What we learned, Tuesday 9 March.

That’s where I will leave you for today. Here’s what we learned:

Via the ABC, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says Australian economist Sean Turnell, currently detained in Myanmar, is being held in “arbitrary detention” and that the military junta has not provided the Australian government with any “confirmation of the reasons” for his detainment.

Slightly sharper @dfat comment on Australian economist Sean Turnell, who is still detained in Myanmar. DFAT says Turnell is being held in arbitrary detention and the junta has not told the Australian govt anything about the "secret state financial information" allegedly uncovered pic.twitter.com/LIz92fzaNV

— Stephen Dziedzic (@stephendziedzic) March 9, 2021

Anderson is then asked if he would ever support Barnaby Joyce returning to the party leadership, and says he won’t comment. But somehow his follow-up comment ends up mentioning his father and Dunkirk. He then says:

I think the bush understands what it means to build a strong nation. I think it’s committed to it. And the National party is a strong repository of those rural values.

Whatever that means. Speaking of values, what does Anderson think of the recent sexual assault allegations in Parliament House?

Strap in for this answer, it’s a doozy. Anderson says:

None of us feel any joy when one human being abuses another, me least of all. And I can only say that it worries me that as a culture, perhaps if I can put it this way, we have mocked chivalry for so long, and now we think we can solve these problems with never-ending laws ... what is needed is a sound return to a proper respect for the worth and dignity of everyone else.

The sort of respect that means you don’t take someone out for the express purpose of getting them legless. It’s appalling. But I just say this – we need to stop and think, is the parliament in some ways reflecting what we have become as a culture? Have we become too hardened, too opportunistic, too focused on the individual? It’s a big question for the parliament. But I think it’s a big question for us as a culture. The canary in the mine for my way of thinking, this horrendous problem we have, the record levels of anxiety and depression and self-harm among children, for example. The numbers are really quite horrifying.

I think that’s telling us that we lack a narrative, we lack the things that bind us together, that we once had. And a lack of respect for one another, a sort of dog eat dog approach, when we see it right under our noses because it’s played out in public and we’re rightfully horrified. And we do need to ask ourselves, what are each one of us going to do to counter that?


What about climate change? Does Anderson think it’s reasonable for the federal government to set up to a target of net zero by 2050? (Currently they’ve just set it as a soft goal.)

I think it’s unbelievably important to level with people and explain how you’ll get there. The reason why we’ve been so jammed, if you haven’t had a road map, and with great respect, what has happened is that people in the leafy suburbs have said we will sign up to this objective or that objective and we’ll pay for it with someone else’s job.

That’s what we saw in the last federal election. Another division in Australia. I want to make it plain. Climate change is a serious issue. I happen to believe that agriculture may very well provide a very big part of the answer. I’m not a pessimist. I am saying that I do think it’s got to be a herd mentality about it. I genuinely believe that. I support the PM in saying let’s just work out how we’re going to do it because if you can’t level with the Australian people about who is going to pay what, you won’t get the national unity that’s so critical on this and many other issues.

Anderson says he “broadly supports” the federal government’s technology road map and is “plugged in to what a lot of younger farmers think”. But he says Australian debate is currently overtaken by “ideologues” and we need “a much more nuanced debate”.

If we do massive damage to any sector, including agriculture – and agriculture feeds and clothes people – we run the risk of perhaps making ourselves cleaner but poorer while someone else becomes dirtier, richer, and more powerful.

Asked about the possibility of building a new coal-fired power station, Anderson says: “Some of the choices we’re making at the moment may mean that Australians unwittingly are signing up to killing our manufacturing sector.”

So, that appears to be a yes to coal.


The former Nationals leader John Anderson, who has put his name forward for the NSW Senate ticket, has told the ABC he is seeking to return to parliament because he is “concerned about the challenges the country faces internally and indeed globally”.

He says his perspective “can help move the dial a little”.

He also says he has “something of a record” in bringing stability to the National party.

Does Michael McCormack bear some responsibility for failing to mend divisions in the Nationals, host Patricia Karvelas asks?


I’m not going to allocate responsibilities. It’s not fruitful for me to do. Everyone has a role to play, and I’d like to help.

What’s your assessment of his leadership?

I give Michael very high marks for courage and for persistence and for decency. I think it’s been hard for him, to, if you like, find the room to grow into the role for a whole variety of reasons. Which we need to move past. I’d like to be part of them moving past that.

I am very aware the Australian people are worried about the political infighting, a lot of it is generated by what is known by identity politics, when we tribalise, and the idea of arguing our broad philosophies for a better Australia have given way to the anger plus disgust, the contempt that Arthur Brooks, the American author, talks about, that has poisoned our body politic. I think that Australia’s situation is quite grave. I don’t think we’re paying enough attention to it.

He has ruled out a leadership run.

Karvelas asks Anderson if he hasn’t already had his shot, and should focus on supporting younger, possibly female talent in the party. He says he benefited from people doing that for him, but adds that right now there is a need for people in parliament “who have had the benefit of long experience, long perspective”.


Western Australia’s premier says he would support a wide-ranging inquiry into corruption within the state’s housing department if Labor wins re-election, AAP reported.

Ahead of Saturday’s state poll, Mark McGowan also vowed to bring back former corruption watchdog John McKechnie, whose reappointment was blocked last year by a parliamentary committee.

The retired supreme court justice led the Corruption and Crime Commission for five years and helped to build the case against disgraced West Australian bureaucrat Paul Whyte.

Former housing department executive Whyte has pleaded guilty to more than 500 corruption charges relating to the theft of more than $22m.

He remains in prison awaiting sentencing.

The premier has accused retiring Liberal MP Jim Chown of using his position on the committee to block McKechnie’s reappointment, which he has linked to the CCC’s ongoing probe into the misuse of electoral allowances.

“Mr McKechnie was an outstanding corruption fighter,” McGowan said on Tuesday.

“His reappointment to the CCC was stopped by the Liberal party. And that’s basically because he investigated some of their upper house MPs and found gross corruption by Liberal party members, so then they blocked his reappointment.

“If we are successful on Saturday, obviously we’d seek to reappoint him.”

He added that he would back a comprehensive inquiry into the housing department if recommended by McKechnie.


Daniel Andrews wasn’t at home when he fell - he slipped on the stairs at the accomodation he was staying at on the Mornington Peninsula, which is about an hour out of Melbourne.

The Premier's office has since confirmed he slipped on wet stairs at the accommodation he was staying at on the Peninsula. He was taking a break for the long weekend and had planned to go from the Peninsula to the Healesville press conference this morning @abcmelbourne #springst https://t.co/KTm4UBexbi

— Bridget Rollason (@bridgerollo) March 9, 2021

Burney also said that the Victorian government deserved “massive congratulations” for calling a truth and reconciliation commission, as part of the treaty process.

She told Patricia Karvelas:

You and I have spoken over the last year and a half, two years, about the Uluru Statement and the fact that the Andrews government is using the announcement of this Truth and Justice Commission to help pave the way to treaty in Victoria is really important and really exciting. We all know how important truth is and truth for me is a real liberator.

And I think if there could be a national process of truth telling, which Labor backs in, as part of the Uluru Statement and it’s something that we as a nation really, really need. It’s not about apportioning blame or any of that, it’s about everyone in this country having a solid background in the truth of what happened in Australia over the last 230 odd years.

Burney, speaking on the ABC, the Australian government should introduce more reasonable mutual obligation requirements. She’ll move amendments on the jobseeker bill on Monday to that end, but says Labor will vote for the $50 per fortnight increase.

Labor has taken the position which I think is the right position, and we will support the increase, be it $50 a fortnight, and obviously that legislation has to get through next week, otherwise everyone on JobSeeker will go back to the original Newstart rate. So there’s an imperative to get this done next week.

Linda Burney has shot down the prime minister’s suggestion that people on jobseeker need to move to regional Australia to get a job, saying it’s an oversimplification: if you live in Melbourne or Sydney or Newcastle, “why would you give that up to move to regional Australia for six weeks and then come back and try to get back in to a very difficult rental market?”

It is, practically, very difficult to move for work, Burney says.

I’ll add, as a person who has repeatedly moved for work, that moving house is a very expensive exercise even if you just consider the process of paying a new bond and the first month’s rent before your old bond is released.

Prime minister Scott Morrison did not seek legal advice from the solicitor general before rejecting calls for an independent inquiry into the allegation against Christian Porter.

More on this story from Paul Karp here:


Jobseeker increase 'wildly inadequate', inquiry hears

A Senate inquiry into the government’s jobseeker bill has concluded its one and only hearing before it reports on Friday.

