What we learned today, Wednesday 27 October
With that, we’ll wrap up the blog for tonight.
Here were today’s major news developments:
- The international travel exemption has been scrapped for vaccinated Australians. Travellers who have received both doses of a Covid vaccine will be able to fly overseas without seeking an exemption when the border lifts on 1 November.
- The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for individuals 18 years and older. The booster program will begin from 8 November, with aged care and disability to be the initial priority.
- Victoria recorded 1,534 Covid cases and 13 deaths, as the premier, Daniel Andrews, said Victoria would not apply for exemptions for unvaccinated tennis players when the Australian Open arrived next year. NSW recorded 304 local cases and three deaths. Queensland hasn’t recorded any community transmission since two cases were recorded yesterday.
- And the national child abuse prevention strategy – the strategy Grace Tame was speaking about last week – has been announced. The first stage will be driven by two four-year action plans.
At this point I’m not sure if there’s anywhere in Queensland you can’t get vaccinated.
The Sydney police officer Mark Follington was today jailed for two-and-a-half years for assaulting a woman during a violent arrest and then lying about what occurred, AAP reports.
The 61-year-old senior constable – who maintains his innocence – had said he arrested Anya Bradford in May 2019 after becoming suspicious her “attitude” in a Liverpool pub’s gaming room was akin to people subject to arrest warrants.
“She was keeping her eyes down ... that starts to send a signal to me that this person is trying to hide from me,” he testified in court.
After he asked for ID and was told to “fuck off” he physically prevented her departure and shoved her into an ATM.
Follington then wrote a summary of the events to support three charges of Bradford assaulting police. However, the CCTV told another story.
The magistrate Michael Crompton in May found the officer’s narrative was intentionally false and constituted criminal offences of doing an act intending to pervert the course of justice and tampering with evidence with intent to mislead a judicial tribunal.
Those two offences were deemed the most serious of Follington’s five crimes, making up the bulk of his 30-month maximum sentence imposed in the Downing Centre local court on Wednesday.
Follington, who was also convicted of two counts of assault and unlawful modification of police data, will be eligible for parole in 18 months’ time.
He was unsuccessful in having the sentence stayed pending conviction appeals to the district court.
Victoria’s parliament is currently debating new laws on pandemic powers which would allow the health minister to issue pandemic orders after a pandemic was declared by the premier.
The law states:
The minister will also be able to issue a pandemic order to a specific classification of person or group depending on their location, participation at an event or activity, or a particular characteristic such as age, vaccination status, residence, occupation or living arrangements.
Australia’s workplace health and safety authority is worried about the risk of Covid-19 transmission in federal parliament, AAP reports.
The Labor senator Louise Pratt told a Senate estimates hearing Safe Work Australia “didn’t consider that they’ve been reassured enough that parliament was a safe Covid workplace” to attend the hearing in person.
They were granted permission to appear virtually before the hearing on Wednesday, though this was not the committee’s preference.
It followed a meeting last week with the attorney general’s department and other agencies.
Safe Work Australia is the agency responsible for setting the protocols in relation to safe workplaces.
I’m somewhat confused that they have a different assessment to other agencies when other agencies are supposed to role model and learn from them.
The industrial relations deputy secretary, Martin Hehir, appearing in person, said Safe Work had concerns about the level of consultation:
(This is) the first estimates where we’ve been required to return where there’s community transmission, which is the main concern raised by Safe Work Australia here in Canberra.
My understanding is that Safe Work Australia would like to be consulted as to the detail of the safe work arrangements.
The Safe Work Australia chief executive, Michelle Baxter, thought it was reasonable for staff to appear remotely given the pandemic.
Baxter asked whether witnesses appearing in person would be seated one and a half metres apart, but said she didn’t get an answer:
I have never made any assessment, communicated concerns or reached a view that the hearings today are unsafe.
Rather, I as an officer of the commonwealth under the Work Health and Safety Act sought additional information to assess whether all reasonably practicable measures had been taken to manage the risks of Covid-19.
The defence department has provided a detailed breakdown of the 4,168 evacuees who were airlifted out of Afghanistan by Australia.
• 167 Australian citizens
• 2,984 Afghans with approved visas
• 52 New Zealand citizens
• 310 New Zealand sponsored Afghans
• 635 British nationals
• 18 US citizens and US sponsored Afghans
• 1 Singaporean citizen
• 1 Fijian citizen
Yesterday Paul Karp reported on proposed voter identification laws which would require eligible Australian voters to present identification before casting a ballot.
Today, opponents warn eligible voters in vulnerable groups may be discouraged or excluded from voting.
Read the full story here:
The federal health minister, Greg Hunt, says subject to final Atagi advice, a general population booster program will begin no later than 8 November for original priority groups, including people in aged care and disability care settings.
Many thanks to Amy Remeikis. I’ll be with you for the rest of this fine evening.
Parliament is starting to wind down and I have to run to a project we hope to show you fairly soon (it’s been a few years in the making), so I am going to dash off and leave you in the very capable hands of Caitlin Cassidy.
I’ll be back early tomorrow morning – take care of you.
Scott Morrison has assured south-east Asian countries that the Aukus plan “does not change Australia’s deep, longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation”.
Australia’s plans to acquire nuclear-propelled submarines has attracted concerns among some members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), notably Indonesia and Malaysia.
Morrison attempted to reassure the region during an Asean-Australia virtual summit today. He said:
“I want to address this upfront, because transparency and communication on this important initiative is important to Australia, with our Asean friends. And I know hearing from us has been important to you.”
Morrison said Aukus “does not change Australia’s commitment to Asean”. Instead, Morrison said, the plan “reinforces the backing that we have for an Asean-led regional architecture”. He said Aukus “adds to our network of partnerships that support regional stability and security”.
“Australia remains deeply committed to international law and the rules-based order that has underpinned regional stability and prosperity, and which all Asean members depend. Aukus does not change Australia’s deep, longstanding commitment to nuclear non-proliferation – Australia does not want and will not seek nuclear weapons, as I’ve assured all Asean members. We will continue to meet all our obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
Morrison also told his counterparts that Asean’s stability was “fundamental to our own”.
“We’re good friends, we’re good neighbours, and are natural partners at the centre of the Indo-Pacific.”
Morrison announced the establishment of a new “Australia for Asean Futures Initiative”. He said Australia would provide $124m to fund projects, jointly identified by Asean and Australia, to address complex and emerging challenges, including Covid-19 recovery, terrorism, transnational crime, energy security and transition to lower emissions technology, the circular economy, and healthy oceans.
He also said Australia would share at least an additional 10m vaccine doses from our domestic supply with Asean countries by mid-next year.
Keith Pitt is on Afternoon Briefing explaining how he can support net zero in cabinet and not the party room:
I was a member of the executive before and a member of the cabinet before, we all serve at the pleasure of the prime minister and in terms of the nation and the decisions of the national leader, this is about the sector, we are putting $349bn in the economic turnover the next few months, an important contribution.
The nuclear-powered submarine taskforce - which will spend the next 18 months working out how to acquire submarines in partnership with the US and the UK - has been allocated a budget of $300m.
Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead, who is leading the taskforce, told Senate estimates 102 people were currently members of the group.
He said it has a budget of $300m over 18 months “but we have no intention of spending that”. He said the funds were for studies and “support activities”.
When asked whether there would be a “no project” option at the end of that study, Mead said: “My task from government is to work with the US and the UK over the next 18 months to identify the optimal pathway that will enable Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines in Australia.”
Mead said the prime minister had directed the taskforce to consider factors such as cost, scale, complexity and delivery. He said he would provide advice to government in early 2023 through a formal cabinet process.
Here is some more from Treasury estimates (via AAP):
Treasury boss Steven Kennedy expects Australia will recover quickly from the expected economic contraction in the September quarter, with households and businesses having built up sizeable savings.
New inflation data may also put pressure on the Reserve Bank of Australia to rethink its interest rate outlook after underlying measures rose to within its two to three per cent target band for the first time in six years.
The economy is expected to have succumbed to a contraction of around 3% in the September quarter as a result of the recent coronavirus lockdowns in NSW, Victoria and the ACT.
Dr Kennedy told senators it would represent, if correct, the second largest contraction in growth in the history of the national accounts - the record being 7% in the June quarter of last year.
“As restrictions continue to ease, economic activity and the labour market are expected to recover quickly, as it did in late 2020 and early 2021,” Dr Kennedy told a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday.
