That's it for tonight – thanks for reading, all

To recap:

  • The head of the federal government’s infrastructure department, Simon Atkinson, agreed that it looked like officials attempted to cover up an inflated valuation for a controversial land sale connected to the second Sydney airport.
  • The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, lost patience with politicking over the state’s Covid-19 response, the brouhaha over the New Zealand travel bubble continued, and hairdressers were booked out as the state eased restrictions.
  • The NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian, may have breached the ministerial code of conduct by not declaring her relationship with the former MP Daryl Maguire. The fresh attacks on Berejiklian came after she spoke about the romance during an exclusive interview with the Sunday Telegraph.
  • A senior federal government official also ordered a review to establish the nature of contact between Maguire and the Department of Home Affairs and/or federal MPs.


In the off chance you aren’t completely fed up with Covid-19 data, the federal health department has been publishing a weekly snapshot of how each state is going.

This is an interesting tool for assessing the success of contact tracing in various states, especially as the case load in Victoria continues to drop.


Pressure mounts on Berejiklian

Further revelations in New South Wales: legal experts say it is likely the premier, Gladys Berejiklian, breached the ministerial code of conduct by failing to declare her relationship with Daryl Maguire.

Gladys Berejiklian
Gladys Berejiklian. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP


Senate estimates are on all week, so feel free to check the schedule if you’re keen to mix-up your working from home habits

The Australian public service commissioner, Peter Woolcott, has given evidence to Senate estimates about the integrity issues raised by the Leppington Triangle sale.

Earlier today the infrastructure department secretary, Simon Atkinson, agreed it looked as though officials sought to cover-up the inflation of the $3m parcel of land to a $30m purchase.

Woolcott said the auditor general had made it “very clear” there was a failure of ethical standards, and he was “not contesting” that conclusion.

I’m keeping an open mind whether [the problem] is confined to the Western Sydney unit. He [Atkinson] believes it’s confined to that unit.

Woolcott said that after the auditor general’s report of 21 September, he spoke on 25 September to Atkinson, then to the head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, on 28 September. He hasn’t spoken to anyone in the prime minister’s office about the purchase.

Woolcott expressed confidence in Atkinson’s handling of the fallout. The department has appointed public servant Vivienne Thom to conduct a review of the purchase and Mark Harrison to conduct a wider audit of other transactions – and both were highly regarded, he said.

The department had “all bases covered” in reviewing the failures and improving processes, Woolcott said.


Anyone feeling a bit election bereft after the two blockbuster weekend polls in the ACT and New Zealand?

Well, there are only 12 sleeps until Queensland votes!

Here’s some of the best content from around the site about the election, including this from the weekend about environmental policy, this on assisted dying (which was also voted on in NZ) and this on the Liberals’ position on abortion.


Then again, maybe someone will show Andrews this video of people cutting absolutely sick in Perth over the weekend and his mood will improve markedly:

regret to inform the premier’s press conferences are going off at perth’s nightclubs

— Tyson Whelan (@tyson_whelan) October 18, 2020


Although little detail has been revealed about what the extraordinary hearing will cover, the inquiry has obtained the phone records of a number of key players, including Andrews, his ministers and senior public servants.

Chris Eccles, who was the head of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, resigned earlier this month after reviewing his phone records.


Earlier today, we saw Victoria’s pugnacious premier, Daniel Andrews, hit back at criticism from the federal government.

It is unlikely his mood will improve tomorrow – an extraordinary hearing of the Covid-19 hotel quarantine inquiry at 2pm is set to explore a series of revelations that have emerged since public hearings ended on 28 September.

Premier Daniel Andrews addresses the media on Monday


Meanwhile, there has allegedly been a fight between Chinese and Taiwanese diplomats at a hotel in Fiji.

The alleged incident is seen as a microcosm of the Beijing-Taipei tensions that are being played out across the Pacific, and the world.


There’s some questionable WA Covid-19 merch floating about, while we’re on the subject...

Kids these days...

— Conrad Liveris (@ConradLiveris) October 19, 2020

The 24 new cases in WA are linked to the Al Messilah.

Other crew members of the ship had tested positive on the weekend.

A further 24 crew members on the Al Messilah, docked in Fremantle, have tested positive to COVID-19. @9NewsPerth @9NewsAUS

— Tracy Vo (@Tracy_Vo) October 19, 2020

There have been 24 cases of Covid-19 detected on a livestock ship off the coast of Western Australia, according to multiple reports.

Two of three cases reported yesterday by WA Health also came from ships docked offshore.


Thanks to Amy Remeikis for another glittering display. I’m coming to you from a newly liberated Melbourne. Not liberated enough, some would say. But let’s not get into that.


I am going to hand you over to Nino Bucci for the rest of the afternoon – thank you to everyone who joined us today.

I’ll be back early tomorrow morning for more parliament fun.

Until then, take care of you.


Pre-poll has been open for a day in Queensland:

As at 3.30pm this afternoon, a record more than 100,000 electors have attended one of the 200 early voting centres on the first day of early voting in the 2020 State general election.

Read the SGE update here:

— ECQ (@ECQInfo) October 19, 2020


A candidate for the Yes Minister moment out of today’s Senate estimates hearing:

In response to questioning over the migration program and the types of visas issued as part of it, one of the home affairs officials pushed back at the language of a cap in numbers, saying there are “planning levels”.

“In the last few years … it’s been set as a ceiling rather than an artificial target,” the official said.

When the Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked how a ceiling was different from a cap, the official explained as follows:

“Ah, well, the planning level can either be a target, which you aim to achieve, or it can be the upper indicative number, where we look to achieve the quality and the outcomes of each of the programs that are determined to us up to that ceiling.”


Labor’s Stephen Jones responded to that:

What we have seen today is absolutely extraordinary. We’ve heard and Senate estimates that the Australian federal police have launched a criminal investigation into the $30m Badgerys Creek sale scandal.

This afternoon we hear that there are investigations under way into the Maguire visa-for-cash affair.

In the case of the former, the only reason we know about this is because the auditor general put a spotlight on stopping it. The government’s response: slash the funding of the auditor general. The government has been promising for over three years now to do something about an Icac.

We don’t buy the Covid excuse. We think they should be able to walk and chew gum. It is high time that we had a federal integrity body.

I started campaigning for this back in 2013, so we have been on it for quite some time and if Katie [Allen] is a supporter of it, that is good to hear, but we know that she is in a minority in her party room.

Only this weekend we had the influential Sydney backbencher Jason Falinski saying not only should the federal integrity body be dumped, but there shouldn’t be a New South Wales one as well.

With former National party leader Barnaby Joyce saying over hell or high water we’ll we have a federal integrity body while he is a member of parliament, so we can see, the obstacle is not Covid.

The obstacle is [that] the Coalition are not supporting a federal integrity body, while evidence of scandal and potential criminal behaviour just stacks up and up and up, and the stench is overwhelming.


The Liberal MP Katie Allen is chatting to Patricia Karvelas on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing.

Allen says she wants a federal Icac:

I am a very big supporter of a federal Icac and there has been a lot of consultation going on and there is a draft Icac, which is actually called a commonwealth integrity commission, which is in preparation, as I understand. It was put on hold because of Covid, but they absolutely agree. I think the public want to see a properly organised integrity commission and that is in process and in fact money has been put aside in the budget in regards to moving some of these things forward.

PK: And would you agree that there is a sense of immediate urgency that this is established immediately, that there should be no more delay?


I think the issue here is the ... integrity commission that’s going to be put forward will have more powers and more bite than a royal commission and I think that is what the public want to hear.

I don’t think we want to do it in a way that isn’t going to be the proper commission for the long term because we do know that getting the balance right is very, very important and sometimes some of the state-based integrity commissions have caused some real harm to individuals ...

PK: Do you mean that Liberals have lost their jobs? What harm have they caused?


I think there is some evidence that some of the commissions have brought people forward and put them on public display, and it is very important that we get the balance of justice correct for the individuals who are – whether it’s Labor, Liberal, crossbenchers – that there is justice for the individual who is being assessed. But of course most importantly is the integrity aspect for the Australian public and that is what Australians want and demand and I am a very big supporter of that.


In lower house debate, Labor has hinted that it could seek to amend the jobmaker hiring credit bill after the Senate inquiry.

The shadow employment minister, Brendan O’Connor, said Labor could amend “if there is good reason to do so” and set out a number of concerns with the $4bn youth wage subsidy program.

O’Connor said that businesses currently claiming jobkeeper, which will lose the payment by March, may not be in a position to hire additional workers to qualify for the hiring credit.

He said:

Our fear is, if this is replacing jobkeeper as the main support for small business, it will not be fit for purpose ... They’re going to fall between the stools, between jobkeeper and this new initiative that means they have to increase employment. It’s a great leap of faith, that businesses could recover and could employ net increase of headcount to staff.

The shadow treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said Labor is worried “there is the capacity to rort this”.

It might be possible for an employer to sack an older worker and replace them with two younger workers – [which is] incredibly concerning.

Both also cast doubt on the government’s claims the bill could support 450,000 jobs – arguing this appears to be the number of people eligible for the subsidy, not new jobs created.


We have been told today that the government’s federal Icac proposal will be in front of the parliament either at the end of the year, or early next year (which is what the government said in 2019).

Anyways, here is Labor’s Andrew Leigh’s take:

Under the Morrison government, we’ve seen sports rorts, WaterGate, JamLands and Paladin. We’ve had the big stack: over 60 former Liberal staffers, ministers, candidates and donors appointed to the AAT. The federal police want to know why taxpayers paid a Liberal donor 10 times as much as the land was worth, and all Australians want to know why Stuart Robert and Angus Taylor are still ministers.

Yet rather than cracking down on rorts, the Morrison government is cracking down on the auditor general. After his office revealed sports rorts and air rorts, the auditor general asked for a $6m funding boost. Instead, the Coalition’s budget cut the audit office’s budget by $1m. That’ll mean one-fifth fewer performance audits.

Meanwhile, the government’s budget contained over $4bn of new slush funds.

If there’s one thing they’re more excited by than rorts, it’s cover-ups. When Labor proposed a federal Icac, the prime minister called it a ‘fringe issue’. Finally, at the end of 2018, he promised legislation on an integrity commission within 12 months. Nearly a year on from that, and there’s still nothing.

The Morrison government’s preferred model is nothing like the NSW Icac that has held Premier Berejiklian to account. It wouldn’t allow a federal Icac to initiate its own inquiries, conduct surveillance or make findings of corruption. It wouldn’t be a watchdog – it would be a gummy shark.


Signal boosting this here too – it is important that we record as much of this period of history as possible.

Call out! If you're on the full-time rate of jobkeeper and happy to be in a story, I'd love to chat. Please send me a DM or an email to

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) October 19, 2020


Meanwhile, in 2019, the average time it took for home affairs to process a partner visa was 27 months – or two years and three months.

That was BEFORE the new English language test was imposed.

In 2013, the average time to process one of those visas was 11 months.


'I'm not in Senator Abetz's mind,' says Michaelia Cash

Michaelia Cash, the minister who is at the table for the Senate estimates hearing into the home affairs portfolio, has attempted to deflect questions about the appropriateness of Eric Abetz’s questioning of three Chinese-Australians last week.

Cash declared: “I’m not in Senator Abetz’s mind, I don’t know what was in Senator Abetz’s mind when he was asking these questions.”

She resisted commenting directly on Abetz’s questioning of three Australians of Chinese ethnicity – at a Senate hearing into an inquiry into issues facing diaspora communities – when he demanded they publicly and unconditionally “condemn the Chinese Communist party dictatorship”.

Cash initially said she had not seen or read the section of the hearing last week, prompting the Labor senator Kristina Keneally to pass a copy of the relevant exchange to Cash.

When asked whether she agreed multiculturalism has been an asset to Australia, Cash said: “I would say Australia is probably the most successful multicultural nation in the world and we should be incredibly proud of that.”

Pressed on whether she could understand why multicultural communities were alarmed at the signal Abetz’s questioning sent, Cash said there was only one pledge that someone should make when becoming Australian citizen and that was the pledge to Australia.

Keneally retorted: “Some of these witnesses were in fact born here. They didn’t take a pledge. They were born Australian citizens.”

Keneally argued it was “shameful” for Cash to refuse to condemn the Liberal senator for questioning that singled out people based on their ethnicity. “I’m gobsmacked at the answers,” Keneally said.

Here is our story from last week:


Adam Bandt has made his view on today’s House proceedings clear:

Libs latest $4b slush fund for big corporations cld drive insecure work, hurt young people & give public $ to big corporations that don’t need it.

But instead of scrutiny, Labor - yes, Labor - just successfully moved for JobMaker bill to be rammed & gagged thru House today 🙄

— Adam Bandt (@AdamBandt) October 19, 2020


DTA internal review also refused to release the data on active Covidsafe app users I asked for here.

I'm hoping it'll be asked in Senate Estimates this week, because they have more power than FOI.

— Josh Taylor (@joshgnosis) October 19, 2020

From Mike Bowers’s eyeballs to yours:

Prime Minister Scott Morrison during question time
Who, me? The prime minister, Scott Morrison, during question time. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The minister for the Environment Sussan Ley
The heated minister for the environment, Sussan Ley. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Oppsoition leader Anthony Albanese and Bill Shorten
The opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, with the erstwhile Labor leader Bill Shorten. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. You decide.
Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum. You decide. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Just a reminder – even if the labour hire credit passes the House, it can’t be debated in the Senate until November, because of budget estimates.