I have already provided some of the key points from the morning session, including comments from Julie Stephen, who offered a moving personal reflection of her life on welfare payments.

To bring you up to speed on the rest of the day’s evidence, it’s fair to say the remaining witnesses – bar the Department of Social Services – were also highly critical of the $3.50-a-day increase.

The committee heard from Paul Zahra, from the Australia Retailers Association, who argued the $50 per fortnight boost to payments proposed by the government is insufficient. Zahra said the effective reduction to payments from April would hurt retailers due reduced spending on goods such as food and pharmaceutical.

Matt Grundoff, of the Australia Institute, said his organisation had done research show there was a “negative relationship” between the rate of unemployment payments and the unemployment rate. This meant more generous income support payments did not disincentivise work.

In a session considering the impact of the bill on Indigenous community, Leanne Caton, of the the Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory, said the $50 per fortnight increase was “wildly inadequate” and a “slap in the face” to welfare recipients.

Outside the hearing, Australian Unemployed Workers Union, which is run by and represents jobseekers, said in a statement it was “appalled” its members were not able to appear at the hearing.

The union’s view was shared by Cassandra Goldie, the chief executive of the Australian Council of Social Service, who said she was “very troubled” the inquiry did not allow more people who would be affected by the legislation to give evidence.

Stephens was the only jobseeker who gave evidence today.


Bit of media news:

National Indigenous Television (NITV) has announced that acclaimed writer and journalist, @LatimoreJack has been appointed as Managing Editor for @NITV digital offering

— amanda meade (@meadea) March 9, 2021

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbullhas been calling for Australia to reignite the Republican Movement once the Queen’s reign ends.

Now, if you have been following the blog all day I’m sure you are totally across the history of Australian Republicanism, but if by any chance you aren’t, I have good news!

Guardian Australia has been creating fast informative videos to help you make sense of the day’s news on their Tiktok account. Today we are talking ‘The Republic’, so you can get up to date in less time than it takes to make a cup of tea at the office kitchenette.

Have a watch below and follow our account to check out our other Tiktok adventures.

Australia as a republic, featuring Guardian Australia’s poorly-cared for fiddle-leaf fig.

The UK has been warned not to support former Australian finance minister Mathias Cormann’s nomination to be the next secretary fo the OECD.

Cormann is currently in the top two, alongside former EU trade commissioner and Swedish politician Cecilia Malström.

It’s understood the UK has privately told Australia that Cormann has its backing, but that position is being criticised by the Labour party and also by European nations, most of whom back Malström.

Michael Bloss, the German Green MEP, said:

Acting on the climate crisis and economic cooperation must go hand in hand. The UK’s proposal to appoint Mathias Cormann is adding fuel to the fire and unnecessarily prolonging the fossil fuel era. Cormann is being directly supported by climate delayer and Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison. All our alarm bells should be ringing.

Read more here:

I regret to inform you that I have misled the blog readers about Australia’s biggest youtuber.

I said it was a chap named Lachlan who is a Fortnite star with 14.6m subscribers. Have since been told it may be an Australian account called LazarBeam, also a Fortnite player, who has 18.3m subscribers.

Either way: both considerably outpace Sky News.

I feel very old.

Visitors to Adelaide urged to get tested for Covid-19 after wastewater detection

South Australian health authorities have urged anyone who visited Adelaide in the past week – which would include people who attended the Adelaide Festival and Adelaide Writer’s Week — to get tested for Covid-19 after fragments of the virus were detected in sewage.

Wastewater testing in Adelaide has returned a strong postive result for the virus for two days in a row. The result was recorded in a catchment that included the CBD.

AAP reports that it’s possible the results have come from old cases of the virus among people in the city’s quarantine hotels, but that authorities had nevertheless urged anyone who visited the Adelaide CBD last week to get tested if they have even the mildest of symptoms.

Deputy chief public health officer Emily Kirkpatrick told reporters:

It’s really important that we do remain alert in the community.

While we’re not saying that there’s any indication that there is community transmission here in South Australia, it is really important that if you are out and about that you do get tested if you have even the slightest of symptoms.

Kirkpatrick said SA was also checking with other states on the movement of people across the border in recent weeks to see if they correlated with anyone who had recently recovered from having the virus.

SA reported two new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday, both in hotel quarantine. They are a teenage girl and one in a man in his 60s, who recently returned from overseas.

There were 1,072 doses of Covid-19 vaccine administered in Victoria yesterday, bringing the total number of doses administered so far to 15,494.

Victoria will also start distributing AstraZeneca vaccinations this week. It has an allocation of 50,800 doses from the federal government.

Jenny Hocking: Harry and Meghan interview 'lifts the veil of royal secrecy'

Monash University Professor Jenny Hocking, biographer of Gough Whitlam and author of The Palace Letters, has weighed in on that explosive interview between Oprah and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.

Hocking says the Meghan and Harry interview is a rare insight into the mechanics of a monarchy Australians are often kept in the dark about.

She says:

It is extraordinary. It’s partly because we know so little about the real workings of the monarchy, I think. To have an interview like this to expose some of the inner workings of the monarchy on a personal level in a way that is highly unusual.

What it has done is lift the veil on things that are so difficult to understand. Royal secrecy, as I know through my Palace Letters case, is a very difficult thing to break through, so in that in sense it’s revelatory. It took a high court action in my case and four years of legal arguments to have access to documents that the Queen was stopping us from looking at.

[This interview] one of several instances recently where the veil of royal secrecy has been lifted and what you see there is not altogether pleasant. We have here a series of revelations in this interview with Meghan and Harry about activities within the palace, but there have been others lately, such as the Queen’s interference with legislation to ensure it does not negatively influence the Queen’s financial interests before it gets to parliament.

One thing that comes out clearly is how much the royal family is a firm. It’s a family firm that keeps things in house.

Two Indigenous people died in custody in NSW last week but their deaths were not reported publicly until a bureaucrat was questioned during a parliamentary budget estimates hearing today, AAP has reported.

AAP’s Hannah Ryan writes:

An Indigenous man in his mid-30s died last Tuesday at Long Bay Hospital, which treats NSW prisoners.

Authorities believe his death was “natural” and that he had “multiple” medical issues.

“It was identified by Health and by our staff supervising him when he actually was unresponsive and then obviously support was immediately provided,” Corrective Services NSW Commissioner Peter Severin told a Budget Estimates session on Tuesday.

An Indigenous woman in her mid-50s died in her cell at Silverwater Women’s Prison three days later.

Mr Severin said it’s believed she killed herself.

Both deaths will be referred to the coroner.

The NSW government did not notify the public or the media of the deaths, with the latter only revealed during questioning at Budget Estimates by Greens MP David Shoebridge.

The government does not publicise deaths in custody, Mr Severin said.

It was “not appropriate” to advise the public of deaths without any detail and “cause a lot of anger, a lot of angst and a lot of grief”, he said.

The government does inform the Aboriginal Legal Service and Department of Aboriginal Affairs of Indigenous deaths in custody, Mr Severin said.

Mr Shoebridge criticised the failure to notify the public.

“Two First Nations deaths in a single week is devastating and the government’s new policy of secrecy only adds to the growing concern about First Nations deaths in custody,” he said in a statement.

“The government’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement has not been to address deaths in custody but to hide them from public scrutiny.”

Daniel Andrews has 'several broken ribs' and is in intensive care after fall

Victorian premier Daniel Andrews will be in intensive care for the next few days after breaking several ribs and doing vertebrae damage after falling down “wet and slippery stairs”.

Here Andrews’s the full statement:

Early this morning, I was admitted to hospital after slipping and falling on wet and slippery stairs. A CT scan has revealed several broken ribs and vertebrae damage, and subsequent medical advice has recommended I remain in intensive care for the next few days.

Cath, the kids and I are extremely grateful to the Ambulance Victoria paramedics who showed such care and kindness to our family this morning, as we are to the clinicians who have taken care of me today.

Our warm and sincere thanks go to the many family members, friends, colleagues and Victorians who have sent messages of love and support throughout the day. Thank you.

I hope to be able to provide another update later this week. James Merlino will serve as acting premier while I recover over the next few days. For now, we’d like to ask that our family’s privacy is respected.


Sunshine hospital in Melbourne has converted its underground carpark to a vaccination hub, complete with cubicles and widely-spaced chairs of the kind chosen for their ability to be stacked neatly rather than sat on comfortably.