Early data suggests Sydney consumers alone have been spending up since the lengthy NSW lockdown ended earlier this month.
Dr Kennedy said household cash savings had increased by $185bn and business cash holdings by $145bn by the end of August 2021.
“So I think that gave households and business confidence when they went into these lockdowns,” Dr Kennedy said.
As such, he expects a smooth transition away from emergency government support measures for households and business.
“It is time they came to an end. We are well into this pandemic now and we know we will live with this disease,” the Treasury secretary said.
Wind still remains the nemesis
Dipping out of politics for the moment, because of a thunderstorm asthma warning for parts of Victoria:
Victoria’s deputy Chief Health Officer, Dr Angie Bone, warns of a high risk of epidemic thunderstorm asthma for the Mallee, South West and Wimmera weather districts for tomorrow.
The combination of forecast high grass pollen levels and thunderstorms with strong winds means that there is a chance that a large number of people may develop asthma symptoms over a short period of time.
Health and emergency services are monitoring the situation closely and are ready to respond.
Our hospitals are experiencing significant demand due to Covid-19, so it’s important you stay well.
You can protect yourself and those in your care by following these simple steps:
- Monitor the epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecast on the VicEmergency app;
- Avoid being outdoors in a storm, especially the winds that precede them;
- Take your preventative medication as directed, even when you’re symptom free;
- Carry your reliever and know how to manage an asthma attack. Follow your asthma action plan or use asthma first aid.
Call Nurse on Call on 1300 60 60 24 or see your local doctor if you require medical advice.
Call triple zero (000) immediately if someone is not breathing, if their asthma suddenly becomes worse or is not improving, or if the person is having an asthma attack and a reliever puffer is not available.
For up-to-date information visit the VicEmergency website or download the VicEmergency App.
Epidemic thunderstorm asthma risk forecasts are available to 31 December on the VicEmergency app and website at: http://emergency.vic.gov.au/prepare/#thunderstorm-asthma-forecast
At the risk of straying a bit from my economics patch, umbrella futures might be on the rise if the near-term and summer predictions are any guide.
Weatherzone’s senior forecaster Ben Domensino notes how most of the country can expect a good drop in the next week or so.
But the Bureau of Meteorology is also tipping strong odds for a wetter than average summer for eastern Australia. Coastal NSW and eastern Victoria might even see cooler than average daytime temperatures, while nights are likely to be on the mild side.
The broad climate drivers around Australia are all favouring those wetter than normal conditions for much of the country, with a La Nina event in the Pacific likely to be declared soon.
What this setup means is that a damp, mild summer is on the cards for most of eastern Australia at least. Bushfire risks, save for grassfires, will also be reduced if that’s the way things go.
Depending on how persistent and heavy the rain is, though, we should also expect a bit of flooding.
An inland flight - at least south of the Queensland border - will reveal most big dams are already almost full and close to spilling too.
Wanting to scrap the cashless debit card, which controls what people can spend money on, and where, and which is yet to be proven as beneficial for communities, is now telling people “how to run their lives” according to Liberal MP Rowan Ramsey:
From Mike Bowers’ lens to your eyeballs:
Scott Morrison waves things in parliament, updated addition:
(For the record, here was the last time Scott Morrison waved a black lump around the parliament (Feb 2017) – I guess he couldn’t get his hands on some actual raw lithium in time, so the iPhone was the next best thing)
More from Senate estimates on the events leading up to the scrapping of the French submarine plans:
Gregory Sammut, the general manager of submarines at the department of defence, was in touch with Naval Group during discussion on the next phase of the project. He says he did advise defence leadership “that we had received an affordable and acceptable offer” from Naval Group for the next phase of work. But adds that this was always going to be subject to a government decision.
Defence estimates has also discussed the strategic environment in the Indo-Pacific. The chief of the Australian defence force, General Angus Campbell, says Australia has operated in the South China Sea for decades. He notes it is a key route for trading with Japan, South Korea and China.
Asked about China’s military modernisation, Campbell says the growth in the People’s Liberation Army’s capability through the last two decades has been “very significant, from a quite modest force to one which is very substantial and very capable”.
The chief of the Royal Australian Navy, Vice Admiral Michael Noonan, says it is estimated China’s PLA Navy will be operating at least 76 submarines in the Indo-Pacific in 2035.
Anthony Albanese is leading Labor’s latest matter of public importance debate – which are just variations of “this government is terrible, here are today’s reasons” and dropped in this line on the current deputy prime minister, describing Barnaby Joyce as the “the whoopee cushion of Australian politics”.
Scott Morrison ends question time.
Unfortunately the pain will linger.
Barnaby Joyce is yelling at clouds again.
Tanya Plibersek to Scott Morrison:
Can the prime minister confirm he committed $13m of taxpayers’ money to advertising his climate policy before he even had one? Can the prime minister confirm that the only jobs created by his policies so far are for the minister for resources and advertising executives? Why is it always about spin and never about substance from this prime minister?
No, Mr Speaker, the member’s question and the presumptions in it are false.
This came up in estimates, where officials confirmed there was a $12.9m advertising plan approved for the climate policy.
The energy department is investigating whether Liberal MPs breached rules by publishing taxpayer-funded government ads on their social media accounts, like this:
Scott Morrison is now waving his iPhone around as proof future technology works. Or something.
His point is this:
I say to the Leader of the Opposition of the Labor Party – what have they got against technology, Mr Speaker? Why do they not have a confidence that, in the next 30 years, that in the world today, Mr Speaker, we will not see technology breakthroughs that will ensure they will be able to crack the case? If that’s the case, they should never use one of these (iPhone). They would never exist. An iPhone would never exist if it was based on the assumptions of the Leader of the Opposition. He wouldn’t think any of these things wouldn’t happen. We wouldn’t have had a Covid vaccine, because it hadn’t been developed two years ago, not even one year ago, Mr Speaker, or not much more than one year ago.
Cool. So where is my hoverboard? My flying car? My Theranos’s blood test? My colony on Mars? My contraceptive pill with limited side effects? The male contraceptive pill? You know, all the future technologies which have been touted, but are still not here?
Catherine King to Scott Morrison:
My question is to the prime minister: Why won’t the prime minister legislate net zero by 2050? Is it because he’s worried about members of his own government crossing the floor?
No, Mr Speaker. No.
Mr Speaker, our plan backs in what Australians are doing (which is nothing). We have met, and we have beaten, our Kyoto targets, Mr Speaker. (We were allowed an 8% increase under Kyoto one.) They weren’t legislated. They weren’t legislated, Mr Speaker.
We are going to meet and we’re going to beat our Paris targets that we set at 26% to 28%. (This was largely done under Labor, state land clearing and forestry laws – take away the pandemic and emissions have dropped by just 3% since the Coalition was elected.)
We had this discussion at the last election. Those opposite said they didn’t believe that our plans would meet that target, (they didn’t) as it won’t happen.
Other commentators said it wouldn’t happen, Mr Speaker. They said the same thing about our 2020 targets. They made all the same criticisms and they made all the same noise that they’re making today, Mr Speaker, about our plans for 2050. But guess what – we met 2020, Mr Speaker. (Again, not because of federal Coalition government policies.)
There aren’t that many countries that can say that, that they just didn’t meet it, Mr Speaker, that we beat it by almost a full year of emissions by Australia, Mr Speaker. We beat that target in 2020.
In 2030, when we go to Glasgow, we’ll be able to say that our projections, which are included in our national determined contribution, will see emissions reduced, we expect, by 35% by 2030.
Mr Speaker, Australians know what our policies are. (No changes.) They know what they’re designed to achieve. (Not a lot.)
They know what they have met, Mr Speaker. They know how those targets have been beaten.
And they know how we plan to get there with technologies, (which are still to be developed) Mr Speaker, which we know will secure the outcomes that we’re seeking to achieve.
Australians, of course, want us to achieve nets zero by 2050, Mr Speaker. But they don’t want a blank cheque. They don’t want to be signed up by a blank cheque, which is what the Labor party want to do with their legislation, Mr Speaker. (Labor hasn’t released its policy as yet.)
They don’t want the mandates to come down and be told what to do either on their farm or in their business or in their home or in their car. They want to be trusted, Mr Speaker. We trust Australians to be able to go forward and do these things, just like we trusted them to go out and get vaccinated. The leader of the Opposition thought they had to be bribed to do that. We believe in the integrity of Australians and their commitment to do what’s right by Australia. We don’t think they need to be mandated. We don’t think they need those sorts of things, Mr Speaker. Cause we know they want to achieve it.
