That's it for today, thanks for reading
Here are the main stories on Friday, 25 November:
Former high court justice Virginia Bell releases her findings from the inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries. Bell found the appointments were “apt to undermine public confidence in government” and “corrosive of trust in government”, and also revealed Morrison had sought advice about taking on a sixth ministry;
Morrison responded to the report via Facebook later on Friday, dismissing suggestions he had not properly participated in the inquiry, or that he may resign from parliament;
A Queensland court found a Clive Palmer-owned coalmine infringed on human rights of future generations;
Former high court judge Dyson Heydon resigns as member of the Order of Australia;
It is the last full day of campaigning in Victoria before tomorrow’s election, but a record number of people have already voted; and
The Reserve Bank review is assessing calls for changes to the central bank’s inflation target, the selection of board members and how authorities should manage shocks from asset bubbles to the climate crisis.
We will see you all back here tomorrow morning.
The excellent Afternoon Update newsletter is out!
Facebook reinstates Labor’s ‘satirical’ Matthew Guy page
Facebook removed a Facebook page titled “Matthew Guy– The Liberal Cuts Guy” operated by the Victorian Labor party because it allegedly breached the platform’s integrity and identity policy, and has only reinstated the page once it was clearly marked as satire.
Labor spent more than $116,000 boosting attack ads using the page, criticising the Liberal leader’s record in government and his election policies. It is now showering key electorates in anti-Greens ads via another dedicated Facebook page ahead of Saturday’s Victorian election.
As reported by Guardian Australia, the Labor-authorised Facebook page was mysteriously deleted last week. It was the second-biggest political ad spender on Facebook in the last month, trailing only Victorian Labor’s main party account.
You can read more on that story here:
Former high court judge Dyson Heydon has handed back one of Australia’s highest honours, surrendering his Companion (AC), Guardian Australia can reveal.
Heydon’s resignation as a member of the Order of Australia, an honour granted to those deemed to have gone above and beyond in their service to the nation, was announced in the government gazette released on Friday.
The full story is here:
Warning to drinkers of seltzers – Moon Dog Brewery is recalling a string of products due to possible secondary fermentation.
Summer Berry on the eve of December too! What a bugger.
Back in Queensland the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, said the day of the suspect’s arrest had been a “long time coming” and would go down in history as “one of those famous police homicide investigations”.
She said that after Toyah Cordingley’s murder on 23 October, 2018, the suspect had travelled to India where he had hidden out until his arrest by Indian police.
We are so thrilled to announce that the suspect has been arrested in India. Police received information on the whereabouts of the individual and today he was arrested by Indian law enforcement in New Delhi. Even though it’s been four years I’m so pleased we can bring further progress to bring closure for her family.
Carroll said her initial feelings following the arrest were “elation and relief”.
Happiness for the family but bittersweet sadness for the family as well … she will never come back.
I know how deeply this affected that tight-knit community, an area that is safe and secluded that has witnessed this terrible crime. It outraged all Queenslanders. She was a beautiful, much loved person.”
Carroll said police still had “scant details” on the lead-up to the arrest - which was made a few hours ago – however she confirmed the suspect would face court imminently and more information would come to light in coming days, including whether the $1 reward would be claimed.
It was the first time in history an initial reward of $1m had been offered in Queensland.
A process will be followed in relation to the million dollars, if it has led to this person’s arrest I will happily write out that cheque myself. We look forward to seeing what happens next … it has been one of the most intense, comprehensive investigations across the world over many years now.
I am very confident that we have a strong case to put before the courts … when you pursue someone this long in another part of the world, I have a comprehensive knowledge of what has taken place.
We knew the senate would be sitting two extra days – well, now it looks like the house is going to have to give up part of its Saturday as well.
A message has just gone out to MPs:
MESSAGE FROM THE LEADER OF THE HOUSE & CHIEF GOVERNMENT WHIP
The House of Representatives is expected to suspend on Thursday afternoon and resume on Saturday 3 December from 9am, to consider amendments agreed to in the Senate, so that legislation can be finalised this year.
Once messages from the Senate have been considered, the House will adjourn.
So that will delay the holiday period for some.
Arrest of suspect in 2018 murder of Toyah Cordingley
Queensland Police have fronted the media following the arrest in New Delhi, India of a key suspect in the long-running murder investigation of Toyah Cordingley.
The arrest comes less than a month after a $1m reward was offered for his location.
Queensland police minister Mark Ryan commended the force and partner agencies for the “hard work they’ve done” since Cordingley’s death in 2018.
The then 24-year-old was found dead on Wangetti beach, north of Cairns after what police described as a “personal and intimate attack”. She had been out walking her dog.
They’ve been relentless, they never gave up. Today we delivered a significant step for justice. I know that people are excited about this development and I know that people are relieved. A lot of hard work has delivered this development today.
Ryan cautioned it was “early days” in the next steps in the case, with the suspect to face court in India prior to his extradition to Australia. He said he spoke to Cordingley’s parents only recently, who had a “great desire for closure still”.
I’m sure they would be very supportive of today’s announcement.
Weekly Beast from Amanda Meade is up and as glorious as ever.
Court makes landmark ruling against planned Palmer mine
A Queensland court has found the plans of a company owned by Clive Palmer to dig Australia’s largest thermal coalmine in central Queensland infringe upon the human rights of future generations, in landmark climate case.
The Queensland land court’s president, Fleur Kingham, said the case was not about whether any new coalmine should be approved, but “whether this coalmine should be approved on its merits”.
The full story from Joe Hinchliffe and Ben Smee is here:
More on arrest of alleged murder suspect on the run in India
Queensland Police have confirmed a man has been arrested in India over the murder of Toyah Cordingley following a four year investigation.
Police posted on social media:
We can confirm a man has been arrested in India today following a significant investigation into the tragic death of Toyah Cordingley in Far North Queensland in 2018. More details to follow.
Cordingley was found dead on Wangetti beach, north of Cairns, in 2018 after what police described as a “personal and intimate attack”. The 24-year-old had been out walking her dog.
The development comes less than a month after a $1m reward was offered for the location and arrest of a key suspect, 38-year-old Rajwinder Singh, who police believed may have fled to India.
A press conference is due to be held at 3.15pm local time.
ANZ cops heat for bankrolling more emissions
When state and federal governments talk about supporting coal and gas for decades to come, officials often hint that they expect miners and drillers to find it harder to raise finance and insurance so the projects themselves won’t get up.
Indeed, even RBA governor Philip Lowe has noted recently that record high energy prices haven’t (as yet) sparked a rebound in exploration. If projects need decades to make a return, so the assumptions go, carbon- and methane-rich ventures will going to struggle to make a return on our joint road to net zero emissions by 2050.
That’s the theory at least.
ANZ has reminded us today it still has lending set aside for “sustainable” lending – $100bn no less – up to 2030.
ANZ states: “a variety of opportunities exist for the oil and gas sector to reduce emissions across the value chain”.
The bank will target efforts by companies “to minimise methane leaks through a focus on leak detection and repair”, and over time, the bank “will weight our financing to customers with stronger emissions reduction targets and diversification strategies”.
Market Forces, an anti-fossil fuel group, worries that there are no clear goals companies will need to set in order to borrow from that ANZ fund.
The group estimates that between 2016 and 2020, ANZ leant $13.9bn to fossil fuels, including $2.4bn for new or expanded coal, oil or gas projects. These projects would “enable” 4.6bn tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent, or nine times Australia’s current annual gas emissions.
Beach Energy, Santos, Glencore and Woodside are the fossil fuel firms tapping ANZ over the past two years alone. Julian Vincent, Market Forces executive director, says:
ANZ has long been the fossil fuel industry’s biggest backer, and these targets take it further in the wrong direction.
The millions of ANZ customers who care about a safe climate future might not be so happy that the custodian of their money is prepared to double down on dirty fossil fuels.
Expect the issue to surface at ANZ’s AGM on 15 December in Adelaide. Market Forces has helped coordinate a shareholder proposal that aims to ensure the bank does not “enable the expansion of the fossil fuel industry”.
Nude activists target fast fashion in Melbourne’s CBD
Environmental activists have taken to Melbourne’s Bourke Street Mall naked to protest against the fast fashion industry on Black Friday, AAP report.