This is the Sunshine Hospital carpark! Now converted to a busy Covid vaccination hub. With 60 cubicles it can manage 11 000 jabs a week. Both Pfizer and Astra Zeneca. @7NewsMelbourne pic.twitter.com/wGTxKDWwyb

— Laurel Irving (@laurelirving7) March 9, 2021

Victorian chief health officer Brett Sutton said the hospital is part of increasing vaccination capacity.

Good on Sunshine Hospital. My old stomping ground...will be a big part of increasing vaccination capacity. https://t.co/AJnLs2p91i

— Chief Health Officer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) March 9, 2021


Let’s go back to one of the details from prime minister Scott Morrison’s press conference in Sydney earlier today, which included the news that he has spoken directly to Linda Reynolds’ doctor about her medical condition.

Reynolds, the defence minister, has taken extended medical leave until at least 2 April.

Morrison said her health conditions are “quite serious”. He told reporters:

I mean, I have, at the minister’s permission, spoken to her doctor about this issue, and it is a serious issue. And so we are supporting her in getting the physical health treatment that she needs over this period the doctors have advised that she needs to take. And in the meantime, Minister Payne, who was the first ever female defence minister in Australia, is taking on those responsibilities. She was, of course, very involved with all of the issues that we’re currently dealing with in defence.

And I’m just very pleased that in the case where we’ve had two ministers who have had to stand down for health reasons, I can turn to two very good other female cabinet ministers who can confidently take up their jobs.


Gaetjens: focus on 'teething problems' in the vaccine rollout undermines public confidence

The head of the department of prime minister and cabinet, Phil Gaetjens, has appeared at the Covid-19 Senate inquiry.

In addition to his work leading a taskforce to consider how Australia returns to normal as the vaccines are rolled out, Gaetjens is also currently engaged in a snap inquiry into the prime minister’s office’s handling of the Brittany Higgins rape allegation.

Labor senators try a few questions on the latter, but get little info except that they’ve conducted interviews, and Gaetjens is expecting to complete his report for Scott Morrison shortly.

On the vaccine rollout, Gaetjens said he still believes the government is on track to meet its pledge of vaccinating all Australians by October. He dismissed issues including the overdoses in Queensland and problems with cold chain storage in Werribee as “noise” and “teething problems” that are being overcome, and even clapped back by suggesting that talking about them did more to damage confidence in the rollout.

Gaetjens also dismissed as “noise” the suggestion that Pfizer had superior efficacy to the AstraZeneca vaccine, arguing that AZ is “very similar and, in some cases, delivering better results than Pfizer” with both at around 80%-90% efficacy at preventing contraction of Covid-19, “they’re very good outcomes”.

Gaetjens refused to provide the terms of reference of the taskforce, although read out the national cabinet statement which he said was a “very close facsimile”.

Gaetjens described the taskforce’s job as ensuring Australia has the “data and information to give confidence that non-proportional responses are not necessary given we will be increasing vaccine rollout”. So it’s clearly all about opening up – not using lockdowns or border closures to stop Covid-19 once enough of the Australian population have been vaccinated.


Here’s a video clip from that exchange between Kevin Rudd and the Australian’s Greg Brown.

RUDD V NEWSCORP: The former PM gets into a tense standoff with the Australian's @gregbrown_TheOz at #NPC over claims of poor staff treatment in the Rudd PMO. @MrKRudd: "Did you write the question or did Boris?#Auspol @SBSNews pic.twitter.com/tRLZgJURpe

— Naveen Razik (@naveenjrazik) March 9, 2021


WA records one new case of Covid-19 in hotel quarantine

Western Australia has reported one new case of Covid-19 in hotel quarantine, and none in the community.

The new case is a man in his 30s. There are currently eight active cases in WA.

Some 1,449 people were vaccinated in WA yesterday. To date, 9,289 West Australians have received their first dose.

I wanted to share one more part of the Q&A from Kevin Rudd’s national press club address, on Australia’s climate policy.

Pablo Viñales from SBS asked whether Labor should be bolder in its climate ambitions at the next election, and at the very least set a mid-term target?

The short answer is: yes.

Here’s the long answer:

I would encourage the government, first and foremost, to a) adopt, now, a policy of mid-century 2050 carbon neutrality.

Every other significant economy in the world, in the advanced economies, has done that. The United States has done that. The People’s Republic of China have now moved to 2060. Japan has done 2050. Korea has done 2050. Are we going to be dragged kicking and screaming in it? If we don’t do it, we’ll face very soon, border adjustment taxes from the European Union for being climate change laggards on our exports.

The second thing that we need to do is bring about a new nationally determined commitment for the 2030s which has a carbon peaking date which is well in advance of where it currently is. Now, the debate among technicians is somewhere between 2025 and 2030. But there’s a piece of mathematics here. If you go for amid-century carbon neutrality target of 2050, frankly, you’ve got to have a credible trajectory from where you peak at carbon in the 2020s in order to get to zero by 50 …

So, in Australia, we need national courage to do both those things. The Liberal party, who are currently the government of this country, need that courage. The global spotlight will be on them when we get to the Glasgow conference with the parties this November. And the spotlight will be on all political parties to get behind the government doing that.


A brief correction to an earlier post: Lachlan, Australia’s biggest Youtuber, is not a teenager.

Brown attempted to bring Rudd back to the question, and Rudd criticised him for not having read his autobiography which “goes through that particular accusation in detail”.

You’re asking questions about my record in office. That book deals with my record in office. If you wish to challenge elements of it, you should have the integrity to challenge it, not as a Boris operative, to read the primary material first. Look at the foot notes.

This is, frankly, a Gilderoy Lockhart of an answer. For further details, see my published works.

Rudd then said:

You’re here in order to do a political job on me. That is what News Corporation does. You never goto the substance of the argument I’m making which is – do you have a monopoly on print media in this country? Yes or no?

Laura Tingle interjected, saying, “well, Greg Brown doesn’t, so I think we can try not to personalise it here”.

The next two questions were from the Australian’s Greg Brown, who first was asked to explain where his other News Corp colleagues were (“there’s usually a bunch of them!”).

He was then taken to task by Rudd for the way he summarised Rudd’s statement that he was not made aware of any sexual assault allegations against any of his MPs or staff while he was prime minister (“Don’t paraphrase me already. I said I cannot guarantee that that is the case,” says Rudd).

Brown asked Rudd about allegations concerning his treatment of staff, which did not go to sexual misconduct but did allege that he yelled a lot.

Rudd said he was waiting for someone from News Corp to ask about this issue, and then said: “I presume that’s why so many of them came back to work for me when I came back as prime minister.”

Brown countered, “quite a few quit, too!” and then said Rudd was accused of undermining Julia Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister.

Rudd asked: “Did you write that question or did Boris [Paul “Boris” Whittaker, the former editor-in-chief of the Australian]?”

Brown: “I wrote the question. Did your behaviour as a leader, in retrospect, fall short of appropriate workplace standards?”


I think if you were to interview each of the cabinet colleagues at the time about my leadership of the government, my leadership of the cabinet, my leadership of my own staff – including my own staff, and compare that against the leadership of previous prime ministers, I would come out reasonably OK. And you know, none of us are perfect in this business. And I certainly am not. But that is an entirely different matter as to how we deal with those questions in the past, to frankly the issues which give rise to the debate today.

Rudd continued to say that “your organisation,” being News Corp, was running a campaign parallel with the Morrison government in pushing a rule-of-law argument in defence of Christian Porter.

He then said:

Now, that’s the narrative you two have agreed between ... That’s what happens everyday in the media. And your exercise today, frankly, is one to divert away from that. Every accusation made against me and my prime ministership is taken head-on, in my own autobiography. It has 1,500 footnotes. I suggest that you go to the footnotes, read them and interview the individuals who have made those accusations in the past. I’m entirely relaxed about that record, particularly when measured against my predecessors, including Bob Hawke, including Paul Keating, including others, including Gough Whitlam, who have occupied the office of prime minister. But I think that you should reflect on your own monstrous double standards as a media organisation.


Next question was from David Crowe from the Sydney Morning Herald/the Age, who suggested that Rudd’s government “got a fair hearing from the media, by and large” and that his criticism of the Murdoch media and the media more generally had an element of “scapegoating”.

Crowe said: “Because Labor failed in 2010 on your leadership because, I think it had a failure of nerve. On climate change, on your leadership in general.”

Rudd said his argument was “not against Murdoch, per se. My argument is against monopoly.”

He said that he did not blame the Murdochs for the loss of the prime ministership, acknowledging that was a result of factions within the Labor party.

