What we learned, Monday 17 May
That’s where I will leave you for this evening. Here’s what we learned today:
- The prime minister, Scott Morrison, rebuffed calls for a swifter reopening of the borders, saying Australians understand the government taking a “cautious approach” that will see a gradual easing of restrictions.
- It came as a passenger on board Saturday’s repatriation flight from India tested positive for Covid-19, and Qantas said it was investigating whether rapid testing conducted at the departure gate could have resulted in some false positives that barred people who did not have the virus from returning home.
- At the same time, the majority of Australia’s stranded cricket cohort has returned home after a charter flight carrying the Indian Premier League players, coaches and broadcasters touched down in Sydney on Monday morning.
- The counsel assisting the royal commission into disability care described the Covid-19 rollout in the sector as an “abject failure” after it heard that fewer than 1,000 people with disability in Australia’s residential care facilities have been vaccinated.
- Lawyers for Christian Porter accused the ABC of dragging its feet to avoid a trial date in the former attorney general’s high-stakes defamation case against the national broadcaster.
- Crown Resorts lied to investigators in interviews with the Victorian casino regulator during an investigation into the arrest of 19 staff in China in 2015 over allegations of illegal gambling, a royal commission into the gambling group heard.
While we’ve already heard about the slow vaccine rollout in disability care, new figures show we’re also not doing well with the rest of the population.
The federal health department on Monday released data comparing the availability of vaccine doses, and the number of jabs delivered shows almost a quarter of all available doses of the Covid-19 vaccines are not being used.
Nationally, dose utilisation as of week 12 of the vaccine rollout was 77%.
The Northern Territory had the worst lag of all the jurisdictions, with 47,652 doses available and 22,953 administered, giving it a utilisation rate of just 58%.
Queensland was the worst performing state, with 317,810 doses available and 170,330 delivered – or a usage rate of 64%.
Across the other states and territories rates were: Tasmania (90%), New South Wales (78%), Victoria (77%), Western Australia (80%), South Australia (79%) and the ACT (82%).
The health department found all doses available for the aged and disability care program were being used, while the commonwealth primary care program was at 75% utilisation.
So far, 3.1 million doses have been administered nationally.
Health minister Greg Hunt said some adjustments may be needed in the states and territories.
He told reporters in Melbourne:
We are encouraging all the states and territories - who we believe are doing an excellent job - to continue to use their vaccines.
And where they feel that they have more capacity to open up channels, or where they feel they are using their capacity, to adjust their ordering.
Commodore Eric Young from the Vaccine Operations Centre said utilisation rates dropped when the vaccine program was “recalibrated”.
But the rates were now improving, he said.
A legal challenge to the secrecy of information involved in the prosecution of a lawyer for representing whistleblower Witness K will itself be held in secret.
On Monday, the ACT court of appeal began a two-day hearing of Bernard Collaery’s appeal but closed the court to the public within five minutes due to the requirements of the National Security Information Act.
Paul Karp has the story:
A Tasmanian Labor leadership hopeful says the party needs to “stop the domination of the hard left” in order to be competitive at the next election.
AAP reports that Braddon MP Shane Broad and former deputy David O’Byrne will contest a party ballot for the top job after Rebecca White decided to step down at the weekend.
Labor has been left to lick its wounds after the 1 May state election, with the Liberal government winning a historic third successive term.
Dr Broad, who announced his intention to run for the leadership on Monday, says there is a growing frustration among the party’s moderate voices.
He told ABC radio:
The only way to win votes off the Liberals is from the centre of the political spectrum. That’s why I’m putting my hat in the ring.
There needs to be a rallying cry for the centre of the Labor party to get active and to stop what is the domination of a hard-left faction group of powerbrokers that I believe have delivered three election losses.
It is not known when the ballot of party members and parliamentarians will be held but the process could take weeks. Labor has pledged to undertake a review of its state election performance after the party suffered a swing against it but still retained nine of the 25 lower-house seats.
Broad said he would campaign for federal party intervention, as the left faction had “rewritten party rules” and had “veto power” which prevented moderates getting leadership positions.
I learned a lesson a very long time ago on the school bus: the only way to stand up to bullies is to start swinging.
You might cop a few hits but the bullies will think twice next time.
Labor needed to reconnect with voters who have jumped ship to the Liberals, Broad said, adding the party had to do a better job of defending Tasmania’s traditional industries such as forestry.
O’Byrne, who is considered likely to have the required support, said he welcomed the ballot process.
Braddon MP Anita Dow has been elected as Labor’s new deputy leader and will be acting leader until the ballot.
Labor’s election campaign was riddled with bitter infighting, particularly around the preselection of Franklin candidate Dean Winter, who was initially blocked from running but went on to win a seat.
People who want to connect to the NBN but live in an area where they’re connected by the former Foxtel or Optus cables will be waiting even longer to be connected.
In February, NBN Co paused new connections for hybrid fibre coaxial network areas due to the global chip shortage meaning the company did not have enough supply of modems.
It was originally set to begin resuming taking orders by the end of this month, but the company today informed internet service providers it would be delayed further – to an as-yet-undecided date – because of the chip shortage, and an issue with the company’s new workforce scheduling system that is part of why NBN contractors have been protesting against the company for the past few weeks.
NBN’s chief customer officer, Brad Whitcomb, apologised to people who would not be connected to the NBN until the issues are resolved, saying:
We apologise to new customers that have been waiting to connect to the network. We have worked hard to resolve the supply-chain issues that were affecting the delivery of new HFC modems, and we are sorry for these matters that have created a new delay.
We will continue to communicate our progress and planned recommencement date for HFC new connection orders to internet retailers and customers as soon as possible. We thank retailers and customers for their patience while we work to resolve these outstanding issues.
The former opposition leader – and current shadow minister for disability – Bill Shorten is on the ABC giving the government a serve over the slow rate of vaccination of people with disability in Australia’s residential care facilities.
You can read my colleague Luke Henriques-Gomes’s story below, but today the royal commission into disability has heard that fewer than 1,000 people with disability in Australia’s residential care facilities have been vaccinated, despite authorities saying the rollout would ramp up in late April.
Here’s what Shorten had to say a moment ago:
Why don’t we just say what everyone is thinking. This government is making it up as it goes along. There are people in group homes who, by virtue of their conditions and impairment, are exceedingly vulnerable. So this argument somehow that these are the very healthy people of disability and they can afford to wait – this is the government, like, engineering the plane while it is in the air. They are making it up. They simply have forgotten about people with disabilities.
