What we learned today, Tuesday 2 February
And we will leave it there for tonight. Here’s a quick summary of everything that went down today:
- 56 homes have been lost in a bushfire burning near Perth, showering the city in ash and smoke, as firefighters urge resident to get out early.
- Western Australia has recorded no new cases of Covid-19 today, for the second day in a row, with the state reporting a whopping 16,490 Covid-19 tests yesterday.
- The Reserve Bank of Australia has kept Australia’s cash rate at a record low of 0.1%, but also committed to extending its program of bond-buying, the other major plank of its monetary stimulus.
- The AFL boss, Gillon McLachlan, criticised Eddie McGuire’s press conference performance yesterday, where he said a report finding “systemic racism” at Collingwood was a “proud” day for the club.
- Labor moved a motion to censure Craig Kelly for his “irresponsible and dangerous” comments on Covid, but the government won the division to shut down debate.
Finally, in light of changing border rules with Western Australia, if you intend to travel interstate this week, please take a quick look at the list of WA hotspots and state-by-state restrictions.
Klemm continued to say he is hopeful about the state of the fire, but said the fire was pretty large.
It is reflective of the wind, certainly reflective of the wind strength yesterday and again last night. Really, really dry. The relative humidity. Low dew point. That means you have a low and dry atmosphere with intense fire behaviour.
His message to people still in the affected region to be on standby, and to have a bushfire plan.
They should have a bushfire plan. That is the most critical thing. That should have been done already.
Importantly, they should be listening to the warnings. It is not a case of just going to bed and thinking that things will be OK in the morning because we continually, particularly with emergency warnings, they come out every hour. We use a telephone warning system so we can wake people if needed.
Warnings were used extensively last night because of the intense fire behaviour and because that was at 1am or 2am.
When asked if he expects if any further buildings will be destroyed, Klemm says they are still in a “difficult moment”.
At the moment, we are still in really difficult conditions. The southern flank of the fire and its proximity through to the top of Brigadoon and Upper Swan are still a great concern for us. Our warnings reflect that.
There is a lot of work to be done on the fire to make it safe. We are a long way from that point. The issues around access are such that there is still an active fire.
Klemm also confirmed that nobody has lost their life and there have been no injuries to the public so far.
56 homes now lost in Perth fire
DFES commissioner Darren Klemm has said that 56 homes have been lost in the fire near Perth.
It is terrible news for the owners of those homes, and our thoughts are with them all. A process now will be undertaken. DFES will assist local governments to work through a process to notify those homeowners of the loss of those homes.
The rapid damage assessment team will continue. The work they have done today, that will continue this afternoon and tomorrow. There is a likelihood that the number of homes lost will increase once that work has been completed.
We’re just waiting now for an update from the DFES commissioner on the Perth fires.
Former PM Kevin Rudd has said it is Australia’s responsibility to demonstrate “solidarity” with Aung San Suu Kyi during the military coup in Myanmar.
The former Australian prime minister and president of the Asia Society Policy Institute was on ABC News24 earlier this afternoon discussing Australia’s response to the crisis.
The first step should be having a razor-sharp focus on Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal safety and that on the elected members of the Burmese parliament.
I would strongly recommend to the Australian government, and to like-minded governments, to dispatch our military attaches in Yangon to go and see the military leadership, military to military, to demand the safety and security of the government in Burma.
If the military in Burma refused to do that, a range of other options should be considered, one of which is dispatch of an envoy. The former Indonesian Foreign Minister comes to mind, who has dealt with the military in Myanmar over many decades.
Then, we come to the question of sanctions against the Burmese military, but I would consider it in that order.
Collingwood football club president Eddie McGuire has apologised for his comments on Monday following the release of a report that found there was “structural racism” at the AFL club. McGuire on Tuesday evening stated he’d been wrong to say it was a “proud day for the club”.
McGuire had been widely criticised for his comments at a press conference to address the report that examined the history of racism at the Collingwood football club. AFL boss Gillon McLachlan on Tuesday said of McGuire’s comments: “The articulation, I didn’t agree with it.”
At the opening of the Collingwood annual general meeting on Tuesday evening, McGuire apologised for his previous comments:
Over the course of an hour, we answered every question, but in my opening [comments] I got it wrong.
I said it was a proud day for Collingwood, and I shouldn’t have.
I meant to sincerely acknowledge not only the enormous work the club had done, especially Jodie Sizer and Peter Murphy, in bringing this report together, but also the work of all our staff and their preparedness to take a deep and uncompromising look into our past as a club.
I did not mean we’re proud of past incidents of racism and the hurt that have caused. It’s been interpreted widely that way, and I regret that deeply.
McGuire said the focus on his comments had been a distraction from the report and the club was apologetic and humbled:
And we are also galvanised to dismantle any structures of systematic racism.
This is my last year of 23 years as president of this club I want to leave it knowing that I have helped implement the next stage of changes, we have committed to on this historic mission, committed to a year of hard work to implement these recommendations.
So we become an even more inclusive club.
Collingwood president Eddie McGuire is currently addressing the AGM about how he handled the report into systemic racism in the club, and has seemingly taken back his comments calling yesterday a “proud day for the club”.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has declared the Pfizer vaccine safe for older patients.
The declaration comes after around 30 elderly people in Norway died after receiving the vaccine, but the TGA believes it is safe.
The cases were part of the discussion at a meeting between the TGA and European experts, with the meeting concluding that no causal link could be established between vaccination and deaths.
Medical regulators in North America, the UK and Europe have made similar conclusions, the TGA says.
Elderly patients can receive this vaccine and there is no cap on the upper age limit.
The TGA will continue to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines as they are rolled out in Australia and internationally.
For frail patients over the age of 85, the TGA says the benefits of the vaccine should be weighed against the potential risk of even mild reactions.
The Victorian government should clarify the role chief health officer during the next pandemic, according to a parliamentary inquiry.
The 500-page Public Accounts and Estimates Committee (PAEC) investigation into the Victorian government’s response to the pandemic also found that without the strict lockdown, there would have been 20,000 Covid-19 cases each day.
The investigation outlined that before the pandemic hit, the state’s health department had planned for the CHO to take the lead on any emergency response in a pandemic.
However, during the planning stages of the Covid-19 response, it was not clear what role the CHO would play.
The committee found the government should “clearly define and make public the roles and responsibilities of officials” during any future emergencies to ensure “clarity, accountability and transparency”.
The investigation concluded by making 47 recommendations, including that the government release modelling of various possible scenarios in future pandemics and that one of its contact tracing benchmarks be improved.
A meteorologist from the Bureau of Meteorology was just on the ABC, saying the fire near Perth would be “quite dangerous over the next few days”.
Jonathan Howe said persistent easterly winds coming in were continuing to fan the flames.
We really do need rain. That wind isn’t going to let up. There’s a potential for the tropical low moving down, but there’s quite a bit of uncertainty for this one. It could be a double-edged sword. We’ll see the really gusty easterly winds pick up, but we could see some rainfall over the weekend as well.
Leading up to summer, we are in at a La Niña period, and even though it means wetter than average conditions for eastern Australia, in the south-western WA it’s the opposite. We have seen higher than average temperatures and drier conditions. We’ve seen a really drying out of the grass fuels and also forest fuels as well over the past few months. And unfortunately, it has led to this fire starting and very dangerous conditions which is what we expect for this time of year.
The NSW Rural Fire Service is sending a large water tanker to help with the fire fighting efforts in Western Australia.
The 737 is named after former NSW governor Dame Marie Bashir, and can carry 15,000 litres of water of fire retardant, and can be filled in just 15 minutes.
The plane is currently en-route.
Good afternoon everyone, and a quick thanks to Amy for once again expertly guiding us through the day’s news.
There’s still much to get through, with the fire continuing to burn near Perth, so let’s dive in.
That’s where I will leave you today – Mostafa Rachwani will guide you through the evening, and we’ll be keeping a very strong focus on the fire in WA – thinking of all of you in Perth right now. It’s a lot, and we are keeping everything crossed for you.
