What we learned today, Thursday 16 September
That brings today’s blog to an end. But first, here are today’s biggest headlines:
- Australia announced a trilateral partnership with the US and UK, known as Aukus, which will deliver a nuclear-powered submarine fleet for Australia.
- Beijing responded to the announcement, calling it a case of “extremely irresponsible” double standards.
- New South Wales recorded 1,351 new local Covid-19 cases and 12 Covid-related deaths. The regional towns of Albury and Lismore were plunged back into lockdown at 6pm tonight after recording positive cases.
- Victoria recorded 514 new Covid-19 cases, only 148 were linked.
- Despite this, premier Daniel Andrews announced a very modest easing of some restrictions: from 11.59pm on Friday you’ll be allowed to travel up to 10km from your home, and outdoor picnics will be allowed with one other person regardless of vaccination status, and five adults from two households if you’re fully vaccinated.
- ACT recorded 15 new local cases, only five of which were in isolation for their entire infectious period.
- Unemployment has fallen slightly from 4.6% to 4.5%, despite the number of people employed and hours worked dropping.
- Queensland parliament passed laws that will allow voluntary assisted dying for people with a terminal illness, with an overwhelming majority of MPs voting in favour (60-29).
- Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, has advised the federal circuit court he intends to grant three members of the Murugappan family another three-month bridging visa next week.
Thank you so much to everyone reading for joining us. This is Justine Landis-Hanley, signing off.
China calls Australian submarine deal 'extremely irresponsible'
China’s foreign ministry has warned that Australia, the US and the UK may end up hurting their own interests, after the three countries unveiled a new defence cooperation pact.
The agreement – which includes a plan to help Australia acquire nuclear-powered submarines – was criticised by the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson, Zhao Lijian.
According to a translation aired by ABC News, Zhao said the US and UK’s decision to export highly sensitive nuclear-powered submarine technology to Australia was a case of “extremely irresponsible” double standards.
Australia is a non-nuclear weapon state party to the NPT [non-proliferation treaty] and a party to the nuclear weapon-free zone in the Southern Pacific. Now it is importing nuclear-powered submarine technology with strategic military value. The international community, including neighbouring countries, have risen to question its commitment to nuclear non-proliferation. China will closely monitor the situation.
Zhao said the three countries “should abandon the obsolete Cold War zero sum mentality and narrow-minded geopolitical concepts and respect regional people’s aspiration and do more that is conducive to regional peace and stability and development, otherwise they will only end up hurting their own interests”.
Queensland passes voluntary assisted dying laws
Queensland has passed laws that will allow voluntary assisted dying for people with a terminal illness, with an overwhelming majority of MPs voting in favour.
The state – often perceived as Australia’s most socially conservative – becomes the fifth Australian jurisdiction to allow voluntary euthanasia.
The state parliament voted 60-29 in favour, despite a fierce campaign by faith-based groups and attempts by opponents to introduce amendments that would have imposed barriers to access the new scheme.
Voluntary assisted dying (VAD) will be restricted to people with an advanced and progressive condition that causes intolerable suffering and was expected to cause death within a year.
The person must have decision-making capacity and would have to be separately and independently assessed by two doctors. They would then be required to make three separate requests over at least nine days.
The laws also allow doctors and healthcare providers to conscientiously object. Faith-based organisations that run hospitals and aged care homes had argued for stronger rights to object, which would have acted to prevent some residents from accessing VAD.
In the end – after 56 separate amendments were tabled and rejected – the laws passed as drafted by the state’s independent law reform commission.
The conscience vote largely split along party lines; most Labor MPs were in favour, most from the LNP voted against. Campaigners were pleased with the healthy majority, which they said would discourage future attempts to wind back the VAD scheme.
Debate in parliament was particularly emotional; supporters and opponents each shared personal stories to outline their positions.
Nine News is reporting that a man has allegedly crashed through the Queensland-NSW border checkpoint.
We are seeking more information on this.
The news day is slowly winding down, but by far the biggest story was the announcement that Australia has entered a new pact with the US and the UK to acquire nuclear-powered submarines.
This means that Australia is scrapping a $90bn submarine deal it had with France that had been plagued by delays, cost blowouts and disputes over local industry involvement.
For anyone else who read my last post about Queensland’s new system for monitoring those doing home quarantine and was also stressed about whether you are allowed to nap, a Twitter user wrote into me with an answer.
A Guardian reader has written to me and made a very good point about Queensland’s new system for making sure that people are complying with at-home quarantine orders.
To recap: the system will randomly send a message to individuals quarantining at least once a day while at home quarantine, with a hyperlink that they will have to open and respond to within 10 minutes. It will allow authorities to identify if they are away from home.
The reader pointed out that this might be able to track whether someone in quarantine has left their home, but it won’t be able to tell whether that person has a visitor over (which they aren’t supposed to).
I also have a pressing question: does this mean that you aren’t going to be allowed to take naps in quarantine? What if you don’t respond within 10 minutes because you were having a cheeky afternoon snooze?
It’s hasn’t been a great day for some of Australia’s politicians on the world stage.
This morning, the US president Joe Biden appeared to briefly forget prime minister Scott Morrison’s name, referring to him as “that fella down under”. Awkward.
Now there is footage of defence minister Peter Dutton not knowing how to do an elbow bump with his South Korean counterpart. Dutton was in Seoul this week for high-level talks.
The South Korean defence minister Suh Wook went to give Peter Dutton a Covid-safe elbow bump, but Dutton instead – seeing the minister’s fist – balled up his hand for a first bump.
Dutton was then shown how to do an elbow bump. He looked confused. It was very awkward.
See for yourself:
Patricia Karvelas has also asked Michael Sukkar about the nuclear-powered submarine deal announced as part of the historic trilateral Aukus partnership announced today.
How much will it cost the government to break the contract for the French-built variety?
Those will be determined in coming weeks and months. ... There will be a cost to the decision. The cost will mean we are in a much better position from a defence capability perspective.
But it’s still a huge waste of taxpayer money, isn’t it? Is this really value for money?
I disagree. Obviously, the environment is very different. The access to technology the US is providing us has only been given or provided by the US in one other case, and that was to the UK in 1958. We are now getting access to that same technology, which will underpin our capability in the Australian Navy into the future and there is no doubt we end up with a far superior defence capability and that’s, in the end, the decision that has to be taken, particularly given the environment in the Indo-Pacific that we now see, and what we are going to see in future decades.
The assistant treasurer and minister for housing, Michael Sukkar, is speaking on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing right now about the 0.1% drop in unemployment in August.
Australia’s unemployment rate fell 0.1% to 4.5% in August, the reverse of what many had feared. How confident are you that we have avoided a rise in unemployment?
Patricia, the headline data is very clear around the unemployment rate, that is at its lowest level since 2008.
But Sukkar acknowledged that 146,000 jobs were lost, according to the ABS, and there was a large fall in the participation rate.
If you look over successive months, the headline read has shown an underlying strength in the economy. I don’t think any Australian would be surprised to see that hours worked dropped and participation has dropped in light of lockdowns and very, very harsh and difficult lockdowns throughout really the whole eastern seaboard from New South Wales, ACT and Victoria. I don’t think it’s surprising but what has surprised in the upside is the headline unemployment rate being at its lowest level since 2008.
I think it gives us all the indication of the underlying strength in the Australian economy and our ability to come out on the other side of lockdowns and the pandemic in reasonably good shape, certainly much better shape than most other comparable economies, and that’s really because of the significant ... support and other measures put in place throughout the pandemic to support small business and Australians through what’s a very difficult time.
Hello! Just a reminder that you can send me stories/tips/memes and tweets to me via Twitter @justinel_h
Religious schools in Victoria will be banned from discriminating against staff on the basis of their sexuality, gender identity or marital status, under legislation to be introduced by the state government later this year.
Religious schools in Victoria currently have the power to sack or refuse to hire LGBTIQ+ people on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity, and marital status.
The Victorian attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, said the changes were being made to ease the fears some teachers and employees at religious schools had of being outed to their employers, and losing their job.
Queensland introduces 10-minute countdown message for home quarantine
Queensland authorities have introduced a new system to ensure people are fulfilling their home quarantine requirements.
Queensland health minster Yvette D’Ath said that the new system sends a random message to individuals quarantining a least once a day, while they are in home quarantine.
“The message will have a hyperlink that requires individuals to open and respond within 10 minutes,” she explained.
“It specifically allows authorities to identify if anybody is away from the approved residence.”
The Royal Australasian College of Surgeons has released a statement supporting mandatory Covid-19 vaccines for the entire healthcare workforce, whether they work in clinical or non-clinical settings.
As the highly contagious Delta variant drives a new surge of cases, vaccination is an ethical obligation and a necessary step for all healthcare workers to protect themselves, their colleagues, and the community they treat,” RACS president Dr Sally Langley said.
“Where personal circumstances mean it is not possible to be vaccinated, individual healthcare workers should seek medical advice to ensure that they remain adequately protected.”
Langley added that “during a Covid surge, surgeons should limit their movement between hospitals where possible and convert as many consultations to telehealth as possible dependent on clinical safety”.
Victorian premier Daniel Andrews announced some small changes to lockdown restrictions today, including that picnics are back on.