We know that’s true, because we’ve already seen emissions fall by over 20%, Mr Speaker, on 2005 levels. At the same time, our economy has grown by 45%. We got a million people in jobs back in manufacturing in this country. Under Labor, one in eight jobs in manufacturing – gone. And on electricity prices, Mr Speaker, under our government on the latest inflation figures, they’ve gone up by 3% since we were elected. Under Labor, they went up by 101%. (Renewables came onto the grid under the Coalition – planned years in advance – which brought down the electricity price.)
My question is to – again – the deputy prime minister, and I refer to his previous answer: Is the deputy prime minister aware that the document that he was quoting from is not the modelling document? I ask again – can the deputy prime minister confirm that he signed up to net zero without seeing the Treasury modelling on the impact on regional Australia?
The current deputy prime minister continues his verbal diarrhoea as he goes on about different modelling and legislation and a bunch of other stuff that apparently makes sense in Joyce’s world. I really hope those Nats that joined up to make him leader feel great as they listen to this and how they are being represented.
He is told to come to the point and flipping through a pamphlet he ends with:
Mr Speaker, it is not exceptional that you trust competent modelling agencies. It’s not exceptional that you would think that DISER was competent at their job, that McKenzie was competent at their job, that departmental officials didn’t walk in off the street.
As for the facts – no, the Nationals saw the ‘results’ of the modelling, not the actual modelling. Did Joyce see the modelling? It does not seem so.
Over in defence estimates, the Royal Australian Air Force confirms Scott Morrison will be flying to Glasgow on a KC–30A aircraft. The primary purpose of this aircraft is air-to-air refuelling, but it can also be used for special purpose (aka government VIP) flights.
Royal Australian Air Force chief, Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld, said of 200 flights to date, five of them have been special purpose ones – including Morrison’s travel to the US in 2019.
Asked about the process of arranging this aircraft for use for the Glasgow trip, Hupfeld said the prime minister’s office had “preferred the use” of this plane. However, Hupfeld indicated that his own of planners also thought this was the best aircraft for this purpose. One of the reasons is it can travel a longer range than other special purpose aircraft before having to refuel. It is more cost-efficient at longer ranges, he added.
Hupfeld said there was a discussion “between my planners and the prime minister’s staff to ensure that we get the most suitable solution”.
Asked whether the PMO had requested this particular aircraft because the prime minister wanted to minimise refuelling stops or stopovers, Hupfeld said: “That will be one of the reasons that the prime minister would prefer that.”
Richard Marles asks Barnaby Joyce:
I refer to his previous answers on net zero in this House. Can the deputy prime minister confirm he signed up to net zero without seeing any Treasury modelling on the impact on regional Australia?
Someone might need to check if the current deputy prime minister is smelling toast.
Here’s his ‘answer’:
Just while I’ve been sitting back there in regards to this plan, I’m very encouraged by some of it, because for the long-term prospects for Australia’s coal and gas sectors will depend on preferences from customers. I understand that.
And the DISER modelling, which is on the next page – I just want to go through it – coal metallurgical ranking No. 1, LNG global ranking No. 2, iron ore No. 1, uranium No. 1, zinc No. 2, copper No. 3. This is great.
I had a look at it for the honourable member – the source, the DISER Resources and Energy September 2021. I believe the people of DISER are probably efficient, probably a little bit better than me, in determining those incredible rankings.
I’m happy we’ve got them. I’m very encouraged by making sure that working with my National Party colleagues that we talk about the continuation that we will remain one of the world’s biggest producers and exporters of liquefied natural gas.
And this is a great outcome. It talks about the ongoing use of coal. In fact, it talks about nearly a 6% decline over the near future.
But that belies the fact that, currently, we’re exporting more coal at a higher price than we ever have before.
The modelling seems pretty good. The modelling seems pretty good.
So that would be a yes to Marles’s actual question then? Given Joyce did everything he could to not answer that.
He’s acting prime minister from tomorrow.
As you read through the government spin on its climate policy, also keep in mind the actual facts:
While Greg Hunt is going on about how great vaccinations are going as part of this dixer, this is very, very relevant:
Anthony Albanese to Scott Morrison:
I ask, simply – will the prime minister now table the modelling for his so-called net zero plan?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. The modelling will be released in the next few weeks, Mr Speaker. I’ve made that very clear. Very clear when we’re releasing the modelling, Mr Speaker. I look forward ... to the modelling being released when those opposite ever come up with a plan, Mr Speaker. They won’t even tell us what their 2030 target is before Glasgow. I don’t know what they’re waiting for, Mr Speaker. I know what our target is. Our target that we’re taking, Mr Speaker, is 26% to 28%.
Tony Smith goes to interrupt.
Morrison: I am talking about our policies...
Yes, it’s OK. I know what the question was too, which was very specific and very short, and it doesn’t take me long to remember it...!
26% to 28%, Mr Speaker, is what our target is. That’s what we took to the last election. And we’re going to beat that target.
And that’s what I’ll be telling people in Glasgow under our nationally determined contributions that we expect that to fall by 35%, Mr Speaker. (Most falls happened under Labor and because of the pandemic).
It was a very, very specific question. The prime minister is not being relevant to it. It goes to the modelling. Will he table it?
I do just say there’s an opportunity to briefly refer to the plan, but there’s not an opportunity – I mean, the question was – would the prime minister table the modelling for his net zero plan? The prime minister’s absolutely answered that question in saying it’ll be released publicly in a few weeks’ time. And he’s had the opportunity to reflect briefly on the policy, but it’s not an opportunity for the next two minutes to simply talk about the policy when he was only asked one question. The prime minister.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. Yes, Australia has already achieved a 20% reduction in our emissions since 2005, which has seen, also, our economy grow by 45% over that same period of time.
And Mr Speaker, we are forecasting, projecting, in our nationally determined contribution at Glasgow, that we will beat that 26% to 28% target, and our emissions reduction by 2030 will be 35%. That’s what we anticipate that to be, based on the work that has been done under the transparent process which the government has been long engaged in. And we know that, under our plan, Mr Speaker, by the end of that forecast period...
Smith interrupts again.
I’m talking about the modelling.
Actually, that wasn’t clear.
I was about to make that point.
OK, but if you’re talking about the modelling, you need to make that clear.
And that shows, Mr Speaker, that under our plan, GDP’s up 1.59%. Under our plan, it’s about $2,000 per person better off a year, Mr Speaker (from 2050 compared to no action). Under our plan, Mr Speaker, we are seeing a 5.6% increase in investment. That’s what our plan’s doing, Mr Speaker. We’ve looked at that. We’ve wrestled with these issues. We’ve worked through these issues. And we want to be assured, Mr Speaker, that these outcomes can be achieved particularly for rural and regional Australia. We’ve done the work to satisfy ourselves on that.
We’ve done the work to satisfy ourselves that we can reach net zero by 2050 and grow our economy and support rural and regional economies, Mr Speaker. We’re confident about that. That’s why we’re taking it forward. The Labor Party’s not confident about anything. They don’t even have a target...
This is not an opportunity to talk about alternative policies
The coming election campaign may actually be the end of me, based on what we are being forced to listen to in this question time.
The current deputy prime minister is trying to pretend like he is totally fine with the last week and is attempting to find some relevance by speaking about infrastructure projects.
Like the “carbon bomb” inland rail line Sarah Martin has written on, which only makes sense if the government opens up a bunch of coalmines.
Oh no wait – he has come back to the perils of legislation.
Chris Bowen to Scott Morrison:
My question’s to the prime minister: This morning, Treasury told Senate estimates it had not modelled the impact of the government’s net zero policy. Why didn’t the prime minister ask Treasury to model the impact? Why won’t the prime minister release the modelling he claims to have?
It will be released in the next couple of weeks, Mr Speaker. The Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources is the department that does the modelling on this work, and is supported by that work by Treasury. I’ll ask the treasurer to update further.
Treasury did ... provide advice to DISER, for the purposes of assisting with the modelling. My department stayed in close contact with DISER throughout that modelling process.
He goes on, but it is the usual political guff.
Question time begins
Scott Morrison launches into question time with the false binary that the only options for climate action is what the government is doing (nothing) and taxes (which the Coalition is doing by paying for the lack of action through consolidated revenue, which is taxpayer funds).
He has been forming this argument for a while – but it has been the main talking point since yesterday’s press conference.