Thank you for joining me for the first official day of parliament – I’ll be back with politics live tomorrow for day 2. We have Phil Lowe at the press club, and the Bob Brown Foundation judgment (on native forrest logging) and the Westpac vs Asic ‘wagyu and shiraz” judgment is also due (that was on responsible lending laws – the original judgment may reference to consumers eating wagyu not being relevant, because people would cut back on luxuries when paying back a loan).
Both cases will have wider implications depending on which they go, so we’ll keep an eye on them for you.
A big thank you to everyone for today, and all of your messages – I am slowly returning them as I can. I’ll be back here tomorrow – in the meantime, take care of you.
Over in the Victorian parliament, Daniel Andrews’s government is attempting to extend its Covid emergency powers until December.
The opposition have said they will oppose the bill, meaning its back to negotiating with the crossbench to get it through the upper house.
Ed Husic is also asked about the CFMEU ad that depicts Scott Morrison driving a literal bus (called the omnibus) towards workers, which is meant to illustrate workers being hit by IR changes, and whether it goes too far:
Some of the unions, or some people will try and characterise it in that way, and whether or not that works in their favour, to be putting it bluntly, I think there is a genuine concern about what the government’s industrial relations reforms will do, what impact they will have on working people.
When you go through the detail of what they are proposing, they will be seeing the greatest burden placed on working Australians and it’s just wrong. They shouldn’t have cuts to their take-home pay.
In saying that, public information campaigns that are run, you want to be bringing people with you, I’m sure there will be a lot of who react strongly to that imagery. And it’s something to be borne in mind as to whether or not that works in your favour or doesn’t.
But I think we cannot be distracted from the biggest thing, and the biggest thing is this, the reforms the government are putting forward impact on people’s take-home pay, job security, enforcing terms that are really, for example, greenfield agreements running eight years.
This is just ridiculous in terms of some of the stuff being put forward. I think we really do need to focus on those material impacts.
It is not the greatest ad I’ve ever seen – but then again, we have also had a political ad in the not-so-distant past where Bob Katter “shot” people representing the Liberal and Labor party, so the bar is pretty low.
Ed Husic is on the ABC this afternoon, where he is asked about the topic of the day – government backbencher Craig Kelly and the government’s leadership refusal to censure him.
The prime minister occupies an important place in the country, the words of the prime minister matter, the actions mean even more, and in this case allowing Craig Kelly to just keep rolling on the way he is, to undermine the investment of taxpayer dollars, in information campaigns to embrace the inoculation process, to help us deal with a Covid-19 pandemic that has crippled the economy for the best part of 2020, resulted in 2 million Australians being unemployed or underemployed and the vaccine bringing one way to bring us closer to normal, as it were, this is just wrong, that you could have a government MP being allowed by virtue of inaction by the prime minister for that to continue.
It shouldn’t, and if he did take this matter seriously it would be reined in and it wouldn’t be an issue and you and me wouldn’t be talking about it.
The Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Phil Lowe, will be in Canberra tomorrow to address the National Press Club – for the last few years he has done a start of year speech, as as bit of a central bank scene setter.
In the first meeting of the year, the RBA board decided to hold the cash rate target at 0.1% (no surprises there) but Lowe repeated the rate wouldn’t move up until actual inflation hits somewhere between 2% and 3%.
The bank doesn’t expect that to happen until 2024 – at the earliest.
Late last year the RBA announced a shift in policy – it is going to focus on unemployment rather than inflation for the immediate future – and Lowe wants to see wage growth as part of that.
Mike Bowers has emerged from question time:
WA firefighters urge residents to 'get out early'
Still in Perth, the deputy commissioner of the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES), Craig Waters, is giving an update on the Perth Hills bushfire.
The fire perimeter is now 75km and has burned through 7,000ha. Some 400 people have evacuated their home, and either gone to stay with friends or to evacuation centres – both are allowed for people fleeing fire, despite the coronavirus lockdown rules in place in Perth. People who are under a formal isolation order have to contact police to let them know they have moved; everyone has to wear masks.
Waters said firefighters were also social distancing in their fire trucks.
“We have restrictions on the number of firefighters in vehicles. You will notice all firefighters are wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. We have increased cleaning facilities around the fire grounds. We are all maintaining Covid-19 responsibilities.”
Importantly, he said that there were no reports of fatalities at this stage. Damage assessment teams were moving into the area this afternoon.
Waters said they had requested a large water-bombing aircraft be flown over from NSW. A fire truck was destroyed in the fire yesterday, but thankfully firefighters on board only received minor injuries.
Waters said the conditions were very dangerous and the fire behaviour was “intense”. Embers were spotted 3km ahead of the fire front yesterday.
“The best thing people can do in the warning area itself is get out early.”
You can see a map of the areas affected by an emergency warning here. Waters said anyone in the area shaded in black now had to shelter in place. It was too late to leave.
In a somewhat rare turn of events, it appears someone within the tactics team leaked the Coalition’s Senate question time pack to Labor (there is not a lot of information in there, other than who is going to ask a question, what the question is, and in what order, but it takes away the element of surprise somewhat).
I can’t remember that happening to Mathias Cormann, so it isn’t the greatest start to Simon Birmingham’s reign as leader of government business in the Senate.
Labor made sure to wreak as much havoc as they could, reciting questions en masse at the same time as the government senator who was reading the dixer.
Not the end of the world, but still, interesting that it happened.
Western Australia’s health minister, Roger Cook, says that security guards in Perth’s quarantine hotels are not required to wear face masks at all times.
Cook’s comments come as WA authorities reveal that the security guard who contracted the UK variant of the virus may have caught it from a returned traveller he delivered medication to on 24 January.
Security guards or any personnel in a hotel quarantine don’t need to wear masks at every point of that building and at every point to carry out their duties. There are particular circumstances in which they are required to wear PPE. At other times they may not be.
A reporter asked whether security guards would be required to wear a mask if they were working on the same floor as a person confirmed as having the virus.
“No, not necessarily. If people are in their rooms and the guard is simply monitoring that corridor, not necessarily. They would have to carry it with them to protect themselves in the event that someone is in the room.”
Reporter: “Is that under review?”
Cook: “Everything is under review.”
Cook also clarified the timing of the man notifying his employer that he was unwell. The man first felt unwell on 28 January, went to his doctor on 29 January. He was not scheduled to work until 30 January. Cook said the man called his employer at 5.30am on the morning of the 30th then went to get a Covid-19 test.
Craig Waters says firefighters are also wearing masks (while not on the fire ground) and socially distancing, as everyone tries to deal with a fire emergency in the middle of a health pandemic.
But fire trumps pandemic – if you are in the fire zone and can leave your home, you should.
With the current restrictions with Covid-19, or people who have been asked to isolate because of travel restrictions, they need to do whatever they need to do to look after their own safety and the safety of their loved ones.
If that means staying with a family member or a friend, that is fine.
If they have to go to an evacuation centre, that is fine too.
They just need to make sure that they do the appropriate thing, commonsense, self-isolate, wear a mask, make it known to representatives from the department that they are required to self-isolate.
They will also be required to contact police as well.
Craig Waters is giving an update on the Perth fire, on behalf of Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services.
Residents in areas where a warning has been issued are being urged to leave.
Because of the uncertainty of this fire and the changing wind conditions, residents in this area are under immediate danger. If you have not put your bushfire plan in place, you need to do that straightaway. We’re also encouraging members of the public to go to the emergency WA website.
If you’re in the shaded area on the map, it is too late to leave and you need to shelter in place. All other warning areas, the best option is to leave early and should leave now.
Anthony Albanese is making a speech on indulgence about his head-on car crash over the summer.
He thanks all those who contacted him from all sides of politics to ensure he was OK.
He again thanks the off-duty nurse and police who were on the scene, and helped keep him calm while he was trapped in the car, and the paramedics who gave him urgent care.
Staff at Royal Prince Albert hospital also get a personal thank you.
Question time ends.
Western Australia records no new Covid cases
Western Australia has recorded no new cases of Covid-19 today, for the second day in a row. This news is some welcome relief for Perth, which is currently blanketed in smoke from the Perth Hills bushfire.
The premier, Mark McGowan, said the state recorded a whopping 16,490 Covid-19 tests yesterday – that’s a huge number for Perth.