Labor wanted to make the point that while the government has been saying it wanted to debate and pass the bill today (in the same breath as saying Labor was the hold-up) it wasn’t actually, in reality, ready to debate the bill.


Not that the bill says anything, but here you go.


Someone has found the jobmaker hiring credit bill and brought it physically into the chamber.

The debate begins – because Labor forced the government to bring it on.

This is a very strange day.

This doesn’t mean that Labor supports it – it wants to debate it because it has concerns that the bill will allow businesses to sack workers older than 35 and hire younger workers to access the wage credit.


Australia and Vanuatu have established the Pacific Fusion Centre in the latter’s capital, Port Vila, a regional collaboration to address regional security issues such as climate change, illegal fishing, drug smuggling, human trafficking and online disinformation.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said the centre – to open in 2021 – would provide analysis and assessments on security challenges emerging across the region. An interim centre has been running out of Canberra since 2019, hosting 21 analysts from 14 Pacific nations.

“Most recently, the centre has pivoted to support the Covid-19 response. It has acted as a reliable source of information for Pacific governments on pandemic developments, including advising on emerging issues such as countering disinformation, ensuring food security and managing border security,” Payne said.

Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs, Marc Ati, said Vanuatu looked forward to working with Australia to establish the new permanent centre “to complement and bolster existing regional security architecture”.

At the 2018 Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru, the countries of the Pacific Islands Forum signed the Boe Declaration on Regional Security, which said “climate change remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.

While Australia is the dominant nation in the Pacific Islands Forum, an influential bilateral partner and the major aid donor across the region, Canberra’s position on climate change – in comparison to island neighbours facing an existential threat from climate impacts – has led to a degree of political estrangement with Pacific neighbours in recent years.


Labor forces government to bring on labour hire credit bill

Well then, this is something unique.

The government consented to Labor’s motion - which means the bill is being brought on, but because it wasn’t on the agenda for today, the legislation isn’t in the House.

So someone has to go get it, so it can be debated.


Victoria Health has sent out its update:

Victoria has recorded four new cases of coronavirus since yesterday, with the total number of cases now at 20,319.

There has been one new death from Covid-19 reported since yesterday, a man aged in his 90s. To date, 817 people have died from coronavirus in Victoria.

Of today’s four new cases, one is a case who previously tested positive in July and further investigation is under way. Three of today’s cases are from the same household in Melbourne’s north.

Three of today’s new cases are in the local government area of Hume and the fourth case is in Moonee Valley.

A testing centre has been established in Kilmore following yesterday’s announcement of a recent case reported in a staff member at Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore.

The staff member lives in metropolitan Melbourne and worked at the bakery between 1 October and 11 October. Investigations have now established this case worked while infectious on 8 and 9 October – these were night shifts when the bakery was not open to the public.

Kemp’s Bakery in Kilmore and Wandong have been closed for cleaning. All staff have been tested and are negative and those identified as close contacts of the staff member will quarantine for 14 days.

Anyone in Kilmore or Wandong should get tested if they have any symptoms, however mild, and isolate until they receive their results. Testing is available at the Kilmore district hospital from 10am to 5pm today and from 9am to 5pm on Tuesday.

The Department of Health and Human Services is continuing to work with local health services to contain an outbreak of coronavirus in Shepparton. There are three cases in Shepparton, which is no change from yesterday.

A further 227 tests were taken in Shepparton yesterday, taking the total number of tests in Shepparton and the surrounding region to 6,323.

If you have visited any of the high-risk locations below during the dates and times identified, you should get tested and quarantine for 14 days, even if you don’t have any symptoms or only mild symptoms:

  • Central Tyre Service, Welsford Street, Shepparton, on Wednesday 30 September to Tuesday 13 October
  • Mooroopna Golf Club Members Bar, Sunday 4 October from 11am to 2pm, and Sunday 11 October from 11am to 2pm
  • Bombshell Hairdressing, Fryers Street, Shepparton, on Wednesday 7 October from 9.30am
  • Thai Orchid Restaurant, Nixon Street, Shepparton, on Wednesday 7 October from 7pm
  • Shepparton Market Place Medical Centre, Midland Highway, Shepparton, on Thursday 8 October from 9.15am to 10.15am


This suspension of standing orders motion is already unique in parliament – the government hasn’t gagged the debate as yet.

Which is strange.

Because the habit has been to gag debates when Labor moves to suspend standing orders.


Labor is moving to suspend standing orders to bring on the jobmaker hiring credit bill.

The government said it wanted to get it up today, but the bill has not been listed for debate (it is 12th on the list) so it won’t be today, unless the government rejigs the list.

So Labor is trying to force it to bring it on, or force the government to vote against bringing it on.


The Labor senator Jenny McAllister has told Senate estimates that – a site highlighting feminists with concerns about the budget – “has been blocked by the parliamentary network as a malicious site and it indicates it is ‘high risk’ for reputation”.

The minister for women, Marise Payne, said she wasn’t aware of this. Liberal James Paterson said the question could’ve been directed to the Department of Parliamentary Services.

Evidently the site is now available in parliament - on your phone while using parliament wifi - but not on desktop.

The hearing moves on without getting to the bottom of why the site may have been blocked.

Apparently the #crediblewomen website is blocked in parliament! Here it is!

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) October 19, 2020


Georgie Dent should find this interesting:

In #estimates @jennymcallister is quizzing minister for women @MarisePayne about the PMO allegedly saying "no one credible" was criticising the budget on gender grounds. Payne said she wasn't "party to" the comments, and didn't discuss them with the PM. #auspol

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) October 19, 2020


Scott Morrison gets up as David Littleproud finishes a dixer and ends question time.

Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

Isn’t childcare a productivity measure which boosts economic growth?


That is why the government investment $9.2bn in childcare changes that lifted female work participation to record levels, to reduce the gender pay in this country. That is why we put the changes in place. Why did the Labor party oppose it? Why would they do that? The design of the program which was originally called ‘jobs for families’ and it was called that because it did just that.

It got Australians into jobs. It got a record number of women into jobs.

And I will tell you what: we are a government that believes in getting Australians into jobs and demonstrated that. Before we hit the Covid-19 recession, which is a mystery to the leader of the opposition, before we hit that recession, 1.5 million Australians got back into work.

And they got back into work, and they got off welfare – we had a 30-year low in ... welfare workers relying on government assistance. The reason there has been such trust in the government during these difficult times is because they have seen us deal with the economic challenges that Australia has faced in the past.

They have seen us put in place policies that have got Australians back into work. They have seen this government get the country back into balance, get people out of welfare and back into work. When the crisis hit, Mr Speaker, our government could respond in the way we did and we have responded in a way that Australians have never seen before.

As a result of those actions, millions of Australians kept their jobs. Tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of businesses, were able to keep on, just like the smash repairs [business] up in Queensland. A business that was going to have to put workers off has been able to keep workers on and employ more workers now in a smash repairs business that is now going forward. That is what our budget is doing, that is what our economic management is doing. Those opposite are not trusted by the Australian people on these issues because they understand their form. They know ...

Tony Burke:

There’s nothing on alternative policies [in the question]. Why does he feel the need to look down on people at the end of every answer?

Tony Smith:

I don’t need the commentary, but there was nothing on alternative policies – the point of order was correct.


Queensland’s deputy premier and health minister has given up pretending he takes Clive Palmer seriously:

Well she hasn’t ruled it out... #qldpol

— Steven Miles (@StevenJMiles) October 19, 2020

Labor is asking the same question on childcare, using different examples.

Scott Morrison or Sussan Ley are giving the same answer. Morrison with bonus “we know how to manage the budget” content.

Apparently Australians have a lot of hope.

I hope this hour ends very soon.


Tasmania to open borders to NSW residents from November

Providing all keeps going well, Tassie will reopen its borders to NSW in the first week of November, as long as it maintains its current “under control” Covid status.

Queensland, the ACT and South Australian residents will be able to visit Tasmania from the 26th of this month.


Scott Morrison takes the next question on childcare:

As I have already remarked and as the minister has already explained, the childcare subsidy program put in place by this government from that inherited by the previous Labor government that saw childcare costs increased by 50%, resulted in more women in the workforce, and the gender pay gap reducing to its lowest level.

That’s what occurred as a result of the changes that we made to childcare that insured the childcare out-of-pocket fell by 3% after the designed changes went on.

That’s what they were designed to do, means tested to make sure those that need the most, those on low incomes, those that were disadvantaged in other ways would get 85% rebates back.

And there would be no more limits on those on those low to middle incomes, up to combined health hold income of 350,000.

That is what our program has delivered, it was targeted and designed to support women, in particular, get back to work and be able to earn more, and that’s what the facts demonstrate.

But the other thing that has been helping not only women in the workplace but men as well is the fact under our government they pay less tax. Under our government the more they earn, we penalising them, we are allowing Australians to keep more of what they earn!

We took that to the last election, the Australian people endorsed, they endorsed the fact those earning $45,000 should not pay any more than 30 cents on the dollar in tax and we bought that into this place and we legislated and we know the Labor party want to claw it back off them, they are not being upfront with the Australian people over this.

He is pulled up on relevance, and finishes with:

I was making the point all Australians benefit from the tax cuts Australia has in place and legislated for the future as a result of the poll tax plan introduced by the treasurer and legislated in this parliament, all I know the more you hear Labor spend is the more you hear them tax you.

That’s the second or third time we have heard that last line - not sure this one will take off.


I have family who have worked in the childcare sector. They aren’t there anymore, because they couldn’t afford to live on what they made AND ensure the kids all had enough materials and stimulation activities to learn while in the centres.

Anyone who knows a childcare worker knows what it can be like inside the centres for staff, particularly for those who work for the bigger companies.

And everyone would know someone who can’t work more, because it wouldn’t be worth it.

So if you are going to measure childcare on those measures, it might pay to talk to some people who are experiencing those difficulties.


This, from Sussan Ley, is the nub of why the government is against Labor’s childcare policy (as well as you know, it being a policy from the opposition).


If I was measuring the success of a childcare system, I would look at a couple of things. Whether the system itself is operating, whether educators have jobs, whether centres remain open, whether parents have access to affordable childcare, whether out-of-pocket costs are going down, whether affordability is a key priority, and I can tell you that this government takes every single box. I can reassure the constituents of Dunkley and all of Australia that we have done this properly, and well, unlike the Labor party that have waffled on about the first term of a Labor government that they might have an investigation and might one day get to 90%, but they don’t know, because they have nothing solid concrete.

Even though we’ve a long time. So what we have had to do is estimate this policy based on the leader of the opposition’s words.

...The childcare subsidy is means tested. We are proud of that principle. We believe that people who own more should pay more. The childcare subsidy is means tested to ensure that those who owned the least have the highest level of subsidy. Importantly, we have a generous safety net designed to provide high subsidies to families experiencing financial difficulties. We have approached this in a way that uses the Productivity Commission recommendations, introducing means tested and targeted childcare putting a safety net for families in place, recognising the unique experiences of the pandemic and looks after every single worker, educator and family in that system.


Following our reports on the experiences of people entering Westerrn Australia with a hard border in place, some readers have contacted us sharing their experiences.

A woman who arrived to WA by plane told Guardian Australia how she was not prepared to be left waiting on the tarmac for 1.5 hours while other flights were processed, or for the lengthy wait in the holding shed after that.

Unfortunately my period had started at some point and without any sanitary protection I had to bleed through my knickers and jeans. None of the women near me had a pad or tampon and I’m pretty sure the alpha male army boys guarding us didn’t either – I was too humiliated to ask.

I’d like to see arrivals from interstate treated a little more kindly and see more women in the processing roles. At every stage in the airport I felt like a criminal, and I am here in regional WA to help fill a shortage of essential workers in allied health. I can say now that I won’t be returning after Christmas at home in Queensland unless that hard border restriction is lifted for low-risk states.

One man said the first words spoken to him by a police officer upon his arrival with his wife at the WA border checkpoint 50km east of Kununurra were “You are not welcome”.

The man said he and his wife have been residents of Perth for more than 40 years.

We have been travelling in our caravan in the Northern Territory for the last two months. We prepared for our return home to WA as required by filling in the appropriate forms and downloading the G2G App. We received the approval via email and also the G2G App. We also had a confirmed booking for our quarantine accommodation at one of the caravan parks in Kununurra.

He said when he was questioned by police at the border about why he needed to enter WA, his response “to go home” was not accepted.

My wife then mentioned that she needed to make an appointment for a medical consultation in a few weeks. The police officer seemed to like that answer. In addition we had our privacy invaded by having to stand in front of a police officer with his body camera filming us whilst he read us the conditions of our quarantine.

We felt like criminals. To treat WA residents with such utter contempt should not be happening in a supposedly liberal democracy.


New Zealand’s offer to help resettle refugees “remains under active consideration” by the Australian government, officials have told a Senate estimates hearing.

But the Liberal senator Michaelia Cash signalled there was unlikely to be a decision on the New Zealand offer in the short term because the government remained focused on seeing the US resettlement deal through to its completion.

Several times since 2013, New Zealand has reaffirmed its offer to take up to 150 refugees each year, but the Australian government to date has not taken it up.

The Senate estimates committee has been told the resettlement arrangement with the US is due to wind down early next year.

The secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo, said the government retained a policy dating back to the Rudd government in July 2013 that people who had arrived by boat would not settle in Australia.

With 1,226 of the regional processing cohort currently being in Australia (due to medical transfer and pending legal cases), Pezzullo confirmed that unless there was a policy change, “those persons at some point will be expected to depart Australia”.