Up to two unvaccinated people from different households, or five vaccinated people from two households, will be allowed to have a picnic in the park from 11.59pm on Friday (but also, the curfew is still in place, so don’t go on a picnic as soon as the clock strikes midnight tomorrow night).
The announcement has revealed a bit of a funny loophole, though. While you will be able to go on a picnic, you are still not allowed to remove your mask to drink alcohol in public (a rule that was introduced to stop people from going on outdoor pub crawls).
When questioned about this, Andrews said that he would have to come back to reporters on the matter.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s Footscray site has reportedly closed to all staff, volunteers and members today after a positive Covid-19 case attended on Tuesday (14 September).
It’s unknown at this stage whether it is a tier one or tier two site.
Peter Dutton is at the Pentagon for the the Australia–US Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN), the principal forum for bilateral consultations with the United States.
Immigration minister Alex Hawke has advised the federal circuit court he intends to grant three members of the Murugappan family another three-month bridging visa next week, after fears the family may end up back in detention when their current visas expire.
Hawke announced on 23 June he had granted three-month bridging visas to Nades, Priya, and Kopika as it would allow them to live in community detention Perth while the youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, continued to receive medical treatment after being evacuated from Christmas Island, and while her legal matters were still ongoing.
Their visas are due to expire on Wednesday next week, and there was concern among the supporters of the family that without valid visas, the family could be put back into immigration detention or removed from Australia.
The case in the federal circuit court on Thursday centres around procedural fairness on a decision made by Hawke at the same time to prevent them from applying for visas.
Barrister for the federal government, Stephen Lloyd, told the court Hawke was prepared to make an undertaking that, subject to any adverse events, he would grant another three-month bridging visa to Nades, Priya, and Kopika at a meeting next week.
The hearing continues.
Former Labor prime minister Paul Keating has released a statement sharing his thoughts on Australia’s trilateral partnership with the US and UK to provide nuclear-powered submarines.
“This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia deemed appropriate,” Keating wrote.
Some updates from today’s ACT daily Covid-19 press conference:
- Of the 15 new cases, only five were in quarantine, and at least eight were in the community while infectious
- Chief minister Andrew Barr said that it was too early for authorities to ease restrictions. “Our vaccination rates are not yet high enough to allow a significant increase in movement,” he said.
Barr also announced a new package for the community sector and vulnerable Canberrans that will be included in the ACT budget, to be handed down on 6 October. The package includes:
- $8 million for specialist homelessness services, given the rise in demand for those services during this recent outbreak
- $4 million to community organisations to help pay their staff and cover those costs for the organisations that are very often not-for-profit.
- $2.2 million for mental health support and preventative services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Canberrans
Unemployment falls to 4.5% but hours worked plummets by 66m in August
Our friends at AAP have reported that unemployment has fallen slightly, despite the number of people employed and hours work dropping.
The number of people employed in Australia slumped by 146,000 in August as a result of a number of coronavirus lockdowns across the country, wiping out the jobs gains seen since April.
However, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said the unemployment rate eased to 4.5% from 4.6%, when economists had expected it to rise to five per cent.
“The fall in the unemployment rate reflects a large fall in participation during the recent lockdowns, rather than a strengthening in labour market conditions,” ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said.
He said the latest data covered the first two weeks of August, which included the continued lockdown in NSW, new lockdowns in Victoria, Queensland and the ACT, and a series of changes in restrictions in other parts of the country.
The participation rate of those in work or seeking employment fell from 66% to 65.2%, while hours worked in all jobs in the month fell by 3.7 points, or 66 million hours.
BIS Oxford Economics chief economist Sarah Hunter said the fallout from the NSW lockdown and the structure of the Covid-19 disaster payments has significantly distorted the labour market data.
She said the unemployment fall is not an accurate reflection of the health of the economy.
“With the economy in lockdown, those workers who are currently unable to work and not actively seeking a job are classified as not being in the labour force,” Dr Hunter said.
Also those receiving support payments in NSW, Victoria and the ACT are currently not required to look for a job, which has led to a further decline in the unemployment count.
In better news for the ACT, though, 79.3% have received their first dose, 54.5% have received their second dose!
ACT records 15 new local Covid-19 cases
This brings the total number of active cases to 241.
In Ballarat, additional testing centres have been set up to support the community, Weimar says.
This includes a testing site at Victoria Park on Military Drive, which will be open until 8pm tonight.
Weimar says there are six active cases that authorities are aware of in Ballarat. One of them is an unlinked case that “has been infectious since last Tuesday and has had a number of exposures across Ballarat”.
They are in a different part of the city and they may help us explain some of the waste water detects we’ve been seeing in the last few days. More exposure sites will be coming on stream during the course of today and again, we’ll be doing the work with him and his contacts to establish any other further exposures.
Victoria’s Covid commander, Jeroen Weimar, has provided further information about today’s 514 new cases.
There are three new cases in Ballarat, and seven more in regional Australia.
Of those seven are four cases in Mitchell Shire, one in Murrindindi, and two in greater Geelong.
All are primary close contacts and as such, authorities are confident that the current isolation protocols for the cases are sufficient.
In terms of the rest of the cases in metro Melbourne, Weimar said “we have a very similar geographic spread we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks”.
So over 61% of the cases are in the northern suburbs. So 317 cases across suburbs like Craigieburn, Roxborough Park and Glenroy.
Around a quarter of the new cases are in the western suburbs, including Altona North and Deer Park.
We have 46 cases in the south-east in Dandenong, Keysborough and Clyde North, and that does represent a significant increase in the southwestern suburbs where we’re getting more concerned and we have 14 cases in the eastern suburbs, including Doncaster and Donvale.
There are three further cases we’re trying to nail down where they are. And we’ll update those in the release.
Daniel Andrews is announcing an extra special treat for regional Victorians (excluding Ballarat).
Gyms and pools can reopen excluding spas, saunas and steam rooms, with density limits in place, from 11:59pm tomorrow night.
Hydrotherapy can go ahead, and tour buses can also operate with limits in place.
We have more cases today but we have a very high test and vaccine number. We said we wanted to do a million jabs in five weeks. We beat that. We have done that ahead of time. Thank you to every Victorian who has been part of that. We said when we got to 70% first dose there’ll be modest but meaningful things. That’s what we are announcing today.
Doubling the distance from your home, doubling the time you can spend out of your home. And the notion of this outdoor social interaction, the thing so many people have talked to me about, craving, seeing those they’re closest to, getting out and about in a safe way engaged with others beyond their household. You’d like to do more, but we have more cases today than we have had for a very long time. We have more people in hospital than we have had for a very long time and we have to balance this out. We’re not 70% double dose but single dose. There is a big difference with that.
Further announcements on the roadmap out of lockdown will be made on Sunday.
Changes to Victorian construction restrictions and vaccine rules
Changes are also being made in Victoria for the construction sector, with first doses of vaccines to be mandatory by September 23. There have been ongoing concerns over transmission occurring across worksites and tea-rooms:
Construction workers statewide will need to show evidence to their employer that they have had at least a first dose of a coronavirus vaccine by 11:59pm on 23 September. Basically, construction workers have a week to get – if they’ve not already got a first dose – to go and get a first dose of any of the vaccines that are available. And they will need to demonstrate to their employer that they have done that.
We have seen too many cases in construction ... the first dose by next Thursday is mandatory. That is required. No debates entered into. If you’ve got health reasons fair enough but people need to go and get vaccinated. That is not a choice that anyone should make. They should put their safety and the safety of the community first and go and get their first dose.
Now, on from that, and I know this will be – there’ll be significant impact on this but we have seen many seeding events and transmission events that relate to construction, Ballarat is essentially one of those examples.
But from 11:59pm tomorrow night, construction workers will no longer be able to cross back and forth over the metropolitan regional boundary. That is a challenge, I know, but we’re seeing far too many events and even people who have Covid safety at the front of their mind, if you’re travelling back and forth from metropolitan Melbourne into the regions and back again, then the virus will hitch a ride. That’s exactly what has happened and we have seen not only what’s happening in Ballarat but we have seen it in a number of other regional communities.
House inspections, skate parks, small performances also returning in Melbourne
More announcements for metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria are coming in thick and fast!
From 11.59pm tomorrow:
- Two people will be able to train outdoors with a personal trainer.
- Skate parks and outdoor communal exercise will be open.
- Child minding for school-aged children at home will be extended for households with one authorised worker.
- Up to five people will be able to attend an entertainment venue or physical recreation facility for the purposes of broadcast of a performance, class or concert.
- Real estate inspections will resume by appointment only. The property would need to be vacant at the time of the inspection. The agent will stay outside, the prospective tenants or those seeking to purchase the home they will be able to move through the home and inspect it.
Melbourne restrictions to ease: picnics return, travel limit expanded to 10km
From 11.59pm on Friday night, there will now be six reasons to leave the home in metropolitan Melbourne, and time permitted outside will double from two hours to four.
The distance to travel from the home will also double from 5km to 10km.
