What happened Monday 25 October

With that, we will wrap up the blog for this evening.

Here’s a recap of today’s major stories:

  • Boosters should be available six months on from last vaccine doses, Lt Gen John Frewen flagged today. Advice from Atagi is expected to come imminently.
  • Victoria has reported 1,461 new Covid cases and, sadly, seven further deaths. Among them was a woman in her 20s. Over in NSW, the state has recorded 294 cases and four deaths as hundreds of students returned to school.
  • Deputy prime minister and leader of the National party Barnaby Joyce has been on radio describing the net zero by 2050 target as a “goal”, not a commitment. Labor’s Chris Bowen today said the Coalition had been dragged “kicking and screaming” to the position a week before the Glasgow climate summit.
  • Minister for resources and water Keith Pitt will be added to the cabinet, Scott Morrison announced, a day after the Nationals confirmed an in-principle support of net zero by 2050.
  • Origin Energy have been slugged a record $5m in penalties after allegedly charging prohibited exit fees to more than 20,000 customers.
  • And nearly one-third of refugees at Melbourne detention hotel have tested positive for Covid and one has been hospitalised.


Former NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli is up on The Drum alongside Guardian Australia editor Lenore Taylor, discussing John Barilaro’s appearance at Icac hearings today.

You can catch up on that here:


In terms of the way government decisions get made about allocating resources, it’s pork-barrelling but it’s in somebody else’s electorate, when it’s in your electorate it’s about being a good local member.

Tony Windsor and plenty of others were given lots of things in their electorates in order to carry their support with our independence, particularly in a minority government. Is that corrupt in itself? No. It’s not. It’s the political process.


I don’t think we can sit here and excuse pork-barrelling as being just the way that politics is done. Pork-barrelling means when there isn’t clear criteria and when it isn’t a transparent and clear process.

And yes of course you might need a different set of criteria for say regional projects and the profitability of them in urban projects but you need criteria and a process, if you get to the point where pork-barrelling is normalised we are in a sorry state and it’ll erode trust in politics. That would be a terrible thing.


Labor’s Marielle Smith has been quizzing PMC officials about Josh Frydenberg’s stay at the Lodge before the August sitting period.

The treasurer told Sunrise in August that Morrison was “actually on the dishes, would you believe, because it’s just the two of us there”.

PMC officials told Senate estimates that “there would have been household staff continuing to operate” because even in times the Lodge has been used to quarantine, staff have accessed the back of house through a zoning arrangement to keep them away from those quarantining.

Scott Morrison leaves the Lodge in Canberra after 14 days of quarantine.
Scott Morrison leaves the Lodge in Canberra after 14 days of quarantine. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Smith also asked whether taxpayers were paying for food and drink, because Frydenberg had said “there’s enough bottles of ginger ale for us both to get one”.

Officials said that as Frydenberg was there for two weeks there was no “cost recovery”, he didn’t pay his own way, and the tab was picked up by the department. For longer stays of non-dependent adults, the department seeks to recover costs.

Officials couldn’t say whether MP Ben Morton had stayed there as they have “no visibility” of who stays at the Lodge.


Australia is edging ever closer to 90% first vaccination doses among over 16-year-olds.

This daily infographic provides the total number of vaccine doses administered in Australia 🇦🇺 as of 24 October 2021 📅

💻Stay up to date with COVID-19 vaccine information here: https://t.co/lsM33j9wMW pic.twitter.com/7qcW7ymFgK

— Australian Government Department of Health (@healthgovau) October 25, 2021

Over in Tasmania, sonar imaging of the sea floor off the north-west coast has found no trace of a man or boat that went missing a week ago, AAP reports.

Thomas Courto set off from the town of Wynyard around midday on 18 October with friends Isaiah Dixon and Bree-Anna Thomas in a yellow and white 17-foot motorboat.

The bodies of Dixon and Thomas were found washed ashore at nearby Table Cape on Wednesday afternoon.

Multi-beam sonar technology was used on Monday to comb an underwater area of roughly 340 hectares about three to four kilometres offshore.

Inspector Steve Jones said there had been “no sighting” of Courto or the missing vessel, and said it wasn’t likely he’d be alive at this stage.

Jones said air and sea search efforts would not occur on Tuesday, when a review into the week-long operation would be undertaken to determine if any spots had been missed. Searching may then resume on Wednesday.

Courto’s family and friends continue to search coastline in the area and are still holding hope of finding him alive, Jones said.


The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is on ABC Melbourne now.

He says Victoria will get “well over” 90% double-dose coverage in the coming weeks. Asked why Victoria is the only state with vaccination mandates to extend well into 2022, Andrews says:

The protection you get from these vaccines is so clear cut, the fact this isn’t going away... the way to stay open, the way to stay as safe as possible is for people to get vaccinated... the evidence and steady climb in the numbers would make the case for me that having it mandated in certain settings has absolutely made people get vaccinated.

Sometimes you need to be prompted, sometimes a bit of urgency comes when you have a date to work to.


Meanwhile, Bridget McKenzie is speaking with ABC Melbourne on the National party’s support (in principle) of net zero emissions by 2050.

She says the government has “made it clear” the targets won’t be legislated.

.@Raf_Epstein: What did the @The_Nationals get in return for backing #NetZero2050?@senbmckenzie: "Well Raf, we left our party room yesterday and have agreed, in principle, to support net zero admissions by 2050..." (1/2)

— ABC Melbourne (@abcmelbourne) October 25, 2021

.@senbmckenzie tells @Raf_Epstein "we've made it very clear, the government's made it clear that they won't be legislating the targets - the Prime Minister's (@ScottMorrisonMP) been unequivocal on that matter."#Drive #NetZero2050 #auspol

— ABC Melbourne (@abcmelbourne) October 25, 2021

On that note, I am going to hand you over to the lovely Caitlin Cassidy who will take you through the last part of the blog. Estimates continues and we will keep an eye on it, but the house is starting to wrap up. We will be back with Politics Live early tomorrow morning, but make sure you check back to see what the team have been working up for you today.

A very big thank you to Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin, Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst for their never ending diligence and support. And to everyone else in the Guardian Australia brains trust who work overtime keeping this thing afloat (and all of us out of trouble. Well most of us. I’m always going to manage to find it)

But the biggest thank you, as always, has to go to you for following along with us. It’s been a very strange year and it must feel a little weird as we all move on like the last two years weren’t completely life changing – I can assure you we feel it too and we are very aware of the load people are carrying. We’re all trying to find a balance at the moment, and there is no script for that. Find your own in your own way. Just try to be kind to those around you as we all stumble along.

Have fun with Caitlin and take care of you.


A good Monday evening to all and thanks to Amy Remeikis. I’ll be with you for the rest of the night.

A thank you to the secret squirrels who are watching estimates so we don’t have to for passing on this gem – apparently the department of prime minister and cabinet spent $9,500 on consultants, who were hired to train up the people in PM&C who train others on how to handle... estimates.

So 10 grand on training the trainers, if you will, who then train senior executives on how to answer questions about their department.

How does one train for estimates? Well, there is no scale of Penny Wong’s eyebrow raise for one.

Also, no one plays specific senators during the mock hearings, there is apparently no list of senators to watch out for (one would think that is obvious anyway) and the training doesn’t teach people how to avoid answering questions. Apparently.

So it remains unclear what they are taught. Because it is not as if we get a lot of answers during estimates anyway. We imagine it is probably pretty obvious not to wink at a minister during a hearing as well, so that probably doesn’t form part of the training either.


Labor’s Kate Thwaites has seconded Josh Burn’s motion on the asylum seekers being held in the Parks Hotel:

It is just not good enough that asylum seekers are still being held in unsafe and cruel conditions.

In Melbourne asylum seekers are being held at the Park Hotel, where we now have a covid outbreak. At least one person has been taken to hospital.

It’s not clear if the appropriate arrangements around infection control are in place to keep other people being detained safe.

It is unacceptable the Morrison government is leaving people in an unsafe position during a global pandemic.”


Remember that earlier post (it was many hours ago, so I don’t blame you if you don’t) about how Labor is starting the “stop pensioners from being added to the cashless debit card” campaign – now with Julian Hill’s private member’s bill (there is also a website, and petitions as this starts to whir up). Labor is also pushing for the card to be wound up, which is another part of Hill’s bill (and Luke Henriques-Gomes has been writing about the dubious evidence to support the card) but it is the pensioners part which is getting the most attention.

Well, the minister Anne Ruston is not impressed:

Labor are running a shameful scare campaign aimed at age pensioners based on blatant lies.

Let me make it crystal clear - the Morrison government will not force age pensioners onto the cashless debit card. We were never going to, and never will.

This government understands pensioners have worked hard to help build the Australia we live in today. That’s why I, as the social services minister, want to personally reassure all age pensioners of this.

In fact, the government voted with the crossbench last year to support an amendment to legislation which explicitly ruled out ever forcing age pensioners on to the cashless debit card. But Labor opposed the amendment. Therefore, the bill the opposition has introduced today is simply an attempt at rewriting history.

But Labor’s bill goes further and introduces a reckless plan to end a program that is helping unemployed Australians of working age stabilise their lives and their communities.

Bizarrely, this plan was not put forward by Labor’s social services spokesperson Linda Burney who understands the complex challenges facing the communities where the program operates.

It was put forward by backbenchers from Melbourne and Byron Bay who have not bothered to consult with the communities it will affect.

Labor has clearly demonstrated they don’t care about supporting communities. They just care about playing politics, so much so they’ll simply lie to people and scare them into voting for them.

Not sure if Burney will be pleased to see her name invoked here by the minister though, either.


The federation chamber is about to debate a motion about refugees who are caught up in the Park Hotel covid outbreak.

Ben Doherty has been covering that issue – you can catch up here

Labor MPs Ged Kearney and Josh Burns are trying to make sure the plight of the refugees being held in the hotel – who are now fighting covid – gets more attention.


In recent days we have learnt of a very serious Covid-19 outbreak at the Park Hotel in Melbourne – where 46 refugees are being held and where 20 have already tested positive.

These are the remnants of the people who were transferred to Australia under the medevac arrangements. Ironically, they were brought here because they needed extra medical care.

But due to the cruel choices by the government, their lives have been put at risk.

And we must ask why.

Why were they not released into the community when over 100 other medevac transfers were given a ticket into the community?

The Minister for Defence said at the time, that it was cheaper to have people in the community, instead of detention.

Yet, this Government chose to hold these 46 asylum seekers in the Park Hotel. And now almost half of them face a battle with the Delta variant.

And the reports from this are not good – refugees have told advocates that when they first complained of symptoms, no isolation protocols were implemented, testing was delayed seemingly for weeks, and they were simply offered paracetamol.

Because of this foreseeable failure we now have an active outbreak which was completely avoidable.”

And Kearney (speaking on the ABC)

This is a great travesty. We knew this was going to happen. I remember when I discovered that there were asylum seekers in a hotel in my electorate. One could see this was going to be a problem.

I wrote to the then minister, I think it was Alan Tudge, and Andrew Giles wrote to the minister saying this is potentially a really big problem and we need to get them out of detention and into the community where it would have been safer for them. They have been moved to the Park Hotel.

We’ve had the Delta strain and in three weeks, we have seen half the men affected or taken down by Covid. It is a tragedy that should never have happened. We don’t know what the conditions are in there. We know that guards are coming and going.