That shows you what a bunch of robots masquerading as empathetic human beings we’ve got running the government of Australia. I just [want] Greg [Hunt] to think about the people he’s talking about rather than his own defence-blame mechanism.
These are people who can’t leave their own homes. During Covid, which was a very traumatic session, when they have carers who might be sick, they weren’t seen. Let’s just put ourselves in the shoes of the people with disabilities and smarten our act up. If we can do 1,000 athletes, why couldn’t the government have done 10,000 people can disabilities?
Julie Bishop’s aid firm awarded $11m in government contracts
Former foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop’s private aid contractor has been awarded a series of Covid-19 contracts in recent weeks.
After resigning as foreign minister in August 2018 and leaving politics in 2019, Bishop took a position as advisory board chair with Palladium, a major foreign aid contractor, prompting some controversy and criticism from Labor.
Palladium was selected through open tender in September 2018 to act as the government’s humanitarian logistics capability provider, which effectively makes it the go-to company for logistics when Australia needs to deliver foreign aid during emergencies.
The arrangement allows the government to award further work to Palladium without going back to the open market, a system that is intended to speed up the aid response during times of crisis.
In recent weeks, the deal has seen Palladium awarded three contracts worth about $11m to help provide Covid-19 aid to Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and India. Bishop is not understood to have been involved in any way in the procurement process and there is no suggestion she has breached any rules or standards. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Dfat) said all procurement rules were followed.
The department said:
Dfat conducts all procurements in line with the commonwealth procurement rules and development assistance tender processes have robust probity oversight.
Bishop has also previously said she complies with all rules and obligations. She has previously been cleared of any breach of the ministerial code by taking the job with Palladium.
PM to meet Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand
Jacinda Ardern has packed rugby but no bungee into Scott Morrison’s Queenstown weekender this month as she looks to use the Australian PM’s visit to entice tourists across the ditch.
The Kiwi PM has picked the stunning South Island city for the annual leaders’ talks, to be held on 30 and 31 May.
The trip will kick off with a trans-Tasman Super Rugby clash between the Otago Highlanders and Melbourne Rebels.
Queenstown has been one of New Zealand’s hardest-hit places during Covid-19, given its dependence on tourism.
AAP reports Ardern used a Maori “whakatauki”, or proverb, involving a kumara – sweet potato – on Monday to explain how she’d sell the trip to Australians.
I don’t know if we need to show off. You know, the kumara doesn’t sing of its sweetness. We just need to be there, and it tells its own story.
Queenstown is also famed for its skiing – though the season will not be open when the Morrisons visit – and its adventure tourism.
Ardern said she wouldn’t be asking Morrison to a bungee jump or high-speed boat trip.
I would never ask a politician to do something that I myself would not do with a camera present.
The two leaders will spend Monday in meetings Ardern said would be “practical”, with an eye to making post-Covid connections with the world.
This meeting is really going to be a chance for us to talk about what’s next for our relationship.
We have been in fairly constant contact with one another. We’ve been sharing and learning and thinking about what next.
As New Zealand is looking outward to map out our plan and strategy for reconnection, our borders are quite closely linked, so I’d like to have a conversation around what our region’s reconnection with the world will look like.
Australia and New Zealand take turns to play host to the leaders’ meeting.
Here’s one I prepared earlier: lawyers for Christian Porter have accused the ABC of dragging its feet to avoid a trial date in the former attorney general’s high-stakes defamation case against the national broadcaster.
Some further data on the vaccination rates of people in disability residential settings, via our welfare and inequality reporter, Luke Henriques-Gomes.
Crown lied to Victoria casino regulator, royal commission hears
Crown Resorts lied to investigators in interviews with the Victorian casino regulator during an investigation into the arrest of 19 staff in China in 2015 over allegations of illegal gambling, a royal commission into the gambling group has heard.
Timothy Bryant, an officer of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, was giving evidence today about the regulator’s long-running investigation into the arrests and Crown’s operations in China.
Bryant had described Crown’s responses during the investigation as “not particularly fulsome”.
Commissioner Ray Finkelstein asked: “Why do you dress it up as not particularly fulsome?”
Bryant responded that he was giving Crown the benefit of the doubt at the time.
In hindsight, though, I certainly consider that at times they lied to me in interviews as to what they weren’t aware of or were aware of.
Good afternoon. Here in Sydney, there’s one story on everyone’s lips: the forthcoming Victorian budget.
Earlier we told you the state government has earmarked $179.4m to redevelop the former General Motors Holden site into the University of Melbourne’s school of engineering from 2024.
Now AAP is reporting the Victorian government will spend some $350m to upgrade the state’s forensic mental health hospital.
Upgrades at the Thomas Embling Hospital, which predominantly provides services for people found not guilty of crimes on the grounds of mental impairment, will include a new, dedicated 34-bed women’s precinct and a 48-bed medium-security men’s facility, as well as clinical administration facilities.
Acting premier James Merlino, who is also the state’s mental health minister, said one in three Victorian prisoners need treatment for psychological issues.
He said in a statement on Monday:
Access to targeted, clinical care is critical to supporting these Victorians, and setting them on the path towards genuine recovery.
A royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system found the hospital had expanded “very slowly” despite the “very significant” expansion of the Victorian population and prison population, with just 36 additional beds created since 2002.
The royal commission recommended the government refurbish the existing 136 beds at the facility and provide an additional 107 by the end of 2026.
And with that, I’ll hand over the blog to Michael McGowan to guide you through the rest of the day’s news. Thanks for joining me.
So, from last week, 40- to 49-year-olds have been able to book in a Pfizer vaccination in NSW, and premier Gladys Berejiklian said earlier today she was happy with the progress the state was making.
Nearly 110,000 people had registered for the jab so far, Berejiklian said, and 9,000 appointments had been booked.
This morning some of those people are receiving or have received their jabs already – that is really good progress.
We’re seeing how keen the people of NSW are to get the vaccine.
We’ve been doing those categories of essential workers right since the end of February so we’re confident that we’ve got through many of those.
NSW opened up to the 40 to 49 age group last week to ensure any excess or unexpected vaccine doses were not wasted.
The Northern Territory’s acting chief health officer, Dr Charles Pain, has said he is working with Qantas and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to better prepare for future reparation flights from India.
“They clearly will need to identify people who can stand in if this happens again,” Pain said, in reference to the people who tested positive for Covid and were unable to board the flight.
It was obviously a great surprise to see those high [positive] numbers this time and I’m sure they’ll be prepared for that next time.
When you’re in such dire straits, wishing to get to Australia, to a safe haven, it’s so disappointing.
