What we learned, Tuesday 23 August

And that’s where we’ll leave you today. Here’s what happened:

  • Anthony Albanese released advice from the solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue, that found former PM Scott Morrison’s secret additional ministry appointments were legal but “fundamentally undermined” responsible government. He urged Morrison to apologise to the Australian people.

  • Albanese also said he had asked his department to close the disclosure loophole, and that cabinet had approved an inquiry to consider the “implications” of Morrison’s actions.

  • Morrison, meanwhile, said he did not “misuse” the powers he conferred upon himself, and that he had “reflected” on the issue over the past week, and that he “took the decisions I did as prime minister with the best of intentions”. He did not apologise.

  • The head of Investment NSW, Amy Brown, has announced she will step down from her role after a months-long saga over the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to a lucrative New York trade job.

  • Musician John Farnham was admitted to hospital for surgery and treatment after being recently diagnosed with cancer.

  • The ACT magistrate’s court has adjourned Nick Kyrgios’ assault matter to 4 October, rejecting his lawyer’s bid for a longer delay until November.

Thanks for reading. We’ll see you again tomorrow.


John Farnham’s cancer surgery is reportedly a 12-hour operation to remove a tumour, according to Seven.

Australian music legend John Farnham is undergoing marathon surgery in a shock cancer battle. The 73-year-old was admitted for a 12 hour operation to remove a tumour that's only just been discovered. https://t.co/S3QztPV1wD @JaydeVincent @CameronBaud7 #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/BNWvJFDNT7

— 7NEWS Melbourne (@7NewsMelbourne) August 23, 2022

Very #windy conditions expected across the Territory on Wednesday. Find all the relevant NT weather #warning at https://t.co/oJJAewB1J9 https://t.co/AMYJB9PAPU

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) August 23, 2022

Experts say shark nets will continue to cause whale entanglements unless removed

More whales are likely to get entangled every year unless the “sheer insanity” of shark nets are removed from Queensland waters, scientists say.

Rescue teams freed an adult humpback from shark nets on Tuesday morning, taking the tally to at least seven whales caught in Queensland nets in less than three months – six of which occurred off the Gold Coast.

A spokesperson for the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries said the latest whale to be caught in the nets had been “in poor health”, but “not badly tangled”:

The Queensland Boating and Fisheries Patrol’s marine animal release team was quickly on scene and it appears the whale was in poor health and had drifted on to shark control program netting, but was not badly tangled.

Sea World also assisted in today’s response.

Experts have warned the Gold Coast will continue to be a hotspot for the distressing and potentially fatal entanglements.

Read the full story here:


Morrison says he will ‘assist any genuine process to learn from pandemic’ in response to secret ministries inquiry announcement

Per Scott Morrison’s response to the solicitor general’s advice on his secret self-appointments to multiple ministries, and the prime minister’s announcement of an independent inquiry:

Morrison says he'll "assist any genuine process to learn the lessons from the pandemic" including role of states & territories.

That is NOT what Anthony Albanese announced (a targeted inquiry at his multi ministries).

So, Morrison is saying he WON'T cooperate. #auspol

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) August 23, 2022


What does a black hole sound like?

I shared this with you yesterday in tweet form, but here it is again with broader commentary attached! Sorry if you were hoping to live your life without hearing the sound of a supermassive black hole sucking the entire universe away.


WATCH & ACT - RIVERINE FLOOD - Move to Higher Ground

This Moderate Flood Warning is being issued for King River.

Moderate flood peak likely at Docker Road Bridge early Tuesday evening.

More details at https://t.co/RP7QseJMs3... pic.twitter.com/AifrxbjLHo

— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) August 23, 2022

News.com.au is reporting that two people are heading to hospital after a boat capsized in Botany Bay. Stay safe in this wild weather, New South Wales!

#BREAKING: Two people have been rushed to hospital after a boat capsized in Botany Bay near Sydney Airport.https://t.co/7P6YLjInnX

— news.com.au (@newscomauHQ) August 23, 2022

Gender pay gap must be addressed at jobs summit, advocates say

Women’s economic security and an overhaul to the social service system must be prioritised by the federal government as the wage gap continues to widen, advocates say.

On average, women’s full-time weekly earnings are almost $250 less than men’s, data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Tuesday shows, and the difference in full-time earnings between men and women is 14.1% as of May 2022, up 1.9% from the previous year.