We know that the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told us that the men have said in there, that it is very difficult to get medical attention.

They are testing their own oxygen levels in there. The nurse in me just absolutely starts to worry about that situation. I think the best thing that could happen is they were moved into the community and the government needs to take responsibility for this.

Scott Morrison can’t palm this off to the state government. These men are his responsibility and he needs to make sure that they are treated carefully and that we protect the other men from what is happening in there.


Senator Rex Patrick has been asking PMC officials about why they haven’t been releasing national cabinet documents after they lost an Administrative Appeals Tribunal case on the point of whether they are confidential.

Stephanie Foster, the deputy secretary, and John Reid, the first assistant secretary, answered that AAT decisions are decided on their own facts and are not equivalent to a court decision that has to be applied across the whole government as a matter of course.

Labor’s Katy Gallagher is suspicious that government departments, including the health department, are still saying the documents are cabinet in confidence.

Asked if PMC directed them how to respond to requests from the Covid committee, Foster replied that the government’s position that national cabinet is still a committee of the commonwealth cabinet isclear, including from legislation seeking to effectively overturn the decision and PMC evidence to an inquiry into that bill.

Patrick complained that the government hadn’t even appealed the AAT loss. Foster replied a future case might be decided differently, and noted that since the case all state and territory leaders had reiterated that they expect confidentiality and solidarity, key features of a cabinet.

It’s almost as if the government doesn’t want to appeal the case because a court decision stating conclusively that national cabinet isn’t a cabinet they would have to abide by, but a pesky AAT decision they can safely ignore.

That interview between David Littleproud and Patricia Karvelas wraps up with this:

Q: What’s the difference between an in principle agreement and a binding target? Which one is it?


I think after tonight this will be a target that we are signing up to try and achieve by 2030. It is a goal that we’re on our way to do...

PK: 2050. [I think you] misspoke. 2030, [is what] many people hope.

Littleproud: Shoot me. It has been a long day, PK.

Chris Moraitis of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) was also asked during Senate estimates about the impact of the closure of the Australian embassy in Afghanistan on its investigations into alleged war crimes.

He said an embassy was not a prerequisite for mutual legal assistance, but noted: “We just can’t turn up in a country without the host state being aware of that.”

But on the thorny issue of cooperation with Afghanistan, he observed: “At this stage I’m not sure we can do that.”

(The Australian government has not formally recognised the Taliban-led government.)

Moraitis said the OSI was following foreign affairs department’s work on that issue. He said securing evidence that could be admissible in a criminal case was “massively challenging at the best of times”.

Moraitis was also asked to make clear that administrative actions considered by Defence (whether someone is terminated from the ADF, for example) are separate from the OSI investigations into criminal allegations.

“Yes, Senator, I can absolutely confirm that. It’s separate … It’s not relevant to our work.”

For more on that issue, see our recent story:

Q: Just last Thursday Minister Pitt told question time “solar panels don’t work in the dark”. He repeated those comments today. Are you comfortable that a minister with this position is the best fit as Australia works to reach net zero emissions by 2050?

David Littleproud:

That’s childish politics. I mean, really? There are batteries that can come off them, but it doesn’t collect the solar energy when the sun is down.

Pitt literally said those words.

Here’s the Hansard from 21 October:

I thank the honourable member for that question and say to them: find me a solar panel that works in the dark! This is just a statement of fact. It absolutely is. It is that simple. I say to those opposite: are you seriously suggesting that, when there is no sun, solar works? This is just a fundamental fact.

He mentioned nothing about batteries, or storage. Just “find me a solar panel that works in the dark”.

So Patricia Karvelas asks Littleproud:

Who is the childish one?


Really? Are we going to have a go at the - the question was asked about solar panels and the minister said, “Well, they don’t collect solar energy at night.” They’re stored in a battery. (He didn’t say that until today, after days of being ridiculed) That’s why people get sick of watching Question Time and the little antics like that. I think we should be better than that. That’s just silly semantics.

“Silly semantics”.


David ‘we are the first government to think of the future’ Littleproud is top and tailing the ABC today, appearing on Afternoon Briefing.

He is asked about Keith Pitt’s return to the cabinet (which was part of the deal for the National party’s support for net zero emissions by 2050)

Well, it was part of what we asked the prime minister to make sure that the resource sector is represented because the resource sector is part of the technology road map, representing 260,000 employees. We wanted to make sure that we were part of that and the prime minister saw that importance as you see the road map outlined in the coming day or days.

The ONLY reason Pitt was removed from the cabinet in the first place, was because Barnaby Joyce all but booted him out in his return to the leadership, to make room for his own cabinet picks (including Bridget McKenzie)

The Nats, under the secret Coalition agreement have a certain number of cabinet spots. Joyce didn’t have enough to reward his supporters, so he took Pitt out of the cabinet in order to make good on his promises when he became leader.

So the only reason Pitt was removed, was Joyce wanted it that way.


Mike Bowers also caught very happy Scott Morrison (as opposed to cranky answering questions Scott Morrison)

Happy Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Not happy
Not happy Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Happy Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Not happy
Not happy Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Once again, Keith Pitt has only had his cabinet spot returned. He never lost his portfolio or spot in the ministry. He hasn’t cured world hunger. He didn’t even win his position in the party room battle over the bare minimum target of net zero emissions by 2050.

He just gets to sit back in the cabinet room.

Still, that didn’t stop the victory lap

Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt fist bumps with Tony Pasin before question time
Minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt fist bumps with Tony Pasin before question time. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce congratulates the minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt before question time
Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce congratulates the minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt before question time. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt during question time
The minister for Resources and Water Keith Pitt during question time. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Oh, Joel Fitzgibbon is still bringing in books to be photographed with as a troll – today’s was the Latham diaries.


During the Senate estimates hearing, Kristina Keneally asks Chris Moraitis of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) whether it is been able to exonerate any of the 19 current or former ADF personnel who were initially referred for investigation after the Brereton inquiry.

Moraitis says it is “way too early” for that:

“Senator, we have not exonerated anybody, we are starting our investigations to examine the evidence.”


When do you expect the investigations to conclude? Are we looking at a year, two years, five years?

Moraitis: “Yes.” (He clarifies that “it could be anywhere in that range you’ve suggested”.)

Chris Moraitis of the Office of the Special Investigator (OSI) has told an estimates hearing that more than 50 investigators and intelligence analysts are now on board. This is the body working with the AFP on investigations into allegations against Australian special forces soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

He says they have a “clear focus on progressing as expeditiously as possible”.

He said OSI has monitored recent events in Afghanistan (that’s the fall of the government and return of the Taliban) with concern. “To date our work has not been markedly impeded by the situation in Afghanistan.”

He says the investigation teams are primarily focused on information from a variety of other sources at this stage.

Sussan Ley, the environment minister who mostly makes the news for approving mines, finishes up this torturous question time with a dixer and we are then all allowed to stop watching parliament.

In the meantime, this question from Linda Burney was important:

Why did the prime minister fail to make every effort to properly consult Australian of the year, Grace Tame, on his national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse?

Scott Morrison sends the question to Ben Morton, the special minister for state:


The national strategy of development has been made possible by the incredible work and insights of those who have contributed to it, consultations have been made with the victim survivors and advocates, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, people with disabilities in the Australian women’s commissions, in relation to the Australian of the year, in March the head of the national office for child safety had an informal meeting with Grace Tame in Canberra to discuss the national strategy ... the head of the National office of child safety emailed Grace Tame about how she might work [with] the office of child safety in relation to the strategy.

On 13 May I spoke to Grace Tame to talk to her about measures in the budget to form part of the national strategy.

And ... further the national office of child safety emailed Grace Tame to advise you of the national strategy commitment, it was to anticipate further activity of Grace Tame including her advocacy on these issues.

And [emailed] the healing foundation on behalf of the national office of child safety emailed Grace Tame to invite to attend a consultation workspace on the 10 June on these issues for victim survivors, a follow-up email was sent.

On 14 June, I personally travelled to Tasmania, with the head of the national office of child safety, to meet Grace Tame. The position and the role I take is Minister responsible for national office of child safety work I have done in relation to the national strategy was one that has been informed by Grace Tame’s meeting with her and engagement with our officials.

I thank her for the insight onto those issues but the fact I had concerns and reservations about some of the elements of the strategy and Grace and I spoke about those and she actually assisted me in understanding the importance of them, that will be announced this week.

On 20 October, the National office of child safety emailed Grace Tame to make sure she participates and invite her to the launch later this week. As a result of media discussions on this issue there has been further interaction with Grace Tame to make sure she can participate with other victim survivors in relation to the national strategy launch.

Subsequently in relation to tweets from the leader of the opposition on Friday afternoon I reached up to his chief of staff to inform them of some of those engagements with Grace Tame. In relation to the national strategy is an important issue and victim survivors deserve to be above politics.


The government wins the divisions, so we move on.


Barnaby Joyce tries and fails to answer another question, and then we move through some very painful dixers (honestly, just use a press release) before Anthony Albanese moves to suspend standing orders to debate this motion:

that the House of Representatives supports a legislated target of net zero emissions by 2050

(The transcription service called that SARAH emissions. It also mislabelled a minister’s title as ‘minister for testicles’ so it is having a small moment today. Question time may have finally broken Tveeder)

The government opposes the suspension of standing orders.

Vince Connolly, the member for the soon-to-be-no-more electorate of Stirling, is taking every opportunity he can to audition for his role if he doesn’t win a WA seat at the next election (he could be the candidate for Cowan) – a human who absolutely knows how to talk to people.

We believe in the member for Stirling. Sure, he still delivers dixers like he is a bunch of raccoons sewn into a suit, but one day, he’s going to ask a question like a normal person and then we’ll know – he’s ready.

Scott Morrison was cranky again on a question on climate.

Moving on.

Just for the record, the deputy Nationals leader also dropped this brain fart into question time today:

We are the first government to think about the future.

Sure Jan.

An interesting exchange during Senate estimates. James Paterson – who is chair of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS) – asked Asio chief Mike Burgess about Anthony Byrne, the Labor MP who recently resigned as deputy chair.

Paterson told the hearing Byrne had resigned as a result of “internal party matters that I don’t seek to comment on and I know you won’t seek to comment on either”.

Paterson told the Senate estimates hearing: “But during that public discussion it was suggested that a reason that he may need to resign from the committee was because intelligence and security agencies could no longer trust him, given his disclosures before Ibac.”

Paterson then asked Burgess whether he held any of those concerns.

Burgess told the hearing he generally did not comment about individuals, but added that he had engaged with Byrne extensively over the past few years, both as Australian Signals Directorate head and now as the head of Asio.

“And in that capacity, I found him to be someone who is deeply thoughtful and probing in his understanding of intelligence and security matters, the threats we face and actually what’s needed to protect our country from these threats whilst upholding the law of this land. So, I’ve no doubt I would assess that Mr Byrne is someone who cares deeply about national security, and what’s in Australia’s national interests.”

Burgess then proceeded to make a general comment that “if I had concerns about a member of parliament” he “would talk to the leader of the party”.


Keith Pitt, now looking like a terrier who might be offered a piece of nana’s steak if they can just manage not to bark and ruin Sunday lunch, has put out his own statement about his return to the cabinet.

