question and acknowledge the fact that, yes, in the aviation sector many employees have been stood down and this is very, very unfortunate. I ...
I am very sorry to hear Darren’s story. I’m sure he’s been a fine worker and certainly we would like to see him back making sure that he gets another job when the aviation sector returns to where some sort of level of pre-Covid.
And we know that many industries are getting back to somewhere where they need to be as far as pre-Covid levels but as Alan Joyce, the CEO of Qantas, has only said in recent times – that even after Christmas the pre-Covid levels for domestic travel will only be 60%, but what we have done – what we have done – with aviation is provide sector-wide assistance – $2.7bn of sector-wide assistance through the domestic aviation network support, through the regional airline network support, to ensure that we have planes in the air because as I said many times, planes in the air means jobs on the ground.
And we need to see more planes in the air. We need to see more jobs in the aviation sector and I do wonder whether the member for Kingsford Smith, I appreciate that he’s certainly coming from an electorate very near mascot, I appreciate the fact that he has engaged with these employees as have I, and we want to see more people working in the aviation sector. But it’s been very tough.
The border closures and appreciating the fact that Western Australia is only looking to resume domestic travel with other states and lifting those border restrictions. Only had made the announcement this week, it’s been very, very tough with border closures in many Australian States.
Appreciating the fact, too, that international travel is, of course, very, very restricted. We’re bringing as many Australians home, of course, as we can. We’re making sure that those stranded Aussies have an access to get home before Christmas. But it is so tough in international inbound tourism, in international inbound people coming home, stranded Aussies, it’s so tough as well domestically. It’s so tough regionally, but that’s what we have done on a sector-wide assistance basis.
We have provided that support to the entire aviation sector, to the entire avenue sector – $2.7bn worth of support through jobkeeper, we must continue to support the aviation sector. As I say it’s very tough particularly for people like Darren and we will continue to provide the support as is necessary.
The Queensland parliament is also speaking:
Clare O’Neil has a question for Christian Porter over the plight of employees at the Victorian printing plant Ovato Clayton, which is closing.
I thank the member for her question as the member is no doubt aware that’s presently the subject of litigation and both the parties in that matter will make no doubt very strong arguments and I think there are very strong arguments to be made on behalf of the workers you’re speaking to.
The Fair Entitlements Guarantee is the established back-stop to ensure that if that litigation does not end the way that the workers from Ovato are arguing it should, that they have a guarantee of those and obviously the government will be keeping a very close eye on that litigation and be ensuring that entitlements that are not paid through that process are paid through the Fair Entitlements Guarantee as they usually are as millions of dollars have been during the Covid pandemic and as will be the case here depending on how that litigation ends. But we are not a party of that litigation.
Richard Marles to Josh Frydenberg:
My question is to the treasurer as minister representing the minister for finance who is responsible for commonwealth assets including the Lodge – can the treasurer confirm the prime minister is spending 14 days in quarantine with his photographer, not the head of his department, not his chief of staff, not his senior health or economic advisors, not his national security advisor? Why is the prime minister always focused on photo ops and marketing?
Christian Porter is on his feet:
As well as there being a number of detectable inaccuracies there, even using the fact the treasurer representing the minister for finance, that’s hardly to be said ... even allowing for the fact that the treasurer represents the minister for finance in this House, he fact the personnel of being in the Lodge of which there are a number as would necessarily be the case to support the prime minister who exactly they are could hardly be said to be inside the responsible or officially connected public affairs of the minister for finance.
Tony Smith rules the first part of the question is in order. The prime minister is in quarantine – you can’t miss it, given his head is beamed around the chamber on multiple screens.
As the House is aware, the prime minister undertook an important visit to Japan on behalf of this nation where significant agreements were signed and where Australia’s interests were advanced*.
And one would think – one would think at a time of an increasingly complex, strategic environment, that the prime minister of this country becoming the first foreign leader to be invited to Japan to meet with prime minister Suga is a very significant regular flexion on the positive bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan. So I’d say to those opposite instead – instead of making a mockery of an important visit on behalf of this nation ... they should understand the significance of Australia’s bilateral relationship with Japan which has been advanced by our prime minister’s historic visit only weeks ago.
*No significant agreements were signed. There was an “in-principle” agreement, but nothing concrete. And no one knows the details, because the prime minister won’t say what was agreed (in terms of Australian troops being subject to Japan’s death penalty).
I have a hereditary eye twitch I have to seek medical treatment over every now and then to stop - it has just restarted at the 17th mention of ‘comeback’ in less than 40 minutes today.
Julian Hill to Josh Frydenberg:
I refer to the 28 times the government used their new comeback slogan in question time yesterday, though only seven [so far] today.
Can the treasurer confirm that the slogan came from an advertising agency and taxpayers are being slugged $15m to put the slogan on bus shelters and billboards. How many of the 1m unemployed Australians would have a job if the government spent more time on jobs and less time on marketing and slogans?
Well, Mr Speaker, I thank the member for another Dorothy Dixer, Mr Speaker. Because the comeback is happening, Mr Speaker!
The Australian economy is coming back. The economic recovery is under way and this economic recovery, this comeback belongs to the Australian people. It belongs to the Australian people and the reason why the economy is coming back is because the measures that with on this side of the House have supported, Mr Speaker, and because of the hard work of millions of Australians right across the country, like JobKeeper, which supported 3.6m Australians in September, Mr Speaker.
Like jobseeker, which effectively doubled the safety net. Like the cash flow boost which has provided working capital to businesses right across the country. Like our two $750 payments to millions of pensioners.
Like our home builder program, Mr Speaker, which is providing a spark to ignite the housing industry and today in the national accounts dwelling investment was up 0.6% after eight consecutive quarterly falls, Mr Speaker. This is what we are seeing at cries the economy, the jobs coming back and economic activity beginning pace.
Now, the AAA credit rate of the government has been confirmed, has been are affirmed, Mr Speaker. We heard from the governor of the Reserve Bank himself talk about how the Morrison government as economic response has been the right response.
We saw yesterday building approvals up by 3.8% and 14% through the year. We saw capital city house prices up by 0.7%, the first time we have seen capital city house prices up across all capital cities since the start of the pandemic and we have seen consumer confidence up in 12 of the last 13 weeks, Mr Speaker.
So, every economic indicator points to the resilience of the Australian economy and with that the jobs are coming back and 80% of those Australians who either lost their job or saw their working hours reduced to zero at start of the crisis are now back at work. This economic recovery, this comeback belongs to every Australian.
Right, back to question time, where the person who holds my voodoo doll not only gives me Michael McCormack, they give me TipTop with a lead in from Barnaby Joyce, both mistake saying “comeback” for a personality trait.
So Christian Porter would find it hard to believe the ABC would hire private investigators to follow him, the ABC has denied it ever happened, and yet we need these very important questions to be asked of the ABC, by a government senator, who is asking them because she is a former employee of the ABC, and just thought she should check in with her former employer over its long standing practices.