Premier Daniel Andrews says now the state has (almost) tipped over its 70% first-dose vaccination target, outdoor picnics will be allowed with one other person regardless of vaccination status, and five adults from two households if you’re fully vaccinated:
We know this is what the community is craving, the notion of being able to see people they love and care for, the notion of being able to visit with other people that has to be done safely. That’s why the chief health officer has recommended and cabinet has endorsed that for this new category of outdoor social interaction, one person may meet with another person not from their household for a picnic or another outdoor activity regardless of whether they are vaccinated.
Those who are fully vaccinated can meet in a group of up to five adults plus their dependents from as many as two households.
If you’re not vaccinated or only have one dose, you can as a group of two go outside and have that social interaction outdoors. If you’re fully vaccinated that number goes from two to five but it is a maximum of two household.
We will see from 11:59pm tomorrow night, into the weekend, groups of people outside enjoying each other’s company in a safe way.
Those three steps are in line with what we had spoken about being able to deliver. In fact, they’re beyond what we had indicated we would deliver a couple of weeks ago. We’re not overselling it. They are modest changes but they are significant and I’m sure people will avail themselves of those options, options that have been not safe and been denied to the community over many weeks now.
Back to Victoria: Andrews is providing an update on vaccinations. He says at some point today, the state will reach its 70% first vaccination dose target.
There were 41,758 jabs administered yesterday:
So I think it’s now our second highest day ever, so a really significant day, another day of almost 42,000 jabs. That’s in state hubs there. There will have been other vaccinations administered in other parts of the system.
In conjunction with our GPs, and pharmacy, we are doing more first doses than any other state or territory across our country. That is - speaks to this notion of there’s not hesitancy out there.
People are very keen to get vaccinated because I think the vast majority of Victorians know that’s how we keep each other safe and it’s how we get the place open and it’s how we get back to normal.
There are appointments available today, as I stand here right now. AstraZeneca and Pfizer appointments, please go online and book one and then turn up. Get your jab, then a second dose and be absolutely at the centre of us opening up and keeping people safe and well. 69.2% of Victorians aged between 16 and over, they have been first dosed, that is to say 69.2% of Victorians have received a first dose of the eligible dough that means tonight and into tomorrow we will tip over that 70% first dose mark.
The fact of the matter is somewhere across the state today someone will get the first dose and they will be - they will tip us over that 70% mark. That’s fantastic.
Albanese has also asked the Labor be included in further consultation around the deal, given that the federal government will be going to election within the next nine months, and “there will be an 18-month period of further consultation and processes in order to move forward and to finalise any future arrangements.
And I have suggested, as a mark of good faith to the Prime Minister this morning, that we establish a joint mechanism between the Government and Opposition senior members so that we have oversight of this process...
And I commit as well to, if the Government agrees, to set up an appropriate process that, if elected prime minister, I would include the then opposition leader and appropriate people in such a forum going forward.
Back to Canberra, Anthony Albanese has given three conditions that need to be met for Labor to support nuclear-powered submarines.
Labor has three conditions for the support of nuclear-powered submarines, which we have sought assurance on.
Firstly, that there be no requirement of a domestic civil nuclear industry.
Secondly, that there be no acquisition of nuclear weapons.
And, thirdly, that this agreement would be compatible with the non-proliferation treaty.
All of those conditions, I believe, can be met.
A number of changes are being announced today regarding Victoria’s lockdown. Here’s a summary from the premier, but don’t worry – we will break this down soon.
Back to Albanese!
The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews is speaking now, confirming there have been 514 new local Covid-19 cases detected overnight, 148 of which are currently linked to ongoing outbreaks.
It brings active cases across the state to 4,370.
There have been three new cases in Ballarat since the local government area entered lockdown overnight, bringing the total number of active cases to six, with more cases expected to be detected in the coming days.
There are 182 people currently being treated in hospital, including 51 in intensive care and 29 on a ventilator. Of yesterday’s hospitalisations, 87% were not vaccinated, 12% were partially vaccinated and one person was fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, in Victoria, Daniel Andrews is providing today’s Covid-19 update (I’d hoped that since they are from the same party, Albo and Andrews would have coordinated the timing for this a bit better).
Thankfully we have Caitlin Cassidy following the Victorian announcement!
Albanese says the Labor party will be pursuing the government for transparency around the cost of the existing future submarine program, as well as this latest announcement.
And we will be pursuing transparency from the government about exactly what the cost of this is. We know that the cost up to now has been up to $4 billion. We know there are contracts in place already that will be breached. And we know there will be substantial compensation costs payable.
And Australian taxpayers are entitled to know, given that under this Government they began with arrangements with Japan, then arrangements with France, and now we have these arrangements with the United States and potentially the UK as well.
We need to know the full cost of the abandonment of the existing program, but we also need to know what the cost of the proposed program would be. What the precise time frame is, given that the proposal is that the new submarines would not be in the water until 2040. What are the proposals for job creation? And, in particular, where those jobs will be located. How we maximise Australian procurement in this process, and Australian jobs. What are the skills that will be required? And how do we ensure that those skills can be provided by Australians?
The opposition leader Anthony Albanese is speaking in Canberra about the Aukus trilateral deal to provide Australia with nuclear-powered submarines, announced today.
He has started by criticising the “mismanagement” of Australia’s existing future submarine program.
The first thing to say about today is that we are concerned at the mismanagement of the future submarine project that has occurred. After eight years, three prime ministers, six defence ministers, and billions of dollars of sunken costs in this program ... this is the most expensive example of something that has characterised this government. Its ability to promise but its inability to deliver.
This government has stood up for years, in parliament, in the community, continually saying that everything was on track. ‘We’re on track in terms of jobs, we’re on track in terms of delivering defence capability.’ And now we have, with today’s announcement, beginning at the beginning, after considerable costs.
Thank you so much to the brilliant Matilda Boseley!
Hello everyone, Justine Landis-Hanley here.
We should be hearing from Victorian premier Daniel Andrews soon with today’s Covid update.
There are reports doing the rounds (circulating on Twitter) that Andrews is going to announce slightly eased restrictions today, now that more than 70% of the state population are at least half vaccinated. Think 10km travel radius, extra time for exercise, maybe picnics.
The federal opposition leader Anthony Albanese is also scheduled to speak any minute about the Aukus submarines deal.
OK, with that marathon of a morning over I might leave you for the day and let the wonderful Justine Landis-Hanley handle the opposition’s response to the submarine news (Albo will be up soon) and the Victorian Covid-19 press conference.
Wish her luck!
I’ll see you all tomorrow!
Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy is out there in the trenches today, asking Morrison the following.
Do we expect an enhanced US presence in the region in the time frame between now and when these submarines will be delivered?
These are matters that we are directly discussing with the United States and with United Kingdom. They’re also matters we’re discussing with the French and I hope we continue to discuss those matters with the French.
You can expect to see Australia working with more and more partners but particularly with the United States and the United Kingdom as a result of this arrangement to ensure we’re addressing our strategic needs here in the region and for those to be done carefully and to be done in accordance with all the usual protocols and protections that you’d expect.
Australia spent $2.4bn on now-defunct French submarine deal
Morrison has been asked how much money was wasted on the French submarine program.
He doesn’t agree with the word “wasted”, he prefers “invested”, but anyway, turns out we wasted a whopping $2.4bn.
We’ve invested $2.4bn in the attack class program and I say all of that investment, I believe, has further built our capability and that is consistent with the decision that was taken back in 2016 for all the right reasons to protect Australia’s national security interests and has served that purpose.
Investing in your defence capabilities is always a good idea for Australia and so that has been a good investment for Australia’s capability. When it comes to the delivery of this program, I indicated that we anticipate being able to commence build this year and the first of those submarines would be in the water, we believe, before the end of next decade and all partners will be working to ensure that that is achieved at a date as soon as is possible to achieve.
That is important, not just for us, I remind – this is not just about a partnership serving Australia’s interests, this is a partnership that is serving the joint interests of the United States and the United Kingdom. So this is a capability that combines with this.
So there is a great motivation and incentive for all three of us to get on with this and to get it done as quickly and effectively and always paramountly as safely as possible. That is what we will do.
NSW press conference:
The deputy premier John Barilaro is asked about the unemployment rate in NSW, which has, unsurprisingly, ticked up as the state’s lockdown has continued. More than 100,000 more people lost employment during the month.
Mum and dad business owners have borne the brunt of this pandemic.
Barilaro promises that the government is focused on getting businesses back to work.
He’s also asked about the roadmap and what happens in NSW when 80% are vaccinated. He says there is an 80% plan that is in draft form and still being finished.
In the next couple weeks we say more about unvaccinated people, major events and what Christmas looks like.
Morrison has been asked about former prime minister Paul Keating’s comments this morning that Australia is playing a risky game trusting the US’s military capacity, given their recent defeat in Afghanistan, as Kabul fell to the Taliban in a number of days.
I don’t share prime minister Keating’s view, and I prefer to be in the company of John Curtin and Robert Menzies when it comes this issue and John Howard.
This has come from both sides of politics on both sides of the Pacific and this has always been a project that has gone well beyond any partisan issues I think in either country, and that is welcomed.
Everyone’s entitled to their view of these issues. The former Labor* prime minister is entitled to his views and be respected for those views but those are not views my government shares. My government shares the view that is grounded in the decision of Curtin and Menzies which has always understood that our relationship with the United States is a forever relationship**.