But we have to hold firm on the position that, from my point of view and from a public point of view, we can’t put people on the plane that are positive. It’s not good for them and it’s clearly not a sensible thing to do in terms of the overall public health impact on Australia.
We just have to manage this as well as we can. There are no easy answers to this – we’re having to make difficult decisions all the time.
The foreign affairs department is said to be looking at implementing a reserve list for all future flights.
And with that, PM Scott Morrison has announced his first international trip of the year, and it’s to New Zealand.
This will be my first overseas visit for 2021, and it is fitting that our first trip should be across the Tasman.
Australia and New Zealand are family – and we share deep historical bonds of friendship, trust and the Anzac spirit.
Both Australia and New Zealand have been world leaders in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and this visit is a great illustration of the Trans-Tasman safe travel zone in action.
We have many shared challenges to discuss. We are key partners in delivering Covid-19 vaccines to our Pacific neighbours, we share common goals and values for the Indo-Pacific region, and we are major trading partners.
The PM intends to attend the annual Australia-New Zealand leaders’ meeting as part of the trip.
Hunt also provided an update on the vaccine rollout amid disability residents and workers, with 999 residents and 1,527 workers vaccinated as of midday today.
He spruiked the opening of clinics for over-50s, who can now visit their GPs to get vaccinated, and under-50s can visit state-based Pfizer clinics.
Commodore Eric Young, the operations co-ordinator from the the Royal Australian Navy, gave a more detailed update on the rollout, and I’ve picked out some key facts from his piece:
- It took 47 days to get to the first million vaccinations, but only 19 days to get to the second million and 17 days to get to the third.
- Last week, 351,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine and 1.3 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were cleared for distribution.
- More than 958,000 doses of vaccine were distributed across the country last week.
- The weekday average has climbed to 78,000 doses a day.
- He says 84% of aged care facilities have now been visited, with 60% completing the second dose.
Greg Hunt gives update on Covid vaccination rollout
So Hunt has given an extended spiel on the vaccination in the country this past week.
He said Australia is now at 3,100,137 vaccinations, and that we had over 436,000 vaccinations in the last week alone, a “significant” national record.
To have 436,000 vaccinations last week I think is an important increase but thirdly, to see a significant national increase is critical but now is the opportunity, as we have double doses from 100- 200 and medium-sized clinics in triple doses from 50- 150 a week in the smaller clinics, suppliers come onboard. For more Australians to be vaccinated earlier and I would encourage as many people as possible to come forward. This is your chance in your time to protect yourself and to protect each other and to protect the community.
Health minister Greg Hunt has stepped up to speak at a press conference in Somerville in Victoria, giving an update on the vaccination program.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian earlier today expressed surprise at a legal loophole that allows students to bring knives into schools.
It comes after a 14-year-old boy at Glenwood High School in Sydney’s North West faces serious charges after allegedly stabbing a 16-year-old boy with a “religious knife.”
Berejiklian said she was “taken aback” to learn it wasn’t technically illegal for students to bring knives to school:
Students should not be allowed to take knives into school under any circumstances and I think it doesn’t pass the common sense test.
Even if they’re not using weapons, others might take them from them so I was very taken back when I learned that.
I will be speaking to the education minister about it. My strong view is that no student should be allowed to take a weapon to school, full stop.
Glenwood’s principal Sonja Anderson had sought to reassure parents in a letter to the school’s community:
Schools in NSW are among the safest places in the community, and Glenwood high school is one of those schools.
We are currently working with the department and community representatives to discuss how best to enable students to meet aspects of their religious faith and, at the same time, to ensure our school remains a safe place.
One of the flow-on effects of the budget predicting international borders will stay closed until mid-2022 is the potential for the Australian Open to be forced to move from Melbourne.
The ABC is reporting that Dubai and Doha, which hosted the qualifying events ahead of this year’s tournament, are being considered as potential host cities if the slam needs to be relocated.
The report indicates that players would be unwilling to go into hard quarantine, the way they did this year, in order to compete in the open.
But Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has told the Sydney Morning Herald that there were no plans to move the tournament from Melbourne:
I mentioned to the team the other day that we climbed Mt Everest and, unfortunately, we are going to be at base camp again.
We are going to be here in Melbourne ... it’s going to be here in January.
Tiley said he hoped Tennis Australia could work out a deal for “modified” quarantine rules that would allow the tournament to go ahead.
That is what we are planning towards, that is what we have set our scenarios against and it is contingent, obviously, on having a modified environment which relates to quarantining because the tennis athletes that are travelling around the world (are) in a bubble.
Just some more details on the state of the vaccine rollout for people with disabilities and their support workers.
David Moody, of National Disability Services, has told the royal commission there are about 23,000 people living in residential disability care. He also noted an industry survey found there were about 51,000 support workers, though it did not cover every provided.
Taking the vaccine rollout figures provided earlier today, the commissioner, Ronald Sackville, said:
But if it is correct that people with disability in residential care amounted to 23,000, that would be around about 4% that had been vaccinated? That’s your understanding?
Moody: It is, commissioner, yes.
Similarly, Sackville said the vaccination rate for support workers would be 2%, though it would be even lower if the 51,000 figure for the workforce was an underestimate.
We’re still waiting for the Department of Health to appear before the commission with what we hope might be more precise figures.
But what’s worth noting is that this would suggest the rollout is going worse than initially thought. Last month, it had been thought the vaccination rate for those living in disability residential care was about 7%.
In fact, the number of people with disability who’d been vaccinated is lower than the disaggregated figures provided to a Senate committee in April.
Death of Indigenous woman in crash being treated as a death in custody
The AAP is reporting that the death of an Indigenous woman in a crash involving a car being chased by Darwin police is being treated as a death in custody.
Officers say the woman was a passenger in a Hyundai Hatchback which crashed into another car after running a red light at a northern Darwin intersection about 2.30am on Sunday.
Emergency services tried to give the woman CPR after the accident but she died at the scene.
Detective Superintendent Peter Kennon says her death is being treated as a death in custody.
He says Crime Division detectives will investigate the case on behalf of the coroner with oversight from Professional Standards Command.
“This is a tragic incident for all involved,” Kennon said in a statement.
The other three people in the car that crashed were taken to Royal Darwin hospital for treatment.
The driver is being kept under police guard at the hospital.
The woman is the eighth Aboriginal person to have died in custody across Australia since 2 March.
A 37-year-old man was found dead in his cell at Cessnock correctional centre in the NSW Hunter Valley on 27 April, just a day after a man died during an apparent medical episode at Port Phillip prison in Melbourne.
NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said in April the deaths were a national crisis and reinforced the urgent need for the 339 recommendations of the royal commission into deaths in custody to be implemented.