Parker: OK. The ABC media unit were asked by the Australian whether they had employed private investigators, the answer was a single word. No. Is that good enough for you?
Porter: I understand. I haven’t seen the questions that were put in the Senate, but I understand that they’re a little bit more detailed than that question and answer process.
Parker: OK. So we’ll wait and see. I mean, it would be, it’d be an extraordinary thing for them to do, wouldn’t it? I mean, well, they say that didn’t do it. I don’t really know what we’re talking about here. They say that didn’t do it. Surely that’s the end of it?
Porter: Well, as I said, there’s a different set of questions that have been put through slightly more complicated and expansive than that in the Senate. So they get answered like all questions during that process.
Parker: Were those questions asked by Senator Henderson at her own behest?
Porter: Yeah, well, I mean, Sarah, as I understand asked a range of questions in the estimates hearing that had the managing director in it before before the show aired, so she obviously takes an interest. She’s a former employee at the ABC, I understand.
While Josh Frydenberg yells on and on about “comebacks” let’s take a look at Christian Porter’s chat with Perth radio 6PR.
The ABC has already denied these charges, and publicly released those answers. There was no private investigator, the ABC says, and there was no freelancer.
So what does Porter have to say about it:
Gareth Parker (6PR host): The Australian newspaper this morning asks a question as part of a news report “Were ministers tailed?” is the headline on its front page. Sharri Markson, investigations editor at the Australian, suggests the Morrison government has asked the ABC whether Four Corners paid for a private investigator to conduct covert surveillance on senior ministers who were the focus of its Inside the Canberra Bubble episode a month ago. Now the ABC have denied it flat out. They say ‘No, we haven’t done that. We don’t do that.’ That would appear to be the end of it for mine, yet the story appears on the front page of the Australian anyway, which is awfully strange. One of those ministers at the centre of the program, as you know is Christian Porter. He’s on the line. The federal attorney general and industrial relations minister. Christian, good morning.
... Is there any substance to this report from your point of view?
Porter: Well, I think if something extraordinary happened, like an agency or body engaging a private investigator to follow you around, the whole purpose of it is you wouldn’t notice. I just wouldn’t know that. But look, I understand some quite detailed questions have been asked in a usual process of agency heads in the Senate. I think they were different from the questions that we’ll put to the ABC from the Australian. I’d obviously be pretty interested to see what the answers to those questions are in due course. But how would you know.
Parker: But hang on, does the government believe that the ABC hired a private investigator to follow you and Alan Tudge?
Porter: Well, as I understand it, a member of parliament has asked questions in the Senate, a range of questions, including some around that issue of the managing director of the ABC.
Parker: A member of parliament has asked those questions?
Porter: As occurs from time to time in the Senate as part of their processes. They get answered in due course, and I’d be pretty interested to hear what the answers are. But I wouldn’t have any answers to those questions.
Parker: Which MP?
Porter: It was Senator Henderson I understand.
Parker: So it’s Liberal senator Sarah Henderson asking the ABC through estimates, whether you and Alan Tudge were followed by private investigators?
Porter: As I understand it, yeah.
Parker: OK. Do you ever have any reason to believe you were followed by private investigators?
Porter: Look, how would I know. You know, if someone did something extraordinary like that, how would you know? But you know, it’s not an unusual thing that during the estimates, process, questions get asked around HR and expenditure and the way budgets are used, like these, part of a longer series of questions are part of the estimates process. So they just get answered in due course.
Parker: OK. But if someone came up to you and said, Hey, Christian, you’re being followed by a private investigator, what would your reaction be?
Porter: I would think that would be so extraordinary that I would find it difficult to believe. But, you know, stranger things have happened in politics, I have to say as well.
Parker: The ABC have just just flat out denied. They say it didn’t happen. Is that good enough for you?
Porter: Look, I don’t know what the precise types of questions that have been asked in the Senate. But I think that they’re a little bit more detailed and different from the questions that have been answered by the ABC.
But as I say, look, I’d be interested to see what the managing director of the ABC’s answers to these questions that have been put through the Senate process will be in due course. And I don’t have answers to them.
This is over the government not backing the calls for a royal commission into veterans’ suicides.
I was just thinking I wasn’t hating life as much as I usually do at this point of question time, and then I realised it was because Michael McCormack hadn’t received a dixer yet.
Take your blessings where you find them.
Rebekha Sharkie to Josh Frydenberg:
2020 has been a challenging year for older Australians, many retirees have put savings in government-guaranteed term deposits because they are concerned about the share market. They need cash reserves to happen them got through. The current cash rate at 0.1% and term deposits at best 0.6%, the rate of 2.25% is clearly too high. Treasurer, when will the government assist older Australians and cut the deeming rate?
I thank the Hon member for her question. On 12 March this year, the minister for social services announced that the government had made a decision to reduce the deeming rays by 50 bases is points each and on 22 March it was announced the damning rates would be cut a further 25 bases points and these reductions reflected the low interest rate vine that the Hon member pointed to.
As of 1st May, a lower deeming rate of 25 bases is rate and upper deeming rate of 2.25% applies.
As the honourable member will be aware, the deeming rate takes into account the returns that can be achieved by investors on a range of assets, not just cash deposits, but it can be on stocks in the stock market, it can be on fixed interest investments and a whole range of assets, hence there are two levels to the deeming rates. Now, our changes to the deeming rates have benefited around 900,000 income support recipients, including 565,000 people on the aged pension.
... So I would say to the honourable member the government has already acted on deeming rates. We continue to monitor movements actually in the cash rate, but the government has taken action, which has benefited pensioners right across the country.
Andrew Hastie asks about the comeback.
It’s the same answer as the first one in response to Jim Chalmers.
Josh Frydenberg just accused Jim Chalmers of missing something in his presentation, because he “must have been looking at the mirror”.
That’s ... a very strange comeback.
Scott Morrison, with massive Big Brother vibes, picks up yesterday’s market research term “comeback” (it was said 25 times in just over an hour) and runs with it, because the prime minister has never heard a marketing line he didn’t love to thrash to death.
The comeback is on its way, and the comeback has been built by hard working Australians, and that has been a key ingredient in the comeback recipe, and that is how we keep the comeback, coming back.
Question time begins
Anthony Albanese to Josh Frydenberg:
Why is the government congratulating itself today when almost 1m Australians are unemployed, 1.4m Australians are underemployed and for Australians who have jobs, wages growth is at record lows? Why is the government congratulating itself in using marketing slogans when so many Australians don’t have a job?
Frydenberg launches straight into what I imagine is his yell-fest dixer about the national accounts he will no doubtably be asked.
Well, Mr Speaker, the only person who is disappointed in today’s national accounts is the leader of the opposition, Mr Speaker. Because today’s national accounts shows that the economic recovery is under way. The economic recovery that every Australian has worked hard for, Mr Speaker, and the congratulations go to every Australian who has made sacrifices in order to see the resilience of our economy produce the result that we have seen today. That result in today’s national accounts for the September quarter has seen a 3.3% increase, the single largest quarterly increase in GDP since 1976, Mr Speaker. Since 1976.