(Barnaby Joyce, who booted him from the cabinet, made sure the cameras were watching as he walked over and shook his hand, because apparently, the floor of the parliament was the only chance he had).

Pitt’s statement (a reminder that Pitt never lost his job, or his portfolio – just his spot around the cabinet table):

“Today the Prime Minister appointed me to Cabinet as the Minister for Resources and Water.

“I thank him for that privilege.

“My focus will continue to be on the hundreds of thousands of men and women across Australia who make such a significant contribution to the resources and water sectors.

“The resources industry directly employs more than 260,000 Australians, mainly in regional areas, and is forecast to hit a record $349 billion in exports this financial year.

“It supports the jobs of another 1.2 million Australians.

“Our resources remain in high demand throughout the world and will support Australian jobs and economic growth for decades to come.

“I am also committed to building stronger regional communities across the Murray-Darling Basin.

“Good rain combined with good management and best practice by our farmers and irrigators are delivering record crops across many parts of the Basin this year.

“In Cabinet, I will continue to support them with policies that support all Basin communities.”


Alan Tudge sprouts some more rubbish about the changes to the curriculum. The things he says are not only factually wrong, they are also just sad, transparent attempts to start a culture war in a bid for some actual relevance.


Libby Coker to Barnaby Joyce:

“I refer to his comments in this House last week concerning net zero. Did the deputy prime minister yesterday oppose a policy of net zero emissions by 2050?”


I thank the honourable member for her question, and right from the start say I want 100% support our process of going to Glasgow, for the target of net zero emissions.

I do that because I have laid out the process of how the National Party were deliberate about this, I clearly laid out the process that was never given to other people in the regional member for the Labor Party, and that process was that opposition would not be determined by the executive, it would not be determined by one person, it would be determined by the views of party members and yesterday they did precisely that.

We are going forward as a Coalition government to make sure we do the best.

It is really important that we got to that position and I tell you why. Because there is a difference in policy, we believe in technology, they believe in legislation. They believe in laws, we believe in technology. (Barnaby Joyce, as a member of the executive government, writes the laws. That is his job).

They believe in legislation, because legislation outsourced things, and they are going to be the greatest outlaws since Ned Kelly, they will outlaw central Queensland and the Hunter Valley, the coal industry, they will outlaw the miners because they have said they are coming forward with legislation, that is your policy. (He then starts an argument with Anthony Albanese from the despatch box). You are saying you’re not going to legislate?

Tony Smith:

“I will caution the deputy prime minister. We have done this a few times, ministers are not going to, no you haven’t got your microphone on, you need to wait. The deputy prime minister will not ask questions, he will bring himself to the question that was asked, that he is already straying from.


For the sake of the House, for the sake of the honourable member opposite, the issue is resolved.

Albanese then seeks leave to answer the question, but Peter Dutton does not grant it.


The head of Asio says the intelligence agency “would not let it rest if we saw a nation state engaged in acts of misinformation or disinformation” – including during an election campaign.

Mike Burgess said he would have a conversation with the electoral commissioner and the prime minister and the opposition leader if such activity was detected during a campaign, but it would depend on the nature of the problem.

Labor’s Kristina Keneally asked Burgess about the issue of disinformation being used as a tool of state-backed foreign interference, which she noted had been reported as affecting a number of democratic elections in other jurisdictions.

Burgess said:

Have we seen nation states lining up issues in an attempt to provide disinformation on certain topics? Yes, we have seen that. Do we expect that before an election? Maybe. We’ll continue to watch that, with other agencies and put out the appropriate advice at the time.

I think there’s something wonderful though about our democracy. [It] allows information and disinformation to be debated and challenged openly so I think there is a good defence there. I think our democracy is fairly robust in that regard, but of course we wouldn’t let it rest, the community would not let it rest if we saw a nation state engaged in acts of misinformation or disinformation. That would be drawn to the government’s attention and during caretaker be drawn to both parties’ attention.

Asio’s director general Mike Burgess is speaking at Senate estimates.
Asio’s director general Mike Burgess is speaking at Senate estimates. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Mike Burgess, the Asio chief, is giving evidence to Senate estimates now. He says each day, “multiple countries are making multiple attempts” to conduct espionage and foreign interference against Australia. Such activity is enabled and accelerated by technology, he says, adding those attempts are targeting all levels of government and industry and academia.

On terrorism, Burgess says religiously motivated violent extremists continue to continue to urge attacks. He notes investigations into ideologically motivated violent extremism have increased. While he says there has been considerable and understandable attention given to nationalist and racist violent extremism, Australia is also seeing growth in single-issue motivated groups and individuals that have the potential to embrace violence.

Burgess points to recent anti-lockdown protests “where some adopted violence as a tactic”.


PMC officials have revealed Morrison is bringing 10 personal staff to Glasgow including senior advisers, advancers and his photographer. A further 17 from PMC and DFAT. #auspol

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) October 25, 2021


Madeleine King to Scott Morrison:

“Given his previous statements that electric vehicles and renewable energy targets are nuts and the world’s biggest battery store of renewable energy was as useful as a big banana and a big prawn, how can Australians trust the prime minister to deliver action on climate change?”

Scott Morrison (continuing to rewrite history, which is what happens when you use marketing slogans and glib one-liners off the cuff as policy, and then actually have to come up with policy):

I opposed Labor policies, I opposed their approach to the issues you are referring to, I didn’t agree with the way they wanted to do that, and the Australian people agreed with me.

The approach that the Labor party was seeking to take at the last election on those matters was not an approach I agreed with.

We had policies that were supporting electric vehicles and renewable technologies, all of those things, at the last election and the Australian people supported those policies. We want to keep doing that because under our policies, we want to see more and more investment going into these areas and that’s what we are trying to change and ...mandate so they can invest in these important technologies.

There are $192m support for low emissions technologies, including $72m to support electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicle charging infrastructure, $52m for regional Australia, $20m to make heavy trucks more fuel efficient and more to help heavy industry reduce their energy consumption.

That is what we are trying to do. The Labor Party are voting against all of those things for supporting the disallowance motion which would prevent us from on those renewable technologies, in particular, on electric vehicles and hydrogen vehicle charging infrastructure.

So, I’m not going to [support] the policies of the Labor party, whose policies were rejected at the election because they were carried away with the fantasies, and the Australian people caught them out ...

That’s what they are not going to pay for and the Labor party is still in the same place, they still haven’t thought the policies through haven’t prepared a plan for how to achieve the targets, they don’t have a 2030 target, and they are going to the Australian people and saying just trust us?

Who would trust the Labor party with the economy, to take Australia through one of the biggest changes in the global economy which has been for at least a generation if not 50 years. The Labor party cannot be trusted to manage the economy through this major change ... Our policies will set out very clear plans, there will be technology, there won’t be taxes, respect for people’s choices, we won’t be mandating what they should buy and where they should buy it. We will let Australians make their own mind up because we trust Australians to make good choices in their interests, they will have lower taxes to pay for them, courtesy of the treasurer. You cannot trust Labor on their climate policies.


Angus Taylor sprouts something about technology not taxes.


Chris Bowen to Scott Morrison:

“My question is to the prime minister and refers to his previous answer in which he said he would release his plan soon enough. The minister for regionalisation has said in regard to what the government does to make good a deal on net zero ‘the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club’.

“Don’t Australians deserve more respect than this? Apart from a pay rise for the minister ... what is Australia’s climate policy, and why don’t the Australian people have a right to know?”

(Most question times these days seem to have some inclusion of something ridiculous Bridget McKenzie has said).


They have every right to know and we set out very clearly at the last election ... and as a result, emissions reductions, Mr Speaker, emissions reductions have fallen by 20% on 2005 levels.

I said we would meet and beat our 2030 target Mr Speaker, and we will, and I’m looking forward to setting that out, Mr Speaker, at the Glasgow Cop26, where we will set out clearly our commitments in terms of 2050 as well as ... our commitments in relation to 2030, which we took to the last election.

At the last election, there was one issue. There was a question of 45% emissions reduction, put forward by the Labor party, and 26-28% was put forward by the Liberal National party, Mr Speaker. That is what we took to the last election.

The people rejected a Labor policy because Labor could not expand the policies. No plan to achieve their policies. They couldn’t say what they cost. And, Mr Speaker, nothing has changed since that time. They still don’t have a plan, as to how they will meet their targets. They don’t even have a target for 2030, Mr Speaker.

I recall when the government first came to be elected, we made very clear in 2013 that we would commit to the 2020 targets. That was, Mr Speaker, that was seven years from that date, we are eight years from 2030 and the opposition can’t even make a commitment about a 2030 target. Not only do we make that commitment before we were elected, we met that commitment and we beat that commitment.

... I said very clearly, Mr Speaker, that the government I lead was not going to support a net zero by 2050 target unless we could detail a plan to achieve it. Mr Speaker, those opposite scoff at this.

What they don’t understand, Mr Speaker, is that people in rural ... Australia across the country deserve that.

They deserve to know what the plan is, how it impacts them, and how we’re going to achieve it. Mr Speaker, that is what we will be setting out very, very clearly.

... And we will be very faithful to the commitments we made at the last election ... Those opposite could not expand their policies. We could. That is why Australians can trust the Liberals and the Nationals with an economic plan that enables us to meet our emissions reductions targets.

They know that a party, both parties and our coalition, which, Mr Speaker, have rightly wrestled with this issue ... considered carefully the implications of the costs and the issues that will need to be dealt with.


Greg Hunt says some things but people seem to pay even less attention than usual, which really says it all.

The only person who seems to hold people’s attention less these days is Angus Taylor.

Thank goodness for merit, huh?

Anthony Albanese decides to ask the prime minister a question:

Now that the prime minister supports Labor’s policy of net zero emissions by 2050, will he also support Labor’s policy to legislate net zero emissions by 2050?

Scott Morrison is so cranky he begins to lose his voice answering this one. (He also gets a bit more personal, as he seems to work out some internal frustrations – which may actually just be a projection of who he is really cranky at, but can’t publicly yell at, because Coalition unity).


The Coalition does not support Labor’s policy. The Labor party have a target with no plan, Mr Speaker. They have a target with no plan. That is not the Coalition policy. The policy of the Coalition is to have a plan with a target. So people actually know what we plan to do to achieve the target that they want to achieve. Mr Speaker, we have been working through carefully, considering all of the implications.

I also have a plan of how I am going to transition to removing chocolate from my diet by the year 2050, which involves changing nothing, but talking about how I am absolutely going to do it.

Albanese interjects with how Morrison should release the plan.

Morrison says “soon enough” in the same sort of voice my parents used to use when I would ask when my curfew would be lifted.

An animated Scott Morrison during question time on Monday.
An animated Scott Morrison during question time on Monday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Morrison continues:

The Australian people will know our plan, Mr Speaker, but they won’t know the Labor party’s plan. They won’t know the Labor party’s plan because despite having said that they want to achieve net zero by 2050, Mr Speaker, for some years now, there is still no plan as to how they will achieve it, no estimate of what it will cost. Mr Speaker, Labor does not even have a 2030 target let alone having a plan for how they will achieve their 2050 target.

But what the Australian people know is the same genius on the Labor’s side who came up, Mr Speaker, with the retirees’ tax, the housing tax, and the superannuation tax, the same genius that came up with all of those economy destroying policies is the same genius that the leader of the Labor party was relying on for the Labor party to achieve a 2050 net zero outcome.