The Greens senator Nick McKim said he was aware of the history of the policy and how long “we’ve been brutalising innocent people” – language that prompted a rebuke from the committee chair, LNP senator Amanda Stoker.

When pressed by McKim to say whether the government intended to accept the proposal from New Zealand to resettle 150 people each year, Pezzullo said the Australian government was grateful for that offer from New Zealand and added:

“It’s an offer that remains under active consideration.”

Cash was tight-lipped about whether there was a timeframe for making a final decision on the New Zealand offer, given it had been under active consideration for years, but hinted it would not be taken up while the US arrangement remained in place:

“The Australian government does appreciate the offer from New Zealand to resettle refugees but we remain focused on completing the United States resettlement arrangement.”


Patrick Gorman to Scott Morrison:

Bec, a solicitor and mother of two from Perth, only works three days a week, because working four days a week left her [out of pocket] under the prime minister’s childcare scheme. Why did the government rack up $1 trillion of liberal debt but do nothing to help women like Bec by taking on extra hours during the Morrison recession.


I was asked about why the government has increased the debt at this time. That was the question I was just asked. I was asked about childcare, and I have given answers already.

... I was asked about childcare under our policy 84% of families are not affected by the caps. The threshold kicks in at around $350,000 a year for a family. They are the caps that kick in for our policy. Our policy is means tested. That is our policy that we put in place.

That’s meant childcare costs have come down since then. But I’m asked why we made the investments that we have. The leader of the opposition often makes this point. I will tell you why we have invested at this time. Because there is a pandemic that has stripped the jobs and livelihoods in many cases lives away from Australians. This might be a mystery to the leader of the opposition.

I’ve heard how he talks about the recession. And if you don’t understand how the country got into recession, then you don’t have a clue about how to get out of it. That is the failing of the opposition. The leader of the opposition walks around this country as if there has never been a pandemic.

(There are points of order on relevance, but they are dismissed.)


This is why the Australian public do not trust the Labor party, when it comes to whether times are good or times are bad.

And times are difficult at the moment. The budget that was handed down by the treasurer is the budget that Australians need and a budget for all Australians. It has given Australians hope and give them confidence. It is a budget that says Australians should be able to keep more of what they earn, and that businesses who are going to employ people, particularly young people, who have been hit four times harder through this pandemic recession, that we need to get them back into work as quickly as possible. Still the Labor party balk at that.

The leader of the Labor party will have it each way on every single issue, and that is why the Australian people don’t trust him. Even those on his own side don’t trust him. He can’t go to Queensland, they won’t have him up there. And the member for Hunter won’t have him at Newcastle.

Tony Smith pulls him up for straying off the topic, but the prime minister has finished his answer.


I guess it depends on whether or not you believe childcare should be thought of as welfare, where you fall on this debate.

If you believe it should be universal – much like education or healthcare, well then higher subsidies no matter what you earn doesn’t matter as much. If not, then means testing it makes sense to you.


David Smith (member for Bean) to Scott Morrison:

Under the prime minister’s current childcare scheme, a family with a police officer working full-time and a worker on three days a week and child kicked they would be no better off if the retail worker took on an extra day of work. Why won’t the prime minister support Labor’s working childcare boost?

Sussan Ley gets it:

Thank you Mr Speaker, it’s always interesting to paint a cameo where all circumstances are not known but there are important points we need to make about the childcare policy that may have been missed by member for the opposition.

Top of the list is that 72% of families pay no more than $5 an hour and day care centres, 72% pay no more than $5 an hour and day keep centres within that subset, 24% pay no more than $2 an hour because what we have done is get the balance right between the importance of early education and care, often a significant location for that to be provided as the childcare centre, and affordability is key to those families.

At the other end of the spectrum, for example under Labor’s proposal, a family on $1 million, would get under the leader of the opposition’s proposal for two children for 30 hours care a week, $28,000 a year from the taxpayer, we are proud to say that’s a challenge. We said those families can afford childcare. Labor has simply lifted the lid.


Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

Since the government came to power in that 2013, childcare costs have increased on average by $4,000 per year for Australian families, while wages have stagnated. Wages stagnating, going nowhere, childcare costs going up. Does that make families better off, or worse?


I simply note under Labor childcare fees increased by 53%, since our package of changes were introduced to childcare...


On a point of order. This was a very specific question, that went to his government that he leads, the childcare system that he designed, not to any previous government, not to any previous government into what he is responsible for, which is Australian families being worse off because of his childcare system.

Tony Smith:

So, as I’ve said before, the prime minister was only a few seconds into the answer. He was comparing and contrasting and I’m sure he had just done the first part and he was about to move on, that’s why I was listening carefully. The prime minister has the call.


As you perceived correctly I was about to say, under the reforms and changes were introduced to childcare once they are implemented the cost of childcare according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics fell by 3%, when the forms came in the cost of the designed changes fell by 3%, that’s what they were designed to do, take the pressure off, make sure they were targeted, well means tested, and that more broadly the supports and other arrangements we put in place to support families and hard-working Australians across the country they would continue to be supported and make sure they paid lower taxes.

That is what our government has been doing but I am happy for the minister to add to the answer.

Sussan Ley:

Thank you prime minister and leader of the opposition we have made national decisions about families in the national interest.

Yes the cost of childcare for families has come down.

Childcare has become more affordable, the once in a generation reform has delivered a 3% reduction in out-of-pocket costs to parents since our package was introduced, what they have done is increased female activity levels, this is really important.

The proportion of female parent reporting more than 48 hours of levity a fortnight rose from 56% before the introduction of the package to 63% in November last year. Managing a Budget and managing the interests of families are difficult decisions that this government has made well.

We had a productivity commission review this, took their advice and implemented the recommendations through the Parliament through the process.

That review recommended that means tested and targeted funding be applied to childcare. And that a childcare safety net support those who need it, it means tested and targeted with a childcare safety net to make sure we support families who need it. Labor’s policies gives lots of money for the top end, Labor has baked on $6 billion for childcare over the next... And I want to give you one example.

Tony Smith:

What the minister can’t do, now, not with standing there are only 10 seconds is talk about the Opposition policy because that was not on the question.

The prime minister did say by way of preamble to lead in to what the government’s response had been. There was no question about what alternatives were.


Labor won’t give a tax cut to workers on a but they will give them $6,000 a year with subsidised childcare.


The minister’s time has concluded.


Michael McCormack has taken the despatch box, arguing that Labor should be out and about talking up the government’s budget.

Or something.

There is a water stain on the carpet which has suddenly become really, really interesting by comparison. The deputy prime minister’s endless search for a personality has become most tiring.

Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:

Can the prime minister confirm that for many Australian families if the second income earner goes to work for the fourth or fifth day in the week, they lose money because of the childcare scheme he designed, how did the prime minister racked up $1 trillion of liberal debt and still not fixed his childcare scheme which holds Australian parents back from working extra days?

Prime minister Scott Morrison speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 19 October 2020.
Prime minister Scott Morrison speaks during Question Time at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 19 October 2020. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


The childcare support that we put in place, some $9.2 billion per year, and from the time that we redesigned the scheme, the cost of childcare according to the Australian bureau of statistics, fell by just over 3%, the level of labour force rose to record levels, and in particular, labour force participation amongst women rose to record levels, and the gender pay gap fell to record lows.

That was the impact of the childcare changes that we put in place.

And the member asks questions about what it means, Mr Speaker, for Australians who want to go to work for that extra day and own a bit more money.

I tell you, the tax plan that we brought into this parliament, that we took to the last election, that sent Australians in particular owning just as much as $45,000 per year, that they would never have to see bracket creep in their life ever again.

And that they would pay a rate of tax of no more than 30 cents in every extra dollar they own. That‘s what we went to the last election on, that is what was supported by the Australian people...

Tony Burke tries a point of order on relevance, but it is rejected.

Morrison continues:

Under the tax plan supported by the Australian people at the last election, legislated in this parliament, much to the backing and forth from the opposition, who were for and against it and for and against it, Australians know they can trust the government when it comes to managing the economy, when we say we want to ensure people keep more of what they own, when we follow through on that.

We legislated that here in this parliament, and Australians know that every extra dollar they own, they will get taxed less by our government and by the Labor party. That is what they can have confidence about. The more effort they put in, the more they will be able to succeed. Already, the leader of the opposition has his sights on taking back the hard earned earnings of Australians earning as little as $45,000 per year.

He wants to take that off them, because you know when Labor wants to spend, they always want to tax.

(Labor has said it does not support the third tranche of tax cuts, but has not quibbled over the lower income earners tax cuts.)


Scott Morrison uses a dixer on jobkeeper to once again tell a story he has told several times before, which is why dixers should be consigned to the firey depths of hell.

Which would be a never-ending question time, in my case.

Question time begins

Amanda Rishworth to Scott Morrison:

Q: Under the childcare scheme, the prime minister personally designed, the subsidy is capped for families with a combined income of more than $189,000. Why does the prime minister consider families with a combined income of over $189,000 rich?


The reheat of the former leader of the opposition’s rhetoric in this case, seeking to cause class wars again, Mr Speaker is no surprise.

Our government has always believed that when you are applying support across the community, that measures should be means tested.

The program we designed to put in place support for families across the Australian population was means tested. And the other thing we do, we ensure that when we means test these arrangements, we targeted to those who need it most, and that is low and middle incomes, and that is where our childcare support, which runs to $9.2 billion per year, is designed to help those who need it most, who need it most, so we can target that support to where it is most needed.

That is how you responsibly run a budget.

You target your support to the challenges that are there to ensure that it has the greatest impact. That is what we do. Right across the government services, we means test any number of services that are provided across the community and we will continue to do that. But what we do for all Australians, we give all Australians lower taxes. That is what we do. When you have a higher income or a lower income, we believe all Australians work hard, and we don’t tell them how to spend their money, because they earned it.

And when they own it, we want them to keep more of it. Last time we were in this place, the leader of the opposition made a whole bunch of promises, totalling billions of dollars, and he wouldn’t tell Australians how he would pay for it.

We found out soon after, once again, the leader of the opposition wants to say to those Australians, who in this place we have made tax cuts for them so they can keep more of what their own, this leader of the Labour party just like the last one can’t wait to get his hands on their money by taking away their tax cuts.


Meanwhile, in estimates.

Right wing extremism now takes up some 40% of ASIO’s counter terrorism investigations, but @PeterDutton_MP’s Counterterrorism Strategy is from 2015: it did not focus on RWE. Home Affairs is unable to say if or when a new counterterrorism strategy will be released. #Estimates

— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 19, 2020


Jason Falinski was just on the ABC, saying the government’s proposed integrity commission (which will keep everything from the allegations to the investigation, to any charges, to any court case secret, only to be revealed if there is a guilty verdict) either at the end of this year, or the beginning of last year.

Which is what the government said last year. And missed its own deadline.

Question time will be in about half an hour.


Back at infrastructure, Penny Wong finishes up her line of questioning by asking whether there have been other acquisitions managed by the department that have prompted questions.

Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong speaks during a Senate inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 19 October 2020.
Shadow foreign minister Penny Wong speaks during a Senate inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra, Monday, 19 October 2020. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Simon Atkinson says “nothing like this”.

Wong says she’s asking because “systemic failures” have been uncovered as a consequence of the Leppington audit.

Atkinson says the Leppington land sale was unusual because it was a larger-than-normal acquisition.

He says it’s business-as-usual on other fronts. With that, the prosecution pauses.


The Australian Border Force commissioner, Michael Outram, says the newly formed travel bubble with New Zealand “stops at the international terminal at Sydney airport” and “doesn’t extend across the road to the domestic terminal”.

Outram and the secretary of the Department of Home Affairs, Michael Pezzullo, have faced a number of questions at Senate estimates today about the issue of people travelling on to Victoria, after Daniel Andrews raised concern about the issue over the weekend.

Outram said there had been “numerous discussions” about the operation of the travel bubble through the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee, with the experts noting that arrivals from New Zealand were “very low risk” given the Covid trends in that country.

Commissioner of the Australian Border Force Michael Outram speaks during a Senate inquiry Monday, October 19, 2020.
Commissioner of the Australian Border Force Michael Outram speaks during a Senate inquiry Monday, October 19, 2020. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

He said there had been a meeting last Friday at 2pm at Melbourne airport, which was convened by Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services and attended by a junior ABF officer. Outram said the movement of passengers from NSW to Victoria was discussed at that meeting.

Clearly at the operational level, at least, the Victorian services recognised what was happening. No objections were raised.

Outram said he was unaware of any concerns being raised through those meetings. This is how he summarised the legal position:

Once a passenger leaves the international terminal, once they depart the customs-controlled area at the back of the baggage hall, they cease to be an international passenger or traveller – they’ve entered Australia.

Outram was asked about his view of Daniel Andrews’ comment that Victoria had not opted to be in the travel bubble with New Zealand. The ABF commissioner said:

Well they’re not. The travel bubble stops at the international terminal at Sydney airport. It doesn’t extend across the road to the domestic terminal. It doesn’t extend down the federal highway to the Victorian border. We’re the Australian border force, we’re responsible for the international border, it’s clear that once somebody comes into NSW and they’re exempt from NSW health from quarantine requirements because they’re low risk, they’re then free to move around, and they’re subject to the same state laws and restrictions in terms of domestic travel as any resident in Australia.

Pezzullo backed up this view, saying once a valid visa holder cleared the checks at the international airport, they had validly entered Australia:

“Mr Outram doesn’t sort of follow them around subsequently.”

