What happened today, Wednesday 16 June, 2021
That’s where we will leave the live blog for Wednesday.
Here’s what made the news for the day:
- Victoria is set to further ease restrictions from midnight Thursday, including the removal of the 25km radius rule and needing to wear masks outdoors in Melbourne.
- Victoria reported five new cases of Covid-19, all linked.
- A Bondi resident tested positive for Covid-19, with transmission believed to have occurred in his role as a driver for international flight crews.
- The prime minister, Scott Morrison, has continued his Europe visit, meeting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and visiting the OECD.
Scott Morrison was asked whether Australia would put up more candidates for international posts after former finance minister Mathias Cormann secured the top job at the OECD.
Morrison said it was a “statement of Australia’s contribution”, and said it was in line with comments he made years ago about “positive globalism”.
“For it to go in a positive direction is when you have a rules-based order which is a functional and efficient and is being implemented across all economies whether it is at the WTO or the ITU or any of these bodies. All of these bodies, whether we like that or not, and we like it more often than we don’t, they, we need to ensure that across our partners that we are collaborating well.
Now in this case it was the right decision for Australia to put forward a candidate for the OECD just like with the comprehensive test ban treaty organisation where we have also just been successful. That has been something where Australia believes it can make a difference and make an effort. Whether it is the ITU, the United States has a very good candidate.
It really is about where best and who best and what ensures that the standard setting and the operation of the rules-based order works most effectively. Mathias Cormann being the secretary-general of the OECD is not a statement of Australia’s ambition, it is a statement of Australia’s contribution. We will make a contribution where it best assists that broader international effort and Australia’s international interests.”
'Still a long way to go' on French submarine contract issues, PM says
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, is holding a press conference at the OECD in Paris.
He was asked about his meeting with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, with regard to the $50bn submarine contract. Morrison said it was a “very positive discussion” on a wide range of issues, including that contract:
“We are coming up to important gates in that contract and there have been issues that we have had to address over particularly the last eight months and president Macron and I have a very, very open and very transparent and very friendly relationship where we can speak candidly to each other about these issues but what is most important is we understand the strategic imperative of our broader relationship.”
He said Macron has “been taking a very active role” in the contract, but there was still a long way to go, and noted Naval Group has “gates” coming up in the contract it will need to meet in September:
“The scope to works, the master schedule, total costs, these are all the next steps. Contracts have gates and that’s the next gate.”
Labor is suggesting a deal has been done on the super bills:
After the WA government announced it would change the law governing access to its QR code check-in app, limiting it purely for contact tracing after WA Police revealed they’d accessed it twice for “serious crime” investigation, I asked other states what they were doing.
So far, New South Wales and Victoria have responded.
New South Wales said there had been no access to the data by law enforcement. The public health order also says QR code data must only be used for contact tracing purposes.
Victoria’s acting premier, James Merlino, said he wasn’t aware of Victoria Police accessing the data, and the data could only be accessed by court order.
Also worth noting that in various jurisdictions, the data is only held for a set amount of time – 28 days in NSW and Victoria.
Interestingly, neither of the state’s police force were able to tell me, and passed me onto the holder of the data.
In the Senate, the government has just moved an hours motion proposing that its trio of super bills be debated this evening after 7:20pm, then once all the second readings are done, will be voted on tomorrow.
The main bill - Your Future Your Super - proposes that workers be “stapled” to the first superannuation fund they join to prevent account duplication. It passed the lower house earlier in June, after the coalition removed a controversial power for the minister to be able to ban certain types of investments.
The Senate has voted by 33 votes to 30 in favour of the hours motion, with One Nation’s Pauline Hanson and Malcolm Roberts giving the coalition the votes to limit debate – usually a sign a deal has been done to pass the bill. Labor, the Greens, Jacqui Lambie and Rex Patrick voted against the move.
Labor suspects the deal may involve a bid to lift the cap on concessional contributions for those aged 67 and over based on the fact this is an amendment One Nation has previously proposed.
My colleague Paul Karp will have more information for you soon, but the government in the Senate has moved to suspend standing orders, to bring on debate for its super bills tonight. It succeeded, with the backing of most of the cross-bench. Labor and the Greens are opposed to the bill, and voted against it.
More severe weather for parts of Victoria:
Peter Dutton and Shane Bazzi ordered to mediation
Guardian Australia has confirmed that the defence minister, Peter Dutton, has been ordered to mediation with refugee activist, Shane Bazzi, who he is suing for defamation over a tweet.
At the first case management hearing for the matter on Wednesday, Justice Richard White reportedly said it “would not be amongst the biggest defamation cases that have come before the court” and “should be able to be settled”. Dutton will have to personally attend mediation, which will be conducted before 31 August.
The prospect of success is not high unless Dutton has a change of heart because – as Guardian Australia reported on Sunday – Bazzi has already deleted the tweet and committed not to make the accusation again, but Dutton pressed on, seeking an apology and damages. Bazzi is defending the case on the basis it was a fair comment or honest opinion.
On Wednesday, Bazzi told Guardian Australia:
“I look forward to and am happy to participate in that mediation process.”
The New South Wales Nurses and Midwives’ Association says hundreds of nurses have walked off the job at two Central Coast hospitals – Long Jetty Continuing Care in Toukley and Wyong Hospital – for two hours on Wednesday afternoon in a protest highlighting concerns about staff safety and a call for nurse-to-patient ratios.
The union says there is widespread understaffing, regular overtime, and less time to properly care for patients, and says the NSW government has so far refused to negotiate with the union
The two hospitals remain open to the public with life-preserving staff available.
The day is not over, but there is only so much anyone can take and I have reached my limit.
Which is why Josh Taylor is my current favourite person – he’ll take you through the evening (and expertly so, too).
There’s another day of parliament tomorrow, which means there is another day of Michael McCormack in the driver’s seat. So far this week, we have learnt he would rather live in Australia “than anywhere else in the nation” and that he would like the mouse plague to be rehomed in the inner city homes of Peta supporters, so they can nibble their feet “and scratch their children”.
What could tomorrow bring?
We’ll let you know as soon as it happens. A very big thank you to everyone who followed along with us today, we truly appreciate your support. If I haven’t returned your message as yet, I promise I am getting to it.
I’ll be back early tomorrow morning – until then, take care of you.
Scott Morrison is about to address the OECD council.
Sarah Martin will be listening to that, so you don’t have to.
Dave Sharma was just on the ABC and was asked to explain Michael McCormack’s ‘COAL IS FOREVER’ comments in relation to the G7’s ‘yeah, so we’re phasing that out’ agreement.
My understanding of what the G7 agreed is government support for coal-fired power stations should not continue, but they made an exception for Japan, they may be using things like carbon capture, utilisation and storage technologies that could make coal-fired power net zero in those terms.
The political leaders of the G7 and Australian political leaders won’t determine the future of coal.
It will be Australian consumers and technology. Coal has an important role to play currently in the energy mix, that would diminish over time, I think that is inevitable.
There will be uses for things like metallurgical coal to make iron ore in so we re-engineer that process. It’s like many transitions we have been through human history and Australian history as well.
The attorney general, Michaelia Cash, has responded to the Fair Work Commission minimum wage decision:
The Morrison government notes the Fair Work Commission’s (FWC) decision to award an increase of 2.5% to the national minimum wage and award wages.
The decision will take effect on 1 July 2021 and the national minimum wage rate will increase from $19.84 to $20.33 per hour. The government notes that some award increases will come into effect in the following months, such as general retail on 1 September, and aviation, tourism and accommodation and food sectors on 1 November. This takes into account those industries with higher exposure to the effects of the pandemic.
The decision represents a real wage increase for up to 2.2 million Australian workers and reflects the strong economic management of the Morrison government, putting the right conditions in place to drive upward pressure on wages for workers.
As the FWC noted, “the current performance of the economy has exceeded expectations and that the economic recovery was well under way. The Australian economy has recovered to a greater extent and more quickly than anticipated.”
Australia’s minimum wage is already the highest in the world according to the OECD.
The labour market has shown a remarkable recovery since the onset of the pandemic, with more Australians in work than before February 2020.
Creating and growing more jobs for Australians has been an integral part of the Morrison government plan for economic recovery. More Australians in work, drives upward pressure on wages.
The government respects the independence of the Fair Work Commission expert panel, which aims to balance the interests of workers, employers, the economy and jobs. The government’s role in the annual wage review is to provide the latest evidence on the economy, labour market, for the Fair Work Commission to consider in making its decision.