As AAP reports, Economic Justice Australia says it is crucial the upcoming jobs and skills summit discusses policies that will boost economic security for low-income women in particular. The group’s chief Leanne Ho said:

The social security system is not fit for purpose ... Penalties for non-compliance with mutual obligations and the stress of dealing with Centrelink intensifies problems, not solves them and acts as a barrier to employment.

The system needs to address barriers to entering or rejoining the workforce and move away from a focus on compliance monitoring and imposing penalties.

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children chief Terese Edwards said the government must reset the national picture when it comes to women in the workforce:

For too long we have expected women to work as if they don’t have children and to parent as if they don’t have paid work.

We ignore the additional demands and cost of single mothering; we don’t value unpaid care or address the economic consequences of gendered violence.

An issues paper released by Treasury ahead of the summit said women’s economic opportunities would be prioritised when business heads, unions and government representatives gather in Canberra.

Women’s experiences in the labour market and ensuring women have equal opportunities and pay would be the overarching focus of the summit, treasurer Jim Chalmers said.


Indigenous group says Plibersek ‘hasn’t done her homework’ on fertiliser plant

Traditional custodians opposed to a contentious $4.5bn fertiliser plant on Western Australia’s Burrup peninsula have accused Tanya Plibersek of “faulty reasoning” and drawing “false conclusions” about the views of local Aboriginal communities after she decided not to pause the development.

The environment minister decided work on the plant could go ahead after visiting the peninsula, in the state’s north, earlier this month. She said her decision was based on support for the development from the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation, which she described as the “legally constituted and democratically elected group that safeguards First Nations culture in the Burrup area”.

Save Our Songlines, a separate traditional owners organisation, had asked the minister to stop the works to protect five culturally important sites, including petroglyphs. Three of the five sites are due to be moved during construction.

In a statement on Tuesday, Save our Songlines’ spokeswomen and Mardudhunera women Raelene Cooper and Josie Alec said it was a “very disappointing decision by a minister who clearly hasn’t done her homework”.


Just a reminder, too, that the solicitor general’s advice also included the assertion that Morrison “fundamentally undermined” responsible government by not making the appointments public, which Morrison doesn’t directly address in that statement.

My colleague Paul Karp has the full story about SG’s advice here, if you need to catch up on it:


And again - no sorry, just a ‘I saved you all’ in different words. And still doesn’t explain why he added in treasury and home affairs a year and a bit later given we knew what we were dealing with in terms of the pandemic then. It takes no time to swear in a minister. https://t.co/Q8T4mQorv9

— Amy Remeikis (@AmyRemeikis) August 23, 2022

Morrison says his decisions were taken with ‘the best of intentions’

It’s a really long statement from the former PM – you can read the whole thing here – but there’s a bit more that I should probably mention.

Scott Morrison says he’s “proud” of what he did while in government:

I accept that many Australians will not agree with, accept or understand all the decisions I made during those difficult times. I can only state that I took the decisions I did as Prime Minister with the best of intentions, in good faith and to do all I could to protect Australia in the face of multiple crises.

I am proud and thankful for what we were able to achieve in such difficult circumstances.


Scott Morrison says he did not 'misuse' secret ministerial powers

The former prime minister Scott Morrison has released a statement on the solicitor general’s advice this afternoon. He says that with the exception of the Pep-11 matter he he did not exercise the powers he established under “lawful authorities”.

This means that I did not fulfill the function of an Acting or Co-Minister, as has been alleged. Ministers continued to exercise their full authorities without any interference, with my full trust and confidence.

The authorities at issue were put in place as an emergency power to be used only in extreme circumstances due to incapacity or in the national interest. These authorities were only sought with respect to where Ministers could act unilaterally, without reference to or interference by Cabinet or the Prime Minister. The suggestion that Ministers could be instructed or directed on these matters is false.

‘I appreciate the concerns that have been raised in relation to these matters and regret any offence caused’: Scott Morrison
‘I appreciate the concerns that have been raised in relation to these matters and regret any offence caused’: Scott Morrison Photograph: Steven Saphore/AFP/Getty Images

He also says the appointments were made “as a safeguard”:

The authorities granted were respected in the fact they were not exercised, as the circumstances for which they were provided did not materialise. In short, the authorities were not misused.

… In hindsight, some of these decisions will be reflected upon now and lessons learned. The Solicitor General has noted a number of these points from his perspective in his advice and I am sure this will help guide any changes in these areas.