The nude Extinction Rebellion demonstrators stood behind a banner that read: “Fast fashion costs the earth; rather go naked”.
They had retailers including H&M, Zara, Cotton On, and Uniqlo in their sights, and walked into H&M brandishing the banner.
Police threatened to arrest the protesters unless they left the store, which they did after a few minutes before returning to the street.
The retailers encourage consumers to buy the “hot new look” at a low price, spokesperson Rosaria Burchielli said.
These brands have accelerated clothing production. While promoting excessive buying and instant gratification to consumers, they have created a throw away culture.
This means higher profits at the expense of workers and the planet.
The retailers that protesters targeted “have a particularly long way to go”, and while brands say they are trying hard to improve their sustainability, they are “greenwashing”, Burchielli said.
The fast fashion business model is unsustainable because of its environmental impact, and governments and consumers need to hold the industry to account, she said.
The protesters chanted, “we’re nude, we’re rude; workers can’t afford food”, and “we’re nude, we’re rude; fast fashion means we’re screwed”.
They also chanted: “fast fashion costs the earth; you won’t get your money’s worth.”
While checking in on Scott Morrison’s Facebook to see his statement regarding the Bell inquiry I noticed he’d posted a selfie with Jordan Peterson last night, saying he’d enjoyed meeting up and “having a chat” with him.
“He makes a lot of sense,” Morrison added.
Victoria Covid update
Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton (remember him?!) has released his weekly Covid-19 report.
It says that:
There were 22,281 Covid-19 cases reported in Victoria this week, an increase of 9.5 per cent on the previous week. The average daily number of new cases this week was 3,183, up from 2,914 last week.
The number of active cases in Victoria on Friday was 19,460, up from 18,150 the same time last week.
The seven-day rolling average of patients with Covid in Victorian hospitals is 430, a 22.2 per cent increase when compared to the same time last week. There are currently 483 Covid patients in Victorian hospitals, including 19 Covid patients in intensive care and 0 cleared cases in intensive care. There are 2 Covid patients on a ventilator. The seven-day rolling average of patients in intensive care in Victorian hospitals is 15.
In the past three months, 3,299 Covid patients were hospitalised in Victoria. 40.5 per cent of those patients had not received their third vaccine dose. 959 (29 per cent) were unvaccinated, 27 had received one dose, 351 had two doses, 787 had received three doses and 1,175 had received four doses.
Of Victorians aged 50 to 64 years, 79.9 per cent have had their third dose and 30.2 per cent have had their recommended fourth dose. Of those aged over 65, 90.8 per cent have had their third dose and 67.3 per cent have had their fourth dose. 70.2 per cent of people aged 16 and over in Victoria have had three doses of Covid vaccine.
A total of 68 Covid related deaths were reported to the department in the past week. An average of 10 deaths were reported each day in the past week. There has been a 30.5 per cent decrease in the number of Covid related deaths in the past month when compared to the previous month.
In the past three months, there have been 644 Covid-related deaths in Victoria. Of those deaths, 46.3 per cent had not received their third Covid vaccine dose. 252 (39.1 per cent) were unvaccinated, 3 had received one dose, 43 had two doses, 116 had received three doses and 230 had received four doses.
The total number of Covid-related deaths in Victoria since the pandemic began is 5,993. The number of Covid-related deaths recorded in Victoria so far this year is 4,385.
Unconfirmed reports alleged suspect in murder of Toyah Cordingley arrested
Multiple media outlets are reporting that the alleged killer of Queensland woman Toyah Cordingley has been arrested in India after four years on the run.
Consumer groups warn delaying financial reform bill will ‘cement exploitative lending’
Delaying financial sector reform legislation could see more low-income earners fall prey to payday loans service that consumer groups say have exploited a number of Australians, including many First Nations people living in remote communities.
The bill was delayed after assistant treasurer Stephen Jones took all financial service bills off parliament’s agenda for Friday. The decision was made after banks and super funds argued they should have been consulted on a plan to introduce into planned financial accountability legislation fines of up to $1.1m for finance executives who failed to prevent systemic misconduct.
A number of consumer groups - including Choice and the Indigenous Consumer Assistance Network - sent a letter to senators today urging the government to still debate and pass the Finance Sector Reform bill before parliament finishes for this year.
The letter said the bill would enact vital reforms to payday lending which were first proposed almost six years ago but have been repeatedly delayed. It said reforms were even more urgent now that the cost of living crisis is pushing people in financial hardship to take out payday loans which have exorbitant interest rates and do not undertake credit checks. Gerard Brody, chief executive officer of Consumer Action Law Centre, said:
We’re most concerned that delaying the bill will cement exploitative lending in the marketplace and will continue to target people during Christmas and New Year while people are doing it tough.
Scott Morrison’s response to Bell inquiry makes clear he’s not considering resigning
The statement from Morrison pushes back on the suggestion he did not fully cooperate with the inquiry.
He also largely repeats the sentiments expressed during his previous press conference about the so-called secret ministries, saying “I note that the criticisms of my decisions have been made after the event and with the benefit of this perspective”.
Scott Morrison responds to Bell inquiry
The former prime minister, Scott Morrison, has posted a statement on Facebook regarding the Bell inquiry.
STATEMENT REGARDING BELL INQUIRY
I note the report of the Bell Inquiry, welcome the recommendations and thank the Hon. Virginia Bell and her office for conducting The Inquiry.
I was pleased to assist The Inquiry with six separate and comprehensive responses to matters raised with me and my legal representatives by Hon. Virginia Bell. This engagement was done via correspondence as was the practice with other respondents to The Inquiry and accepted by Hon. Virginia Bell.
In relation to the broader matters that were subject of The Inquiry I note that at all times as Prime Minister I sought to exercise my responsibilities in a manner that would best advance and protect Australia’s national interests and the welfare of the Australian people. This was done during a time of significant challenge not seen since the Second World War and the Great Depression.
I am pleased that through these efforts and so many others that Australia was able to emerge from this period of significant crisis in a safer and more prosperous position than almost any other country in the world. This was our objective.
I note the criticisms made of my decision to be authorised to administer a series of departments where Ministers had specific powers not subject to the oversight of Cabinet. These decisions were taken during an extremely challenging period, where there was a need for considerable urgency. I note that the criticisms of my decisions have been made after the event and with the benefit of this perspective.
I also note that as Prime Minister my awareness of issues regarding national security and the national interest was broader than that known to individual Ministers and certainly to the Inquiry. This limits the ability for third parties to draw definitive conclusions on such matters.
I also note the following facts that remain unchanged from the Inquiry:
- the authorities established were valid and were not found to be unlawful;
- the authorities were established as a dormant redundancy and where enlivened relevant Ministers and officials were engaged;
- there is no consistent or well understood process for publication of the establishment of authorities to administer departments in the Government Gazette or otherwise;
- no instruction was given by me as Prime Minister or my office not to publish these arrangements in the Government Gazette;
- no powers were exercised under these authorities, except in the case of the PEP11 decision, or misused;
- Ministers exercised their portfolio authorities fully, with my utmost confidence and trust, without intervention;
- as Prime Minister I did not ‘Act’ as Minister or engage in any ‘Co-Minister’ arrangements, except in the specific case of the PEP11 decision and not otherwise for that department.
On the PEP11 matter, this was done lawfully from first principles. My intent to do so was also advised to the relevant Minister in advance.
In relation to my communication with my ministerial colleagues on these matters, I have addressed these issues privately with my colleagues at the time these issues were reported several months ago.
I am pleased that this matter has now concluded and I can continue, as I have since the last election, to serve the people of Cook as their federal member of parliament.
Australia’s performance through the pandemic was one of the strongest in the developed world.
Rethink on army’s infantry fighting vehicles project
The Albanese government is rethinking plans to spend up to $27bn on infantry fighting vehicles, confirming that it will delay a decision on the project until after the defence strategic review.
There has long been speculation that the government is looking at scaling back the project, amid questions about whether the army needs up to 450 such vehicles.
It had been reported that the government may wait until the report on the defence strategic review, headed by the former defence minister Stephen Smith and the former Australian defence force chief Angus Houston, is handed down early next year.