Larissa Waters has just given an impassioned speech in the Senate about the “virtually unprecedented move” of the government blocking her from the first reading of her bill to set up an inquiry into Christian Porter’s fitness to be a minister. They also denied her leave to table the second reading speech and explanatory memorandum.
Waters described it as a “new low” of secrecy, and “highly unusual” – having occurred only twice in her 10 years in the Senate. One of those occasions was a migration-related bill from Fraser Anning.
Waters warned that she is “not going to let this drop” – and nor would people who signed a petition calling for an inquiry into Porter.
Waters then attempted to suspend standing orders, but the government moved a closure motion. It won the vote 32 to 31. Labor, Rex Patrick and Jacqui Lambie voted with the Greens; One Nation voted with the government.
The Senate then voted on the suspension of standing orders, and the government won that vote by 33 votes to 30.
Penny Wong is asked about Karen Andrews comments from earlier today about Tharnicaa’s illness while speaking to the ABC and says:
I found it troubling that you saw a federal minister, by her comments, suggesting that the illness of a child was less serious than had been reported. I do not think that is helpful to the situation.
And on suggestions the children are being “used” to help their parents’ applications to stay:
I think that sort of language and in this situation is really disappointing. When we have this family in a difficult situation, a sick child in hospital, I don’t think they are a risk to national security, even the National MP who is the member for their electorate says they should go home.
The Greens senator Larissa Waters has just attempted to introduce her private senator’s bill to set up a commission of inquiry into whether Christian Porter is fit to be a minister.
When Waters moved in the Senate that the bill be read a first time, the government opposed it and a division was called.
The government then won the vote 33 to 30 with the votes of One Nation and Jacqui Lambie. Labor and Rex Patrick voted with the Greens.
Waters was outraged:
Tony Burke has responded to the Fair Work Commission decision to lift the minimum wage by 2.5%
What needs to be understood is a whole lot of workers won’t even receive what’s being announced today.
... Because of the number of workers now especially in the gig economy who don’t even get paid the legal minimum. When we raised this with the government the response has been it would be complicated to decide whether or not to pay the minimum legal rate.
The Reserve Bank of Australia has made it clear, what we need to do right now, is to get people spending and that means a pay rise. The pay rise today has been hard fought for, it may well have been higher, were it not for the fact, Australia’s government, the Morrison government, refused to lift a finger in arguing for higher rates of pay.
You can find more information on the Bondi Covid case here:
NSW Health confirms Bondi Covid case
NSW Health has just issued this statement:
NSW Health has been notified this afternoon of a new Covid-19 case who resides in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
The case, a man in his 60s, has not travelled overseas in recent times, however, he works as a driver, which includes transporting international flight crew.
The man had a saliva test yesterday (Tuesday 15 June). The positive result on this test was confirmed today in a PCR test (Wednesday 16 June). This case will be included in tomorrow’s numbers.
Urgent investigations into the source of the infection and contact tracing are under way, as is genome sequencing.
Close contacts are being urgently contacted, and asked to get tested and isolate. The man visited a number of venues while potentially infectious.
The Fair Work Commission has determined the minimum wage should increase by 2.5% – which would take it to $772.60 a week, or $20.33 an hour.
Angus Taylor is now boasting how the government has overseen more renewable projects in a year than Labor did over six years of government.
Which is when renewables were only just taking off. It was all new. Because Labor was elected in 2007 and then were out of government in 2013 – and just before they left, they tried to set up funds and organisations to shepherd in the upcoming renewables boom. Which the Coalition then set about dismantling. The Coalition have been in power for eight years. You would expect over that time there would have been leaps and bounds in the technology. It also got a hell of a lot cheaper.
'This is a solar panel, don’t be afraid': Labor's Chris Bowen channels Morrison's coal moment
In the Matter of Public Importance debate (which is on renewable energy), Chris Bowen has just held up a solar panel (in reference to Scott Morrison holding up a piece of coal in parliament in 2017).
He then declares ‘this is a solar panel, don’t be afraid, don’t be scared’ and then echoes Morrison’s “those opposite have an ideological pathological fear” line, but substitutes ‘renewables’ for coal.
Last week we reported that the Liberal MP Andrew Laming has been sending out letters of concern threatening to sue people who had characterised an incident in which he took a photo of a woman bending over as “upskirting”.
The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has apologised for it, as has The Shot, a publication owned by the Chaser.
Now News Corp journalist Eliza Barr has also apologised:
The ABC is also reporting NSW Health has identified a locally acquired case of Covid in Bondi:
The ABC understands the new case is a man who visited the Bondi Junction shopping centre in the city’s east a number of times in recent days.
Michael McCormack is making another statement on indulgence to honour a CWA member who has passed away, “and is being buried as we speak”.
He says the parliament should pause to honour Australians who don’t get enough thanks.
Michael McCormack ends question time.
Best thing he has done all day.
Michael McCormack is now lamenting that he is not getting questions on the free trade agreement, when he is asked another question on the aged care vaccination rollout:
Sharon Claydon to McCormack (the acting prime minister who is meant to answer questions on all things related to government, not just portfolio things he likes to waffle on about):
Aged care residents across Australia were meant to be fully vaccinated by Easter. Is the minister aware the Department of Health says there are still 30,000 aged care residents who have not received their second dose?
Why has the government left tens of thousands of aged care residents vulnerable to Covid in winter?
I thought I’d get a question about the infrastructure there, I thought I might get one about the FTA. I’m not kidding ... (he goes on about what he wishes he was asked about, but the transcriber misses it)
The acting prime minister, you might only be eight seconds in, but members on my left, the manager of opposition business can just resume his seat for a second. If you’re a short way into the question and giving some context to the answer, that’s OK. But you can’t, no ministers can’t simply start talking about another question they wish they were asked. So the question was quite specific with two parts and I invite the acting prime minister to resume his answer and be relevant to the question asked.
McCormack (says words):
There is a vaccination rollout and we are getting on with the job of doing just that. Doing it through commonwealth officials. Doing it through state public health officials. Doing it for Australia.
And I have to say as the minister for health has just indicated in his previous answer, we should be proud as a nation of what we have been able to achieve together to keep Australians safe, to protect lives, to protect livelihoods.
We have lost 910 Australians through this global pandemic and indeed it is a global pandemic. If you look at what has happened overseas, it is an absolute tragedy.
It’s a tragedy that we’ve lost 910 Australians. For their families we mourn with them. We mourn with them and remember those people. But we have a vaccination strategy, we are rolling out the vaccination, whether it is through aged care facilities for workers, for residents.
Michael McCormack cannot answer questions on the aged care vaccination rollout.
For those who didn’t hear it, here is Michael McCormack, the acting prime minister, wishing mice plagues upon inner city apartments where they can ‘scratch’ children at night.
The federal environment minister, Sussan Ley, is staring down Senate crossbenchers over new national environment standards proposed by the Morrison government, warning they are “not negotiable” and will have to pass parliament before they can be strengthened.
The standards are a central part of the government’s plan to transfer greater approval powers for making developments to the states and territories.
The former competition watchdog Graeme Samuel recommended standards be introduced in his review of national environment laws last year. The government accepted the recommendation but ignored his proposed interim standards, instead drawing up its own.
Critics – including the key crossbenchers Rex Patrick, Jacqui Lambie and Stirling Griff – have told Ley the government’s proposal does not go far enough, that they just restate the current laws, which Samuel found were failing the environment.
Asked about the standards at the national press club today by Guardian Australia’s Paul Karp, Ley said she was “working hard with the crossbench” and was hopeful of reaching agreement, but they would not be reconsidered and developed until after the legislation was passed.
“The standards as they are in the act in the parliament now are where we are going to start, so I have said that part is not negotiable,” she said.
She said she had committed to a roundtable with interest groups from the environment movement and business within 28 days of the legislation passing to work on developing the standards further. The legislation indicated the interim standards would be in place for two years and then followed by final standards.
Samuel’s review found the laws, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity and Conservation Act, were ineffective and the environment was in decline. Ley has now released a timeline and pathway for reforming the act over the next three years.
The minister was also asked about feral horses in Kosciuszko national park – a divisive issue within the NSW government.
Ley said seeing damage from feral horses made her “extremely angry” and she was looking for ways to use the EPBC Act to stop it. Management of the park is a state responsibility.
“I’d love to find a provision in there that could actually allow the commonwealth to say to the states … ‘Kosciuszko is heritage-listed for its vegetation, it’s a unique ecosystem because it’s not found anywhere else in the world’,” she said.