I can confirm that our plan ... for achieving net zero emissions by 2050, Mr Speaker – an extensive plan that we’ve released, Mr Speaker – will achieve that.
And we’ll achieve that, Mr Speaker, by backing the decisions that Australians are making, particularly across our corporate sector, across, Mr Speaker, our scientific community, that understands the technological changes that will take place and that we will fund and support through the low-emissions technology roadmap, Mr Speaker, and the many other initiatives that we’ve outlined as a government.
That is what gets us to net zero by 2050. What doesn’t get us there, Mr Speaker, is taxes and mandates and laws telling people what to do and what they can’t do, Mr Speaker, on their farms, in their businesses, in their factories, in their homes, Mr Speaker. That’s not what our plan does.
The reason Labor doesn’t like our plan, Mr Speaker, is because there’s no taxes in it. They don’t like our plan, Mr Speaker, ‘cause there’s no mandates telling people what to do. And no regulations trying to control their lives. That’s why Labor doesn’t like our plan, Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, our commitment ... was set out at the last election. We said we would have a 26% to 28% reduction by 2030. The Labor Party said 45% was the emissions reduction that should occur by 2030. The Australian people rejected, that, Mr Speaker.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Meanwhile, the government regulates the lives of people on benefits through the cashless debit card, chased people (illegally) over robodebt, and is currently proposing to make Australians show ID before they can vote, despite no actual tangible reason for the proposal.
Liberal MP Katie Allen is doing her best to convince people her government has an actual climate “plan” and not just a bunch of post-it notes which have been thrown together in a 128-page document (pro tip: if you have to keep relying on how many pages are in the document, Angus Taylor, chances are the detail contained in them is not great – we’ve all been double spacing assignments since high school):
Here is Allen defending the “plan” on the ABC “as a scientist”:
As we know, the investment roadmap will decrease emissions by 40%. We know we have got our emissions down 20% and also know we have updated reductions by 2030 with 30 to 35%.
Now, I am a scientist, I know that you need a diversified portfolio ...
Second verse, same as the first.
Helen Haines on what she believes regional communities are worried about:
The regional people that I represent have real concerns for those communities. They want to see them transition to these new high-tech renewable economies. They do. My constituents also want to see what’s in it for the communities that they are in. Agriculture, for example, our timber industry who would love to get away from expensive gas-fired kilns into renewable-fired kilns.
There is nothing for them but their concern for their fellow rural Australians wherever they may be but they are concerned because they know that there is real opportunity that if only people like the Nationals, they are part of the Coalition, could lay down in detail.
Indi MP Helen Haines has some thoughts on how the Nationals have handled the climate debate and she is not afraid to let them out. The independent MP tells the ABC:
What we have seen is the reality of the Nationals don’t have a plan for regional Australia and they have never had any sense of what a transition to a new economy, a renewable economy for the regions could mean. Even after eight years in government, no plan and a week of dithering and trying to negotiate an added table for themselves in cabinet, nothing else from the Nationals. We shouldn’t have to dive into the detail to try to find the story for regional Australia. The reality is that there is nothing more than it was sad at the table at the beginning.
The AEC is preparing for an election because it is within the six month timeframe – but they might also have to prepare its workforce as well, as AAP reports:
The elections watchdog is weighing up whether to mandate Covid vaccinations for the 100,000-strong temporary workforce needed for the next federal poll.
Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said there would be a strong focus on making the election – which is due by May 2022 – as Covid-safe as possible.
“I’ve sought legal advice on that matter,” he said, of making vaccination status an employment condition.
He said a policy decision was expected within weeks, but he was conscious there were varied views on mandatory vaccination.
While the decision of an election date lies in the hands of prime minister Scott Morrison, the commissioner has met with the nation’s most senior health officials.
The AEC has written to every state chief health officer seeking advice.
Police commissioners are also being asked for input, including on managing queues outside polling booths.
Glad to see this is catching on.
Question time is coming up – it will most likely feature questions on the government’s modelling and the “plan”, but expect a bit of estimates news in there as well.
In case there are still any doubts over whether vaccines work or not:
Scott Morrison did not accept the “premise of this question” yesterday:
Q: Pacific neighbours have said there will be a catastrophe if Australia doesn’t set an example and commit to harder 2030 cuts. What do you say to those neighbouring countries now that you’ve appeased the National party and left their futures effectively under threat in low lying areas?
Morrison: Well, I actually just don’t accept the premise of your question at all. I think you’re wrong. What we’ve done is produced the right plan for Australia, and I think it’s the right plan for our region.
So some of you may find this interesting:
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been giving evidence about vaccine misinformation at Senate estimates.
First, Labor asked specifically about TGA head John Skerritt’s criticism of pamphlets distributed by Clive Palmer, but he declined to answer, citing a concerns notice he received from Palmer’s lawyers about possible defamation action in the Queensland supreme court.
Asked about United Australia Party MP Craig Kelly, Skerritt confirmed he had written to him warning “incomplete extracts from the database of adverse event notifications, suggesting several hundred deaths caused by the vaccine ... was quite misleading, dangerously misleading”.
There is a lacuna in the TGA’s powers to regulate advertising, that doesn’t allow it to intervene on Facebook and YouTube ads, so instead Skerritt has written to YouTube asking them to consider the material.
Labor senator Nita Green asks if the government could close this loophole, and aged care minister Richard Colbeck said it “understands the importance of good information with respect to vaccines” and will consider it.
So is misinformation risking lives? Skerritt:
I won’t venture into opinion. But, as we’ve heard, vaccinations – just look at the south-western Sydney data – save lives. If people are discouraged from taking vaccines based on false, incorrect, or fabricated information – while respecting their ability to make their own decisions – their lives are endangered.
Green then lead witnesses through Liberal senator Gerard Rennick’s social media posts about Pfizer –which Colbeck said he hadn’t seen, but does not agree with.
Defence officials have confirmed the government is no longer planning to build a Pacific Support Vessel in Australia. Instead it will be bought off the shelf so it is ready for use in the south-west Pacific next year.
Officials said the “changing strategic circumstances” had “put an emphasis on delivering that capability into the Pacific quicker, so the government has made a decision to purchase that vessel from the commercial marketplace to have it in south-west Pacific next year”.
Penny Wong says the government has reneged on a promise originally made by the then defence minister Christopher Pyne to build it in Australia. Pyne said in 2018 the vessel “could be assisting with preparations for natural disasters, resilience support, or it could respond to natural disasters as they occur”.
Wong says ministers didn’t openly announce the change of plans. The foreign minister, Marise Payne, who is at the table during defence estimates, says:
Senator, I don’t regard it as reneging on the commitment, as you put it.
Don’t you love this government, everyone? You know, it’s amazing. They say we’re not doing what we said but we don’t regard it as reneging on commitment. Oh that’s magnificent, that really is magnificent. It’s worthy of satire.
It is the government’s view that this vessel should be delivered and be operational as soon as possible.
Like other large hulled vessels, Payne says, “the fastest way to do that, senator, given the rate of shipbuilding currently under way at Osborne [in South Australia] and Henderson [in WA] … is with this purchase to deliver it to the Pacific next year”.
Pressed over the previous commitment, Payne says: “I accept a commitment was made of that matter, senator, and the circumstances have changed.”
An argument ensued and the chair, Eric Abetz, briefly suspended the hearing.
My attention has been drawn to this 2013 article in the Western Magazine about the Bodangora Wind Turbine Awareness Group who were fighting a wind turbine project in their community.
It was the usual stuff from the “wind wars” but it included this quote from one of the group’s members:
Angus Taylor, our economic expert, believes wind farms aren’t viable and all those billions of dollars, which are going to overseas companies, could be going to hospitals, schools and roads.
Yes, that was 2013 and the whole world has changed since then. But it’s an insight into how exactly we got here, to this point, with no plan being dressed up as a plan, and the barest minimum commitment from the government which has fought against any plan for the better part of a decade, suddenly deserving of a brass band.
Victoria Covid update
Victoria’s Covid commander, Jeroen Weimar, has given an update on the state’s numbers, warning of a rise in cases in regional Victoria, and especially among the “younger cohort”.
Weimar said around 17% of the 1,534 cases recorded yesterday came from the regions, with authorities particularly concerned about a growing outbreak in Albury-Wodonga.
“Let’s be very clear: it is a significant outbreak happening in Wodonga at the moment.
“We have literally hundreds of cases on the Wodonga side of the border and two or three times that number on the Albury side. They are very interconnected communities. We deployed additional testing resources up there last week. We are working closely with a large number of schools impacted with students moving around the community and being positive.