Pezzullo said some arrivals from New Zealand travelled on to Western Australia, where they were “subject to a hard border with a hard quarantine arrangement”, but Victoria did not have such arrangements. He said they were really matters for the Victorian government, and he insisted he did not want to get into a public debate with the premier.


Labor will continue to pursue this angle from the budget, as you can see:

No wonder Australian women are being left behind under Morrison Government. Answers just released through Senate reveal Office of Women wasn’t even consulted on design of JobKeeper, JobSeeker or early release of superannuation policies.

— Julie Collins (@JulieCollinsMP) October 19, 2020

Penny Wong in infrastructure is pursuing what the former departmental secretary, Steven Kennedy (now the treasury boss) knew about Leppington, and the representations he made as secretary about the departmental accounts.

Simon Atkinson says he had a discussion with Kennedy after he got a draft of the ANAO report.

Simon Atkinson before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in Parliament House Canberra this morning.
Simon Atkinson before the Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee in Parliament House Canberra this morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

He says Kennedy, like all the senior players, was not aware of what transpired about the land sale. Atkinson said if there were any significant questions for Kennedy or others to answer, the ANAO would have pinged the relevant parties given the scarifying tone of the report.

“If [the ANAO] had thought for a second that people knew about this, they would have written it,” Atkinson said.

“I don’t believe Dr Kennedy has a conduct question raised around in this audit report.”

Wong raises an eyebrow. Wong thinks this observation might be commentary.


AAP was watching the NSW presser, which happened during that mad hour.

Here is what they reported:

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has made it clear she is prepared to tough it out to keep her job as she prepares for what’s sure to be another gruelling parliamentary sitting week.

It’s a week since she revealed at the Independent Commission Against Corruption that until recently she’d been in a secret “close personal relationship” with disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire since 2015.

Maguire has since made numerous frank admissions about using his public office to seek personal financial gain and being involved in a lucrative cash-for-visas scam.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian.
NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

The association has been devastating for the premier who has endured a torrent of damaging headlines with the scrutiny taking a personal and professional toll and leading to widespread speculation her leadership is terminal.

On the weekend, three top ministers: Stuart Ayers, Mark Speakman and Victor Dominello buoyed her position by rallying behind her and on Monday she emerged to staunchly defend herself.

While admitting to private tears and feeling shocked, devastated and embarrassed, she made it clear she would not be throwing in the towel.

“There is absolutely no accusation of wrongdoing against me,” she told reporters.

She also tried to explain the romance that shocked colleagues and the public, admitting it was “excruciating” to talk about.

Although she was in love with him “it wasn’t a normal relationship ... he wasn’t my boyfriend, it wasn’t anything of substance ... I certainly hoped it would be”.

“Irrespective of how I felt we led completely separate lives,” she said.

She denied any knowledge of his dodgy deals, saying she wasn’t interested and that she often got lobbied by MPs over issues in their electorate and had showed no favouritism to Maguire.

“I did nothing. Absolutely zilch,” she told Sydney radio 2GB.

“I think a lot of my colleagues have been shocked as well because a lot of us knew him over a long period of time and none of us picked up on the extent of what he was up to,” Ms Berejikilian said.

“We thought he was someone of honesty and integrity.”

NSW MP Daryl Maguire.
NSW MP Daryl Maguire. Photograph: Erik Anderson/AAP

She said she could not remember a phone call that was played at the ICAC when Maguire was talking to her about a potential land deal he was involved in, and she responded that she didn’t “need to know about that bit”.

“I probably wasn’t paying attention and listening properly ... or I dismissed it because I thought that’s his business and it’s got nothing to do with me.

“It did not cross my mind that there was anything untoward,” she said.

Her first reaction to the matters revealed at ICAC hearings was “shock and disgust” but she said she had yet to process the hurt and pain of their failed personal relationship.

“Have I stuffed up in my personal life? Absolutely? Am I devastated by what’s happened? Absolutely.

“Am I embarrassed and and do I accept that people will cast judgement? Of course. But my job is my job and I will keep doing it,” she said.

After pursuing two failed motions of no confidence last week the opposition is set to resume hostilities in parliament on Tuesday.

“This Premier is playing with words,” Labor leader Jodi McKay tweeted.

“When you’re in that role, you should disclose ANY relationship that presents a conflict. She sat around the cabinet table discussing the very issues she knew he was involved in and she said nothing.”


Infrastructure officials can’t say whether Angus Taylor met with Louise Waterhouse

Penny Wong has moved on in the infrastructure hearing to a meeting between Louise Waterhouse and infrastructure officials in 2017 about road access for land near Badgery’s Creek.

If you need the background on this element of the story, you can find it here.

The meetings were canvassed in ICAC in New South Wales.

Simon Atkinson says a meeting took place. He says it was appropriately minuted, and the department rejected the Waterhouse pitch. Atkinson says the meeting was requested by the NSW government.

Energy minister Angus Taylor.
Energy minister Angus Taylor. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

As far as he is aware, commonwealth ministers were not involved.

Wong asks whether the disgraced Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire sought to facilitate this meeting? Atkinson says not to his knowledge.

The secretary as far as he is aware there’s been no dealings with Maguire at the commonwealth level, but will take the questions on notice. Maguire shot to national prominence last week.

Wong asks about a separate meeting between Waterhouse and Angus Taylor.

Atkinson points out Taylor is not his minister.

Taylor (cities minister then I think) sat outside the infrastructure portfolio.

“I certainly can’t speak for every minister in government,” Atkinson says. “I have no knowledge.”

Another official at the table says he is aware Waterhouse wrote to other ministers about her proposal to relocate an intersection.

The minister at the table, Anne Ruston, says Taylor met Waterhouse in his capacity as a local member.

Wong makes some negative commentary about Taylor and “form”. Ruston doesn’t bite.


The ‘jobs ready’ graduate bill has finally passed parliament, after a positive vote on the amended bill in the lower house.

This has been a foregone conclusion since Centre Alliance threw their support behind the bill and it passed the Senate earlier in October.

Robert Menzies Building at the Clayton Campus of Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria.
Robert Menzies Building at the Clayton Campus of Monash University in Melbourne, Victoria. Photograph: Wikipedia

The bill will increase fees for future students in faculties including humanities and law, but provides fee cuts for other disciplines including science and nursing.

Labor’s shadow education minister, Tanya Plibersek, accused the Coalition of pursuing a “bizarre ideological war on humanities departments” but said it was “richly ironic” because one could make up an arts faculty from government members.

She rattled off all the government members who have arts degrees, including education minister Dan Tehan with “three arts degrees, who spent more time at university than Noam Chomsky” and Alex Hawke, who she said spent so long at university he was outlasted only by “socialists selling their newspapers”.

Anthony Albanese said Labor views education as increasing opportunity, but Liberals view it as “entrenching privilege”. Kids who go to GPS schools “will be OK” but those at local high schools and Catholic systemic schools “will be discouraged from going to university” by the changes.

He said:

In everything they do, they try to keep people in their place. To keep those chains of class [holding people back].


The Australian Border Force has granted exemptions to allow 49,506 Australians to leave the country since international border restrictions were imposed, while 16,842 applications have been refused.

These figures, which were current as of 17 September, were disclosed during a Senate estimates hearing today.

The ABF commissioner, Michael Outram, was also asked about exemptions granted to inbound arrivals over the same period. He said there had been 19,211 inbound exemptions approved and 10,748 refused.

An airport worker at Sydney International Airport.
An airport worker at Sydney International Airport. Photograph: David Gray/AFP/Getty Images

He noted that these inbound exemptions related to visa holders, not Australian citizens or residents, because he did not have any role in approving or preventing Australians from coming back to Australia. (As we’ve heard in other evidence, however, they may be affected by the caps on international arrivals.)

Labor has used the hearing to pursue its concerns that the government is not doing enough to help the 29,000 stranded Australians who wish to return to Australia.

Outram said the exemptions were not a device to balance other considerations, and so decision makers were “not asked to contemplate what effect that might have on other people”.

The secretary of the department, Michael Pezzullo, was pressed as to whether the government had asked it to limit the number of visas approved in order to help manage that flow of traffic:

“No, no – decisions made under the Migration Act are made under the Migration Act independently.”

Andrew Kefford, a senior official with the department, said a number of significant investor visas had been marked as exempt from applying for an inbound travel exemption. This meant the visa automatically carried a travel exemption. He said the government had decided to prioritise the significant investor visa as part of the economic recovery. The Labor senator Louise Pratt raised concern about places being granted to investor visa holders “versus a desperate Australian who wants to come home”.

Questions about arrangements for returning Australians were referred to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.


Anyways, here is what Scott Morrison said at the beginning of the month, about the ‘travel bubble’.

...For states who still have borders up and are insisting on quarantine for people, say, in Sydney to go to Brisbane, we can’t have people from New Zealand coming in and taking up those [hotel quarantine] places for Australians coming home [from overseas].”

Except, they can, because, as we have learnt, they can go wherever they would like, depending on each jurisdiction’s restrictions – so travellers can apply to go into Queensland and pay for hotel quarantine, if that is their desire.


NSW Health minister, Brad Hazzard, said he believed Victoria was aware of the ‘everyone is part of the travel bubble’ arrangement.

The advice I had was that Victoria had actually accepted that arrangement. And indeed, as little as 10 minutes ago, I checked on the Victorian health and human services website and it refers to the fact that people coming in from New Zealand can enter after going to Sydney, can enter Victoria, so it is a little confusing, but I would just say from our point of view, New South Wales, I want to emphasise, New South Wales Health and waterfalls have done everything that we were asked to do, and the fact that New South Wales has always been the gateway to the rest of the world.

And to the gateway of the rest of Australia. It is exactly what Victoria did know.

So, hopefully Victoria can sort out it out – clearly there is confusion, not just among New Zealanders and a lot of miscommunication there, but also at the highest levels of government.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

The Victorian advice was changed last night at 8.30, Daniel Andrews said, after it became clear there were arrivals in Victoria.

Brett Sutton says the matter was discussed at the expert medical committee which advises the government – he says he stepped out for another meeting when the issue came up – but that as an advisory committee, it is up to the first ministers to make the actual decisions.


The university bill is back in the House of Reps – the Senate made some changes, which means it has to go back to the House, before it is officially passed – but the changes are approved by the government, so on the numbers, it is a done deal.


While hairdressers lucked out this round of restrictions easing in Melbourne, most other businesses weren’t so fortunate.

Although the third step in lockdowns easing was scheduled for today, Melbourne did not meet the required benchmark of no more than an average of five daily cases across the last two weeks. As such there was only a partial reopening, leaving cafes and restaurants only able to operate take out services for the next two weeks.

An elderly man is seen lined up outside a barbershop on 19 October 2020 in Melbourne.
An elderly man is seen lined up outside a barbershop on 19 October 2020 in Melbourne. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images

Sarah Vickery from Little Red Bluff Cafe in Elwood said although business was doing okay during lockdowns, it was tough to go without the sense of community for so long.

“On Tuesday we always had our old people who come and sit in a big group and they can’t do that, so I worry that that is making them much more isolated,” she said.

“We have such a small space inside that we won’t be able to have a huge number of people anyway, it’s just such a balancing act.”

Vickery said they would still be worth bringing tables back for a limited number of socially distanced customers.

“The overheads will be more, but it means we will be able to serve them in a better way. We have a real community, we know everyone’s names and coffee orders. This takeaway system isn’t really what we are about. We want to serve the community.”

When hospitality venues do open up Vickery says she will be ready and prepared to shut down again if need be.

“With this virus, it’s just so unpredictable ... We are so used to the dramatic changes, but we have a system to go back to so we will just have to roll with it.”

Sarah Vickery from the Little Red Bluff Cafe in Elwood said she is disappointed that hospitality can’t reopen for seated customers- but this has less to do with financials and more to do with the sense of community the cafe has lost doing take-away only. @GuardianAus

— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) October 19, 2020


Further to those figures Amy brought you earlier about the refugees and asylum seekers who still remain in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, we can bring you some more detail about the US refugee resettlement arrangement.

Home affairs officials have revealed the resettlement deal struck by Barack Obama and then honoured by Donald Trump – after the notorious, frosty phone call with Malcolm Turnbull – is due to wind down next year.

Mark Ablong, a deputy secretary with the department, said 870 individuals had so far been resettled into the US since the program commenced, as at 14 October.

“Of those, 405 came out of PNG, 387 from Nauru and 78 from Australia,” he said.

The program remains ongoing. The US is continuing to deliver outcomes. We currently have around 200 who have received an outcome, but as you would expect during these Covid times the level of processing in the United States has slowed down a little, so we’re waiting for them to finalise those outcomes.

Pressed on the Covid-related impacts, Ablong said while there had been some resettlements during the last nine months, “in the last three months the US administration needed to go through their normal process of signing the annual declaration which was not done until quite recently”.

We expect that the US election will play in terms of them finalising that declaration and then putting the appropriate process in place inside their settlement agencies, so it may take another month to two months for those things to play out.

Officials noted it was up to the US president each year to sign off on resettlement program numbers. Ablong said the resettlement arrangement with the US was “operating very effectively to date” but “we are getting close to the end of the program”.

The US agreed to take a certain number and we are starting to reach that number, so we would expect the program would be ended probably, with the appropriate caveats that we don’t know how long Covid might run … but around March, April next year is the expected end of any further resettlements by which time all of the approved people would have resettled to the United States.

The secretary of the department, Michael Pezzullo, said the US made its own sovereign decisions as to who qualified as a refugee and also applied medical, security and character tests.


