What we learned – Thursday 6 October
And with that, we are going to put the blog to bed. Thank you for spending some of your time with us.
Before we bounce, let’s recap the big stories for today:
The federal Liberal party’s leading moderate, Simon Birmingham, has called for Teena McQueen to step down after her celebration of “lefties” leaving the Liberal party after the may election.
The skills minister, Brendan O’Connor, confirmed a government discussion is taking place around stage-three tax cuts. The Coalition has called on the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to declare his position on the tax cuts.
Public servants will get a 3% wage increase.
The Queensland attorney general has found that Star is unsuitable to hold a casino licence in the state.
The federal government is amending telecommunications regulations following the Optus data breach. Police have arrested a 19-year-old man over an alleged SMS scam related to the breach.
2022 has set a rainfall record for Sydney.
Albanese met with Solomon Islands prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, in Canberra. Sogavare restated that “Solomon Islands will never be used for foreign military installations”.
We will be back tomorrow – until then, stay safe!
Lyndon Terracini steps down early from Opera Australia
Within a week of former Australian Consumer and Competition Commission chair Rod Sims taking the helm at Opera Australia, the company’s creative leader has announced his resignation, more than 12 months before his contract expires.
Opera Australia announced on Thursday its artistic director of 13 years, Lyndon Terracini, would stand down from his position early, formally leaving the company next Friday 14 October.
VicForests’ data gaps prevent noncompliance assessment, reports finds
Victoria’s forestry watchdog has been labelled ineffective by academics and the Greens following a report by the state’s auditor-general, AAP reported.
The report found gaps in key data supplied by VicForests prevented the Office of the Conservation Regulator (OCR) from assessing noncompliance in the harvesting of native forests.
VicForests manages the harvest, sale and regrowing of timber from state forests on behalf of the Victorian government.
“While it is VicForests’, not OCR’s responsibility to collect relevant pre-harvest data, the way OCR records Forest Protection Survey Program information limits its ability to assess noncompliance,” said the report tabled in parliament on Thursday.
The Victorian auditor general’s office report found the regulator’s use of enforcement powers was largely limited to warning letters and noncompliance findings, and that it lacked any procedure to probe allegations of widespread or systemic breaches in forest reports.
Prof David Lindenmayer also questioned the regulator’s independence.
“We know that there are people within the OCR that had a long history of working for VicForests ... so I would say that it’s not possible for those people to be truly independent,” he said.
New play about Julia Gillard to debut in 2023
A new one-woman play focusing on the life of Australia’s first and only female prime minister, Julia Gillard, will debut on stage next year.
The play Julia, written by Joanna Murray-Smith, one of the country’s most prominent playwrights, has been billed as a highlight of the Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) 2023 season, and will feature actor and Play School presenter Justine Clarke in the eponymous role.
Man dies in helicopter crash in NSW’s Hunter region
Emergency services rushed to Campbells Rd in Maitland Vale on Thursday with reports of a helicopter crash about 4.20pm. Crews found a Bell “Jet Ranger” helicopter crashed on a riverbank, a short distance from the town of Maitland.
One male, who is yet to be identified, was found dead inside the aircraft. Police have established a crime scene and remain in the area.
Officers notified the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, who will investigate the cause of the crash. A report will be prepared for the coroner.
Australia could be doing more to help Ukrainian refugees, experts say
More than seven million refugees have fled Ukraine since Russia’s invasion and experts believe Australia could be doing more to help, AAP reports.
Refugees International says European countries like Romania and Moldova need support from international partners to ensure they can meet the demand.
Australia has contributed $11m to the United Nations’ refugee agency, but the organisation is calling for almost $3bn to help those fleeing the war.
Daphne Panayotatos, a senior advocate at Refugees International, said many Ukrainian refugees preferred to remain close to home in the hope they could return. She warned an escalation in fighting could force another sudden, large displacement of people into bordering countries.
“Australia should expand its financial support to Romania and Moldova,” Panayotatos said. “It is important that the countries where refugees will first go and where they want to stay have the resources needed to accommodate them.”
Shares market and Australian dollar up slightly
The Australian share market has taken a breather after its two-day rally, with the energy sector helping keep the bourse from sinking into the red.
The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index on Thursday finished up 1.8 points, or 0.03%, to 6817.5, while the All Ordinaries climbed 2.6 points, or 0.04%, to 7933.5.
The Australian dollar meanwhile was buying 65.27 US cents, up from 65.16 US cents at Wednesday’s close.
A palliative care patient may have been alive when he was transferred to a Perth morgue, according to claims being investigated by the coroner’s court.
The court has confirmed it is investigating the allegations, first reported by Business News, which include claims a doctor was asked to backdate the man’s death certificate in an apparent attempt to cover up the incident.
Scientists tracking parking tickets to learn how microplastics are ending up in Sydney Harbour
More than 30 Seabins, designed to filter out the city’s water, have been collecting parking tickets and Seabin’s CEO, Mahi Paquette, says their journey can tell us what else ends up in the ocean.
“If the parking tickets made it that way, then we can sort of track where the microplastics, the soft plastics, the cutlery and straws and all the other stuff is coming from,” she said.
By looking at the issue date and location of the tickets, the Seabin team has figured out it takes on average 48 days for a piece of plastic to end up in Sydney Harbour. The team has just launched the Ocean Health lab, a solar-powered, retro-fitted 12-metre shipping container on the wharf outside the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney.
The lab is packed with volunteer scientists, dedicated to storing, drying, triaging and recording debris caught in the Seabins.
“Generating ocean health data that will help save our oceans is amazing, so to be starting here in Sydney Harbour is next level,” Ceglinski said.
“You only have to look at the data or even just look at the water to see how much waste is leaking into Sydney Harbour every day.”
Flood watch issued over northern Tasmania
People in the northern half of Tasmania are being warned to prepared for flooding as a rain system impacting mainland Australia hits the island state.
Up to 40mm is forecast in the northwest and northeast from Thursday afternoon and into Friday, with elevated areas tipped to receive up to 90mm. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a flood watch for north, northeast and northwest river catchments.
“The catchment areas feeding into the rivers are quite saturated form recent rain,” Luke Johnston, a senior meteorologist, told reporters.
“It’s been generally wetter than average in recent months over the northeast and north of the state.”
Johnston said the rain was part of a system impacting mainland Australia. The SES has encouraged people to prepare their properties accordingly.
Albanese and Sogavare issue joint statement
The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the leader of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, have issued a joint statement on their meeting in Canberra this afternoon:
Following their earlier meeting at the Pacific Islands Forum in Suva, leaders discussed bilateral priorities and challenges, including the existential threat of the climate crisis, and shared aspirations for a peaceful, prosperous and resilient Pacific.
Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s stronger action on climate change and commended the Australian Government on the recent legislation of new ambitious climate targets.
Prime Minister Sogavare and Prime Minister Albanese reaffirmed mutual security commitments, and the Pacific family first approach to regional peace and security.
Leaders discussed ongoing economic cooperation, including market access, Pacific labour mobility, scholarships and the Pacific Engagement Visa.
On development, the leaders discussed Australia’s enduring support across all areas of society as Solomon Islands’ largest development partner, including infrastructure, health, education, governance.
Prime Minister Sogavare welcomed Australia’s $16.68 million commitment to support the 2023 Pacific Games, and offer to support the next Solomon Islands’ election.
(Small side note: the manner in which the election funding offer was announced triggered a public rebuke by Sogavare early last month. That now seems to be patched up. A small recap of that here.)
Sogavare restates that ‘Solomon Islands will never be used for foreign military installations’
The prime minister of Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare, has reiterated his pledge not to allow his country to be used for foreign military bases, seeking to ease tensions with Australia over Honiara’s security agreement with China.
At the beginning of a meeting with the Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, Sogavare highlighted his stance that Solomon Islands was pursuing its “foreign policy of friends to all and enemies to none”:
And in this regard, Solomon Islands will not do anything, Prime Minister, that will undermine our national security and jeopardise the security of any or all [Pacific Island] Forum countries. Prime Minister, I reiterate again that Solomon Islands will never be used for foreign military installations or institutions of foreign countries, because this will not be in interest of Solomon Islands.
Sogavare said he wanted to “reiterate Solomon Islands and Australia share a deep and enduring history underpinned of course by strong People to People links, shared democratic values and proud members of the Pacific family”.
He said Australia was Solomon Islands’ largest bilateral partner and its partner of choice:
I thank the Government and people of Australia for the substantial support to my government’s effort to successfully host the 2023 Pacific Games you made reference to, and your kind offer to help finance the national general elections, which will help my government implement the requisite preparatory electoral reforms for the National general elections in 2023 and of course the conduct of the national general elections in early 2024.
Ousted Liberal moderates have hit back at party-vice president Teena McQueen’s incendiary remarks at the CPAC conference on the weekend, claiming she “needs her head examined” for celebrating the loss of Coalition seats.
McQueen, as reported earlier, said the party should “rejoice” at the election defeat of “lefties” within the party. She didn’t specify exactly which defeated Liberal MPs she was referring to, but a clutch of moderate high-profile Liberals such as Josh Frydenberg, Dave Sharma, Tim Wilson, Trent Zimmerman and Jason Falinski were among the casualties at the election.
Leading moderate Simon Birmingham this morning called for McQueen to resign as party VP. Sharma told Guardian Australia he wasn’t happy about the comments.
“Any Liberal party member who thinks we should be celebrating the loss of seats needs their head examined. Ideological purification, internal purges and score-settling are not a pathway back to government — they are a recipe for an eternity in opposition.
Wilson also shot back at McQueen.
“Celebrating the loss of Liberal candidates spits in the face of the thousands of party members and volunteers that give their time freely to get MPs elected so Australia could have good government.