The Speaker Tony Smith pulls him up on the answer – pointing out he was asked about unemployment, and not the national accounts.
Well, Mr Speaker, we know that the national economic recovery is under way and one of the key indicators of that is the number of people who are finding a job, Mr Speaker: 178,000 jobs were created last month, Mr Speaker. We have seen the effective unemployment rate, which takes into account those who have lost their job or seen their working hours reduced to zero fall from a high in March of 14.9% to 7.4% today, Mr Speaker.
We have seen the participation rate increase to 65.8% near the levels it was at the start of the pandemic, Mr Speaker. We have seen very strong labour market growth, even stronger than has been expected. So the Australian economy is showing remark age resilience, but this is due to the achievements and to the sacrifices of millions of Australians across the country. These results, these better performance and economic indicators, is a sign of their hard work and the results belong to them.
It will be all about the economy in the chamber - but meanwhile, it is still all about China in diplomacy land
The Greens motion didn’t get past the first hurdle here – suspending standing orders to debate the motion to call a climate emergency.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand:
Before we get into question time, if you are living in NSW, from Monday 7 December,
the state government will ease the following restrictions allowing:
Venues including hospitality venues, retail and places of worship: 1 person per 2 sq metres (with 25 people permitted before the rule applies
Gyms and nightclubs: 1 person per 4 sq metres, with a maximum of 50 people allowed in gym classes or on the dancefloor at nightclubs
Stadiums and theatres:
Outdoors – 100% seated capacity, and 1 person per 2 sq metre rule for unstructured seating areas.
Indoors – 75% seated capacity.
Gatherings in outdoor public spaces:
Up to 100 people for outdoor gatherings (up from 50).
Up to 5,000 people for outdoor events that are fenced, ticketed and seated (subject to the 2 sq metre rule).
Up to 3,000 people for other organised outdoor events eg community sport and outdoor protests (subject to the 2 sq metre rule).
Dancefloors: Up to 50 people indoors.
Singing: Up to 50 performers indoors, no maximum cap outdoors. Advice is for congregation/audience to continue wearing masks if singing.
Under the changes, maximum capacity caps will be removed subject to the 2 sq metre rule for:
· Bookings at hospitality venues;
· Regional agricultural shows;
· Corporate events; and
· Religious services.
It is almost question time – this is the last one with a virtual Scott Morrison.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus has proposed giving the Fair Work Commission power to regulate the gig economy.
Asked what the solution is to the spate of delivery rider deaths, McManus opposed reclassifying riders as employees but called for more control over their work.
We don’t want to go down the route of trying to reclassify people as employees.
Another reason why is these tech companies keep finding new ways of getting out of the new definitions.
Some of you will remember early on when some of the delivery companies came here that people used to wear uniforms and they used to say who they were with and they were much more identifiable. And our lawyers – laws define what an employee is and there is a risk, they thought, that they make them defined as an employee. So they simply say no more uniforms.
A similar problem is happening around the world and trying to capture this new form of work. We think we have got to get away from talking about employees or not and talk about workers.
That’s what they are. They are workers.
The solution that you talked about, about the road transport tribunal is absolutely a way of doing it.
The best way of doing it is to empower someone like Fair Work Commission to be able to essentially team a group of workers, in this case you could easily say delivery riders, as getting the rights and the Fair Work Act.
Getting away from a fight which will end up being a legal fight in the high court and will go on and on and they will just change what they’re doing in a small way anyway.
Just get away from all of that and deem those people as workers so they get all the basics that the Fair Work Act office to people a collective bargaining, minimum wages, and access to leave.
Essentially, life is as Covid-normal as it gets in NSW, from Monday.
'Freedom day' for NSW
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is announcing a further easing of restrictions from Monday.
It boils down to:
- 1 person per 2 sq metres.
- 100% seated capacity for stadiums.
- 100 people for outdoor gatherings and 50 allowed on a dance floor at weddings – not the same 50, so you no longer have to choose your dancers.
- There’s no cap on the number of people you can have at hospitality venues or on weddings and funerals.
Sally McManus finishes her (41 page double-spaced) speech with:
If we need to, we will be ready to fight and defend the rights of workers.
But 2021 could be so much more productive.
We would rather start the year working with governments about their capacity to lead the way in tackling creating and saving secure jobs.
We would rather be working with employers and government on the big issues that help to grow our economy and strengthen the safety net – lifting all Australians up by driving down unemployment levels, by saving and creating jobs, improving wages, making work from home a shared opportunity for employers and employees, increasing workforce participation through free childcare, supporting dignified retirement incomes for workers, and planning for good high skilled jobs in Australian manufacturing. A genuine national economic reconstruction plan.
Let us learn the lesson of Australia’s Covid response – by working together we are better. Leaving some people behind, holds us all back.
Social safety-nets that protect our most vulnerable, actually protect us all.
Hard working Australians should be valued and respected.
Whether we believe it all the time or not, we ARE in this together.
As you could imagine, there were slides with Josh Frydenberg’s national accounts response.
The treasurer loves himself a good slide show.
But what does this all mean for the next quarter?
I’m not going to make a prediction about what happens in the next quarter other than to say that the trend is our friend here.
And what we are seeing is improvements on a range of economic indicators.
Today’s national account numbers is not an isolated event. It’s the cummulation of the significant government support, it’s the reflection of the virus being suppressed across the nation and it’s – you’re seeing business confidence, consumer confidence coming back.
What we have seen in recent days is other positive economic data.
We saw capital city house prices up 0.7%. We even saw stronger growth in regional house prices. We have seen building approvals up 3.8% yesterday and up 14% through the year. We have seen strong job growth – 178,000 jobs coming back over the last month and 650,000 jobs over the last five months and 80% of those who either lost their job or saw their working hours go down to zero since the start of the pandemic, 80% of those are now back at work.
So the economic indicators are positive.
That being said, this is a very challenging time and there’s a lot of ground to make up. The economy is smaller today than it was pre-Covid.
And it’s the expectation in the budget that that will occur until the end of next year and so who we’re really focused on is getting people back into work, that’s our number one focus, and the growth numbers today means more jobs.
Growth means jobs and jobs are our focus
Sally McManus is addressing the national press club.
Paul Karp has covered her speech, here.
We’ll bring you the highlights from the Q&A once its starts.
Josh Frydenberg: 'The Australian economy is coming back'
Josh Frydenberg is addressing the national accounts figures:
Well, today’s national accounts confirmed that Australia’s economic recovery is under way.
The Australian economy is coming back. Facing a once-in-a-century pandemic that has caused the greatest economic shock since the Great Depression.
Australia has performed better on the health and on the economic fronts than nearly any other country in the world.
Today, there is not a single person across the country on a ventilator or in ICU due to Covid. 80% of the 1. 3 million Australians who either lost their jobs or saw their working hours reduced to zero at the start of the pandemic are now back at work.