McGowan said 151 close contacts of the hotel quarantine security guard who tested positive have been identified, as have 68 casual contacts. Of those, 104 have been tested and returned a negative Covid-19 result. The others are awaiting a result.
McGowan said that further genomic testing had revealed that the security guard, who tested positive on Saturday, had the same strain of the UK variant as two travellers in the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Perth, where he was working on 25 and 26 January.
McGowan said: “One of those recent arrivals was accommodated on the same floor as the security guard was working. We are advised that the guard did deliver medication to the door of this quarantine guest.”
As a matter of precaution, McGowan said, the WA government would stop taking new overseas travellers into that hotel. Everyone still in the hotel will be made to stay past the end of their 14-day quarantine until they return a negative test result. Everyone who was discharged from that quarantine hotel on or after 25 January is being contacted by authorities and asked to self-isolate until they get a test and return a negative result.
Back to QT for a moment – Mark Butler tries to ask Scott Morrison this question:
Yesterday the prime minister patted the member for Hughes on the back, said he does a great job.
The prime minister explained how the member for Hughes’s record of undermining medical advice about vaccines, attacking Australia’s health agencies and calling masks a form of child abuse during a pandemic is doing a great job.
Will the prime minister now condemn the member for his remarks as irresponsible.
Tony Smith rules it out of order, because it is asking about the prime minister’s views of a member and his statements, which he says goes against practice.
Tony Burke argues Labor is asking about a comment the prime minister made himself.
Right now it is more important than ever in terms of policy that there be public confidence in our health agencies during a pandemic.
So in both paths, none of that in both parts, both in terms of a quote from the prime minister himself, and the link to the importance of public policy, I’d asked you to reconsider whether the question is in order, and I’ve got to say very strongly on the second point.
Obviously, you know, we’re well aware of the importance of the issue but that doesn’t modify standing orders or practice.
Smith says the practice is laid out.
Anthony Albanese then argues that his order then means the government can no longer ask questions “on alternative views”:
With respect for the ruling that you’ve made, there are two points.
One is that if it is not possible for the opposition or any member in this parliament to ask the prime minister about a quote that he has made – this is a statement that the prime minister made at the National Press Club yesterday.
Yes, the second part of that question does put the context in which the question was asked, otherwise it wouldn’t make sense. So that’s why the second part has to be put in there. So that’s point one.
The second point I’ll make is that if your ruling is to be consistent, then every time those opposite ask about alternative views of those on this side of the House and those questions are out of order.
Because what we have on this side of the chamber, day after day, is questions whereby we get responses that go for three minutes 30 seconds about their policy, then two and a half minutes about us.
That is, in my view, very clearly the implication of this ruling, and perhaps you might like to reflect on member for Rankin on that as well. But I think very clearly in this chamber, the prime minister of the day has always had to answer questions about ... their statements in public.
Smith still rules the question out of order:
Yes, ministers and prime ministers have been asked about their statements, but the statements have to relate to the ministerial or prime ministerial responsibilities.
... The prime minister or minister made a statement about a member. ‘What do you think of all that’ opens up a Pandora’s box.
Now I will say to the leader of the opposition, and to the manager of opposition business, I can understand the point they’re trying to make. I hope you understand the point I’m trying to make on behalf of all members.
Eighty per cent of homes in the rural Tilden Park area of Gidgegannup, north-east of Perth, have been destroyed by a fast-moving bushfire, the Western Australian premier, Mark McGowan, has said.
“DFES advise they have lost 80% of all properties in the rural area of Tilden Park in Gidgegannup. DFES will be conducting inquiries at the Tilden Park fire scene this morning in an attempt to establish where there has been any loss of life.”
Earlier, the mayor of the City of Swan estimated that the fire may have destroyed at least 30 homes.
Some 2,750 homes and businesses in the Perth Hills are now out of power. McGowan urged people to remain at least eight metres back from any fallen power lines and report them to authorities on 131 351.
This is an extremely concerning and serious situation. The thoughts of all Western Australians are with the people impacted.
Right now, WA is battling two different kinds of emergencies – a dangerous fire emergency and a Covid-19 lockdown emergency.
Can I also give my heartfelt thanks to our firefighters and emergency workers who have done and continue to perform a crucial and critical role. You are true heroes. It is going to be an extremely challenging day for everyone involved. Please do everything you can to keep you and your family safe and look after each other.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) will hold a press conference later today.
We have Calla Wahlquist, Matilda Boseley and Elias Visontay following the WA situation, both on the Covid and fire front.
We’ll bring you more updates as they come.
In better news for WA, Mark McGowan says there has been no more locally acquired cases of Covid following a security guard working in a quarantine testing positive.
That’s from more than 16,000 tests, so that is an excellent result.
Another aerial tanker is on its way to Perth.
I want to update you on another emergency situation with bushfires threatening lives and homes north-east of Perth.
I understand DFES will do a media conference and provide a comprehensive update on the Wooroloo fire situation later today. I urge people to listen to the advice and follow the instructions.
People in the area are in danger. There is a threat to lives and homes.
This is an extremely dangerous fire. Please visit emergency.wa.gov.au or call 13 DFES – that is, 13 33 37 – follow DFES on Facebook and Twitter, and continue to listen to local news bulletins.
Planning has been going overnight to address the potential impact. A number of homes have been lost and the morning winds are predicted to turn from easterly to north-westerly. Weather conditions are extremely volatile. For the people affected by the fire, an evacuation centre has been established at Brown Park in Swan View. DFES advise they have lost 80% of all properties in the rural area of Tilden Park in Gidgegannup.
DFES will be conducting inquiries at the Tilden Park fire scene this morning in an attempt to establish where there has been any loss of life.
Western Power advises that around 2,750 homes and businesses are without power due to the bushfires burning in Wooroloo, Bailup, and Gidgegannup in the Shire of Mundaring and City of Swan. Western Power is working closely with DFES and will safely access the fire ground when possible to assess the damage before we begin repair and restoration.
At this stage, there has been significant damage to the network.
We urge people to stay eight metres away from – as a minimum from any fallen powerlines or other damage to the network. And report it to us on 13 13 51 so that emergency response crews can attend the hazard and make the area safe. We are currently securing another large aerial tanker from New South Wales to assist. It should be here in Western Australia later today.
80% of homes lost in Tilden Park fire
Mark McGowan is giving an update on this now.
I’m not not bashing my head on my desk after that stretch of logic.
Coalition senator claims Craig Kelly is 'promoting' Covid vaccine
Senator Eric Abetz’s contribution to the backlash against Craig Kelly’s comments, via a point of order.
“I’ve been listening very closely,” Abetz said.
“If I understand the assertion correctly, you don’t need no vaccine is in fact a double negative and therefore Mr Kelly is in fact promoting vaccine. I don’t know why the opposition has got any difficulty with the matter.”
The Senate president, Scott Ryan, observed: “You had a very good grammar teacher Senator Abetz.”
Angus Taylor takes a dixer on the increase of renewables on the Australian grid, pointing to solar as one of the great success stories.
But mostly because of state government policies, which provided very generous feed-in tariffs and subsidies.
But, you know, never let the truth get in the way of a great story.
Andrew Leigh wants to know why the government hounded robodebt victims, but is letting corporations keep millions of dollars from jobkeeper that was spent on bonuses or paying dividends.
Scott Morrison talks about how the government apologised and paid the money back (after losing court cases, which he doesn’t mention) and then repeats that jobkeeper helped save the economy.
He also includes this, which is how you know he is getting annoyed:
What I noticed from the Labor party is they like to have an each-way bet on this pandemic.
They want to support the government’s initiative and oppose the government’s initiatives all at the same time.
That’s not something that Australians can rely on, an opposition party that has become a fight club, not an opposition, Mr Speaker, and cannot, cannot agree with itself, Mr Speaker.
Julie Collins also asks about the coming end of jobkeeper, and Scott Morrison decides to take this one.
He gets cranky. Perhaps he needs a nice turn about the lake.
The opposition says you’re spending not enough Mr Speaker, and then they say we’re spending too much.
Well, Mr Speaker, we’re not going to take fiscal advice from the Labor party.