Ley said she appealed “to everyone who feels strongly about this issue to make their voices heard”.
NSW Health would not confirm reports of a positive case of Covid-19 in Bondi.
But we have been told to expect a statement from them.
News Corp says it has received reports of a case in the Sydney eastern suburbs area from unnamed sources in the local health district.
In more things the acting prime minister doesn’t know about – vaccinating aged care workers.
Yesterday the aged care minister said: “Every aged care worker who wants access to a vaccine right now has access to a vaccine right now.” Is the government saying to all those aged care workers who haven’t yet been vaccinated it’s your fault?
It’s drawing a very long bow from the member who asked that question. And we all have an obligation to talk up the vaccination race, to talk up the fact that people should get that first jab. We all have an obligation.
As the minister for health has said, with aged care, all 2,556 have received the first dose; 2,436 of the 2,566 of commonwealth RACFs have received a second dose, 94.9%. We want them to receive a jab. But if some people in aged care for some reason, it may well be they have dementia and those decisions are being taken ...
They are being taken by their families as distressed and worried that they are, there may be people who are in palliative care who may not wish to receive the vaccination and the workers are important too.
The workers are important too. And certainly we are making sure that the vaccination’s available. Let’s not forget it is the health, public ...
Tony Smith tells him to be relevant to the question.
And we are looking after those workers as well. We are working with state authorities. We are working through the process to get everybody vaccinated. I urge and encourage all Australians to get that jab, get that second jab. So important.
Not only do we have the non-stop Michael McCormack hour, we also have Vince Connolly asking a dixer.
Today, he appears to be drawing inspiration from ‘man who has spent his entire life observing humans from behind a two-way mirror decides to try his luck with an interaction’.
But still, cherish these moments. His seat has been abolished by the WA electoral commission, which most likely sets him up to battle Anne Aly in Cowan – in no way a guaranteed win.
Bondi resident reportedly tests positive for Covid
The Daily Telegraph is reporting a Bondi resident has tested positive for Covid.
We are working on getting that confirmed.
David Littleproud, the next most likely leader of the Nationals, gets a very similar question from Julie Collins and manages to answer it without the image of mice nibbling children as they sleep.
When strawberries and public health were under threat, this government pushed through urgent legislation in a single day. Why isn’t the government treating the mouse plague, which is threatening farms across four states, with any sense of urgency?
I thank the member for her question. It’s important to understand that was a malicious criminal act. A malicious criminal act.
This is a natural, this is a natural occurrence. One which has been happening since the first fleet arrived.
It’s important to understand while this is the state’s remit of responsibility ... the federal government hasn’t walked away.
We have allowed – I’m sorry, I’m sorry, the facts remain, that the Australian government has provided Farm Household Allowance to those farmers who are, who are in financial distress. That is the equivalency of the jobseeker. That gives them the jobseeker rate.
That gives them the opportunity to put bread and butter on the table. The federal government has made it available. In addition, we have also, as part of our efforts to support the NSW government, in their responsibility in tackling this, the APVMA have approved six emergency permit uses of chemicals.
We are currently assessing as we speak at the moment to support NSW efforts in this. I hear the interjections and the question before about Adam Marshall, the minister for NSW agriculture, and it was fitting only yesterday we had a ministerial council meeting of agricultural ministers.
Mr Marshall did not turn up. And no other minister even raised the mice plague because there is an understanding and an appreciation that this is their responsibility. They are sovereign governments with the responsibility and the resources to deal with it, but we will support them.
We will support them with things like Farm Household Allowance, the APVMA. There will be more mice plagues and more mice plagues and locust plagues. Since federation our states have done the job and the NSW government has stood up and done the job. We should congratulate the NSW government for getting on with their responsibility, not passing a buck, doing the job, investing in $150m in solving the problem, partnering with the commonwealth in the science and us and giving us the dignity and respect to our farmers in their hour of need.
In case the ‘just how much does Michael McCormack not know’ exercise from Labor isn’t making this clear, McCormack falls back on very old media training techniques – don’t know the answer? No worries! Switch the question to something you do know about.
For example, imagine you were asked a question on elephants. And all you know about elephants is they are grey. Just pivot the question until you’re speaking about Fifty Shades of Grey. Simples!
That’s how you go from ‘what are you doing about the mouse plague’ to ‘let’s rehome the mouse plague in the homes of Peta supporters so they can nibble on their children’ in less than three minutes.
Acting PM wants mouse plague 'rehomed' to inner city apartments
Michael McCormack is turning shades of Barnaby in this answer on what the government is doing about the NSW mouse plague. It’s very disconcerting to see on one so usually beige it’s hard to spot him against the parliament walls.
Strap in. This one goes places.
The NSW agriculture minister said about the horrific mouse plague, it is incredibly disappointing to hear the commonwealth admit they have no national response and throw their hands up as our regions face this problem. Why is the Morrison-McCormack government abandoning farmers when they need them the most?
We are looking after farmers when they need us to look after them most. If you haven’t realised, we have signed a historic UK-Australia free trade agreement that is going to look after farmers*.
(*There was no mention of trade in the question, for what it’s worth)
The question was very specific. And it wasn’t about trade.
The question also asked about what are we doing for farmers and we’re doing a lot for farmers and we will always be the party, the parties for farmers, the Nationals and the Liberals will always protect the interests of farmers*.
(*Except if they butt up against the interests of miners)
And indeed I have spoken to Adam Marshall, the agriculture minister in NSW on many occasions and we stand ready to assist in any way we can. Provided, of course, he puts the request in.
But I have to say, have you been to north-west NSW, shadow agriculture minister, and seen the devastation caused by it? It might behove you not to come into this place and you move your motions*, smiling all the way about these farmers who are doing it very, very tough at the moment. And I live in a community where they are ravaged as well by mice.
*Julie Collins’ motion today have called for the federal government to do something about the mice plague
And there is nothing worse than the stench of mice, nothing worse than having mice eat your grain, mice running around your house, farm and factory. And we have Peta coming out, and I didn’t hear the member for Melbourne disendorsing them* saying the poor little curious creatures, the mice, should be rehomed.
(*There are a lot of things McCormack has not ‘disendorsed’ including QAnon, and the insurrectionists, so not sure this is the strongest argument)
I agree they should be rehomed, into their inner city apartments so they can nibble away at their food and their feet at night and scratch their children at night. This is a disgrace by Peta. We always stand ready to help our farmers and the APVMA [Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority], they are considering a request for certain pesticides and herbicides. To the bait.
But the trouble with that bait is that it also does have secondary influences on native birds and other animals, pets around the house and indeed livestock. That’s what we don’t want to see.
What we would always do is take the best possible advice. In this case the APVMA.
Farmers know who their friends are. The friends are on this side of the House. Farmers always know, farmers always know.
And this has always been – Adam Marshall? States have always known these sorts of things are the remit of states, are the remit of states.
They are addressing the issue. They’ve added $150m to their original plan to support those mice ravaged farmers. I’m sure the NSW Coalition government will go on supporting farmers and if we’re requested for any assistance we will take it into consideration.
Josh Frydenberg managed to out-McCormack McCormack by getting rebuked in about 1.5 seconds by beginning an answer to a Jim Chalmers question with “I thank the shadow of a shadow treasurer for his question”.
He is made to immediately withdraw the remark.
Dan Tehan is now reading out his own herograms in his dixer answer.
A dixer is a question written by the minister’s own office. As are the answers. So Tehan’s office just wrote a question so Tehan could read praise of Tehan (by name) into the parliamentary record.
Why do we even need satire?
We are back to ‘how much does Michael McCormack not know’, and this time it is on the vaccine rollout.
As of today, less than 3% of Australians are fully vaccinated against Covid. And will all Australians who wish to be vaccinated be fully vaccinated?
I’m going to ask the health minister to add to my remarks, but there’s more than 6m vaccinations have already been done. That figure was reached this week. And only yesterday I spoke with someone from DHL, whose company is transporting via trucks the vaccinations right around regional Australia. That’s significant. More than 24m kilometres DHL have travelled to make sure those vaccinations reached regional destinations.
I’m very proud to say the Royal Flying Doctor Service – and I acknowledge the regional health minister and the involvement he had in this – is making sure those vaccinations get out to remote communities. Eighty communities, 30,000 people. I’ll ask the health minister to add to my remarks.
Hunt, for the record, also does not answer the question:
Our expectation and our objective is to ensure every Australian who seeks to be vaccinated is given that access this year. That remains our intention and that likelihood continues to strengthen.