And Australia’s AAA credit rating has been reaffirmed with Australia one of only nine nations in the world to have an AAA credit rating from the three leading credit rating agencies. In the September quarter, real GDP increased by 3.3% beating market expectations.
This is the largest quarterly increase since 1976. Today’s increase in the September quarter of 3.3% is the largest quarterly increase in GDP since 1976.
It follows a 7% fall in the June quarter. Technically, Australia’s recession may be over, but Australia’s economic recovery is not.
There is a lot of ground to make up and many Australian households and many Australian businesses are doing it tough – very tough.
Victoria is standing by Belt and Road deal
Daniel Andrews is standing by Victoria’s Belt and Road deal with China.
As AAP reports:
Premier Daniel Andrew is not reconsidering the controversial agreement after a senior Chinese official posted an offensive doctored image of an Australian soldier holding a bloodied knife to the throat of an Afghan child
“I would hope the rhetoric, the commentary, social media posts, comes to an end,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne on Wednesday.
“This relationship is far too important to farmers, to workers, to profits for Victorian companies and therefore prosperity for our state.
“As challenging as it is, as appalling as that behaviour is, we do need to find a way to work through this.”
However, the commonwealth could soon pull the rug out from underneath the Victorian premier.
The Senate is debating new powers to check foreign investment arrangements made by states and universities, such as Victoria’s deal with China.
The Morrison government says the changes are about protecting Australia’s national security and sovereignty and the vast majority of deals won’t be impacted.
It’s Christmas time in the parliament – the Giving Tree is officially up and launched.
Sky News has a new host.
Cory Bernardi will host his own show, “Bernadi”, from next year.
Everyone has their place.
Josh Frydenberg hasn’t posted anything on the national accounts just yet, but he has posted about the OECD.
As well as what I assume was his favourite headline.
Scott Morrison is still in quarantine, so he will once again be appearing in the parliament virtually.
I am pretty sure he gets out on Thursday, but I am not sure if that is before parliament or after. But it will mean his daughters will be able to see him tomorrow.
The motion to debate the Greens climate emergency declaration (or at least the motion to suspend standing orders to then debate the climate emergency declaration) wash up was:
Labor supported it in the House (and was lost on the numbers, because the government has control of that chamber) and didn’t support it in the Senate (where with the crossbenchers Labor and the Greens can defeat the government on the numbers).
The government opposed it in both chambers.
Josh Frydenberg will hold his press conference on the national accounts at 12.30pm.
Jim Chalmers will follow at 1.30pm.
US ambassador to Australia accuses China of spreading 'disinformation'
The US ambassador to Australia, Arthur Culvahouse, has accused the Chinese government of spreading “disinformation through fabricated images and disingenuous statements”, after the tweet of the foreign ministry spokesperson earlier this week caused a political storm.
Culvahouse also called on Beijing to bring “transparency and accountability to credible reports of atrocities against the Uighurs in Xinjiang”.
Guardian Australia has been asking a range of embassies in Canberra for comment on the issue, after Scott Morrison said other countries were watching closely how the dispute between China and Australia was playing out.
In an emailed statement this morning, Culvahouse said the government of the People’s Republic of China had “yet to come clean on the origins of the Covid-19 virus, which is daily killing thousands of people worldwide”.
Yet its foreign affairs spokesperson thinks it appropriate diplomacy to spread disinformation through fabricated images and disingenuous statements. Australia responsibly investigated and disclosed allegations that its soldiers committed crimes in Afghanistan.
The PRC would do well to follow Australia’s example and disclose to the world all it knows about the origin of the Covid-19 virus. And the world can only wish that the Chinese Communist party were to bring the same degree of transparency and accountability to credible reports of atrocities against the Uighurs in Xinjiang.”
China has accused Australia of overreacting to the tweet and of hyping the issue for domestic political purposes, and has called on the Morrison government to apologise to the people of Afghanistan over war crimes allegations.
The National Justice Project has responded to today’s high court ruling (mostly) against Peter Dutton:
Refugees who were detained by the government in Nauru and Papua New Guinea have secured a major legal victory in the High Court of Australia against the Minister for Home Affairs, Peter Dutton.
The High Court of Australia has ruled that the Federal Court has the power to hear the cases of over 50 refugees and asylum seekers, after the Commonwealth appealed to the Court in September 2019 to dispute the jurisdiction of the Federal Court.
The Minister claimed that Section 494AB of the Migration Act 1958 (Cth) prevents the claimants from taking action for negligence and breaches of duty of care while held in the government’s custody.
The High Court, however, has ruled in paragraph 4:
“s 494AB is not a law that takes away the jurisdiction of those courts (or that of this Court) to hear and determine proceedings of the kinds described in s 494AB(1).”
In Paragraph 27, the High Court held:
“That conclusion is grounded in the established principle that “a law of the Commonwealth is not to be interpreted as withdrawing or limiting a conferral of jurisdiction unless the implication appears clearly and unmistakably.”
In Paragraph 34, the High Court said:
“So construing s 494AB as a statutory bar avoids the High Court being made a post box for the commencement of proceedings destined to be remitted to another court.
“It avoids diverting the High Court away from its central work as the apex court of the Australian judicial system. And, further, it avoids administrative inconveniences for the courts, the profession and litigants in circumstances where the Commonwealth could not identify any purpose or utility in requiring the proceedings to be filed in the High Court only for them to be remitted.”
So where are some of the weak spots in the economy?
The ABS says net exports detracted 1.9 percentage points from GDP this quarter – the largest such impact on GDP since the September quarter of 1980.
Australia’s imports of goods and services rose 6.5%, while exports fell 3.2%, “reflecting continued international travel bans and reduced demand for Australia’s mining commodities”.
The overview doesn’t specifically mention the trade tensions with China.
Meanwhile, the ABS says private investment fell 0.2% this quarter, but the fall would have been larger without an uptick in housing activity.
Breaking this down a bit further, the ABS says business investment is down 3%, but ownership transfer costs are up 21.4% as housing market activity rebounded. It says renovations and home improvements activity drove a 5.1% rise in alterations and additions.
The Liberal MP Julian Simmonds wants to know if renewed border closures would send nascent economic growth/recovery backwards?
Philip Lowe says another significant outbreak of Covid would certainly do that.
Simmonds asks the governor whether localised lockdowns are better to balance public health and economic risks?
“It’s not my job to say how governments should run this,” Lowe says.
He says Australian politicians have done well managing the virus, and he wouldn’t like to be the one making the decisions leaders have made since January 2020.
He notes New South Wales seems to have struck a good balance between open/closed and infection control.
Philip Lowe is accompanied at today’s hearing by Guy Debelle, a deputy RBA governor. Debelle has just shown Lowe the growth number in the national accounts.
The governor is pleased. It’s very good, he says. (Lowe was hoping for more than 2% in today’s numbers. The growth number is 3.3%).
Jim Chalmers has responded:
What really matters is not one quarterly GDP number on a page but how Australians are actually faring and whether they can provide for their loved ones. #auspol
Household spending rebounded in the September quarter, rising 7.9%, after a big fall of 12.5% in the June quarter, the ABS said.