“The only people I see celebrating the loss of Liberal MPs are from the Labor, Greens or Teal parties – anyone that celebrates with them should join them, because they’re not a Liberal.”
We’ve approached McQueen for comment.
Part of the 'Pacific family': Albanese meets Sogavare in Canberra
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told his Solomon Islands counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare, that families “won’t always agree” on every issue - but he wants to find common interests wherever possible.
With great thanks to the ABC, we can now bring you a rundown of the opening remarks from the beginning of their meeting in the cabinet room in Canberra.
“You are a very welcome guest of government here today,” Albanese said.
He noted the heavy rain in the east coast, saying it was a “reminder” of the common interest in tackling climate change amid an increase in natural disasters. Albanese said:
“I do appreciate you and your ministerial team coming to Canberra after a long trip coming back from the United Nations security council and various meetings that have occurred in New York and Washington … it is a very good thing that you’re here.”
Albanese said “building up trust” between the two nations was critical. He said Australia regards itself as being part of the “Pacific family”:
“Like families, we won’t always agree on every single item but what we will agree on is common interests wherever we can.”
Albanese said face-to-face contact was “so important for us” and he enjoyed the dialogue at the Pacific Islands Forum in Fiji in July. Albanese said he looked forward to hosting Sogavare at the Lodge in Canberra tonight.
Sogavare said Australia wanted to be “partners of choice” to Solomon Islands and regarded “security in our region as critical” (an oblique reference to the security deal between China and Solomon Islands).
Albanese said he also understood the need to help improve the quality of life in Solomon Islands.
“We understand and my government has prioritised action on climate change,” Albanese said, adding that the new emission targets were one of the first pieces of legislation that went to parliament.
“I’m keen of course to visit the Solomons at a future time as well – before, hopefully, you get to host the [Pacific] Games coming up [in 2023]. That will be a major event. We look forward to building on our relations.”
We’ll bring you an update with Sogavare’s response shortly.
Tasmania’s minister for sport is confident AFL club presidents will provide a “very positive” response to the state’s bid for a 19th licence, AAP is reporting.
Club presidents will by Friday finalise feedback to the league about commercial and other aspects of the island state’s bid.
Several club officials, including Adelaide Crows chairman John Olsen, have indicated publicly they back Tasmania’s bid which was presented to clubs in mid-September.
“I expect that the presidents will come back with a very positive view of Tasmania’s bid for the 19th licence,” Tasmania’s Minister for Sport, Nic Street, told reporters on Thursday.
“We believe it’s a very strong proposal. The feedback we’re getting from club presidents now is that they agree with us as well.”
Street said he was unsure of the timeline post Friday’s feedback deadline.
We have some visuals of today’s meeting from the PM’s Twitter count.
Daniel Hurst is about to update us on what went down – will bring you that soon.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and his Solomon Islands counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare, are meeting at Parliament House - the latest attempt to ease tensions between the two countries, months after Honiara signed a security deal with China.
They began their meeting in the Australian government’s cabinet room about 3pm. We hear the opening remarks were recorded - we’ll bring them to you as soon as we have the footage.
Don’t expect some grand bargain: there is no joint press conference scheduled for after the meeting. Tensions appeared to ease after the federal election but there was a flare-up last month over Australia’s public announcement of its offer to provide funding to help support the holding of the next election in Solomon Islands.
If you follow one story today – make it what is coming out of the Queensland police inquiry.
From Ben Smee and Eden Gillespie:
Zelenskiy to address Australian thinktank
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, will address representatives of Australia’s independent policy and research thinktank, the Lowy Institute, this evening.
Zelenskiy is set to appear via video link at 7pm AEDT in what will be the end to a busy day of diplomacy talks across Europe as the Ukrainian leader simultaneously attempts to quell Moscow’s advances.
“I will speak with representatives of one of the most esteemed thinktanks in the English-speaking world – the Lowy Institute in Australia,” Zelenskiy said in his Wednesday evening national address.
Earlier in the day, Zelenskiy will also speak at a summit in Prague aimed at bringing Europe together in the face of Russia’s aggression.
AFP urges vigilance against scammers
That’s it for the press conference, but I have some more information from the earlier release from the AFP about what people need to do:
Look out for any suspicious or unexpected activity across your online accounts, including your telco, bank and utilities accounts. Make sure to report any suspicious activity in your bank account immediately to your financial institution.
Do not click on any links in any email or SMS claiming to be from Optus.
If someone calls claiming to be from Optus, the police, bank or another organisation and offers to help you with the data breach, consider hanging up and contacting the organisation on its official contact details. This can be a scammer calling using your personal information.
Never click on any links that look suspicious and never provide your passwords, your bank’s one-time pins, or any personal or financial information.
If people call posing as a credible organisation and request access to your computer, always say no.
‘Just because there has been one arrest does not mean there won’t be more’, AFP warns
Gough is warning scammers against trying to use the information available online:
Do not test the capability or dedication of law enforcement. The AFP, our state partners and industry are relentlessly scouring forums and other online sites for criminal activity linked to this breach.
Just because there has been one arrest does not mean there won’t be more.
Gough says people should be really conscious about suspicious and unexpected messages from banks, telcos.
We would urge customers not to click online in emails and messages claiming to be Telstra or Optus.
She says not to provide passwords or one-time pins and be wary of people asking for that information.
I have some info on what the chargers are here:
a. Using a telecommunication network with the intent to commit a serious offence, contrary to section 474.14 (2) of the Criminal Code Act 1995 (Cth), where the serious offence is blackmail, contrary to section 249K of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW). This offence is punishable, upon conviction, by a penalty not exceeding that of the serious offence, being a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 10 years; and
b. Dealing with identification information, contrary to section 192K of the Crime Act 1900 (NSW). This offence is punishable by a maximum penalty of imprisonment for 7 years.
AFP assistant commissioner cyber command Justine Gough is providing an update soon on an arrest made as part of Operation Guardian.
The alleged offender is 19 years old and had access to the records posted online after the Optus breach.
The accused targeted 93 customers using these records.
Gough says he allegedly texted the customers asking for $2,000 last week, but no one was impacted financially by the scam.
We allege it would have continued had we not taken the action we did today.
The offender is now facing up to 10 years’ imprisonment, she said.
Sydney man charged over alleged attempt to misuse stolen Optus data
The Australian federal police have charged a Sydney man, 19, for allegedly attempting to misuse stolen Optus customer data in a text message blackmail scam.
The statement from AFP:
The Rockdale man is scheduled to appear in Sydney Central Local Court at a later date to face two offences that carry a maximum penalty of 10 and 7 years’ imprisonment.
The investigation was sparked when AFP-led Operation Guardian became aware of a number of text messages demanding some Optus customers transfer $2000 to a bank account or face their personal information being used for financial crimes. The data used by the alleged offender to identify these customers was from the 10,200 stolen records posted online after last month’s Optus breach.
The AFP identified a bank account, which was in the name of a juvenile, and will allege it was being used by the man.
A search warrant was executed at a Rockdale home earlier today (Thursday 6 October) where a mobile phone allegedly linked to the text messages was seized.
It will be alleged in court that text messages were sent to 93 Optus customers who had their data exposed on an internet forum. At this stage it appears none of the individuals who received the text message transferred money to the account.
No sign of video from the start of the Albanese/Sogavare meeting yet – we’ll bring you updates as soon as we have it.
Stay NSW and Parents NSW vouchers to expire this weekend
While we are waiting I have a reminder for all of you in NSW: use your Stay NSW and Parents NSW vouchers ASAP!
Minister for customer service and digital government Victor Dominello is urging households to use their remaining vouchers with the 9 October deadline only days away.
Both programs have collectively added almost $350m to the NSW economy, with 97% of customers giving them the thumbs up.
Don’t miss out. There is still time to redeem vouchers and reap the rewards these school holidays. Catch that movie you’ve been wanting to see with friends or take the kids to a museum or wildlife park. You’ll save money and be supporting businesses.
Subject to the business’s terms and conditions, your booking date can be past the expiry date of the voucher, but you must ensure the business has redeemed your voucher by 9 October.
We are standing by for the start of the meeting between the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and his Solomon Islands counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare, at Parliament House. It is due to start about 3pm Canberra time.
While cameras are to be allowed into the room for the very beginning of the meeting, we aren’t expecting to hear much. A joint press conference is also not scheduled, at this stage.
Thanks for following what has been a big day of press conferences, with another one from the Australian federal police due to start at 3pm following the latest news in the Optus data breach my colleague Josh Taylor brought you a half hour ago.
I am getting an early mark so I can hand over to the fabulous Cait Kelly who will be bringing you all the details on that one!
Greater energy efficiency will help most vulnerable: Acoss
Acting CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), Edwina MacDonald, has addressed the energy efficiency summit which is taking place today.
MacDonald highlights that the national energy performance strategy (announced by the assistant minister for climate change at the summit) will help the most vulnerable:
People on low-income pay disproportionately more on energy bills and often live in dangerously hot or cold homes. They are already cutting back on energy use and other essentials. More efficient, electric, renewable low-income homes are a key solution.
Treasurer rules out Medicare levy hike, as pressure mounts to scrap stage-three tax cuts
The treasurer has ruled out boosting the Medicare levy to ease pressure on stretched state and territory health and hospital systems, AAP reports.
Jim Chalmers said the government was not considering a permanent nor temporary boost to the levy but acknowledged the strain on the public health system. He told reporters in Canberra:
That’s not something that we’re considering, but we do want to work with the states and territories to make sure that we can adequately fund their health systems.
ACT chief minister and treasurer Andrew Barr has called for a 1% boost to the Medicare levy for the top income tax bracket, arguing the funding model underpinning the national health system was no longer sustainable.