The only net zero outcome that will come from the Labor party, Mr Speaker, is what will happen to the Australian people and their prosperity, Mr Speaker, because you cannot trust Labor with an economic plan to deliver on a net zero 2050 target. Mr Speaker, our plan is clear, Mr Speaker. Technology, not taxes.

(No one is suggesting taxes).

We won’t be mandating or shutting down industries, Mr Speaker. We will let people make their own choices.

We’ll make sure there is a portfolio of technologies that we can bring to scale, Mr Speaker, and bring to affordability, backed up by backing to make any balance right between affordable, reliable power, Mr Speaker, and ensuring that we are achieving the lower emissions outcomes that we are seeking. And we will be absolutely transparent about that because that is one of the things that the Australian government has delivered year in year out on being fully transparent about our emissions reductions.

... Labor have no plan for their target. They have signed up Australia and they want to put it in law and they can’t even tell Australians how they will do it or how much it will cost. It is just a rerun of Bill 2.0.

(When Morrison gets personal, and tries out these lines, you know he is getting frustrated).


Josh Frydenberg has once again forgotten how to use microphones.

Moving on

Adam Bandt manages to make Scott Morrison, who is once again being sidelined by Labor to prove a point (that he has no impact on his policy), very cranky with this question:

The Glasgow summit is demanding the whole world commits to climate targets before it is too late to stop runaway global warming. It is easy to beat the terrible target set by Tony Abbott. The UK and US have lifted their targets with a 68% cut. Prime minister, why won’t you beat and better the UK and US targets, with 75% target determined by the independent emissions panel. And condemn Australia to severe floods, droughts and rising temperatures.

Morrison is very cranky as he answers this:

I don’t know why the member for Melbourne wants to talk down about regional and rural areas. They have seen emissions drop by 20.5%, more than New Zealand, more than the United States, more than many countries around the world ... Australian farmers and those in rural and regional Australia do the heavy lifting, I think they should expect this place to respect them.

They should respect their efforts and they should respect their contributions, but I think Australians are growing ... tired of the Greens, and joined also by those opposite from time to time, talking down rural and regional Australia and their contributions to ensuring their environments and their communities are stronger, and their way of life is protected.

The targets that I took to the last election, the targets that I took the last election, were endorsed by the Australian people! They rejected the targets put forward by the Labor party and the Greens, they rejected them, they endorsed our targets and I said we would meet and beat those targets and indeed we will!

We will keep faith with the Australian people on the things we pledged at the last election and we will exceed their expectations on what those targets were set out at the last election.

The Australian people are doing the heavy lifting. Australia has the highest rate of solar on roofs of any country in the world, last year. We had more renewable investment in this country in one year [than Labor’s government]. Our rate of growth in renewable investment is outstripping countries around the world, our low emissions technology roadmap is making sure hydrogen and other important fuels and opportunities are being realised all around the country.

The leader of the Greens needs to understand it is performance that counts, not the empty aspirations. And what Australia can point to as a track record of delivering, a 20% reduction in emissions at the same time as Australia has achieved 40% increase in the size of our economy. I’d like to see another country match that.

... We are carrying our weight and making a contribution and we won’t be told by people outside this country how we should be meeting our targets.


Chris Bowen to Keith Pitt (who now looks like if his chest puffed out any further, he would float into space):

“Does he agree with the New South Wales treasurer who said yesterday we have some of the best renewable resources anywhere on the planet, those renewable energy resources can be used to create and support heavy industry create green aluminium and steel and provide the world’s energy needs in a low carbon future?”


Mr Speaker, I will be very frank. I am not interested in what the New South Wales treasurer has to say – my job is to deliver for the resources sector, to look after the water interests of all Australians as we saw with the Murray-Darling basin continuing to have the right balance, to make exports ... while there are markets for our products we will fill them. Those opposite want to close sections down and close industry down, close the resources sector down. On this side of the chamber we will continue to support the sector.


The current deputy prime minister took a dixer which seems to be an opportunity to spend time talking about [most likely] incoming Country Liberal Party senator Jacinda Price (who won the top NT CLP senate spot from Sam McMahon)

That is most likely because he backed McMahon in the senate battle – and there is nothing stopping Price from sitting in the Liberal party room (like the LNP, the CLP can choose which party room they sit in) which would mean he faces losing another vote. He has already lost George Christensen – and Colin Boyce the candidate replacing him, is no guarantee to be a Joyce backer. So that is a potential loss of two numbers in the Nats party room already – and it’s never a particularly loyal group anyway.

Labor’s Warren Snowden gets booted out for interjecting with “donkey’s brain”

Anthony Albanese to Keith Pitt (who is still shaking like a terrier faced with a Schmacko):

“Last week the minister told question time ‘find me a solar panel that works in the dark’. Is the minister aware that batteries can store renewable energy? Does the minister get a shock when he turns on the tap and water comes out even though it is not raining outside?”


I thought they brought the out the big guns, but they brought the pop gun. The leader of opposition has said the thing I backed up, solar panels don’t work in the dark, that is just a fact. If you want to store energy you can do it and in any number of ways. It is the resources sector delivering the technology and resources to make those things a reality.


Scott Morrison continues to take credit for the vaccination program and Covid recovery like that guy who never turned up for your group assignment, but arrived in time for the presentation, presenting it like it was all their own work.


Question time begins

We are straight into it, with Pat Conroy taking on Keith Pitt (Pitt arrived early for QT, spread out his papers and tried his best not too look too excited – which he failed at. Pitt has been pretty sad since he was booted from cabinet – this is all his dreams come true).

Conroy asks if Pitt can confirm he gave away his opposition to net zero for a chance to get back into cabinet: “Why is it about about your job and not regional jobs?”


They [Labor] are all about digging up dirt but not the way the resources sector does.

(It’s not exactly digging up dirt – it was announced).

It is all about politics with those opposite. The hardworking men and women, Mr Speaker, out there turning over dirt (machines do this now), shipping coal, shipping iron ore, driving jobs and driving our economy.

Mr Speaker, those opposite will continue this line of questioning, but I can say that every day I get up and am on a role in the government, I am looking to deliver for regional Australia, our country, for individuals that we represent who are out there working hard, paying their taxes, taxes which are much lower under this the government than they would be under the opposition, I will say, Mr Speaker. We will continue to deliver for them because it is about them.


Now Anthony Albanese is up – he is saying the coming election is about two very different outcomes for Australia.

(Which is the outcome of every election).


It is time for 90 second statements in the House (where MPs can speak about anything they like before question time).

So it is time to play who is that MP – retiring LNP MP Ken O’Dowd.


The Nationals wanted to add another title to Keith Pitt’s portfolio covering “managing the transition in regional communities”, which was denied by the PM.


Additional Nationals cabinet spot confirmed with Keith Pitt elevated

Scott Morrison has made this announcement:

“Today I announce the Minister for Resources and Water the Hon Keith Pitt MP will be added to the Cabinet.

“Minister Pitt is a powerful voice for the resources sector and ensuring that we build upon Australia’s strength in traditional exports, while harnessing opportunities in the new energy economy and critical minerals.

“Minister Pitt has been a strong advocate for regional and rural communities, both in his portfolio responsibilities and as a local MP, and will work closely with the Minister for Industry, Energy and Emissions Reduction the Hon Angus Taylor MP to ensure we reach our emissions reduction targets through technology that will empower our industries and regional communities.

“Only the Coalition can be trusted to grow our economy, maintain affordable and reliable energy prices, protect our resource industries and manufacturing base that supports rural and regional communities, and take practical and responsible action to achieve our emissions reduction targets.”

Keith Pitt will be added to the cabinet, Scott Morrison has confirmed.
Keith Pitt will be added to the cabinet, Scott Morrison has confirmed. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Coalition dragged 'kicking and screaming' to net zero position: Labor

Labor’s Chris Bowen has stood up to respond to the government’s deal on net zero, saying the Coalition had been dragged “kicking and screaming” to the position a week before the Glasgow climate summit.

He accused the government of being a “rolling rumble of chaos and secrecy”, highlighting Joyce’s opposition to the net zero goal, and the lack of transparency around the deal that has been struck between the two parties which will include a new cabinet position.

Bowen said the net zero target needed to be legislated, and the government should update its medium term emissions reduction target.

“Australia under Scott Morrison is desperately playing catch up.” He said the Labor party would outline its medium term emission reduction targets in the coming weeks after the Glasgow summit had concluded.

Labor’s Chris Bowen says ‘Australia under Scott Morrison is desperately playing catch up’ on climate.
Labor’s Chris Bowen says ‘Australia under Scott Morrison is desperately playing catch up’ on climate. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

“The Australian people will have a choice: a party which doesn’t really believe in net zero by 2050, there’s no plan to get there and it’s all about the politics, or an alternative government, which believes passionately that the world’s climate emergency is Australia’s jobs opportunity,” Bowen said.

“The most important thing is to ensure that Australia has a government which believes in the path forward and has the policies in place to ensure that job creation goes hand in hand with emissions reduction, emissions down, jobs up, energy prices down.”

Bowen said he was prepared for an “inevitable” scare campaign on Labor’s targets, once they were updated.

“I believe Labor can win the next election with a good and ambitious climate policy, one which is anchored in good economics in jobs across the regions of Australia,” he said.

“And I believe we can repel the inevitable scare campaign.”


Labor’s Penny Wong has asked Simon Birmingham about when Scott Morrison first found out about the entity that partly paid for Christian Porter’s legal fees.

Birmingham said: “To my knowledge, when the disclosure was made.”

Birmingham said he believes Porter updated his personal information declaration to Morrison on the same day as the MPs’ pecuniary interest register.

Wong said it was extraordinary that the prime minister did not have any advanced warning.

Birmingham said he would confirm the answer and report back if there was “any variance” with the evidence he’d given.

Penny Wong during Senate estimates on Monday.
Penny Wong during Senate estimates on Monday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

John Reid, first assistant secretary, said the department first found out in a phone call to him from a senior adviser in the PMO on 14 September, the day the news broke of Porter’s disclosure of the Legal Services Trust.

Stephanie Foster, the deputy secretary, said the department was asked “whether or how an arrangement such as that could be compliant with the ministerial standards”. But no conclusion was reached before Porter resigned from the ministry.

Earlier, Foster answered a question about the PMC department discussing the Porter issue with the PMO between 15 and 19 September.

Wong then drew Foster’s attention to vision of her appearing to wink at Birmingham when she gave this evidence:

WATCH: Dept of PM&C's Stephanie Foster appears to wink at Simon Birmingham (and/or colleagues) during #estimates, as she's grilled about Christian Porter's anonymous donations and the timeline of internal discussions regarding whether or not these were compliant with standards. pic.twitter.com/AwsrMeBbCK

— Stela Todorovic (@Stela_Todorovic) October 25, 2021

Foster said at no time did she intentionally wink at Birmingham. You be the judge!


Over at energy estimates, we’ve just broken for lunch. We haven’t learnt a great deal more from this morning’s sessions but it’s worth mentioning that the hearing had to break for about 15 minutes a little while ago to deal with the issue that departmental officials were not answering questions.