Today the defence industry minister, Pat Conroy, confirmed that the government would consider the review’s findings before deciding on the tender for the infantry fighting vehicles (a project known as LAND 400 Phase 3).
Conroy said it was “responsible” to properly weigh up a procurement worth between $18bn and $27bn. He thanked the German and South Korean bidders – Rheinmetall and Hanwha – and other companies involved in the tender process “for their understanding and professionalism”.
The government remains focused on Australia’s future defence capability. We don’t want to pre-empt the findings of the review, which is especially critical given the rapidly changing strategic circumstances facing our nation.
The project involves the acquisition of up to 450 infantry fighting vehicles to replace the current M113 armoured personnel carriers, which the army says “have been in service since the mid 1960s and are no longer able to counter the current and emerging threats presented in our operating environment”.
More on court ruling on Clive Palmer coalmine
Another update on our earlier post about a Queensland court finding that the plans of a company owned by Clive Palmer to dig Australia’s largest thermal coalmine would infringe upon the human rights of future generations.
The Queensland land court president, Fleur Kingham, found the 1.58 gigatonnes of carbon emissions that would be produced would pose an “unacceptable” risk of climate crisis that “had not been fully accounted for”.
Kingham described the potential $2.5bn economic benefits of the mine as “considerable”. However, she also said they were “uncertain in a market with declining demand for thermal coal”. She said:
There is a real prospect the mine will not be viable throughout its projected life and that not all the economic benefits will be realised.
Further, the costs of climate change to people in Queensland, to which combustion of coal from the project will contribute, have not been fully accounted for. Nor have the environmental costs of the act of mining on Bimblebox.
Kingham rejected Waratah’s argument that its mine would make no difference to total emissions, because it would “displace other lower quality coal”.
Australia’s fourth Covid wave likely to peak before Christmas as hospitalisations and infections begin to slow
Cases have continued to increase nationwide for the sixth consecutive week, however at a slower rate. This suggests a plateau in cases would arrive by the first week of December, in line with pandemic modelling, if it has not already.
New South Wales recorded 31,531 new Covid cases in the weekly reporting period, a 13% increase from last week’s 27,869.
Victoria recorded 22,281 new cases in the latest weekly reporting period, a 9% increase on the previous week’s 20,398.
The full story is here:
Scott Morrison sought advice on a sixth ministry and did not agree to be interviewed by inquiry
Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to additional ministries was “apt to undermine public confidence in government” and was “corrosive of trust in government”, Virginia Bell has found.
In a report, released on Friday, the former high court justice said Morrison’s appointments to the health and finance ministries were “unnecessary” while three other appointments “had little if any connection to the pandemic”.
Bell found these were an “exorbitant” way to overrule his ministers in the event of disagreement about their use of their powers to cancel visas, approve foreign investment and resources projects – a decision she labelled “bizarre”.
Read the full story from Paul Karp and Amy Remeikis here:
We posted a few updates earlier about some discontent among mayors in western Sydney about the resettlement of Australian women and children who have recently returned to the country from Syria. AAP have filed this report:
This is a great primer ahead of tomorrow’s Victorian state election:
Proposed coalmine by Clive Palmer-owned company would pose ‘unacceptable’ risk of climate crisis, court finds
Here’s an update on our earlier post about a Queensland court finding that the plans of a company owned by Clive Palmer to dig Australia’s largest thermal coalmine would infringe upon the human rights of future generations.
The Queensland land court president, Fleur Kingham, found the 1.58 gigatonnes of carbon emissions that would be produced would pose an “unacceptable” risk of climate crisis for Queensland people and property that “had not been fully accounted for”.
Kingham found the mine would make a significant dent in Australia’s carbon budget under the Paris agreement.
Kingham also found it would infringe upon the human rights of First Nations Queenslanders.
“In relation to climate change, I have found that the following rights of certain groups of people in Queensland would be limited: the right to life, the cultural rights of First Nations peoples, the rights of children, the right to property and to privacy and home, and the right to enjoy human rights equally,” she said.
Thank you to Natasha May for steering the ship in the middle of the tempest.
Thanks for following along with us on what has been quite an action packed morning. I’m heading off, but you have the marvellous Nino Bucci with you on the blog for the rest of the day.
Dark web blog where Medibank hackers posted data returns online
The dark web blog where the Medibank hackers have been posting customer data for the past couple of weeks has returned after four days of downtime.
The site went offline sometime between Monday and Tuesday Australian time, but experts said it could be temporary and not to read too much into the downtime.
The site returned online on Friday morning, but no new customer data has been posted since the fifth drop on Sunday, when the Russian cybercriminals posted 1,500 customer records.
The hackers have promised to continue posting data in response to Medibank refusing to pay a US$10m ransom. Medibank has been contacting those customers who have had their health claims posted on the dark web as a priority within 48 hours of the data being posted.
Court finds Clive Palmer's coalmine infringes on human rights of future generations
A Queensland court has found that the plans of a company owned by Clive Palmer to dig what would be Australia’s largest thermal coalmine in central Queensland infringe upon the human rights of future generations, in a landmark climate case.
Queensland land court president, Fleur Kingham, said the case was not about whether any new coalmine should be approved, but “whether this coalmine should be approved on its merits”.
She said this morning:
This coal is a public resource owned by the state to be exploited, or not, for the public good.
Climate change was a key issue in this hearing.
Kingham said her decision was a recommendation, but that the mine’s approval was ultimately a matter for the Queensland resources minister and the environment department.
The prime minister’s press conference has wrapped up now.
Our very own Paul Karp tries to ask Albanese to comment on the implication of this report for the legality of the Pep11 decision that Scott Morrison made personally.
Albanese says he won’t be commenting “on a matter that’s before the courts as you would not expect me to do”.
PM says Scott Morrison should apologise to Australian people
A reporter asks Albanese about Morrison’s refusal to meet with Justice Bell and asks whether he should be made to provide his account to the public or in parliament.
Albanese says he’s not interested whether Morrison owes an apology to Frydenberg:
I think that very clearly.
I know that there’s been some speculation about whether Scott Morrison owes an apology to Josh Frydenberg. That’s of no interest to me. But [I am interested in] the apology to the Australian people that were clearly misled.
‘A whole lot of people’ need to examine their behaviour regarding secret ministries, says Albanese
Do you think that Scott Morrison should resign?
Well, I think that a whole lot of people have got to look at their behaviour in this. Scott Morrison clearly felt the confidence to be able to consider – not that he was a part of a democratic government, not that he was bound by the conventions in which parliament and government functions – but others who are aware of this as well.
Albanese said he only just received the report:
I haven’t had the opportunity to read all of the detail but I’ve read through; it outlines clearly the process of the potential appointment of [Morrison to] minister of the environment and water department.
Albanese is asked if Morrison misled parliament:
He misled the parliament quite clearly. He’s misled the parliament every single day in which he stood there, and as the prime minister without revealing – for example, the questions that were asked about issues that directly were impacted, including the Pep 11 project.
He was asked questions about that in the parliament, where we were entitled to know that there were two people potentially responsible for that project. But most importantly, as well as misleading parliament, he has misled the Australian people.
Albanese is now answering questions and says there are larger questions about the culture that allowed the secret ministries to occur:
And the question here is: what was the culture that allowed this to thrive?
How is it that Scott Morrison had the confidence to be able to appoint himself to six positions? And consider even more.
This is a scathing report, which is an indictment on the Morrison government and the culture of secrecy.
And indeed, the Australian public is entitled to know this sort of information as well, and other senior public servants quoted in the report.
… One of the clear quotes: it was an exorbitant grab by Morrison and parliament could not hold him to account.
Morrison sought advice on being appointed to agriculture and environment department
What we now know from this report today … is that Scott Morrison also sought advice at the same time on being appointed to minister of the department of agriculture, water and the environment, that [he] ultimately decided not to proceed [with].
Morrison did not agree to meet with Virginia Bell, contradicting earlier statements: Albanese
Mr. Morrison did not agree to meet with Virginia Bell and communicated, only through his lawyers. That contradicts the very clear statement that Scott Morrison said when this inquiry was announced, and I think that will come as a surprise to people who took those comments at face value.