It is a relationship that has served our peace and security interests for a very, very long time and will forever into the future. What I’m excited about with this relationship is it brings together the third partner in what has been the most longstanding relationships for Australia, with the United Kingdom. There is also a very unique relationship there and this formalises that to a whole new level when it comes to defence and security and diplomatic relations. I welcome that and I think most Australians will. But one of the reasons the three of us come together is we respect democracy and we respect freedom and the diverse views that are there.
*Oooft, pulling out the “Labor” card early, I see!
White House officials have briefed ... the nuclear submarines will allow Australia to play a much higher level in the Indo-Pacific defence and augment the US’s ability to have a more proactive military presence in the region? Is that the case? Should Australians expect more military action against China and what purpose might be served in terms of the security threat rather than against China? What impact do you think this will have in the South China Sea as well?
Australia will continue to engage with our partners in the region as we have for a long time.
Clearly the Aukus partnership enables us with the capabilities that it will deliver to Australia and to our partners will enable us to do that even better than we are now.
What that does is contribute stability in the region. It actually contributes to a secure Indo-Pacific, and it delivers I think a more free and open Indo-Pacific, whether that’s in the South China Sea or anywhere else. See, that is our purpose.
Our purpose is to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific and we join with everybody who is seeking that purpose.
A reporter has asked Morrison if we will be getting the British or US-made nuclear subs, as well as what the expected price tag will be.
But Morrison says we don’t yet know:
I’ll ask the secretary of defence to add to my answer. What we have agreed to do as the first initiative of Aukus is to put in place this 12-18 month program of finding the most effective pathway to delivering the submarine fleet for Australia.
So it could be either?
We haven’t determined the specific vessel that we will be building. But that will be done through the rather significant and comprehensive program assessment that will be done with our partners over the next 12-18 months.
That will also inform the costs that relate to this and they are yet to be determined.
NSW press conference:
Hazzard has been asked whether he has sympathy for Jon-Bernard Kairouz, the TikToker turned anti lockdown activist who has now contracted Covid-19.
Kairouz gained fame for accurately predicting the daily case numbers in NSW, prompting an investigation on whether they were being leaked from NSW Health.
A long pause, then this:
I have sympathy for anyone with Covid because it is a very serious disease.
Morrison says he can’t see increased trade sanctions from China “corresponding with what Australia has done”.
Are you prepared for more economic trade sanctions from China in response to this and are you seeking a meeting with president Xi to explain what this is all about?
That engagement has already commenced with China as it has with many countries in the region including Quad partners in Japan and India. I spoke to Narendra Modi and the Japanese prime minister last night. I spoke to [New Zealand] prime minister Ardern, I’ll be having further calls today as we talk through those issues and engagement with China.
There’s an open invitation for president Xi to discuss other matters. That has always been there. Australia is open to discuss issues important to the Indo-Pacific. I believe and hope we share the same objective of a peaceful Indo-Pacific where the sovereignty and independence of nations is understood and respected and enables their citizens to flourish. That’s what we all want.
It is not an uncommon thing for countries to take decisions in their own strategic interests and build up their defence capabilities. China makes the same decisions as does other countries within our region. I don’t think that should be seen as necessarily extraordinary or in the terms that you suggested.
Any response that was along the lines that you suggested I couldn’t see as that corresponding with what Australia has done.
Now let’s hear from General Angus Campbell, who is just barely veiling how obviously the whole submarine deal was precipitated by the rise of China’s power in the region.
Our strategic environment has deteriorated. Our key strategic documents speak of this.
That challenging environment is becoming more challenging and is set to do so into the future at an accelerated pace*.
This decision is very welcome in terms of the development of the Australian defence forces for its structure and its forced posture, and particularly that a long view potential of the Aukus agreement and the wide range of advanced technologies the three nations will work together to build on and to develop for the security and stability of our own nations, and indeed of our region.
The Australian Defence Force and the Department of Defence have a wide range now of work to do through this 12-18 month period. But as the secretary has emphasised, the commitment to our obligations under the non-proliferation treaty are absolute.
Our determination to safely and appropriately understand, develop and employ these capabilities is the total commitment of our organisation in that regard. And we look forward to the continuing development of Australian defence and security capabilities suited for our nation.
Australia’s secretary of defence Greg Moriarty is up:
I reassure you and the government and the Australian people of defence’s absolute commitment to the highest international standards of nuclear safety and security.
We are also committed to our non-proliferation treaty obligations. Our international partners demand that of us, and we are determined to be able to meet those standards.
It’s an enormous amount of work we will be doing in the coming 18 months ... The task force will look at issues such as the industrial pathway, the weapons suite ... the skilling and workforce needs that we will have not just in defence but broadly in the Australian defence industry.
We’ll be looking at that full range of infrastructure needs, what we need to do in terms of developing future capabilities to be able to build, operate and sustain these capabilities to give Australia that sovereign capability.
Australia hits 70% first-dose vaccine milestone for eligible population
Morrison closed his statement by celebrating Australia reaching an important vaccine milestone:
I will note on another matter today we will hit 70% of the country aged over 16 who have had their first dose.
That 70% double dose and 80% double dose mark is within plain sight.
Keep going Australia.
Still in NSW: Gale is asked whether the latest result of 1,351 cases – up on the daily numbers this week but down from the peak of the week before – indicates that NSW’s outbreak of Covid-19 has peaked.
I hope we have peaked but we are being conservative. We may yet see an increase.
She said the future trajectory of cases in NSW was in the hands of its citizens and whether we continue to abide by the stay at home orders.
In NSW, deputy chief health officer Dr Marriane Gale has been asked about the lockdown of the Redfern towers, a major public housing complex in inner Sydney.
Twelve people have tested positive for Covid out of the 630 residents.
Gale says there has been a lot of outreach prior to this outbreak and two-thirds of the residents have had at least one dose of vaccine.
She said there were 330 tests yesterday, and there were teams on site offering advice on how to safely self-isolate, including providing masks, cleaning products, food and social support.
Residents who could not safely isolate were being offered opportunities to move, she said.
Back to the NSW Covid press conference:
Hazzard has been asked why some LGAs remain in lockdown and some are not in lockdown when the rate of infection is about the same.
He explained that NSW Health looks at other factors including the amount of movement between areas and that unfortunately the department has not recommended the release of any of the LGAs of concern.
The prime minister has offered a semi-apology to the French president Emmanuel Macron, after ditching our $90 billion submarine deal with the country.
As noted we will not be continuing with the attack class submarine program and have advised Naval Group and the government of France and President Macron of that decision.
I want to stress that France remains an incredibly important partner in the Pacific. There is few if any other country around the world that understands the importance of the Pacific and has been as committed to the Pacific as France.
These are matters that President Macron and I have discussed on many occasions. We share a deep passion for our Pacific family and a deep commitment to them, and I look forward and I hope to see us continue once we move past what is obviously a very difficult and disappointing decision for France.
I understand that. I respect it. But as a prime minister, I must make decisions that are in Australia’s national security I know that France would do the same. And I know ultimately that will be understood.
Australia to upgrade missile capacity along with acquiring submarines
Morrison says the submarines will not be the only advances Australia’s defence makes, with funding being funnelled towards missile capacity and a promise that military funding will only go up.
This is not the only thing we have to do. Our investment in defence will only increase in the future. The lift will only go up, it won’t come back down. We will have to do more. We have invested more as a government. We have increased our defence spending as a share of our economy to over 2% ahead of time, and we will have to keep pressing forward.
Not just to meet these significant commitments we’re entering into to develop this nuclear submarine capability, but the many other capabilities that will be necessary.
To ensure we keep Australians safe and we have a stable and secure region for the future. Today I’m announcing in addition to the acquisitions announced as part of the 2024 structure plan, that we will be enhancing our long range strike capability including hawk and tomahawk cruise missiles and extended missile range for the our capabilities. And others can speak further to those.
These capabilities will be counted with our planned life of type extension of Australia’s Collins class submarine fleet. Which remains I stress one of the most capable conventional submarines in the world and will enhance our ability to deter and respond to potential security challenges during the transition to a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines.
Scott Morrison really wants the international community to know that Australia is not trying to become a global nuclear power.
I stress again, this is about propulsion. This is not about acquiring nuclear weapons.
Australia has no interest in that. No plans for it, no policy for it, no contemplation of it. It’s not on our agenda.
And we will continue to meet all of our obligations under the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, as our partners in this exercise will also do.
Morrison says Australia does not need domestic nuclear power capability in order to run the new generation of nuclear submarines we are buying.
The developments that have occurred since 2016 do now make a nuclear-powered submarine fleet a feasible option for Australia, which is what I first tasked the secretary of defence to inquire into.
We now have the support and expertise of the United States and the United Kingdom. Next-generation nuclear-powered submarines will use reactors that do not need refuelling during the life of the boat.
A civil nuclear power capability here in Australia is not required to pursue this new capability.
But there have also been game-changing developments in the strategic circumstances of our region*, which continue to accelerate at a pace even not envisaged as little as five years ago.
Contractual gates were build into the attack class project, necessarily. Those gates were there for a reason. Decisions have to be made before you proceed through those gates, and so, as we were looking towards that next gate, we have decided not to enter through it as part of the attack class program but instead now to pursue this path which gives us a far greater capability to meet the strategic needs.