However, it said spending remained weak, down 6.5% through the year.
“Reductions in Covid-19 case numbers led to the relaxing of social distancing measures and other restrictions, encouraging spending on services which rose 9.8%. Hotels, cafes and restaurants, recreation and culture and transport services rebounded. Spending on health services recovered as deferred elective surgeries and visits to medical practitioners resumed.”
The ABS added that spending on goods increased 5.2% this quarter and was up 3.5% through the year.
However the Melbourne lockdown was cited as a factor in constricting Victoria’s economy during the period.
“Victoria’s state final demand fell 1.0%, the only state to record a fall, driven by declines in household spending and investment. More stringent restrictions associated with the second lockdown resulted in a 9.8% fall through the year. Household spending declined 1.2% in September quarter, driven by clothing and footwear, furnishings and recreation and culture. Spending on food rose 6.6%, partly offsetting the fall, as households prepared for the second lockdown.”
The economics committee has moved on to infrastructure. Should we be spending more to pump prime the economy?
Philip Lowe says if the economy “disappoints” next year “this is a lever that could be pulled”.
He says there is limited capacity for big projects in cities like Sydney, but there could be maintenance programs and smaller scale interventions, like repairs.
“The country should be looking for other levers and this is one potentially we could pull,” Lowe says.
The Labor MP Peta Murphy is trying to work out whose responsibility that would be in the federation.
Again Lowe doesn’t want to transgress. This is an idea for all governments, the RBA governor says.
He says it would be a combination of governments preparing these kinds of programs, and this is something they could be planning now.
Murphy has now moved on to think tanks and the RBA’s relationship with them.
Are you sponsoring the Centre for Independent Studies and the Sydney Institute, Murphy asks, citing a reference in the RBA annual report?
Lowe says the bank circulates with various think tanks and gets their reports.
Murphy wonders if the bank only circulates with right wing think tanks.
Why not Per Capita? Or the Grattan Institute?
Lowe says the bank’s objective is even handedness. He says he’ll come back to Murphy in writing.
The ABS says the growth of 3.3% in the September quarter – following the record 7% decline the previous quarter – came as Covid-19-related restrictions eased across most states and territories.
In its statement accompanying the results, the ABS says household consumption contributed 4.0 percentage points to GDP growth, as restrictions lifted for households and businesses. Public demand contributed a further 0.3 points.
But the ABS makes clear the economy isn’t out of the woods yet:
“While there was an improvement in GDP this quarter, the level of activity in the economy remains lower than prior to the pandemic, reflected in a 3.8% decline through the year.”
And to illustrate that
Australian economy grows 3.3% in September quarter, national accounts reveal
The Australian economy rose 3.3% in the September quarter, the latest national accounts reveal.
The national accounts, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics just now, shows that rise in seasonally adjusted chain volume measures, after a 7% fall in the June quarter.
That 7% fall was the biggest fall ever seen since records began in 1959 in Australia.
Through the year, the ABS said, GDP fell 3.8%.
It also said terms of trade rose 0.7%, and the household saving ratio decreased slightly.
Refugee advocates have partial win against Dutton appeal in high court
The high court has allowed appeals from four full federal court judgments, a setback for home affairs minister Peter Dutton, who had attempted to prevent the federal court hearing asylum seekers’ claims Australia had breached a duty of care towards them.
The asylum seekers all brought federal court cases while they were in regional processing, claiming they had not been provided adequate medical treatment in Nauru. The commonwealth argued the federal court did not have jurisdiction, because the Migration Act says that certain proceedings including those relating to people transiting through Australia for medical treatment “may not be instituted or continued in any court”.
The high court unanimously held that section does not take away the jurisdiction of courts and does not limit the authority of the relevant courts to decide claims.
However, it does provide the commonwealth with a defence, and some of those defences did apply to the four asylum seekers.
So – the general principle that the commonwealth is answerable to courts has been re-asserted, but it won’t necessarily mean every claimant will win.
The Australian economy rose 3.3% in seasonally adjusted chain volume measures.
We’ll have more for you soon.
Just a reminder as we wait for the national accounts (coming in the next few minutes) that positive growth is good, but the economic pain is nowhere near over.
The June quarter saw a 7% contraction – that was when a lot of the nation had been in lockdown.
So positive growth would be expected now that the nation has largely eased restrictions (although these figures will include Victoria’s hard lockdown) but it is not a cause for mass celebration.
There are still more than a million people out of work. It is going to take us a long time to get back to where we were, let alone where we were forecast to go.
The Liberal MP Celia Hammond wants to draw Philip Lowe out on his wishlist for structural reform.
Lowe, for obvious reasons, is a reluctant dance partner.
“This is not my job, thankfully the politicians of Australia don’t advise me on monetary policy so I won’t advise them on structural reform.”
Lowe says it is not his job to advocate specific policies, but he cites a bunch of reports pointing to problems with the tax system, a lack of energy policy, regulatory issues holding back entrepreneurship and innovation.
Hammond wants to know whether it’s important for companies to be profitable.
Lowe obviously thinks this question is a full toss (as of course it is).
Of course corporate profitability is important, but he says profits come from good ideas, not from low tax rates.
Lowe says that’s the crux of the issue: building a culture of good ideas that generate profits and employment prospects for Australians.
There is an update on the concerns for Parliament House’s water supply reported yesterday, after legionella was detected in at least nine bathrooms across the Canberra building.
The Department of Parliamentary Services has clarified that the traces of legionella (the bacteria which causes Legionnaires’ disease) detected pose no risk to human health, and do not meet the threshold for mandatory reporting by the Department of Health.
A DPS spokeswoman told Guardian Australia:
DPS manages regular routine testing of water quality across Parliament House which is conducted by an independent laboratory. This is a common practice for large buildings.
A level of 10 to 100 colony forming units per millilitre (CFU/mL) is commonly found in water cooling systems. Legionella testing conducted in late November identified a small number of samples in specific areas with low-level traces of legionella.
Legionella pneumophila, which is the common cause of Legionnaires’ disease was present at less than 10 CFU/mL in the identified locations...The Australian Standard AS 3666, Air-handling and water systems of buildings - Microbial control state an acceptable limit of less than 10 CFU/mL.
DPS was advised of these results (on Tuesday) and immediately responded by commencing a standard process of high temperature flushing of water pipes in reported areas. The locations will be re-tested again to confirm that the flushing process has addressed the issue.
On Tuesday, Guardian Australia reported that maintenance workers 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.
Not content with throwing 50 Shades of QE into the mix, Andrew Leigh is keeping it feisty.
He wants to know if the RBA is in danger of becoming a closed shop because the culture of the bank is to promote people from within the organisation.
Leigh notes a closed shop insufficiently open to new ideas. (Like negative interest rates – for example – is implied not stated).
Lowe has a placid demeanour and he is unruffled by this affront.
“It’s a risk and one we discuss internally quite a lot,” the governor says. He says the bank has made appointments from outside, and there is a robust culture of internal debate.