Liberal senator James Paterson is questioning Senate president Scott Ryan about who approves parliamentary press passes – after this incident involving Xinhua News Agency journalists filming fellow reporters at a prime ministerial press conference.

Ryan said it was a “concerning example” but his “greater fear is liberal democracies ... limiting the free press” in parliament.

He said:

There are lots of instances of politicians using well intentioned powers to restrict a free media ... I fear the idea that any politician can control who has access to the building.

Ryan explained that it is “longstanding practice” that the Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery Committee determines who is a member of the gallery that requires access. Paterson characterises this as parliament “outsourcing” the decision of who has “unfettered access to the building”.

Paterson suggests the committee needs more resources and help from security agencies to make judgements, but Ryan responds that the greater difficulty is the criteria to be applied in deciding who is or isn’t a journalist.


A bit earlier in today’s infrastructure hearing the Labor senator Murray Watt was asking about whether staff in the Western Sydney Unit were former ministerial advisers.

Simon Atkinson said he wasn’t aware of whether there were or weren’t former ministerial staff in the unit. Watt has returned to that question now.

Atkinson says: “The person you are talking about is not a person under investigation.”

I mentioned earlier today there were two departmental staff under investigation as a consequence of the ANAO report. The secretary says one staff member has been stood down pending the outcome of the various investigations and another has moved roles.

Atkinson has clarified that one of the investigations into staff relates to the Leppington sale (that unnamed staff member has been stood down) and the other relates to another issue, which he doesn’t elaborate on, but is related to a failure to manage a declared conflict of interest.

Watt wants to know whether it is common for departmental staff to have meetings regarding a potential land acquisition in coffee shops (which was unusual behaviour referenced in the ANAO excoriation of the Leppington sale).

The officials say that’s not common behaviour and new departmental protocols have now been developed. The new protocols prohibit meetings in coffee shops and they require proper note taking. Does it concern you that meetings were happening in coffee shops without proper notes being taken, Watt asks Atkinson? “Absolutely,” the secretary says.

Watt is now asking about Nathan Smyth, who headed the Western Sydney Unit in 2018. Watt wants to know what role Smyth had prior to that appointment? The officials confirm he was formerly Fiona Nash’schief of staff. Watt wants to know if Smyth is part of the current investigation. Atkinson says no.

He qualifies the department’s independent audit of the Leppington transaction “covers everyone who was involved”. But he says Smyth was “a band two, a decision maker.” (The ANAO report says the land sale went ahead but the officials who worked on the acquisition left all decision makers out of the loop – including Smyth, other senior officials in the department, and responsible ministers.)

Watt moves on to Malcolm Southwell, who worked in Paul Fletcher’soffice and in the Western Sydney Unit. Atkinson says Southwell had no role in “any part of this transaction”.

“He was nothing to do with any of this,” Atkinson says.


Penny Wong is persisting with the lack of advice to ministers on the land sale.

Simon Atkinson says:

This activity you’ve identified was not given to decision-makers or ministers.

Atkinson says that is a central finding of the ANAO report– that ministers were out of the loop. The departmental secretary tells the committee this failure to manage up is “the core of the unethical conduct allegation”.

Wong says, no, that’s not right. Not even close.

Not telling ministers “if correct ... is poor governance,” she says.

The core of the unethical conduct was the way in which public monies were spent, frankly, misspent in the way they were, and people appeared to try and cover it up.

Wong tacks philosophical.

Why has this happened? She means the whole land sale debacle.

Atkinson says he’s not going to preempt a police investigation and his own audits, but “something is not right and I intend to get to the bottom of it and fix it”.


OK, time to get to some of the other news which happened in that hour.

Daniel Andrews on what happens now with New Zealand travellers:

We are accepting of the fact that we are in this bubble whether we agree to it or not, that is where it’s at, is of the key point now is to have a conversation with those people and make sure they know what the Victorian rules are and I would be very confident based on the 55 conversations out of the 65 who are here now, they are all keen to do the right thing, they have come from a low virus community, and the last thing they want to do is do anything to contribute to the spread of this.

We will be having those sorts of discussions with people as they come off those flights.

Hopefully we have a clearer sense of how many it is, well ahead of time, and hopefully the whole thing, I suppose the best way to term it is it has developed since 5.30 Friday when unbeknownst to us a bunch of people turned up.

We are where we are.

Half this conversation if not more has really been brought about by the fact that instead of acknowledging that it is not ideal that people turn up in your state from another country without you knowing about it, we have had all this back and forward, commentary out of Canberra that it is our fault.

Again, I don’t turn up here every day to bigger, I don’t turn up every day to quarrel, I don’t play politics with these things because they don’t work against his virus, but I’m not going to sit by, I don’t think it is reasonable to expect me to sit by and let all this go through to the keeper because thousands of people are working incredibly hard, and I will not have their work undermined or undervalued by some of this fiction and some of this politics coming out of other places.

Back to Daniel Andrews:

Q: I know you said that the treasurer was playing politics, but what about the AMA? The Australian hotels Association and business Council of Australia who say that your announcement yesterday was unacceptable. Are they playing politics or do they just really want Victorians back in work?

Daniel Andrews:

People can have their own views but the views – you are helping me make my point – if you are the head of the AMA and you put forward the views of doctors to represent your members as you see fit.

If you ahead of the business council, you are there to put forward the views of your members and if you are the federal Treasurer, you were there as part of a government, you are there to put the views of the Australian community, not just the views of the party you come from.

That’s the key difference, and I’ve not done it, nor will I.

I am just about sick and tired of letting this slip because it’s the greatest insult to the people of Victoria, for them to be sitting in camera running these commentaries by the people in Victoria are staying the course, doing the right thing, making enormous sacrifices.

I am so proud of everything that Victorians have done, just these last few steps are made any easier by this sort of politicking.

Q: Putting federal politics aside, what about your response to that various industries have said?


They are there to advocate in behalf of their members and we work with them closely. Sometimes they will be pleased with announcements and other times they want more. I am not critical of them for that, nor am I critical of people who feel fatigue, or feel angry about these things. But being the head of a peak body is very different than being the treasurer of the Commonwealth, that is very different I would have thought.


Q: Going back to matters regarding the inquiry and the bubble, New South Wales Health, I haven’t heard the exact words but I am told they just said that the regular dialogue with DHS and the correspondence on last Monday, they were happy with the arrangements regarding New Zealand travellers – that’s just from their press conference.

Brett Sutton:

The discussions in the AHPCC were in that international mechanism for risk strategies around the world, and they were traffic light indicators, AHPPC talked through some of those technical details and that related to how you made to stratify countries and New Zealand, I do think is a surprise to anyone is in a category of negligible risk. That is separate issue to what first ministers might decide to as to whether they are part of a trouble bubble.


Q: Are you worried about the grand final this weekend, with underground barbecues, people hosting events indoors? What sort of risk does that present?

Brett Sutton:

It does present a risk if people are not following the advice that we have given all along that we are not at a point where we can have indoor gatherings with close friends or extended family.

If we were at that point where we thought we could recommend those indoor household gatherings we would be saying that. It is not quite there yet.

It’s not far away and in our way it is a little bit unfortunate that this is the timing of the grand final.

I want people to enjoy it, I’m going to enjoy it, and it would be great if people could work out ways to do it in a way that they can have their beers at home or shout and scream with their family, with their immediate family or household members, but may be linked up by Zoom or any other social media mechanism so that they can share their enthusiasm or heartbreak or whatever it might be.

Professor Brett Sutton steps up now.

Q: On the meeting on Monday about New Zealand travellers, you originally said you went there. Yesterday you revealed that you were there but you went there for all of it, it has been brought to my attention that you weren’t actually at the press conference that day, you were at another meeting. Why has your story changed three times about why you weren’t there for that critical time?


I spoke to the fact that it wasn’t there at that time. It wasn’t so critical a time, as the premier has pointed out, we are not the decision-makers.

We had a discussion about the risk stratification for international travellers. That was really the extent of it for AHPBC.

The arrangements for the travel bubble were a matter for first ministers and that was decided subsequent to that meeting.

Q: I suppose my question is why has your story changed so many times? You weren’t there, you are there, but only for part of it.


I spoke to the fact that it wasn’t there for that discussion, which is the case.

Q: Surely you would be able to remember where you were.


I have a calendar that has 12 meetings a day, excuse me, and to be put on the spot about which part of the day I might be and anyone location, I was aware of fact that I wasn’t there at that discussion.

Sutton says he will provide his meetings.

Q: There are some people that are still upset with that, you are able to break it down, is that literally that you don’t want people crossing the city?

Daniel Andrews:

It’s a couple of things. It’s about some parts of Melbourne that have got more virus than others, and 25km means you got less movement between those. It’s also about, as I’ve said yesterday, there are some places of absolute, they are very popular because of their natural beauty and think that they offer, whether it is Mornington Peninsula or the Dandenong ranges, we can’t have a situation where everybody is up at the thousand steps and we’ve literally got people that are forming a crowd, the size of which would never be allowed at this point.

People exercising in Melbourne, Monday, 19 October 2020.
People exercising in Melbourne, Monday, 19 October 2020. Photograph: James Ross/AAP

Thought nothing more or less than that. Now, once we get to a point where the reasons to leave home, there are no more reasons, you can move much more freely and leave your home much more freely, then that 25 kilometre limit will almost certainly come off. It is not there for ever.

It is just about easing out of the five and before we get all the commentary about, well, there’s scientific basis for this, that and the other, they are judgements.

It’s a package. It is not any one thing, it is a series of things, and that is the way it was put together, it’s off the back of health advice, it’s appropriate at this time, but it won’t be there forever and it won’t be there any longer it needs to be.

...You can leave for permitted activity, and the number of activities on the length of those activities has in fact increased.

It will be there only for so long as it needs to be anything probably in a couple of weeks time, we are able to take that away.

Might even be earlier, depending on whether we can make announcements this weekend, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday’s numbers unfold, that will impact what a announce on Sunday, and we can push off from there.


A reporter asks if they can move on to a different topic.

Daniel Andrews:

You absolutely can ask on a different topic. That doesn’t relate to political attacks from the federal government or border force, who apparently work for me, and what happens at the Perth Airport, which is apparently part of my brief these days as well. Yes.


Q: Will you release the health advice that you rely on?

Daniel Andrews:

The obligations as I understand it in terms of changes that were made to our disaster and of emergency arrangements, and we’re than happy to comply with those things.

Q: Why not release those now instead of Parliament? What about the people who can’t go into the regions and see their families?

Daniel Andrews addresses the media during on 19 October 2020 in Melbourne.
Daniel Andrews addresses the media during on 19 October 2020 in Melbourne. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images


I am more than happy to take that on notice and come back with whatever information we think is appropriate. These are not easy decisions, they are decisions that have to be carefully weighed up and that is exactly what we have done, and again, I think on Saturday I boldly predicted that no matter what I announced yesterday there would be some who have play politics with this every day of the pandemic who would say it is not enough.

Now we are having a conversation today about all manner of different things, and what I think is most important is that we have got four cases today, we are on track and if we continue this trend throughout the week we will take a big step, make a decision this coming weekend for implementations just a few days after, at worst if this trend continues at slightly higher levels we would open the place up on the 1 November, and that is positive, that is good news.

Look at other parts of the world. No acknowledgement, no acknowledgement of that fact by some, instead, just the same kind of political attacks, and if they worked on this virus, well, that would be a good thing, but they don’t.


'He's not a leader, he's just a Liberal'

Daniel Andrews is not even pretending his government and the federal government are in lockstep anymore.

Asked about Josh Frydenberg’s comments – you’ll find them a little lower on the blog – he let’s rip:

It’s all about the politics with this bloke, isn’t it? That’s all he does. That’s all he does. He is not a leader, he is just a Liberal. All he does is play politics, every day, and I just don’t think that is fair alright and I think Victorians are sick of it.

Victorians want their family protected, they wanted their health issue dealt with so we can open up. He is not a leader, he is just a Liberal because all he does is play politics in the midst of a global pandemic.

Q: My question is what more can Victoria do to convince the federal government that this is the right path? Will you release the public health advice for yesterday’s decisions entirely?


In terms of convincing the commonwealth government, I would have thought I would not have to convince them that Victorians are Australians as well, so the notion that there will be, that we will give these people a free pass to play politics because they other national government providing support to a part of our nation, no. I said last week I will start calling this out, and I am.

You can’t be off there playing these political games, running this political commentary and expecting that everyone in Victoria is just going to let it slide.

I haven’t played politics during this crisis. I didn’t during the bushfires and believe me I could have, but I did not, because I don’t believe that is appropriate, so Josh Frydenberg can make all the comments he wants, that’s fine, but I will be calling them out from no one because it is not helpful, it does not keep anyone safe and it doesn’t get the numbers down.


Daniel Andrews is not taking any blame for the travel bubble:

With respect, whether their borders are open or not, people have turned up in Perth without the Western Australian government knowing.

If that is gold standard, then I don’t agree with that. I don’t think, just like people turned up, border shut, border open, people did up from another country in Melbourne without us knowing.

I assume the same thing has occurred given there is no international flights going into Tasmania, I assume exactly the same thing has happened. That is not ideal.

That is not ideal, because members of Victoria Police, authorised officers, and who knows who else have spent a considerable amount of time this weekend chasing up people that we were on the very clear understanding were not coming here, because the bubble did not include us.

We spent a bit of time on this and the reason we have is I am not having my officials or our hard-working team blamed for things that happened at the Australian border or the Sydney airport.