Morrison appointments a ‘characteristic of dysfunctional government’: PM
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has stepped up to speak in Canberra.
He begins with some strong words of rebuke for the former Coalition government.
That is a characteristic of dysfunctional government. After nine years of chaos, a dysfunctional government has now been replaced by a dysfunctional opposition.
He then moves on to referencing the findings of Bell’s report:
Justice Bell has found that the appointments were unnecessary, as an acting minister could have been appointed if needed to quote the report in a matter of minutes … To quote the report had literal connection to the pandemic, and were made because of Scott Morrison’s concern that again, I quote the report, an incumbent minister might exercise his or her statutory powers in a manner with which Mr. Morrison didn’t convert.
PM wants quick implementation of all six recommendations of Bell report
The prime minister Anthony Albanese’s office has released a statement welcoming the final report from the Bell inquiry, handed down today by the Hon Justice Virginia Bell.
The unprecedented and inexcusable actions of the former Prime Minister were emblematic of the culture of secrecy in which the previous Government operated.
The Bell Inquiry confirms the Solicitor-General’s conclusion that the principles of responsible government were “fundamentally undermined” because Mr Morrison was not “responsible” to the Parliament, and through the Parliament to the electors, for the departments he was appointed to administer.
Justice Bell found the secrecy around the appointments was “apt to undermine public confidence in government” and was “corrosive of trust in government.”
The inquiry has made six recommendations to improve transparency, accountability and restore public trust in Australian democracy, including:
Legislation to require public notice of the appointment of ministers to administer departments and hold offices;
The publication of acting arrangements for ministers; and
The publication of details of which ministers are appointed to administer departments and an outline of divisions of responsibilities where more than one minister is appointed to the same department.
I will recommend to the next meeting of Cabinet that the Albanese Government accept all six of Justice Bell’s recommendations.
The quick implementation of these recommendations will ensure that the Australian public can have full confidence that this breach of trust will never happen again.
I thank Justice Bell and her team for the efforts in conducting this Inquiry.
Morrison secret appointments were 'corrosive of trust in government': Bell report
Bell writes in the “implications of the appointments” section of her report:
The lack of disclosure of the appointments to the public was apt to undermine public confidence in government. Once the appointments became known, the secrecy with which they had been surrounded was corrosive of trust in government.
Bell releases report finding Morrison appointments were 'unnecessary'
Former high court justice Virginia Bell has released her findings from the inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries.
Bell has found that the appointment of Morrison to the ministries were “unnecessary”.
In August, the prime minister Anthony Albanese launched the inquiry after receiving the solicitor general’s advice that the additional ministry appointments were legal but “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
Bell was tasked to report on the “facts and circumstances” of Morrison having himself appointed to administer the health, finance, industry science energy and resources, home affairs departments and treasury during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Albanese is going to be stepping up to speak at 12.30pm today to respond to the report’s findings.
Complacency over Covid-19 despite new wave
Almost two-thirds of Australians believe the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic is behind them despite a new wave of infections and different variants of the virus emerging, research by Pfizer suggests.
One in three people is less likely to get tested for Covid when they have symptoms now compared with a year ago.
The findings have prompted stark warnings from health professionals.
University of Sydney infectious diseases specialist Prof Robert Booy said the apparent decline in testing was a major concern and urged Australians to keep up to date with their Covid-19 vaccinations.
Prof Booy said:
Recent federal government data has shown Covid still poses a very real risk to the health of our communities as we move into a new wave of infections, specifically to those at higher risk of serious illness.
Testing earlier means people can seek medical advice sooner and can access anti-viral medicines faster if they are eligible.
Almost two-thirds of Australians are also less concerned about how Covid-19 is affecting their community, while about half aren’t as worried about their own risk of serious illness.
One in five people who are at higher risk from Covid-19, such as those aged over 70 or those with health conditions including heart disease, are less likely to get tested or see a doctor if they experience symptoms.
The research findings are based on a November survey of 1,000 Australian adults by Pfizer Australia.
Australian authorities are closely monitoring a second Omicron variant’s transmission overseas, and all indications are that a new Covid wave has started in the country, chief medical officer Paul Kelly has said.
– from AAP
Perrottet calls for insurance industry to put ‘people before profits’
Perrottet says he will be meeting with the Insurance Council next week.
We have had discussions already but insurance companies need to put people before profits and make sure every single person from the central west is given the financial support they need. This is the opportunity for those companies to step up, like everyone in this community has stepped up and looked after each other. My expectation is the insurance council and the insurance industry will do the same.
Perrottet says the rebuilding effort needs to be more climate resilient
There is no doubt there is a significant challenge ahead in relation to road and road infrastructure. I know councils have some capacity but not complete capacity to get this job done. I have been speaking with Sam Farraway, with the treasurer in New South Wales to make sure once we can actually come in here to fix roads, we will.
Flood event after flood event has made this an incredibly challenging task. We will be allocating the funding required to make sure we get our communities back on their feet as quickly as possible. We are not just talking about potholes, we need to make sure that we rebuild in a more resilient way than before and that is most important. We can’t just keep doing things the same old way.
We know whether each of these events will occur again. This has been the biggest flood here in Condobolin, bigger than 1952. Let’s hope we don’t have another flood like this in the short term but in a country like Australia, these events will happen again. We need to make sure we build back stronger everywhere in the state of NSW.
Perrottet commits to more mental health support for central west NSW
NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is speaking about the state’s flood disaster from Condobolin in the central west.
There is no doubt there are significant challenges, particularly those at Condobolin, for our primary producers … We have gone through drought and now into the significant flooding event which is putting significant pressure on farmers. That is not just in Condobolin, it is right around the central west and other areas of New South Wales. This event is not over. As we can see here, it will take time for water to recede and there will be other challenges in other areas of the state.
Today we are announcing actual support for Lifeline. Six new counsellors coming out to the central west to provide that care and mental health support. It has been a difficult time for everybody. It has been gruelling, there are many people who are tired, exhausted, emotional. It is a long journey ahead. We want to make sure that care and support is there whether it is through Lifeline or our own mental health support staff coming out into those communities that have been affected, substantially affected by floods.
Victorian government promises grants for every kindergarten in the state
Verdict expected in First Nations case against Clive Palmer coalmine in Queensland
A landmark climate and human rights decision could be made today with a Queensland court expected to hand down its verdict on a case brought by a coalition of young First Nations people against the proposal of a company owned by Clive Palmer to dig Australia’s largest thermal coalmine.
Youth Verdict has argued the Galilee Coal Project in central Queensland proposed by Palmer’s company, Waratah Coal, would come at “an obscenely high cost” for future generations and limit the cultural rights of First Nations Queenslanders to maintain their distinctive relationships with the land.
Waratah Coal has argued that, although “climate change is real”, the coal at the site was “high-energy producing” and that if it not mined, “other sources will supply the market”.
Queensland land court president Fleur Kingham is expected to hand down her verdict at 11.30am local time [12.30pm AEDT].
ACCC approves taskforce to tackle soft plastic recycling crisis
Australia’s consumer watchdog has given permission for supermarkets Coles, Woolworths and Aldi to form a taskforce to try and solve the crisis in soft plastic recycling.
The three supermarkets applied to the ACCC to be allowed to form a taskforce after the suspension earlier this month of the country’s main soft plastic recycling service, administered by REDcycle.
ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said an interim authorisation had been granted to the supermarkets to allow to have meeting to “consider, and seek to develop and implement, a short-term solution for the storage, transportation, processing, recycling and/or management of soft plastics.” Keogh said:
We have moved quickly to approve the interim application as the suspension of the REDcycle program stopped in-store collections of soft plastic, raising community concerns and an urgent need to address the environmental risk of the existing stockpile and future waste.
REDcycle had been stockpiling soft plastics that had been dropped by the public at supermarkets after the two main companies that took the materials had to stop accepting them because of a fire in a production facility and problems with market demand.
Environment minister Tanya Plibersek said she was pleased the taskforce was allowed to form.
The government will coordinate these taskforce discussions to make sure that Australians can continue recycling their soft plastics.