“It does feel like we’re at sort of a plateau at the moment. The plateau is higher than we’d like, but it is ... slightly under the Burnett modelling,”
It comes as the state looks to lift restrictions on travelling to the regions from Friday evening.
Weimar was also asked about restrictions on retail settings, with journalists quizzing him about why unvaccinated people are allowed into retail settings.
We would expect any retailer to be able to set an appropriate framework within their environment about who they serve and who they don’t serve. I can’t comment on the legality of measures they can take to ban people from coming in.
It’s a question of timing and giving people enough time and space to get that vaccination job done. We would absolutely discourage anybody who is not vaccinated from going into any of those retail settings.
In health estimates there is not a lot being revealed that we didn’t already know.
Malcolm Roberts doesn’t seem to have done much reading beforehand – standard – as he is taking up committee time by asking a lot about things we already know, information which is in the public domain.
The LNP’s Gerard Rennick is also on this committee, if you needed any more idea of how painful this hearing is.
A few more snippets from defence estimates:
- Defence has made a “planning assumption” that the government-funded scheme to support workers who have lost jobs under the French submarine plans will need to last six years from now. The sovereign shipbuilding talent pool is assumed to need an “initial funding envelope that will cover six years”, officials say.
- It’s unclear when the first nuclear-propelled submarine will be in the water. The defence secretary, Greg Moriarty, says “we haven’t provided an earliest date of entry” to government, but would “hope to have the first” one in the water earlier than the 2040s.
- The defence minister, Peter Dutton, phoned his French counterpart on 15 September, the day before the Aukus announcement, and “conveyed the government’s decision”, Moriarty says.
- The chief of the defence force, General Angus Campbell, adds: “I spoke to my [French] counterpart on the day of the trilateral announcement, 16 September, after the announcement.” Asked if a decision was made to only do this call after the announcement, Campbell says: “Yes, senator.”
New Zealand announces 74 new cases of Covid
New Zealand has announced 74 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the total number in the outbreak to 2,832.
All of those cases were in the North Island, with 68 in Auckland and six in Waikato.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said while cases were mainly in Auckland for now, more cases popping up outside the region were a matter of when, not if.
According to the ministry of health, 87% of eligible New Zealanders (those aged 12 and over) had had at least one dose of vaccine, and 72% had had both.
Hipkins also announced that some restrictions would lift in the Waikato region at midnight tonight: residents would be able to meet other households outdoors, in gatherings of less than 10. Forty-one people are hospitalised with Covid-19, and five are in ICU.
If you haven’t had a chance as yet, you should read this from Adam Morton on the ‘plan’ (or the PowerPoint depending on how you read it).
Record high petrol price and the highest construction costs for new homes in 21 years have pushed consumer prices higher, the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us.
The headline index figures were mostly inline with the expectations of economists, coming in at an annual pace of 3% in the September quarter, and 0.8% higher for the July-September period alone.
The focus, though, will likely be on the CPI’s underlying measures, the trimmed mean and weighted median gauges, that strip out volatile movements such as the winding back of free child care during this period a year ago that would distort price changes.
Both of these two measures ticked up to an annual increase of 2.1%, the first time they have been in the 2-3% range that the central bank is targeting since the September quarter in 2015.
Contributing to the higher inflation was the 3.3% jump in the cost of new dwellings, the biggest increase since the September quarter of 2000. Blame supply disruptions for much of that jump.
Those bottlenecks, caused in part by Covid pandemic effects, have also pushed automotive fuel prices to record levels. The 7.1% jump in prices exceeded a similarly advance in the June quarter, with the maximum average daily unleaded petrol price across Australia hitting a record $1.65.
Given electricity prices have been plunging thanks to the spread of renewable energy sources, perhaps it’s time to consider that switch to electric vehicles if you haven’t already made the change.
The shift in inflation into the RBA’s 2-3% stirred investors who pushed the Australian dollar up about one-third of a US cent to above 75.3 US cents.
Bond markets also pushed yields on Australian debt higher.
Both moves indicated markets are anticipating the RBA will have to lift its cash rate a bit sooner than they were expecting just prior to the release of today’s CPI data.
Peter Hannam will have more for you in just a moment, but the ABS has released the CPI figures:
- The Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.8% this quarter.
- Over the 12 months to the September 2021 quarter, the CPI rose 3%.
- The most significant price rise were for New dwelling purchase by owner-occupiers (+3.3%) and Automotive fuel (+7.1%).
An update on jobs for workers who have been affected by the dumping of the French submarine contract.
Defence officials say, so far, 286 employees of Naval Group Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have applied for new jobs under a government program. So far, however, only 13 formal offers have been made to those applicants for new jobs (11 of those people have accepted). Defence officials are at pains to say these people have not lost their jobs as yet (in playing down the fact acceptance levels are so low so far).
“There’s a process that they will work through,” Tony Dalton, a deputy secretary at defence, says. “We are still working with both companies on a transition-out plan.”
Daniel Andrews says Victoria will not apply for exemptions for unvaccinated tennis players
Australian Open: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews held a quick doorstop press conference, where it appears he’s closed the door on allowing unvaccinated tennis players into the state.
Andrews was adamant his government will not be providing any exemptions for unvaccinated players, saying he didn’t want to add to the workload of frontline workers:
Let’s be very clear about this, I agree with what Alex Hawke has to say about unvaccinated players not being allowed in. What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players.
He also fired shots at the federal government, saying their position had changed, after immigration minister Alex Hawke had earlier said unvaccinated players would be barred from Australia.
“Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double-vaccinated.”
But soon after, federal health minister Greg Hunt contradicted him, saying it was up to the state to apply for exemptions to allow unvaccinated people into the country for work.
If a state is seeking an exemption for somebody to come in for a workplace program or a similar event and they are not vaccinated, they can come in if that state seeks it.
They are subject, however, to two weeks of quarantine and that’s without fear or favour. It is entirely a matter for the state or states working with Tennis Australia.
Andrews was not impressed:
The federal government manages the border and to the extent that anything the federal government says on this is clear, because their position has gone 180 from what [the] immigration minister said, which at the time, I agreed with.
Over in the house, Zali Steggall and Helen Haines have been trying to get the independents climate bill up for debate.
It’s up to the government when private members’ bills are scheduled for debate. Steggall and Haines were trying to force it on the agenda, but as with all things in the house, it’s a numbers game and the government holds them.
For more on the latest UN report into how the developed world is handling its climate responsibilities, you can head here:
And then there is also this:
The inflation figure will be announced at 11.30am.
Peter Hannam will be all over that for you.
Back to unvaccinated Australian Open tennis players – they could be out again.
Here is the national childhood abuse prevention strategy:
Defence estimates hearing has been focusing on what options are on the agenda to help bridge the gap between the current life of the Collins class submarines and the delivery of the new nuclear-powered submarines.
The secretary of the defence department, Greg Moriarty, says Australia will work with the US and the UK over the next 18 months to identify how soon we can get the first submarine. “We will of course be talking to them about how we can look at other options,” Moriarty says, citing additional visits by US and UK boats to our area and increasing the co-crewing on US and UK boats.
Labor’s Penny Wong contends that the plan is to extend the life of the Collins class submarines “for as long as possible and hope that can go for long enough for us to get the time to get a nuclear submarine in the water”.
She suggests it is a “pretty risky” plan.
Moriarty: “The prime minister has said this is a high-risk program ... he was upfront when he announced it.”
Wong is back to the uncertainty over shipbuilding jobs (yesterday we heard the government had so far budgeted funding for 300 workers for three months as part of the “jobs guarantee”, but Simon Birmingham said the funding would be extended once details of demand was clear).
There’s no intention that workers will be abandoned.
Treasury provided limited advice on net zero
Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy gave little away as to what the modelling about the net zero plan will show. It seems only his key department only provided limited advice to DISER, the annoying acronym for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
We provided some advice around the issues or writing the opening statement, in particular around the risks that the country faces around domestic and international investors in managing climate risks,” Kennedy told Senate estimates, implying his staff did none of the modelling itself.
In other words, how would investors view a government plan that is effectively business as usual, with no new money and no attempt to review the 2030 targets that the Paris Climate Accord agreed should be reviewed every five years with an aim of lifting them.
More generally, Kennedy, who became Secretary in September 2019, admitted that his department has not been doing any modelling of climate change impacts on the economy for some time:
We haven’t done it at least for the last few years.”