In the worst of all timelines, it is just back-to-back Michael McCormack ‘answers’.
Today that includes the acting prime minister proving he has the imagination of a 1950s failed ad man. Here he is on the trade deal:
It’s 10 out of 10 for what happened at Number 10, Downing Street that is.
Anthony Albanese to Michael McCormack:
Won’t Australia’s lowest paid workers always be worse off under the Morrison government?
The acting prime minister lasts all of two seconds before being rebuked:
Under the Labor government, 17% funding cuts to the Fair Work Ombudsman ...
The acting prime minister. I’ll just say to the acting prime minister he wasn’t asked about alternatives. He was asked several questions, I have to say, several questions. And certainly the last of those is very open-ended but he needs to be relevant to the question. The acting prime minister has the call.
The relevance in this question, Mr Speaker, relates to jobs, relates to workers. And there are more workers in a job now than there ever has been in Australia’s history. The employment numbers are higher now than they have ever been in Australia’s history and that’s a good thing*.
And the Labor opposition should stop talking down the economy. The Labor opposition needs to talk the economy up.
*The monthly employment is higher (that only takes in Australians), the quarterly employment (which also takes in foreign workers) is not
The acting prime minister can resume his seat. The leader of the opposition on a point of order.
On relevance. The question was about real wages. People being paid the minimum wage. Cuts to penalty rates of wages, wage theft. It’s all about wages and the fact that this government is seeing real wages go back ...
The unemployment rate is lower now, lower now than when it was pre-pandemic. And wages are important. Yes. And the important thing too, obviously, the important thing too. Thank you for the acknowledgement ...
People want work. They want hope. They want aspiration and they are getting it under the Liberals and Nationals. Indeed, prior to the onset of Covid-19, the economy was on a very, very strong foundation.
The government had delivered more than, wait for it, 1.5 million jobs. And wages relate to jobs. Wages relate to jobs. I tell you what, I’ll sooner have a job than be unemployed. The best form of welfare is a job. In regional Australia at the moment there are 67,500 jobs, 67,500 jobs as identified by the Regional Australia Institute.
They’re not just in orchards, they’re not just in boning rooms of meat processing plants, they are in health, they are in education, they are in law firms, accountancy practices, they are good well-paying jobs at the moment in regional Australia.
But right across the nation we are putting in place the policies, as per the budget last October, as per the budget on May 11, to incentivise employers to hire people. To pay them the wages. And we are under the same wage structure as those that the system that was set up under – Labor. Under Labor. And under Labor the Fair Work Ombudsman’s office had its staffing slashed, had its funding slashed. Treasury forecasted the unemployment rate to reach 7.5% in the March quarter 2021. And now budget 2021-22 sees the unemployment rate reaching 5% by June quarter 2022. There are other countries in the world which would love to have those figures. Jobs figures will be outlaid this week, and the treasurer will have more to say about that, but it will be very positive.
He finally sits down.
Before I call the next question, the acting prime minister will cease interjecting.
Question time begins
This probably sums it up best so far.
Just give me a moment to work through all of that.
It just started randomly raining in Canberra.
Obviously I am not the only one dreading QT.
Get ready for QT – it’ll begin in just under 10 minutes.
I’m just stocking up on sanity in preparation.
Labor’s Mark Butler is not messing around.
This was from his doorstop a little earlier today:
Q: Are you concerned about a shortage of Pfizer doses in Victoria, given that bookings have now been stopped?
We’re seeing and hearing some very concerning stories about people wanting to get vaccinated in Victoria. There’s obviously been a big call from the Victorian government to get vaccinated as quickly as possible, and yet people are not able to get into a clinic because there’s not enough supply of Pfizer from the commonwealth. The Victorians have really lifted here. We’ve seen over the last several days that of the nation’s vaccinations, 35 to 40% of them are from Victoria. That’s how committed the Victorian community has shown itself to be, but unfortunately, they can’t get the supply from the commonwealth that they need.
Q: Do you know for a fact that the commonwealth supply hasn’t arrived?
When clinics are saying to patients who want to be vaccinated, we don’t have enough Pfizer, and the commonwealth was responsible for receiving the Pfizer and then distributing it, it’s pretty obvious who’s at fault.
Sussan Ley is wrapping up her press club Q and A.
We’ll have a story on that for you very soon.
Looks like there has been a tied vote in the House on a motion to have companies that made a profit while receiving jobkeeper pay it back, meaning Tony Smith had to use his casting vote.
(Tradition means the Speaker’s casting vote is used to uphold the status quo, so in this case, no changes.)
The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, moved the original motion (which had been passed in the Senate) (which Stuart Robert then amended to have it disagreed to) and the resulting vote saw a 72-72 tie, with Labor voting with the Greens – along with the entire crossbench, which included Bob Katter and Craig Kelly.
That’s as close to a win as it can come on the numbers in the House.
Calla Wahlquist has sent through Western Australia’s Covid update.
The Department of Health has reported one new case of Covid-19 overnight in WA – a man, in his 50s, recently returned from overseas and is in hotel quarantine.
The state’s total is now 1,020.
WA Health is monitoring two active cases of Covid-19, while 1,009 people have recovered from the virus in WA.
Yesterday, 722 people were swabbed at WA Health Covid clinics.
There have been 1,247,137 Covid-19 tests performed in WA. Of those, 159,152 were from regional WA.
Western Australians have responded positively following the state government’s decision to provide people 30 to 49 years with access to Covid-19 vaccinations.
Almost 106,000 people have booked a vaccination appointment with WA Health since the announcement on 8 June. Information about vaccine eligibility and bookings is available at HealthyWA.
This story from Paul Karp is very interesting, particularly given the ‘rule of law’ response we have heard from the prime minister recently.
The Department of Home Affairs has responded to the Australian Human Rights commission report into the Covid risk in Australia’s immigration detention centres.
It has disagreed with five of the recommendations, including one of the main ones, which was reducing the number of people in the detention centres, to lower the risk and allow for more social distancing.
But here is what the department had to say about the reduced capacity recommendations:
The Department acknowledges the Commission’s concerns regarding capacity within IDFs.
The Department notes recommendations two, and disagrees with recommendations three and four, maintaining that IDF infrastructure supports both the ongoing health and welfare needs of detainees, and the good order and safety of the facility, including during COVID-19.
The priority for the Australian Border Force (ABF) is the health and safety of all detainees and staff. The ABF’s approach is informed through advice from the Medical Officers of the Commonwealth, State/Territory health departments and the Communicable Diseases Network Australia (CDNA) Guidelines for the prevention, control and public health management of COVID-19 outbreaks in correctional and detention facilities in Australia.
As at 5 May 2021, no detainee has contracted COVID-19 across the immigration detention network. This continues to reassure the Department that measures enforced to manage COVID-19 risks across the network are working.
The Department promotes flexible management of the capacity of each detention facility due to the changing requirements of the individuals detained in each IDF. Facilities also maintain some flexibility in their capacities, including for contingency arrangements should an event occur such as a COVID-19 outbreak.
Whilst preferable, it is not possible for all detainees to have single bedrooms and private bathrooms. The CDNA Guidelines do not require detainees to have single bedrooms, except in the case of individuals who are confirmed or suspect cases.
The Department has measures in place to enable detainees to stay appropriately distanced from other people, especially in common areas. The health service provider monitors, reviews and reports on vulnerable detainees in immigration detention, and refers to the CDNA criteria for being ‘at risk’ as well other factors, including age and gender when establishing care and placement.
To maintain an appropriate network balance from a capacity perspective, and where operationally possible, network rebalancing transfers occur. This rebalancing prevents capacity issues at IDFs, and also facilitates moves for the good order and safety of the network.
State border closures due to COVID-19 have at times presented challenges and delayed network rebalancing however, the number of detainees accommodated at each facility remains lower than the operating capacity
Essentially, what Brett Sutton is saying there is we have nowhere near enough people fully vaccinated yet.
And the community in Australia, by and large, seems to have become used to low case numbers.
Which, bringing a long story short, means Australia will be closed off to the world for some time to come.
Victoria’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, is asked about “learning to live with” the Covid virus and says:
Look, learning to live with this virus has been interpreted in different ways. If learning to live with that means that we just had normal settings and we don’t worry about how we manage an epidemic increase in cases, we will see tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands. Even with 60 plus per cent of people in the UK with one vaccine, they are looking at 17,000 cases now.
They are wondering if they are going into a third wave with the 60,000 cases per day that they had in their third wave.