Plibersek launched a new ministerial advisory group on the circular economy this morning to look at how products are designed, made and used across the economy.
Better waste management and more effective recycling are important – but they aren’t enough on their own. As a country we must do more to design-out waste in the first place, and make better use of recovered resources.
The group will be chaired by Prof John Thwaites AM and will include the Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley and outgoing CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall.
Josh Frydenberg 'chief enabler': Jim Chalmers says
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has accused his Liberal predecessor, Josh Frydenberg, of complaining in the media about Morrison’s multiple ministries while failing to take responsibility.
Chalmers told reporters:
Josh Frydenberg was the chief sycophant and chief enabler of this dictatorial behaviour. One of the reasons Morrison was convinced he could get away with this kind of behaviour is because Josh Frydenberg spent all his time sucking up to him instead of standing up to him. So he should take some of the responsibility for what’s happened here.
With the change of government, the adults are in charge now. [It’s] the end of that period of dictatorial authoritarian behaviour under the Liberals. If Peter Dutton were elected, you would see all of it would come back. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to get to the bottom of what happened here.
Labor slams Coalition’s ‘veil of secrecy’ around repatriated Australians from Syria in 2019
O’Neil and Bowen are saying they are being more transparent and doing more consultation than when the Coalition repatriated Australians from Syria in 2019.
Bowen says of previous repatriation efforts:
It is not accurate to say only the children were taken back and not accurate to say only the women were brought back in the past either. As opposed to that veil of secrecy that Peter Dutton presided over, this minister within the constraints, obviously, and for protection of privacy and protection of security, the minister’s operating in, has been more transparent than any home affairs minister in the last decade.
O’Neil goes on to say a bit more about the former government too:
I have heard in my discussions – again returning to this issue of 2019 when the former government didn’t tell anyone in western Sydney that these people were coming back – we had Peter Dutton visiting Fairfield and one of the community leaders said to me it was probably the first time Peter Dutton had ever been to Fairfield.
I can reaffirm that is the case. First time I had ever seen him.
We have done a lot of consultation and doing a lot of consultation. Happy to do it because I firmly believe it is part of my job.
‘The people are coming back to where they left from’: O’Neil
O’Neil is asked by a reporter “why Fairfield?”
The decision has been made in this regard because the people are coming back to where they left from. There is quite a lot of misinformation about where these people are being resettled. All I would say to you is that we have four women and thirteen Australian children who left Australia and they are returning to where they came from.
Can I say, with respect, that question underlines some of the misunderstandings in the community. I am not having a go at you personally, people say: why Fairfield? I think the answer underlines that. As the local member, I can say the mayors can speak for themselves, it is a lot more complicated than that. The assumption that people are being settled in a particular place like Fairfield is not necessarily correct. It is not correct.
Ministers hit back at criticism that meeting with western Sydney mayors didn’t occur before repatriation
The ministers turn to questions. The first reporter asks how come the meeting didn’t happen before the decision of repatriation was made.
We have made a decision on national security grounds. I think it should be fairly obvious why we are not able to talk about that publicly before the decision was made. The important thing today is we have met today and are talking with the community. If I could draw a contrast to in 2019 where the former government did exactly the same thing that the Australian government has done today. There was not a phone call given to community leaders across western Sydney and I did not see, frankly, a lot of media attention about that. We have taken a different approach. Chris and I firmly believe that part of our jobs as politicians is being accountable about our decisions and talking to communities affected and that is why I am here today.
Bowen pipes up, backing what O’Neil says as accurate:
As local member, I have no idea what happened in 2019. I wasn’t given the courtesy of a phone call by the then minister. I wasn’t given the courtesy of a briefing. I did not know how many people were settled in our community. I do not know who were, what protections were put in place. I was utterly kept in the dark. The mayors were utterly kept in the dark. The community did not know. I dare say the reason you did not ask questions, to be fair to you is you weren’t told either. This government has taken a very different approach. The minister for home affairs and me, in my capacity … answering questions and providing information to the mayors. If a member of the Liberal party says one word of criticism of this government for this process, they are hypocrites. They did not bother to pick up the phone to me as a local member, provide me with one iota of information about what was happening, about who was being resettled or why. I will not take one second of criticism by any member of the opposition.
Home affairs minister says ‘collaborative conversation’ has been had
The home affairs minister Clare O’Neil speaks following Bowen.
I wanted to start by thanking the mayors who have given me the time this morning and that discussion has been really thoughtful, really considered and very polite and I think as always, when you sit down face-to-face, it has been considered.
There are a lot of complexities that we face in Australia, with regard to this particular issue. And I hope and believe that those complexities are understood by the people affected by these decisions.
So, we have had a really good, collaborative conversation and as Chris has said, I think we are walking out of that meeting with a better understanding of each other’s points of view.
We won’t agree on everything and when we make complex decisions of course there are different points of view. Those views are entitled to be expressed. I have to say, I deeply believe as a politician and I know Chris will feel the same, that communities around this country are entitled to talk to us about these matters.
We are obliged to talk and listen to their views and that is what we have done this morning. We bought with us to this meeting some very, very expert counterterrorism and security personnel, who worked for the Australian government. We are obviously not going to put them in front of the camera. I hope that I showed the mayors in the community see how seriously we take their concerns.
There is a lot of work that has gone into the decision that has been made here. A lot of work that will go into making sure the community is safe as a result. I want to, on behalf of the Australian government, thank those people. They are one of the reasons we have been able to keep Australia largely safe from terrorism over quite a long period of time now.
Energy and home affairs minister provide 'factual update' to western Sydney mayors
Chris Bowen and the home affairs minister Clare O’Neil have just held talks with the mayors of some western Sydney councils who are concerned about the families of IS fighters who have been repatriated from Syria.
Bowen is the local member for McMahon in western Sydney and is speaking following that meeting. He says:
I am appreciative of minister O’Neil bringing senior officials of Asio and the Australian Federal Police within the capacity they have, to provide the mayors with information as to the handling of this sensitive matter.
There are some misapprehensions and misunderstandings, understandably, in the media and community about exactly how this has been handled. We were able to deal with some of those with the mayors.
I think everyone would say, no one would 100% agree that all these issues are simple or how they should be handled. Certainly, in my experience, having been a member here for a long time and spoken to a lot of members and communities, there will always be a number of views. But I want to thank Clare O’Neil for very openly and respectfully listening to those views and providing a factual update to the mayors on behalf of their community.
They have, quite rightly, raised issues of concerns and I think it has been great for Clare O’Neil to hear those concerns and respond on behalf of the government.
Renewables investment at a record low when we need to hit new highs
For all the talk of the decarbonising the electricity sector, the fact is investment in new projects is withering, if the latest stats from the Clean Energy Council are any guide.
In the September quarter, just one large-scale project reached financial closure (ie final commitment from a company) with just 127MW of capacity. (By contrast, AGL yesterday said it would close its remaining three units at its Torrens Island “B” gas plant in June 2026, with their 600MW.)
Kane Thornton, the CEC’s CEO, said the group’s latest report made “abundantly clear that Australia’s clean energy transition has been throttled by years of policy uncertainty.”
The investment drought on big solar and wind reminded me of this report we filed in April, that highlighted the slowdown in investment:
It was notable at the time because the Morrison government had been talking up Australia’s clean energy sector, with the highest penetration of rooftop solar in the world, etc etc.
As the article noted, a spokesperson for then energy minister Angus Taylor (now the shadow treasurer), dismissed the CEC’s concerns saying it had been forecasting a collapse in renewable energy investment for years.
The spokesperson said:
Australians continue to prove the Clean Energy Council wrong. The fact is, there’s been more than $40bn of investment in renewables in Australia since 2017.
Well, the $40bn figure might have been right but it’s slowed to a trickle in recent years. The main positive is the jump in new storage projects, with 14 new projects worth more than $2bn committed in the last 12 months.
The rolling 12-month average is at a record 1984MWh of large-scale storage projects, or almost a four-fold rise from a year earlier.
Also on the positive side of the ledger are promises by the Labor governments in Victoria and Queensland promising big expansions of their renewable generation and storage in recent months. (We’ll find out on Saturday whether the Andrews government will be returned. The whisper is that Labor expects to retain majority rule. Let’s see...)