That is just unfair.

Q: On that when you said you never wanted to make this happen again, and what has changed in the past few days?

Daniel Andrews:

Nothing has changed and if you look at my comments instead of reinterpreting you would understand the point I am taking is people turning up unannounced should never happen again.

That is the point I made. The notion we have to wait 12 plus hours to get the names and addresses of people should never happen again. They other points that I was making.

Q: So they are welcome now, you just have to know about it?


Of course it would be preferable for us to know about it. I think every premier country and state would be very keen to know about it, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. No, we were not part of the bubble. Simple as that.

....I’m trying to be as clear as I can, and what you are putting to me is somehow the Victorian government, the West Australian government, the Tasmanian government, we are all wrong but apparently the Commonwealth government’s tickety-boo and fine, but they are not. Do you want to be in the bubble? No. Are we in the bubble? Yes we are, not because of a decision we have made, but that is what has happened.

Now we need to work through this, provide the best information to people when they arrive and we are confident that will happen, and seriously there is nothing more to this than the fact that we were asked a question and be answered, the result was very different, but that is happening now, I can’t stop it sort of closing our border, and I don’t think that is an appropriate thing to do, that would have somebody knock on effect for other people already in Victoria, and we want to get the borders open, we don’t want them closed, but I would have thought that the fact that this has happened in multiple states would see all of us perhaps our view on this away from who said what at a meeting of officials and perhaps look at the fact that this has had consequences.

If the federal government’s presentation was right, this has become broader than we thought I would have been fine with that but the notion that the saddle up to bleed us, it doesn’t make any sense.


Why is Daniel Andrews pointing the finger back at the federal government?


They are in charge of the borders and the bubble and the bubble was supposed to be... Hang on, we can take this out to the full extent.

Apparently, the Commonwealth defence to these arrangements is that not just the Victorian chief health officer and deputy did not raise a concern, neither did the Western Australian neither did the Tasmanian, who else?

I’m pretty sure the Queenslanders did, ultimately, we are in this wonderful debate and discussion and I’m sure we have many more important things to talk about, but we are in this discussion because the Commonwealth government stubbornly refused to accept that this is not what was signed up to.

I accepted, we all accept it now because that is what is happening, and short of closing the border which I don’t think would be a good thing to do and it is not something that the prime minister would support, and Alan Tudge can say whatever he likes. Ultimately, I think there is a pattern here. Is not a pattern on behalf of the states. Western Australia, no idea they were coming, asked, no idea they were coming, I have not heard from Peter yet in terms of whether they knew, but I don’t think he had an idea.


Does Victoria have the powers to detain people at the airport?

Daniel Andrews:

I don’t think so and that would have been tough considering we didn’t get their names and addresses in did that they were wrong, until lunchtime the following day.

Ultimately, this has happened, it is completely contrary to the arrangements that we entered into but it would seem it will continue to happen, we can’t really prevent it without closing the border and I think that has so many different knock on effect that it is not worth doing, but it is a bit rich for the Federal Government to be essentially blaming the Victorian government for these matters when exactly the same thing has happened in Western Australia.

I’m telling you, Mark McGowan did not know these people were coming until they arrived, and if that is the gold standard, then I think...

Does Victoria need those powers?


No, we just need to know who is coming and when, and we need to speak to them and we will and we will make sure they know all the rules, but it was very challenging on Friday.

We had a lot of people who... If I could finish please. As Alan Tudge says lots of things, it was a bit challenging Friday night because we didn’t get the names of these people until about lunchtime Saturday. I don’t think you could call that gold standard. I don’t know when the Premier got the names and details of people, he probably needed it a little less than asked because he held them at an airport.

Ultimately this bubble applies to the entire country it would seem now we just have to change our settings because I think we had rightly assumed that when we were asked do you want to be in it and we said no, we would not be. That is a commonsense position to take.

Apparently that was not accurate so now we have adjusted our website, not Thursday or Friday night, last night.

Alan Tudge said on the weekend that Victoria chief health officer professor Brett Sutton was present at the expert health committee meetings, where the travel arrangements were discussed – including that New Zealand travellers might be crossing borders.

Daniel Andrews says that is just an advisory committee – not the one which makes the decisions – and reminds everyone that national cabinet wasn’t held on Friday because the prime minister cancelled it after ‘technical’ issues with his plane kept him in Queensland for one night longer than planned.


AHPPC are not a decision-making body. They provide advice to national cabinet, national cabinet didn’t meet last Friday stopping the prime Minister was in Queensland and the meeting was cancelled. Perhaps that would have been discussed at national cabinet.

I can’t be certain of that. People turned up without us knowing, people turned up without the WA government knowing, people turned up, I assume, without the Tasmanian government knowing stop bubble arrangements were presented very clearly is just that, a bubble, and that if you wanted to be part of it, you could.

We said no, we don’t think we should be at this time, however, it seems we are in it, so we will make the best of it, that is just the situation we find ourselves in and that is why we updated the website at 8:30pm last night and that’s why if people turn up today on any one of those 17 flights, we will provide them with advice and support and we will make sure that they comply with all the rules as they relate to Victorians.

There were meetings going back and forth between the Prime Minister and I ahead of Friday, and we were asked do you want to be in this, and we said no. I think it is completely unreasonable, completely unreasonable to be putting it to me that somehow it’s my fault or the Victorian government’s vault that when you are invited to participate in an arrangement and you say no, that somehow people turn up, not just in Victoria, this is not just the Victorian issue, they have turned up in Perth, in Hobart, that is not on the Victorian government or the Victorian Chief Health Officer or the Victorian deputy Chief Health Officer.

Q: Alan Tudge says that there are emails expressing and authorising these emails to come to Victoria.


Why was the Prime Minister writing to me asking is whether I wanted to be in it? If national cabinet is in fact a group of chief health officers, if the leader of our nation in the leader of our state is not the Prime Minister and Premier, but instead a group health officials, one wonders why we have been writing letters back and forth. The key point is we were asked do you want to be part of it and we simply said yes, at some point, not right now.

Q: There are no emails in your department that authorised this?


No-one in my department has the authority to do that, and they haven’t bothered asking those questions, frankly, and if we can keep going around in circles, if you want to put it to me that somehow it is the fault of the Victorian government that people finished up, turning up here from another country when we expressly said we did not want to be part of it, as well as people turning up in Perth and Hobart, I don’t think that is reasonable.


Daniel Andrews on Victoria Health updating its website on the ‘bubble’ travel with NZ:

Ultimately, we are in the bubble, whether we like it or not, and that’s why the website was updated at 8:30pm last night.

So I don’t understand the point you are making, the point you’re making is completely wrong.

We can’t stop these people coming here, unless of course the prime minister and Mr Tudge and whoever else has been wheeled out to apparently blame me for what happens at Sydney Airport, Perth Airport, Hobart Airport, you know, come on stopping the federal government is in charge of the borders.

Stopping this bubble does apply to every part of Australia, it would seem. We are just acknowledging that fact and that is why the website was updated, not before 5:30pm on Friday but at 8:30pm last night.


'We just have to make the best of this' says Daniel Andrews on NZ travellers

Daniel Andrews maintains that Victoria did not want to be part of the travel bubble – but there is nothing stopping people travelling domestically when they are in the country – unless domestic borders are closed.

Vic Health had advice on its website for NZers, but Andrews says he was explicit about saying no, Victoria didn’t want to be involved.

Andrews says the website was updated at 8.30 last night – after the first group of international travellers arrived on Friday night.

Now, just in relation to New Zealand travellers, I can confirm that there are 65 people that have travelled from New Zealand and ultimately arrived in Victoria. 55 of those have been door knocked and we have just taken them through all the different rules that are in place just to update them, make sure that they know what is going on.

About 55 of those we have been able to find and speak to, so there is still 10, that may not be 10 addresses, it may be less than that, but 55 of those people have been door knocked.

There’s still a few more to do today which we will do.

There are 17 flights into Melbourne today that could possibly have New Zealand passengers that have arrived via Sydney. We, you know, we are not particularly pleased that we were asked the question, do you want to be in a bubble, and it turns out that even though we said no, we are, but that is the fact of the matter, that is what we faced.

I’m not gonna be quarantining people that came from a low virus community, and we just have to make the best of this. I spoke with my good friend Mark McGowan yesterday, just like us, they had absolutely no idea, like, absolutely no idea until 25 people turned up, that 25 people could turn up or would turn up.

I haven’t had a chance to speak to Peter Gutwein from Tasmania, another colleague that they have worked with very closely across this pandemic, think they had a small number turn up in Tasmania as well.

We have updated our advice, our website made no mention of this prior to about 8:30pm last night, it now does and we will provide the best health advice because despite the fact that we didn’t want to be in the bubble, it seems like the bubble applies to every part of our country, not just those that said yes.

Anyway, that’s where it’s at, we can’t change that. We will just make sure we provide the best advice we can and we will try to get the most contemporary and the most accurate information out of border force as it relates to people that are coming and we will try to take the best care of them that we possibly can.


Shepparton has been left out of the regional Victorian easing of restrictions, after a couple of cases popped up (traced back to someone who had the virus and passed through on a work permit) but Daniel Andrews says he hopes it will be in a position to move forward on 25 October.


There have been no locally acquired cases of Covid in NSW reported in the last 24 hours.

NSW has reported no new cases of locally transmitted #COVID19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Four cases in overseas travellers in hotel quarantine were diagnosed, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 4,153.

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) October 19, 2020


Daniel Andrews press conference

The one death reported in the last 24 hours was a man in his 90s, and his infection was linked to aged care.

There are 12 Victorians in hospital – none are in intensive care.

There were just over 11,000 tests in the last 24 hours – four positives.


Meanwhile, in NSW:

Restrictions easing again in NSW

— Alex Hart (@alexhart7) October 18, 2020

We are about to hear from Daniel Andrews, but Josh Frydenberg has made his views clear:

With Vic case numbers in low single digits, it’s time for small businesses to reopen in a COVIDsafe way - creating jobs & getting Victorians back to work.

Every day of the lockdown, 1000+ jobs in Victoria have on average been lost.

— Josh Frydenberg (@JoshFrydenberg) October 18, 2020


Outside Da Barber House in Melton, a long line of scruffy-headed people formed this morning, desperate to get their manes tamed as soon as legally possible.

In the queue was Jessica Treblecock, waiting with three of her five children, who haven’t had a cut since June.

“We missed out just before lockdown happened ... They look like little wolfs at the moment,” she said.

As soon as she heard Andrew’s announcement Treblecock began to form a plan of attack.

“I’m gonna get up early, get the kids dressed. I’m going to get down to the hairdresser’s before they go to school. But I didn’t account for the wait, so I don’t even know if I’m going to take them to school.”

She said the change in routine that lockdowns have caused has been particularly tough on her kids.

“These three of my kids are actually autistic and ADHD, so they’re not used to having their structure broken. So their hair getting longer is something simple to everybody else, but to them, they complained that being itchy and tickling on their eyes. They don’t understand the sensory feeling of it,” she said.

“Something as simple as a haircut and feeling good has been taken away from them. I just want to get it done as soon as I could.”

Further down the line was John, a law clerk who had been lining up for more than an hour.

“I actually cut my hair the day before stage three started because I heard a rumour that they’re gonna close everything down. That was around 7 August,” he said.

“I usually get hair cuts every three weeks. I worked in the city but now that I work at home I kind of lost that routine.”

John said that he was elated when he heard the news that hairdressers would open, as it would help rebuild structure into his working weeks.

“It’s just a small part of your day, but it’s just those little thing that adds up to your life being better,” he said.


NSW police have issued 20 fines for breaches of Covid restrictions at the weekend:

Officers from Richmond Police District were conducting duties at a sports ground at Ballina on Saturday, when they became concerned about the increasing crowd numbers.

Police observed that people were not being counted as they entered the ground and after it was estimated that more than 1000 were in attendance, event organisers were directed to reduce the crowd size.

Play was suspended for a short time while the crowd was reduced by half and appropriate control measures were established.

Officials for the club were subsequently advised a $5000 PIN would be issued for failing to adhere to venue operation laws.

About 12.45pm on Saturday, police from Operation Border Closure stopped a Hyundai SUV at the Tocumwal border checkpoint and spoke with the male driver.

The 26-year-old man told police he was returning to Queensland and was unaware he required a permit to transit through NSW. He was provided advice on applying for a permit before being refused entry and directed to return to Victoria.

About 7am the following day (Sunday 18 October), police were advised an SUV was seen driving on the Tocumwal Railway Bridge into NSW.

Following patrols, police stopped the Hyundai SUV on the Newell Highway at Finley and spoke to the same driver. He was escorted back to border and issued a $1000 PIN for failure to comply with noticed direction in relation to section 7/8/9 – COVID-19.

Officers from Lake Macquarie Police District were called to a home on Letchworth Parade, Balmoral, about 10.30pm on Saturday, following reports of a large party.

Police arrived to find more than 100 young people congregated and spoke with the resident – a 47-year-old woman – who said many of the guests were uninvited, but she had not asked them to leave.

As police attempted to disperse the crowd, they became hostile towards the officers and threw bottles, rocks, and other projectiles before damaging property, including fences, trees and street signs.

The crowd was eventually dispersed and investigations into the incident are continuing.

Officers have since issued the woman with a $1000 PIN.

About 1.25am (Sunday 18 October 2020), officers from Eastern Suburbs Police Area Command responded to reports of a loud party at a unit block on Hall Street, Bondi.