“Every First Nations death in custody is an inevitable result of the racist criminal justice system that results in First Nations people in NSW being the most incarcerated people in the world,” he said in a statement.
“The government is on notice and action is urgently required. It cannot be accepted that First Nations people routinely die in custody.”
More than 470 Indigenous people have died in detention since a 1991 royal commission report into Aboriginal deaths in custody.
Good afternoon everyone, and thanks to Matilda for another sterling job this morning. I’ll be guiding you through the news from here, so let’s get stuck in.
With that, I shall leave you for the day, but don’t worry, the fantastic Mostafa Rachwani is here to guide you through the afternoon.
Crown Resorts allegedly gave government regulator incorrect information on China gambling crackdown, royal commission told
Back to the Crown royal commission hearings being held today:
Crown Resorts gave the Victorian regulator incorrect information about the extent of a Chinese crackdown on illegal gambling by leaving key words out of a presentation given by its chief legal officer, a royal commission into the gambling group heard this morning.
The inquiry also heard that the company’s head of Australian resorts, Barry Felstead, also gave incorrect evidence to the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation about why a Crown employee was grilled by Chinese police.
On day one of public hearings, the commission has been hearing from Timothy Bryant, an officer of the VCGLR who was involved in investigating the 2016 arrest, and subsequent detention by Chinese authorities, of 19 Crown staff accused of being involved in illegal gambling promotion.
Bryant said a presentation given to the VCGLR by Joshua Preston, who was Crown’s chief legal officer, gave the impression that a crackdown on illegal gambling ordered by Chinese authorities related to people involved in gambling.
However, at the time Crown had advice from a specialist intelligence firm, Mintz Group, that the crackdown related to people who worked in the gambling business, which Bryant said was a wider category.
The language about the crackdown in the presentation and the Mintz report was otherwise very similar but this difference was “quite significant”, he said.
During Felstead’s interview with VCGLR he said that a Crown employee was interviewed by Chinese authorities about a “customer, not about Crown’s operations in China”, according to an internal VCGLR memo prepared by Bryant and tendered to the royal commission.
Bryant said the following in the memo:
However, documentary evidence produced on 18 March 2019 to VCGLR indicates that Crown and Mr Felstead was advised that the questioning of the Crown employee related to allegations that the employee was organising gambling tours, not about a customer.
Both Preston and Felstead no longer work at Crown.
Flinders Street to be home of Melbourne's second safe injecting room
Flinders Street could be the site of Melbourne’s second safe injecting room, reports AAP.
(This is just Flinders Street in general by the way, not the railway station, as some people online seem to have misunderstood.)
While Victorian health minister Martin Foley ruled out Enterprize Park off Flinders Street as the location, he says the process to choose a site is still under way.
He spoke to the ABC today:
Nothing is ruled in and nothing is ruled out...
I can say there are no plans to place the second trial at Enterprize Park.
A report in the Herald Sun on Monday said the site was now expected to be at the southern end of the city on Flinders Street, west of Swanston Street.
It was originally to be set up near the Queen Victoria Market on the CBD’s northern fringe.
Tony Doherty, the owner of Doherty’s Gym on Flinders Street, slammed the idea.
It’s a terrible place for it ... I can’t think of a worse spot.
But Ben Vasiliou, the chief executive of the charity Youth Projects, told the ABC there was overwhelming evidence that a safe injecting room was needed and having it at the southern end of Flinders Street made sense.
But no one wants it in their backyard...
What we can do this time around is make sure every agency, every support system, is in place to make sure people get the support that they need.
Last week, Victorian crossbench MP Fiona Patten advocated safe injecting rooms for St Kilda, Footscray and Dandenong, as well as the proposed site and the current location in North Richmond.
But acting premier James Merlino said the government did not support expanding the program beyond a second site.
The location of the second room is currently subject to a consultation process being run by former police chief commissioner Ken Lay.
The supervised injecting centre at North Richmond, which opened in 2018, has been controversial due to its proximity to a school.
But Merlino insists the North Richmond centre is saving lives and says other initial problems have improved.
Also, by the ways guys it’s International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia!
(Also, as a bi woman, this means anyone sending me snarky emails today is actually committing a hate crime. So sorry, I don’t make the rules.)
(For the sake of the LGBT movement as a whole, I would like to clarify that this is a joke and actually the right to send me snarky emails is a protected tenet of the sacred relationship between the press and the public.)
Ducking back to that report from Luke Henriques-Gomes that only 834 disability care residents have been vaccinated so far.
Reader Paul had this question on Twitter:
And here is the answer from Luke:
Human Rights Law Centre slams secrecy around appeal hearings for Bernard Collaery
Back to the appeal hearing for the lawyer of whistleblower Witness K:
Kieran Pender, a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, has commented on the prosecution of Bernard Collaery after the ACT court of appeal closed the hearing of his appeal relating to secret information this morning.
Pender told Guardian Australia:
The prosecution of Bernard Collaery, and the secrecy surrounding it, is wrong and undemocratic. We should be protecting whistleblowers, not punishing them. Shrouding this case in secrecy only exacerbates the injustice being done.
The [National Security Information] Act is broken and must be amended to better protect the public interest in transparency. The attorney general’s use of secrecy in the Collaery case, to enable the government to admit in court that it spied on Timor Leste, while refusing to admit that publicly, is undemocratic. The NSI Act makes a mockery of open justice, a vital democratic principle.
No local Covid-19 in NSW by the way!
Potentially a positive sign for Victoria, who have asked the federal government to foot the bill for a new purpose build quarantine facility on the outskirts of Melbourne.
Morrison was asked about the possibility of a similar new quarantine facility being built near Toowoomba, and while that one seemed to be shot down, the prime minister sounded more positive about the Melbourne option:
Well, the problem with it is, we never had a proposal. And the details, when you compare what has been put forward by the Victorian government is chalk and cheese.
Victoria’s put a very comprehensive proposal to us. Something we can actually work with. And we are.
One of the biggest difficulties with that proposal [is] it’s not near a major capital city where there’s a major hospital. That’s the big problem with it, amongst many others. The idea you can put it in the desert somewhere, I know that Toowoomba isn’t a desert, but they need to be close to major capital city airports. They’re coming to Brisbane. That’s a very long trek to Toowoomba ...
There’s an opportunity to supplement what is happening in hotel quarantine, well, that’s what the Victorian proposal is about. It’s not replacing what is happening with hotel quarantine in Victoria. We still couldn’t get straight answers on whether this proposal in Toowoomba was about replacing hotel quarantine or supplementing hotel quarantine. So there was just not enough detail to assess this.