Grace Tame is attending today’s launch:
National child abuse prevention strategy announced
This is the strategy Grace Tame was speaking about last week – the Australian of the Year and advocate for child safety was not consulted on the strategy.
Here is the official release:
The National Strategy was developed in partnership with state and territory governments and in consultation with hundreds of stakeholders, including victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates, children and young people, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and people with disability and their advocates.
The first phase of the National Strategy will be driven by two, four-year action plans:
- the First National Action Plan, which will be delivered by Commonwealth, state and territory governments in a coordinated and consistent approach
- the First Commonwealth Action Plan, which will be primarily delivered by Commonwealth agencies.
Minister Assisting the Prime Minister and Cabinet Ben Morton said both action plans would deliver real protections for Australian children, and better supports for victims and survivors.
Key measures from the First National Action Plan include:
- $22.3 million to deliver a national awareness raising campaign on child sexual abuse
- $3.8 million for The National Indigenous Australians Agency to work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander experts to design and trial a resource to support frontline health workers
- $18.6 million to implement a National Victim Identification Framework for online child sexual abuse
- $22.4 million over six years to conduct a second wave of the world-leading Australian Child Maltreatment Study.
Key measures from the Commonwealth Action Plan include:
- $59.9 million worth of initiatives to be delivered by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to combat child sexual abuse, including:
- establishing dedicated Strike Surge Teams to target organised crime aspects of online child sexual abuse
- boosting the AFP’s technology capability to address advances like end-to-end encryption and the dark web
- Technology Detection Dogs – trained to detect hidden technical devices containing illicit content when officers are executing warrants
- $24.1 million to strengthen Commonwealth capacity to prosecute child sexual abuse offenders
- $13.1 million to fund an independent national service to provide free legal advice to all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse
- $10.9 million to co-design place-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches to support survivors of child sexual abuse
- $4.9 million to keep children safe while they play sport.
For more information, visit: the National Office for Child Safety website at https://childsafety.pmc.gov.au
There is still confusion about whether unvaccinated tennis players will be able to come to the Australian Open.
As AAP reports:
The Victorian government says it will have to consider comments made by the prime minister suggesting unvaccinated tennis players will be allowed to travel for the Australian Open.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday flagged unvaccinated players would be able to travel to Australia for the tournament but would be required to quarantine for 14 days.
“If there is a special exemption that is warranted for an economic reason ... that can happen but you have to follow the health rules in that state. Two weeks quarantine for unvaccinated people, that is sensible,” he told Nine’s Today Show.
He said while there were clear rules requiring Victorians to be vaccinated to take part in economic activity, “there needs to be a little bit of flexibility so we can live with the virus”.
“We want major events in this country, a lot of jobs depends on it. We want Australia to show to the world that we are open,” Mr Morrison said.
His comments contradict those made by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who last week said athletes would need to be double-vaccinated to enter the country.
Victorian Health Minister Martin Foley said the state’s public health team would have to “consider what the prime minister said”.
“The Victorian government was working on the basis that the position of the immigration minister was the position of the government,” he told reporters outside parliament on Wednesday.
Defence estimates has been told the Aukus partnership is backed by two memorandums of understanding – both of which have not been released.
Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead – the chief of the nuclear submarine taskforce – says one MOU is specific to Aukus and one focuses on submarine capability.
Mead says he went to the US around August to work on the drafts. These were trilateral talks among officials from the US, the UK and Australia. Mead led the Australian delegation and “about 15” officials went across. Australia’s team included Defence, Dfat, an official from ANSTO, specialists on non-proliferation and international law, navy lawyers and navy submariners.
Mead says those set of talks were held “over many days” and the two MOUs “were further developed and agreed to by the three parties”.
The defence secretary, Greg Moriarty, corrects the language about those August drafting talks: “Agreed to by officials.”
Queensland Covid update
Queensland has not recorded any more community-transmitted Covid cases overnight.
It announced it had two cases yesterday but both were considered low risk.
This week is the deadline for people to get their first vaccine dose (if they haven’t already) so they are protected before the state border reopening.
At defence estimates, the secretary of the defence department, Greg Moriarty, is asked whether he ever flagged the cancellation of the submarine contract with France until just before the public announcement.
He says there were “a number of engagements with French officials about our thinking about capability requirements” but confirms:
I did not discuss cancellation of the Attack programme with any French official prior to the night before.
That’s the evening of 15 September, Australian time. Penny Wong points out the announcement was made at 7am the next day.
Moriarty says he spoke to representatives of French contractor Naval Group.
Wong: “Were they blindsided?”
They were surprised and disappointed – understandably.
Also in legal affairs estimates overnight (we are just reviewing what happened later in the evening) it was revealed that Michaelia Cash approved taxpayer funds being used by Michael Sukkar to defend a defamation action.
We don’t know who has brought the defamation claim against Sukkar – officials couldn’t say and Cash wouldn’t.
It’s not the first time taxpayer funds have been used to defend an MP’s defamation action, but it comes after Peter Dutton raised the idea of a “workplace entitlement” which could be used to fund politicians’ defamation action.
This is one of the problems with officials taking so many questions “on notice” – there is no opportunity for follow up and so many remain unanswered.
The secretary of the department of defence, Greg Moriarty, says he was aware of the final decision being made on Aukus partnership on 11 September:
I was aware on that date that the prime minister had taken the decision to make that announcement in consultation with other leaders.
(It was announced on 16 September.)
Penny Wong has raised elements of a Guardian Australia story this week highlighting a trip to Washington by the head of the Office of National Intelligence, Andrew Shearer, in late April. Shearer – who is an influential source of advice to Scott Morrison – joined the Australian ambassador to the US, Arthur Sinodinos, for a meeting with Kurt Campbell, Joe Biden’s top Indo-Pacific adviser on 30 April.
Moriarty says of the Shearer/Campbell meeting:
I was aware of that meeting either on the day or shortly after, of the meeting.
Asked whether, to his understanding, the Aukus partnership had been discussed, Moriarty says:
No, I wasn’t aware that the Aukus partnership had been discussed.
Wong is drawing a distinction between capability needs (the submarine acquisition) and the idea of formally announcing a trilateral security partnership with the US and the UK.
I don’t recall the particular date on which I first heard the phrase Aukus … It was in May or June, as the prime minister was thinking about the framing of the way in which he wished to approach this engagement with the United States and the United Kingdom … It’s an umbrella agreement.
Was he aware that Aukus would be discussed in Cornwall in June on the sidelines of the G7 summit?
I was aware of the prime minister’s intention to discuss it with the other leaders prior to his departure for the meeting.
Was the framework the PM’s idea?
I believe it was, senator.
Steven Kennedy, the Treasury secretary, has been detailing the economic impact of the Covid outbreak disruptions in NSW, Victoria and the ACT during the September quarter to Senate estimates this morning. In early August, about two-thirds of the population was in lockdown, he noted:
From July to September this year employment fell by 2.2%. Business and consumer confidence has also declined owing to heightened uncertainty but remains much higher than the record lows reached in 2020.
The economy also posted its second-largest decline on record for this series:
Treasury currently expects economic activity to contract by around 3% in the September quarter, a smaller hit to activity than the record 7% fall in the June quarter of 2020.
Somewhat surprisingly, there’s little commentary about the significance of this potential contraction in activity. Our assessment is that it mostly reflects the effectiveness of past and current fiscal interventions.
As restrictions continue to ease economic activity and the labour market are expected to recover quickly as [they] did in like 2020 and early 2021.
Shoring up that recovery was the estimated $20bn Treasury estimates federal and state government provided in direct economic assistance to business and households. Some 57% of payments went to under-35, Kennedy said.
Follow-up questions from Labor senator Jenny McAllister have focused on trying to extract details of Treasury’s involvement in the formulation of the government’s net zero emissions plan, particularly the modelling behind it.
Just as the PM has declined to release details of the modelling, so too is the Treasury secretary.
And here is the official release on the TGA approval (Atagi advice is still coming):
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved a booster dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for individuals 18 years and older.
The TGA approval means that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been found safe and effective to boost protection for individuals aged 18 years and older through a third booster dose provided at least six months after the completion of a COVID-19 vaccine primary course of two doses. The primary course can be of any of the COVID-19 vaccine registered for use in Australia.
Importantly the medical advice is that people remain fully vaccinated with two doses of TGA approved COVID-19 vaccines and the commencement of booster doses will provide additional protection and peace of mind for Australians.