Lowe says colleagues have no difficulty in telling him he’s wrong about something.
Leigh wonders if the public would benefit if the governor had more press conferences where he could take more questions. Lowe isn’t interested in that.
The governor says he makes a lot of speeches. In terms of press conferences, Lowe says:
“I will speak when I’ve got something important to say”. Like an oracle.
(To be clear, the governor did not describe himself as a oracle. That’s me, describing him as an oracle).
Andrew Leigh, Labor’s deputy chair of the economics committee, and an economics professor, is deep now in negative interest rates territory.
Just for context, the central bank doesn’t like negative interest rates.
Philip Lowe still doesn’t like them. (The simplest way to describe negative interest rates is banks paying people to borrow).
Leigh would like the bank to be thinking harder about negative rates as an option.
Lowe says the consensus among central banks in the English-speaking world is negative rates cause more problems than it solves.
Leigh is now referencing a paper called 50 Shades of QE.
I think my head just exploded. Full disclosure.
NSW reports no new locally acquired Covid cases
NSW has recorded another day without any locally acquired community transmissions. Queensland has also had a zero (locally acquired day).
However, NSW Health has reported six new Covid cases in overseas travellers in quarantine.
There were 13,237 tests reported to 8pm last night, compared with 6,635 in the previous 24 hours.
NSW Health has warned that while NSW has recorded 25 days without a locally acquired case of Covid-19, there still may be transmission among people who have unrecognised infections with mild or no symptoms.
Back in the economics committee, the deputy chair, Labor MP Andrew Leigh is asking questions now. Leigh asks Philip Lowe whether he agrees with the OECD that the fiscal stimulus rolled out during the pandemic should not be withdrawn prematurely?
Lowe answers carefully, given the government is already in the process of withdrawing the stimulus.
The governor says the bank intends to keep providing monetary policy support to the economy (which was one of the OECD’s recommendations in the latest economic outlook published last night Australian time, as well as the call to maintain fiscal support through the recovery).
“That’s our intention, not to withdraw [monetary policy],” Lowe says. In terms of fiscal policy, Lowe says at some point fiscal stimulus will have to be pulled back.
“Eventually,” he says, diplomatically.
“We won’t need wage subsidies forever,” Lowe notes.
South Australia abolishes 'gay panic' defence
South Australia has finally abolished the “gay panic” defence.
That was a legal defence, which allowed men to argue in court they were “provoked” into violence by an unwanted sexual advance from another man.
In the last decade, four people have used it in an attempt to have their murder charges downgraded to manslaughter.
Every other state in Australia had abolished it – today, South Australia joined their ranks. It may be the last state to do so, but I am just glad it has been struck from the legal defence books.
Philip Lowe: the intensifying diplomatic spat with China has 'economic consequences'
The Liberal chair Tim Wilson asks Philip Lowe how Australia has performed relative to other economies during the crisis. Lowe says “we’ve done remarkably well over the last nine months ... the issue going forward is can we keep doing that?”
Wilson wants to know what it will take to keep the economy over performing compared to others?
Lowe says the prerequisites are fiscal support, monetary policy support and structural reform.
Wilson moves to China and the trade sanctions. How bad will that get in terms of economic impact? Lowe treads carefully. He says the bilateral relationship is clearly strained and that has “economic consequences”.
“We are still trying to work out how extensive they will be,” Lowe says.
“I don’t want to speculate on that.”
He notes the RBA maintains a good relationship with China’s central bank and he suggests economic recovery in China post pandemic is helpful to world recovery.
Refugee advocates are reporting The National Justice Project has had a win against Peter Dutton’s appeal in the high court.
Paul Karp was following the court’s judgement and will have a report for you soon.
(Paul tells me they are still waiting on the summary of the judgement, so hang tight)
Back at the economics committee, Philip Lowe is facing questions from the Liberal MP and committee chair Tim Wilson about the bank’s inflation target.
Wilson’s questions relate to how long it will take inflation to return. “It’s going to take quite a long time,” Lowe says.
The RBA governor says unemployment needs to be 4% before inflation returns to the bank’s target range of 2-3%. Lowe: “That still seems a long way away doesn’t it?”
The governor says inflation will return, but it’s going to take time. We were in a low inflation environment before coronavirus, he says, but the pandemic has reinforced disinflationary pressures in the global economy – with one caveat. Disruption to supply chains may create some pockets of inflation in some sectors.
We might see price increases because of supply issues.
At the economics committee, the RBA governor is asked whether he has a tip about the national accounts, due in about an hour. Philip Lowe says there are a range of market forecasts out there, but he hopes the economic growth number is “at least 2%”. Lowe says we are looking at a solid number.
The governor says his view about unemployment now is rosier than when he was last before the parliamentary committee.
Lowe thinks unemployment will peak at 7% rather than 10%.
Following Paul Fletcher’s list of questions to the ABC board yesterday about why it supported the airing of the Four Corners report ‘Inside the Canberra bubble’, is this follow-up and response:
And a blast from the past
Australia has turned a corner and recovery is underway: RBA
The Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe is before the economics committee of the parliament this morning.
He says Australia has “turned a corner and a recovery is underway”.
Lowe says the bank expects economic growth to be “solidly positive” in both the September and December quarters, and growth to be 5% next year.
But he says the recovery will be “uneven, bumpy and drawn out”.
He says Australia won’t return to conditions approximating normal until the end of 2021.
Lowe emphasises the outlook remains highly uncertain. He points out that Europe seemed to recover from the initial economic shock associated with the pandemic, but has gone backward because of second and third waves.
Lowe says in Australia there will be a run of years with low wages growth and higher than normal unemployment.
Peter Dutton has appealed a decision by the federal court to hear claims against him as the minister for home affairs, for alleged negligence and breaches of duty of care lodged by people seeking asylum who are being held in detention in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
That is what the high court will decide today – whether those claims can be heard.
The parliamentary inquiry into domestic, family and sexual violence will be looking at coercive control in its coming hearings. Journalist Jess Hill has done great work in this space if you need more information – but not all domestic violence is physical. Controlling someone is just as dangerous.
On Thursday evening, the House Social Policy and Legal Affairs Committee will hear from representatives of Scottish Women’s Aid and the Women’s Aid Federation England about the operation of coercive control legislation in those jurisdictions.
On Friday, the committee will hear further evidence from federal government agencies involved in the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, as well as the National Mental Health Commission, the New South Wales government, and business groups.
In addition to the public hearings, the committee will this week continue hearing from individuals in closed session about their experiences and their suggestions for better preventing and responding to family, domestic, and sexual violence.
In order to ensure public safety during the Covid-19 situation, witnesses will participate in the hearings remotely, via videoconference and teleconference. Interested members of the public are invited to watch or listen to the live broadcast, available at aph.gov.au/live.
The Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phillip Lowe will be questioned by the parliamentary economics committee from 10am.
There is also a high court ruling on a case involving Peter Dutton’s Home Affairs department coming down around the same time.