This has been the case more or less all morning, with officials refusing on multiple occasions to take questions relating to the Glasgow talks and climate policy due to cabinet confidentiality, or, where questions related to Australia’s climate modelling, because of a claim made by the energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor for public interest immunity.

The specific issue at hand that led to the suspension was a question asked by Labor senator Nita Green about the Nationals’ proposed $250bn loan facility for the resources sector.

Officials said they could not answer because this was not the relevant hearing in which to ask it – the relevant time would be the resources portfolio on Thursday.

Some heated debate ensued with Labor, the Greens and the independent senator Rex Patrick all arguing officials had an obligation to answer questions. The hearing was suspended to deal with it.

It was ultimately agreed officials should take a question about whether energy officials had provided any advice to the resources minister, Keith Pitt, about a $250bn coal loan facility.

The department said the answer to that question was no.


It is almost time for question time.

Expect a repeat of what we are not hearing in estimates.

Labor’s Penny Wong is asking the government Senate leader, Simon Birmingham, about a UK Telegraph report that Australian government sources described the UK high commissioner, Vicki Treadell, as a “sanctimonious bore” who was “haranguing” Australia about climate.

Birmingham said he is “not accepting the proposition” that anyone in the government said that, because it is an unattributed quote. But he said “of course if someone were to have said that, the prime minister would condemn it” because Scott Morrison values the close relationship with the UK and its high commissioner.

Earlier, James Larsen, the climate coordinator in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, confirmed that Morrison had indicated he would go to Glasgow Cop26 climate conference on 15 October, the last day for registration.

Wong was annoyed at Larsen for not being able to reveal who is travelling to the conference, besides Morrison and the energy minister Angus Taylor.

Larsen said he couldn’t recall which MPs were going, but confirmed Warren Entsch was among them when prompted by Wong. Wong asked him to get the draft list he had seen.

The British high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell.
The British high commissioner to Australia Vicki Treadell. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


And in environment estimates there is one piece of information we have learned. We don’t know what the Nationals have received, what the climate deal is, or what it will cost, but we do know that there is an advertising plan coming!

Under questioning from Labor’s Nita Green, the environment boffins have conceded there will be a $13m marketing plan on the climate policy, including market research – which you should start seeing from this week.


Back in the house (the Senate is all estimates-focused this week) and Adam Bandt has reintroduced the Greens’ coal prohibition bill.

Here was part of his speech:

We need to do what we have done in other industries that we know don’t have a sustainable future.

It is not the fault of the workers or communities in coalmining towns or towns associated with coal-fired power stations. They have worked to help us keep the lights on and to power this country for decades.

These communities should be in charge of their own future. They should be provided with the support, expertise and financial resources they need to transform and diversify their local economies in the way that they choose, so that their children can have stable, good-quality jobs in the new global economy.

If we don’t stop mining and burning coal, we will be extinguished. If we don’t start now, before the change is thrust upon us, we will see deep, localised recessions and dismantled communities.

This is a bill whose time has come. We need to join the rest of the world in making a plan to get out of coal and gas.

We don’t have a minute to lose.


The Senate’s legal and constitutional affairs committee has heard details of the Australian federal police’s investigation into the Leppington Triangle land purchase.

Last month the AFP said it had finalised its investigation into the commonwealth’s purchase of land for the development of the Western Sydney airport, “with no evidence of criminal conduct identified”.

During the AFP’s appearance before a Senate estimates hearing this morning, the committee heard that 11 investigators had been involved in the Leppington investigation.

The Queensland LNP senator Gerard Rennick asked what evidence had been provided by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) as part of the investigation.

The AFP deputy commissioner, Ian McCartney, told the Senate committee:

The original referral matter indicated that fraud may have occurred and subsequent to that the auditor general provided a significant amount of digital material to the AFP as part of the investigation ... It was a range of documents in terms of financial transactions, valuation agreements, a range of documents related to the transaction.

Rennick: “And no evidence was found of any wrongdoing?”

McCartney: “We have put out a statement saying we identified no criminal wrongdoing in relation to the matter, senator.”

The Western Sydney airport site
The Western Sydney airport site. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

Rennick: “So do you know why, if there was no evidence of any wrongdoing … why the auditor general would think there was evidence of wrongdoing?”


Well I think you’d have to ask the auditor general, but in the letter he provided to Australian federal police he indicated the suspicion of fraud in relation to the transaction. We received that matter, we decided to undertake an investigation, and as a result of that investigation we haven’t found criminal offending in relation to the matter, senator.

Rennick: “Did you have to conduct raids on the the staff’s houses to get all possible records?”


I think we’ve said before at Senate estimates [that] we don’t conduct raids, we conduct search warrants. We conducted two search warrants, but I’m not prepared to say in terms of the open hearing what they related to, senator.

Rennick made a general statement that included the question: “Where’s the accountability with the auditor general?”

(The ANAO is due to face Senate estimates tonight.)

The hearing continues.


Labor’s Tony Burke sought to suspend standing orders to move a motion relitigating the issue of the House failing to refer Christian Porter’s legal fees being part-paid by a trust with funds from unknown sources to the privileges committee.

The government moved that Burke no longer be heard, and won the vote, so he didn’t get further than the attempted suspension.

A copy of the motion, seen by Guardian Australia, indicates that Burke was seeking to move that the House note:

Last week, the Morrison-Joyce government voted down a privileges motion given precedence by the speaker for the first time since federation; media reports that ‘Liberal backbenchers were completely horrified’ by that vote, which protected the member for Pearce from having to disclose the sources of donations; this renders the register of members’ interests completely meaningless; and those same backbenchers now have the chance to put things right and restore basic standards of transparency and integrity to this parliament.

It also sought leave for Burke to move once against to refer Porter to privileges. But Burke didn’t get that far. So, another vote on government members’ record refusing to refer the Legal Services Trust issue to the privileges committee.


2030 target 'not changing'

Over in energy estimates, senators have been putting pressure on the department about Australia’s 2030 targets.

Remember that for all the government’s focus on 2050, it is 2030 targets and urgent cuts to emissions in the next decade that are the focus of the Glasgow climate talks.

My colleagues flagged in this piece last week that there was no appetite in the government to take a stronger 2030 target to next week’s summit.

There have been some confusing exchanges about Australia’s 2030 plans during this morning’s hearing, with department officials seemingly unwilling to confirm if updating the target had been ruled out.

But that now appears to have been confirmed in this exchange between the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young and Jo Evans, a deputy secretary in the department of industry, science, energy and resources department.

Hanson-Young: The NDC (nationally determined contribution) does require commitment, doesn’t it? Not just aspiration.

Evans: Well we have already taken that and there is a commitment in our existing NDC and that is the target that has already been communicated.

Hanson-Young: The Tony Abbott target?

Evans: The target of the Australian government that was set under Paris in 2015.

Hanson-Young: So that won’t change?

Evans: That target, which was set at 2015 and which is for 2030, is not changing.


Nationals MP Anne Webster has lodged a private member’s bill to regulate social media companies.

The bill gives the communications minister power to “make determinations about the basic expectations of a social media service”.

These can then be followed up by the eSafety commissioner, which can demand social media companies report on how they’re meeting the expectations or publish their own conclusions about contraventions.

The bill also creates a process for members of the public to complain to the eSafety commissioner about defamatory material on social media platforms.

According to the explanatory memorandum:

The commissioner [has] the power to issue defamation notices to a service provider in circumstances where a complaint regarding defamatory material has been made to the commissioner, and the commissioner is satisfied that it is reasonably likely that the material defamed or defames the complainant ... Service providers can be liable for defamation if that service provider is issued with a defamation notice by the commissioner and the defamatory material is not removed within 48 hours.

Webster as been at the forefront of efforts to hold social media giants liable as publishers after successful defamation proceedings against a conspiracy theorist who used Facebook to call her “a member of a secretive paedophile network”.

MP Anne Webster
Nationals MP Anne Webster. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Labor MP Julian Hill has also introduced this bill (as a private member’s bill) which aims to “Protect Pensioners from the Cashless Debit Card Bill”.

This has been a campaign Labor has been ticking away at in key electorates for the last couple of months. The thing is, there is no plan to put pensioners on the cashless debit card. The government has been ruling that out for months – but don’t be surprised if this starts to play out as part of an election campaign (much like the fake death-tax campaign run against Labor at the last campaign had an impact, and Mediscare had an impact before that).


Over in the house, Tony Burke has attempted to suspend standing orders but that has been gagged very quickly by the government and the procedures move on.


NSW Covid update

Earlier today, New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet welcomed the return to school for hundreds of thousands of students, and said the government was “always revisiting” its reopening plans.

His comments came after he was asked about his counterpart in Victoria, Daniel Andrews, announcing eased restrictions from Friday, and again from 24 November.

Perrottet said the Covid and Economic Recover Committee revisited the state’s restrictions each week, with changes due on 1 November and 1 December.

He said:

There’s a sense of positivity and confidence we haven’t seen for sometime.

What we need to do is have that strong health response, which we’ve made some substantial investments in, but then ultimately open up as safely as possible so we get [people] back into work and provide for their families.

We’ve always had a balanced and measured approach here in NSW. We’ll continue to have that approach as we move forward.

Dominic Perrottet at a press conference today in Sydney
‘There’s a sense of positivity’: Dominic Perrottet at a press conference today in Sydney. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Perrottet was asked if the state had “dodged a bullet” considering it had avoided forecasts of cases and hospitalisations spiking in October. He said:

This pandemic is not over. We are opening up and as we open up, case numbers will increase and hospitalisations will increase.

I think it’s a long journey. The success here has been our vaccination rate, and we’ll obviously continue to look at the data as it comes through.

All school students returned to face-to-face learning today, after years 1, 12 and kindergarten returned last week. State education minister Sarah Mitchell announced school sport would resume from 1 November.

Sixteen schools across NSW are closed today for cleaning and contact tracing, after members of their school communities tested positive.


The head of the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission says the recently released Pandora Papers only confirms the group’s past findings about the risks posed by offshore service providers.

The Greens senator Nick McKim pointed to a 2017 ACIC report that said serious and organised crime groups “engage the services of professional facilitators to launder the proceeds of crime, conceal illicit wealth and enhance their criminal activities”.

The report said:

As seen with the release of the so called Panama Papers in April 2016, criminal groups may employ offshore service providers to conceal their illicit funds.

Michael Phelan, the ACIC chief executive, told Senate estimates today:

I think with the release of the Pandora Papers and what we know about them … all it does is confirm the original assessments that were made in 2017 that offshore enablers does cause us a problem, both from a revenue protection position in terms of our tax revenue but also potential money laundering and obfuscating of funds that may well have been derived illicitly from activities in Australia.

Phelan said the assessment in 2017 “has been confirmed”.

He said he “wouldn’t necessarily say we are a favoured destination for money laundering”, adding: “Generally the money goes the other way.”

I would not say that Australia is a popular destination for laundered funds - popular in a sense of relativity, senator … So if I was going to hide my money it would be in an offshore tax haven, it certainly wouldn’t be here.

McKim pursued the issue of including professional facilitators – such as accountants, lawyers and real estate agents – within the scope of money laundering laws. Phelan said the gap was “a vulnerability and I’m not going to step back from that” but added it was “a matter of government policy” as to what they choose to regulate.