Prior to 2010, you know, Murdoch and his papers, two thirds of the time, they basically backed the conservatives. One third of the time, they would back the Labor party. Depending on where you were in the country. Since 2010, my friend, 19 out of 19. So I’m actually talking about a period in which by and large, I haven’t been in political office, apart from my return in 2013.

The trend line has become much more acute, much more intense, and therefore, requires some of us to speak out. And the reason so few of us speak out, and David, you know this as well as I, is that people are afraid. If you challenge the Murdoch beast head-on in Australian public political life, they will come after you and take your head off. Because there is so much power and so much money at stake.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd brings props to the National Press Club.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd brings props to the National Press Club. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Back to Kevin Rudd at the press club, where the floor has opened up to questions.

The first question is from host Laura Tingle, who asked Rudd for his opinion on whether the attorney general, Christian Porter, should stand aside pending an independent inquiry into allegations of sexual assault. She asked: “If we can take a step back from what you say is the prime minister’s political management, what should be the test, and what should be the framework in which this issue, which is unresolvable for everybody involved in a criminal law sense, but what should be the test in a political sense?”

Rudd gave a lengthy reply. He said the allegations made against Porter are “among the most serious that can be made”.

I’m in no position to judge, nor is anybody else in this room, Porter’s innocence or guilt. That evidence is not available to us. So question arises – what then is to be done?

He says the options are: recourse to the normal process of the criminal law, which is “exhausted” in this case because the police have said they cannot proceed, with the complainant having tragically died before giving a formal interview.

The second option is to wait for the coronial inquiry, which would have limitations.

The third option is an independent judicial inquiry “short in duration, quite focused in its terms for reference”.

Rudd says that is the “appropriate course of action under these circumstances”.

Not least because what we are dealing with, with commonwealth government cabinet ministers, and not least the first law officer of the commonwealth, are a set of standards which are way above those which are simply determined by the criminal code. We’re dealing with positions of state in this country which are of the highest significance, and therefore, require people of unimpeachable integrity.

Therefore, the virtue of a judicial inquiry, limited in time, of defined terms of reference, is that it gives an opportunity for Mr Porter to answer for himself, and for any others who have material evidence surrounding the accusations that are being made, to also provide evidence, and for such a person making the inquiry to draw their own conclusions independently.

Rudd said he would not advise Porter on whether or not he should remain attorney general, saying “I don’t wish to have double standards here and say that it was fine for Shorten to remain in position but it’s not fine for Porter to do so”.

But if I were Christian Porter, this would probably be the best opportunity to clear your name through such a judicial inquiry as arm’s length, short duration, defined terms of reference.


Queensland reports no new local Covid cases and five in hotel quarantine

Queensland has reported five new cases of Covid-19 in hotel quarantine and none in the community.

Coronavirus (#COVID19) case update 09/03

• 5 overseas acquired cases

Detailed information about COVID-19 cases in QLD can be found here: https://t.co/kapyXpSIAP pic.twitter.com/JxiBcUlkvu

— Queensland Health (@qldhealthnews) March 9, 2021


Rudd has been setting out the five mega-challenges, which are, I think: the economy, the climate, lowering incomes, the relationship with China and the risk of pandemics.

He says the risk of pandemics was canvassed at the 2020 summit in 2008 (remember that?!?! It was a hook in a song by the Herd) and his government ran a test response.

When we convened the 2020 summit back in 2008, envisaging the challenges which would be washing across our shores by this year, or this year just passed, one of the recommendations was that we needed to conduct national pandemic preparedness exercises. You will be surprised to know that Labor in 2008, we did that. We conducted Australia’s first national pandemic preparedness exercise. I even vaguely remember it. I was prime minister at the time, amidst everything else!

It’s my melancholy duty to report to you that that was our last national pandemic preparedness exercise. It was abandoned over the course of the last seven years. We started from scratch when we saw the outbreak which occur just on 12 months ago in our own shores. We need to do better than that because other pandemics will come. Covid-19 is not the last.


And so we’re back to the main subject of the speech: Murdoch. With props, including Daily Tele front pages.

There is, as always, a fair dose of legacy management in Rudd’s discussions of perceived bias against his government, and towards the Morrison government. I’m saying perceived because I haven’t read an independent qualitative analysis of media coverage of both governments. If you have one, do send it over.


Rudd says the Murdoch media monopoly – good alliteration – is the “greatest cancer of all on our democratic institutions.”

He’s also sure they’re watching, saying “Greetings Boris and the team watching from Sydney.”

But we must fact check. Rudd says Murdoch controls 70% of all Australian print media and “the biggest YouTube channel in the country”.

That honour actually goes to Lachlan, a teenage gamer from Brisbane who has 14.6m subscribers. Sky News Australia, News Corp’s biggest YouTube channel, has a mere 1.32m subscribers. It may be the biggest channel of any news producer in Australia, but the Fortnite kids have that beat.

I know @MrKRudd meant “Murdoch has the biggest [NEWS] YouTube channel in Australia”, but let it be noted that Brisbane #Fortnite enthusiast @LachlanYT has @SkyNewsAust beat 11 times over. pic.twitter.com/q4lK195Voy

— Matilda Boseley (@MatildaBoseley) March 9, 2021


Rudd: sexual harassment and assault are an abuse of power 'by my gender'

Rudd says he wrote the essay with reference to the courage necessary to call for political change, but that he has seen courage of a greater order this year in women calling out sexual assault and harassment in Parliament House.

He says he was not aware of any such complaints against staff or MPs when he was prime minister.

He says:

It is wrong that women should have to fear such behaviour in any place, let alone the parliament, which makes laws to protect all of us. It is wrong that female staff should fear being set upon by colleagues. It is wrong that young women should fear being set upon or harassed by male members of the parliament. It is wrong that any woman should fear being sexually harassed, assaulted or raped by ministers of the cabinet. And it is wrong that women of any age should fear this anywhere. It is not only wrong, it’s unlawful.

These are hard things to talk about. I know they are hard for women to talk about, particularly hard for women who are survivors. But talk about it we must. And beyond talk, we must act to change this toxic culture. Whatever Mr Morrison and his media minders may wish, it’s clear the women of Australia, rightfully, will not stand ideally by, while men seek to push this under the carpet and the government encourages us simply to ‘move on’. Let me be plain: sexual harassment and sexual assault in the parliament are an abuse of power, position and authority by my gender – the male gender – by men. It’s not a problem caused by women or by the clothes they wear, or by how much they’ve had to drink. It’s a problem caused by men.

Rudd encouraged anyone who had experienced sexual assault or harassment within any party at Parliament House to seek help from support services and tell their stories to the sex discrimination commissioner, who is conducting an inquiry.

I would encourage the commissioner to pull no punches in the report she produces and the recommendations she makes. I would also welcome all women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault, from whichever political party, to come forward and speak with the commissioner. As for the political fallout for the parties, let the cards fall where they may.

Now that I’ve said this, I’m sure my enemies in the Liberal party, the Labor party, and the Murdoch party, will be hard at work to find examples of harassment and assault among my staff during the period in which I was prime minister. The truth is, with dozens of ministers, of more than 100 members of parliament, and probably 1,000 staff across the country, I cannot in all conscience state that there were no such cases. I simply do not know. What I can say is that across my period in office, I’m not aware of any complaint about any staff, my ministers or my members.

He then says he expects News Corp to re-air his trip to a New York strip club, but said he was there as a guest of a News Corp executive.

Former prime minister Kevin Rudd at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.
Former prime minister Kevin Rudd said sexual assault is ‘not a problem caused by women or by the clothes they wear, or by how much they’ve had to drink. It’s a problem caused by men.’ Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Rudd: 'I now have a genuine, deep anxiety for Australia’s future'

The essay is basically about the overreach of the Murdoch press, and therefore so is the speech.

He opens with a joke about how short the book is, which as already discussed, is a good thing.

Rudd says the book “deals with what I describe as the five mega-challenges for Australia” which he says have been “swept aside” in recent years.

The reason I have written this book is that for the first time in my life, I now have a genuine, deep anxiety for Australia’s future. This is unusual for me. By instinct, I am an optimist. But Australia is now facing the most profound challenges to our domestic and international circumstances since the second world war. It is the responsibility of this generation and what is my generation to deal with these nation-breaking challenges as questions of real, measurable, substantive policy. Not superficiality. Not in problems of ‘issue management’, as has now become our national custom, and not as political performance art, usually second rate.

The time for political posturing, theatre and illusion is well and truly gone. And the time for action has come. Otherwise, we run the risk by mid-century of becoming a second-rate country – one that fails to live up to its possibilities and its potentiality. Brought about by the corroding of our institutions and exhausting economic model, and one woefully unprepared for the radical changes now unfolding around us.