Thornton, meanwhile, reckons investment confidence is returning, “aided by clearer and more potent policy directions across the country”.
But the trend needs to accelerate, and getting more projects through the various state planning systems faster would be one way, he says.
Federal energy minister Chris Bowen has been reported as saying we need to add 22,000 500w solar panels a day and 407MW wind turbines each month up to 2030 to meet the decarbonising goals.
Given the pace of new projects being signed up, those big numbers are presumably getting larger each day.
Victorian government promises $22m package for LGBTIQ+ community
The Andrews government has vowed to inject $22.2m to boost LGBTIQ+ community services and pride events across the state , if re-elected at tomorrow’s state election.
The investment would provide funding for community organisations like the Melbourne Queer film festival and mental health providers for the LGBTIQ+ community.
Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said he was proud to work “with LGBTIQ+ communities against discrimination and hate.”
The state’s equality minister Harriet Shing said the Andrews government had a strong track record on fighting to ensure LGBTIQ+ Victorians were equal:
We have banned conversion therapy, funded Safe Schools and delivered the first state-wide celebration of LGBTIQ+ Victorians.
Shing also lashed the state’s Coalition for pledging to amend the Equal Opportunity Act to give faith-based schools protection to hire staff who share their values and beliefs if it wins government. Opposition leader Matthew Guy made the election commitment in October.
Changes to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act, which came into effect in June, largely prohibit religious schools from sacking staff or refusing to hire people based on protected attributes such as sexuality, gender identity or marital status.
Schools have an exemption to make employment decisions based on an employee’s religious beliefs where it is critical to the job, such as the hiring of a religious education teacher. The changes came after reports teachers were sacked after coming out as LGBTQ+.
Electric vehicle tax cut passes the Senate
The energy minister, Chris Bowen, says the electric vehicle tax cut has passed the Senate 31-24.
Minister for science and industry welcomes circular economy goals
The minister for science and industry, Ed Husic, also says he’s looking forward to working with the environment minister on the government’s circular economy goals.
Reaching our net-zero goals requires an urgent systems-wide change to how we live and work.
A circular economy will ensure that we are on track to make these changes and support the energy transformation.
It’s a great opportunity to create manufacturing systems that are optimised to be less resource intensive, produce less waste, and have less impact on the environment.
The Albanese government will help this come to fruition through our Future Made in Australia policy and the $15bn National Reconstruction Fund – so we can rebuild Australia’s industrial base and take advantage of the opportunities from a net zero economy.
New expert group to guide Australia’s transition to a circular economy
The minister for the environment, Tanya Plibersek, has announced a new ministerial advisory group on the circular economy at the Circularity 2022 Conference in Sydney today.
The group will guide Australia in its transition to a circular economy by 2030. What is a circular economy? The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has this definition:
In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.
It’s about keeping materials, products, and services in circulation for as long possible – but the lack of solutions for materials like soft plastics shows Australia still has a long way to go.
The new expert group will be chaired by Prof John Thwaites, with membership including Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley and outgoing chief executive of CSIRO, Dr Larry Marshall.
The group will look at how products are designed, manufactured and used across all sectors of the economy. It will identify meaningful and direct changes the government and industry can make to drive the transition to a circular economy.
The decision to form the new group came from the environment ministers meeting in October, where the government says all Australian environment ministers agreed to work with the private sector to design out waste and pollution, keep materials in use and foster markets to achieve a circular economy by 2030.
Better waste management and more effective recycling are important – but they aren’t enough on their own. As a country we must do more to design-out waste in the first place, and make better use of recovered resources.
We know that Australians want to reduce their waste and use less disposable items in the first place – but we have to set up our economy to help them do this.
More than seventy percent of a product’s environmental impact is locked in at the design stage, before a customer ever looks at it. This means we need to get things right at the start, well before we deal with its disposal.
A circular economy will create jobs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and the amount of waste we put into landfill. This transition is really exciting for the environment and the economy.
I look forward to working with my state and territory colleagues, with industry and with the new advisory panel to drive our efforts to design out waste.
Simon Birmingham agrees Morrison multiple ministries were 'overreach'
The former finance minister, Simon Birmingham, has told Sky News he expects the Bell inquiry report is going to largely repeat the conclusions of the solicitor general (who found the appointments were legal but undermined representative government) and call for more transparency when a person is appointed to a ministerial portfolio.
Birmingham defended some of the early Morrison appointments to the health and finance portfolios at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, noting it was a time that “extraordinary powers” were being used, there were “genuine concerns” that ministers could become “incapacitated”, and difficulties of state borders closing.
It’s understandable in terms of those initial [appointments] – although transparency would’ve been preferable. As to the latter [appointments], I think many people still wonder why they were done … I think the concern about why it is that other departments were ensnared in similar decisions, it’s not clear what that is. And without clarity around the reasons why, it would appear to be overreach, yes.
NSW records 25 Covid deaths and 1,320 people in hospital
There were 31,531 new cases in the weekly reporting period, and 32 people are in intensive care.
The weekly deaths recorded are down by more than a third on the previous week which came in 39, but cases are up 13% from last week’s 27,869.
Government withdraws controversial cost provision from Respect@Work bill
The Senate is meeting today, part of the government’s pledge to senator David Pocock to have extra sitting days to get through a backlog of legislation. It won’t be debating the national anti-corruption commission or the industrial relations bill until next week.
The Senate will be considering the bill to implement the recommendations of the Respect@Work report – and the government has today flagged one significant change on legal costs will be made by amendment.
At the moment costs in cases like sexual harassment or discrimination go to the winner. That’s good news for victims who win their case (and have their costs covered) but bad news for those that lose and end up paying their employer’s costs.
To fix this, the bill proposed “costs neutrality” with a starting point that everybody pays their own costs. This gives a potential litigant certainty they’ll only be responsible for their own costs, but deprives winners of having their costs covered.
Minister for women, Katy Gallagher, and attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, announced on Friday this provision will be removed from the bill.
We have carefully considered the recommendations of the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee and listened to stakeholder concerns in relation to the cost protection provisions currently in the bill, which are based on a recommendation of the Australian Human Rights Commission.
As a result of these considerations the government will move amendments to remove the existing cost provision from the bill.
The government will refer the issue of costs in discrimination proceedings to the attorney general’s department for review. That review will begin immediately and be completed in May 2023. We intend to legislate the costs model recommended by that review as quickly as possible.
This is a government that listens to women and advocates.
We look forward to further constructive engagement on this issue through the review process.
Victoria records 68 Covid deaths and 430 people in hospital
There were 22,281 new cases in the weekly reporting period and 15 people are in intensive care.
These figures once again show a rise on previous weeks as the state continues to experience another Covid-19 wave. Deaths are up by almost half on the 46 recorded last week while cases have risen 9% on the previous week’s 20,398.
Central west NSW flooded, wet summer ahead
Summer months are tipped to be soggy, as the flood response shifts to Euabalong, where the Lachlan River is set to peak.
The State Emergency Service has teams deployed into Euabalong, along with emergency crews from New Zealand, and Singaporean Civil Defence Force personnel.
NSW SES deputy commissioner Dean Storey said resources were being focused on towns including Condobolin and Euabalong along the Lachlan River, Bourke on the Darling River, and Deniliquin and Moulamein on the Edward River.
NSW SES members conducted community liaison in preparation for this predicted major flood in Euabalong.
NSW SES continues to undertake resupply for essential goods and medication while they remain isolated, and sandbag requests.
Premier Dominic Perrottet will be talking with locals and assessing the devastation at the flood-hit central west town of Condobolin today.
The SES told residents they can return to Condobolin with caution, but 83 warnings remain in place.
Perrottet said fixing 10,000km of damaged roads battered by the floods remains a priority in the reconstruction process.
The Bureau of Meteorology says major flooding from the Murray River is occurring at Wakool Junction, Boundary Bend and Euston – all cross-border towns with Victoria.
In Bourke, the main Barwon-Darling river flood peak is approaching levels above the 1998 flood record, with a peak also expected overnight
The Murrumbidgee River at Balranald Weir is also heading towards a 7.3m peak.