I think it’s reasonable to say it hasn’t been stacking up very well, particularly when you compare it to a very comprehensive and well thought through proposal from the Victorian government.
Now, this might not sound like much, but only a few weeks ago the treasurer Josh Frydenberg was calling the Victorian proposal “political smoke and mirrors” and dismissing the need for a new facility, so this is definitely an improvement.
Just a note, it seems like every government is trying to shift responsibility for this cricketer decision. New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian spoke about it very much as if it was a request directly from the federal government.
But Scott Morrison is speaking as if the federal government swooped in after the NSW government already agreed to let it come.
A request was made to go over and above our cap. If we get these requests through federal government authorities or other authorities, our health and police teams make independent assessments of those...
At the end of the day it’s the federal government that decides who comes home. We say this is the number of people we can take. All the decisions about where people come from are not our decisions.
That’s something we insisted on with the NSW state government when they were going to allow that flight back in.
Scott Morrison says returning cricketers did not take a single quarantine spot away from a trapped Australian, after flying home from the Maldives after fleeing India two weeks ago.
They had to do what everybody else did. They did not take one place in quarantine that anyone else may have otherwise had. That’s something we insisted on with the NSW state government when they were going to allow that flight back in. We said well, it has to be over and above the caps.
But come on Scotty, that just purposefully missing the point.
The point is: if there is room for an extra planeload full of cricketers to quarantine, why isn’t there room for more trapped and vulnerable Australians who are desperate to come home?
Singapore next potential bubble country, prime minister says
Prime minister Scott Morrison says he is speaking with Singapore about being the next possible travel bubble location with Australia but says this is still a while off.
I’m looking forward to further discussions with the Singapore government about them being the next potential country.
Now I still think that’s some way off. Particularly as we’ve seen, and it’s a telling reminder, in Singapore, we are seeing lockdowns come back in, and that has been one of the more successful countries like Australia. In Taiwan, I argue, probably the most successful country in the world, is now going through a challenging period and seeing restrictions come back in.
We are on to questions about the border and what the next steps of overseas travel might be.
I think they understand the importance of a cautious approach when it comes to maintaining our border arrangements. Now those border arrangements, it’s not one day the borders are open, one day the borders are closed. That’s not how it works. There’s a sliding sort of scale here. And we’re working on the next steps.
Now, it’s not safe to take those next steps right now. It’s not. But we’ll keep working on what the next steps are. I have talked about those next steps. Those next steps are for Australians to be in a position when they’re fully vaccinated to be able to not be subject to any domestic restrictions that are put in place by state and territory governments. That they may be able to travel with different types of quarantine arrangements on their return.
And also the step of in a managed and safe way starting to bring back those who we need to come into the country, whether it’s for international students or indeed for specialist occupations, and I know we have a lot of challenges in the agricultural sector and the hospitality sector, in regional areas, and facilitating those types of arrangements ...
But right now it’s not safe to be flicking the switch on those.
So far Morrison is mainly discussing the new $2bn dollar plan to ensure Australia still has operating oil refineries just in case some serious funky business goes down overseas and our fuel supplies run out.
Currently, according to the government, we have about 83 days of emergency fuel capacity, and we are working to get up to 90.
We can’t guarantee every uncertainty that’s out there. What we’re doing here is working together to provide that certainty over the next nine years. And I think what we’ve shown as a government, as our preparedness to work with everybody to provide further security and certainty in the future.
Whether it’s aluminium smelter in Portland or up in Tomago, up in the Hunter, or indeed here, these are practical challenges and we’re coming up with the practical answers to those. Today is another good demonstration of that. No doubt there will be challenges in the future and I can ensure you we’ll address those with the same application and the same success at that time and in the lead-up to that time.
Prime minister Scott Morrison is speaking now from Brisbane.
Passenger from India repatriation flight tests positive in Howard Springs
This just in: one passenger onboard Saturday’s repatriation flight from India has tested positive for Covid-19.
The Northern Territory Health says the passenger is in quarantine at the Howard Springs facility.
Only 78 people were on Saturday’s flight from New Delhi, with around 70 knocked back after testing positive for Covid-19 in the days before boarding or because they were a close contact of someone who did.
You may have missed this on the weekend, but worth noting that Boris Johnson issued a fairly direct readout of a conversation he had with Scott Morrison about climate change on Friday night Australian time.
The British prime minister said he and Morrison discussed the upcoming G7 summit in Cornwall, at which Australia will be one of four guest nations (alongside India, South Korea and South Africa).
Climate change will be a major focus at the summit. All G7 members have both set targets to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and started the difficult work of implementing a plan to get there, including in recent months significantly increasing commitments to cut emissions over the next decade.
Morrison, of course, has not set a formal net zero emissions goal and has resisted increasing Australia’s 2030 target (a 26-28% cut compared with 2005 levels) that was set when Tony Abbott was prime minister six years ago. G7 members are all promising at least a 40% cut, and in some cases more than a 60% cut, over that timeframe.
Johnson said he emphasised to Morrison in the call the importance of all countries setting ambitious targets to cut emissions, and encouraged Australia to commit to reaching net zero by 2050. He stressed it would “deliver clean jobs and economic growth”.
The British leader also said the pair also discussed doing more to support girls’ education, issues related to China and Afghanistan and work on an Australia-UK trade agreement.
The G7 summit starts on 11 June.
Look, obviously New South Wales is keen to see us be in a position where it’s safe enough to open our borders as soon as possible. And that means if we get the majority of our population vaccinated, well, then we can think about opening our international borders and that’s what New South Wales works really hard to achieve.
And I hope that if the vaccine rollout is better than anticipated, that date can be brought forward. But we appreciate the community has concerns about safety as do we. I would never, ever make a decision that compromises the safety of the community but we also need to be ambitious.
We need to accept that we have to live with Covid. We don’t know how many years for, but if the majority of our population is vaccinated, we can start thinking about those things. We can start thinking about living safely with Covid and resuming our contacts with the rest of the world. And I think that’s a healthy place to be, maintaining public safety, but also thinking about how we can have a Covid-safe landing.
'We have to be sensible about what we can cope with,' Berejiklian says about repatriations from India
The NSW premier has been asked about calls to allow planeloads full of Covid-19 positive Australians currently trapped in India to return home via medical evacuation flights.
Currently, Covid-19 positive Aussies and their close contacts cannot board repatriation flights and must stay in the subcontinent despite its medical system buckling under the weight of the extreme second wave.