*Once again, he is talking about China, if you didn’t know.
Morrison has confirmed that this new deal does in fact mean the death of the $90 billion French attack submarine project. He says it is not a “change of mind, it’s a change of need”.
As our first major initiative, it is, as we have announced today, for Australia to achieve a nuclear-powered submarine fleet. Not a nuclear-armed, a nuclear-powered. And to commence that build here in Australia in Adelaide within the decade.
Nuclear submarines have clear advantages. Greater endurance, they’re faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity. These make nuclear submarines the desired substantial capability enhancement that Australia has needed. It helps us to build regional resilience as part of this first initiative. It is the first time this technology has ever been made available to Australia. And indeed one other country has only been given access to this technology back in the late ‘50s, the United Kingdom from the United States.
This is a one-off, as the president in Washington has made very clear. This is a very special arrangement. And a very important one for Australia.
Australia was not in a position, at the time we took the decision back in 2016, to build and operate a nuclear-powered submarine. That wasn’t on the table. It wasn’t on the table for a range of reasons, so the decision we have made to not continue with the attack class submarine and to go down this path is not a change of mind, it’s a change of need. The goal has remained the same.
And Australians would expect me as prime minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe. And to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can. And that is what I have done.
This forever partnership* that we have announced today is the single greatest initiative to achieve these goals since the Anzus alliance itself.
It is the single largest step we have been able to take to advance our defence capabilities in this country, not just at this point but for the future. It has been some time in the making, it is true to say.
These types of forever partnerships don’t happen overnight. It has been the product of great patience, of great determination, of a deep relationship forged between our nations and, indeed, the personal-level working relationships that we have been able to forge between leaders, between ministers, between our systems over an even longer period of time, led, of course, by the chief of the defence force and the secretary of defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the many missions they have been involved in around the world but particularly in these countries, particularly in these countries.
It is a forever partnership that has been diligently pursued by my government to enhance cooperation, to deepen our integration, to position Australia in the best and strongest way possible and to contribute to the stability and security of our region that will benefit all in our region, no exceptions.
*Take a sip of coffee every time Morrison says “forever partnership”.
Morrison says submarines deal is a 'forever partnership' for a 'new era'
Morrison says the agreement with the US and UK is a “forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends”:
The relatively benign environment we have enjoyed in many decades in our region is behind us. We have entered, no doubt a new era*, with new challenges** for Australia and for our partners and friends and countries right across our region.
This challenge will require more of us in Australia and all of us who share a common vision about peace and stability and security in our region, so all nations can enjoy the fellowship of our region, the trade and the opportunities for our peoples, so they can realise what they want for their countries, just as we want for our country. That’s what we seek. That’s what Australians and our friends have always sought.
Today, I announce a new partnership, a new agreement that I describe as a forever partnership a forever partnership for a new time between the oldest and most trusted of friends, a forever partnership that will enable Australia to protect our national security interests***, to keep Australians safe. And to work with our partners across the region to achieve the stability and security of our region.
*Of a more powerful China
This is the first time the press has had the chance to interrogate the submarine deal as this morning’s press conference did not have time for questions.
Scott Morrison press conference on submarines deal with US and UK
Okay wow! Things are moving quickly. The prime minister Scott Morrison has stepped up now to talk to the press about that massive nuclear-powered submarine news this morning.
When asked for more details on the Lismore case Barilaro confirmed a school campus has been caught up in the potential outbreak.
We know a parent returned back to Lismore with their child. It was an exposure in a school environment as well.
There are issues there and we don’t know what that exposure looks like so we’ve made the right and appropriate decision to lock down Lismore.
There are concerns for other, newly freed regional areas that have recorded cases in the last day.
A case has been confirmed in Glen Innes. How likely is it that you will lock down that region later this afternoon?
We work with the advice from health and we have updates to this morning and the Glen Innes case that’s been notified overnight post the 8pm reporting period, we’ll work with the local health team when we have further information.
It’s no different to cases in Albury, that were identified yesterday and Liz more was last night. We’ll do that in a measured way before a knee-jerk reaction about locking down an area.
Another 12 regional NSW LGAs to come out of lockdown
Here is John Barilaro with the good news for some regional NSW towns who will be coming out of lockdown, although will still live under considerable restrictions:
On a weekly basis we will be evaluating other local government areas of regional and rural New South Wales that come out of lockdown, out of restrictions and today can I can announce a further 12 local government areas in regional and rural New South Wales.
Those areas are Bega Valley, Blayney, bogan, Cabonne, Dungog, Forbes, Muswellbrook, Narrabri, Parkes, Singleton, Snowy Monaro and the Upper Hunter shire LGAs.
Good news for those communities today. Remain vigilant. Get tested if you have an onset of symptoms. Please minimise mobility, as much as possible.
NSW deputy chief health officer Dr Marianne Gale is giving details about why Albury and Lismore must return to lockdown.
We have two cases in Albury, where we are unsure of the source of those infections. There are possible links to Sydney. However, that is under investigation by the local public health teams.
Those people appear unrelated to each other. There are a number of exposure sites in the Albury area and those issues are being worked through by the local team so I’d ask everybody living in the Albury area to please be vigilant for systems and come forward for testing.
In terms of Lismore, we report one case in Lismore, again with a possible link to Sydney and again with exposures in the community around Lismore, so for residents of Lismore, again, we ask you to please monitor for symptoms, pay attention to the public health advice and come forward for testing promptly.
Before we get to that though, here is Hazzard with the breakdown of all the regional NSW cases for today.
There are 44 new cases reported in the Illawarra. That brings the total in that particular local health district now to 502 cases.
Twenty-one cases are from the Wollongong local government area, 20 cases are from the Shellharbour local government area, two cases are from the Kiama local government area, and one case is from the Shoalhaven local government area.
In western New South Wales, there have been 27 new cases reported to 8pm last night. And this brings the total to 1,004 cases in that area. Dubbo had 12 cases. Bathurst had six, Walgett and the general region had six, Burke had two and Wellington had one.
In the far west of the state, there were two further cases in Broken Hill. In the Hunter, there were 16 new cases across the Hunter-New England local health district. This brings the total to 367 since 5 August. Of those 16 new cases, six are from Lake Macquarie local government area, five are from Newcastle local government area, three are from Cessnock local government area, one is from Gunnedah local government area and one is from Port Stephens.
On the Central Coast, there were also more cases – 23 new cases have been reported in that area and that brings the total in that local health district to 312 cases.
In the southern New South Wales area, there have been three new cases. One of those cases was in Yass, one in Bomberra and one in Queanbeyan. In the Southern Highlands, there have been two new cases.
It’s worth noting that the deputy NSW premier John Barilaro is expected to step up soon to announce other local government areas that will be coming out of lockdown today as well.
The Albury lockdown is made particularly complicated as the city is only half of the wider Albury-Wodonga community, which straddles the NSW-Victorian border.
Wodonga, part of regional Victoria, is not currently in lockdown.
Can I also say that in Albury, that area is principally managed through the Victorian health system, of course, the Albury-Wodonga system, but New South Wales Health will establish some additional pop-ups for testing in that area and there are a range of opportunities for vaccinations in that area, including GPs and also the service that is operated through the Albury-Wodonga service. But we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that people do have access to vaccinations.
Albury and Lismore in NSW to return to lockdown from 6pm
The NSW health minister Brad Hazzard has confirmed that two regional NSW LGAs will be plunged back into lockdown after positive cases were recorded there.
There are two areas that unfortunately will have to go into lockdown. One is the local government area of Lismore. And one is the local government area of Albury.
Suffice to say there have been positive cases in both areas. Can I say that I express my sadness to the local community that have been free of that for a little while, they have to go back into lockdown, but it is for your safety and the community’s safety more broadly.
That lockdown will occur from 6pm today. [The] health [department] has made a decision that the period of lockdown initially will be seven days. The reason for that is to try and get a handle on what exactly is going on in the local areas.
In the normal course, more often than not, health determines it will be 14 days but at this case, looking at the issues, health has determined that seven days will be appropriate but I’m just warning the community that it may be longer.
Greens demand Porter be forced to reveal donors' identity
The Greens have asked a parliamentary committee to compel Christian Porter to provide more information about the blind trust that partly paid his legal fees in his defamation case against the ABC.
The party’s deputy leader Larissa Waters has written to the privileges committee and attorney general’s department asking “if it could compel Mr Porter to provide the identity of the contributor/s to the blind trust, and the amount/s donated”.
The Greens argue further information about the donors is needed to determine if they have to register under the foreign influence transparency scheme.
It is in the interests of transparency and good governance to ensure that the public are aware of who has contributed to Mr Porter’s considerable legal fees and ensure a member of cabinet is not under threat of undue influence.
On Tuesday Porter revealed in an update to his register of interests that “a blind trust known as the Legal Services Trust” had paid part of the fees for the now discontinued defamation case against the ABC.
The former attorney general did not disclose the trustees or the source of the funds, claiming that as a potential beneficiary he had “no access to information about the conduct and funding of the trust”. It is not known how much the trust contributed.
A spokesperson for Porter said he had “undertaken disclosure in accordance with the requirements of the register and consistent with previous members’ disclosure of circumstances where the costs of personal legal matters have been mitigated by contributions or reductions in fees”.