The bureau is also warning summer will be soggy, with more rain and inevitable flooding yet again.
It said December to February rainfall was likely (greater than 60% chance) to be above average for the north coast and southern NSW.
– from AAP
Guy believes in Coalition’s chances of forming government
Guy is still talking up the Coalition’s chances of forming government, saying “I know it’s real.”
Millar then asks him about the threat of the independents:
What do you reckon the impact is going to be of teals and independents? Six months ago they ate away at the Liberal party vote. Are we going to see that again?
Well, I’m not sure. I’m not Nostradamus on these things. We put our best foot forward in every seat in those states, we got great candidates like Jess Wilson in Kew, John Pesutto in Hawthorn and I say to Victorians, you know, if you vote for one of these candidates, you’ll just get the Labor government. Because all of them will back the Labor if they get the chance.
Victorian Liberal leader promises to drive down state’s debt
Well, you have talked about debt, so let’s move on to that because costings from both the parties indicate that contingency funds are going to be raided, that there’s no moves to try and have fiscal responsibility. You’re telling everyone else to tighten your belts. What’s the message that you’re sending promising spending like you’re drunken soldiers?
I committed to Victorians to put forward a plan that was independently costed, that would add up and that would lower debt.
And all of those things, costed our policies and our commitments costed by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office at $28bn. Our savings measures coming in at $38bn. Driving down debt by $10bn over that forward estimates four-year period because Victoria’s debt is greater than New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania combined so we must do something.
And importantly bringing our budget back to surplus a year earlier than what the government says it can do. They are sensible and reasonable policies that we have had independently costed and I say to all Victorians – it’s a sensible and reasonable way forward. Please don’t waste that chance on Saturday.
Slogans won’t fix Victoria’s health system: Matthew Guy on why Victorians should reject Labor
Speaking of the Victorian elections on tomorrow, this is what Liberal leader Matthew Guy had to say to ABC Breakfast News this morning from Ballarat.
First question Guy is asked about why Victorians should vote for him this time around when he was so soundly rejected in 2018.
Well, so was Mark McGowan at his first election, he came on and won the next one. What we are saying to Victorians is now is the chance to move on, don’t waste it.
Now is the chance to vote him out and to get a new government that is positive, that does have an agenda to fix our health system once and for all. You know, the premier’s slogans won’t fix our health system. It won’t actually build the hospitals that are necessary.
We can actually provide genuine cost of living relief but you actually have to pay for it and our plans will lower debt by $10bn over the forward estimates period because that’s a sensible and reasonable thing to do but we have got costed, sensible, realistic, reasonable plans that are actually good for our state, none of this is slogans unlike the premier.
Ley questions why Daniel Andrews voted early in Victorian election
Sussan Ley is asked about the Victorian election, and how the Liberal brand will go in those seats which turned away from the party during the federal election.
Ley uses the question to stir up a bit of trouble questioning the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, defying the tradition of casting his vote on election day. Patricia Karvelas shuts her down pretty quickly with the fact the Liberal state leader did the same.
By the way Patricia, did you not think it was odd that the premier voted I think two days before the election? What’s he hiding from?
Matthew Guy has also pre-polled.
Ley rapidly moved on:
Well, I, you know ... I think premiers should be right out there.
Floods disaster support payments are not enough: Ley
Ley has said the disaster support payments are not enough considering the unprecedented scale of devastation of these recent floods.
Ley on the public hearings element of the bill
I think there’s a really important balance to be struck between the commission doing its work and actually getting to the heart of the matter and public hearings that can damage people’s reputations, when in fact there are no findings against them.
Remember, the anti-corruption commission is not a legal court. And yet when people view its activities, they often feel that it is. So I’m committed to the Nacc, as I said, doing the work that it’s been set up to do.
But do we need all of that to be in public? Do we need public hearings, no I don’t think necessarily do, so I think we need to get that threshold right.
I think it’s important that we don’t default to public hearings, more of the time.
Because something’s not public doesn’t mean that you haven’t got commissioners working hard to get as I said to the heart of the matter and to make the necessary findings.
Ley questions why Labor didn’t support Dai Le’s amendment to anti-corruption watchdog bill
The anti-corruption watchdog has just passed the house of representatives and will go to the Senate in the next week.
The Coalition did move some amendments but supported the bill in the end when those amendments were voted down. However, Ley expresses her shock Labor did not support Dai Le’s amendment.
We support the anti-corruption commission, there was significant areas of agreement between us and the government. I must admit Patricia, I was very surprised that the government do support Dai Le’s amendment yesterday, which was about people for whom English is not their first language, struggling with some of the ramifications of being caught up in any of these activities and Dai Le made a very impassioned speech with the background that she has about how frightening this can be for Australians of different backgrounds, who’ve come from countries where the consequences of these conditions can be absolutely awful. Now see, that’s not the country we live in. But I was just sitting there listening to her and thinking how can Labor not support this amendment? There was a series of amendments that we didn’t support. We did support that one. And we’ve given broad agreement to the the Nacc as it’s going to be called going forward.
‘Friendship in politics is important’: Ley on her support for Morrison
Unlike her Coalition colleague Karen Andrews who called for Scott Morrison to resign, Ley indicated she is happy he remains in parliament:
Scott remains a good friend of mine and a good colleague … and I just won’t be offering the public reflections that you might be seeking at this point in time.
Is part of the reason you’re reluctant because of what you just described – friendship?
I think friendship in politics is important.
But so is holding people to account, transparency.
The other thing I would say is that the former prime minister is elected by the people of Cook and he sits in this parliament now representing them and their interests. And I’m sure he’s very responsive to how they see his role for them and that is the relationship that is the most important.
Niki Savva also reports in her book that the shadow cabinet (of which Ley is the deputy leader) decided to downplay the issue.
ABC asks Ley if that was a mistake:
That’s not a description I would agree with. And I don’t comment of course on what happens in shadow cabinet.
Also revealed is that Josh Frydenberg put to Scott Morrison, you wouldn’t do it again, if you had you time over and Scott Morrison reportedly replied, ‘Yes, I would.’
Are you alarmed by that?
That’s a report of one person saying something to another. And you’re asking a third party who wasn’t privy to either.
Karvelas pushes Ley that it’s Frydenberg on the record, but Ley maintains that she does not make those kind of comments.
‘I’m not a public commentator’: Ley on Frydenberg’s remarks about Morrison’s ministries
RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas is asking Ley about those comments from Josh Frydenberg.
The former treasurer told Niki Savva that the former PM’s decision was “extreme overreach” and that there wasn’t any reason for him to take on the treasury.
Ley is staying out of it, claiming she is not a “public commentator” and claiming that in her electorate Morrison’s multiple ministries is not the hot topic at seniors’ morning teas.
Was this extreme overreach?
Well, I’m not a public commentator, I’m deputy leader of the opposition and both the former prime minister and the former treasurer are friends of mine and I actually note that they’re friends with each other, as Josh says in that report, so I’m not going to get into who said what and when.
But the question was, is it extreme overreach?
Well I’m just not a public commentator, I’m not going to engage.
With respect you’re the deputy leader of the Liberal party, you either think it’s extreme overreach, or you don’t.
I think the most important thing is what Peter Dutton and I said at the time – we will support any action or steps required to close the loophole that facilitated this and that includes legislative change, by the way.
So descriptions of what went on in the past, people can make those those comments, and they will and they have, but what I think people in the public need to hear is what we will do going forward and we have made that very clear.
It’s an important issue, Patricia. I have to say, though, it’s not something that’s raised with the women’s roundtables, at seniors’ morning teas, at manufacturing sites or at the front bar of the hotels in my electorate where they’re struggling to recover from floods. It’s not something that’s being raised. I’m not stepping back from the significance of the issue. And that’s why I emphasise the commitment that both Peter Dutton and I have made.
Liberals will support legislative change to close loophole that allowed Morrison’s ministries, Sussan Ley says
The deputy leader of the Liberal party, Sussan Ley, is speaking to ABC Radio about the former prime minister Scott Morrison’s assumption of multiple secret ministries ahead of the review into the matter being handed down today.
What questions does Ley want answered in this report?