Speaking at the Revenue Summit in Canberra, Barr said extra revenue generated by the tax would go directly to commonwealth coffers but only be used to address issues facing the national health system.He said his proposal would make the Medicare levy a progressive rather than a flat tax, and could be implemented whether or not the stage-three tax cuts proceed. Barr said:
The Medicare levy is now an embedded feature of our tax system, and to make it more enduring, and to align with the principles of our society, it must also become progressive in its application. This is an achievable tax increase.
The Medicare levy is a means-tested surcharge amounting to 2% of a person’s taxable income. Former competition tsar Rod Sims has also called for higher taxes on fossil fuels, carbon, minerals and land to fund the services Australians want.
The renowned economist and former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair said the only way to boost the budget’s bottom line and underpin higher spending was through taxation.
Sims said Australia needed to look at a carbon tax if it was serious about transitioning to a net-zero economy, noting 70% of revenue already came from income and company taxes.
But the former ACCC chair declined to weigh in on the debate about stage-three income tax cuts, saying it may be premature to consider new taxes at three weeks ahead of Labor’s first budget.
There has been speculation the government is considering changes to the legislated stage-three cuts which will largely benefit high-income earners, although government ministers have consistently stood by the plan.
Former Reserve Bank of Australia governor Bernie Fraser said he was surprised Labor committed to the tax cuts and ensconced them in legislation. Fraser said:
There is no honour in the government standing by what is really a very dodgy commitment and hardly an unbreakable one.
He urged the government to repeal the cuts and consider other ways to boost tax revenue to help fund its reform agenda.
Police arrest man over alleged SMS scam related to Optus data breach
The Australian federal police have arrested a Sydney man over an alleged SMS scam related to the Optus data breach.
The SMS scam allegedly attempted to obtain $2,000 from those who received the text, threatening the release of their data. Guardian Australia reported last week that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia had blocked the account that the alleged scammer ordered people to pay into.
The Australian federal police’s assistant commissioner for cyber command, Justine Gough, will hold a press conference at 3pm AEDT.
Chevron steps away from Perth festival partnership
Chevron Australia will be parting ways with Perth festival following the 2023 event, after an 18-year partnership – including 10 years as the festival’s major partner – that brought frequent criticism from the arts community.
In a statement released today, the festival said the fossil fuel company will remain community partner at next year’s event, but had “[decided] to focus on other sponsorship opportunities” moving forward.
The arrangement between Perth’s arts industries and fossil fuel giants has been frequently criticised by activists and artists who have described it as “artwashing” environmental degradation. In February this year the author Tim Winton used his platform at Perth festival to take aim at the event’s “embarrassing” financial arrangements, including its longstanding arrangement with Chevron, and the sponsorship by Woodside of John Luther Adams’ Pulitzer prize-winning work about climate change.
Winton said at the time:
It shows how far and how wide and how deep we’ve let the influence of fossil capital seep through our culture, and how bloody hard it’s going to be to extricate ourselves.
Perth festival thanked Chevron for “supporting the Festival to make the arts accessible to as many people as possible over the term of this successful partnership”. Perth festival 2023 kicks off on 10 February.
‘Don’t say kids. Kids are goats,’ education minister shares early lessons he learned from cousin
The education minister, Jason Clare, also gave a shout out to his “big cousin Karen” in the audience at the Early Childhood Australia National Conference:
Karen has worked in early childhood education for 30 years this year.
And I hope I don’t embarrass her, but she gave me three tips when I got this job:
What they see, hear, what they eat. Every smile, every laugh, every friend, every book, every lesson, shapes the person you become. That makes what you do about as important as any job in this country.
Closing the gap begins with early childhood education, minister says
Jason Clare, the education minister, has delivered an address today at the Early Childhood Australia National Conference, highlighting that inequality for First Nations children begins as early as the age they enter early childhood education.
I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. But we have got to do more than acknowledge country. We have got to acknowledge some hard truths.
Last year 55% of four and five year olds were assessed as developmentally ready to start school. But only 34% of Indigenous children met that mark.
And that percentage is going backwards. In 2018 it was 35%. The gap isn’t closing, it’s getting bigger. If that’s not a wakeup call, I don’t know what is.
You know this story better than I do. If you start behind at school it’s hard to catch up. A lot don’t. Instead the gap gets bigger and bigger with every year at school.
That’s why one of my first acts as minister for education has been to extend the Child Care Subsidy for all Indigenous families. The bill I introduced to parliament last week provides a base level of 36 subsidised hours a fortnight of early education for all Indigenous children, whether their parents meet the activity test or not.
It’s not everything we need to do, but it’s a start.
Flooding continues in central NSW
As Fire Rescue NSW assist flood-affected communities, they’ve released this video showing the inundated landscape around the Lachlan Valley Way in the town of Forbes.
Less than a year ago, I was there during major flooding as rural reporter along with Guardian Australia’s photographer at large Mike Bowers. It was the first time I had seen a flood event first hand, little knowing the devastation that was to continue to wreak havoc in the state’s north and the Sydney basin in 2022.
That visit taught me a lot about flood events and the effects of human interventions in their management, particularly around agricultural areas where water is central to production.
I particularly remember the words of Warwick Rolfe as he prepared for the rising flood waters around his property in Forbes, who said every flood was different and flood was very different to fire.
What happens with water is water divides and fire unites. If there’s a big fire here, everybody pulls together but when it’s water it’s a totally different situation.
People put up banks and it upsets people because it takes the water in different directions and channels the water one way so it can’t spread over the landscape.
NSW government spurns ‘third world’ health claim
The NSW health minister has rejected criticism of the state’s healthcare system as “third world” by doctors speaking at a parliamentary inquiry, AAP is reporting.
Brad Hazzard told reporters today:
Well they want to go and work in the third world then.
“That’s a ridiculous proposition,” he said after touring an inner Sydney healthcare centre due to open next year.
Those doctors who spoke are very good in their own areas ... but it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at managing an entire health system.
The health minister said the $100m HealthOne centre in Green Square was designed to alleviate the strain of patient build-up at the nearby Royal Prince Alfred hospital by providing access to primary healthcare doctors, specialists and medical research facilities.
His comments come a day after emergency medical experts were quizzed at an inquiry hearing about “war zone” conditions in public hospitals that remain under pandemic stress.
Emergency doctors Pramod Chandru and James Tadros on Wednesday told of their frustrations working in the “disheartening” setting of public hospitals in western Sydney. Dr Tadros told the upper house probe into ambulance ramping and emergency departments:
It was not our goal when we started out our training in medical school to find ourselves in circumstances that see us failing the needs of our patients on a daily basis. But this is the truth of our current working environment ... it’s not equitable, equal or fair.
Medical staff were saving lives “in spite of the system rather than because of it”, Dr Tadros said. He read a text exchange between him and his colleague that described the system as “basically third world”.
The pair were discussing an 88-year-old woman with terminal cancer who was left for 12 hours in an ED before getting a bed.
Hazzard said claims of patients waiting up to 36 hours to see a doctor in emergency departments were “rubbish”.
The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Clare Skinner cited the figure at the inquiry on Wednesday.
“There is no record anywhere of that assertion,” said Hazzard, adding that Skinner’s group only represents “about a quarter” of the country’s emergency doctors.
Hazzard said NSW Health led “the entire country” and patient offloading rates across NSW were in the high 90s, within the first 30 minutes of presenting at a hospital, compared to other states that lagged behind.
Yesterday, we reported that security firm G4S had put staff and former staff on alert after revealing mass amounts of their personal information, including ID documents, medical reports, police checks and Workcover reports had been stolen from the company and posted on the dark web in a ransomware attack at Port Phillip prison.
The company late on Wednesday night confirmed to Guardian Australia the breach affects 5,000 current and former staff, and those affected can have the cost of replacing documents reimbursed.
A spokesperson for G4S said:
We apologise to any individual whose data may have been disclosed and we are providing advice and support to those affected. If an individual’s current driver licence or passport have been disclosed, G4S will reimburse the fees to replace these documents.
Guardian Australia has seen evidence that a trove of 200GB of data from G4S’s systems is available on the dark web.
2022 sets rainfall record for Sydney
This year is officially Sydney’s wettest on record with a total of 2199.8mm of rain recorded in the year to 1.10pm today.
There are still 86 days remaining in 2022. Sydney’s previous rainfall record was set in 1950 when 2194mm was dumped on the city over 12 months.
A philanthropic foundation backed by Mike Cannon-Brookes has invested $10m into Tasmanian startup the Good Car company to help slash the cost of secondhand electric vehicles in Australia.
The announcement from Boundless on Thursday follows months of signalling by Cannon-Brookes that he was prepared to invest large sums into businesses addressing aspects of the carbon transition.
This is just a quick side note about a new feature on the blog. If you’re following along on your desktop, you might have noticed there are new filters on the left hand side of your screen.
So that means you can filter for the updates that are most relevant to you. If you’re in the sunshine state, for example, by pressing the “Queensland” filter you can see the developments we’ve been covering there today – the release of the report into Queensland’s Star Casino, the inquiry into police response to domestic violence and weather alerts – without having to read through news about Sydney’s historic rain.
Hope you find it handy!
Government launches strategy to improve energy efficiency
The Albanese government will begin public consultation for a new national energy performance strategy to improve the energy efficiency of homes and businesses.
Launching the strategy in Sydney, the assistant climate change and energy minister, Jenny McAllister, said for too long Australia had lacked a plan to “deliver a high energy performance economy”.
As we work to deliver secure and affordable low-emissions energy supply, we need to accelerate demand-side action to support an efficient, least-cost pathway through the energy transformation.
So much of the energy Australians pay for every year is wasted on inefficiency.
Australia lags behind international counterparts on energy efficiency and performance. This year’s Climate Change Performance Index, an independent monitoring tool presented at the annual UN Climate Change Conference, ranked Australia 54 out of 64 countries for energy performance per capita.