So we can manage this down to zero and I think we absolutely should because that will give us the assurance that we can actually ease our way of living in a way that gives us confidence of being safe.
We’re now on the downhill slide to question time for another edition of Labor’s new favourite game ‘how much does acting prime minister Michael McCormack not know?’.
Don’t expect a huge amount of answers (but then again, never expect answers in question time).
You can read more on the planned move, which was announced this morning, here with Amanda Meade:
Paul Fletcher has welcomed the ABC’s announcement that 300 staff will be moved into the broadcaster’s Parramatta office (he leaves out in this statement that the ABC has staff and offices all over the country, including regional and rural areas which are not serviced by other media outlets. It’s not as though everyone is in Ultimo, and no other community is being serviced, but anyway).
I have consistently advocated for our national broadcasters to examine relocating their facilities to Western Sydney.
Today the majority of the ABC’s staff are located in Ultimo, in Sydney’s inner west.
The ABC needs to serve all Australians. But Sydney is not Australia and Ultimo is not Sydney.
I welcome today’s announcement that the ABC will move up to 300 staff to Parramatta. This is a good first step.
Parramatta will be a considerably more convenient location for people who live in many parts of Sydney that today are underrepresented at the ABC, particularly Western Sydney.
More diversity of people will mean more diversity of opinion amongst ABC staff and journalists, and any objective observer would agree that can only be a good thing.
The ABC has editorial and operational independence and decisions on property matters such as this are matters for ABC board and management.
The UK High Commissioner, Vicki Treadell has also responded to the in-principle agreement to the free trade agreement between Australia and the UK:
This is a historic moment in the UK and Australia relationship. Our two Prime Ministers have reached an ‘Agreement in Principle’ towards our first ever bespoke Free Trade Agreement, and there is no better country for us to reach this agreement with than Australia.
It’s a big step forward, but there is work yet to do to finalise a Free Trade Agreement. We will continue to work with our Aussie mates to finalise and implement the deal which will reduce the cost of doing business for both economies, create new opportunities and new jobs.”
Back to the Melbourne press conference, the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, explains why the Covid test for Melbourne ski resorts is being put in place:
It is defined to those Alpine resort regions. It relates to the fact that the industry has to be protected.
We need to make sure there are no cases that go up on the mountain.
Even though the number in metro Melbourne, it may be tiny. A single case infectious on the mountain would be a potential super spreader event.
It is essentially how it spread across Europe in March last year. It has been demonstrated in resorts like Aspen and other West Coast Canadian towns. Significant clusters have occurred because of those combinations that I have talked about – indoors, post exertion, not wearing masks, being with strangers, and the combination of cold and humidity coming together. It makes a high-risk environment. It is a small thing to help manage that significant risk.
We’ve been reporting on the legal battle between ClubsNSW and its former employee, Troy Stolz, who blew the whistle on money laundering through poker machines.
ClubsNSW is pursuing Stolz through the federal court for an alleged breach of confidentiality, and is seeking to obtain his communications with two journalists and independent MP Andrew Wilkie.
Stolz, meanwhile, is suing for unfair dismissal. Stolz says the case has financially ruined him, with more than $600,000 in legal fees, and an order that he cover ClubsNSW’s costs.
Tim Costello, chief advocate with the Alliance for Gambling Reform, has issued a statement saying the case would be “yet another deterrent for whistleblowers”.
“Mr Stolz was standing up for our community when he blew the whistle on this abject failure to prevent money laundering, acknowledged in ClubsNSW’s own internal documents,” Costello said.
“Now he is at risk of losing his house for doing the right thing. This is an absolute disgrace, and a chilling example of how powerful the gambling industry is, and the lengths it will go to to ensure it protects its profits.”
The nation’s attorneys-general have come together for ‘an extraordinary meeting’ (which is just a fancy way of saying out of schedule).
Here is Michaelia Cash’s take:
An extraordinary Meeting of Attorneys-General progressed a number of key reforms focused on the Respect@Work report, coercive control and criminal justice response to sexual assault.
Led by Australian Attorney-General, Michaelia Cash, the meeting brought together Attorneys-General from states and territories.
“I called for this additional Meeting of Attorneys-General so that we could come together and continue to progress the significant work being done in a range of areas across jurisdictions,” the Attorney-General said.
Key outcomes included:
· Progressing the implementation of a number of recommendations of the Respect@Work report
· Agreeing to co-design national principles to develop a common understanding of coercive control and consider matters in relation to criminalisation
· Working together to develop a plan of work on criminal justice responses to sexual assault.
The Attorney-General said the meeting advanced proposals critical to keeping women safe.
“We know we must do more to tackle violence against women and children,” she said.
“That is why I called this extraordinary meeting to progress the work on strengthening our justice system to help victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment and coercive control.
“This is a matter of national importance and it needs a national response.
“I would like to thank jurisdictions for their participation and the work that the states and territories are doing to ensure these critical issues are addressed,” the Attorney-General said.
No football crowds in Melbourne but some in Geelong
And to the football.
I know that football is something on a lot of people’s minds, while we can’t have the crowds back in Melbourne just yet, we will be able to get some people along to the games in Geelong on Friday.
We will work with the AFL and clubs to allow a crowd of up to 7000 people from the regions.
Masks no longer required outdoors in Victoria
James Merlino continues:
The 25km limit on your travel will be removed.
Public gatherings will allow up to 12 people, and gatherings in the home are permitted with up to two visitors in a home per day, plus dependents.
Businesses can reopen including gyms, indoor entertainment venues and electronic gaming.
Venues will be able to access decreased patron caps, including restaurants, cafe is, religious settings and entertainment venues.
Hospitality venues can host up to 25 people before applying the density quota, which is great for small venues.
The rule that if you can work from home you should work from home remains but office workers will be able to return up to 50%, or up to 20 people, whichever is greater.
Competition and community support can return. There is no limit on travel for sport and Victoria.
That is county competition for juniors and adults.
Masks are no longer required outdoors, however it is still recommended when you cannot maintain at least 1.5m of distance to others. Everyone must continue to wear them indoors, whether it is shopping, on a train or at a workplace. For regional Victoria, from 11:59pm tomorrow, public gatherings will be increased to 50 people.
Restaurants and cafes can open to a maximum of 300 patrons per venue for seated service.
Smaller venues can host up to 25 people before any density quotation applies, or they can use density of two people per two square metres up to 50 patrons.
Religious ceremonies capped at 300 for the venue. Funerals to 100 people.
Weddings limited to 50 people. Office caps increased to 75%, or 30 people, whichever is greater.
Visitors to the home will be limited to five adults per day plus dependents.
We want to keep regional Victoria free of this virus, which is why the public team have recommended stronger settings for Metropolitan Melbourne as extra protection as we run down these remaining cases.
For example, for Melburnians travelling to the snow at this season, a requirement for everyone to get a covid test within 72 hours of departing for Victoria’s Alpine resorts.
Restrictions to ease in Victoria
The acting premier, James Merlino, is up and giving the daily update – and it is good news. The 25km travel limit will be removed.
We know that since the pandemic started, distance has been one of the hardest things to live with, distance from our neighbours, workplaces, places we love and people we love.
We know it has been for a reason, keeping our distance. We have kept ourselves and others to save.
Victoria is at its best when we are altogether. We have waiting to see those people and places that we love, which is why I am very pleased to confirm that on the advice of the Chief Health Officer, the metropolitan border and the 25 kilometre limit will be removed, and the state will come back together from 11.59pm tomorrow night.
Gas is a fossil fuel. In case you needed reminding.
The Victorian press conference will be at 12.15pm.
We’ll let you know what is happening with restrictions as soon as we can.
It seems Labor’s Andrew Giles has heard the Karen Andrews interview we alerted you to a little earlier this morning about the detained Biloela family.
In the Brisbane radio interview, Andrews casts doubt on how ill four-year-old Tharnicaa was, saying there had been “inaccurate” reporting about the girl’s condition.
Tharnicaa remains in hospital, under medical care.
A scheduled hearing date for Frank Zumbo, the long-serving staffer of federal MP Craig Kelly, has been pushed back from the end of June.
Zumbo was charged earlier this month with 18 offences, including seven counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to allegations made by three women and a teenage girl.
He initially had a hearing scheduled for the end of this month on 29 June.
The Department of Public Prosecutions this morning applied to have the hearing date vacated, and it was granted.
Zumbo did not appear in Sutherland Local Court this morning.