As with all COVID-19 vaccines, final advice on the roll out of boosters will be provided to the Government by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
Subject to final ATAGI advice it is expected that a general population booster program will commence no later than 8 November with original priority groups, including people in aged care and disability care settings, to be offered the option to receive a booster as a priority.
The Government also expects that Moderna will shortly apply to the TGA for registration of booster doses for their vaccine.
With over 151 million Pfizer, Novavax and Moderna vaccines already secured for supply into the future, Australia is well prepared to provide booster doses as approvals are provided by the medical experts.
Australia is a vaccination nation with over 34.6 million COVID-19 vaccines having been administered to date, over 87% of eligible Australians aged 16 and older have received a first dose and over 74% have now received a second dose.
Since 11 October, Australians who are severely immunocompromised have been able to receive a third COVID-19 vaccine dose to boost their protection against COVID-19 to the highest level.
The TGA and the expert medical body ATAGI has been closely monitoring local and international data about the frequency and severity of COVID 19 infection in fully vaccinated individuals to inform booster strategies.
The TGA approval follows careful evaluation of the available data supporting safety and efficacy by the TGA.
The TGA’s decision was also informed by expert advice from the Advisory Committee on Vaccines, an independent committee with scientific, clinical and consumer representation.
Internationally, the advice has been the third shot is needed about six months after your second dose.
Prof John Skerritt from the TGA says he expects Australia will follow similar advice:
Just in terms of numbers, we are expecting that by January 1, there will be about 1.6 million people who will be six months or more [from their last dose]. Because of the efforts of the government, including additional [supply] from overseas, there is more than enough vaccines in the system to cover that, should the advice come from Atagi be to do that.
Vaccine booster program to begin from 8 November
Greg Hunt is updating on Australia’s plans to start rolling out third doses of vaccine, after the TGA approval of Pfizer for over-18s:
Subject to the Atagi advice, we intend to commence the general population booster program no later than the 8 November.
We have the supplies, we have a distribution mechanism, we will work with the states, the GPs, the pharmacies, the the indigenous vaccination clinics, to ensure that everybody is in place. We will commence aged care and disability as a priority.
The secretary of the Department of Defence, Greg Moriarty, says the public discussion about the French-designed submarines “has been largely inaccurate”. He says it had been a large and complex program that came with challenges and risks. He says the total estimated cost of the programme was $88bn:
This is the same estimate the department of the government in 2016 adjusted for foreign exchange rate variations. There was no cost blowout.
He says the contracts have now been terminated “for convenience”:
They have been terminated because our requirements have changed not because of the poor performance by the Naval Group or Lockheed Martin Australia.
Defence estimates have begun, with a focus on Aukus. The secretary of the Department of Defence, Greg Moriarty, starts by assuring countries in the region – including south-east Asian nations – that Australia “remains as committed as ever to our valued partnerships in the region”.
He reveals that the planning began in March 2020 based on a request from the prime minister’s office:
This important step towards the acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines was based on analysis by the Department of Defence. Following a request from the prime minister’s office, the department initiated a preliminary examination of the feasibility of Australia acquiring nuclear-powered submarines in March 2020. After this initial consideration, in May 2020, the prime minister in consultation with the then defence minister [Linda Reynolds] requested Defence establish a small dedicated team to assess this feasibility in further detail.
Moriarty says the leaders of the US, UK and Australia agreed at the trilateral on the sidelines of the G7 summit on 12 June this year that officials should agree a way ahead.
In August, he says, trilateral discussions at senior officials’ level were held.
Victoria records 1,534 Covid cases and 13 deaths, NSW 304 and three deaths
NSW Health has released its figures:
Health estimates hearings will also be held today.
It’s going to be one of those days.
The prime minister has been very, very busy this morning on the morning rounds – both commercial breakfast TV networks, and a range of radio stations, including Sydney radio 2GB and Brisbane radio 4BC.
Who could he be wanting to reach, do you think?
The economy will provide a welcome distraction from the net zero roadmap debate for many, although the news itself might not be so pleasant.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics will release its September quarter reading on the consumer price index at 11.30am, Canberra time.
Last time around the CPI came in as a 3.8% increase from the June quarter of 2020, or an 0.8% rise from the first three months of 2021. Petrol prices led the rise then, up 6.5%, and they may feature again in the September quarter.
The average estimate of economists is for inflation to have risen 3.1% compared with the September quarter of 2020, and 0.8% from the June quarter.
You can catch up on what CPI is all about here:
Note the CPI is NOT a cost of living index, and it doesn’t attempt to capture the surge in asset prices, such as the rapid run-up in house prices over the past year and longer.
If you’re looking at what could possibly push up wages, take a look at this article as well:
We have done a few stories looking at what money from the headline figures announced by the Morrison government on domestic violence funding has actually been released:
Labor’s Jenny McAllister quizzed attorney general Michaelia Cash on that overnight in estimates, particularly on what money has gone to women’s legal centres. (This was the budget release statement: “These measures include $129.0 million in additional legal assistance funding to women’s legal centres to help women access justice. This funding will be directed to women’s legal centres, to enable these providers to respond to increasing demand for domestic violence assistance.”)
Well, minister, the advice that your official has just provided is that this money does not have to go to Community Legal Services that specialise in women’s services. In fact, it can go to any number of services. But your press release said this funding will be directed to women’s legal centres.
Cash: Women’s legal centres, and I think the misunderstanding was it wasn’t to Women’s Legal Centres, capital W, capital L, capital C, it was women’s legal services to women, including those experiencing or risk of family violence.
McAllister: That’s not actually what your press release says, is it minister? It’s very different isn’t it? Like there’s an announcement and a press release and then there’s the actual reality?
Mike Bowers found Angus Taylor in the press gallery hallway this morning:
Angus Taylor was still pointing to a political party which has been in opposition for eight years this morning, asking where its plan was, when questioned about the lack of transparency, detail and modelling in the government’s “plan”.
From the ABC interview:
Q: Let’s talk about transparency. Why the secrecy about the modelling behind yesterday’s plan?
There’s no secrecy.
Q: [When will you] release the modelling?
The 128-page document, which few have bothered to read – we saw critics within minutes before they’d read the 128-page document, talking a as though they knew what was in it ...
(The document he is referring to was not released until AFTER the press conference.)
Q: I’m asking specifically about the modelling. When will you release the modelling behind yesterday’s plan?
The outcomes of the modelling are laid out clearly.
Q: When will you release THE modelling?
And the detail of the modelling will be released at an appropriate time.
Q: When? When? No, this is a serious question and it’s a serious policy. When is the appropriate time? Next week? Next month? Next year?
Today and yesterday is about laying out the plan and explaining the plan to Australians. There’s a lot of detail in the plan. Many have not deemed their time worthwhile of actually reading it and I think they should but what the plan lays out clearly is a responsible pathway forward and the outcomes of the modelling are laid out clearly, improving our GDP, bringing down ...
Q: But how do we know that if we don’t see the modelling? You say that but how do we know that without seeing the modelling?
As I say, the modelling will be released at an appropriate time.
Q: Is that good enough not to release the modelling on the back of this plan?
You keep asking this question and I’ve already anticipated it.
Q: I’m asking on behalf of voters what would like to see the modelling.
And the outcomes are laid out clearly in the path.
Q: But not the modelling.
And further detail will be released at an appropriate time. But what you can see very clearly is a pathway forward which is responsible, which is practical and in contrast to the opposition, we’ve been very clear about our plan. We don’t even have a plan from Labor.
TGA approves Pfizer booster
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has provisionally approved a booster dose of the Pfizer Australia Pty Ltd COVID-19 vaccine, COMIRNATY, for individuals 18 years and older.
The provisional approval means that individuals aged 18 years and older may receive a booster (third dose), at least six months after the completion of a COVID-19 vaccine primary series. This primary series can be of any of the COVID-19 vaccines registered for use in Australia, although data on the use of COMIRNATY as a booster with other COVID-19 vaccines is more limited.
Individuals who have received one dose of COMIRNATY should preferably receive a second dose of COMIRNATY to complete the primary vaccination course and for any additional doses.
Further advice on the use of boosters will be provided to government shortly by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI).
In addition, consistent with ATAGI advice (link is external), the TGA Product Information (PI) also now includes a statement that a third dose may be given to severely immunocompromised people aged 12 years and over at least 28 days after the second dose.
NSW could be reunited a little faster than originally thought – AAP has an update:
A leading epidemiologist has cautioned against fast-tracking plans for unlimited travel throughout NSW, saying it would be preferable to delay the move for a month to allow regions to boost their vaccination coverage.