Our government has demonstrated its fiscal responsibility, but also the urgency of fiscal action when it is necessary, which the governor of the Reserve Bank has also commended now, Mr Speaker, for those sectors and those areas, specifically, who are continuing to contend with the effects of the pandemic.
We have already demonstrated that we will continue to provide targeted support, Mr Speaker, where that can be effective, and that is what exactly what the government will do, and what those opposite have done all throughout this pandemic and continue to do here, Mr Speaker, is to seek to undermine the competence of Australians, as we work through this, whether it’s seeking to undermine the great work that has been done in rolling out the vaccines, Mr Speaker, or elsewhere, what we see from the opposition, Mr Speaker, is an opposition addicted to politics and not solutions.
Friends of the blog have gone through some of Scott Morrison’s recent speeches and found that he quite likes a boat story.
There is a photo of “Scotty Mo” (his high school nickname) hanging in the Sydney Boys High School’s rowing shed in Abbotsford.
So it’s not just stopping boats he likes. He’s a fan of rowing them, and watching them too, apparently.
The foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, has spoken in the Senate about the developments in Myanmar.
Payne did not flag any new actions at this point on sanctions or cutting defence ties but said she had spoken about the developments with her counterpart in Brunei, which is the Asean chair. Payne also said she had spoken with Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and had raised Myanmar in the discussion.
Payne said Australia had expressed its deep concern about the developments, which have included the military’s detention of democratically elected leaders.
She said political stability of Asean member states was vital to maintaining a peaceful, prosperous region. Australia was staying in close contact with other countries, including through the embassy in Yangon.
“Australia has been a long standing partner for Myanmar through good times and more difficult periods.”
Payne said Australia’s development program in Myanmar included a focus on promoting peace and stability and supporting elections. She said Australia’s commitment to Myanmar’s development and and its people “continues at this difficult time”, including on the issue of Covid-19 vaccinations.
“We sincerely hope to see Myanmar succeed for the benefit of all of is people and for the region as a whole.”
Payne ended by assuring the diaspora community in Australia that “we will stand with them at this difficult time”.
RBA holds cash rate at 0.1%
The Reserve Bank of Australia has kept Australia’s cash rate at a record low, but also committed to extending its program of bond-buying, the other major plank of its monetary stimulus.
It said: “[The RBA] also decided to purchase an additional $100 billion of bonds issued by the Australian government and states and territories when the current bond purchase program is completed in mid April. These additional purchases will be at the current rate of $5 billion a week.”
Basically, despite better jobs numbers (unemployment is at 6.6%) inflation is still very low (0.9% over the year to December) – so the RBA is a long way off its target of 2%-3% for inflation.
“The Board remains committed to maintaining highly supportive monetary conditions until its goals are achieved. Given the current outlook for inflation and jobs, this is still some way off. The current monetary policy settings are continuing to help the economy by lowering financing costs for borrowers, contributing to a lower exchange rate than otherwise, supporting the supply of credit needed for the recovery and supporting household and business balance sheets. The decision to extend the bond purchase program will ensure a continuation of this monetary support.”
Jim Chalmers to Josh Frydenberg: why are you cutting Jobkeeper to the tourist industry, “but can splash $100m on sports rorts”?
Frydenberg is using a lot of words to say “we were always going to cut jobkeeper after six months”.
Given we keep hearing about Kyoto, it is worth reminding you what those targets were (thank you Daniel Hurst).
First commitment period of Kyoto: Australia committed to no more than an 8% increase in net greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 to 2012 period (compared with 1990 levels).
Kyoto 2nd commitment period: Australia committed to reducing its emissions to 99.5 per cent of 1990 levels for the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013–20) (that’s a 0.5% cut against that baseline year, but the government says it’s consistent with a 5% cut when compared with 2000 levels).
I just had to check the tape, but yes, we have also had this line from Scott Morrison this afternoon, in answer to a dixer on how well Australia is doing in the pandemic.
Emergencies are emergencies and then you have to emerge from them.
You’re seeing a line being made in real time ladies and gentlemen. Emergencies – emerge. Like florals for spring. Groundbreaking.
That’s why he gets the big bucks, obviously.
Scott Morrison also makes a point of saying the election will be next year.
So an election this year is all but confirmed then.
Adam Bandt gets the independents’ question.
He wants to know if Scott Morrison will lift Australia’s 2030 targets ahead of Joe Biden’s coming climate summit in April.
Morrison falls back on “meet and beat” targets and points to Kyoto.
(A reminder that for the first part of the Kyoto targets, Australia negotiated to be allowed an 8% INCREASE to emissions.)
Morrison then says Bandt is “not interested in the how” but he is. And the “how” is apparently “transformational technology”.
I’m still waiting for an actual hoverboard, but cool.
Over in the Senate, the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the US president, Joe Biden, had made climate action a priority and was going to hold a climate summit on 22 April. Hanson-Young said Biden had spoken to many heads of state but hasn’t yet spoken Morrison: “Why hasn’t this call happened. Is Mr Morrison way down the call list because he’s a climate laggard?”
Simon Birmingham, the leader of the government in the Senate, responded: “I am certain of one thing and that is President Biden won’t be scheduling his call list on the advice of Senate Hanson-Young or the Australian Greens.”
Birmingham said the new Biden administration had already engaged deeply in building the relationship with the Morrison government. He pointed to calls the foreign and defence ministers had received from their counterparts, and noted John Kerry, Biden’s climate envoy, had spoken with Angus Taylor. Birmingham said he had “no doubt” that discussions between Biden and Morrison would happen soon. Birmingham rejected the characterisation of Australia’s climate record as that of a laggard.
Tony Burke has a question for Scott Morrison on why store managers who work the overnight shifts face losing thousands of dollars in shift penalties under the government’s proposed IR legislation.
Scott Morrison flicks it to Christian Porter, which Burke draws attention to.
Porter once again says it is not going to happen.
Michael McCormack failed to find a personality over the summer.
He’s answering a dixer in the same way I imagine one of the prototype AI robots would, if they were fed only buzzwords from a CWA morning tea.
Richard Marles wants to know why workers earning under $57,000 face losing penalty shift rates under the government legislation.
Christian Porter says it isn’t true, because Labor said people would lose money before Christmas and that didn’t happen (the bill hasn’t passed) so obviously no one would listen to Labor.
Tony Burke attempts to table the document from retailers asking for penalty rate cuts ahead of Christmas, but Porter says no.
Question time begins
The first question is from Anthony Albanese and it is on IR (Labor officially resolved to oppose the bill this morning).
(There is no transcript because the ABC is (rightly) dedicating its coverage to the WA bushfire).
Albanese asks why the government is putting forward legislation which will lead to workers take home pay being cut.
Morrison says that “simply isn’t the case” and he’s focused on getting Australians back into work.
It’s going to be a long year.
The rest of the condolence motion for the former governor-general has referred to the federation chamber.
Scott Morrison is presenting the new ministry list, after his small reshuffle, and Anthony Albanese presents his reshuffled list.
And now the first question time of 2021 begins.
ACT Health gave an exemption for Western Australian federal MPs to attend parliament – but as AAP reports some have still decided to return home, just in case the lockdown is extended.
At least four federal MPs have returned home to WA instead of staying in Canberra for the first sitting of parliament for the year.
WA MPs were given special exemption to work in Parliament House after the bulk of their home state went into a hard lockdown to deal with a coronavirus case, forcing the ACT to put in place restrictions on visitors from that state.
Labor frontbencher Madeleine King was one of those who decided to turn around and go home.
“Each of us as members of parliament have different responsibilities and different roles in the parliament; also different responsibilities to our electorates and different private and personal responsibilities,” she told Sky News on Tuesday.
“A few of us made the decision to return home.”
King said she also had some concerns about “the ability to return to Perth” should circumstances in the pandemic change this week.
“Not everyone perhaps shared those concerns as much as me but some did and on that basis I did decide to return home to my community.”
Other Labor MPs to return included Anne Aly, Matt Keogh and Josh Wilson.