But Gladys Berejiklian does not seem too crash-hot on the idea:
I think in relation to Covid-positive people, that is a whole different question. And we have to make those risk assessments. Already in our quarantine system, we know that whenever we welcome people from overseas back into Australia, whenever we welcome Aussies home, when there’s 3,000 Aussies coming back home, there’s always a percentage of them that have Covid.
We already accept that. Even if they test negative when they’re overseas by the time they get to Sydney, by the time they’re in hotel quarantine, many of them are positive. In fact, in recent weeks, we have had double digits in the teens every single day. So New South Wales has a number of active cases already because of the Aussies coming home. We accept that but we also have to be sensible about it. We have to be sensible about what we can cope with.
So what New South Wales needs to cope with is not only keeping the community safe and running an efficient vaccination system, keeping the health system going, but also managing the nation’s largest quarantine system by a mile. These are all the challenges we have and it’s just about balance.
Berejiklian has been asked why a large contingent of Australian cricketers were allowed to return home from the Maldives (after fleeing India two weeks ago) and quarantine in Syndey over and above the state’s weekly cap on returned travellers.
People are fairly annoyed by this whole situation generally given the extraordinarily long waiting list for quarantine spots for trapped and vulnerable Australians overseas.
A request was made to go over and above our cap. If we get these requests through Federal Government authorities or other authorities, our health and police teams make independent assessments of those.
We don’t give a blanket yes to anybody but from time to time if there are requests made over and above the cap, for example, whether it’s seasonal workers or other categories of people that we have looked at, we have received those requests and we have dealt with them through independent assessment from health and police.
If health and police feel that we can’t go over our cap at all for a particular reason, well, then that request will be denied.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is speaking live from Sydney.
Only 834 disability care residents vaccinated so far
Only 834 people with disability in residential care have been vaccinated and only 127 have had two jabs, the disability royal commission has heard.
With increasing concern among the disability community and sector about the Covid-19 rollout, the commission is today examining the federal government’s efforts vaccinating people with disability and disability support workers.
Kate Eastman SC, the counsel assisting, said it was open to the royal commission to find the rollout had been an “abject failure” for people with disability living in residential care.
She said that according to federal government data provided up to 6 May, 834 people with disability in residential care had been vaccinated.
That is an additional 200 people since 21 April.
Eastman said the data showed 707 people had received one dose and 127 people had received two doses.
On a state-by-state basis, the commission heard only six people with disability in residential care in South Australia has received a jab, and only two of those people have had two doses.
In Tasmania, eight people in residential care have been vaccinated, and only two have received two jabs.
Among support workers, 1,098 workers have been vaccinated, but only 90 have received two jabs.
Eastman noted the government had said the data did not include people with disability or support workers who have made their own arrangements.
However, there is no data available to the royal commission that captures this group and the number of people with disability who have made their own arrangements.
Still just waiting on an official time for this press conference from Scott Morrison, where he will no doubt be asked about this second Indian repatriation flights, and how many are on board.
Hopefully, it will be soon!
Collaery appeal hearing open to the public for less than five minutes
A two-day hearing of the appeal brought by Witness K’s lawyer Bernard Collaery seeking to challenge the secret status of national security information involved in his criminal prosecution began in Canberra this morning.
The hearing was open to the public for less than five minutes.Barristers noted who they were appearing for. ACT chief justice Helen Murrell noted there was an application to lead further evidence, and then the court was closed.
Bret Walker, counsel for Collaery, noted that he was not applying to close the court, but he said he believed it was required by the National Security Information Act.
Asked by Murrell if the court needed to be closed, Walker replied “I’m afraid so – although we do regret the appearance of that”.
Most Crown royal commission witnesses wished to testify in private
I’m at the Victorian royal commission into Crown Resorts today, which is to kick off today by hearing from officials from the casino regulator here about the extremely long-running investigation into the arrest of 19 Crown staff in China in 2016 on allegations of illegally promoting gambling.
Crown’s junket operations, which brought high-rollers from overseas to gamble at its casinos in Melbourne and Perth, are also on the agenda for this week.
Royal commissioner Ray Finkelstein has started proceedings by revealing that nine people, including former Crown patrons and two senior police officers, have already given evidence at secret hearings.
Of the seven non-cop witnesses, all but one wanted to give evidence in private. Some were embarrassed, Finkelstein said.
However, “Some were frightened of the consequences of what might happen if it emerged they were giving evidence against Crown,” he said.
He said the police were allowed to give evidence in private because their evidence was “of a background nature” and to avoid a time-consuming stoush over whether it should be suppressed.
Earlier this morning, Crown rejected a takeover bid from investment fund Blackstone, saying its board thinks the bid “undervalues Crown and is not in the best interests of Crown’s shareholders”.
The board has yet to form a view on a rival bid to merge with rival operator Star Entertainment, Crown said.
To facilitate the Crown board’s assessment of the merger proposal, Crown has requested Star to provide certain information to allow the Crown board to better understand various preliminary matters.
Redevelopment to start on GM Holden site
So if you are reading the blog from Victoria this morning you will be pleased to learn this week is likely to be quite Melbourne heavy, given the state’s first real post-second wave budget is set to be handed down this Thursday.
As such we are now getting a slow trickle of stories in the lead-up, and today’s involves the state’s deceased car manufacturing industry.
The Victorian government has earmarked $179.4m to redevelop the site of Australia’s first FX Holden manufacture.
This will be part of stage one of the Fishermans Bend Innovation Precinct at the former General Motors Holden site.
The 32-hectare site, 4km from the Melbourne CBD, will be the new home for the University of Melbourne’s school of engineering from 2024.
Stage one involves remediation of the site and installation of infrastructure, with a new road through the precinct, said business precincts minister Martin Pakula.
The old Holden factory is part of Victoria’s manufacturing history – this important first step will help transform it into Victoria’s manufacturing future.
(Um, did anyone else have no idea a “business precincts minister” was I thing? I love state government, the ministries are always delightfully specific.)
So, we are still just holding out now for a press conference from the prime minister this morning. We don’t have a fixed time yet but it is likely to be in the next half hour to an hour.
The ABC has demanded the Institute of Public Affairs correct “erroneous and misleading claims” the public broadcaster said the rightwing lobby group made to a parliamentary committee.
“If the ABC is as trusted as its staff and supporters claim it is, then it has nothing to fear from privatisation or reform,” the lobby group told the committee.
Surveys consistently show a high level of public trust in the ABC.
The IPA’s audience figure of 15.4% does not account for the fact the ABC’s content has a huge reach across multiple platforms and services. The ABC’s output is not just television but encompasses ABC News online, which has been the No 1 digital news website for 12 months, and ABC Radio, which is also the No 1 national network.