I want to lay out three sets of challenges. First – the slow and steady decay of our critical national institutions. Second – the core economic, climate, economic, population and the national security challenge, which will determine whether our future is secure, sustainable and prosperous, or the reverse? And third: how the national debate we need to have on each of the above continues to be diluted, diverted and redirected through the sustained impact of the Murdoch media monopoly.


Kevin Rudd addresses National Press Club

Good afternoon everyone.

Kevin Rudd has just begun his address at the National Press Club, which is hinged off the publication of an essay called “The Case for Courage”.

Rudd keeps referring to the essay as a book. I am delighted to report that it is considerably slimmer than his previous published works. Please feel free to yell at me on Twitter @callapilla if you disagree with my correct opinion that nonfiction books (including memoir) should not be more than 250 pages without some sort of special approval.


Good lord it’s getting late in the day and it’s about time I start making another Tiktok (I’m not joking, that’s part of my job in the afternoon).

So with that, I will give you over to Calla Wahlquist to guide you through Rudd’s speech.

A reminder that we are expected to hear from former prime minister Kevin Rudd at a National Press Club event in about 10 minutes.

To all my friends and followers on social media, if the mood strikes, and if you have the time, I’m up before the National Press Club today at 12:30pm, Canberra time. pic.twitter.com/AYZEFt5XiE

— Kevin Rudd (@MrKRudd) March 9, 2021


Wowzzahs! Nearly 77,000 Queenslanders have already entered the draw in just one day for a $200 holiday voucher offered by the state government.

A phenomenal response to our Cairns Holiday Dollars campaign, with 76,884 registrations so far.

The ballot is open until midday Thursday, so if you haven't entered yet - now's the time!

Head to https://t.co/RF4sDqn8Hw to register.@StirlHinchliffe pic.twitter.com/TDznj7HbqB

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) March 9, 2021

The premier annouced yesterday that the government would provide 15,000 vouchers to be used on tourism experiences in Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef region, in an attempt to bolster the flagging tourism industry.

Today she also announced a $150 per student grant program to allow thousands of school excursion groups to visit the reef.


For those wondering, there is no update on Victorian premier Daniel Andrews’ condition after he fell and injured himself while getting ready for work this morning.

Andrew went to hospital as a precaution for injuries and his deputy leader James Merlino stepped in as acting premier today.

I’ll let you know when we get more clarity on the severity of the premier’s injuries and if he is expected to be off work for additional days.


85% of people on jobseeker will be below the poverty line, Senate inquiry told

About 85% of people receiving the jobseeker payment will be living below the poverty line when the base rate is set at $43 a day next month, a Senate inquiry has been told.

Ben Phillips, of ANU’s Centre for Social Research and Methods, told an inquiry into the government’s jobseeker bill the decision to increase the base rate by $50 a fortnight would see a small reduction in poverty compared with before Covid.

This meant 85% of people in households whose main income was jobseeker would be living in poverty, rather than 88% as was the case before Covid.

However, Phillips noted that when the $550 per fortnight coronavirus supplement was in place at the height of the pandemic unemployment, the same figure was 26%. The supplement, now $150 a fortnight, expires at the end of March.

The inquiry was told the jobseeker payment was closer to 55% of the minimum wage in the early 90s, compared with about 40% now.

Yet Phillips said the most recent data showed more than 75% of people had been on jobseeker payment longer than 12 months, compared with 48% in 1994.

That is despite the government arguing that more generous welfare payments would disincentive people from taking up work.


If you caught the Four Corners Bursting the Canberra Bubble story last night, you would have seen the revisiting of the meeting then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull held with Christian Porter in December 2017.

As was shown in the first Four Corners story Inside the Canberra Bubble, which went to air in November 2020, Turnbull said he held a meeting with Porter to discuss some rumours he had heard about Porter’s alleged conduct with a staffer at a Canberra bar.
This is what Turnbull had to say in that November piece:

On 6th December 2017, I had a meeting with Porter in my office and I told him that I had had reports of him being out in public, having had too much to drink, and in the company with young women. And he, he acknowledged that, he didn’t argue with that. And I just said, ‘Look, this is unacceptable conduct for a cabinet minister, and it exposes you to the risk of compromise.’

In a statement given to Four Corners in November, Porter rejected the allegations:

Malcolm often summoned ministers in frustration about the amount of detail leaking from cabinet. I had one such meeting in early December 2017, where Malcolm put to me a rumour that I leaked to journalist Sharri Markson about the banking royal commission and towards the end of that meeting he queried whether there was any accuracy to what he described as another story he had heard, the answer was no to both these things. Malcolm then promoted me to attorney general about two weeks after. In my time as AG I never had any complaint or any suggestion of any problem from Malcolm regarding the conduct of my duties as AG until the last week of his prime ministership when we had a significant disagreement over the Peter Dutton citizenship issue.

As part of an introduction to last night’s story, Turnbull’s account, and Porter’s refuting of it, were both repeated.

Porter had also rejected the Canberra bar allegations in an interview with Perth radio 6PR shortly after the original Four Corners story aired.

Well, they [Four Corners] indicated that I had, I think implied that I had with a person that I had a drink in a bar with and I said to Four Corners, that their depiction of those interactions in that bar three-and-a-half years ago, were wrong.

I told Malcolm there was no substance to rumours around that bar story.

I told Four Corners, that’s what I said.

Turnbull has stood by his version of events.

Then-PM Malcolm Turnbull with Christian Porter in 2017.
Then-PM Malcolm Turnbull (right) with Christian Porter in 2017. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Victoria records no new locally acquired Covid cases

Victoria also recorded no local Covid-19 cases today, but one overseas case.

Given international passenger flights and the hotel quarantine program have been suspended in the state this is perhaps a crew member on international freight flights.

It’s worth noting that testing number for the state have dipped below 10,000 as the state records its 11th doughnut day.

Yesterday there were no new local cases and 1 case acquired overseas reported. 8,851 test results were received. Thanks to those who got tested - #EveryTestHelps.

More later: https://t.co/2vKbgKHFvv #COVID19Vic #COVID19VicData pic.twitter.com/85P00JcqON

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) March 8, 2021

Also, here is a bit more info on the NSW Covid-19 number for today.

WATCH: Dr Jeremey McAnulty provides a #COVID19 update for Tuesday 9 March 2021. pic.twitter.com/98vtcXrfuz

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) March 9, 2021


Scott Morrison is sticking to the government’s population-wide coronavirus vaccine October goal despite delays and doubts from medical experts.

Logistical issues and minor bungles put the jabs behind schedule, with around 86,000 people receiving their first injection in the first fortnight of the rollout.

But Morrison said he is still confident all Australians who wanted a vaccine would have access to one by the end of October.

That doesn’t mean we won’t hit some obstacles ...

It doesn’t mean there won’t be the odd frustration, the odd logistics issue that needs to be addressed. That’s to be expected with a project of this scale.

Later in the month, doses of the AstraZeneca jab produced in Melbourne are expected to be added to the network at a rate of about one million a week.

A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre.
A vial of AstraZeneca vaccine is pictured at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre. Photograph: Getty Images


GFG Alliance, the owner of the Whyalla steel mill, has responded to our inquiry about how the collapse of its financier, Greensill Capital, affects the operation – and the thousands of jobs there.

It’s not a big comment but points to more trouble (at the mill) ahead:

We are currently in dispute with Greensill regarding the loan facility.

In the circumstances we can make no further comment.

Guardian Australia understands GFG has been in talks with both the South Australian government and the union that covers the site, the Australian Workers’ Union, over the past week.

We’ve gone to both to see what they have to say.


Julie Stephen, a jobseeker in her 50s who has been battling breast cancer, has pleaded with Scott Morrison to consider how an impending reduction to welfare payments will impact people like her.

At the only hearing into the government’s jobseeker bill – which will permanently increase benefits by $50 a fortnight, but end the more generous $150 Covid supplement – Stephen says she was diagnosed with breast cancer in July last year and had her final stage of chemotherapy in December.

However, she was rejected for the more generous disability pension last year, meaning she has been on the jobseeker payment.

She said could “just manage” on the current jobseeker rate of $715, but she was still worried about being able to register her car, which she needs to attend medical treatments.

Stephen, who mortgage repayments, says she will be in “arrears” when the rate reduces in April.

I’m really worried I won’t survive when it gets back to $43.50 a day. My worst fear is I will have to sell my house.