AFL boss criticises Eddie McGuire’s press conference performance
Australian Football League CEO Gillon McLachlan has added his voice to the criticism of Eddie McGuire’s press conference performance yesterday, when the club president addressed a report into a culture of systemic racism at the Collingwood Football Club.
The AFL CEO, speaking on Tuesday afternoon, said he would have “articulated things differently” after McGuire kicked off proceedings on Monday by saying it was a “proud” day for his club.
McLachlan said he had spoken with McGuire on Tuesday and told him he would have taken a different approach.
“I had a conversation with Ed,” McLachlan said. “I thought that we sit here today where we should be talking about the report and the recommendations and the honesty with which the football club lent into owning its past. And that I would have articulated things differently. And I think that Ed understands that position, and probably agrees with that.
“His intention was to say that he was wanting to look forward and embrace the recommendations. The articulation, I didn’t agree with it, and I think that yesterday was more of a sobering and confronting day, and we had that conversation.”
McLachlan said the AFL received the report yesterday and that it review the recommendations and look at the implications for Collingwood and the broader industry.
“This has never been about an individual. It needs to be a whole-of-club approach, and frankly, a whole-of-industry approach there.”
When asked about how much responsibility the AFL takes for the incidences of racism, McClachlan said: “This report goes back decades. We all need to continue to have the conversations and do better. We can always do better, and we need learn and go forward. And that’s what Collingwood have done, by commissioning this report, and I think that there’s an honesty and a courage in that. That potentially has been lost in the last 24 hours.”
The 90-second statements have ended, but question time is going to be delayed for the condolence motions for former MPs and past senior government figures who died during the summer.
Major general Philip Jeffery, a former governor general, is the first major condolence motion.
Labor MP Tim Watts has used his 90-second statement to talk all things Craig Kelly, calling him a “conspiracy theory super-spreader”, complete with a picture of Pete Evans’s $15,000 magic Covid light thingy, which was supposed to protect you from Covid. Kelly appeared on Evans’s podcast this week.
He gets in trouble for the prop, but the point stands.
The Australian government does not have an agreement with this Australian firm.
It’s amazing how long it takes for these things to be made public, and picked up, before they are fixed.
The health minister, Greg Hunt, has foreshadowed a debate over allowing a partial DNA donation in Australia related to mitochondrial disease.
Hunt provided Coalition colleagues with a briefing at the joint party room meeting today. He said the government would soon release a consultation paper about how Australia might adopt approach that would allow for such partial DNA donation.
Draft legislation is expected to be ready in late March, with a parliamentary vote possible in May or June. Significantly, Hunt indicated that Coalition MPs would have a free vote on the issue rather than be bound to a unified government position.
Further to Paul’s post, it is worth keeping in mind that for some markets, like Cairns, up to 40% of the tourism market is from international tourists.
So almost half of the tourist market is locked out, not because of state border closures, but because of the international border closure - which will remain closed for this year.
That’s why the government is considering a rescue package - but it also something to keep in mind when you hear the federal government and its MPs complain state governments (cough Queensland cough) aren’t doing enough to restart tourism.
Frydenberg hints at relief package for tourism sector
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, dropped some hints that the government will implement a relief package for the tourism sector even after jobkeeper ends – as some of its MPs including Warren Entsch and Llew O’Brien have called for.
Frydenberg criticised some states for wanting more economic assistance, noting that the federal government had already given Queensland three times the amount of support that its state government had.
He said it was important that confidence in the economy grows, and identified that households had savings, some supports continue beyond March and there are “others that will be considered”.
Frydenberg noted there were new challenges including skills development and “responding to specific areas of need such as the tourism industry around Queensland”.
Several MPs then raised the plight of tourism operators – including one in the Whitsundays who lost $5m of bookings after the most recent bought of border restrictions.
The thrust of these remarks was both criticism of the Queensland government and a call on the federal government to do more.
And just because it is that kind of day:
Here is how Mike Bowers saw the division to suspend standing orders to debate censuring Craig Kelly (Labor lost).
Tfw you’re trending again and you mistake attention for validation
Apparently, one Coalition MP raised “Covid treatment options” as an issue in the party room.
No one responded.
Dollars for doughnuts that MP was Craig Kelly.
The New Zealand Nationals did an entire advertising campaign based around a team rowing together a few years ago.
The Queensland LNP then lifted it (from memory, it was the same advertising firm – Crosby Textor I think) and used exactly the same imagery and ads.
Looks like the ole row boat is getting a third run, with Daniel Hurst reporting:
We understand Morrison’s advice to his colleagues, based on a rowing analogy, is: “Keep your eyes in the boat – no matter what else is happening, to not be distracted, maintain coordination and continue working together.”
Just keeping your eyes on the boat worked out great for the Titanic. Just saying.
The treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, counselled his colleagues that it was important not to accept commentators’ views that Coalition already had the next election in the bag.
At the joint party room meeting, the deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said there was no greater privilege than being in government and delivering for communities.
McCormack said in his recent travels he had found Australians encouraging, optimistic and hopeful.
Scott Morrison to party room: 'Work as a team'
Scott Morrison has urged his Coalition team to be focused on delivery and to work together as a team.
Addressing his colleagues at the joint Coalition party room meeting this morning, Morrison welcomed his team back to Canberra.
Morrison paid tribute to longstanding MP Kevin Andrews and recognised the way he had handled the events of the weekend – losing Liberal preselection in the Victorian seat of Menzies – with great dignity.
Also he welcomed back David Coleman to the party room.
Morrison told Coalition colleagues it was “important we continue our Australian way of handling the challenges before us”.
He argued that approach had set Australia apart from the rest of the world, and Australia must be vigilant about maintaining those efforts. Morrison said not everything goes exactly as we may wish in responding to a global pandemic, but he would much rather be here than elsewhere.
The prime minister said Australians were primarily worried about health and jobs – and so the government must maintain a focus on delivery, in order to maintain confidence of the people.
He said work was needed not just get through but to set Australia up for the period after the pandemic as well.
Morrison described Australia’s workforce challenges as the single largest challenge ahead – including the need to prepare workforce for future jobs, helping workers transition, helping people to fill vacant jobs, and ensuring skills to commercialise science and technology.
“As a party for jobs we have to be a party for skills.”
Morrison noted the death of former Nationals leader Doug Anthony, and stressed that the Coalition parties went to the Australian people “together to seek their re-endorsement”.
Morrison invoked an analogy from his rowing days, urging colleagues to keep their eyes in the boat and work together as a team.
At least 30 homes destroyed in out of control bushfire
The mayor of the City of Swan in the Perth hills, Kevin Bailey, says at least 30 homes have already been destroyed in the out of control bushfire burning around his township.
The Department of Fire and Emergency Services has yet to release an official figure on the number structures that have been engulfed by flame, but Bailey says the losses are significant.
There’s about 7,000 hectares been destroyed and it appears to be some significant property loss. We are just waiting for confirmation of the numbers but we’re looking somewhere in the vicinity of 30-plus homes lost.
The fire was very aggressive yesterday afternoon and through last night. The fire has come out of the hills towards the flat part of the plain. There is an awful lot of smoke through the northern suburbs of Perth and our suburbs are very much affected by the smoke. It has been a very big fire.
A wind change is now threatening the town of Gidgegannup, placing hundreds of homes in danger. Residents in Gidgegannup and Bullsbrook have been told that it is too late to leave and going now would be deadly.
Bailey said that luckily there have so far been no casualties.
We’ve been very fortunate. One fighter has been taken to hospital with smoke related issues but I understand they’ve recovered quite well. Fire plans have been in place for a long time so it is very pleasing to see people react, look after themselves.
I visited the local evacuation centre about 10.30pm last night and there were about 50 people there at the time. There were still on the way in. A lot of people had relocated to other people’s homes, especially with the Covid restrictions on, they’re taking that option, rather than go into a large crowd, they sought other accommodation. Significant numbers of people have been relocated.
You can read more about the Perth Hills bush fire here:
The Greens have demanded the Australian government sever any ties it has with the Myanmar military, after it seized control of the parliament on Monday.
The Australian government must turn their concern into action. Australia must scrap all military ties with Myanmar until democratic processes have been restored, and impose targeted sanctions on General Min Aung Hlaing and all others involved in this action by the military.