You can read the full report below:
Queensland reports no new local Covid cases
Oh, and ditto to Queensland!
Victoria records no new locally acquired Covid cases
It’s a local Covid-19 free Victoria today.
Indonesian fishermen rescued off Western Australia
Twenty Indonesian fishermen aboard a semi-submerged trawler have been rescued off the Western Australian coast, reports AAP.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority coordinated the safe recovery of the crewmen who were stranded approximately 670 nautical miles west of Perth, on Sunday afternoon.
Indonesian authorities notified Australia on Thursday that the vessel was in distress and required assistance. The following morning, the Perth AMSA Challenger Jet and two airforce planes flew out to the vessel and dropped several life rafts.
A Japanese fishing vessel diverted to the distress vessel and rendered initial assistance.
The HMAS Anzac eventually transferred the fishermen aboard, bringing them to safety.
Australian Maritime Safety Authority executive director response Mark Morrow said the rescue was a relief to all involved, crediting the quick response of the Japanese boat with playing a vital role in the rescue.
The successful saving of 20 lives at sea is an incredible achievement of which all responding authorities should be proud.
One of the fishermen required urgent care and was to be transferred by Anzac’s embarked MH-60R helicopter to a Perth hospital. Anzac will return the remaining crew to their homeport in Bali with an expected arrival late next week.
Defence minister Peter Dutton spoke about the incident on Sunday night:
I want to thank the crew of HMAS Anzac as well as the aircrew who dropped essential items, which helped the Indonesian crew survive until their rescue...
I also want to acknowledge the patience and good will of the families of Anzac’s crew, who are now waiting longer to see their loved ones following a long deployment.
Such a fascinating story from the Guardian Australia team this morning, laying out exactly who actually owns the outback. (Looks like one of the main answers might rhyme with Pina Pinehart.)
Some truly fantastic maps and graphics in this one – definitely worth checking out.
Six months ago Guardian Australia set out to learn who owns the outback. The data we received was unwieldy, incomplete, inconsistent and often came with a hefty price tag. There is no nationally consistent protocol for recording land tenure and land use information, or even clearly established definitions of what constitutes ownership or control of land.
So, in the absence of official data, we have collated large datasets from every state and territory and pieced together a database of land ownership. We then looked to the work of a rural newspaper, the Weekly Times, which has been tracking farm ownership. We also looked at information contained in media reports, official websites of known major landowners, cattle brand directories, government servers and other online maps.
Border Force find ice in barbecue grills
Drug bust stories do tend to all be pretty similar, but by god, there is something deep down in my lizard brain that finds those photos of all the confiscated drugs laid out on a blue tarp compelling.
With that said, these are photos from a massive $100m ice bust that Border Force located inside a shipment of barbecue grills from Thailand.
Australian Border Force found it in a consignment that came by sea cargo at Port Botany from Thailand on 4 May, NSW police said in a statement early on Monday.
They said it was discovered in 62 large cardboard boxes labelled food items and electric barbecue grills.
The consignment allegedly contained 316kg of methylamphetamine, with an estimated potential street value of $94.5m.
Police are hoping that anyone with any information about the drugs will contact them.
Australian cricketers touch down in Sydney
In case you were worried about the Australian cricketers that fled to the Maldives after the Indian travel ban was announced, they have just touched down in Syndey!
After spending two weeks out of the subcontinent, the players can now legally return to the country via charter flight organised by Cricket Australia.
They will now be spread out across the city’s quarantine hotels to isolate for two weeks. Their numbers will not be counted in the state’s returned traveller weekly caps.
Nationals narrow lead in Upper Hunter byelection: poll
The Nationals hold a narrow 51-49 two party preferred lead as voters in the seat of Upper Hunter prepare to go to the polls in a crucial NSW byelection, reports AAP.
It’s a must-win seat for the Berejiklian government which will be left up to three seats in minority unless the Nationals hold the seat on Saturday.
A YouGov poll published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday has the Nationals struggling to hold the previously blue-ribbon seat, meaning preference flows will be critical.
The YouGov poll of 400 people conducted in the Upper Hunter last week found 25% support for Nationals candidate Dave Layzell while Labor’s Jeff Drayton is sitting on 23%.
Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Sue Gilroy has 16% support, while One Nation’s Dale McNamara holds 11% support.
The Greens Sue Abbott has 6% support, the same as farmer Kirsty O’Connell – who is being supported by former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
A hefty 19% of people remain uncommitted in the seat. Last election the Nationals won 34% of the primary vote.
The byelection was sparked by Nationals MP Michael Johnsen’s resignation in March after being accused of raping a sex worker in 2019. Johnsen strongly denies the allegations and has not been charged.
Last week a fourth government MP was forced to move to the crossbench.
Families minister Gareth Ward stepped aside on Thursday after it was revealed he is the subject of a police investigation into historic sexual violence allegations.
Former sports minister John Sidoti is also on the crossbench while the Icac investigates corruption allegations and upper house MP Matthew Mason-Cox was also expelled from the Liberal party earlier this month after defying premier Gladys Berejiklian by nominating for president of the upper house.
Second Indian repatriation flight expected to touch down this morning
Another thing to look out for is the second Indian repatriation flight landing in Darwin today.
Everyone is extremely keen to find out how many people were actually let on to this flight, after Saturday’s repatriation plane touched down with just over half of their seats filled.
Forty-two of the 150 people booked on the first repatriation flight, which landed in Darwin on Saturday, were barred from flying after they tested positive either in PCR tests in the days prior to departure or rapid antigen tests at the gate, and 30 more were barred as their close contacts. About 80 people made the flight and are quarantining at Howard Springs.
OK, so this is all about making sure we have enough fuel supplies if something in the international community happened that meant petrol deliveries were suddenly cut off. (No prizes for guess which countries the government might really be worried about here.)
Well, how many days of fuel do we actually have if worst comes to worst?
Right now, we’re sitting on 83. We want to get it to 90. This package is all about getting it to over 90. But it’s also about ensuring that in the worst circumstances we can use our own crude oil and our own refineries to keep those core essential services going, as we did through the pandemic ...
And we’ve seen around the world, the uncertainty that is being created in fuel markets. We saw a cyberattack on a pipeline in the US last week. We’re seeing what’s happening in the Middle East right now. It’s an important time to make sure we’ve got the fuel we really need in the worst possible circumstances.
Now, does it strike anyone else that $2bn dollars feels like a hefty price for seven extra days of fuel?