Speaking of New Zealand, its parliament will also debate a Climate Emergency Declaration, at midday (AEDT).
The Global Times – the state-run media outlet the Chinese Community party uses for its angriest takes – has turned its eye towards New Zealand after Jacinda Ardern officially raised concerns over a Photoshopped image in a Chinese government official’s tweet highlighting Australia’s war crime allegations.
The Global Times editorial “Kiwis bleat like a sheep, but don’t condemn Afghan killings” reveals how the current relationship between New Zealand and Australia is viewed:
The consecutive moves of Canberra and Wellington to describe the cartoon as “false” or “unfactual” are actually trying to shift people’s attention away from Australian troops’ brutality against Afghan civilians.
Ironic absurdist cartoons are very common in the West, which claims to protect the freedom of speech with unfettered publishing and creativity. The actual scene represented by the satirical cartoon was much crueler than what people can see from the illustration.
Given the exceptionally close relations between Canberra and Wellington, it is quite normal that New Zealand has expressed concerns over this incident. If Kiwis hadn’t voiced support for Aussies, that would be some news.
New Zealand has emphasized that it is an independent country with independent foreign policies. But based on history and the current relationship between Canberra and Wellington, the latter still needs the former in many affairs in the South Pacific and surrounding regions.
Therefore, if Kiwis don’t do something in time to show their solidarity with Aussies, then New Zealand-Australia relations might be affected – and this is not favorable to Wellington. From this perspective, Ardern’s statement has nothing to do with being wise or unwise; it is something she has to say.
As New Zealand has generally maintained a sound relationship with China, its government didn’t use very harsh words against China but has “registered” concerns with Chinese authorities directly. On the whole, Ardern’s statement was restrained, having taken into account the overall situation of New Zealand-China relations.
Nonetheless, by saying “we will stick to our independent foreign policy, but that doesn’t stop us observing what is happening with others,” Ardern has demonstrated that New Zealand will not stop playing double standard tricks the West uses so often. This is also part of the so-called Western values — the freedom to be hypocrites. As a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, New Zealand has to stick to such values.
The Greens are pushing for the parliament to declare a climate emergency today.
Motions will be moved in both chambers.
Just in case you were wondering how the summer is going so far, Fraser Island has been burning for six weeks (in a La Niña year).
Oh – and that was our hottest spring ever.
Anthony Albanese called in to Sydney radio 2SM this morning to talk robodebt and gave a little indication of where Labor is heading today:
Well, ScoMo should be called ‘Promo’ with the way that he acts. And this bloke, Stuart Robert, who has had to resign from the ministry once before, he should go again. Because they’ve done a settlement here of $1.2bn. This is a scheme that has resulted in tragedies. This is a scheme whereby they knew it was illegal. They also had multiple reports, at least 17 reports, of self-harm and tragedies occurring as a result of this robodebt. And they continued to implement it. It’s just extraordinary. And when you ask the minister, he pretends that this is a scheme that’s been around for decades. In fact, that’s not true. It was a scheme that was designed by Scott Morrison as social services minister.
Business wants restrictions relaxed even further in NSW
Business NSW says retailers need to be given a chance to capitalise on Christmas spending with a relaxation of restrictions on their premises.
Retailers must now adhere to the one person per four square metre rule, unless they are a supermarket or shop that mostly sells food.
NSW has notched up 24 consecutive days without a single locally transmitted coronavirus case and many other restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus have already been eased.
“With Christmas shopping in full swing and no community transmissions in NSW for some time, we need to give retailers a break in the lead up to Christmas,” Business NSW chief executive Nola Watson said on Wednesday.
While cafes can have one person per two square metres, clothing retailers and bookshops are more limited, Watson says.
“It goes without saying what a difficult year it has been for the retail sector, and here is an opportunity to provide them with some relief, so long as they operate in a Covid-safe way.
“Shopping centres are beginning to become packed again with just three weekends left before Christmas, so any help the NSW government can give retailers must be done as a matter of urgency,” she said.
Covid found in sewage south-west of Melbourne
Fragments of Covid have been found in Colac’s wastewater.
As AAP reports:
The Department of Health and Human Services has revealed a wastewater treatment plant at Colac, 150km south-west of Melbourne, produced a positive sample from November 23.
Further analysis showed the sample had “very low levels” of viral fragments, DHHS said, which could point to someone in the area shedding the virus after recovering from it.
“It should serve as a reminder to all Victorians that if you have the mildest of symptoms – to get tested,” the department said.
Last week, a similar notice was issued to residents of Geelong’s northern suburbs, after traces of coronavirus were detected in Corio wastewater.
The latest wastewater find comes as a woman in her 20s was put into isolation awaiting the result of a third test amid a review of her case by an expert panel.
The DHHS confirmed it was notified late on Monday of the women’s “indeterminate” result, adding her first test was a weak positive and the second a negative result.
Australia’s approach to climate policy as 'suicidal', Christiana Figueres says
The former top UN climate diplomat Christiana Figueres has described Australia’s approach to climate policy as “suicidal”, launching a scathing critique of the Morrison government’s proposal to use carryover credits to make it easier to reach its Paris targets.
In prerecorded comments for an emissions summit being held today, Figueres said the world was “impatiently waiting” for Australia to build a strong policy framework on climate change.
Providing a video interview to the Carbon Market Institute’s Australasian Emissions Summit, Figueres accused Australia of lacking integrity for its proposed use of carryover credits.
Under the previous Kyoto climate agreement which ran from 2008 to 2020, Australia beat its under ambitious targets over two periods by 459Mt.
The Morrison government has said it could use that amount as a “credit” against the target it took to Paris to cut emissions to 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2030.
But Figueres said:
If you want to participate in the global effort of decarbonisation, you have to do it with integrity. There’s no way anyone is going to take Australia or any other country seriously if the proposal is to participate but with a lack of integrity.
She compared Australia’s use of carryover credits to a sports match, where a team ends the game with a score on the board and then expects to take that into the next game “even if it’s not the same sport”:
You don’t carry over that score to the next match. It’s true in sports and it’s true in climate change. You cannot carry over. We are in a completely different framework and completely different legal framework.
Australia is likely the only country proposing to use the credits, but its language has softened recently, with the prime minister suggesting Australia may not need to use the credits anyway to beat its Paris target.
Some analysts have said this demonstrated how unambitious Australia’s targets were to begin with.
Figueres said Australia had huge potential to develop renewable energy, in particular with solar and clean hydrogen:
I’ve been pretty vocal about my frustration for so many years of a completely unstable, volatile, unpredictable stand and position on climate change in Australia.
As executive secretary of the UN framework convention on climate change, Figueres was a chief architect of the 2015 Paris agreement before leaving the post in 2016.
Figueres is now the convenor of Mission 2020 – a global climate change campaign group.
Kristina Keneally also stopped by doors:
There are only eight days left for Scott Morrison to keep the promise to get all of these stranded Australians home by Christmas, and I’m just talking about the ones that were registered with Dfat on the 18th of September, because we now know that there are some 37,000 stranded Australians registered with Dfat.