The Australian government should also accept any political refugees from Myanmar seeking protection in Australia.”
Rex Patrick, who left Centre Alliance last year, has set up his own political party.
It’s called the Rex Patrick Team - following in the footsteps of his former boss, Nick Xenophon, who called his political party the Nick Xenophon Team. A lot of original thinking going on there.
Continuing the original thinking, his logo is apparently an echidna, and the slogan is ‘sic em’ Rex’ which I am reliably informed is related to this very strange underwear commercial from the 1980s.
Leaving aside why you would ever call underwear ‘Antz Pantz’ and thereby make people think of itches, I am not sure why as a politician you would want to align yourself with this particular echidna.
It’s not an issue covering many front pages – but the cost of insurance in north Queensland (or even in some cases, getting insurance) is outrageously, impossibly high.
It’s a huge issue for a region which is constantly under threat from natural disasters (which, yes, are exacerbated by climate change). Not being able to get flood or cyclone insurance is a massive deal.
It’s an issue which has been building, without solution, for more than six years now.
The Local Government Association of Queensland wants the federal government to fix it:
The peak body representing Queensland’s 77 councils is urging the Federal Government to establish a national reinsurance pool to help reduce the cost of insurance premiums in North Queensland and across northern Australia.
The Local Government Association of Queensland has called for this measure in its Federal Budget submission to the Commonwealth, in support of member councils like Townsville City Council and the Whitsunday Regional Council and their communities, who have been vocal for some time in calling for change.
A precedent already exists from when the former Howard Government established the terrorism reinsurance scheme and the LGAQ is asking the Commonwealth to follow that precedent and establish a similar arrangement for insurance in northern Australia.
The government closes down the debate.
Interestingly, it seems on the numbers, that the crossbench voted with Labor on that.
Richard Marles tries to get the Craig Kelly motion up again. “Anti-vaxxer conspirator” is all he manages before the debate is once again gagged.
Morning all. Amy has brought your attention to the rituals that are deployed at the opening of the parliament.
A trip to the Australian War Memorial. A church service. It’s worth noting that the Labor leader Anthony Albanese raised the frontier wars during his remarks at the war memorial last night – and in stark terms.
Albanese’s point was the stories Australians tell themselves about sacrifices made during armed conflict are not complete.
These stories often omit the war unleashed on the original inhabitants of the land by British settlers. Here’s an excerpt from his speech.
Our nation has stood against darkness and won, but darkness is not vanquished from the world. Freedom is not something we can keep carelessly. Nor is freedom free. We gather here to remember those who have paid its price. But there are holes in our memory we need to fill. Not least the Indigenous soldiers who went and fought. Those First Australians who donned the khaki and left their homes to fight for a nation that was not prepared to fight for them. A nation that did not treat them as equals. Not when they went. Not when they returned from those distant battlefields. Yet they went. They fought for a continent that had been the home of their people for a long, unbroken chain of millennia. A continent for which their ancestors had fought so desperately during the frontier wars — wars we have not yet learned to speak of so loudly. They died protecting their loved ones. They died protecting their way of life. They died for their country. We must remember them just as we remember those who fought more recent foes.
Here is the motion (which won’t be argued because the government is using its numbers to gag debate)
That the House:
a) the Member for Hughes’ repeated use of social media to spread damaging mistruths about COVID-19;
b) comments made by the Member for Hughes regarding COVID-19 vaccinations which have the potential to undermine public confidence in the upcoming rollout;
c) the Member for Hughes’ claims have repeatedly been refuted by health experts;
d) last week, the Member for Hughes told SBS he is in “regular contact with the Health Minister and the Prime Minister’s office”;
e) yesterday at the National Press Club, the Prime Minister again refused to condemn the Member for Hughes’ irresponsible and dangerous comments during a pandemic;
- calls on the Prime Minister to condemn the irresponsible and dangerous comments of the Member for Hughes.
The government wins the division to shut down debate.
Ged Kearney jumps up to try and have the motion censuring Craig Kelly again –
“The member for Hughes is a dangerous fool and a real leader would have (censured) him by now” is all she gets out, before she too is shut down.
Darren Chester asks her to withdraw the comment – Tony Smith, the Speaker, says she doesn’t have to.
“Mr Speaker, the member for Hughes is a dangerous menace to the national Covid response,” Mark Butler says, before he is shut down.
“You never shut down Craig,” someone from the Labor benches calls out, as a division is called.
The government better get a wriggle on – its benches are almost empty.
Labor moves to censure Craig Kelly
Mark Butler has begun the parliamentary sitting with an attempt to suspend standing orders to censure Craig Kelly for his “irresponsible and dangerous” comments on Covid, and calls for the prime minister to bring him into line.
The government is not allowing the debate.
The bells have rung, the prayers have been said, and the business has begun.
The government hasn’t said how much the jobseeker rate will be once the covid supplement runs out on 31 March.
It’s been dropped to $150 a fortnight – so an extra $75 a week – from its former rate of $40 a day.
Even before the pandemic, there were screaming calls to raise the rate. The pandemic saw a the rate almost doubled for a few months, which lifted many long term unemployed people out of poverty for the first time. There hasn’t been a real world raise to the rate (outside of the pandemic) for two decades.
We know whatever the government lands on, it’s not going to be a lot. Beyond that, we don’t know what figure the government will decide on.
This morning, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry argued for the rate to stay at $40 a day, with increases to rent assistance, or public transport subsidies, and increased access to training, while speaking to RN Breakfast. It wants supplement to cover internet/public transport access – which it says will help people access work. But in terms of the daily rate, it only wants the supplement to remain for the long-term unemployed.
“The main focus for unemployment policy for people who are recently unemployed is to get them back into work as soon as possible, and that is more than just the rate,” ACCI’s Jenny Lambert told the ABC.
The Business Council of Australia has recommended an increase. Economists have recommended an increase. It’s not out of the goodness of their hearts – it’s because it is good for the economy. The reason the government increased the supplement at the beginning of the pandemic, was purely to save the economy. Because people without money spend money when they get it. The only people who can afford to hold on to money, are those who have enough to cover their daily expenses. And that is not people on jobseeker.
Parliament is about to officially begin for 2021.
A little more detail about the Labor caucus meeting this morning, where the opposition leader, Anthony Albanese, warmed up some of his lines for the next election.
After thanking the caucus for all of the well wishes after his recent car accident, Albanese referred to the twin themes of “no one held back” and “no one left behind”. Both of these lines are expected to feature heavily in Labor messaging in the lead-up to the election that could be held in the second half of this year or the first half of next year.
The Labor leader argued that the “no one held back” line should be seen as “a call to aspiration”.
Albanese also reported to his colleagues that the national campaign committee is now meeting – but he noted it had not met for over a decade.
(A short bit of background here: the Labor review of the 2019 election defeat said no formal campaign committee had been established, “creating no forum for formulating an effective strategy or for receiving reports evaluating progress against the strategy”. The review called for a formal campaign committee to be established early, with representatives of the party and the leadership group.)
Albanese said that at the next election, Scott Morrison would be asking for the Liberal-National Coalition to have more time in office than John Howard had.
Albanese portrayed the Coalition agenda as cutting jobkeeper, jobseeker and wages.
“Once we get past March, and it will be after parliament rises, workers and businesses will feel the impact of these cuts,” Albanese said.
“People in Queensland haven’t forgotten that Scott Morrison came to Queensland to campaign against decisions Annastacia Palaszczuk took to keep people safe. People in Western Australia haven’t forgotten that Scott Morrison joined with Clive Palmer to oppose decisions that Mark McGowan took to keep people safe.”
I think the prime minister should outline what steps he is going to take to stop Craig Kelly’s relentless campaign at undermining the nation’s Covid response. At the least he’s got to condemn it.
He can’t pat him on the back yesterday, saying he’s doing a good job as the member for Hughes, when Craig Kelly spends most of his time undermining the advice of our public health experts.
He’s accused the chief medical officer of cruise missiles against humanity. He said that mask wearing is child abuse. Every step of the way, as we’ve been trying to build this response, trying to put Australians in the best position to get through this pandemics, we’ve had someone receiving taxpayer funds as an MP, sitting in the Government’s party room, undermining that response. The prime minister needs to take action.