Labor’s Penny Wong is grilling the finance minister, Simon Birmingham, about a report from Michelle Grattan suggesting that Scott Morrison could have gone to Glasgow promising net zero even without the Nationals’ support.

Birmingham said the prime minister had “respectfully engaged” in a process with the Nationals and it was “hypothetical” whether he could’ve gone to Glasgow promising net zero without their support.

Asked if there was any discussion of him doing so, Birmingham replied:

No – the prime minister was always intent on running a proper cabinet process.

Wong said the Nationals could’ve been out-voted at cabinet, and noted Barnaby Joyce’s public comments about it being within Morrison’s remit to promise net zero. Wong argued that all this meant whatever Morrison had agreed to amounted to “taxpayer funds to purchase political peace with the National party” for a decision he could’ve imposed if he wanted.

Birmingham rejected that. He said Australia was “best served” by keeping Australians together and negotiations within the government were a “function of representatives democracy” to ensure that diverse interests were represented.

Birmingham said he hadn’t seen the Nationals’ letter but “we work through the different issues that are raised”, confirming he had been briefed on them.

James Chisholm, a first assistant secretary at the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, said he hadn’t prepared advice on the demands, nor seen the list.

Stephanie Foster, the deputy secretary, said this likely meant the department hadn’t seen it.

Wong questioned how the government could claim the document was cabinet in confidence if the department that administered cabinet hadn’t even seen it.

The call has now moved to Coalition senators.


Victoria Covid update

In Victoria, a woman in her 20s is among the seven Covid deaths announced today, as health minister Martin Foley said more than 800 people were in hospital with the virus.

The deaths also included a man in his 40s, a man in his 60s, two women and a man in their 80s and a man in his 90s.

It came as Foley and the Covid-19 commander, Jeroen Weimar, both urged people to continue to get vaccinated and to remain cautious of restrictions and of symptoms.

Weimar also announced a series of pop-up vaccination clinics aimed at communities with “lower levels” of vaccine take-up, and he pointed out that many of the new cases were unvaccinated people.

He said:

What we’ve seen now with a new case in the last week, two-thirds of the new cases every single day are not vaccinated. Not the first dose, not fully vaccinated, they’re just not vaccinated...

Some of the local government areas of concern, in Wyndham, 96% of those new cases under the age of 40 were vaccinated. In Hume, 97% of new cases under the age of 40 were not fully vaccinated. Please, for your protection and the possession of those you love around you, get the vaccination job done over the coming days.

Weimar welcomed the drop in case numbers today but said it was imperative people remained vigilant about symptoms and getting tested across the metropolitan Melbourne.

Testing numbers across metropolitan Melbourne were slightly down at 94,000 over the weekend, he said.


Cabinet isn’t scheduled to meet until tonight, so don’t expect any updates from the coalition on climate. There will be a lot of back and forth on rhetoric in question time, but no answers.

Party room doesn’t meet until tomorrow – after cabinet has signed off on the deal.

The Australian federal police’s deputy commissioner of operations, Ian McCartney, says some groups in Australia have viewed the 6 January attack on the US Capitol “as an inspiration point”.

During Senate estimates, McCarney was asked whether he’d seen any evidence that Australians had been inspired by the attack. He was also asked of any links to individuals in Australia.

McCartney replied that a colleague in the NSW police had referred to the “petri dish of hate” on the internet.

McCarney told the committee:

I think there has been some groups in Australia that have looked at that as an inspiration point, but it’s not binary. There are a lot of factors at play and a lot of different views at play.

McCartney also referred to the Australian terrorist responsible for the Christchurch attack, saying:

Unfortunately his manifesto has been an inspiration point for other attacks, so this type of ideology is fuelling concern.

AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney
AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Origin Energy has responded to Nino’s post about the fine. From retail executive manager Jon Briskin:

When we discovered this issue, we self-reported to the regulator, apologised, credited the accounts of current Victorian small business customers who were charged the $22 fee in error, and offered refunds to former customers.”

We value our customers and take all of our compliance obligations seriously, so we are disappointed we did not implement these regulatory changes correctly and we are sorry.”

New Zealand reported 109 new cases of Covid-19 today, as the country’s outbreak grows to 2,681 cases.

Last week, prime minister Jacinda Ardern outlined New Zealand’s pathway forward through the pandemic, introducing a new “traffic light” system that would end lockdowns once the country reached 90% vaccination.

Today the ministry of health announced 87% of eligible New Zealanders (aged 12 and over) had received at least one vaccine dose, and 71% were vaccinated with both doses.

There are ongoing concerns that Māori, who are behind in vaccinations, will be disproportionately affected by illness and death. As of today, 69% of Māori had had one dose and 48% were fully vaccinated.

Auckland, the centre of the outbreak, has now hit 90% first doses, and 77% fully vaccinated.

All of the day’s cases were restricted to the North Island: 103 in Auckland, four in Waikato and two in Northland. A single case detected in the South Island over the weekend has not yet resulted in further infections.

Thirty-five people are in hospital with Covid-19 – a drop of 15 from yesterday – and five are in intensive care.


Still in energy estimates, Labor has been asking what has happened to the government’s national electric vehicles strategy that was due in the middle of last year.

Just a note here, transport accounts for about 17% of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Jo Evans from the department confirms that the strategy was due more than a year ago but the pandemic, and other things, forced a change of course.

Labor’s Jenny McAllister then asks about the future fuels strategy, or the FFS – which probably fairly conveys how we all feel about how this hearing is progressing today.

Evans says what was the electric vehicles strategy became the future fuels strategy and again, no word on when we might see it.

Government senator Zed Seselja says:

The answer is those policies will be released. In terms of the timing that’s going to be a matter for the minister [Angus Taylor], I’m not going to pre-empt it.


Please save us from these references:

Going well in Infrastructure estimates ... Bridget McKenzie says the first rule of fight club is not to talk about fight club. Which prompts Labor's Murray Watt to note that the National Party is certainly a fight club at the moment...

— Shane Wright (@swrighteconomy) October 24, 2021


The Australian federal police commissioner, Reece Kershaw, has requested an “urgent review” of measures to protect the safety of parliamentarians.

Prosecutors in the UK last week charged a man with the murder of Conservative MP Sir David Amess and the preparation of terrorist acts.

During Senate estimates, when asked about the safety of MPs, senators and electoral candidates in Australia, Kershaw said the AFP had “taken this issue very seriously”:

Last year I did bring out the UK anti-terrorism command from the UK Met to have a look at our overall protection for MPs and high office holders and part of that included looking at the threat assessments and a whole range of initiatives.

So we are looking at a new model for us around what services we could be able to provide protection, whether that’s physical protection, liaison, other solutions that perhaps in the past we haven’t had a look at those kind of different layers.

Our model tends to be almost an all-in or nothing kind of model, so we’re looking at how could we service all of the parliamentarians in a better way, and provide that level of reassurance, what do you do when you’ve got these threats coming in and not to take them lightly, because I know a lot of the electorates receive lots of threats and concerning letters and other things.

We do have to work with the state police as well, often that’s their jurisdiction.

Brett Pointing, the AFP’s deputy commissioner of operations, added:

The commissioner has tasked me to conduct an urgent review to see what additional strategies could be employed to enhance the safety of members of parliament.

I think what happened in the UK was a stark reminder of the unpredictability of this environment and members of parliament are often at public events, there are often people there who have different views, sometimes extreme views, and it’s extremely important for us to work with members of parliament and the broader intelligence community to make sure we have up-to-date intelligence, and that that intelligence is converted into a security overlay that provides a best possible security for our members of parliament. So we look forward to doing that piece of work as a matter of urgency.

Labor’s Kristina Keneally asked about the timeframes, given that Australia “could be in an election campaign in a matter of weeks or a matter of months”. Pointing:

We’re working through that now and I’ve got to report back to the commissioner by 11 November.


Origin Energy fined $5m over exit fees

Origin Energy have been slugged a record $5m in penalties after allegedly charging prohibited exit fees to more than 20,000 customers.

The Victorian Essential Services Commission issued 250 penalty notices to Origin after finding that more than 77,000 gas and electricity small business contracts wrongly included exit fees.

Exit fees adding up to $489,774 had been wrongly charged to 22,371 customers, the watchdog found.

Commissioner Sitesh Bhojani says it is the largest penalty issued by the commission to an energy company.

He said:

Origin Energy knew at all times about the changes in the law banning exit fees and they even reviewed 19 different contract templates, but didn’t remove the exit fees.

Given the size and standing of Origin Energy, the commission is concerned about the company’s compliance culture over that four-and-a-half-year period from 2016 to 2020.

Some of the affected businesses were charities and not-for-profits who can’t afford extra fees. Some were charged multiple times, paying thousands of dollars in prohibited fees.

A local council, places of worship and charities were all incorrectly charged fees by the company, the commission found.

Despite receiving customer complaints as early as 2018, Origin did not stop charging the fees until late last year, Bhojani said.

At least one customer thought Origin was being generous after they complained and were told the fee would be waived.

The case came to light in September 2020 after Origin Energy reported the alleged breaches of Victoria’s electricity and gas industry acts to the commission.

In Victoria, exit fees can only be included on fixed-term retail contracts with fixed tariffs, charges and fees, which was not the case with these small business contracts.

Origin advised the commission it was trying to contact former customers, with fewer than half having been reimbursed.

The commission issues energy industry penalty notices where it has reason to believe a business has committed a contravention, but payment of a penalty is not an admission of a contravention.


It’s all going great:

Significant confusion here at #estimates as officials scramble to decide whether or not government has ruled out changes to 2030 target at Glasgow.

— Senator Jenny McAllister (@jennymcallister) October 24, 2021


The ATO would like to remind you that this is the last week to get your tax return in (without late penalties):

The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) is reminding Australians that this is the last week to either lodge their tax return or register with a registered tax agent.

So far this tax time, over $20 billion has been refunded to more than 7.2 million taxpayers.

Assistant Commissioner Tim Loh understands that tax might have been the last thing on people’s minds these last few months.

If you’re planning to DIY your tax but haven’t got around to it yet, don’t worry. For people with simple tax affairs, lodging through our myTax service can be done and dusted in under 30 minutes. Most of your income and personal details will already be there; simply confirm it’s correct, add any additional income and claim your eligible deductions.”

If you’re lodging with a registered tax agent the same information will be available to them. You may also have a bit longer to get your return in; all you need to do is be registered with your agent before the end of this week.


Over in the House, Indi independent MP Helen Haines has introduced her federal integrity commission bill.

Rex Patrick introduced Haines’ bill in the Senate late last week.

Most of the crossbenchers are pushing to make this as much of an issue as they can, and are hoping to drag moderate Liberals into supporting a commission that could actually do something, rather than the model the government has suggested


For what it is worth, Bob Katter has thoughts on net zero which include his discovery that majorities don’t mean everyone agrees. (Just wait until he finds out how the country’s vote was split at the last election.)

Here is the press release his office sent out:

Bob Katter says the National Party has backed net-zero by 2050 despite putting up a huge fight, ‘which means a large proportion of their party room thought it was wrong and now they’re just going to do the wrong thing.’

“They’re going to the bend the knee and go with it, destroying what little credibility they had left,” Mr Katter said.

“They went to the last election opposing this strongly and now, three years later they’re going along with it.”