The EU has been progressively strengthening its energy efficiency targets to reduce costs and meet its 2030 emissions reduction goals and similar action is being pursued by countries such as South Korea and Japan.
McAllister said the International Energy Agency had made it clear that without early action on energy efficiency, the transition to net zero emissions will be more expensive and difficult.
In a speech at the National Energy Efficiency Summit, McAllister will say opportunities such as building better homes, upgrading existing homes and using more efficient appliances in homes and businesses are within Australia’s grasp but need the right policies to make them a reality.
McAllister says homes and businesses, through no fault of their own, are wasting too much energy.
Preventing this waste is a double win on energy prices. For the consumer, who pays less directly. The reduction in demand lowers costs across the system.
And energy efficient homes aren’t just cheaper – they are more comfortable and healthier.
A discussion paper for developing the strategy will be released in coming weeks, with a plan for better energy performance to come in mid 2023.
Does the latest Optus announcement mean the government takes back its criticisms of the telco?
Let’s circle back on the Chalmers/Rowland presser on Optus and data sharing with banks – and exactly what this change means in the ongoing stoush between the government and the telecommunications company.
You might remember over the weekend that ministers Bill Shorten and Clare O’Neil were critical of Optus for not sharing enough information with the government (and, in turn, financial regulators, banks and the like) about the data breach, so they could cross-check information and prevent fraud.
Shorten told a press conference:
We need this, not tomorrow or the next day, we really needed it days ago ... We want to prevent further fraud and we seek Optus to step up its communication and transparency with government.
The changes announced today are in that same area, giving telecommunications companies more ability to share such information as driver’s licence, Medicare and passport data, in a bid to prevent further fraud. So the question I asked communications minister Rowland was, was the slow delivery of this information by Optus due to the fact the company was declining to provide it, or because they weren’t legally able to provide it?
Rowland said it was a bit more nuanced, saying current legislation provided a “very limited and specific range of circumstances” in which such data could be shared – and claimed Optus had said they didn’t believe these circumstances applied.
So we considered it prudent, having taken and considered the proper legal advice, that the most effective way to enable this data to be shared beyond doubt, was through amending these regulations.
She said the Telecommunications Act had explicit prohibitions of companies disclosing this data, and that the changes would clear up any doubt about when exemptions could apply.
Rowland and treasurer Chalmers said the changes would cover financial institutions regulated by Apra (excluding branches of foreign banks), and such information can only be used for the sole purpose of preventing or responding to cyber security, fraud, scam or identity theft issues.
Greens leader calls to ‘keep up the pressure’ on stage-three tax cuts
Just in case you haven’t got your fill of stage-three tax cuts news on the blog today, I bring you these tweets from Greens leader Adam Bandt.
Amid the government’s changing language around the issue and the opposition clearly feeling the need to ramp up their defence of the cuts, Bandt believes “we’re on the brink of a big moment” which could see the cuts which deliver bigger boons for the rich reversed. He says:
This could be the first time in decades that a campaign to stop unfair tax cuts has won.
That press conference with treasurer Jim Chalmers and communications minster Michelle Rowland has ended but I’ll just go back to a question about the Optus data breach.
Optus was previously charged by the government with essentially misleading the public about the nature of the hack and its response. What’s changed now about the way Optus has handled it to make the Government confident that it’s a trustworthy partner share this data with other institutions? Does the Government trust Optus?
I think it’s important that consumers understand that these regulations are being put in place sole purpose of protecting consumers going forward. So our primary concern here is to ensure that we do whatever we can under law to enable…those risks to be mitigated in terms of ID theft, fraud and other misuse of their data. So that is our primary focus here. We have been in constant contact with Optus over the last two weeks including in relation to what would be the most effective instrument and one that would give effect to those changes as quickly as possible.
Treasurer says super profits tax is not a government priority
Guardian Australia’s political editor, Katharine Murphy, asks the treasurer two questions:
Just a point of clarity from both of you, if I may. Treasurer, you said in relation to super profits that it’s not a priority for you at this point in time, no proposal that you’re working up specifically for October. But repeatedly, obviously, pre-election and since, you have left open the field of multinational tax avoidance as one area. So can we get a straight answer about whether or not this is a priority you might get to over the course of this government because you haven’t – you haven’t ruled it out prior to the election?
So if we can get just a straight answer, is there something you are looking at over this term of government? And also to Michelle, if I may: I think from what you said before … about how would your constituents view a broken promise on stage three, I think you have been supportive of the discussion. Is that your position? Or are you concerned about how your constituents may respond in the event that the government either amends or delays or changes the stage-three package?
On your first question about the PRRT [petroleum resource rent tax] – I haven’t spent any time coming up with a proposal to change it. You’re asking me down the track would that ever change? Not my expectation. But let’s see what the advice is, let’s see what further work happens, let’s see developments that happen over the course of this term. But I am being upfront in saying it’s not something that we have asked for an outcome on, it’s not something I have been working up for October or May, that’s levelling with you.
Michelle Rowland answers the second question:
I think it’s important to understand that I think across Australia people expect this government to be responsive to ensure that we have exactly as the treasurer articulated, a sustainable and responsible budget. I think that’s what Australians are looking for in three weeks’ time.
Treasurer says private discussions about stage-three tax cuts are taking place ‘from all parts of the conversation’
It’s been noticeable no caucus members have come out publicly to say scale back stage-three tax cuts. Do you [see] there’s this reluctance within the Labor caucus to break that election promise? What is your view on that reluctance?
I have the highest regards for my colleagues and I understand that there are a number of big challenging issues in the budget, not just that one, that people will have a view on. And I can’t remember a more talented, diverse, considered party room than the one that we have right now and so I respect their opinion.
And it’s not a big surprise to me that on an issue as big as this there’ll be a range of views. There are a range of views in Peter Dutton’s party room. Bridget Archer says these tax cuts should be considered. Russell Broadbent said these tax cuts should be reconsidered.
I think that’s inevitable when you’re dealing with an issue of this nature and magnitude. I’m not troubled by the views that people have put forward and people have put a lot of views to me privately from all parts of the conversation as well. I welcome that. I’m not surprised by that.
Questions about the stage-three tax cuts continue. The treasurer elaborates on his position he shares with other global financial institutions that there is a need to respond to global conditions which have “deteriorated sharply”.
Does the premium placed on responsible budget management, therefore, trump your election commitment to deliver those stage-three tax cuts particularly given that inflation and debt was a clear and present issue in May when you reiterated the commitment to deliver that?
Also, given there has been apparently a substantial change in the last few months, what makes you so confident that mid-2024 we won’t again be in a very different position and clearly able to deliver those cuts?
There’s a few parts in that question. First of all, when it comes to the stage 3 tax cuts, our position hasn’t changed.
Secondly – the point that I have made including this week is that I think the global conditions have deteriorated sharply in the course of the last few weeks. And that’s a point that has been made by the OECD, the IMF, the World Bank and others.
Our expectations for the global economy have deteriorated even in the course of the last few weeks. Your question about the next couple of years, I think, is a good one too. My job, as the treasurer of this country, is to make sure that the budget is on as sustainable footing as it can be to deal with the challenges that we anticipate.
We already know we got high and rising inflation, we already know that the global situation has deteriorated, we know we got these big persistent structural pressures on spending and so in the context of all of that, we need to make sure we’re building our buffers to the extent that we can against what might come at us over the course of the next couple of years and that we’re dealing with these challenges which are before us. That’s the job not just for the treasurer but of the government, of the budget that I’ll hand down in the course of the next three weeks.
The ministers are now taking questions. No prizes for the treasurer being fielded questions about stage-three tax cuts as speculation begins about whether the government could take back its commitment.
Jim Chalmers isn’t saying the policy has changed, but continues to use the language we’ve seen from government ministers about the budget needing to be responsive to changing economic conditions.
Treasurer, why did you float that balloon on stage-three tax cuts the other day? Did the prime minister give you permission to do so? And have you been reprimanded for it?
I don’t need permission to point out that every budget we hand down, including the one in three weeks’ time, will put a premium on responsible economic management.
My commitment to the Australian people, the government’s commitment to the Australian people, is to do what we can, to make sure that our budgets are responsible, affordable, sustainable and targeted to the economic conditions that we confront.
I made that point earlier in the week in this room, I have been making that point for some time. And I stand by that. You know, no responsible government can ignore a high and rising inflation, a deteriorating global situation, or the fact that we have got these persistent structural pressures on the budget.
And so I will continue to make the point that in the context of those three things. We need to make sure that spending in the budget is responsible and affordable and sustainable and sufficiently targeted to the pretty substantial challenges that we confront.
Telcos need to ensure that the information they’re seeking is ‘necessary and proportionate’: Chalmers
Treasurer Jim Chalmers follows the communications minister. He gives these details about the new regulation:
We’ve worked really closely with the industry, with Apra, the ACCC, the information commissioner and other agencies to ensure that we can facilitate as best we can the safe and secure sharing of data between Optus and regulated financial institutions with appropriate safeguards and commitments given by the affected parties.
[The regulation’s] been carefully designed with strong privacy and security safeguards to ensure that only limited information can be made available temporarily to prevent and respond to cyber security incidents, fraud, scams and related activities.
They cover … financial institutions that are regulated by Apra, apart from the foreign bank branches, and they give Michelle, as communications minister, the ability to specifically add financial service entities if required, but only where those entities are related to or support an Apra regulated entities will be able to receive government identifier information such as driver licence numbers, Medicare and passport numbers of the affected customers, but not names, addresses, dates of birth or other personal information.
And what this does is, it helps ensure that the information which is shared is appropriately targeted. And to be eligible to receive the data, the institutions need to make a number of undertakings in writing.