Mark Butler is holding his press conference on Craig Kelly’s claims.
He says it’s a hard line to thread because of the whole Streisand Effect (drawing attention to something thereby creating more attention for it) but says Kelly’s reach is vast.
The chats are slowly happening
Greens to call for publicly owned search engine if Google exits Australian search market
The Greens have decided that rather than let Microsoft’s Bing sweep in if Google decides to exit the Australian search market, they will call for a publicly owned search engine. The move should be accompanied by strong privacy protection, with Australians owning their own data.
On 15 February, the Greens will move a bill to cap political donations, in an attempt to capitalise on Don Farrell suggesting Labor could support such a move. They also want to ban donations from a whole suite of industries, but are prepared to trade that away if progress can be made on the cap.
The Greens are also going to argue that net zero by 2050 is not good enough, the major parties need to announce 2030 targets.
They cite the Climate Change Authority report that Australia must double its target to achieve a 50% emissions reduction by 2030 to keep temperature increases to 2 degrees.
The Greens themselves want a 75% reduction, to aim for 1.5C.
On vaccines, the Greens want Australia to formally aim for herd immunity, to expand its portfolio by signing a deal with Moderna, and create a sovereign mRNA vaccine capability.
NSW reports no new local Covid cases
NSW has also reported no locally acquired Covid cases in the last 24 hours.
It’s the 16th day in a row with no local cases – but NSW Health authorities would like more people to get tested. Testing rates have dropped to just over 6,600.
There were two Covid cases – acquired overseas – reported.
Labor to oppose industrial relations bill
This shouldn’t surprise anyone – but then again, there have been some odd positions taken lately – but Labor has formally decided to oppose the industrial relations omnibus bill.
Daniel Hurst tells me Labor will support the media bargaining code in the lower house – but wants it to go to a Senate committee for a closer look.
There is always a lot of religion involved in a parliament representing a secular nation.
Mike Bowers was there for the traditional ecumenical service ahead of the new parliamentary year.
Royal Australian College of GPs president condemns Craig Kelly for 'disseminating misinformation'
Actual doctors are censuring Craig Kelly – the president of the Royal Australian College of GPs, Dr Karen Price, has taken aim at the government backbencher for his appearance on disgraced conspiracy theorist’s Pete Evan’s podcast:
It is unacceptable that Craig Kelly is persisting in disseminating misinformation concerning Covid-19 and to appear on this podcast with a disgraced former celebrity chef is very unhelpful,” she said.
We are still in the middle of a pandemic that is leaving many people feeling understandably anxious and exhausted. Those Pete Evans are preying on that anxiety to peddle false information and he should not be enabled by anyone, especially a federal member of parliament.
I understand Mr Kelly’s argument that he is happy and willing to advance his point of view with any interviewer. However, he must appreciate that Pete Evans is using these platforms to spread alarming misinformation, including content linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory and Covid-19 denialist claims.
As the president of an organisation representing thousands of GPs across Australia I urge all public figures, particularly elected politicians, to act responsibly.”
Craig Kelly worked in his family’s furniture business. Pete Evans is a chef. Welcome to 2021 where actual doctors have to tell people not to go to chefs and furniture salesmen for their medical advice.
Parliament will be starting at midday today – the first part room and caucus meetings are being held at the moment, so we’ll let you know what comes from that.
The home affairs departmental head, Mike Pezzullo, was on Sky News this morning – seems like there is a pretty important job remaining vacant at the moment.
Craig Kelly appears to be emerging as a theme of the day.
Mark Butler, Labor’s health shadow minister, has announced he’ll hold a press conference today - the topic?
Scott Morrison refusing to condemn Craig Kelly’s dangerous Covid-19 conspiracies.
Simon Birmingham was on ABC RN Breakfast this morning, where he was also asked about Craig Kelly and his views.
He said being a democracy, the government could not control everything its MPs say.
(Which must be news to political parties who sit in opposition to the government, given how many times government leaders have demanded those parties show leadership and take responsibility for what their MPs say.)
Anyways, Birmingham also wants you to listen to the experts and not his colleague.
Whether you’re a member of the public, a member of the media, or a member of parliament – everyone should rely upon and promote the advice of the medical experts in their fields,”
He did not censure Kelly.
The RBA will hand down its rate decision today.
It has currently set the cash rate target at 0.1%. That doesn’t leave a lot of room to move (and the bank has already said it doesn’t want to go negative) so I think it is a safe bet to say there will be no movement today.
Yesterday, when asked about Craig Kelly’s continual push of debunked or unproven Covid treatment options – and raising of questions over vaccines – Scott Morrison did not censure his MP. He said people shouldn’t get their information from Facebook, but instead visit official government websites.
But people do listen to Craig Kelly.
As journalist Cameron Wilson pointed out:
Pressed again, Morrison said:
He’s not my doctor and he’s not yours. But he does a great job in Hughes.
That’s right – Craig Kelly is not anyone’s doctor. Before coming to parliament, he worked for his family’s (now failed) furniture business (it imported flatpack furniture from Asia and onsold it to larger retailers).
But he is a member of the government.
Anthony Albanese was also asked about Craig Kelly this morning. Here is what he had to say:
Craig Kelly’s actions are dangerous.
And what worries me isn’t just that his comments are dangerous, that they endanger people’s health, that those mixed messages will undermine our response to Covid. And in terms of vaccinations, if you have members of the government saying different things, I find it quite extraordinary.
But yesterday at the National Press Club, the prime minister was asked a very clear question to distance himself from Craig Kelly, and he said he was doing a fantastic job as the Member for Hughes. Craig Kelly is not doing a fantastic job.
Craig Kelly is doing a dangerous job. Craig Kelly is a problem. And it’s a problem for the government and it’s a problem for the country.
And leadership requires you to make tough decisions, including tough decisions with regard to the way that you run your political organisation.
I’ve made tough decisions in intervening into the New South Wales branch and the Victorian branch to make them stronger.
I’ve made tough decisions in removing people from the Labor party who are bringing it into disrepute.
Scott Morrison has a member of his caucus who is undermining the health response to this pandemic. And yet, he won’t even say anything to distance himself from Craig Kelly.
Seems like the criticism of the government’s implementation of the natural disaster royal commission recommendations is having an impact. David Littleproud has introduced a tracking document, which will lay down the implementation’s progress.
Victorian offices can lift capacity to 75% from 8 February
Victorian office workers, you are being called back on-site.
Daniel Andrews has announced that from 8 February, both the private and public sectors can lift their office capacity to 75%.
Speaking of lines, Scott Morrison again repeated the one he has created for net emissions this morning, turning climate action into Sophie’s Choice.
Q: You’ve said it’s preferable to get to net zero by 2050,
Morrison: It is.
Q: Why won’t you set that as a target yet?
Because when I know how we can get there, then I can tell Australia when we’re going to get there. Because if you don’t get there by technology, you get there by taxes. And I will not make Australians pay higher taxes to get to net zero.
Just your daily reminder that it is a) not a binary choice and b) no one is proposing taxes. No one. The carbon price was a decade ago. The world has moved on. And technology is not a zero-cost solution either.
Yesterday, Scott Morrison was asked this question:
what concrete action will you take to ensure those companies that took billions, or tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers for jobkeeper and then funnelled it through to executive bonuses and dividends, pay that money back?
And responded with:
I’m not in the politics of envy, I’ll leave that to my opponents.
He went on to explain the benefit that jobkeeper had in keeping companies and businesses afloat during the pandemic. But given the damage inflicted by the Centrelink robodebt scandal (where the Coalition government decided to take away the human checks and reverse the onus of proof for welfare recipients) calling accountability for businesses that profited from taxpayer funds “the politics of envy” jars. And says a lot more about priorities.
Andrew Leigh was on 2SM this morning, where he was asked about that phrase:
Nothing like having clichés thrown at you by a former ad man, is there? But the fact is that the prime minister designed robodebt to harass people on welfare. Then when people ask reasonable questions about why jobkeeper is going to millionaire CEOs or billionaire shareholders, he dismisses them with the oldest cliché in the book. Now the fact is, this is about fairness and decency. It’s about making sure that taxpayer dollars are spent where they need to go at a time when we’re facing a recession and a pandemic.