Zumbo’s lawyer said that multiple days would be needed for any eventual hearing, and that a “member of parliament” may testify as a witness.
He also said there could be extra days before the hearing to rule on the admissibility of evidence.
The magistrate said a brief of evidence needed to be filed by 8 August.
Adam Bandt has responded to Michael McCormack’s latest verbal malfunction after the acting prime minister said the Greens “want to destroy the social fabric of society”:
The Australian Human Rights Commission has released a report into the lack of action protecting people Australia has locked up in immigration detention from the covid risk.
David Burke, the Legal Director with the Human Rights Law Centre, said none of this should come as news to the government:
The report released today highlights serious failings in the Morrison Government’s management of COVID-19 risk in immigration detention. The Commission found that overcrowding and inadequate facilities like shared bedrooms and bathrooms do not allow for physical distancing and would increase the risk of rapid transmission in the event of an outbreak.
The Commission also found that many people have been subjected to ‘prison-like’ isolation in circumstances where quarantine may not have been medically necessary. People were held in sparse rooms used for solitary confinement for 14 days regardless of symptoms or testing. The Commission found that this routine practice was a disproportionate restriction of basic rights.
Earlier this week, the Geelong Advertiser reported two sailors walked off their ship docked at the Geelong port, gave border control the slip and entered the community.
In the Senate today, Linda Reynolds confirmed the sailors had taken their passports before leaving the ship. But other than that, the government has been very quiet on the issue.
Kristina Keneally and Tony Sheldon asked Reynolds, who is representing the home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, about it in the Senate this morning.
In relation to the detail of the incident that you raised of The Glorious Plumeria, the two crew that deserted over the weekend are Vietnamese nationals, and at approximately 10 o’clock yesterday, ABF, VicPol and DHHS were notified that these two members were unaccounted for during their morning crew muster.
ABF officers boarded the vessel to conduct the master’s questionnaire and relevant ship search at approximately midday – just after midday – and ABF officers cancelled, or ceased, the crew members’ visas.
The master advised the ABF that the crew were in possession of their passports, which the crew had obtained from the master’s cabin where the passports has been secured, and the master advised that one of the missing crew cleans the master’s cabin daily, and noted that that was likely how he had obtained the two passports.
Now, investigations remain ongoing, and, Senator Keneally, your concern at the time it took the ABF to get back to the Geelong Advertiser is noticed, but I would also note that their primary responsibility is to do exactly what they did yesterday – is to work with VicPol and other relevant authorities to investigate this.
The phrase “former butcher” is doing a lot of understated work here in this AAP story on a new Senate inquiry into plant-based ‘meat’ products, which Queensland Senator Susan McDonald has set up.
McDonald used to head up Beef Australia, and before politics she ran the Queensland butcher chain Super Butcher. Her family is one of the biggest property owners in Australia and their cattle business goes back six generations – you can’t think beef in Queensland, without thinking of the McDonalds.
Nationals senator Susan McDonald has launched an inquiry into food labelling laws as the Australian red meat industry seeks to protect the provenance of its products.
The former butcher said it was up to makers of non-meat products to come up with their own distinct terms instead of piggybacking off long-established animal proteins like mince and sausages.
“Just like winemakers wanting exclusive use of some wine names, I feel strongly that our Aussie red meat industry should have sole use of product names that have meant only one thing for centuries,” she said.
...The inquiry will investigate the economic effects of non-animal protein marketing on Australia’s red meat industry.
It will also examine the legality of using livestock imagery on vegan products, and the health benefits of non-animal protein manufacturing processes.
“If you prefer tofu over T-bone, then you go for it but forget the ethics of eating animal products, this is about protecting a highly valuable industry and also providing a clear distinction between the real thing and the alternatives so consumers know exactly what they’re getting,” Senator McDonald said.
The Department of Public Prosecutions has applied to have a hearing date for Frank Zumbo, the long-serving staffer of federal MP Craig Kelly, to be vacated.
The hearing was initially scheduled for the end of this month on 29 June.
Zumbo’s lawyer has told Sutherland Local Court that the prosecutor and the DPP have applied to vacate the hearing. He earlier told the court that he does not “object strongly”.
Zumbo did not appear in court this morning. He was charged earlier this month with 18 offences, including seven counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to allegations made by three women and a teenage girl.
The DPP’s application was given to Zumbo’s lawyer on 11 June, he said.
If you haven’t already, you really should look at Australia’s labour supply and who we expect to keep our industries running – and at what cost.
The Australian Workers’ Union has criticised the Asean agricultural visa concession the Nationals have won, in place of British backpackers, who will no longer have to do three months of farm work to extend their Australian visa.
In a statement, AWU National Secretary Daniel Walton said:
Scott Morrison and Boris Johnson have decided it’s wrong for Brits to be exposed to exploitation and abuse on Australian farms, but apparently it’s okay for Southeast Asians.
Johnson rightly told Morrison he needed to scrap the 88-day requirement for Brits to work on Australian farms, because they were being routinely exploited and abused. They’re not alone — citizens from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, and many others have raised similar concerns. But now David Littleproud is telling Southeast Asians to come on down for the same treatment. It’s shameless, stupid, and immoral.
Mr Littleproud claims Australians ‘can’t be incentivised to have a crack at these jobs’. Absolute garbage. Every day Australians wake up and do much tougher and more unpleasant jobs than fruit picking.
They can be incentivised to do those jobs with decent pay and conditions that protect them from abuse. If the government goes ahead with this abhorrent proposal, exploitation and abuse on Australian farms will explode. And it’s already so bad it warrants a Royal Commission.
Aside from the humanity, this is also economically boneheaded. At a time when we desperately need to be putting upward pressure on Australian wages, the government decides to introduce a scheme that allows one sector to aggressively drive down the pay that should be circulating in regional economies.
Swimming Australia has given a reminder to the sport’s community that it takes “all allegations seriously” and clarified how to lodge a complaint.
Following crisis talks on Tuesday, the sport’s governing body sent an email on Wednesday morning to all stakeholders, having conceded it “could have done better”in facilitating complaints from athletes.
It comes after Maddie Groves reportedly contacted Swimming Australia on Tuesday evening, marking the first time the two parties have been in touch since the Olympic medal winner lit the touch paper on the controversy engulfing the sport with a series of tweets last week, in which she alleged there were “misogynistic perverts” in the sport.
All those involved in swimming – athletes, coaches, officials, clubs and member associations – are bound by Swimming Australia’s Safe Sport Framework, which aims to protect stakeholders from abusive behaviour.
Under the policy, a formal complaint must be made for an issue to be investigated.
“If you have an issue, either now or historical, this is a reminder of the procedure for reporting an issue,” Lydia Dowse, Swimming Australia’s head of integrity and risk, wrote.
“Together with our CEO Alex Baumann and our board of directors, I urge anyone with a complaint to formalise it. We have a commitment to our community to see this process through properly.”
For allegations of child abuse, sexual misconduct or serious criminal conduct, the first port of call is Swimming Australia. Complaints can also be made independently to the Australian Institute of Sport or Sport Integrity Australia, the email said.
Swimming Australia said Baumann and president Kieren Perkins would meet with Groves, and that it was “looking forward to having this constructive conversation”, according to Nine newspapers.
This, from Donna Lu and Melissa Davey, is worth a read if you haven’t got around to it already:
Home affairs minister says some media reports about Tharnicaa’s medical condition 'inaccurate'
The home affairs minister, Karen “compassion comes in many forms” Andrews spoke to Brisbane radio 4BC this morning, where she had a bit to say about Tharnicaa’s medical condition.
Andrews wants to “correct the record” about just how ill the just-turned four-year-old actually was. Tharnicca remains in hospital.
Karen Andrews: “What I can say is a lot of the reporting about the illness the child is suffering from is inaccurate. So, let’s just proceed on the basis that ..
Host: “That she’s not that sick?”
Andrews: “I can’t answer anything that would give details of this child’s medical condition other than to say a lot of the reporting has been inaccurate. So suffice to say she is in hospital ...”
Host: “That she doesn’t have pneumonia or sepsis?”
The illness the child is suffering and is in hospital for has been well and truly treated in the advice I have been given.
So I need to leave it at that but I do need to correct the record to a point. Because some of the reporting has been very inaccurate, she remains in hospital and continues to get treatment and that is a good thing and I have no issues with that.
Andrews says the Australian Border Force has been unfairly treated throughout the process.
Andrews doesn’t know when Tharnicca will be released from hospital. In my experience, doctors don’t tend to keep healthy children in hospital, but sure, go off minister.