They need to comply with the Privacy Act obligations to the ACCC which are enforceable in Australian consumer law. They need to meet Apra’s information security stand. They need to ensure that the information they’re seeking is necessary and proportionate. They need to satisfy robust security requirements and protocols for data transfer and storage, and they need to ensure that the information that they get is destroyed when it’s no longer required.
Telco changes will mean only limited information will be made available temporarily
The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, is the first to take the mic at the press conference about these changes to the Telecommunications Act:
What we are going to do is amend the telecommunications regulations to do two things.
This is going to enable Optus and other telcos to better coordinate with financial institutions to detect and mitigate the risks of malicious activity, including ID theft and scams.
And the second is to allow Optus to share limited information about customers with government agencies like Services Australia to assist in preventing fraud.
Rowland said the changes are about trying to reduce the impact of this data breach on Optus customers and to enable financial institutions to implement enhanced safeguards and monitoring.
We have designed these regulations with strong privacy and security safeguards to ensure that only limited information is made available for a specific set of designated purposes.
For example, financial services entities who will be eligible to receive the data must be Apra regulated financial institutions. Information can only be used for the sole purposes of preventing or responding to cyber security incidents, fraud, scam activity or identity theft. The approved recipients must satisfy very robust information security requirement and protocols for the transfer and storage of data. And information received must be destroyed when it’s no longer required.
Federal government amending telecommunications regulations following Optus hack
The government will move to increase fraud protections after the Optus data breach, with proposed changes to allow large telecommunications companies to share more data with federal authorities with the aim of better monitoring potential fraud.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and the communications minister, Michelle Rowland, will hold a press conference in Canberra shortly to outline amendments to the Telecommunications Regulations 2021, which the ministers say will “allow Optus and other telcos to better coordinate with financial institutions, the commonwealth, and states and territories, to detect and mitigate the risks of cybersecurity incidents, frauds, scams and other malicious cyber activities”.
They said in a release:
The amendments will enable telecommunications companies to temporarily share approved government identifier information (such as driver’s licence, Medicare and passport numbers of affected customers) with regulated financial services entities to allow them to implement enhanced monitoring and safeguards for customers affected by the data breach.
It comes after the government had requested Optus share more data with authorities, in order to cross-check for fraud and other issues. Chalmers and Rowland said the new information to be shared “can only be used for the sole purposes of preventing or responding to cyber security incidents, fraud, scam activity or identify theft” and must be destroyed after it is used for that purpose.
They say it will allow for better fraud detection.
Treasurer to speak about Optus data breach shortly
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is due to make an announcement soon about Optus.
We’ll bring you what he has to say as soon as he steps up. Stay tuned.
Qld attorney general has ‘complete confidence’ state will work through ramifications of inquiry into police response to domestic violence
Questions from reporters turn to the inquiry into the state’s police response to domestic violence.
How shocked was Fentiman by the revelations?
[There was] pretty shocking behaviour by some members of the Queensland police service. That’s why we have the inquiry. It was recommended because a number of women had come forward and had experienced less than satisfactory work from our Queensland police. I do want to say that, you know, there are women and girls across Queensland every day who are receiving wonderful help from our Queensland police. But clearly a commission of inquiry is needed and I was pretty shocked at those revelations.
Is the police minister doing enough? Or what more needs to be done to curb this toxic culture?
There is incredible training already under way. The Margaret McMurdo report says that the leadership of the Queensland police are really committed to this cultural change, but that’s why we have a commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of it and then take action.
It has huge ramifications for the criminal justice system. But, thankfully, I have complete confidence to be able to work through what ramifications and implications are for the criminal justice system and to make strong recommendations so that we can put that in place. I also would just like to say that we are working with the Queensland police taskforce to embed a sexual assault specialist in that team, so that any victim who comes forward who is concerned about their case can have a trauma informed approach.
My colleagues Ben Smee and Eden Gillespie have been following this issue very closely and this is their latest from yesterday’s hearings:
‘Everything is on the table’ for government response, Qld attorney general says
You talk about show cause and the possibility of cancelling the licence of Star. The problem is that the other major casino operator in Australia is Crown, who are being managed and have show clause notices. So will the Queensland government look at other operators from outside? Or new operators outside of this country?
Everything is on the table in terms of options available to government once we’ve made a determination about the penalties. So he can’t pre-empt a show clause notice.
But you’re right, there has been deliberate behaviour by casinos in this country, across the board, it doesn’t matter what form the regulator was – whether it is New South Wales or Victoria or WA.
These casinos have not been transparent. They have misled regulators and they have not taken their corporate social responsibility seriously. So that is something that government will be looking at. You know, even though I had obviously read what had come out of the Bell inquiry … I’m shocked to see that this is the behaviour of the Star here in Queensland and we’ll be taking it seriously.
Criminal investigation into Queensland casino not on cards before Office of Liquor and Gaming makes preliminary report
Reporters ask Fenitman will she be referring this report to the police and there is a possibility that could be convictions?
OLGR [Office of Liquor And Gaming Regulation] are not responsible for investigating criminal activity when comes to money laundering, that lies with Austrac. Of course, OLGR will co-operate and put forward findings. That’s not a matter for me or the OLGR. We’re not responsible for investigating or coming to a conclusion about criminal charge, but we will, of course, always share that information.
Does Gotterson think that it is a prospect for a criminal investigation?
I don’t know. Actually. Because ... I would wait until the OLGR has done the preliminary report, they’ve got to finalise their report. Goodness knows what will be determined or found by them during that process and what then might be decided what to go for consideration. I just don’t know.
Former judge Robert Gotterson, the author of the Queensland Star casino report, said:
Might I start by saying that I wasn’t tasked with making myself a finding about suitability or unsuitability of the Star casino operators in Queensland. However, I was able to advise having regard to the hearings that we ourselves conducted, the findings that were made in Sydney by the Bell review, relating to the Star casino group.
The findings in a preliminary report prepared by the Office of Liquor and Gaming, that largely the Star did not contest that there is a sufficiency of established fact from which the attorney could find unsuitability of part of the operators in Queensland.
The second thing concerns recommendations … the 12 that were made cover matters of family harm to which things like carded play and cashless gaming are directed, and also matters relating to the integrity of casino operations, particularly anti-money laundering.
Queensland government accepts all recommendations from Star casino report
The report makes 12 recommendations to government … I can confirm the government has accepted all recommendations in principle. The recommendations go to a range of issues including strengthening the Casino Control Act and increasing gambling harm minimisation measures is a priority.
The government will progress urgent amendments to the Casino Control Act which would allow the appointment of a special manager to oversee the operations of a casino and similar legislative provisions have been introduced in New South Wales, Victoria and WA.
He also made a number of significant recommendations in relation to strengthening positions to tackle gambling harm and money laundering, including a mandatory code of conduct for saver gambling, carded playing, cashless gaming and mandatory pre-commitment for players on poker machines in casinos. The recommendations will ensure that Queensland casinos operate lawfully and transparently, as we all expect them to do so.
Star unsuitable to hold a casino licence in Queensland, Qld attorney general finds
The Queensland attorney general, Shannon Fentiman, has released review into Star entertainment group from former judge Robert Gotterson after an inquiry into the ASX-listed casino report.
The report found that Star Casino in Queensland actively encouraged persons who had been excluded at the direction of Police Commissioners in New South Wales and Victoria to gamble at the Queensland casino as well as persons it had grounds to suspect may have been involved in criminal activity.
The report also said that Star was at best not transparent and it was misleading with its bank about clients’ use of a debit card facility.
Fentiman said she has formed the view that “the Star is unsuitable to hold a casino licence in Queensland” and has asked the Office of Liquor and Gaming to issue the Star with a show cause notice.
Today I am releasing the external review into Queensland operations of the Star entertainment group. Mr Gotterson’s report highlights major failings and makes very seriously findings which adversely affect the Star’s repute, character, integrity and their honesty. He found that Star was not forthcoming or transparent in its dealing with their banker or with the regulator. And its actions were indicative of a one-eyed focus on profit.
Mr Gotterson found among other things that among the use of China pay credit and debit cards in which Star characterised the transactions as relating to hotels, their primary primary use was related to gambling.
They made an effort to obscure the purpose of these transactions … Mr Gotterson found the management of patrons in Queensland that had been excluded from interstate casinos by police was highly deficient and demonstrated “a lively disregard for the law”.
The report also found that serious deficiencies existed in the Star’s anti-money laundering program, which, despite expert evidence, persisted over a number of years. And he found that the Star’s responsible gambling program needed rapid improvement and more appropriate resourcing.
He also was asked to provide advice about the ongoing suitability of the Star to hold a casino licence … He found that the actions of the Star have left open the possibility of the finding of unsuitability. Considering his advice, and considering the findings in the Bell inquiry, I have formed the view that the Star is unsuitable to hold a casino licence in Queensland and I have asked the Office of Liquor and Gaming to begin preparing show cause materials to issue the Star with a show cause notice.
Brendan O’Connor attacks Coalition over skills failures
The federal minister for skills and training, Brendan O’Connor, is giving a media conference reiterating commitments to tackling the severity of the skills shortages revealed this morning:
A report card on the labour market in this nation but it is also an indictment on the failure of the Morrison government to plan and invest in skills, education and training in order to have the labour force that Australia requires. We need skills so that working people can find secure work. We need skills and labour to ensure that businesses have the skills that they need to survive and thrive. And our economy is certainly in need of a great supply of skills. For that reason, the Albanese government convened the Jobs and Skills Summit bringing together employers, unions and community groups to talk about the tasks ahead. It is for that reason tomorrow I meet with my counterparts in state and territory governments at the ministerial council where we will talk about how we deal with redressing the skill shortages in many sectors of the economy.