More than 15,000 Covid patients in the NSW health system
There are now more than 15,000 people with Covid-19 who are being cared for in our New South Wales health system. The majority of those, over 90%, are being cared for in the community, at home generally, and some are in the New South Wales Health special accommodation.
Across New South Wales, 80.1% of the over-16 population has received a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and 48.5% of the entire community over 16 are fully vaccinated. I want to thank the community for coming out in such strong numbers to be vaccinated because there are almost 8.5 million people in New South Wales that have had vaccines administered to them.
Biloela family before the courts again today
Supporters of the Murugappan family from Biloela are concerned if a federal circuit court does not allow three of the family’s members to reapply for a bridging visa, they face being returned to immigration detention or deported to Sri Lanka.
Before the family were put into community detention in Perth earlier this year, Nades, Priya and Kopika were given bridging visas in June last year. If those expire on Wednesday next week, supporters say the three face the possibility of being returned to immigration detention or removed from Australia.
The case before the federal circuit court on Thursday does not cover the youngest daughter, Tharnicaa, who currently has a brief before the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, to consider her case.
The argument before the court is that when the government decided to “lower the bar” to prevent the family from reapplying for the visa, the family were denied procedural fairness.
The court heard this morning that submissions on the decision made by the family’s lawyers were sent at 5.35pm AEST, and a brief was provided to the minister at 6.58pm, and decision was made at 7.20pm on the same day.
The government is arguing that the submissions should have been in by 5pm, while lawyers acting for the family argue it was unclear when the submissions were due, and it was unfair that the department rushed to a decision without first checking whether a submission had been made.
The hearing continues.
Here is a look at today’s NSW case numbers on the outbreak graph.
Here are the details of those 12 Covid-19 deaths from NSW from the state’s health department:
- A man in his 60s from western Sydney died at Northern Beaches Hospital.
- A man in his 60s from south-western Sydney died at Northern Beaches Hospital.
- A woman in her 80s from western Sydney died at Westmead Hospital.
- A woman in her 80s from south-western Sydney died at Concord Hospital.
- A woman in her 60s from south-eastern Sydney died at Prince of Wales Hospital.
- A man in his 40s from western Sydney died at Nepean Hospital.
- A woman in her 80s from western Sydney died at Westmead Hospital.
- A woman in her 70s from western Sydney died at Nepean Hospital.
- A man in his 70s from south-western Sydney died at Campbelltown Hospital.
- A woman in her 60s from south-western Sydney died at home.
- A man in his 50s from western Sydney died at Westmead Hospital.
NSW records 1,351 local Covid-19 cases and 12 deaths
The NSW health minister Brad Hazzard is speaking now, and has confirmed the state has recorded 1,351 local covid-19 cases.
Sadly, again, 12 people infected with Covid-19 have died.
We will also be hearing from the ACT leaders at 11.45am (AEST) and we still don’t have a time for the Victorian press conference.
FYI, we are just standing by for the NSW press conference now.
Everyone who is still playing the morning coffee game with me, take a massive sip, for the Queensland premier has made her most baffling graphic design choice yet.
Now I’m straying into the territory of opinion here, but this is what I dislike the most:
1. Totally hate “jab army” as a slogan.
2. Why the emoji?
3. WHY THE CUSTOM TATTOO?!
A little blog treat to keep you going this morning. Here is the defence minister Peter Dutton not knowing how to do an elbow bump!
The competition watchdog says it is concerned about the planned takeover of pork producer Rivalea by Australia’s biggest meat and food processing company, JBS.
In a statement released on Thursday, the deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Mick Keogh, said: “The ACCC’s preliminary view is that while JBS and Rivalea do not compete closely, the proposed acquisition may give rise to vertical integration concerns.”
You can read more about the Batista brothers behind JBS and their battle for domination in the world of meat (and fish!) in this piece we published last month:
The ACCC’s concerns centre on Rivalea’s Diamond Valley Pork abattoir, which currently provides a service killing pigs for third parties, and the fact JBS owns smallgoods company Primo.
We are concerned that JBS’ existing interests may give it the incentive to restrict access to service kills at the Diamond Valley Pork abattoir, as well as frustrating access to fresh pork for its downstream rivals in smallgoods production and pork wholesaling.
Our concern is not limited to JBS potentially denying access to processing facilities, it’s also about the price and terms on which access would be provided.
The ACCC is seeking submissions from interested parties until the end of the month.
The New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern has confirmed that Australian submarines developed under the new Aukus defence pact will be banned from New Zealand waters, under the country’s longstanding nuclear-free policy.
Ardern released a statement on the Aukus alliance:
New Zealand’s position in relation to the prohibition of nuclear powered vessels in our waters remains unchanged.
Since the 1980s, New Zealand has had a strict policy keeping its territorial sea, land and airspace as nuclear-free zones. The policy, made partly in solidarity with pacific islands suffering the fallout of nuclear testing, created a rift with the United States, which suspended its obligations to New Zealand under the Anzus treaty.
The prime minister also said the new arrangement “in no way changes our security and intelligence ties with these three countries, as well as Canada”.
New Zealand is first and foremost a nation of the Pacific and we view foreign policy developments through the lens of what is in the best interest of the region.
We welcome the increased engagement of the UK and US in the region and reiterate our collective objective needs to be the delivery of peace and stability and the preservation of the international rules based system.
Australia, the US and UK announced the new trilateral security partnership on Wednesday. Aimed at confronting China, it will include helping Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines. New Zealand and Canada – two of the Five Eyes security partners – were notably absent.
Australian nuclear-powered submarines will be banned from entering NZ waters
I’ll bring you more on this in a second but it seems the New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern plans to ban Australia’s future nuclear-powered submarines from the country’s waters.
Now, this isn’t totally surprising though as New Zealand has banned all nuclear-powered vessels from entering its waters since the 198os.
Heads up, there are some new exposure sites in northern NSW.
Keating says Australia would find itself “hostage to any such ... gambit” between between China and the US:
It has to be remembered that China is a continental power and the United States is a naval power. And that the United States supply chain to East Asia would broadly need to span the whole Pacific from its base in San Diego and other places along the American west coast. Australia, by the announced commitments, would find itself hostage to any such a gambit.
There is no doubt about the Liberals: 240 years after we departed from Britain, we are back there with Boris Johnson, trying to find our security in Asia through London. Such is the continual failure of the Liberal party to have any faith in Australia’s capacity, but more particularly, the rights to its own independence and freedom of action.
When the detail of these arrangements is more clear I will have more to say.
Paul Keating slams submarine deal, suggesting US could not win a war against
Here is a bit more from former prime minister Paul Keating, who has slammed the Australian submarine deal with the US and UK. Keating suggests the US would have no hope of winning a war against China given its recent failures in Afghanistan.
This arrangement would witness a further dramatic loss of Australian sovereignty, as material dependency on the United States robbed Australia of any freedom or choice in any engagement Australia may deem appropriate.
Australia has had great difficulty in running a bunch of Australian built conventional submarines – imagine the difficulty in moving to sophisticated nuclear submarines, their maintenance and operational complexity.
And all this at a time when United States reliability and resolution around its strategic commitments and military engagements are under question.
If the United States military with all its might could not beat a bunch of Taliban rebels with AK47 rifles in pickup trucks, what chance would it have in a full-blown war against China, not only the biggest state in the world but the commander and occupant of the largest landmass in Asia?
When it comes to conflict, particularly among great powers, land beats water every time.
Ooft, yep, the former prime minister Paul Keating isn’t happy about the new submarine deal either:
The announced agreement between the United States, Britain and Australia... will amount to a lock-in of Australian military equipment and thereby forces, with those of the United State with only one underlying objective: The ability to act collectively in any military engagement by the United state again China.
You can read this lengthy statement below:
The former Australian foreign affairs minister and NSW premier, Bob Carr, is calling for a full inquiry into the botched French submarine deal, questioning the government’s ability to pull off the even more complicated nuclear project.
I mentioned before that the French company tasked with manufacturing the submarines for Australia, Naval Group, was pretty darn annoyed that they were getting sidelined by this new deal.
Here is the company’s full statement:
Naval Group takes note of the decision of the Australian authorities to acquire a fleet of nuclear submarines in collaboration with the United States and the United Kingdom.
The Commonwealth decided not to proceed with the next phase of the program. This is a major disappointment for Naval Group, which was offering Australia a regionally superior conventional submarine with exceptional performances. Naval Group was also offering Australia a sovereign submarine capability making unrivalled commitments in terms of technology transfer, jobs and local content.
For five years, Naval Group teams, both in France and in Australia, as well as our partners, have given their best and Naval Group has delivered on all its commitments.
The analysis of the consequences of this sovereign Australian decision will be conducted with the Commonwealth of Australia in the coming days.
More from Ballarat:
Queensland records one local Covid-19 case
Queensland has reported one new local case in home quarantine.
Seems it’s a student from St Thomas More college, connected with the Sunnybank cluster, which is generally considered to be under control.
The state also had two cases in hotel quarantine.
If there wasn’t enough going on, SpaceX has just launched four amateur astronauts into space.