But the sounds of Angus Taylor, it seems taxpayers could be propping up the oil refineries long into the future.
So, the agreement is through to 2027. We would expect it to extend beyond that.
Part of the package is to require the refineries to do an upgrade to clean their fuels, to reduce the sulphur levels in the fuels, which has a very positive environmental benefit.
Once they’ve made that investment, it makes the refineries much more sustainable and they’ll be required to make that investment by 2024.
So, this is part of a broader package that underwrites the longevity of the refineries, ensuring the low-emissions, lower-sulphur fuel that we need, and most importantly keeps those essential services when we absolutely need them under the worst circumstances in a world that’s far less certain than it once was.
Protecting Australia's two remaining oil refineries a matter of national security, says energy minister
Energy minister Angus Taylor says protecting Australia’s last two remaining domestic oil refineries is a matter of urgent national security.
It’s all about keeping our fuel supplies, when we absolutely need them. It’s all about national security. And ultimately this is about saying, “We will support the refineries to stay in the market in the worst possible circumstances. We won’t pay them anything if prices are solid, high.”
And ultimately as part of a broader package, which ensures that we have the fuel we need when we absolutely need it.
So, it means our truckies, our tradies, our commuters, our emergency service workers have access to that fuel when they really need t as they really need it, at an affordable price too, because an important part of this is making sure we’ve got competition and supply in the market as well as the reliable fuel we really need.
Victoria Crown inquiry begins in Melbourne
Another big news story from today, the Victorian royal commission into the suitability of gaming giant Crown to hold a Melbourne casino licence will begin hearing evidence this morning and has revealed its first witnesses.
First up, the commission will question Timothy Bryant and Jason Cremona from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, reports Andi Yu from AAP.
Questions will focus on the gambling regulator’s monitoring of Crown, its investigation into the 2016 arrests of 19 staff across four Chinese cities, and junket operations.
All those arrested in 2016 were later charged with gambling promotion offences, and remain the subject an ongoing class action against Crown.
In 2019 media reports, it was alleged that Crown junket operators brought in high-rolling gamblers from China with links to organised crime.
The revelations led to the establishment of the Bergin inquiry in NSW, which in February found Crown unfit to run a casino at its newly built Barangaroo complex in Sydney.
The other two witnesses to be questioned in week one of the Victorian commission are Dr Murray Lawson, director of ethics and risk culture at top accounting firm Deloitte Australia, and Nick Stokes, head of financial crime and money laundering reporting officer at Crown Resorts Limited.
Written submissions to the Victorian royal commission closed on 26 April.
Inquiry CEO Elizabeth Langdon on Saturday released 30 submissions received from the public online. She said 46 had been lodged in total but not all were suitable for publication.
To provide greater opportunity for people to engage with the commission, she said relevant documents had been translated into eight languages.
Finkelstein has been given until 1 August to report back to the government with recommendations.
A nine-year-old girl who sometimes uses a wheelchair was described as not having mobility concerns in a report prepared for the national disability insurance scheme trial of independent assessments.
As debate continues about the controversial proposal, Sue Tape, whose nine-year-old daughter, Eliza, took part in an ongoing trial of the assessments in January, told Guardian Australia the family had agreed to be involved out of “curiosity” but they were unsatisfied with the process.
The changes were initially framed by the government as about making the NDIS fairer, but have since been recast as a “sustainability” reform, amid an intensifying debate about a claimed cost blowout, which is questioned by advocates.
The plan to have independent assessments carried out by government-contracted allied health professionals would replace the current system where people provide reports obtained from their treating specialists.
You can read the full report below:
Speaking of energy security, we are expecting federal energy minister Angus Taylor to speak with ABC in a few minutes to discuss these plans to keep domestic oil processing in Australia.
New measures to support refinery industry could cost Australian taxpayers $2bn
Taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $2bn over a decade due to a fuel security payment committed by the federal government to protect Australia’s refining industry.
The Morrison government is seeking to ensure fuel security and save 1,250 jobs at the Viva refinery in Geelong and Ampol’s Lytton refinery in Brisbane.
Tuesday’s budget revealed the government would introduce a production payment to support domestic refiners and direct support for the refiners to upgrade their infrastructure, but the cost of both was “not for publication” due to “commercial sensitivities”.
On Monday Scott Morrison revealed the latter will cost up to $302m for infrastructure upgrades to help refiners bring forward the production of better-quality fuels from 2027 to 2024.
The variable fuel security service payment will see refineries paid a maximum of 1.8 cents per litre when the margin drops to $7.30 a barrel.
The payment will drop to 0 cents when the margin hits $10.20 a barrel, meaning refineries are only supported in downtimes and will not receive government support when they are performing well.
The payment has been costed at up to $2.05bn to 2030 on a worst-case scenario.
The government will introduce the Fuel Security Bill to parliament in coming weeks so the fuel security payment can begin on 1 July 2021. The bill will also set the key parameters for the minimum stockholding obligation that will commence in 2022.
The government will also accelerate the industry-wide review of the petrol and diesel standard to 2022, including a consideration of aromatics levels. This aims to create a Euro-6 equivalent petrol and diesel standard that are appropriate for Australia.
Morrison said, “this is a key plank of our plan to secure Australia’s recovery from the pandemic, and to prepare against any future crises”.
“Shoring up our fuel security means protecting 1,250 jobs, giving certainty to key industries, and bolstering our national security.”
Good morning and I have you are having a fantastic Monday.
Matilda Boseley here to take you through the day’s news.
The first thing to dive into today is the controversy surrounding India repatriation flights, with public health experts urging the government to facilitate medevac-style repatriation flights for Australians with Covid from India.
This comes as Qantas says it is investigating suggestions the Indian laboratory used to screen passengers before boarding a Qantas repatriation flight had its accreditation suspended by the nation’s laboratory board in April.
This has lead to multiple rejected Australian citizens seeking out their dwn Covid-19 PRC tests, and at least eight have since received a negative result.
Forty-two of the 150 people booked on the first repatriation flight, which landed in Darwin on Saturday, were barred from flying after they tested positive either in PCR tests in the days prior to departure or rapid antigen tests at the gate, and 30 more were barred as their close contacts. About 80 people made the flight and are quarantining at Howard Springs.
Prof Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said the Australian government must be working to repatriate citizens that are older or have co-morbidities even if they are Covid-19 positive – their safety has become a human rights issue as the Indian medical system buckles during the second wave.
Prime minister Scott Morrison has since conceded that some potential passengers that tested positive “may not have been positive”.
He said: “The testing has got to be up to standard.”
Well, there is plenty to get through so why don’t we dive into the day?