Mr Katter said before cheering for net-zero, every Australian must understand the concept that to buy something from overseas you must sell something.

“The only things that we produce of significance are coal, iron-ore, copper, zinc and aluminium,” he said.

“Everything else is very small by comparison. Now, you’re going to wipe out coal – unless you’re lying of course. And by doing so, you will also ban these other metals because they must be smelted with coal. It would be ridiculously costly to smelt it any other way.

“My own thoughts are that the LNP and ALP are lying through their feet about net-zero and won’t be game enough to bankrupt the country.”


AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw said while religiously motivated violent extremism remained Australia’s biggest terrorism threat, the growth in ideologically motivated violent extremist was providing challenges.

He cited the following factors as posing those challenges:

  • its rural and regional presence
  • its influence over young people
  • the high levels of security consciousness
  • access to firearms among adherents

The IMVE cohort is extremely interconnected, especially online. Their views are diverse and include supports for nationalist, white supremacy and neo-Nazism. The AFP has detected a number of threats, and concentrated investigative efforts on individuals or small networks (three to four individuals) who are not aligned to members of a specific nationalist or racist group.

More broadly, Kershaw said law enforcement was mindful of “global instability, including the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan”.

The Australian Islamist cohort is influenced by both the Isil and AQ ideology, however there is a greater number aligned to the Isil ideology. We expect that Isil will transform and re-establish transnational links to increase their ability to direct or influence terrorism in other parts of the globe.

Kershaw told the estimates committee that other significant threats were “the terrorist offenders released from Australian jails”, adding that the UK and NZ were “experiencing similar challenges”:

Eighteen terrorist offenders are scheduled for release from prison before 2026, and 54 are due for release by 2060.

He said the community safety risk posed by the reintegration of convicted terrorist offenders into the community would be an ongoing challenge, and the AFP had established a dedicated capability to manage this risk. Without naming names, he said an offender “who was recently released almost immediately went online to access information about executions, beheadings and torture”.


The Australian federal police commissioner, Reece Kershaw, has warned of “individuals who are now pre-loaded with extremist ideology” while declaring that the end of restrictions on movement “will make it harder for law enforcement”.

Kershaw used an opening statement to a Senate estimates hearing to say Australians “need to remain vigilant” about the threat of terrorism as lockdowns end and borders reopen.

He said the threat of terrorism remains at “probable”, but noted:

There have been some significant shifts, in the diversity and complexity of the environment, since the pandemic started almost a year and a half ago. The threat of terrorism has not dissipated. In fact, the pandemic, extended lockdowns and more time spent online, has in some cases, made it easier for extremists to recruit.

Increased anti-government sentiment, proliferation of conspiracy theories, physical isolation and more time spent online have increased the threat, facilitating local and transnational links between individuals and groups, and sharing of ideas among extremist communities.

Across the world, including in Australia, we have individuals who are now pre-loaded with extremist ideology, and the end of restrictions on movement will make it harder for law enforcement.

Kershaw said religiously motivated violent extremism remained the biggest threat – comprising 85% of AFP investigations – while 15% related to ideologically motivated violent extremism (a new umbrella term that includes rightwing extremism).

(For comparison, the intelligence agency Asio has said its own investigations into ideologically motivated violent extremists, such as racist and nationalist violent extremists, have grown, with such investigations having “approached 50% of our onshore priority counter-terrorism caseload” last financial year.)

Kershaw continued:

The AFP and our partners are protecting Australians from terrorism on a number of fronts, including the concerning trend of young children occupying the attention of law enforcement agencies. Children as young as 13 years old – not even old enough to get their learners’ driver’s licence – are planning and negotiating with others online to carry out catastrophic terror attacks. Some of these youth feel isolated or do not feel like they belong, and so they retreat to the online world, looking to connect with someone, including RMVE and IMVE individuals.


Labor’s Jenny McAllister has been asking officials in the energy estimates hearing whether stakeholders – such as the Australian Industry Group and the Clean Energy Council – had been consulted about the government’s long-term emissions reduction strategy.

Jo Evans, a deputy secretary in the industry, science, energy and resources department, says stakeholders were consulted as part of the technology roadmap that was released in September 2020and the roadmap is at the core of the strategy.

McAllister takes that as meaning no industry group has been consulted about the emissions strategy that will be taken to the Glasgow climate summit next week:

This is everything we have feared about a government that is entirely addicted to secrecy. You are going to Cop with a plan that no one has seen.


The chances of this passing before the election are pretty slim. As AAP reports:

Children aged under 16 would need their parents’ consent to use social media platforms under a proposed online crackdown.

Attorney-General Michaelia Cash on Monday released an exposure draft of new legislation to create a binding privacy code for social media services, data brokers and other large online operators.

All platforms would be forced to receive parental consent for users under the age of 16.

Social media companies would be required to take all reasonable steps to verify users’ age and put children’s best interests first when handling personal information.

There would be tougher penalties and more enforcement powers handed to the privacy regulator.

Online platforms subject to the code would need to comply with strict new privacy requirements, including new rules about children and other vulnerable groups.

The code will be developed with the Australian Information Commissioner and industry.

Organisations would face tougher requirements to be transparent about how personal information is handled.

Senator Cash said the bill would ensure Australians’ privacy would be treated more carefully and transparently by online platforms.

“We know that Australians are wary about what personal information they give over to large tech companies,” she said.

“Our draft legislation means that these companies will be punished heavily if they don’t meet that standard.”

Labor is yet to outline its climate policy but that hasn’t stopped Anthony Albanese from trying to keep all the focus on what the Coalition is or is not doing:

The climate wars haven’t even ended within the National party. Matt Canavan has been out there opposing this target. Barnaby Joyce, apparently, was the last speaker in the room and said he was opposed to it. Now, when Scott Morrison jets off to Europe, Barnaby Joyce will be the acting prime minister of this country, someone who doesn’t support this target as Australia’s position. So, it’s very clear that the Coalition government remain divided. They remain in a state of conflict. Their negotiations aren’t about good policy. It’s all about politics, as everything that this government does.


Senate estimates have begun for the energy portfolio and, if you were hoping it might shed some light on the deal for net zero, I am here to disappoint you.

Senators have been quizzing the government this morning about the agreement between the Nationals and the Liberal party for a “process” to work towards a net zero by 2050 target.

The department has told the hearing it’s not in a position to answer questions because the information is cabinet in confidence.

Officials told Labor senator Jenny McAllister they can’t answer questions about whether they’ve been asked to provide advice about the National party’s list of demands in exchange for an agreement on a net zero target, whether the department had been asked to provide advice on a government-funded coal-fired power station, or any advice on costs.

Senator Zed Seselja also told the hearing the energy and emissions reduction minister Angus Taylor had made a public interest immunity claim and would not be tabling the government’s net zero emissions modelling in the parliament.

Both McAllister and the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asked Seselja if he knew what was in the deal the Coalition had struck.

Seselja said he couldn’t comment on cabinet processes.


Are you aware of what the deal consists of? I’m not asking you for the detail, I’m asking you if you even know what’s in it, mate. You don’t know what’s in it, do you?


Net zero – a goal or a commitment? Depends on who you ask

Here is some of the current deputy prime minister being as clear as coal dust about what it is the National party has actually agreed to.

Net zero emissions by 2050, according to Barnaby Joyce, is apparently “a goal”. Not a target. Or even a nationally determined contribution, which is what Scott Morrison told the Liberal party room it would be. (A NDC is a commitment that says “here is what the nation will do” offered up to the international community. It doesn’t need legislation but it carries more weight than just a statement. It’s basically a handshake deal.)

Here was Joyce (speaking very closely to the microphone) on ABC radio RN this morning:

I said to you quite clearly, un ambiguously, I am 100% onboard with the goal to achieve net zero by 2050 because that was a decision of the National party room.

I’ve also clearly stated that it was always the case as told to you, told to everyone that the process would be that no individual would make the decision and the party room would make the decision.

The party room has moved decision. I abide by the party room, I am 100% onboard with the goal of net zero reaching by 2050. I can’t make it clearer than that.

Except it’s not meant to be a “goal”. It’s meant to be a commitment.


Meanwhile on the other side of the Coalition:

Wool was, for a century, Australia’s biggest export.

Resources now dominate, a result of changed global demand, new customers, and new technologies.

These same forces are at work now.

Decarbonisation will shape our economic future, like it or not. https://t.co/URjqRa1SHx

— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) October 24, 2021


No one is allowed to see the modelling the Morrison government is using in its net zero target:

Senator Zed Seselja tells senate #Estimates that Angus Taylor has made a 'public interest immunity claim' and will refuse to disclose the government's net zero emissions modelling.
Last week senate had passed an order that required the modelling's release.

— Michael Mazengarb (@MichaelM_ACT) October 24, 2021

Victoria reports 1,461 new Covid cases and seven deaths; NSW 294 cases and four deaths

NSW and Victoria have reported their Covid numbers for this morning:

NSW COVID-19 update – Monday 25 October 2021

In the 24-hour reporting period to 8pm last night:

- 93% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
- 84.8% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine
- 59,612 tests pic.twitter.com/QyhwwjOrAi

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 24, 2021

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAtS1P#COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/E48z03dhQ4

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) October 24, 2021


The first round of estimates hearings is about to get under way.

Today’s schedule includes finance and public administration, legal and constitutional affairs, environment and comms and rural and regional affairs.


And then we get to the myth.

Matt Canavan:

I don’t think this is the right approach for this country. It’s a fantasy to think we can remove all carbon emissions* and normally when you pursue a fantasy it doesn’t end well because you forget about other things that are really important and I think right now what is important is securing the defence of this country and making sure we continue to have jobs post-Covid.

*Net zero does not mean no emissions. At all. It means emissions are meant to be offset, not that there are no emissions.


And your regular reminder Matt Canavan is an economist by trade and his only time in mines has been as a politician/for photoshoots (anyone working in a coalmine who gets that much coal dust on them needs to immediately contact OH&S and report it, given the health risks we know come from breathing in the dust).


This guy is not for turning. I think this remains a bad deal for this country. Somebody in this place has got to stand up for the workers of Australia* and I’ll keep doing that because I think net zero is going to end in tears. It is going to end in higher power prices, fewer jobs for Australians and make us weaker at a time where China is being pretty aggressive in our region. I’ll keep up the fight. I had a loss yesterday. I couldn’t have fought any harder.

*Yet to hear Canavan speak on the estimated 40,000 job losses in the university sector over the last couple of years, or the jobs which have been lost in the arts because of the lack of government support during the pandemic.


Queensland LNP senator and former minister Matt Canavan continued his opposition to net zero emissions this morning on the Nine Network:

I don’t agree with the decision. I let the room know yesterday that I will – as I say, I’ll continue to fight for special the blue-collar workers of this country.

I don’t think they have much of a voice down here. The Labor party long since deserted them. I think it’s unfortunate our party is jumping onboard with this green fantasy.

I know the people that support the Liberal and National parties aren’t big supporters of big government and don’t forget net zero is another word for big government telling you what to eat, what to drive, what electricity you can use. I believe people should make their own decisions and not bureaucrats from Canberra.


This is the level of “debate” from people who have “big” futures in the National party.