Some footage from Cape Canaveral, Florida:
Queensland to legalise voluntary assisted dying
In other news, Queensland is set to legalise voluntary assisted dying today, AAP’s Marty Silk reports.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk’s bill will allow people suffering a disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and terminal to access to voluntary assisted dying from next year.
Their condition must be expected to cause death within a year, they must have decision-making capacity and proceed without coercion.
At least 59 of the state’s 93 MPs are indicating they will vote in support of the bill.
Deputy premier Steven Miles says the laws will ease pain and suffering:
For me, I do not know if the loved ones I have seen suffer at the end of their lives would have wanted access to voluntary assisted dying. I would like them to have known they had a choice.
Most Labor MPs, the two Greens MPs and independent Sandy Bolton support the VAD bill, while most Liberal National Party MPs, three Katter’s Australian party MPs and One Nation MP Stephen Andrew oppose it.
LNP leader David Crisafulli and his deputy David Janetzki oppose the bill on principle but submitted 54 amendments, which they said would improve safeguards for conscientious objectors and reporting processes.
Labor MPs Linus Power, Bart Mellish and Joe Kelly will also cross the floor.
Meanwhile, at least eight LNP MPs said they would vote in support of the bill, stating their strong belief in individual freedom and agency.
The final vote on the VAD bill is set to be held on Thursday after MPs vote on Janetzki’s 54 proposed amendments.
The scheme will operate from January 2023, meaning Queensland will became the fifth jurisdiction in Australia to legalise euthanasia.
France condemns Australia's decision to sign Aukus pact
France has released a formal statement about Australia’s decision to withdraw from its French submarine contract in light of the new Aukus pact.
French foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and armed forces minister Florence Parly say the decision removes France from a partnership with Australia in the strategically important region:
It is a decision contrary to the letter and the spirit of the cooperation which prevailed between France and Australia … The American choice which leads to the pushing aside of an ally and European partner like France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region … marks an absence of consistency that France can only observe and regret.
Le Drian and Parly’s statement adds that the “regrettable decision” is a “loud and clear” signal that Europe needs to pursue “strategic autonomy”:
There is no other credible way to defend our interests and values in the world, including the Indo-Pacific.
South Australia’s premier Steven Marshall has weighed in on the new submarine deal. He says SA will play a “key role”:
The Alfred hospital emergency department has been listed as a tier-one exposure site:
We are expecting to hear from NSW health minister Brad Hazzard at the 11am press conference today. It doesn’t seem likely that the premier will make an appearance:
The regional Victorian city of Ballarat has recorded six cases overnight, according to local news.
The city was plunged into lockdown yesterday after four new cases were detected in the region.
Testing is being also being ramped up in the area to combat the cluster, with thousands of additional vaccine doses diverted its way.
Oh! Today was also a testing record in Victoria!
By way of background, yesterday Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said the state was at 68.3% vaccination and was on track to hit 70% today.
The government has previously pledged to give Melburnians more freedoms, including an extra hour of exercise and an expanded travel limit, once 70% of those eligible have received their first dose.
This was initially forecast to happen on 23 September but the state’s soaring vaccination rate has brought the date forward.
Victoria reportedly considering 'modest' easing of additional restrictions
The ABC is reporting that Victorian officials may be considering easing restrictions slightly further now that the state has reached the milestone of 70% of the over-16 population receiving at least one dose of a Covid vaccine:
Adam Bandt is going hard on this whole “floating Chernobyls” thing this morning:
Federal senator for SA Rex Patrick says today’s nuclear submarine deal “must be subject to rigorous parliamentary review”, as domestic political reactions to the landmark announcement start to trickle in.
Here is what he had to say:
In these circumstances, the Senate foreign affairs, defence and trade references committee should open an immediate inquiry to ensure that all the angles, including alternative conventionally powered submarine procurement options, are fully explored and understood ...
I’ve been a strong critic of the French submarine deal. The delays and cost overruns are huge and unacceptable. But we have to be careful we don’t move from one massive procurement disaster into something else that hasn’t been thought through properly ...
Prime minister Morrison has indicated that these new nuclear-powered vessels will be built in Adelaide. It is unclear whether this would involve manufacturing or just assembly of pre-manufactured modules supplied from the US or UK.
Either way, there would be nuclear reactors sitting on hard-stands at Osborne and moored in the Port River.
Acquiring, operating and maintaining a nuclear submarine fleet without a domestic nuclear power industry is a challenge that must not be underestimated.
Never fear, Josh Nicholas is here with the Victorian case number graph.
Actually, maybe do fear a little – I really don’t like the look of that gradient.
Scott Morrison REALLY wants you to know that we are not trying to get our hands on nuclear weapons:
Victoria records 514 new local Covid-19 cases
Victoria’s numbers are in and the state case recorded 514 new local cases of Covid-19. Only 148 have been linked to known outbreaks.
The department’s tweet does not mention any Covid-19 deaths today.
The Greens leader says it is concerning that there were no discussions about nuclear safety during this morning’s trilateral press conference. Both literally and geopolitically.
I also do think that it is attempting to gain a beachhead for a nuclear industry in Australia, which we know has been something that the Coalition, many people in the Coalition have been pushing for, for some period of time.
But at the end of the day, the prime minister needs to explain – what will happen if there’s an accident with a nuclear reactor now in the heart of one of our major cities?
How many people in Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth will die as a result of it?
What is going to happen if there is a problem with one of the nuclear reactors? And today we’ve heard nothing about the safety.
Adam Bandt says it’s dangerous to be provoking nuclear-capable China at this time:
Well, these will be floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major cities. And it will increase tensions in our region at a time when Australia, as a middle power, should be taking an independent course and doing everything that we can to de-escalate conflict in the region.
We know that China has got nuclear capabilities and we should be doing everything we can to avoid a nuclear conflict in our region because Australia will suffer.
And instead we are aligning ourselves with a policy of escalation, and the prime minister has very clearly said that he sees this in cold war terms. And the cold war ended up in an arms race that almost ended up in nuclear annihilation. We cannot go back there. We should be de-escalating. And instead this takes us in the opposite direction.
Greens label nuclear submarines 'floating Chernobyls' and urge Labor to oppose deal
Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt says the nuclear submarine deal is the “worst security decision in decades”.
He is speaking to ABC News Breakfast now – his words have a distinct ‘I practised this in the mirror before I came on TV’ energy:
It’s a dangerous decision that will make Australia less safe by putting floating Chernobyls in the heart of our major city, increasing the risk of nuclear war in our region, and putting Australia right in the firing line. It’s a terrible decision.
It’s one of the worst security decisions in decades.
The Greens will fight it tooth and nail and we hope that Labor joins us in fighting it, because if Labor opposes it as well as the Greens, it will be dead in the water.
Sidelined French submarine manufacturer expresses 'great disappointment' over UK-US deal
Naval Group has released a statement to AFP, France24 reports, expressing “great disappointment” over the new pact:
The Commonwealth of Australia did not wish to initiate the next phase of the program, which is a great disappointment for Naval Group, who offered Australia a conventional submarine of regional superiority with exceptional performance.
The new submarine deal seems popular with the UK’s Conservative party:
Business owners vowing to ignore the NSW government’s push to require people to be fully vaccinated to enter shops, bars or restaurants are unlikely to find the law on their side, an expert says.
The premier said the government would “need to seek legal advice”, saying it was in “uncharted territory”.
But experts have said the government would be on solid ground in its attempts to mandate vaccinations for certain freedoms.
While the NSW government is facing legal challenges to some of its public health orders, including rules requiring police officers and healthcare workers to be vaccinated, Dr Ron Levy, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s college of law, said the legal prospects for people opposed to vaccine mandates was “quite poor”.
You can read the full report below:
Naval Group – formerly DCNS, the French shipbuilder previously awarded submarine contract – is yet to comment on the new alliance and Australia’s ditching of the $90bn agreement.
But an unnamed senior official from France’s ministry of armed forces has weighed in on the “unofficial reason” – “American entryism”. Speaking to Le Parisien today, the official denounced the Biden administration for “making life difficult” (or “soaping the plank”, if you prefer a literal translation), and strong-arming the contract away from the French.
Another “expert on the matter” told the publication there’s also a risk of a ripple effect on other contracts, including with India and Brazil. “We will have to communicate and reassure … [that] this is not a technical failure but a geopolitical decision.”
A wealthy Pentecostal church was handed $660,000 in jobkeeper payments and later posted a 3,620% increase in profit and a $1.2m increase in revenue.
Hope Unlimited church, a global church that began on the New South Wales Central Coast, revealed in filings to the charity regulator that it posted a $1.6m profit last year while receiving $660,000 in jobkeeper payments.
The result was a huge increase to the $43,355 profit it posted in 2019.
Revenues for the church also grew throughout the pandemic’s first year, increasing from $2.8m in 2019 to $4m in 2020.
The church is led by Mark and Darlene Zschech, a well-known Christian singer, who spent 25 years alongside Brian and Bobbie Houston at Hillsong, before breaking away to form a new church.
You can read the full report below:
Well, Morrison, Johnson and Biden wouldn’t say it, but former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott doesn’t seem to have any qualms in naming China when discussing the submarine deal:
This is a historic and important decision made by the Australian government ... Important because it acknowledges the scale of the strategic challenge from China and declares that Australia will play our part in meeting it.