The pandemic isn’t the only thing that has led to this Victorian abattoir closing but its impacts mean you’ll be seeing these sorts of statements more and more – particularly after March, when the stimulus comes to an end.
Perth Hills bushfire threatens more homes
Spare a thought or eight for the people living near the Perth hills who are facing an out-of-control bushfire which has already taken three homes.
As AAP reports:
An out-of-control bushfire burning near the Perth Hills has engulfed at least three homes and is threatening more, with locals in a large swathe of the region told it is too late to leave.
A firefighter has been injured, suffering minor burns before returning to fight the blaze, which has raged through the night near the town of Wooroloo.
The shires of Mundaring, Chittering, Northam, and the City of Swan are being impacted by the fire.
Western Australia’s Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) updated its emergency warning for the blaze early on Tuesday, expanding the warning area.
A region stretching east from Wooroloo to the Walyunga national park has been told it is to late to leave.
“You must shelter before the fire arrives, as the extreme heat will kill you well before the flames reach you,” the warning said.
Meanwhile, surrounding areas including Brigadoon, Aveley, Ellenbrook and The Vines have been told to leave if they are not prepared to fight the blaze.
The bushfire was unpredictable and weather conditions are rapidly changing, the warning said, urging people to stay vigilant.
The fire reportedly claimed a number of homes on Monday night, and was burning close to a number of other properties.
DFES Incident controller Murray McBride told the ABC at least three houses were believed to be destroyed and one fire truck incinerated.
“It’s very difficult for the crews to control,” he said.
“This is a fast-moving fire. Don’t think you can stay home and defend this fire.”
An evacuation centre has been set up at Brown Park Recreation Complex on Amherst Road in Swan View.
Wooroloo falls into the Perth Metropolitan area which is subject to a five-day lockdown due to a COVID-19 community outbreak.
DFES said anyone forced to leave their homes should wear a mask and continue to follow precautions, including maintaining appropriate physical distancing.
Victoria reports no new local cases of Covid
Today’s Covid numbers are slowly making their way in.
WA’s won’t be available until later today because of the time difference.
We didn’t learn a lot of new things in the prime minister’s speech yesterday – he had said late last year that he was favourable to zero emissions by 2050, and essentially just repeated that in his press club address.
Greg Jericho has taken a look at why that isn’t enough:
Labor has added “on your side” to its party logo – it now sits next to the Labor party branding on all its communications.
Tim Watts also managed to incorporate it into his doorstop interview this morning – so you can add another three word slogan to the Australian political lexicon.
Watts was speaking about Scott Morrison (and the rest of the Coalition’s leadership) refusing to censure Craig Kelly (who just did a 90-minute podcast with conspiracy theorist Pete Evans) over his continual misleading and false Covid treatment theories.
A real leader would be on the side of the Australian people during this pandemic. An Albanese Labor party is on the side of the doctors in this pandemic. We’re on the side of the nurses. We’re on side of the epidemiologists and the scientists. Because in a pandemic, that’s what you need to do to be on the side of the Australian people. That’s where we need Scott Morrison to be during this pandemic.
The draft legislation paper is out: you can find it here.
Can’t disagree with any of this, from Amy McQuire:
The new Essential poll is out.
With approval comes expectations of a good job. Let’s see how that plays out this year.
As far as I know, Joe Biden hasn’t made it to Scott Morrison’s number in his call list so far but there are other chats being had.
Mike Bowers attended the Last Post ceremony yesterday, which is attended by political leaders ahead of the commencement of the new parliament sitting.
Western Australia is in day two of its snap lockdown, after a security guard working at a quarantine hotel tested positive for Covid. The security guard has the more contagious new strain.
More than 3,100 people were tested in WA on Sunday afternoon. Those results, and the ones over the next two days will give a clearer idea of whether the lockdown will be extended beyond the five days. So far, no one else has tested positive and more than 60 close contacts have been placed in isolation as a precaution.
Labor is yet to announce its alternative climate policy – because it too has issues within its own ranks. Don’t underestimate the impact Joel Fitzgibbon’s very vocal complaints – as a backbencher, he is everywhere and on everything, airing all of the grievances. At the moment, the Labor leadership don’t have anything to bring the party around when it comes to climate.
Still, Labor is in opposition, and it is the government’s lack of policy direction on this topic which should always remain the main focus. The Coalition at the moment though, is being a little quieter about the party room unease, whereas disgruntled Labor MPs are more open, and more available than a reality TV star pushing their third show.
Queensland firm wins US contract for coronavirus tests
In good local news, a Brisbane based health firm has just been granted a contract to help the US speed up its Covid test production.
As AAP reports:
The US government has awarded a contract worth $US231.8m ($A303.4m) to Brisbane technology company Ellume to expand the production of its home Covid-19 tests.
The funding will help Ellume to ramp up their production capacity by 640,000 tests per day by December 2021, the US Department of Defence said on Monday.
The self-performed tests can be sold over the counter in the US and they give results within 15 minutes.
Ellume’s tests won US FDA emergency approval in December and the US government will procure 8.5m of them.
Ellume CEO Dr Sean Parsons said the Brisbane company had a “running start” at getting US approval as they had been working on a home flu test for “the best part of a decade”.
“When Covid arose, we were able to take that core technology and spin that into a Covid test pretty quickly,” Parsons told Nine’s Today program.
“It is a single-use kit...You take a swab of your nose, apply it to the test and you have a result in 15 minutes.”
The tests show roughly 95% accuracy, White House Covid-19 senior advisor Andy Slavitt said during a press conference on Monday.
The test is not currently used in Australia, but Ellume has been in talks with the federal government.
“We have had some discussions with the federal government, but nowhere near the kind of engagement we have had in the US. We hope that will change and evolve over time,” Parsons said.
Welcome to the first sitting day of 2021, where we will be talking about all the issues which plagued 2020!
This being Australian politics, we will also be talking about unresolved issues from 2010, because nothing ever moves quickly in this country (unless its needles in strawberries – that we can respond to in 24 hours).
The leaders attended the traditional parliament-eve Last Post ceremony at the war memorial over night, and this morning, are at St Christopher’s for the ecumenical service.
Once they step back out onto the church steps, it is once again, business as usual.
Christian Porter, the government leader of business in the house, as well as the attorney-general, and the other WA MPs have been granted exemptions from quarantine to attend the parliament sitting.
That doesn’t mean things will run smoothly though. After more than a year of having debates shut down, Labor has upped its responses. The opposition was responding by calling repeatedly for quorums (upsetting government backbenchers who are the ones who have to leave meetings to go make up the numbers, as well as interrupting their speech time) but now, as Daniel Hurst reports, Labor is taking it to the streets.
Mostly though, the government is going to be asked to address its own policy decisions to end (at this stage) jobkeeper and what is left of the covid supplement for jobseeker, in March.
The government has done its market research and “comeback” remains the term it believes will best sell its message, so you’ll hear that over and over and over again.
But the world hasn’t recovered from the pandemic, and Australia is at the mercy of those global economic headwinds, so it is not going to be all smooth sailing for the economy. Australia itself is still closed to the world, and that brings its own issues. Not to mention the thousands of Australians who are still trying to make their way home.
Then you have the climate debate, which this country’s parliament has been struggling with for the past decade. Scott Morrison keeps banging on about it being a binary choice between technology and taxes – but no one is talking about taxing our way to lower emissions, and technology isn’t a zero-cost solution.
Then the Coalition party room is sitting there like a tinder box just waiting to explode – the Nationals because they get antsy about being thought of as the junior partner, and the ideologues because well, that’s self-explanatory.
All in all, there is a lot to deal with, with not a lot of room to move, and not a lot of policies there to dissect. We truly remain in the worst timeline.
You have Amy Remeikis with you for most of the day, with Mike Bowers, Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst and Paul Karp in Canberra and the rest of the Guardian brains trust keeping you informed across the nation.
I’ve already had three coffees, so you know it is going to be a good day.