Syrian repatriation leaves questions which demand answers government is not providing, Ley says
Ley was also asked about the news Guardian Australia broke on Sunday that Australian women and children would be repatriated from Syrian detention camps.
She was critical of the government’s handling of the announcement. She said it came with “zero follow-up” to important questions that “demand answers”.
I think it is starting to show that Anthony Albanese was not on a national security cabinet while in the last government. [He] does not understand how these things work. You don’t need the Australian people to find [out] about this in a way that then has zero follow-up from the government in terms of answering the questions.
Those reports immediately demand answers too.
How is this going to work? What have the security agencies in question said? What will be the effect on the sensitive Syrian community who we have given refuge to who would be alarmed by the tormentors [who] will make their way to this country? … We have heard zero from the prime minister.
Ley says she won’t give McQueen comments any more credence
Sussan Ley was asked about comments from federal Liberal party vice-president Teena McQueen who told the CPAC Australia conference on the weekend that “the good thing about the last federal election is a lot of those lefties are gone – we should rejoice in that”.
However, Ley would not be drawn into comment, unlike opposition leader in the Senate Simon Birmingham who this morning called for McQueen to resign. Ley responded:
The loss of any Liberal MP is a cause for concern. It’s basic arithmetic of how the body politic works. And I’m not going to give them any more credence or elevate them one little bit.
Opposition calls for independents to make their opinions known on stage-three tax cuts
The last point Ley makes before taking questions at this presser is about the new Independent members of parliament. She has called on them to give the issue of stage three tax cuts the same attention they have the integrity commission.
In the seats that are held by independent members, we need to hear from the members for Wentworth, Sydney, Mackellar, Kooyong, Goldstein and Curtin. Whether active in lobbying the government publicly on issues where they stood around the integrity commission, that is a good thing, I thank them for their work but where are they on this issue?
The stage-three tax cuts are just as important to the people they represent is an integrity commission is. These members owed to their electorates to be accountable for the work that they are or are not doing on this issue. Are they lobbying the Treasury? Are they lobbying the prime minister? Can they find the prime minister? Are they having meetings, are they running dead on this issue?
It’s not enough to tell their people where they stand on this and brief comments to the press, that what they’re doing about it is what we need to hear. We saw a lot of joint press conferences on the integrity commission. Will we see one on the stage-three tax cuts?
‘Worst possible time for Labor to equivocate on providing tax relief’: opposition leader
Ley called on Albanese to “go and talk to some people in the industries around here and ask them how they feel about paying less tax and whether they are happy for Labor to break their central promise”.
This is the worst possible time for Labor to equivocate on providing tax relief because mortgage payments are going up again. Grocery bills are skyrocketing, power bills are climbing and climbing.
You recall that Albanese promised to cut your power bill is by $275 on separate occasions before the election. It is a fundamental breach of faith with the Australian people. Denying them this much needed tax relief will breach that faith again.
We are in a cost of living crisis. Australians are staring into the abyss. 2.5m Australians are relying on tax relief that has been promised and even more than that are relying on.
Ley is using the occasion to bring back the Coalition’s pre-election jingle:
We said it wouldn’t be easy under Albanese and, as these broken promises stack up, it becomes clear that Labor is making a bad situation worse.
Coalition calls on Albanese to declare his position on stage-three tax cuts
The deputy leader of the Liberal party, Sussan Ley, is speaking in Sydney defending the stage-three tax cuts, amid indications Labor could be reconsidering the cuts.
The cuts (already passed into legislation) would abolish the current 37% tax bracket and lower the existing 32.5% level. However, amid changing economic conditions and talks of a global recessions, the government has started to change their language on the issue.
While Labor ministers continue to say they are committed to stage-three tax cuts, the skills minister, Brendan O’Connor, did this morning confirm there are active conversations going on within government about the stage-three tax cuts.
For people earning $45,000 to $120,000 a year, this is about reducing the tax on your next dollar from 32.5c to 30c. For those earning more than 120,000 but less than 180,000, it is about reducing your tax burden. The tax on your next dollar from 37c to 30c. And yes, you are having a go, you have a family and have a big mortgage and you work 60-70 hours a week and earn $200,000, your tax bill is also going down. 30 on your next dollar. But let’s be very clear, that tax relief, for people earning $45,000, is a core part of these tax cuts. Before the election, Albanese said as much.
Ley has called out the prime minister’s silence on the issue, criticising that he has made time to talk about botox on radio and go to Midnight Oil concerts but not been upfront about tax cuts:
Labor want to disproportionately focus on and demonise those earning a good income. It’s a return to the class war rhetoric we saw in 2019 and if they want to stand around in Sydney, where I’m standing now, and tell people that they earn too much to deserve tax relief they were promised, and they should say that. They should stand up and say that but where is the prime minister? We see background briefings, we see press conferences from charmers, we team coming out, but where is Anthony Albanese? He was joking about Botox on FM radio yesterday, has been to Midnight Oil concerts.
Plans being made for 60th anniversary of Peru-Australia bilateral relations next year
The assistant foreign affairs minister, Tim Watts, continues his visit to South America. Yesterday he was in Chile learning about the country’s Indigenous constitutional recognition.
Today Watts is in Peru with discussions about the two countries’ bilateral relationship taking place, including plans to mark the 60th anniversary of Peru-Australia bilateral relations next year.
Unions back call for super profits tax on mining and energy companies
The call from Rod Sims for a super profits tax on mining and energy companies is also being echoed by the ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, who is using her speech to the Australia Institute’s revenue summit today to call for a tax on the “extraordinary” profits in the energy sector.
She says this has happened at the same time as people are facing “crippling increases in energy prices”.
McManus says in her speech:
Internationally, a range of governments have introduced at least temporary windfall profit taxes. Spain, Hungary, Romania, Italy, Greece and even the Conservatives in Britain have done so.
Australia is lagging behind. This is part of a longer-term trend where we have failed to take advantage of massive profits being made by giant companies from
our nation’s resources.
We should be using the bonanza in profits to invest in our common future – both to raise revenue, but also as a tool to lower prices for consumers – but instead, it is being taken from us by major corporations who are not reinvesting it for the common good.
Flood watch continues in southern Queensland
Mystery remains over opal miner’s death
The mysterious death of an opal miner near the NSW outback town of Lightning Ridge nearly three decades ago is being scrutinised, with the reward for useful information about the case raised to $500,000, AAP reports.
The naked and decomposed body of 40-year-old Paul Murray was found in scrub by two graziers about two kilometres from his camp site on 22 April 1995.
He owned an opal-mining claim about 8km north-west of Lightning Ridge and lived in a camp at the site.
NSW police said he was last seen alive on 19 March 1995 by a local, who had driven him to a location just outside town. His family reported him missing a week later.
A post-mortem examination found no signs of trauma or obvious cause of death and a 1996 inquest failed to determine how he died.
Following a review in 2012, the matter was referred to detectives from the State Crime Command’s Unsolved Homicide Unit, who established Strike Force Huddleston to continue investigating his death.
Detective Chief Inspector David Laidlaw said police remained open-minded about the case. He said today:
Paul’s body was in an advanced state of decomposition and, as such, subsequent investigations and an inquest failed to deliver a concrete answer as to what may have happened to him.
Police have always kept an open mind as to the circumstances of his death and hope this reward can encourage the flow of new information.
Paul’s sister, Rosemary Pearse, said her brother was a generous man.
He would always offer to help anyone in need financially and only ask they repay him when their situation improved.
Any information, no matter how small, would assist police and may be what is needed to provide myself and my family with some answers after all these years.
Kean supports Perrottet putting ‘people before plants’
The New South Wales treasurer, Matt Kean, has backed premier Dominic Perrottet’s decision to push forward with plans to raise the Warragamba Dam wall, despite previously opposing the idea on environmental and economic grounds.
Speaking in western Sydney today, Kean said he also supported the premier’s call to put “people before plants”. He said:
It’s well known my love for national parks, my love for the world heritage area of the Blue Mountains. However, if it becomes a choice between water lapping up in the lounge rooms and living rooms of people in western Sydney or in the national park, that I’m going to back the people of western Sydney every day. We need to make sure that we’re protecting residents. We’re protecting people before plants. The premier’s made that very clear and I fully support that position.
Asked if he still believed the project did not stack up economically, as he has stated in the past, Kean insisted the equation now was more complex. He said:
What we’ve seen is more extreme and frequent weather events that are impacting communities. We’ve seen the real impacts of climate change. We need to be building resilience into our infrastructure to ensure that we deal with that.
We’re always going to put people ahead of profits. There is more to this project than just the cost benefit analysis.
Public servants to get 3% wage increase
The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, has just announced the government’s new interim workplace relations arrangements for the commonwealth public sector.
The arrangements will see public servants receive a 3% wage increase over next 12 months.
Sydney 27mm away from hitting wettest year on record
Jonathan Howe, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, told ABC News Breakfast that Sydney is “officially about 27mm” of rain away from hitting its wettest year on record.
Of course, you live in Sydney, you don’t need me to tell me it’s been a wet year but the records prove that, they go back all the way to 1858. The last time we saw this much rain was back in 1950. It is very significant.
We still have got two more months of the year left to fill those gauges and increase that record. That record is likely to fall late Friday night and into Saturday, that will be one to watch.
‘We don’t have a revenue crisis. We have a priorities crisis. We have a courage crisis,’ Greens senator says
We brought you the news earlier this morning of what former chair of the consumer watchdog, Rod Sims, will tell the Australia Institute’s Revenue Summit.
Greens employment spokesperson Barbara Pocock will also be speaking and her social media posts give you a flavour of her address.
Showers easing along the east coast but with more bursts to come for inland areas
Howe said there’s another two rounds of wet weather to come Friday and Saturday into Sunday.