The highly anticipated move to unfettered travel to the regions is slated to begin on Monday after being delayed due to lagging vaccination numbers in the regions.
However, Premier Dominic Perrottet has hinted it could happen sooner, saying his Covid economic recovery committee will be examining “aspects of the roadmap” this week.
“The vaccination rates have provided an opportunity to revisit some areas and we will look at that,” he said on Tuesday.
Of the NSW residents 16 and over, 93.2 per cent have received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 85.5 per cent of adults are fully vaccinated.
In the 12-15-year-old age group, 78 per cent have had their first dose and 53 per cent are fully vaccinated.
However, UNSW epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws has warned against expediting travel to the regions where vaccination rates lag.
“I wouldn’t do so, because 85 per cent is great [but] it’s not universal,” she told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
“It’s not across all regions or across all age groups,” she said.
About 60 regions have less than 85 per cent coverage and 14 of those local government areas have a vaccine uptake of less than 75 per cent, she said.
“It’s as low as, say, 50-odd per cent. So it will take them at least four weeks to get their vaccine rates up to 85 per cent,” she said.
“It would be sensible to wait for at least four weeks, so that all the regions can get up to 85 per cent and be safe to receive visitors.”
In case you missed it yesterday, Paul Karp reported on the Morrison government’s plan to introduce voter ID laws.
That led to this exchange between Labor senator Tim Ayres and Liberal senator Simon Birmingham in estimates overnight.
Birmingham says this is a response to “perceived” risks to the electoral system, like dead people casting votes. There have been no allegations of voter fraud which have prompted these laws. It’s all “perceived”.
The UN Environment Programme’s latest emissions gap report is out and it makes for sobering reading. The accompanying statement includes this:
Alok Sharma, incoming COP26 President, said the report underlined why countries need to show ambitious climate action at COP26:
“As this report makes clear, if countries deliver on their 2030 NDCs and net zero commitments which have been announced by the end of September, we will be heading towards average global temperature rises of just above 2C.
“Complementary analyses suggest that the commitments made in Paris would have capped the rise in temperature to below 4°C.
“So there has been progress, but not enough,” he added.
“That is why we especially need the biggest emitters, the G20 nations, to come forward with stronger commitments to 2030 if we are to keep 1.5c in reach over this critical decade.”
Just one more quick observation on the moving parts. Angus Taylor says critics won’t be happy until they’ve got a carbon tax. I can’t speak for all critics but this would be my counter: if we were starting climate policy from scratch you would not start here.
That’s the problem. We have a live test of this we can all draw on. When John Howard started from scratch in 2007 he started with a carbon price and an emissions trading scheme because that was the most efficient approach. Centre right leaders used to favour markets.
An ETS isn’t a tax. Nor was Labor’s scheme, which was the one that got legislated. Also, just in case this isn’t clear in all the derision, this government favours trading in offsets. That’s part of the roadmap. The reason a market mechanism isn’t in play broadly is politics.
It reflects the weaponisation of the past decade. The Coalition has backed itself into a corner policy wise with the nonsense of axe the tax (that wasn’t a tax). That’s why it’s frustrating. This landing point could have been avoided if better choices were made.
Angus Taylor was pushed on the “technology not taxes” line on ABC TV this morning:
Q: The main line, in fact your mantra for some time has been technology not taxes. That is incorrect, right?
No. That’s absolutely what we’re doing.
Q: You’re spending $20b n as part of the roadmap. Where is that coming from?
We’re not raising taxes.
Q: But it is coming from taxes. It is coming from consolidated revenue. Taxes.
We are not raising taxes. We don’t raise ...
Q: No one is talking about raising taxes. You’re talking about technology, not taxes. $20bn is not coming from a tree. It’s coming from the government coffers, which are filled with taxes.
It’s come from responsible fiscal management, which means we don’t have to raise taxes. Look, a carbon tax is a tax on those who can least afford it. There’s lots of people bleating about it*. They want a carbon tax. You know Labor wants a carbon tax. They’ve always wanted one.
*Again, one of the masterminds of the “carbon tax” as a message, Peta Credlin, admitted that Labor’s plan was never a tax.
This was Credlin speaking to Sky in 2017:
Along comes a carbon tax. It wasn’t a carbon tax, as you know. It was many other things in nomenclature terms but we made it a carbon tax. We made it a fight about the hip pocket and not about the environment. That was brutal retail politics and it took Abbott about six months to cut through and when he cut through, Gillard was gone.
No one is talking about a carbon price. It is 2021. What you are hearing from the government is an attempt to reheat that “brutal retail politics”.
There is still confusion over whether or not unvaccinated tennis players will be able to attend the Australian Open.
At first it was a no. Then it was an OK, but only if they do two weeks of hotel quarantine. Scott Morrison was asked about this on the Seven network this morning:
Same rules have to apply to everyone. If I was not double vaccinated when I came home to Glasgow I would be doing two weeks of quarantine in Sydney so the same rules apply to everyone whether you are a grand slam winner, prime minister, business traveller, a student or whoever. Same rules, the states will set the rules.
International travel exemption scrapped for vaccinated Australians
Australians who have received both doses of a vaccine will be able to travel overseas without seeking an exemption.
The international border ban lifts on 1 November. Now, travellers will also be free from having to seek an exemption from home affairs to leave the country, as long as they have their vaccination certificate.
Reciprocal travel bubbles are being set up, which will mean no quarantine travel between certain countries. Singapore is about to join that list.
Remember all the WHeRe iS yOuR ModELling screams at the last election?
Angus Taylor was just on ABC News Breakfast talking about the question of “how” and it’s constant presence in his mind when it comes to climate policy. Which is great. Scott Morrison said much the same yesterday, adding that it was time the world focused on the how, along with an analogy about how much cheaper stuff is in JB Hifi now compared with five years ago (again – if your first response to that is to roll your eyes, that’s a clue Morrison isn’t talking to you and isn’t considering you in his calculations).
But what was offered up yesterday has no answers to “how” either.
Then there was the reaction from closer to home:
This is the president of Cop26.
Scott Morrison has already ruled out any official changes to the 2030 target, which is the one most of the rest of the international community is focused on.
Welcome to Wednesday.
It’s the day after the “plan”, which is a very generous way of describing whatever it was we were presented with yesterday, and Scott Morrison is feeling confident.
There wasn’t a lot of substance to what the government offered. Basically, it says if we change nothing, do nothing different, but embrace a target, then emerging technologies will solve all our problems. Then there is the “technology not taxes” line which is an absolute furphy, because not only is no one actually talking taxes, but the cost of the government plan – including whatever it is Morrison offered the Nationals – will be paid for, by you. Through taxpayer dollars. Raised by taxes.
But Morrison is happy because he’s solved a political problem. And you can tell that from the media he chose to do yesterday – Perth radio 6PR and Sky News after dark with Paul Murray. That’s the audience he felt he needed to speak to, because that’s the audience he wants to reassure that nothing is changing. After spending the better part of 10 years talking down targets and ridiculing attempts to drag this country into some sort of climate action, Morrison then had to reassure those people who believed it he was still the same guy – but now he was pragmatically approaching an inevitable economic future.
But Murph puts it much more eloquently than me:
We’ll bring you the ongoing fall out from the “plan” (a word that Morrison and Angus Taylor muttered 95 times in 50 minutes during their press conference yesterday – almost as if the word had been focus group-approved) as Morrison prepares to leave for the Glasgow climate conference tomorrow.
It’s also estimates, where Treasury will be in the hot seat. Expect more questions to be taken on notice. Morrison said he intends to hand down another budget next year – which, given the election deadline, would mean either moving it forward to April and holding the election in May, or just not being able to fulfil his intentions. But Morrison is already trying to shape up the election campaign as one on “who do you trust to guide the economy through this” which is a riff on John Howard’s campaign against Mark Latham. Morrison gets a lot of advice from Howard, so it’s no surprise he’s going for a Howard callback. But given *gestures at last few years* which includes the bushfire response, the pandemic response, the vaccine delays, the response to Brittany Higgins’ allegations, the ANAO audits (the list goes on), “who do you trust” is pretty bold.
Mike Bowers is with you, as is Katharine Murphy (who after more than 20 years covering climate policy is still recovering from whatever that was yesterday), Paul Karp, Sarah Martin and Daniel Hurst. You have me, Amy Remeikis on the blog. I’ve had three coffees and that’s nowhere near enough.