So how is France taking the news that our $90bn submarine partnership might be out the window?
Well, the former French ambassador to the United States isn’t mincing his words, saying the US and UK have “stabbed her [France] in the back”.
Just ducking over to Covid-19 news for a second: the regional Victorian town of Ballarat has been plunged back into lockdown just days after opening up, after two positive cases were recorded yesterday.
Oooft! Here is a fairly cruel reading of the “fella down under” line from Joe Biden:
Here is the full written statement about the deal, if you are so inclined:
South Australian Labor is keen to iron out the details of how exactly these submarines are expected to be built:
If you want to get all the background on this watershed deal, check out Julian Borger’s story below:
Joe Biden is once again stressing that the US and UK aren’t handing over nuclear weapons to Australia:
As a key project under Aukus, we are launching consultations with Australia with the acquisition of conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarines for its navy. Conventionally armed. I want to be exceedingly clear about this. We’re not talking about nuclear-armed submarines. These are conventionally armed submarines powered by nuclear reactors. This technology is proven and safe.
In the United States and UK, we have been operating nuclear-powered submarines for decades. I have asked Secretary Austin of the Department of Defence to lead this effort for the US government in close collaboration with the Department of Energy and the Department of State.
Our governments will now launch an 18-month consultation period to determine every element of this program, from workforce to training requirements, to production timelines, to safeguards and non-proliferation measures, and to nuclear stewardship and safety to ensure full compliance with each of our nation’ commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
We’ll all undertake this effort in a way that reflects the longstanding leadership in global non-proliferation and vigorous verification standards, in partnership, in consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency.
So I want to thank the prime minister, prime minister Morrison and prime minister Johnson, for their friendship. But most importantly for their leadership and partnership as we undertake this new phase of the security cooperation.
And the United States will also continue to work with Asean and the Quad, as stated earlier. The five treaty allies in the Indo-Pacific, as well as allies around the world to have a free and open Indo-Pacific. And build a future of peace and prosperity for all of the people of the region. We’re joining together, where partnerships are getting stronger. This is what you’re about.
I want to thank you all and I look forward to seeing both of you in person very soon, I hope. Thank you.
OK! Here is the big-name speaker at this press conference, Joe Biden. And he starts off folksy as ever:
Thank you, Boris, and I want to thank that fella down under! Thank you very much, pal! Appreciate it, Mr prime minister! ...
Our nations and our brave fighting forces have stood shoulder-to-shoulder for literally more than 100 years through the trench fighting in world war one, the island hopping in world war two during the frigid heat in North Korea and the scourging heat of the Persian Gulf. Australia and the United Kingdom have long been capable and faithful partners and we’re even closer today.
Today, we’re taking another historic step to deepen and formalise cooperation among all three of our nations because we all recognise the imperative of ensuring peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific over the long term. We need to be able to address both the current strategic environment in the region and how it may evolve. Because the future of each of our nation, and indeed, the world, depends on a free and open Indo-Pacific, enduring and flourishing in the decades ahead.
This is about investing in our greatest source of strength, our alliances, and updating them to better meet the threats of today and tomorrow. It’s about connecting America’s existing allies and partners in new ways and amplifying our ability to collaborate – recognising that there is no regional divide separating the interests of our Atlantic and Pacific partners.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson:
We will have a new opportunity to reinforce Britain’s place at the leading edge of science and technology – strengthening our national expertise and perhaps, most significantly, the UK, Australia and the US will be joined even more closely together, reflecting the measure of trust between us, the depths of our friendship and the enduring strength of our shared values of freedom and democracy.
Only a handful of countries possess nuclear-powered submarines. And it is a momentous decision for any nation to acquire this formidable capability. And perhaps, equally momentous for any other state to come to its aid. But Australia is one of our oldest friends, a kindred nation and a fellow democracy and a natural partner in this enterprise. Now, the UK will embark on this project alongside our allies, making the world safer and generating jobs across our United Kingdom.
Thank you. Over to you, Mr President.
Speaking of the UK prime minister, here is Boris Johnson with his section of the virtual press conference. And he has confirmed this new Australian submarine deal will still take “decades”:
I am delighted to join President Biden and prime minister Morrison to announce that the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States are creating a new trilateral defence partnership known as Aukus, with the aim of working hand in glove to preserve security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.
We’re opening a new chapter in our friendship and the first task of this partnership will be to help Australia acquire a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, emphasising, of course, that the submarines in question will be powered by nuclear reactors – not armed with nuclear weapons. And our work will be fully in line with our non-proliferation obligations.
This will be one of the most complex and technically demanding projects in the world. Lasting for decades and requiring the most advanced technology. It will draw on the expertise that the UK has acquired over generations dating back to the launch of the Royal Navy’s first nuclear submarine over 60 years ago.
And together, with the other opportunities from Aukus, creating hundreds of highly skilled jobs across the United Kingdom, including in Scotland, the north of England and the Midlands, taking forward this government’s driving purpose of levelling up across the whole country.
The prime minister is making it abundantly clear that we are not trying to acquire nuclear weapons with this deal.
But let me be clear – Australia is not seeking to establish nuclear weapons or establish a civil nuclear capability. And we will continue to meet all of our nuclear non-proliferation obligations. Australia has a long history of defence cooperation with the United States and the United Kingdom.
For more than a century, we have stood together for the cause of freedom, motivated by the beliefs we share. Sustained by the bonds of friendship we have forged. Enabled by the sacrifice of those who have gone before us and inspired by our shared hope for those who will follow us. And so, today, friends, we recommit ourselves to this cause and a new Aukus vision.
He then pauses awkwardly for a few seconds while we wait for the live stream to cut to the UK prime minister.
Scott Morrison has announced the new trilateral defence group named Aukus, and Australia’s intention to acquire nuclear-powered submarines:
So Aukus is born, a new trilateral relationship between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Aukus – a partnership where our technology, our scientists, our industry, our defence forces, are all working together to deliver a safer and more secure region that ultimately benefits all. Aukus will also enhance our contribution to our growing network of partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. Anzus, our friends, the Quad, Five Eyes countries and, of course, our dear Pacific family.
The first major initiative of Aukus will be to deliver a nuclear-powered fleet for Australia. Over the next 18 months, we will work together to seek to determine the best way forward to achieve this. This will include an intense examination of what we need to do to exercise our nuclear stewardship responsibilities here in Australia. We intend to build these submarines in Adelaide, Australia, in close cooperation with the United Kingdom and the United States.
Scott Morrison is up now and, although he isn’t saying it outright, it’s pretty clear this deal has a lot to do with China’s newfound influence in the Indo-Pacific area:
Good morning from Australia. I am very pleased to join two great friends of freedom out of Australia. Prime minister Johnson and President Biden.
Today we join our nations in the next-generation partnership, built on a strong foundation of proven trust. We have always seen the world through a similar lens. We have always believed in a world that favours freedom, that respects human dignity – the rule of law, the independence of sovereign states and the peaceful fellowship of nations.
And while we’ve always looked to each other to do what we believe is right, we have never left each other. Always together – never alone. Our world is becoming more complex, especially here in our region – the Indo-Pacific. This affects us all. The future of the Indo-Pacific will impact all our futures.
To meet these challenges, to help deliver the security and stability our region needs, we must now take our partnership to a new level. A partnership that seeks to engage – not to exclude. To contribute, not take. And to enable and empower – not to control or coerce.
That announcement has started with a rather strange video with a disembodied woman’s voice heralding the the alliance between Australia, the UK and the US:
United by vast oceans across three continents. Peace, and in times of need. Guided by the enduring ideals we share. Democracy, resilience, innovation, diversity. Our three nations commit to strengthening our global partnership to get to work for the freedom and safety of our people. For peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific, and for the good of the world.
Good morning everyone, it’s Matilda Boseley here and let’s dive right in (literally) because there is some big submarine news breaking right now.
Prime minister Scott Morrison is expected to appear with US president Joe Biden and UK prime minister Boris Johnson shortly to make a global security announcement that will likely lead to Australia massively upgrading its submarine fleet, and taking it into the elite nuclear class.
The leaders are expected to speak at 7am AEST at a virtual event where it’s understood they will announce the establishment of a new international security alliance that, according to US news outlet Politico, will be known as Aukus – and will allow the three countries to share technology covering cyber security, artificial intelligence, underwater systems and long-range strike capabilities.
Australia will reportedly get access to UK and US technology to build a new fleet of nuclear-powered submarines, which would make us only the seventh country in the world to field submarines propelled by nuclear reactors.
This has also raised speculation we will ditch our $90bn submarine deal with France.
(In 2016 the federal government tapped French shipbuilder Naval Group to build 12 new Attack-class submarines under a $90bn program, but this deal has been plagued by delays, cost blowouts and disputes.)
So far, we know Australian federal cabinet ministers were summoned to a secret meeting in Canberra yesterday, and opposition leader Anthony Albanese was also briefed.
Morrison is due to travel to Washington next week for a meeting of the Quad alliance of the US, India, Japan and Australia.
We will bring you all the Covid-19 updates as they unfold today, but for now, we wait for Morrison and Biden to make their appearance.