On arrival, police observed at least 35 people inside the unit before the group scattered and attempted to run from the area. In total, 17 people were spoken to, some of whom were found hiding in a stairwell, and were advised they would each receive a $1000 PIN.

Police continue to appeal to the community to report suspected breaches of any ministerial direction or behaviour which may impact on the health and safety of the community.


Back in home affairs estimates we have learnt that there are 145 (maybe 146 – there is some checking going on with the documents) people left in Australia’s Nauru detention centre:

107 are refugees

23 are still waiting for their assessments

16 saw their applications for asylum fail

In PNG (Port Moresby) there are 145 people:

101 refugees

44 failed asylum seekers

1,226 of the regional processing cohort are in Australia


Daniel Andrews will hold his 109th consecutive press conference in the next 20 minutes.


Penny Wong wants to know when ministers became aware of the valuation. An official at the table says there was a briefing for ministers when the department was in possession of an embargoed copy of the ANAO’s damning Leppington report.

Simon Atkinson doesn’t have the date of that briefing in front of him. Wong asks – that was the first time? (She’s sceptical this wasn’t managed up earlier).

Atkinson says he’s not aware of any communications apart from that, but will amend that evidence if his inquiries reveal anything to the contrary. Wong returns to the department’s internal processes.

She’s very displeased that the Western Sydney Unit was permitted to explain a transaction that was very obviously in question (which was the process I outlined in the last post – departmental accountants flagged the strange change in the valuation, and the unit was asked to explain).

Atkinson says he’s now changed internal processes.

Penny Wong at Senate estimates this morning
Penny Wong at Senate estimates this morning. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Incidentally, when the chair of the committee questioning home affairs, the Queensland LNP senator Amanda Stoker, allowed some questions to proceed even though there was a later session that may cover the relevant topic, she said it was because she had “allowed a little latitude to other senators”.

The home affairs secretary, Michael Pezzullo, observed:

“You have been very liberal, if I may say, Madam Chair, in a small L sense ...

That prompted the conservative Stoker to quip:

You’re going to give me a bad reputation now, Mr Pezzullo.


Labor’s Penny Wong is persisting with how it came to pass that the department paid $30m for land in western Sydney that was worth only $3m. Simon Atkinson says the potential problem with the valuation was raised “in the accounting space” as part of auditing the department’s financial statements – which is a regular procedure.

An EL2-level officer in the accounting department raised the alarm. The secretary says the “significant and unusual transaction” was recognised by the accountants, and referred to the Western Sydney Unit for an explanation.

(The Western Sydney Unit was the group of officials who bought the land at the inflated price.)

Wong raises an eyebrow and notes, “So the Western Sydney Unit said nothing to see here.”

Atkinson says: “Correct.”


Mike Bowers was in estimates as Simon Atkinson answered questions from Penny Wong this morning.

Simon Atkinson
Simon Atkinson. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The hearing continues
The hearing continues. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Home affairs investigating any federal links to 'cash for visas' allegations

A senior federal government official has ordered a review of records to establish the nature of contact between the former NSW state Liberal MP Daryl Maguire and the Department of Home Affairs and/or federal MPs.

Maguire’s conduct has been a source of a series of revelations before the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption over the past week. As reported on the blog earlier, the Labor senator Kristina Keneally has used the opening of Senate estimates hearings to seek to establish any federal links to the “cash for visas” allegations.

We don’t yet know the details of those representations, but here is the full exchange between Keneally and the home affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo:

Keneally: Have you checked whether Mr Maguire made any representations to the department or the minister for immigration in relation to any particular visas?

Pezzullo: We have been checking and I’ve seen some preliminary to that effect. It’s not concluded as far as I’m concerned, I’ve asked for other records to be examined.

Keneally: So you are examining those records?

Pezzullo: Yes.

Keneally: What does your preliminary advice tell you?

Pezzullo: That, as is the case with federal and state and territory members, occasionally representations are made either directly to the department, either by way of direct reference to me or to officers within the department, or by way of federal members of parliament.

Keneally: So you’re saying Mr Maguire has made representations?

Pezzullo: I believe that to be the case and I’ve asked for further particulars to be established in that regard.

(Pezzullo earlier said home affairs was “not waiting” to investigate but working in parallel with Icac. He did not want to go into the allegations in detail to avoid cutting across the ongoing work of Icac.)


Back to infrastructure estimates: Simon Atkinson says he had a significant conversation recently with the auditor general about the relationship between the ANAO and the department.

When they broached the Leppington sale, Atkinson says he flagged the police investigation.

The auditor general asked the secretary how he knew the land sale was before the police. Atkinson said he discovered the ANAO had referred it when the department referred it.

(We discovered earlier this morning the ANAO referred Leppington before the department did, but Atkinson says he didn’t ask the auditor general when the ANAO referred the land sale to the police. The department referred it to the police on 8 October.)

The Labor senator Penny Wong wants to know if there are members of the department’s executive committee who were on the executive committee at the time the land sale took place. Atkinson says not.


Anthony Albanese finishes his press conference with a comment on the estimates hearings:

Senate estimates should be well worth looking at and nothing should overshadow the scandals that have ridden this government.

The scandal of the payment of more than $30m for a block of land that was worth $3m to a Liberal party donor that then had it leased back for $1m.

The involvement of Angus Taylor in meetings along with associated with the Daryl Maguire New South Wales Icac scandal that we heard about last week. The multiple issues regarding sports rorts, regarding the abuse of funds.

The issues of programs that have been announced that simply haven’t delivered what they said they would. Why is it that the emergency response fund of $4bn is yet to have a single dollar go out the door?

Why is it that the employment program for over-50s established by the government has 40% of it, 40% of participants, back on the unemployment queue within six months? Why is it that the women’s programs that the government has pointed to, that it’s announced and reannounced and reannounced and reannounced, still haven’t had a dollar spent, but have announced a second round.

These are all questions that require examination. Senate estimates is an important part of that process.

And when it comes to jobs as well, today in infrastructure, why is it that the inland rail project has no Australian content guarantee on any of the rail carriages that will go on that line?

Why is it that we’re not manufacturing trains here in Australia, instead, buying them from overseas when they’re too high for tunnels, they don’t fit the tracks and they have to be retrofitted once they’re here? Senate estimates will be very important over the next fortnight in terms of holding the government to account.


Asked about the federal government MPs criticising Victoria’s reopening plan, Anthony Albanese says:

As the premier has explained in press conferences that go for over an hour each and every day, you’re looking at the advice of epidemiologists, looking at what the numbers are over a fortnight.

We know with this virus, there’s a delay in terms of the potential infection of 14 days. That’s why people are quarantining for 14 days.

That’s why the Victorian colleagues who are from Melbourne, some of whom I’ll see today, have been here in Canberra isolating for two full weeks in order to attend parliament today.

So there are restrictions on all of us in various degrees. But Victorians, particularly, have shown, I think, great diligence in following the advice and I’d encourage them to continue to do so.

And I think that public officials have a responsibility to back in that advice and not to send mixed messages. I haven’t done that and I think it’s unfortunate that members of the Federal Liberal party have done that. If you listened to the Liberal opposition in Queensland, and some of the federal members or the Victorian opposition, Michael O’Brien and others, you would have seen a complete opening up of border, a removal of restrictions – and have a look at what has happened in Europe.

Each day, countries like France are having five figures – more than 10,000 new infections. In London, it’s been locked down – again. Victoria has done the right thing and they deserve support and they deserve better than to have mixed messages which are inconsistent, by the way, depending upon the political nature of state governments. I’ve been consistent throughout this and I’d say to all my federal colleagues, don’t play politics with this virus. Labor hasn’t and the Liberal party shouldn’t either.


870 people resettled in US so far as part of refugee swap deal

Remember the US resettlement deal?

We just got an update in the home affairs estimates:

US resettlement just happened.

870 people resettled in the US as at 14 October.

405 from PNG.

387 from Nauru.

78 from Australia.

Processing has slowed, but it is still ongoing.


Hairdressers in Melbourne 'booked out for months'

Hairdressers around Melbourne say they are booked out for months after the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, aid they can now reopen.

Kim Gannon, owner of Kid’s Cuts Elwood, has spent the morning sitting in front of her calendar, trying to find a way to squeeze in all her clients.

“I’m trying to fit 100 days of people into the next week. It’s just back to back to back for a month,” she said.

“When the announcement happened I had 60 texts straight away, and then that again on Facebook messenger. I got back to them and now I have another 25 I’m getting through.”

Down the road at Forma Salon, its owner, Alyx Hitchins, said her email system nearly crashed during Andrew’s Sunday press conference.

“We have been booked out basically until the end of the year,” she said. “I was so shocked, I didn’t think we would be able to open this time around.”

Hitchins has been closed for nearly six months out of the last year due to the pandemic and said she is relieved to have business come flooding back.

“It’s all massive colour jobs, lots of women are desperate to dye their hair again. It’s exciting.”

Hairdressing salon owner Alyx Hitchins says her email system nearly crashed during the Andrews presser as hundreds of bookings come flooding in ⁦@AmyRemeikis⁩ ⁦

— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) October 18, 2020


Over in home affairs estimates, the Greens senator Nick McKim tried to ask a series of questions about last month’s federal court decision in a visa matter but didn’t get very far.

In a scathing decision, Justice Geoffrey Flick warned the acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, he “cannot place himself above the law”. The judgment included the following line:

In the absence of explanation, the minister has engaged in conduct which can only be described as criminal.

McKim’s questions were rebuffed by home affairs officials, who said it would be inappropriate to weigh in on the details because they were subject to appeal. Tudge has denied any suggestion of improper conduct in these proceedings.

You can refresh your memory about the particulars in my colleague Paul Karp’s story here.


Anthony Albanese:

We’re here today talking about the future of Australia and reform – real reform. And the fact is that we have played a constructive role during the pandemic and we’ll continue to do so.

All the measures, including the sitting of parliament. Remember, Scott Morrison wanted parliament to be cancelled for six months. Didn’t want parliament to meet. Wanted democracy postponed for six months. We insisted that the parliament meet. We’ve continued to be constructive. The question now is – what sort of Australia emerges from this crisis? From the recovery? Too many people have been left behind during the pandemic – something we pointed out.

And the danger here is two-fold. One that people get left behind during the recovery, and second also, that you have $1tn of debt and nothing to show for it.

Anthony Albanese at a childcare centre in Canberra this month
Anthony Albanese at a childcare centre in Canberra this month. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Anthony Albanese has spent the morning at a Canberra childcare centre, talking Labor’s childcare plan.

A child just knocked over the microphone.

Albanese says that’s great – because it proves children are learning through doing.

For instance, that child just received a very valuable lesson about physics and gravity and the ripple effect – knocking over the microphone knocked out the sound feed, which interrupted the broadcast.


'Not that I’m aware of, senator'

Back in infrastructure estimates, Simon Atkinson (the secretary of the infrastructure department) says he’s instigated three inquiries to ensure all conduct surrounding the Leppington transaction can come to light.

These three inquiries are in addition to the police inquiry. Atkinson says the Leppington transaction happened before his time in the department.

The Labor senator Penny Wong wants to know what tipped the secretary over into referring the issue to the police. Atkinson says he reached the decision “thinking through all the mechanisms I put in place. I came to the view [the investigations] didn’t address an outstanding question in relation to the audit.”

Wong asks Atkinson about Michael McCormack’s observation that the Leppington acquisition in time would be seen as a “bargain”.

Is there any merit in that observation? Atkinson squirms imperceptibly:

Not that I’m aware of, senator.

I believe the deputy prime minister was talking about the long-term importance of having the land as part of the airport.

Simon Atkinson at Senate estimates this morning
Simon Atkinson at Senate estimates this morning. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Over in Home Affairs estimates:

Home Affairs CONFIRMS Daryl Maguire- currently under investigation by the NSW ICAC over a "cash for visas" scam- made representations to the Department and/or Federal Members of Parliament #auspol


— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 18, 2020

For the record, when I asked a spokesperson from Australia Post whether or not the executives would be appearing at estimates last week, they responded with:

Australia Post has provided detailed responses to the Questions on Notice, providing the total amounts spent in the financial years, as well as the main category of expenditure and will be happy to assist in any further enquiries the Senators may have.


Labor is not holding back against the Australia Post executive.

Kimberley Kitching and Michelle Rowland just released this statement:

The Australia Post Board is a swamp of former Liberal politicians and party hacks.

For the past month, and in light of a slew of recent scandals at Australia Post, Labor Senators have sought to have a representative of the Board appear before Senate Estimates this week. The requests have all been declined, despite videoconferencing options and alternative dates being offered.

Lawyers for Australia Post have indicated the Chairman is not available and only wants to take questions in writing. The Deputy Chair is not permitted to appear. The next most senior Director is also not permitted to appear.

This is what a witness protection program looks like.

This dysfunctional Board signed off on a pre-conceived Liberal plan to cut services and 1 in 4 postal worker jobs. They must be held to account.

Australia Post is a 200 year old institution that belongs to the Australian people — not the Liberal Party.

Katharine Murphy is watching Penny Wong question Simon Atkinson about the Leppington triangle purchase.

For a refresher, the too-long-didn’t-read version is the government paid about 10 times the fair value price of the land, 30 years before it needed it. Michael McCormack later described the purchase as something which would be seen as a “bargain”.

Department began an audit on August 21. @SenatorWong can't understand why it took until October 8 to refer the transaction to the AFP. Official says audit was examining whether a referral was necessary. Official says AFP referral was flagged with the minister "after the fact".