Asked for her message to Scott Morrison, Stephen says he needed to “get down to our playing field”, and was worried he was “out of touch with what’s really going on”.

The Acoss chief executive, Cassandra Goldie, and Corey Irlam, Deputy Chief Executive at the Council of the Ageing, told the inquiry the $50 a fortnight was totally insufficient.

Andrew Leigh was also asked about this (now infamous) tweet from Liberal MP Dave Sharma:

Happy International Women’s Day.

Let’s make it a day when we strive to improve the respect, dignity and equality for every woman, everywhere.#internationalwomensday2021 #IWD2021 pic.twitter.com/pbpqfGdzp7

— Dave Sharma (@DaveSharma) March 7, 2021

Leigh said the move was tone-deaf:

[It was] one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen, I’ve got to say.

I mean, Dave’s not a bad bloke, but talk about tin-eared. In the current environment, people want to be closing the gender pay gap.

They want to be dealing with family violence, they want to focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. They don’t want their local MP handing out flowers.


Opposition frontbencher Andrew Leigh has spoken on 2SM labing the parliament the “the blokiest workplace [he’s] ever been in,”
and called for a new non-partisan compliance mechanism.

I’ve worked in corporate environments and university environments, and parliament is the most macho workplace I’ve ever been in. It could do with a change in the culture.

For staff we need a compliance mechanism that sits outside the partisan political process, so people are able to have their complaints heard, just as they would in any large commercial organisation.

The British parliament’s just moved to that, and I hope that the recommendation out of the Jenkins Inquiry will be that Australia adopts that approach.

The Oprah interview with Meghan & Harry on Channel 10 had 1.37m viewers last night, making it the highest-rating program on Monday night.

The ABC’s Four Corners Bursting the Canberra Bubble, which went up against Oprah for an hour at 8.30pm, still managed 624,000 viewers, significantly up on previous weeks.

Reality shows Married at First Sight on Nine had 804,000 and Ultimate Tag on Seven had 260,000.


NSW records no new local Covid cases

NSW has gone 51 days with a local Covid-19 case.

NSW recorded no new locally acquired cases of #COVID19 in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.

Six new cases were acquired overseas and one previously reported case was excluded as a result of further investigations, bringing the total number of cases in NSW to 5,026. pic.twitter.com/VC1z5YGoyQ

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) March 9, 2021


At the tail end of the press conference, Scott Morrison was asked if he had sought the solicitor general’s advice about Christian Porter’s situation.

This is quite a significant question – for a week now Morrison and senior ministers have been that setting up an independent inquiry into the sexual assault allegation (which Porter denies) would offend the rule of law. So it matters whether that view is based on legal advice or is just a construction to deflect questions.

Asked if he had sought the SG’s advice, and if not why not, Morrison replied:

Because there is not a separate legal process that applies to the attorney general or anyone else. There’s only one rule of law here. And I’m standing firm on that principle of the rule of law. I’m not going to indulge in other extrajudicial processes that suggest that one Australian is subject to a different legal process to any other Australian. If we do that, we are eroding the very principles of the rule of law in this country. So, there are not two laws in this country and I won’t allow that to be eroded.

Which is to say – Morrison answered a different question: will you set up a separate inquiry? That wasn’t what he was asked.

The solicitor general would not be asked to inquire into the attorney general personally, he would be asked whether setting up such an inquiry offends the rule of law.

Prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the media in Sydney on Tuesday.
Prime minister Scott Morrison addresses the media in Sydney on Tuesday. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP


Morrison has indicated his government will proceed with its industrial relations bill when parliament resumes next week, even without the industrial relations minister, Christian Porter, present.

He touched on the topic at the Australian Financial Review Business Summit in Sydney.

The great thing about my team is if one of my team, in this case the attorney general, or indeed the defence minister, if they are unable to do their duties currently for health reasons, then I have wonderful people I can turn to.

The employment minister, Michaelia Cash, is acting industrial relations minister and attorney general.

[She is] a very accomplished lawyer in her own right and a former industrial relations minister who has got some experience getting important industrial relations reforms through the Senate on other occasions when she previously held that portfolio.


The parliamentary inquiry examining the Morrison government’s jobseeker bill is under way today. Reporter Luke Henriques-Gomes is keeping abreast of all developments and is tweeting updates this morning.

First witnesses are Acoss, welfare recipient Julie Stephen, and the Council of the Ageing.

— Luke Henriques-Gomes (@lukehgomes) March 8, 2021

If you want to get up-to-date on exactly what’s going on, can I recommend Luke’s story below:


Prime minister says 'I want Anzac Day on'

The prime minister says he wants Anzac Day celebration to go ahead this year but could leave it up to the states:

Look, I am. I respect ultimately these are calls that have gotta be made by state governments.

But I want Anzac Day on.

If people can party, and if people can protest, then we can remember as a nation, and honour our veterans on Anzac Day. And I would like to see that done as fully and as safely as possible. And I think that is not beyond our wits to achieve that.

Of course, last year Anzac Day was very different. Just as many things a year ago today were very different, it was a very solemn occasion. And despite the fact we couldn’t gather together at remembrance services, standing at the end of our driveways, and that was, I think, a very poignant moment as we remembered the great Anzac spirit and the great sacrifice of so many.

But this year I would like to see us return to normal as much as we possibly can, and so we can gather together and honour our Anzacs.


Morrison has been asked about the interview given by Julie Bishop on ABC’s 7.30 late night where she made some colourful comments about the culture within parliament.


What’s your response to Julie Bishop’s comments that a group of male politicians, calling themselves ‘The Big Swinging Dicks’, tried to block her career aspirations?


I would agree with Julie Bishop that, if that were the case, they weren’t very successful.


Do you think that’s a sign of the cultural problems at Parliament House, given how recent that was? Are you concerned how far there is to go?


Well, as far as I’m aware – I didn’t see the interview – but I understand she’s referring to issues about a decade ago.


Morrison says he still has not read the documents provided to his office which outline the details of the allegation made against Porter.

The actual formal documents provided to my office were provided on a Friday afternoon in Canberra when I was in Sydney. And so, those documents were immediately passed on to the federal police.

So I was not in the same [room] as those documents. They were immediately provided to the federal police, as they should be, because they’re the competent and authorised agency to deal with these matters.

And I had been briefed on their contents earlier as a result of other documents that had come through a colleague, and they were the matters that I presented to the attorney general, which he completely rejected as false.


More questions on Porter headed Morrison’s way:


Do you believe his denial? And if so, how does that fit with your statement in 2019 that people making sexual assault allegations need to be believed?


I believe in the presumption of innocence and the rule of law. And he’s entitled to that.

The competent and authorised agencies through the police and the court system. That’s what determines these matters at the end of the day. And every Australian is entitled to that, whether they’re a minister of the government or anyone else in this country.

There are not two rules. There are not two laws in this country. There are not two processes. There is one. And we’re all subject to it. The attorney general has certainly been subject to that, and, of course, I believe in his presumption of innocence, and why wouldn’t anyone on the basis of the proper process which has been followed?


Christian Porter will not return to parliament next week

The second question off the mark and the prime minister has been asked about Christian Porter.

Last week the mood from the Liberal party was that Porter’s press conference was meant to be the end of the matter. That well and truly has not happened.

Morrison was asked if he has spoken to the attorney general who is on stress leave following accusations levelled against him of historical rape, which he emphatically denies.

I have. I’ve spoken to Christian, as have many colleagues in providing their support.

And at this stage, he hasn’t advised the date he’s returning. I don’t anticipate him to be back in the parliament next week.

But he’ll give me further updates as we go through the course of this week and we’re making arrangements to ensure that next week in the parliament, that his responsibilities are handled by other ministers.

Australia’s attorney general Christian Porter speaks during a press conference in Perth on 3 March, after he outed himself as the unnamed cabinet minister accused of raping a 16-year-old girl.
Australia’s attorney general Christian Porter speaks during a press conference in Perth on 3 March, after he outed himself as the unnamed cabinet minister accused of rape. Photograph: Stefan Gosatti/AFP/Getty Images


Morrison is officially annoucing that the government will remove the cap on apprenticeship wage subsidies, an economic support package introduced during the pandemic.

One of the first things we did as a government as we went into the Covid-19 pandemic ... was to ensure that we kept apprentices in their jobs. They would have been the first off. They would have been the first to be casualties, economically.

So the apprenticeship program has kept 122,000 apprentices in their jobs ... I have seen them stay in their jobs, stay in their training, stay in their study, and now, as the economy recovers, they are seeing further opportunities ahead of them.