You can find the whole interview, here
The lawyer for Frank Zumbo, the long-serving staffer of federal MP Craig Kelly, has appeared before court this morning in Sutherland.
Zumbo was charged this month with 18 offences, including seven counts of aggravated indecent assault relating to allegations made by three women and a teenage girl.
Zumbo’s lawyer asked that the court be closed to observers and media, because the charges relate to a person under 18 years old.
He also said that there had been an application to vacate.
“I don’t have instructions to consent to the application, but I could indicate that I won’t object strongly,” he said.
The registrar said he was not ready to consider the matter yet, and it will be heard later today.
Foreign influence transparency scheme is constitutional
The high court has upheld the validity of Australia’s foreign influence transparency scheme, designed to disclose foreign influence in domestic politics.
The scheme was challenged by LibertyWorks, the organiser of the Australian Conservative Political Action Conference in Australia, on the basis it infringes the implied freedom of political communication.
On Wednesday five justices of the court upheld the validity of the scheme, finding it did not infringe the implied freedom of political communication, and ordered LibertyWorks to pay the commonwealth’s costs.
In separate judgments, justices Stephen Gageler and Michelle Gordon dissented, with the latter finding the scheme is invalid to the extent it applies to communication activity and should be read down to require registration only for activities designed to influence the government.
The foreign influence scheme, launched in December 2018, requires individuals or entities to register if they are conducting lobbying, communications activity, or making payments on behalf of a foreign principal for the purpose of political or governmental influence.
The scheme was introduced as part of a package largely directed at the influence of China in Australia, but put conservatives offside when the attorney general’s department investigated whether LibertyWorks and former prime minister Tony Abbott should have to register.
There was just a major ruckus in the House after something Peter Dutton said as an interjection.
Julie Collins was trying to move a motion to suspend standing orders on the mouse plague (and asking the acting prime minister to come in and explain why nothing has been done, federally)
Dutton, as leader of the House, jumped up to say Collins had never been to a farm, setting the stage for a combative division.
The House divided and for the next few minutes, there was heckling across the chamber about “slurs” and who had been on a farm.
The division continued and then Dutton appeared to say something across the chamber, which caused Tanya Plibersek to say “What? What?” repeatedly.
“Withdraw it you grub,” someone from the Labor benches said.
Tony Burke asks for Dutton to withdraw the interjection, and Anthony Albanese adds “and apologise”.
Dutton denies he made an unparliamentary remark. Burke says “it is in the interest of the House that family members are not brought into the debate. No one wants us to change that principle, it should simply be withdrawn.”
Tony Smith says he didn’t hear it. Dutton denies he made an unparliamentary remark.
Labor is absolutely furious.
Does parliament even happen if the motion to remove Andrew Laming from his committee role isn’t defeated?
Greens want to 'destroy the social fabric of society', says acting PM
In 10 minutes of my life I will never get back, I just watched Michael McCormack on Sky News (fun fact, you can skip ahead to any point of a McCormack interview and it still makes as much sense if you listened to it straight through).
And of course, even during a trade deal interview, he can’t help but take a swipe at the Greens.
For ... reasons (it’s not easy, being beige).
We don’t things just to annoy the Greens, although I think the Greens annoy the hell out of everybody.
I mean I’ve yet have yet to ever see them, condemn the Extinction Rebellion protests, I’m yet to ever see them exalt what our farmers do.
They want to take all the water away from our irrigation producers, they want to upturn communities in a way that has never been there before.
They want to destroy the social fabric of society. That’s why, that’s why I sit in the Nationals.
That’s why I’m in the Coalition. We always back our farmers.
It’s nice that the National party leader has taken time out of his busy coal-promoting schedule to remember he also represents farmers.
Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop now has her own Barbie doll.
But there is other Julie Bishop news which should probably be getting a bit more attention:
Not everyone in the Labor party is in raptures over the UK free trade deal.
Speaking of Arena, Angus Taylor has announced a new funding trial for the fund:
From the release:
The Morrison government is funding a study that will investigate the feasibility of using renewable hydrogen instead of natural gas to process alumina, helping to reduce emissions across the aluminium supply chain.
The government will provide up to $579,786 through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) to support a trial being undertaken by Rio Tinto.
Rio Tinto’s study will explore the viability of hydrogen-fuelled calcination technology for use at its Yarwun alumina refinery in Gladstone, Queensland, in a move that could help decarbonise its alumina refining operations. The site currently relies on natural gas to generate the high temperatures needed to turn bauxite into alumina in the calcination process.
Alumina refining accounts for approximately 24 per cent of Australia’s direct, non-electricity (scope 1) manufacturing emissions, or 14 million tonnes annually.
If feasible, the technology has the potential to significantly reduce emissions from the energy-intensive industry and lock in its long-term future.
Sussan Ley will be at the press club today speaking on what the government is doing to protect the environment.
Keith Pitt will also give a speech today, which takes aim at environmental groups which push back against the fossil fuel industry.
As Katharine Murphy reports:
Australia’s resources minister, Keith Pitt, is urging oil and gas producers to turn the “spotlight” on environmental groups campaigning against an expansion of the fossil fuel industry on climate change grounds.
Pitt will use a speech to the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Perth on Wednesday to rail against “activism” that “ignores the fact that resources development in Australia is carried out safely and responsibly and that Australia’s economy was built off the back of the resources sector”.
According to speech notes circulated by his office in advance, the resources minister will declare it is “clear that the courts and bureaucratic processes are being used by green activists to delay major projects and potentially cripple companies”.
Alex Antic continued:
Now, 63% of South Australians rejected the introduction of a late-term abortion bill in February 2021, yet South Australian state parliament passed that bill to allow abortion to the moment of birth. Christians are Australians too. They make up 52% of our population, and they deserve a voice inside the machinery of politics.
In fact, it was Sir Robert Menzies, who was himself a Christian, who, in 1960, said: If I were, as I am not, an atheist or an agnostic or some other such unhappy person I would still take the Bible with me to a desert island for two reasons.
One, that I would have a noble piece of literature to accompany me and two, because given ample opportunity to study it I might cease to be an atheist or an agnostic. Christians should neither exclude themselves nor be excluded from party politics, as was the case in South Australia last week.
The Christian faith values family, industriousness, community and justice – the very same values that are held dear by the centre right of politics in this country.
So, to the Christian community of South Australia, I want to apologise for the events of last week. There are many like-minded people in South Australian politics, like myself, who value you, your communities and your contributions to our state.
If we are to ensure that Australia remains a truly inclusive democracy, then Christians cannot be allowed to be thrown to the lions in the area of politics anymore. Menzies would be appalled.
Keep an eye on that one.
South Australian senator Alex Antic is continuing to wage his war against members of his own state branch within the federal Senate.
The South Australian Liberals is having a moment – there is a legal battle brewing over the decision to terminate the membership of about 150 people, while issuing show cause notices to another 400, amid allegations of branch stacking. Conservatives claim it is a push against Pentecostal Christians.
It’s created a divide in the federal party as well, pitting moderate SA Liberals – such as Simon Birmingham against conservatives, like Nicolle Flint and Antic.
Now it is spilling into the parliament. Here was Antic last night:
I rise this evening to speak in relation to the need to ensure that Australia’s democracy remains a pluralistic, liberal and inclusive democracy which values freedom of thought, worship, association and speech as fundamental rights. There has been much interest in the media regarding a story about people of the Christian faith being denied membership of the Liberal party in South Australia this week. I don’t support this decision.
In my view, it sets an undemocratic and dangerous precedent in politics and says to the world at large that exclusion of Christians is OK.
But there is a much larger proposition at play here, and it’s one that is worth considering. The first organised Roman persecution of Christians was ordered by Emperor Nero in 64 AD. He blamed the Christians for the Great Fire of Rome. From the seventh century in the Middle East, large communities of Christians were forbidden to display a cross and were ordered to convert to Islam.
And during the 1920s, pursuant to the orders of Lenin, Christians of the Russian Orthodox Church were targeted. Lenin was seeking to send a blunt message, and remove the religion as a competing doctrine to communism.
And we would be foolish to think that the persecution of Christians is a matter that has been consigned to the history books. Sadly, around the world, that persecution is alive. In fact, so far in 2021, 13 Christians have been killed worldwide for practising their faith; 12 churches and 12 Christians have been attacked.
Now, Australia is a country founded on Judeo-Christian values. Over the past two years, state parliaments across the country have been passing radical social policy laws, laws which many Christians understandably believe are direct attacks on their faith.