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) October 18, 2020

.@SenatorWong says the dept gave inaccurate information to the ANAO during the audit. Atkinson says he doesn't consider that to be "appropriate behaviour". Wong says the conduct was "extraordinary". She says it looks like officials tried to cover up inappropriate behaviour.

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) October 18, 2020

Atkinson says: "I agree with you. I am trying to clean it up". He says one official is under a code of conduct investigation regarding Leppington, and another is under investigation for declarations of interest #auspol

— Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo) October 18, 2020


The former NSW state Liberal MP Daryl Maguire made representations to the federal Department of Home Affairs or federal MPs, a Senate estimates hearing has been told.

At the home affairs estimates, the Labor senator Kristina Keneally is questioning the home affairs secretary, Michael Pezzullo, about the “cash for visas” allegations aired at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption last week.

Asked if he had checked whether Maguire had made representations to home affairs or to federal MPs, Pezzullo said he had obtained preliminary advice. Asked whether Maguire had made representations, he said: “I believe that to be the case and I’ve asked for further particulars to be established in that regard.”

More broadly on the allegations aired at Icac, Pezzullo said home affairs was “not waiting” to investigate but working in parallel with Icac.

He said to the extent matters had come to the attention of home affairs before the Icac investigation, the department would have applied normal compliance checks.

“To the extent that matters have come to our attention after Icac advised us that they had a particular corruption matter of interest, we always take a very cautious, prudent view of not so much holding back but ensuring our lines of inquiry are coordinated with the lines of inquiry of an anti-corruption body.”

Expressing reluctance to speak about the current issues in detail in a public hearing, Pezzullo said his preference would be to “take a very cautious view” so as not to cut across the work of Icac.

He committed to take a question on notice about the chronology of events such as the Icac notification.


Gladys Berejiklian is continuing her media offensive – this morning it was radio, with Sydney radio 2GB and Kyle and Jackie O on the list.

She told 2GB that she didn’t know what was happening with her former partner, Daryl Maguire’s dealings (Maguire is under investigation by Icac), because she “probably wasn’t listening”.

In relation to one phone call which has been played at the Icac hearings, where Maguire spoke to her about a potential land deal, and Berejiklian is recorded as telling him she didn’t “need to know about that bit”, Berejiklian says:

I probably wasn’t paying attention and listening properly ... or I dismissed it because I thought that’s his business and it’s got nothing to do with me.

It did not cross my mind that there was anything untoward.

For the record, it is not her personal life that matters here, it is what she, as the leader of NSW, in a position of power, knew about potential abuses of power.

Gladys Berejiklian in parliament on Thursday
Gladys Berejiklian in parliament on Thursday. Photograph: Dominic Lorrimer/AAP


Meanwhile, over in home affairs estimates.

UPDATE: The Department of Home Affairs confirms Daryl Maguire made representations to the Department of Home Affairs (previously Immigration and Border Protection) and/or Federal Members of Parliament. #auspol

— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 18, 2020


Simon Atkinson says for “completeness” there was an “outstanding question” in regards to the Leppington triangle sale, so on 8 October, he spoke to his chief operating officer and asked for it to be referred to the AFP.

He also says the AFP was already investigating, after a referral from the auditor general.

I felt there was enough of an outstanding question that I should refer to the AFP.

He also says there was no evidence of criminality in the auditor general’s report. Penny Wong asks him who says. He says the auditor general says there is no evidence of criminality in the report.

It doesn’t say that – it doesn’t say either way. Atkinson concedes it is not in the report, but it was part of a conversation with the auditor general.


Penny Wong asks the Department of Infrastructure and Transport head, Simon Atkinson, whether or not he believes the department fell well short of “high standards” in the Leppington triangle purchase.

Atkinson doesn’t really answer.

She says the auditor general’s description of what happened is “unprecedented” and then lets Atkinson just sit in her disapproval.

I’m squirming and I’m a floor away watching through a screen.


Crown Melbourne investigated for non-compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws

Crown has just released this statement to the ASX – it is being investigated for non-compliance with anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism laws:

Crown Resorts Limited (ASX: CWN) (Crown) has been informed by Austrac’s Regulatory Operations branch that it has identified potential non-compliance by Crown Melbourne Limited (Crown Melbourne) with the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 and the Anti- Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Rules 2007.

The potential non-compliance includes concerns in relation to ongoing customer due diligence, and adopting, maintaining and complying with an anti-money laundering / counter-terrorism financing program.

These concerns were identified in the course of a compliance assessment that commenced in September 2019 and focussed on Crown Melbourne’s management of customers identified as high risk and politically exposed persons.

The matter has been referred to Austrac’s Enforcement Team, which has initiated a formal enforcement investigation into the compliance of Crown Melbourne.

Crown Melbourne will respond to all information requests in support of the investigation and fully co-operate with Austrac in relation to this process.


In an attempt to get ahead of the Leppington triangle purchase controversy, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport head, Simon Atkinson, says he is going further than the auditor general’s recommendations over the purchase, and has ordered an independent review, as well as the referral of the matter to the AFP.


Contact tracing is continuing to try and find out how a child being treated for cancer at the Royal Childrens’ Hospital in Melbourne contracted Covid-19

. @RCHMelbourne confirmed this over the weekend.. here is their statement on their website. @10NewsFirstMelb #springst

— Simon Love (@SimoLove) October 18, 2020

Penny Wong has headed over to the rural and regional affairs committee – a large part of that sits under Michael McCormack, if you were wondering why she has decided to head there.


For those wanting to follow along with estimates, you will find the program here.

Penny Wong will be in the finance committee this morning.


Class action over Indigenous stolen wages

Over in Western Australia, a class action will be lodged in the federal court today. As AAP reports:

A class action has been launched against the Western Australian government in the hope of recovering stolen wages of Indigenous workers.

Shine Lawyers will lodge the class action in the federal court on Monday on behalf of workers whose wages were stolen as part of a labour scheme operated by the WA government under the Native Administration Act 1936 and Native Welfare Act 1963.

“Under these discriminatory laws, Indigenous Australians were not only separated from their families but forced to work for little or no money, locking them into a vicious cycle of poverty and disadvantage,” head of class actions at Shine Lawyers Jan Saddler said.

“They performed physically demanding jobs in harsh conditions akin to slavery and in some cases were only paid with bread and beef.”

Class action group member Ron Harrington-Smith was four years old when he was forcibly taken from his mother to work at the Mount Margaret mission in the north-eastern Goldfields region.

His duties included chopping and carting wood to missionaries in their houses, marshalling livestock and cleaning soiled toilet pans.

“All of this was barefoot and in squalid conditions,” Harrington-Smith said.

“It’s hard to imagine that we endured all this suffering. It is unfair and appalling, and they have to be found guilty of the facts and pay us back the stolen wages which are owed.”

Anyone subject to the relevant legislation who had their wages stolen is eligible to join the class action, including descendants of deceased workers and their estates.

Last year, the Queensland government settled a class action relating to similar unpaid entitlements for $190m dollars.


Meanwhile, the fight between the federal government Victorian MPs and the Victorian government is getting quite a bit louder.

Treasurer @JoshFrydenberg accuses @DanielAndrewsMP of showing “callous disregard” for Victorians, after delaying the opening of businesses until Nov 1@SkyNewsAust

— Laura Jayes (@ljayes) October 18, 2020


Victoria records four new cases and one death

The numbers are out.

Yesterday there were 4 new cases & sadly the loss of 1 life reported. Condolences to all those affected. Cases with unknown source & average in Regional are stable, Metro average decreased slightly. More info available later today. #COVID19VicData

— VicGovDHHS (@VicGovDHHS) October 18, 2020


Daniel Andrews says Victoria did not want to take part in the New Zealand travel bubble. He wrote to the prime minister at the weekend to say no thank you after it was discovered that somewhere between 17 and 55 New Zealanders had travelled into Melbourne (the number changed at the weekend):

But the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services does include this information on its website:

Travelling to Victoria from New Zealand
A trans-Tasmin [sic] travel bubble is currently in place between New Zealand and parts of Australia. This allows travellers from New Zealand to arrive in New South Wales and the Northern Territory without having to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

Currently the Victorian borders are open. If you are travelling from New Zealand and have passed all relevant immigration and biosecurity requirements as established by the federal government, New South Wales government and Northern Territory government, then you are able to travel to Victoria. You do not need to quarantine for 14 days on arrival in Victoria.

If you have travelled from New Zealand and you have symptoms associated to coronavirus (Covid-19) you should not travel to Victoria. If you do you may be subject to detention under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 on your arrival.

You will be subject to the relevant health directions and restrictions in place during your stay in Victoria and may be subject to heavy penalties should you breach those.

If you intend to leave Victoria you will also be subject to the requirements of other states and territories in Australia, which may require you to quarantine in that state or territory or you may be refused entry to that state or territory.

Locals exercise in St Kilda yesterday
Locals exercise in St Kilda yesterday. Photograph: Dave Hewison/Speed Media/Rex/Shutterstock



After smashing up the states that closed their borders practically every day since borders closed, Michael McCormack says states that didn’t sign up as part of the New Zealand travel bubble can always just close their borders.

That’s after about 55 New Zealanders travelled into Victoria, which has not signed up to the travel bubble because it is a little busy at the moment dealing with its second wave.

Victoria did not close its borders (everyone else just closed their borders to Victoria). McCormack, who set the mood for the week while chatting to the ABC this morning, says its up to the states to work out their own borders:

They at the end of the day have the jurisdictional responsibilities for their own state borders, but they are also available to see the manifests of airlines and they have been and since October 16, those manifests, those passenger logs have been made available to governments, to health ministers, to health officers, protocol officers in the various states and it has been discussed at national cabinet ad nauseam.

Michael McCormack
Deputy PM Michael McCormack. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Pre-polling has opened for the Queensland election.

Following recent trends, we can expect that at least half the electorate will cast their ballot before polling day on 31 October.


At least someone is excited parliament is back – Kristina Keneally stopped by doors this morning:

Well, today Senate estimates begins. The Morrison government will have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. This is a government that’s always there for the photo op; never there for the follow through and they’re leaving Australians behind. Whether you’re women, whether you’re people over 35 and you’re unemployed, whether you’re stranded Australians – 29,000 stranded Australians overseas. These are the people who the Morrison government are leaving behind and these are the questions we’ll be putting to the government today.

The government, the Morrison government, will also face scrutiny from senators about their dodgy deals. Their dodgy deals at Western Sydney airport, their real estate rorts, their sports rorts, and Angus Taylor ... if there’s a scandal, Angus Taylor will find his way into it. The police investigations now into these dodgy western Sydney land deals. This is a government that is always trying to find someone else to blame. But today, beginning today, at Senate estimates, the Morrison government will have nowhere to hide.

They will be facing tough questions about what they’re doing and what they’re failing to do. About how they are leaving Australians behind. About how they’re always there for the headline, but never there for the hard work. So today, we begin Senate estimates – putting the questions to the Morrison government. No more ducking and weaving from the prime minister. He will now need, through his government officials and his ministers, to face the truth of what his government is doing – leaving Australians behind.

Kristina Keneally
Shadow immigration minister Kristina Keneally. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Victoria could have eliminated Covid in six weeks by entering stage-four lockdown in July

Melissa Davey has taken a look at modelling published in the Medical Journal of Australia:

Elimination of Covid-19 has been found to have been achievable in Victoria within six weeks had the state gone into stage-four lockdown with mandatory wearing of masks – but without curfews or 5km travel restrictions – immediately from 9 July, when there were 860 active cases of the virus in the state.

The modelling analysis published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA) on Monday also says it was a missed opportunity that “an expert advisory group on elimination was not convened, limiting the capacity for an optimal evidence-informed policy response”.

From 9 July, metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell shire re-entered stage-three lockdown. Victorians were told the measures would last six weeks. However, a more stringent stage-four lockdown was introduced to metropolitan Melbourne on 2 August, when department and hardware stores were closed, and curfew, travel limits and outdoor exercise limits were introduced. Regional Victoria joined the Mitchell shire in stage-three lockdown from 6 August. Masks were made mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the Mitchell shire from 22 July, and in regional Victoria from 3 August.


Good morning

Welcome to week 43 – which means there are just 10 weeks left in the year.

Because of course 2020 would have 53 weeks in it. Of course it would.

The federal House of Representatives is sitting but the Senate is tied up with budget estimates. The big committees today will be looking at prime minister and cabinet, and home affairs.

There is of course, also the university bill to finalise after Rebekha Sharkie and Centre Alliance voted yes, and the bill had the numbers it needed to get across the line. So the cost of an arts and humanities degrees will now be more than doubled.

We’ll take a look at the Covid situation across Australia – Melbourne residents woke up with an extra 20km in their bubble this morning, which is great news. Hopefully we’ll see more restrictions lifted soon. And haircuts! As someone who lives with a rat’s nest atop her head, I am thrilled this bit of normality is being returned for people in Melbourne.

The Queensland election is ongoing. The ACT returned the Labor-Greens government on Saturday, so we will bring you some of that and, of course, there is still the Icac proceedings in NSW.

So thank you for joining us on this lovely spring day. You have Amy Remeikis at the helm and the entire Guardian brains trust at your disposal. I’m just going to grab another coffee and then we can get straight into it.




Amy Remeikis and Nino Bucci

The GuardianTramp

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Coalition grilled over $30m Western Sydney airport land purchase – as it happened
Budget estimates continue with Australia’s coronavirus response on the agenda. This blog is now closed

Nino Bucci and Amy Remeikis

20, Oct, 2020 @8:07 AM