To reach the Liberals' net zero plan, the UN says we can only eat 14g of meat a day. Don't eat it all at once! pic.twitter.com/Qdr2Fz5y9z

— Matthew Canavan (@mattjcan) October 23, 2021


The latest Newspoll is out and AAP has taken a look at it:

The latest Newspoll, published in the Australian on Monday, found Labor is leading the coalition 54 per cent to 46 per cent on a two-party preferred basis.

This compares to the last poll three weeks ago when Labor was leading 53 per cent to 47 per cent.

Asked about the federal government’s priorities, 47 per cent of voters polled nominated meeting targets to cut emissions while 40 per cent pointed to keeping energy prices down.

When the same question on priorities was asked in February this year, the outcome was 43 per cent to 42 per cent, respectively.

The poll, conducted between October 20-23, also found 35 per cent of voters believed a Labor government would be better at leading the response to climate change compared to 28 per cent for a coalition government.

On the primary voting measure, support for the Coalition was at 35 per cent compared to 38 per cent for Labor.

This was the worst result for the government since December 9, 2018, according to the poll conducted by YouGov.

But it also found Prime Minister Scott Morrison was considered the better leader at 48 per cent, compared to 34 per cent for Labor’s Anthony Albanese.


Boosters should be available six months on from last vaccine dose

Lt General John Frewen also had an update on the third dose of the vaccine timetable this morning (he was speaking to the ABC):

Booster doses for the immunocompromised have started and that’s just to bring the people up to the same level of protection that rest of us achieve through just two doses.

But we’re waiting on Atagis’s advice now around boosters.

We expect that the advice is imminent and we think what’s going to happen is that a booster shot will be made available from six months, from your second dose.

So we’ll work the priority groups in the very first instance, aged care, disability, frontline health workers and those sorts of areas.

But we think what will happen is that as people become eligible from six months, they’ll just be able to go and grab a booster shot.


For an insight into the Nationals party room meeting yesterday, you can read Murph (a reminder, this small group of people are not only selling the message, they are also influential in setting policy as all three now sit in the cabinet):

By the end of of a two-hour party room conversation, a majority of colleagues were in favour of the net zero transition, provided Morrison followed through on the various high-level policy undertakings.

There wasn’t a formal vote in the room, but a tally was kept.

Joyce acknowledged the majority position in favour when he spoke at the end of the debate.

According to multiple sources, at that point the deputy prime minister also revealed his own position.

Joyce told his colleagues he was not in favour of net zero.

This is, of course, pretty extraordinary.

What this means is the Nationals leader – Australia’s deputy prime minister – is now fronting a Nationals party room decision that he personally doesn’t agree with.

It’s not just Joyce. Two other Nationals ministers – Bridget McKenzie and Keith Pitt – were also serious net zero sceptics, if not outright opponents. (Some say McKenzie was recorded as a no vote on Sunday, although recounts of her remarks to colleagues are hard to follow.)


And, given that the agriculture industry is already making its own changes, I don’t know what this means:

Barnaby Joyce tells @RNBreakfast the Nats will ensure "agriculture must be ringroaded" as part of any climate policy, says the party will ensure regional Australia is not worse off, because of net zero target.

— Kath Sullivan (@KathSully) October 24, 2021


Oh good.

Just a reminder that he will be acting prime minister for the week Scott Morrison is in Glasgow.

Multiple accounts say Joyce told colleagues yesterday he wasn’t on board with net zero during his contribution acknowledging the majority in the room #auspol

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) October 24, 2021


Meanwhile, what’s going on with the Australian Open? Well, unvaccinated players may be able to attend, as long as they go through two weeks of hotel quarantine.

🐨Update on #AusOpen🐨

Per email sent to WTA players just now, Tennis Australia has told WTA PC that fully vaccinated players won’t be required to quarantine or bubble at all.

Unvaccinated players will be allowed to enter, TA tells WTA, but must do 14 days of hotel quarantine. pic.twitter.com/cu4NV8abYB

— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) October 24, 2021

Which seems to contradict this from the government last week:

Asked on ABC radio on Wednesday morning whether he had a message for Djokovic, Alex Hawke reiterated that anyone entering the country must be double vaccinated.

“The government in establishing its borders has said that you will need to be double vaccinated to visit Australia, that’s a universal application, not just for tennis players,” Hawke said.

Asked if he could see any workaround for the Australian Open, Hawke said “not at this time”.

“Our health advice is that when we open the borders everyone that comes to Australia will need to be double vaccinated.”


So there is still quite a bit to play out there.

But David Littleproud wants you to know that the Nationals will be honest with you at the next election:

We’ll be honest with the Australian people and look them square in the eyes and tell the truth. That’s what they want out of government, not just someone who signs up to it blindly but has no plan to get there.

And if that’s what the public want from the Labor party who are able to do this without any scrutiny, you’ll see a detailed plan in the next 24-48 hours from us.

Whereas the other mob are pinning their hope on a few electric cars.

Q: Do you support electric cars?



Q: So what’s wrong with supporting electric cars given that petrol-powered cars are being phase out in the next 15 years?


I have no issue. So long as people have vehicles. The reality is that the market will decide that. You’re seeing cars move towards hybrids and many other changes in technology. So I’m agnostic to that. The reality is that I need them to work, but in my parts of the world where I have an electorate three times the size of Victoria, I just need to be able to plug them in somewhere.

But the reality is that in some areas, it will be acceptable for those areas to have. So I’m not against that. But if that’s all the Labor party has, the detail of their plan will surely cost you a lot more than a few electric vehicles is the point I’m making.


So what about the actual issue Cop26 will be looking at – the 2030 targets? Any shift on that?

David Littleproud:

That is important and we also met Kyoto. But we don’t shift the goalposts during a game of football. You keep them where they are. And the fact that we’re going to overshoot that says a lot about Australia and says a lot about what we’ve done in the last decade to achieve that.

We should be proud of that. Our chins should be up and our chests out as a nation, instead of the self-loathing.

We’ve done a lot of heavy lifting and what the reality is that we will overshoot it and what we’re now going to say is that as the cabinet agrees, we’ll get to a position of setting a goal to reach 2050 net zero, so the world can look at us and say that we’re fair dinkum because we’re going to squarely look them in the eyes and say this is how we get there and who pays.

Except we really haven’t, as Adam Morton has been reporting for years:


So do Barnaby Joyce and Keith Pitt support the deal?

You can’t know. I they speak out against it, they will have to resign from the cabinet. But you’re not allowed to know their actual position. David Littleproud:

I won’t tell you because what happens in our party room stays in the sanctity of that party room. That’s what we respect as National party members and I don’t intend to commentate on anyone’s position, nor my own. We all made that in the sanctity of the room and got to the position that we as a party room should support.


But what sort of future can Matt Canavan have in the party, given his very, very loud objections to any sort of emissions reduction target?

David Littleproud:

In the National party, a big one.

The culture of the National party is celebrating people who are prepared to stand for their convictions and the courage of that. Matt obviously has a differing view to the rest of the party room. And we respect that. That’s not something that we denigrate in the National party. You want that in Canberra. You want the diversity of ideas and to be prosecuted. As a National party party room, we got to a different position than Matt Canavan and he made that clear yesterday.


But why can’t people know now what is in the deal which has ensured the Nationals “in-principle” support for climate policy?

David Littleproud:

That’s part of the cabinet process and you’re just going to have to wait another 24 hours because obviously it has to be ratified by cabinet as a cabinet document.

And I could go to jail if I start talking about it and I’m sure that you done want to see that!

But we worked through this as quickly as we can and when we see the roadmap and what the National party has asked for.

We’ve done this in a very mature sense. We worked through this calmly and rationally as a party. And as a Coalition, and the prime minister and the treasurer have been working closely with the deputy prime minister and myself and our party room, along with Angus Taylor, to make sure that we’ve got the comfort of securing those jobs in regional Australia now and creating new jobs.

And if you’re a coalminer today in the Hunter or in central Queensland, you will have a job well beyond 2030, well beyond 20 and well beyond 2050 particularly if carbon capture storage takes off*.

(*Spoiler: it won’t)


Nationals deputy leader David Littleproud has been the main spokesperson of the new “mature” and “reasonable” Nats.

So what is in the deal? You can’t know yet.

He told the ABC:

Well, obviously the prime minister has been very respectful to the National party from the start saying that regional Australia wouldn’t be impacted and there would be mitigants put in place and, so long as they appear in that, the National party is onboard.

And we have no reason to believe that it will be anything other than that, because it’s been a respectful process, one that we started last Sunday in seeing the detail of the technology roadmap, and now we work through that in a mature and sensible way to get to the resolution, and tonight that will be ratified and obviously, the prime minister will make those announcements, I would suspect, tomorrow morning.


Good morning


That was quite the weekend.

The Nationals are now trying to rebrand as “calm and rational” over their climate views, with the junior Coalition partner agreeing to in-principle support for a net zero emissions target by 2050.

Well, most of the Nationals. Matt Canavan wants everyone to know its a bad deal.

But what is the deal? No one knows. Keith Pitt is back in the cabinet, after he was booted as part of Barnaby Joyce’s return, so the Nats got another cabinet spot (and vote). Other than that – it is all secret. But it’s calm and rational. Apparently.

Sarah Martin and Katharine Murphy gave up their Sunday to try to make sense of the position:

The Nationals MP George Christensen, who has repeatedly threatened to shift to the crossbench, told colleagues he would now reconsider his position in the government in protest at the party’s position.

Christensen attended the meeting remotely, wearing a “support coal” T-shirt.

Others who spoke out strongly against the target included Matt Canavan and Wide Bay MP Llew O’Brien.

The party’s Senate leader, Bridget McKenzie, also spoke against supporting the deal, and suggested Joyce could yet secure more for the party through the cabinet process.

The fact remains though that Australia’s government has been turning itself inside out just to get to this point but most of the rest of the world has moved to 2030 and action this decade – something Australia is not budging on.

So don’t expect this issue to go away. In fact, expect the election campaign to be bitterly fought on this point – with more scare tactics about “cost” and “plans”. Just remember that “meet and beat” is not the whole truth.

On that, the environment team have spent months putting this new podcast series together – it gives you all the history and knowledge you could need to understand what has happened – and what’s ahead.

We’ll bring you all of the day’s events as they unfold. Cabinet is meeting today and we have question time – as well as the first day of estimates hearings. Mike Bowers is already hard at work and we’ll get to as many committees as we can. Just follow Penny Wong’s eyebrows.

Meanwhile, congratulations to NSW students, parents and carers and school staff, with remote learning now a thing of the past. I don’t think any of us who have not been directly impacted can understand what school has been like for much of the past two years and I hope today is filled with as many happy reunions as possible. And Victoria is looking at being reunited on Friday, with the 80% vaccination target about to be met, which means Melbourne and the regions will no longer be kept apart. Given how many loved ones have been separated that is just wonderful news. I understand there are still concerns – everyone can take it as slow as they like, and if you are not ready to rush out, you don’t have to. Just take it at your own pace.

Katharine Murphy, Sarah Martin, Daniel Hurst and Paul Karp will keep you updated on all of the politics today, with the rest of the Guardian stepping in to let you know important things happening outside of Canberra. It being a sitting week, you have Amy Remeikis on the blog until the end of the day.

It is going to be a busy week – Scott Morrison is due to leave for Glasgow on Thursday, so there is a bit to get through before then. Ready?



Caitlin Cassidy (now) and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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