We are seeing another few bursts of rainfall coming through. Today we’ll see those showers generally ease across the coast but continue inland with another 50 to 100mm is possible with these two bursts coming down from the north and also the west. There are a few dry days in the forecast. Monday and Tuesday [which will give] a bit of time to dry out.
Another system will affect New South Wales and parts of Victoria but, of course, heading into late spring and summer we’re still in this active La Niña period so we expect more rainfall events and [that] does increase the risk of flooding.
Howe also said there are still wind warnings for parts of the northern Tasmania.
We have seen some strong winds overnight and those have come from the east which as people across southern Victoria and Tasmania know that’s quite unusual wind direction which can cause heightened damage to trees and properties. So warning people to keep an eye on warnings and tie loose items on your property as well.
Inland rivers in NSW the focus of the BoM’s flooding concerns
Jonathan Howe, senior forecaster at the Bureau of Meteorology, spoke to ABC News Breakfast about the massive rain belt that’s threatening much of the south-east over the next few days.
What have we seen in the last 24 hours or so?
We have seen very widespread falls right across eastern Australia overnight stretching all the way from southern inland Queensland to much of New South Wales and in Victoria and northern Tasmania as well.
But the highest falls have been across New South Wales. We have seen some pretty isolated falls above 50mm across the far New South Wales but the heaviest falls are along the coast. Some parts have seen more than 50mm including south of Canberra and also some of the suburbs of Sydney including Campbelltown.
What is the BoM concerned about right now?
At the moment we do have a number of flood watches and warnings, that does include for southern inland Queensland, much of NSW, Victoria including Melbourne and also northern Tasmania but the real concern will very much be across NSW. So the inland rivers, most rivers on and west of the Great Divide expect to see minor even moderate to major flooding. So that does include rivers like the Namoi, the Peel, the Gwydir and Macquarie Rivers, looking at towns like Tamworth, Dubbo and Bathurst. Even along the coast, there is a flood watch current also for Sydney and the Illawarra coast. We could see minor to moderate flooding for the Hawkesbury Nepean, really urging people right across those affected to keep an eye on those warnings from the bureau and follow all the advice from the local SES out there.
Julia Gillard: ‘cool anger’ drove misogyny speech
Former prime minister Julia Gillard has recounted how she challenged a senior adviser to deliver her famous anti-misogyny speech, AAP reports.
Nearly a decade since Gillard declared in Australian parliament she would not be lectured by then-opposition leader Tony Abbott on sexism and misogyny, she has reflected on the speech that attracted global attention.
The former Labor leader said her chief-of-staff Ben Hubbard asked if she was sure she wanted to respond to an opposition bid to remove then-lower house Speaker Peter Slipper, who had sent sexist text messages about women’s genitalia.
She told a 5,000-strong crowd in Sydney last night:
I wandered over to the adviser’s box and I said to the advisers there, ‘I’m going to take this, I’m going to do the reply.’
And Ben said to me ‘Are you sure?’ Because normally I used to hold myself above the tactics of the opposition on any given day.
Yes I am sure because I am sick of this shit.
Gillard said for many years she felt the speech was her constant companion.
Wherever I went it was walking with me alongside me.
But I’ve come to realise that it’s not my companion, it’s yours because it’s become your anthem of defiance when you are subjected to a sexist slur.
The former prime minister was joined by women who shared their impressions of the speech. Others beamed in via video message, including New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern, former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and prime minister Anthony Albanese.
The latter said the response to misogynistic attacks on Australia’s first female prime minister had reverberated around the chamber, parliament, the nation and the world.
With such an economy of words Julia captured and channelled the indignities and obstacles so many women had faced their whole lives.
Julia spoke to every woman and for every woman who had been excluded and bullied and harassed or worse.
Australian women recognised themselves in the speech. That’s what made it so powerful and that is why it will endure.
Gillard said the unplanned speech was fuelled by a cool anger.
I felt analytical. I knew precisely what I wanted to say. And I felt empowered, not embattled, not cowed. And that is the spirit of the misogyny speech.
Gillard believes that a decade after the 9 October 2012 speech, sexist and misogynist behaviour is not tolerated as much as it was during her prime ministership.
The former prime minister, who serves as chair of leading mental health awareness body Beyond Blue, appeared on stage in Melbourne and Sydney over two nights.
Flood warning for Hawkesbury and Nepean rivers
Victorian Coalition pledges $1bn Metro rail boost
Train services would be extended in Melbourne’s growing south-east under a $1bn election pledge by the Victorian Coalition, AAP reports.
The Liberal-National proposal would extend and fully electrify the Cranbourne line to Clyde. It would include new Metro stations in Cranbourne East and Clyde, six road-rail grade separations between Cranbourne and Clyde and an upgraded Cranbourne Station.
The City of Casey is one of Australia’s fastest-growing communities, with its population predicted to reach 550,000 by 2041.
The Coalition has costed the plan at $928m.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said the rail upgrade would cut traffic congestion:
Under this plan, residents across southern Casey will finally be connected to the Metro network, meaning quicker and more reliable travel for hundreds of thousands of Victorians and their families.
The opposition transport spokesman, Matt Bach, said Casey communities had been neglected by the state government:
It’s unacceptable one of Melbourne’s fastest-growing communities isn’t connected to the metropolitan rail network. Only the Liberals and Nationals have real solutions to give Casey residents the public transport options they deserve.
Bathurst supercar race going ahead despite rain and flood
The Bathurst 1000 supercars championship has made an announcement that the event starting today will go ahead “as planned” despite a weather forecast of impending rain and flooding.
Bathurst was one of the towns the Bureau of Meteorology has said they are concerned flooding could occur in centre and west of the state.
Supercars CEO Shane Howard said:
In light of the weather forecast over the coming days, patrons are encouraged to plan accordingly.
Sessions will begin for all categories on track on Thursday and run through until Sunday’s great race.
NSW emergency services minister, Steph Cooke, was asked by ABC News Breakfast whether that race should go ahead?
Look, we have put in wonderful preparations around Bathurst. We have seen this coming for the last few days. The SES have worked with the local council, with the event organisers, of course, and local police to proactively relocate some campers from some lower-lying areas up to higher ground.
Knowing that these systems are coming through we’re able to get on the front foot, put those preparations in place, and I think now the messaging that I’d like to get across the people who are attending the great race, this wonderful event that we have in Australia and out there at Bathurst, to be very cautious as you move in and around the community.
We might see some local road closures. That could force people on to those major roads and could result in some delays. So asking people to be patient, to drive very carefully at this time, and just keep up-to-date with the advice that’s been put out. That’s the best way to keep yourself and your family safe.
NSW prepared for flash flooding, emergency services minister says
The NSW emergency services minister, Steph Cooke, spoke to ABC News Breakfast about about the threat of flooding in the state:
We are seeing challenges on multiple fronts across New South Wales at present, across the western parts of the state we got multiple river systems that are in flood to some extent, whether that be minor right through to major.
We have prepositioned resources in response to this keeping, you know, ensuring that we have resources positioned where they may be needed whether that’s aircraft positioned around the west of New South Wales, we have got high-clearance vehicles in certain communities, we have got more than 500 SES volunteers out in the field at the moment. They are well supported by our other emergency services organisations.
What we know is that our landscape is completely saturated, our dams are all but full, and our river systems have got a lot of water coming down them. So any rainfall has the potential to cause both riverine flooding, but I think the greater risk at this point in time is flash flooding, particularly in certain communities.
We have seen Wee Waa isolated during recent times and, whilst not isolated at present, those communities out there can be re-isolated again just with a minimal amount of rain falling. So we’re very alert to that. We have got aircraft that are capable of conducting resupply into communities. We got our high-clearance vehicles, we got other aircraft that have down-the-wire capability should we need to rescue somebody out of flood waters. We’re hoping that that won’t be needed. But we are very much on high alert and ready to respond if necessary.
Majority of Goldstein in favour of reviewing stage-three tax cuts, Zoe Daniel’s survey finds
Speaking of stage-three tax cuts, Zoe Daniel, the independent member for Goldstein, has launched a survey for her electorate on the issue.
Of 834 responses, Daniel says approximately three-quarters of Goldstein are in favour of reviewing the policy.
Skills minister confirms government discussion is taking place around stage three tax cuts
As part of media rounds in light of the skills shortages news this morning, Brendan O’Connor the minister for skills and training was also on ABC Radio this morning.
O’Connor has confirmed there are active conversations going on within government about stage three tax cuts.
O’Connor initially stated that although the government “pointed out some of our concerns at the time” the commitment to stage three tax cuts “has not altered.”
But pressed on whether he believed the discussion needs to happen, he said:
I think we should have discussions about the changing nature of the economy and what we do. I know that the treasurer, prime minister, finance minister, the cabinet are looking at these issues. There’s a very significant process right now as we prepare for the budget in three weeks looking to find savings from the misspent rorts and waste that we saw. I think we need to consider these things but let’s remember that stage three tax cuts are not until almost two years away and we have to consider the immediate matters before us and deal with them now.
Employers need to do more to upskill employees, minister says
O’Connor says the skills shortage has been treated as an urgent matter by the government:
We’ve dedicated resources to the home affairs department to accelerate the skills visas. There’s been a massive congestion of these applications over years. We need to accelerate that.
I don’t think that the previous government really understood the importance of immigration as an economic portfolio. I think that we also need to match up the investment in training and education with areas of demand in our economy. And so, we need to do better there, making sure that the VET sector, universities, are really equipping the future workforce.
Is O’Connor confident that the measures which came out of the jobs and skills summit are adequate or are there other measures that need to be considered in the upcoming October budget less than three weeks away?