Peter Dutton and I, as we said at the time, will support any steps or actions that are required to close the loophole that allowed what you’ve just described.
Ley is staying pretty tight-lipped in this interview and doesn’t say whether she is disappointed that Morrison reportedly refused to be interviewed for the inquiry.
I don’t know who was or wasn’t interviewed, or what information Virginia Bell has been able to assemble.
But the important thing is what the current Liberal leadership has said about these events and what might happen going forward.
And we absolutely are committed to dealing with it. If legislative change is required, we will support it. And Peter made that very clear in the early days after this was first discussed.
Sydney mayor to meet with home affairs minister over families of IS fighters’ repatriation
Three Sydney mayors will meet with the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, to voice their opposition to the repatriation of Australian wives and children of Islamic State fighters in the city’s south-west.
Liverpool mayor Ned Mannoun says the resettlement of IS families in western Sydney could involve re-traumatising recently arrived refugees such as Yazidis and Assyrians fleeing IS violence from Iraq and Syria.
Four Australian women who have been in the al-Roj camp in Syria since the fall of Islamic State arrived in Sydney along with 13 children last month following a secret operation.
Mannoun, Fairfield mayor Frank Carbone and Campbelltown mayor George Greiss are expected to receive a security briefing from O’Neill today.
The meeting comes after the three wrote to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, outlining their concerns.
We don’t want to politicise the matter but this affects the social cohesion and beautiful tapestry of western Sydney.
The government says surveillance and restrictions will help mitigate any potential threat of extremism from the returned women and children.
– from AAP
Victorian Labor and Liberals reveal policy costings
Victorians vote tomorrow and the main parties left it late to reveal the costing of their policies.
Under Labor’s election costings, which were checked by the state’s Treasury, a re-elected Andrews government could achieve a budget surplus of about $1bn in 2025-26. This is a year after the Liberals’ costings have forecast a $2.1bn surplus if the Coalition wins power.
Labor’s costings document shows a total of $11.6bn in election promises, of which more than $5bn worth of commitments have no specified timeline over the next five years.
Labor has also ruled out any new taxes to pay for its election commitments. If re-elected, it said it will pay for its election commitments through a number of efficiencies, including by reducing labour hire and consultant costs by $200m by 2026-27.
Under the Coalition’s costings – prepared by the state’s parliamentary budget office – the key election pledge to shelve the Suburban Rail Loop is estimated to increase Victoria’s budget by $10.2bn.
When offset against hospital spending, health funding and measures to help halve the state’s elective surgery waitlist, $3.1bn would be leftover, which will be allocated to the health system.
Read our full report from Adeshola Ore here:
Two flood rescues overnight in NSW
The NSW SES’s key focus areas for today are the Lachlan River at Euabalong, the Murrumbidgee at Hay and Balranald, the Barwon at Brewarrina, the Darling at Bourke and downstream, the Murray at Torrumbarry, Barham and Boundary Bend, as well as the Edward at Moulamein.
There have been 134 rescues and two flood rescues in the 24 hours to 6am this morning.
There are still 78 emergency warnings in total, including 13 emergency warnings.
'Extreme overreach': Frydenberg speaks out on Morrison secret ministries saga
Hello! Natasha May now on deck with you.
The former Liberal treasurer Josh Frydenberg has broken his silence on his government’s former leader Scott Morrison’s secret assumptions of five ministries, including his own portfolio.
In an interview with Niki Savva for her book Bulldozed, Frydenberg said he can’t actually remember Morrison saying sorry when he first called his former colleague following the revelation.
Frydenberg told Savva that he ignored Morrison’s initial attempts to contact him. When he eventually did, Frydenberg put it to him that:
You wouldn’t do it again if you had your time over!
Yes I would.
The Sydney Morning Herald has this morning published an extract of Savva’s book which includes these quotes from Frydenberg:
I don’t think there was any reason for Scott to take on the additional Treasury portfolio. The fact he did take it, and it was not made transparent to me and others, was wrong and profoundly disappointing.
It was extreme overreach.
Bell report in Morrison's secret ministries due today
The inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries will report on Friday. My colleague Paul Karp has this:
In August, Anthony Albanese launched the inquiry by former high court justice Virginia Bell after receiving solicitor general’s advice that the additional ministry appointments were legal but “fundamentally undermined” responsible government.
Bell will report on the “facts and circumstances” of Morrison having himself appointed to administer the health, finance, industry science energy and resources, home affairs departments and treasury during the Covid-19 pandemic.
That will include the implications of the appointment on the functioning of government, the structure of the ministry, the accountability of the executive to the parliament, and public confidence in government.
In November the former health minister Greg Hunt confirmed he had provided a statement to the inquiry – but we don’t know the extent of Morrison’s cooperation beyond that he was approved for taxpayer-funded legal expenses related to the inquiry.
As to what happens next – that will be up to the Albanese government. At the least, we are expecting reforms requiring ministerial appointments to be disclosed publicly and to parliament.
Albanese has previously accused Morrison of misleading parliament, while the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, has said there should be “severe political consequences” for Morrison.
The appointments are also indirectly under scrutiny in the federal court, where Asset Energy is challenging Morrison’s personal decision to scuttle the PEP-11 permit to explore for gas off the coast of Newcastle. That case is likely to be removed to the high court now a constitutional argument has been added by the plaintiff.
Morrison has defended the arrangements as a “necessary” safeguard in “extraordinary circumstances” that were done with the “best of intentions”.
Housing investor 'roundtable'
Australia’s big super funds, the major banks, the Future Fund and huge investment firm BlackRock will meet with the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, in Sydney today in a push to tackle the shortage of affordable housing.
Ahead of the meeting, Chalmers said he was “bringing some of the nation’s most influential investors to the table to work with governments to address the big issues facing our country” including boosting housing supply.
It is the first of a series of “investor roundtables” in which the treasurer aims to work with the private sector to unlock more investment in areas where Australians need it most.
The agenda for the first meeting includes financing solutions to encourage greater investment in affordable housing and housing more broadly, and discussions about how investors can progress the commitments included in the government’s so-called housing accord.
The members of the investor roundtable include the chief executives of the Future Fund, the Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Westpac, NAB, Macquarie, Colonial First State, the Australian Investment Council and super funds including HESTA. The Australasian head of the multinational investment company BlackRock is also one of the core participants.
They will be joined today by housing industry representatives, including the Property Council of Australia, Housing Industry Association, the Community Housing Industry Association and Master Builders.
Chalmers said in a statement:
Today, I will host the first investor roundtable aimed at facilitating more institutional investment in housing supply and affordability.
We’ve identified a number of areas where we think Australians can benefit most from more targeted, institutional investment in our national priorities including housing supply and affordability, the energy transition, manufacturing and the digital economy.
Starting with housing today, we will work closer than ever before with leading investors, major banks, global asset managers and superannuation funds to promote stronger investment in these priority areas.
After a decade of division and drift, we have a new approach – to bring people together.
This is about delivering strong returns for shareholders and strong returns for Australians.
Good morning. It’s already been a huge week but there’s still more to go today and Natasha May will be along shortly to help make sense of what’s going on. But first, let’s have a look at the big stories this morning.
Our top story is an exclusive by our political editor, Katharine Murphy, about the fierce internal Labor battle and collective anxiety that raged behind the scenes before Anthony Albanese got his way with a policy for an emissions target of 43%. It proved a successful policy because it wedged the Coalition and helped to neutralise the divisive climate wars.
The first big electoral test for both parties since May comes with tomorrow’s state election in Victoria where Daniel Andrews is favourite to retain power as Labor premier. We have an explainer about all those policy promises and how they might enable you to figure out how to vote, plus a look at each party’s costings, released yesterday.
Labor’s win back in May flushed out the decaying Coalition administration under Scott Morrison and we’ll all be reminded of those days today when former high court justice Virginia Bell publishes her report into the former prime minister’s “secret ministries”. Just what went down – and what impact did it have – when he appointed himself to administer the health, finance, industry science energy and resources, home affairs departments and treasury during the Covid-19 pandemic? Hopefully we’ll get some answers.
And looking to the future, banks and investors will meet the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, today to discuss the government’s strategy on affordable housing.
Let’s get started.