Today, we’re announcing that we’re removing the caps on this program. We’re extending it out until the end of September of this year – a full 12 months of support for these new apprentices coming on board. So that means anyone who is looking to get into an apprenticeship, and anyone who needs an apprentice as they’re recovering from the Covid-19 recession, this says that our government is going to carry that with you.


The prime minister is speaking now.

I suspect this topic will be covered again at the press conference but Scott Morrison has again ruled out an independent inquiry into rape allegations against the attorney general, Christian Porter, while speaking at a business summit this morning.

I see no justification for any extra-judicial inquiry that might be set up by a prime minister or any other politician.

We have competent and authorised agencies to deal with these matters both through the police and the courts and that is where I will make my assessments of those matters. That is where it should be done.

Porter has categorically denied allegations that as a 17-year-old he raped a 16-year-old girl while in NSW for a debating competition.


We are just standing by for a press conference with the prime minister where he will discuss the expansion of the apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy.

The Queensland government will provide funding to help school students visit the Great Barrier Reef in an effort to revitalise the region’s tourism industry.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the new funding will support operators and allow more than 6,500 Queensland students to learn about the reef, making the announcement ahead of the end of federal jobkeeper payments.

The premier made the announcement on Twitter:

Each year, thousands of Queensland kids travel interstate for school excursions but many haven’t had the chance to experience the beauties of their own backyard

We want more students to experience the reef and understand its importance – and support our tourism operators.

BREAKING: More than 6,500 Queensland students will get to explore the Great Barrier Reef thanks to an exciting new initiative launched by the Palaszczuk Government. pic.twitter.com/9ptLRW9qIP

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) March 8, 2021

Each eligible student from primary or high school will receive $150 from the start of term 3.


More from Merlino:

This is something that has been happening around the world.

30 other nations have gone through a truth and justice commission – Canada, South Africa, our near neighbour and friends New Zealand.

This is an important and historic part that we must all go through and it’s an acknowledgement both of historic injustice as well as contemporary injustice in our society and that will be part of the patent, the terms of reference for this independent commission to look at both historic injustice and contemporary injustice in Victorian society.


For people just joining us, the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrew, was meant to be making this announcement today but had a fall while getting ready for work and has gone to the hospital for precautionary X-rays.

Merlino says the “truth-telling” commission could take up to three years to deliver its final report into the ongoing impact of colonisation on Indigenous communities in the state:

This will be an independent commission. It will be at arm’s length from government and in line with the calls from the First Peoples’ assembly, it will have the powers of a royal commission.

This is long overdue. It’s an acknowledgment that the pain in our past is present in the lives of people right now. It’s a recognition that, without truth, without justice, you can’t have a treaty. You can’t take that incredibly powerful step forward until we go through this process of truth and justice.

Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike the opportunity to tell their whole story, for that to be a path to truth and a path to healing. You can’t have true reconciliation for all Victorians until we go through this process.


Acting Victorian premier James Merlino is speaking now from Healesville launching a “truth-telling” commission into the current day effects of colonisation on Victoria’s Indigenous community.


Australia actor Hugh Jackman has come out in support of Prince Harry and Meghan after the Duchess spoke out about her struggles with suicidal ideation and mental illness while living in England.

There we were witnessing an incredibly high-profile woman and her husband speak so openly courageously, honestly, with such dignity, about really the hardest time in their life and their cry for help.

I thought ‘everyone needs to see this,’ because it is such an incredible example to never worry alone. Seek help, and if you’re not getting help where you’re looking for it, keep looking. Go somewhere else. Because there is always help.

I recommend ... Meghan & Harry’s courageous interview w @Oprah When someone’s brave enough to ask for help, we must listen. I sit on the board of @Gotcha_4_Life - an organization dedicated to mental fitness. They can help. You are not alone. #HarryandMeghan #archewellfoundation pic.twitter.com/vicpT6vFD4

— Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) March 8, 2021

In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14.


The Victorian opposition leader, Michael O’Brien, sent his well-wishes to Daniel Andrews on Twitter as the premier is taken to hospital as a precaution after a “concerning” fall.

Hope it’s not serious. Wishing Daniel a speedy recovery. https://t.co/yEUSpb0EJo

— Michael O'Brien (@michaelobrienmp) March 8, 2021


The Australian part of Greensill Capital, the Bundaberg-headquartered financier that bankrolls the Whyalla steel mill, among other things, has followed its UK arm into administration.

It’s not clear yet what impact this will have on the Whyalla mill, which is owned by British businessman Sanjeev Gupta and employs thousands of people. We’ve gone to Gupta’s company, GFG, seeking comment.

As recently as Friday, GFG was saying it was not concerned and was working on refinancing its business.

In addition to financing Gupta’s operations around the world, Greensill engaged in what’s called supply chain financing or reverse factoring, where suppliers to big companies get paid early (or on time) in return for Greensill taking a cut.

As we reported last week, some $10bn in insurance backing these deals is under investigation.

During a court case over some of the insurance, Greensill said tens of thousands of jobs were at risk if it collapsed.

The UK arm, which does most of the financing work, went into administration overnight, with accounting firm Grant Thornton doing the job.

Grant Thornton’s local arm has the job here too. The Australian operation is confined to Greensill’s parent company, which Grant Thornton said in a statement “provides administration and head office support to the group but operates only in a limited capacity”.

In a statement, the administrator, Matt Byrnes, said:

We are working closely with the UK administrators in relation to next steps in the administration process. We are not able to comment on any individual customer’s position at this stage.

GCUK, as the provider of finance for the Greensill Group via its supply-chain finance working capital products, is insolvent and is now in administration. The UK administrators will write to creditors with an update shortly.


The boyfriend of a 21-year-old woman found dead in a shallow grave in South Australia’s Flinders Ranges has been charged with murder and failing to report a death, reports AAP.

The woman was reported missing on Saturday and on Monday her body was found by detectives in a shallow grave at Moralana Creek, north of Hawker, police said.

Her 20-year-old boyfriend was arrested on Sunday and had taken detectives to the grave site.

The Kurralta Park man is set to appear in Port Augusta magistrates court on Tuesday.


Morrison has been talking a lot about a book by Bill Gates he read while on holidays that talks about “driving the nexus between innovation, supply and demand” when it comes to energy. (Whatever that means.)

We look to create new energy partnerships this year with partners including the United Kingdom, the United States and Japan.

I acknowledge the ambassador today, affordable and reliable energy will continue to be an important focus of my government, as we transition to a low-emissions economy and move towards net zero as soon as possible and preferably by 2050.


Prime minister Scott Morrison has been speaking at a business breakfast in Sydney this morning, where among other things he annouced the expansion of the apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy.

He is now discussing Australia’s energy plan in the wake of climate change:

The Australian government is preparing for this new geopolitics of energy and climate change. It’s gone into another gear.

We must address the threats and we must realise the opportunities for Australia and we are committed to doing that in a way that preserves the jobs and livelihoods of communities right across the country, especially in regional Australia, while ensuring Australia is part of the new energy economy.

We want both and we can get both and by backing technology, to drive that change – not taxes.


If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs, then it’s unlikely that you are a sacoglossan sea slug (apologies to Rudyard Kipling).

Scientists in Japan have discovered that this species of sea slug can decapitate itself and then regrow an entirely new body, complete with a beating heart and other vital organs.

The process, from shedding all of itself below the neck to regrowing a new body, took less than a month, in an extreme example of a process known as autotomy.

Sayaka Mitoh, of Nara Women’s University, said: “We were surprised to see the head moving just after autotomy.”

You can read the full (and very strange) story below:


OK, the Victorian premier’s spokeswoman has confirmed to me that Daniel Andrews fell while getting ready for work today.

He has not sustained any head injuries but he has gone to the hospital to get X-rays as a precaution. We don’t know exactly what his injuries are at this point but they don’t appear to be serious.

Deputy premier James Merlino will take over today as acting premier and will conduct the press conference planned for about 9.30am in Andrews’ place.

This is expected to be an important press conference with the Victorian government slated to launch a “truth-telling” commission into the current day effects of colonisation on Victoria’s Indigenous community. This inquiry, backed by the powers of a royal commission, is intended to help guide the state’s treaty negotiations.


Daniel Andrews in hospital after a fall

The ABC is reporting that the Victorian premier has been taken to hospital after a fall.

I will bring you more updates as soon as I can.