Religious freedom is under attack in state parliaments, and is systematically being set aside in favour of a new social-justice identity-politics style of ideology.
In fact, wokeness is beginning to function as the new religion, as the values that have served us well are placed under attack and being forfeited day by day.
The Change or Suppression (Conversion) Practices Prohibition Act recently passed in Victoria represents an attack on religious freedom in the most egregious form in Australian legislative history.
Similar bills have been introduced in Queensland and the ACT, and South Australia is likely to see its own version later in the year. Euthanasia legislation has been passed in Victoria, in New South Wales, in Tasmania and in Western Australia, and a similar bill has just been passed in my home state of South Australia.
Victoria records five new local Covid cases
Two of these cases were reported yesterday. All have been linked.
Residents in a Southbank apartment block have been placed in lockdown as the two cases reported on Tuesday were residents of the complex.
Also last night the government defeated the Labor and Greens motions to stop the Australian Renewable Energy Agency fund being opened up to fossil fuel projects (gas is a fossil fuel).
So the fund set up to fund renewables can now also be used to fund fossil fuel projects.
Here was the vote, in case anyone thought the Liberals fighting for climate change action may have voted differently.
The prime minister’s office had to reissue a transcript last night after it originally credited “preferably” (a fairly important word in the context of this transcript) to the prime minister, when it was actually a journalist who said it.
Here was the original transcript, which was issued at 9.11pm
THE RT HON BORIS JOHNSON MP, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Ah, OK. Well, thank you very much, Bevan. Look, on the climate change ambitions of Australia, I think that Scott has declared for net zero by 2050.
THE HON SCOTT MORRISON MP, PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA: Preferably.
THE RT HON BORIS JOHNSON MP, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Which is a great step forward when you consider the, you know, the situation Australia is in. It’s a massive coal producer. It’s having to change the way things are orientated, and everybody understands that. You can do it fast. When I was, in 2012 this country had 40% of its power from coal. It’s now less than 2%, going down the whole time. So it can happen fast. And I’m impressed by the ambition of Australia. Obviously we’re going to be looking for more the whole time, as we go into COP26 in November. But we want to work with Scott, with Australia, on the clean tech solutions. Because I think what we both strongly believe is that you can have a green industrial revolution that drives high wage, high-skilled jobs. You can do both. And that’s what we’re going to work on together.
And here was the reissued transcript, at 10.11pm:
THE RT HON BORIS JOHNSON MP, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: Ah, OK. Well, thank you very much, Bevan. Look, on the climate change ambitions of Australia, I think that Scott has declared for net zero by 2050 …
THE RT HON BORIS JOHNSON MP, PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM: … which is a great step forward when you consider the, you know, the situation Australia is in. It’s a massive coal producer. It’s having to change the way things are orientated, and everybody understands that. You can do it fast. When I was, in 2012 this country had 40% of its power from coal. It’s now less than 2%, going down the whole time. So it can happen fast. And I’m impressed by the ambition of Australia. Obviously we’re going to be looking for more the whole time, as we go into COP26 in November. But we want to work with Scott, with Australia, on the clean tech solutions. Because I think what we both strongly believe is that you can have a green industrial revolution that drives high wage, high-skilled jobs. You can do both. And that’s what we’re going to work on together.
It is fair to say that the National party is happy with the free trade deal with the UK as there is an agricultural visa concession.
Here was David Littleproud explaining that to the ABC:
This is a concession I was able to achieve with the prime minister to make sure if we were to give that concession to the UK, we not only to the fill the gap but build capacity.
This was one of the conditions we put on this is a part of the National party and I’m pleased to say we’ve been able to achieve this. It’s not something just the National party, but most of the agricultural sector has been asking for.
A designated agricultural visa. This is in addition to the Pacific labour scheme. That’s the gold star [scheme] we want to ramp up. Because the Pacific family is important to us.
But the 10 Asean countries will now be offered this visa to allow their citizens to work here, but must go back to their country-of-origin for at least three months.
Once we can do that in a Covid-safe way, it gives confidence into the future and it’s important to understand the conditions on the UK working holiday-maker piece in agriculture won’t be phased in for five years. But we intend to have this visa up by the end of the year.
You don’t need me to bring you the quotes to know exactly what was said here:
Here is Richard Marles outlining Labor’s border policy.
He points out himself that there is little difference between Labor’s policy and the government’s:
Tap water warning for storm-hit suburbs in Victoria
There is more bad weather forecast for parts of Victoria later in the week (which we are keeping an eye on).
If you were near one of the storm-hit suburbs of Melburne in the past week though, please don’t drink the tap water.
As AAP reports:
Residents of three storm-hit suburbs in Melbourne’s east have been told not to drink tap water until further notice.
The Department of Health issued an urgent warning on Wednesday morning to people who live, work or are in Kallista, Sherbrooke or The Patch not to drink tap water, even if it is boiled, due to contamination.
It is expected the warning will stay in place for at least three days.
“This advice has been issued following an equipment failure at Yarra Valley Water drinking water tank due to recent severe weather,” the warning reads.
“This may result in potentially unsafe water entering the drinking water system and customer taps.”
The department said special care should be taken to not ingest the water when bathing or showering.
Emergency drinking water will be available at the Patch Hall and Kallista Public Hall, though people will need to bring their own bottles, pots and kettles to fill up.
It comes as about 17,000 homes in eastern Victoria remain without power following storms last week.
Two people died in the dangerous conditions.
This is not confirmed as yet (you know the drill) but this looks very promising for Melbourne:
While trade deals can expand markets, they can also bring about fairly major changes to how we live.
Take the 2004 US free trade deal. That included a clause which amended the Therapeutics Goods Act 1984 to make pharmaceutical companies provide a patent certificate, which said whether or not it would “infringe a valid claim of a patent that has been granted in relation to the therapeutic good (being the patented medicine)”.
What that did, was impact on the number of ‘generic’ medications (which have the same active ingredients, but without the brand name). That in turn increased costs. By a lot. Tony Abbott was the health minister when the US-Australia free trade deal was passed.
Tony Abbott was also the prime minister in 2014 when the government announced the costs of the PBS had increased by 80% over the past decade. The PBS has never been the same.
So the devil, with all trade deals, is always in the detail.
Labor’s deputy leader Richard Marles was asked whether the opposition supported the UK free trade deal while having a chat to ABC Breakfast this morning. He said:
It does make sense for us to ultimately be doing a trade agreement with the UK. Obviously, we’ll want to have a look at the detail as it goes through the processes in Canberra but it’s important that we are seeing trade diversification because we need to be having a broader set of international markets than we currently have.
So that seems like a yes.
Welcome to Wednesday!
It’s another day with Michael McCormack sitting in the PM’s chair for question time, which means it is another day of Labor’s new favourite game, “How much does Michael McCormack not know?”
The limit does not exist.
Overnight, Nades and Kopika Murugappan were reunited with Priya and Tharnicaa in Perth. The family will remain in community detention until “outstanding matters” – Tharnicaa’s medical treatment and the family’s court cases, are completed.
After that, if the court cases fail, there is every indication the government will again attempt to deport the family. Or as Alex Hawke termed it, “a removal pathway”. As we noted yesterday, the dehumanising language is back – Hawke also referred to the family as “unlawful non-citizens” and “IMAs” when discussing them yesterday.
Just a reminder that the decision to reunite the family has not solved anything. They remain in detention and there is no pathway for their return to Biloela. What it does do though, is stop much of the outcry which sounded after images of Tharnicaa, in agony after falling ill, being comforted by her older sister were shown around the nation.
Other than being moved from Christmas Island, the family’s position has not changed.
We’ll follow those developments, as well as what is happening in Melbourne, where people are waiting to find out if there will be a further lifting of restrictions. We know there are at least two locally acquired cases in today’s numbers – Martin Foley announced those yesterday. Victorian authorities are taking it as “day by day” proposition, so we’ll bring you those updates as soon as we can.
Scott Morrison is now in France, meeting with Emmanuel Macron after coming to an in-principle agreement with Boris Johnson over the UK free trade deal. The UK Mirror reported the deal was likely to make each UK family “up to” A$2.23 better off each year.
Mike Bowers is on assignment, so you are stuck with me, Amy Remeikis, today. As usual, I will have Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp and Sarah Martin to keep me on the straight and narrow, as well as the entire Guardian brains trust keeping everyone abreast of what is happening outside of Parliament House.
It’s a four-coffee day today. I can feel it in my waters.
So let’s get into it.