I think increasing the skilled migration levels for the year is really important and given the acute shortages, I think dedicating 180,000 fee-free Tafe places for 2023 is really important. We’ve got a national skills agreement which will last for five years being negotiated between all governments. And I also think that employers need to do more. Some employers do remarkably well investing in skills, and it’s good for their companies when they do so. I think some employers could do better than they do now. I think it’s a national challenge, and therefore we have to work together. And we are focused on it, but it really does just indicate, this report indicates how big the challenge is.
Skill shortages ‘an indictment on the failure to plan’: skills minister
The National Skills Commission’s annual update of the skills priority list is out today, showing the number of occupations facing skills shortages have almost doubled in past year.
The minister for skills and training Brendan O’Connor is speaking to ABC News Breakfast about the ballooning vacancies.
Are these emergency levels?
Well, I wouldn’t say exactly that. I would say, though, it is very high that we have so many occupations where there are significant shortages.
I mean, the fact that it almost doubled in a year speaks to a labour market that is crying out for skills. But also, it is an indictment on the failure to plan, invest in education and training to have the skills our labour market, our economy and our employers need and our workforce need so that they can find good jobs.
O’Connor said the government has prioritised the area by already convening a jobs and skills summit and will continue to work with industry and state governments to address the shortages.
We do need to make sure, 1) the investment in education and training is in the right places so that we supply the skills needed for our economy now and into the future. And, of course, 2) we need to have a much faster way of delivering on the skilled migration pathways for industries that are crying out for skills. And whether they be nurses or tech worker, baggage handlers. Wherever you look across the economy, there are shortages and it is a very significant priority of this government.
Birmingham holds firm on stage-three tax cuts
Simon Birmingham is asked about whether stage-three tax cuts need to be revisited due to changed economic conditions. However, he says:
Conditions haven’t changed that significantly.
RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas pushes Birmingham on the facts which show conditions have dramatically changed. Birmingham responds:
The government went to the last election saying again and again they would honour the legislated tax cuts.
In the time since we’ve seen in Australia interest rate rises yes ... but we’ve seen an Australian economy that continues to perform very strongly.
Birmingham calls for Teena McQueen to step down after celebration of ‘lefties’ leaving party
Simon Birmingham, the opposition leader in the Senate, is asked about whether he believes federal Liberal party vice-president Teena McQueen should step down.
McQueen told the CPAC Australia conference on the weekend that “the good thing about the last federal election is a lot of those lefties are gone – we should rejoice in that”.
RN Breakfast Host Patricia Karvelas:
You’ve called comments by NSW Liberal party vice president Teena McQueen celebrating the defeat of moderate Liberals at the election ‘disloyal’. Should she resign?
Yes, that would be a far better thing for her to do if she doesn’t want to support or endorse Liberal candiates or sitting Liberal MPs, then she shouldn’t be sitting around the federal executive table of the Liberal Party.
I certainly won’t be supporting her re-election if she contests her position again. I think she should reflect upon her position and her position is untenable.
You can read more on that story from my colleague Josh Butler:
Birmingham said for the Coalition to win back government they would need to win seats back not only from the teal independents but also off Labor and the Greens.
Shadow foreign affairs minister says he is pleased about Solomon Islands PM’s visit to Australia
Simon Birmingham, the shadow foreign affairs minister, is speaking to ABC Radio ahead of the meeting between prime minister Anthony Albanese and his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare.
I’m pleased he’s coming to Australia. This visit has been mooted a couple times.
Does he accept this meeting is a positive sign?
Well certainly all dialogue is positive.
However, Birmingham says he is disappointing the Solomon Islands chose to delay their elections.
Australia re-elected to global telecommunications body
Australia has received a boost in its bid for influence in international organisations, with its candidate re-elected to the governing council of the UN body that sets telecommunications standards.
Readers may recall that the former prime minister, Scott Morrison, once derided “negative globalism” and “an unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy” in a speech in Sydney in 2019 when Donald Trump was still US president.
But both sides of Australian politics have seen the benefit of promoting Australian candidates to global bodies in the wake of the disruption caused by the Covid pandemic and amid sharpening competition between the US and China.
Australia’s push to keep its seat at the table of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – which sets global standards – was one of the first issues that the new communications minister, Michelle Rowland, was briefed on after the election.
The results are now in, and Australia ranked 9th of 16 candidates to pick up one of 13 council member seats for the Asia and Australasia region of the ITU.
Australia gained 141 votes in an election held in Bucharest, Romania.
China also secured a seat but with a slightly lower number of votes: 135. Jordan, Iran and Iraq were the losing candidates in this group. The ITU will also be led by a US representative as secretary general.
Rowland said this morning:
This is a great outcome for Australia. Having a seat at the table allows us to shape outcomes that benefit our region and neighbours and ensure key telecommunications decisions protect stability and prosperity in our region.
The Labor senator Karen Grogan, who was part of Australia’s delegation to Romania, said Australia was “honoured to have been re-elected to this vital international organisation”.
SES receive 240 calls for assistance and conduct four flood rescues in NSW
The New South Wales SES assistant commissioner, Sean Kearns, spoke to the ABC News Breakfast this morning about the areas of concern in the state amid the deluge this week:
Our areas of most concern continue to be the west of the state where we did see significant rainfall yesterday. That has moved over metropolitan Sydney overnight, and in the last 24 hours, we’ve had 240 calls for assistance with 120 of those being across the greater Sydney area.
The ones for the greater Sydney area are mainly for leaking roofs and trees down, and out in the west of the state, it was around flooding operations and the like. During that time, we’ve also had four flood rescues.
What we are going to see, though, is as you have mentioned, there is going to be further rain come across the west of the state, particularly over the weekend, which is going to bring further rain to already saturated catchments. So we’re asking the communities around Gunnedah, Wee Wah, Warren, Dubbo, Bathurst, Nyngan and Cobar and even in some areas of the Hunter to be prepared for further rain and further possible flooding.
Albanese to meet with Sogavare in Canberra
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will seek to ease tensions with Solomon Islands when he welcomes his counterpart, Manasseh Sogavare, to Parliament House in Canberra today.
The relationship between Solomon Islands and Australia has been strained, including over the new security agreement between Honiara and Beijing.
After his last meeting with Sogavare in Fiji in July, Albanese said he was “very confident” there would not be Chinese bases in Solomon Islands, despite the two countries’ security pact that was signed just before the Australian election (the deal that prompted Labor to claim during the campaign that the Coalition had presided over the worst foreign policy failure in the Pacific since the second world war).
But despite a post-election lull, tensions flared up again recently over Australia’s public announcement of an offer to provide funding towards the holding of the next election in Solomon Islands. Sogavare’s plans to delay the election have been contentious in domestic Solomon Islands politics. Sogavare was unimpressed with the timing of Australia’s publicising of its offer: last month he branded the handling of the announcement as “foreign interference”.
Albanese and Sogavare are scheduled to meet mid-afternoon at Parliament House for talks, but at this stage this is no plan for a joint press conference afterwards. The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, is also expected to join the meeting. Some reports have suggested a dinner at the Lodge is also on the cards.
Yesterday, in a statement announcing the visit, Albanese said Australia’s relationship with Solomon Islands was “incredibly important”:
As members of the Pacific Family, we are committed to working together to face our shared challenges and achieve our shared goals, including on climate change.
I look forward to engaging with Prime Minister Sogavare on building a strong and prosperous Pacific region, based on principles of transparency, respect and partnership.
Sydney poised to break the record for its wettest year in history this weekend
Sydney is set to break the record for its wettest year in history by this weekend, overtaking the mark set in 1950.
Rod Sims calls for carbon tax as 'necessary and conceptually obvious'
The former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Rod Sims, says the government needs to broaden the tax base and there is an “obvious” need for a carbon tax.
Sims also supports a windfall profit tax to increase government revenues from energy and mining companies.
Sims will today argue more tax is needed to pay for the public services Australians expect across health and education and to decarbonise the economy in line with concerns over climate change.
But arguing the country has likely “maxed out” its options on raising personal and corporate taxes, Sims instead advocates a carbon tax, a road user tax, land tax and changes to stop “transfer mispricing”.
Sims will tell the Australia Institute’s revenue summit:
If you are against higher taxation then you are against higher government expenditure.
Sims says Australia needs both a petroleum resource rent tax and a minerals resource rent tax to operate at sensible levels.
Here you have a nation’s assets, attainable at varying cost levels largely determined by the accessibility of the resource, facing wildly varying prices that can be influenced significantly by outside events such as a war in Ukraine. This can result in large, fortuitous increases in profits that need to be shared with the community that owns these ore bodies.
Sims will argue a carbon tax is “both necessary and conceptually obvious” to get the changes in behaviour needed to tackle climate change.
“It is baffling that we have a significant majority of Australia’s population wanting action on climate change, but the idea of a tax on carbon is instantly condemned.”
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will meet with his Solomon Islands counterpart Manasseh Sogavare, at Parliament House in Canberra today.
Albanese will seek to ease tensions which have followed the new security agreement between Honiara and Beijing, as well as Sogavare’s refusal of Australia’s offer to provide funding towards the holding of the next election in Solomon Islands.
Former principal economic advisor to Bob Hawke and chair of consumer watchdog ACCC, Rod Sims, will today give an address at the Australia Institute’s revenue summit, where he will argue there is an “obvious” need for a carbon tax.
Sims is expected to tell the summit that more tax is needed to pay for the public services Australians expect across health and education and to decarbonise the economy in line with concerns over climate change.
In more economic news, the National Skills Commission’s annual update of the skills priority list is out today, showing the number of occupations facing skills shortages have almost doubled in past year. You can read the full story from Guardian Australia’s chief political correspondent Sarah Martin here:
The Bureau of Meteorology has cancelled severe weather warning in NSW, southern Queensland and northern Victoria. However, the State Emergency Service say significant flooding is still occurring in inland NSW.
Let’s get going!