The Victorian Premier @DanielAndrewsMP has gone to hospital after falling over while getting ready this morning. His office says he doesn’t have head injuries. @JamesMerlinoMP will hold the 9:30 press conference today @abcmelbourne #springst

— Bridget Rollason (@bridgerollo) March 8, 2021


Julia Roberts and George Clooney to shoot romcom in Queensland

In a win for the Australian film industry, a romcom starring Oscar winners Julia Roberts and George Clooney will be shot in Queensland this year thanks to a federal art program, reports AAP.

The film, Ticket to Paradise, has attracted a $6.4m grant under the location incentive program and is expected to generate more than 270 crew and cast jobs.

It will be directed by Ol Parker (know for Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) and produced by Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner of Working Title.

Bevan released a statement on Tuesday:

We have worked in Australia before and found the local crews to be extremely professional.

Filming will begin in November in the Whitsundays and southern Queensland.

The federal government says so far it has distributed more than $216m under the program to attract 22 productions to Australia.

Australia’s strong Covid-19 response has also attracted productions, as one of the only filming locations without restrictive physical distancing restrictions.

Actor George Clooney.
Actor George Clooney. Photograph: Grant Pollard/Invision/AP


Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gabrielle Williams will hold a press conference at 9:20am #springst

— Political Alert (@political_alert) March 8, 2021

Julie Bishop has criticised how ministers have handled the sexual assault allegation raised by Brittany Higgins and the rape allegation against attorney general Christian Porter.

Porter has denied the allegation, saying: “It didn’t happen.”

Julie Bishop.
Julie Bishop. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

In a rebuke to both defence minister Linda Reynolds and skills and employment minister Michaelia Cash for their handling of the Higgins complaint, the former deputy Liberal leader told ABC TV she would have felt a “duty” to report an allegation of rape to the police.

The comments echo Scott Morrison’s rebuke of Reynolds and his own staff, who Bishop suggested had “withheld” information the prime minister would “want to know about”.

You can read the full story below:


Queensland emergency services have found the body of a two-year-old girl after she was reported missing on a rural property, AAP reports.

The girl had been last seen on a large property in Tara, in Queensland’s western downs, on Monday afternoon.

Police said her body had been found in a dam at a rural private property about 1am on Tuesday. They said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding her death.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.


And, of course, the interview closed with a question about Christian Porter.

Malcolm Turnbull has repeated his view that there is a need for an independent inquiry into the contested allegation of rape levelled against the attorney general:

I completely understand the argument about the rule of law and about the fact that there can’t be a criminal investigation, or let alone a prosecution because the complainant is deceased.

But I think in practical terms, looking at this as both political and legal terms, the best thing that could happen for Christian Porter is for there to be an inquiry. Because that would enable there to be a process which would enable the issue to be resolved ...

If I was in Porter’s position, I would have defended [myself] and then said, “I’m open to an inquiry by a retired judge, the usual sort of impartial expert person that we appoint.”


Malcolm Turnbull has conceded that public momentum isn’t really on the republic movement’s side; damning tell-all interview or not.

But he reckons things might change at the end of the Queen’s reign, when Australia comes face to face with the prospect of Prince Charles as our head of state:

I don’t think that the mood is there today ...

My view in 1999 was that if we voted no to the republic, we wouldn’t come back to the issue until after the end of the Queen’s reign ... So I think the next timing will be that huge watershed when the Queen’s reign ends, whether she dies or abdicates ...

She’s been an extraordinary head of state, and I think, frankly, in Australia, there are more Elizabethans than there are monarchists.

After the end of Queen’s reign, that is the time for us to say – OK, we’ve passed that watershed and do we really want to have whoever happens to be head of state, the king or queen of the UK, automatically our head of state?

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


Malcolm Turnbull has called for Australia to hold a two-step plebiscite to determine how Australia wants to elect a president, before voting on how to ratify this into the constitution.

He said the debate surrounding to choose a president killed the last republic referendum:

What went wrong in 1999 in the referendum was really that we, in the republican movement, ended up fighting on two fronts. We had, on the one hand, the monarchists who said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

And on the other side, we had people who wanted to elect the president by direct election, saying, utterly dishonestly, I might add, “Vote no to this form of a republic and you’ll have another chance in a few years’ time to vote for a directly elected president.”

That was always a lie. It was a classic case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, and that’s the real reason why we lost ...

I think what we’ve got to do is have the debate about how to elect the president first. So have a plebiscite about that ... then once the people have made up their mind on that, then incorporate that mode of election into the constitutional amendments that you then put up in the formal referendum that will result, if it’s passed, in changing the constitution.


Malcolm Turnbull renews calls for Australia to become a republic

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull is doubling down on his calls for Australia to become a republic, speaking now on ABC News Breakfast:

Our head of state should be an Australian citizen, should be one of us. Not the queen or king of the United Kingdom ...

We should be so proud of our country and our fellow countrymen and women that we should say only an Australian should be eligible to be our head of state.

Only an Australian is eligible to be our prime minister, so why should it be any different?


Government announces unlimited apprenticeship wage subsidies

The government has announced it will uncap the boosting apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy.

The expansion of the program is expected to reach 70,000 new apprentices and cost a total of $1.2bn.

In the October budget the Coalition pledged to cover half the wages of 100,000 new apprenticeships and traineeships.

It now says that 100,000 allocation has been achieved in just five months. The program will now be fully demand-driven, with any apprentices and trainees signed up before 30 September 2021 eligible for subsidies.

Scott Morrison said:

Creating jobs, generating economic opportunities and boosting the skills of workers right across Australia are at the heart of our national economic recovery plan, as we build back from the Covid-19 recession.

With 100,000 new apprenticeship positions already snapped up, it highlights the confidence businesses have in the future of the Australian economy.


Good morning, Matilda Boseley here to guide you through this gloomy Tuesday. (I don’t know if it’s gloomy where you are, but it’s miserable in Melbourne so you all have to suffer along with me.)

New federal government support packages and the fallout from the respective British royal and Australian government scandals are dominating the headlines so far today.

If there is something you reckon I’ve missed or think should be in the blog but isn’t, shoot me a message on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or email me at matilda.boseley@theguardian.com.

Now I’m sure by now you have all seen the Harry and Meghan interview with Oprah Winfrey (and if you haven’t check out my TikTok explaining all the important bombshells). Well, it looks as though there is a chance the allegations of racism from within the palace could reignite Australia’s dormant republican debate.

Former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has taken to Twitter to say: “Australia’s head of state should be an Australian.”

ABC News Breakfast host Michael Rowland tweeted asking: “Who’s up for a Republic once the Queen relinquishes the throne?” To which Turnbull replied:

You bet... First a plebiscite on how to choose the President (direct election vs bipartisan parliamentary vote[)]. Second the chosen model in a constitutional referendum.

You bet. Australia’s head of state should be an Australian. First a plebiscite on how to choose the President (direct election vs bipartisan parliamentary vote. Second the chosen model in a constitutional referendum.

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) March 8, 2021

Agriculture minister David Litteproud has praised Meghan for publicly discussing her struggles with mental health on the Today Show this morning:

I have to say it – it was great to see that Meghan was able to say that she had some mental health demons.

There should never be a stigma about that. That takes courage, no matter where you are around the world you should have the courage to do that.

But the minister wasn’t convinced the interview would substantially change anything, suggesting that while impactful it would soon “blow over”:

Obviously, the racist lines are concern but they are only one side of the story we shouldn’t jump the gun on that.

Ultimately, this is a family matter. They are a very public family, I get that, but I think we need to let that family get on with them resolving their issues as best they can.

In the interview, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex claimed that someone from within the royal household questioned Harry about how dark their son Archie’s skin might be once he was born and “what that would mean or look like”.

Meghan implied this conversation had occurred in the context of discussing if the baby boy should take the title of “prince”.

The pair would not name the person who asked this but Winfrey has since said Harry confirmed off-camera it was not the Queen or Prince Phillip.

Now some other things to look out for:

  • Scott Morrison has announced it will uncap the boosting apprenticeship commencement wage subsidy, where half the cost of training is covered by the government. The expansion of the program is expected to reach 70,000 new apprentices and cost a total of $1.2bn.
  • Former Liberal cabinet minister Julie Bishop has thrown her support behind an inquest by a South Australian coroner into the suicide death of a woman who accused Christian Porter of rapping her in 1988. The attorney general has categorically denied these allegations, and the government says it doesn’t support an independent inquiry now that NSW police have said they cannot investigate further.
  • The body of a two-year-old girl has been found after she was reported missing on a rural property in Tara, west of Brisbane, on Monday afternoon. Police said her body had been found in a dam about 1am.



Calla Wahlquist (now) and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

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