We now know that the number of vulnerable Australians has doubled from 4,000 to 8,000 since the time the prime minister made that promise.
So, we also know Scott Morrison told us that he still believes in miracles. Well, it is going to take a miracle to get all of the stranded Australians Scott Morrison promised would be home by Christmas – for the birth of Jesus to celebrate however they want to celebrate with their families – Scott Morrison promised they’d be here. At this rate, it’s going to take a miracle for him to keep his promise.
Malarndirri McCarthy stopped by doors this morning:
Today is an historic day for the people of the Northern Territory in terms of democracy. We are about to look at the bill to preserve the two seats of the Northern Territory, the seats of Solomon and Lingiari. It’s a wonderful day in the sense that certainly the Labor party has pushed this from the very beginning. When we learned of this issue late last year and early this year that we were going to lose one of the seats in the Northern Territory.
The people of the Northern Territory have fought hard to protect the two seats. The decision by the AEC to remove one of them we found was unfair and unjust. And we are enormously grateful that the joint parliamentary committee on electoral matters also agreed that the two seats of the Northern Territory should remain. So today, we will see the debate in the Senate, which follows a bill, a private senators’ bill that was introduced by myself and Senator Don Farrell in June to protect the two seats.
And I certainly thank my territory colleagues, Labor in the in the territory, both Labor members, Warren Snowdon and Luke Gosling, but also my Senate colleague, Senator Sam McMahon, who worked with us. And this was one occasion where we did unite strongly to ensure fair process in terms of political voices in the Australian parliament.
Paul Karp has taken a look at where the sports rorts scandal is at:
An inquiry into the sports rorts scandal has accused the government of “obstruction” after the former minister, Bridget McKenzie, refused to appear and her successor blocked the release of advice about the legality of the $100m program.
In an interim report tabled on Tuesday, the Senate select committee rejected current sport minister Richard Colbeck’s public interest immunity claim that stopped Sport Australia from releasing legal advice about McKenzie’s authority to approve grants.
The Labor-Greens majority committee recommended the Senate set a deadline of Thursday morning for the government to provide the advice – a push the Senate agreed to when chair Anthony Chisholm tabled the report.
That sets up a standoff between the Senate and the government over the $100m community sport infrastructure grant program that was the subject of a scathing auditor general’s report. It found the program was skewed toward Coalition marginal and target seats.
Scott Morrison uses WeChat to appeal directly to Chinese citizens
Scott Morrison has once again used his WeChat login (his team signed up under the PM’s name to the popular Chinese social media site as part of the 2019 election campaign) to defend Australia’s position to users of the platform:
I am extremely proud of all Australians who pull a uniform on for Australia. I am proud of their service and of their dedication to keeping Australia and Australians safe. I am proud of their loyalty to our country and its values.
Those values determine how we deal with difficult issues as a country and difficult issues as those that have arisen in the Inspector General’s report on the Australian Defence Force.
Australia’s transparent and honest way of dealing with this issue is a credit to this nation and a credit to all those who serve this nation in uniform.
Where there are alleged events that have taken place that require action, well we have set up the honest and transparent processes for that to take place. That is what a free, democratic, liberal country does.
Australia will continue to remain true to our values and the protection of our own sovereignty. This is in our national interests.
The post of a false image of an Australian soldier does not diminish our respect for and appreciation of our Chinese Australian community or indeed our friendship with the people of China.
We acknowledge and greatly appreciate and value the contribution that generations of Chinese migrants have made to Australia.
Migrants from China have been arriving in Australia for more than two hundred years and Australians of Chinese background have added immensely to our nation.
Australia has greatly benefited from the contribution made by people in Australia of Chinese ancestry, many of whom have distinguished themselves in all walks of life, including business, medicine, education, the creative arts, and politics.
It was Chinese Australians in particular who provided one of the greatest defences to the COVID-19 pandemic we had in those early weeks.
They were the ones who first went into self-isolation, they were the ones who were returning from family visits to China and they were coming home and it was through their care, commitment and patience that actually Australia was protected in that first wave. Australians are very grateful for that.
We are pleased to welcome the first group of international students who have returned to Australia this week under the Northern Territory International Students Pilot. The students are from countries including China. These students will embark on the mandatory 14-day quarantine period before embarking on their studies and we wish them well.
Our Chinese Australian community will continue to play an important role in ensuring we remain a successful, multicultural nation.
A bill that will ensure the Northern Territory keeps its two federal seats will be introduced into the Senate today.
It has bipartisan support which means it won’t have trouble in the House.
He’s in the NSW parliament.
If you are not already following Climate Tracker, you should be.
Particularly as the Morrison government decides whether or not it is going to use carry-over credits to reach its targets.
Victoria reports no new Covid cases
What Victoria has achieved is truly remarkable.
Day 33 and still all zeroes.
Stuart Robert spent a good part of question time yesterday thanking Services Australia (formerly Centrelink) staff for their work.
Luke Henriques-Gomes looks at how the staff feel.
You may note that Labor’s Kimberley Kitching has a starring role in this Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China video, urging people to drink Australian wine – not a government MP.
Happy National Accounts Day!
After two quarters of negative growth – the technical definition of a recession, the September quarter is expected to be in positive territory, which is the technical definition of a recession ending.
Except, we all know that’s not true. With more than a million people out of work, industries like tourism and retail still trying to recover, and an uncertain future once the Covid stimulus runs out, people are still in economic pain.
Yesterday though, you would be excused for thinking all was headed back to normal – with government MPs mentioning “comeback” 25 times during question time. The comeback was on. That comes from market research which has been carried out for the government (which it doesn’t want to release) and has led to a $15m advertising spend – just in case anyone wasn’t aware about the “comeback”.
Meanwhile, the dispute with China remains ongoing, with the OECD – the organisation Mathias Cormann is flying around Europe trying to attract enough votes to helm – warning that further escalation of tensions could impact Australia’s economic growth.
As Katharine Murphy reports:
The OECD warns any “additional escalation in geopolitical tensions with China” could undermine growth in exports.
While warning Australia to stay the course with fiscal support – echoing public commentary from Australia’s Treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, and the Reserve Bank – the OECD says the impact of withdrawing the pandemic income support measures will be offset by the recovery in private sector activity as containment restrictions ease further.
As lockdowns and border restrictions lift and normal habits resume, “consumption will continue to be supported by households gradually drawing down their increased savings”.
The OECD says Australia should buttress the post-Covid recovery by “reducing barriers to labour reallocation”, boosting investment in skills programs and boosting labour market mobility by the recognition of occupational licensing across jurisdictions.
We’ll bring you all of that, and more, as the day unfolds. Including this one, there are six parliamentary sitting days left in the year.
You have Amy Remeikis on the blog, with Mike Bowers and his cameras in the chambers. Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst and Paul Karp will keep you updated on the shenanigans, with the entire Guardian brains trust letting you know what is happening in their patch. I’m just going to grab my third coffee. Today has a four-coffee day feel to it.