I will appropriately assist any genuine process to learn the lessons from the pandemic. I would expect that any credible processes would also extend to the actions of the States and Territories.

I’ve reflected further on these matters over the past week. I appreciate the concerns that have been raised in relation to these matters and regret any offence caused. To my colleagues I have expressed this directly.


Australia’s emergency fuel storage down to just 58 days

The defence minister, Richard Marles, says he is considering increasing Australia’s onshore fuel storage as new figures show the nation has just 58 days’ of emergency fuel in storage, less than two-thirds of the international standard of 90 days.

Marles was responding to research commissioned by the department of defence and released on Tuesday morning that warned 90% of Australia’s fuel imports would be at risk amid conflict in the South China Sea.

The latest statistics, from June, show Australia is last on the list of countries that have signed up to the International Energy Agency agreement on emergency reserves.

Read the full story here:


From my chilly room in rainy Melbourne, I send solidarity to those of you in the northern states and territories. Don’t put your woollens away yet!

A reminder today that #winter isn't finished quite yet. At 5am #Canberra airport recorded 10.1C, but by 10am the temperature was 3.7C as a cold front moved through, with southerly winds making it feel even colder! Check the latest #weather observations at https://t.co/DPW9BHocXh

— Bureau of Meteorology Australian Capital Territory (@BOM_ACT) August 23, 2022

last night the new weather presenter on ABC news said not to be fooled by the warm morning and to take a heavy coat tomorrow so I did and now the temp has dropped ten degrees in two hours and I really feel I got my 8 cents worth today :)https://t.co/uuVp1HJrIO

— Josephine Tovey (@Jo_Tovey) August 23, 2022

Get our your scarves and jackets

A polar blast is making its way across Australia’s east coast, bringing with it rain, snow and a drop in temperatures.

A cold front that moved through Victoria and Tasmania earlier in the week is now moving across New South Wales, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting rain and potentially severe thunderstorms, including hail, for areas in the north-east of the state.

Mostafa Rachwani has all the details:


EPA advises to avoid contact with Dandenong Creek near Marie Wallace Bayswater Park, Bayswater after Melbourne Water reported an ongoing sewer spill. EPA is investigating and will update through social media as more information becomes available. pic.twitter.com/p7Y5ZdVdTM

— Environment Protection Authority Victoria (@VicGovEPA) August 23, 2022

Man charged with torture and murder of five-year-old boy in Queensland

A man has been charged with torturing and murdering a five-year-old boy he knew in an Indigenous community in far north Queensland, AAP reports.

The child died from his injuries in Townsville hospital on Monday after doctors had tried to save him for five days.

He had been airlifted there with life-threatening injuries after initially being taken to Yarrabah hospital, near Cairns, on Friday.

Local detectives and officers from the child trauma unit in Brisbane started investigating how the boy was injured after being tipped about his transfer to Townsville.

Police have since arrested and charged a 22-year-old man, who knew the boy, with murder, grievous bodily harm and torture.

He’s also been charged with assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed and assault occasioning bodily harm.

The man was remanded in custody and is due to face Cairns magistrates court on Wednesday.


Sussan Ley suggests focus should be on cost of living, not Morrison’s secret ministries

The deputy Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, has responded to the solicitor general’s advice about Scott Morrison’s multiple ministries.

Speaking to Sky News, Ley said that Labor will call a “great big inquiry” to “go on and on talking about what happened in the previous government” when people are “genuinely worried about the cost of living”.

On requiring announcement of appointments, Ley said:

We’ll work with the current government on how to improve these processes, and ensure transparency into the future ... We will cooperate with any measures to improve those processes.

Asked about Karen Andrews’ call for Morrison to resign, Ley said:

I don’t give gratuitous advice to my colleagues over any [TV] programs. People are free to express their views.

Sussan Ley with Scott Morrison in 2021.
Sussan Ley with Scott Morrison in 2021. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Investment NSW confirms Amy Brown to relinquish role

Investment NSW has issued a statement confirming chief executive Amy Brown will no longer lead the agency, in the wake of the saga over the appointment of John Barilaro to a lucrative New York trade role.

In a statement, the agency said Brown had decided to “separate” the role from her other position as secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade.

The statement reads:

At the time of its creation, the structure of the department ... included Amy Brown in the combined role of department secretary and CEO of Investment NSW.

Amy Brown, as secretary, made the decision to separate the roles on 11 August 2022. These roles have been separated to allow the secretary to focus on a cluster leadership role and the Investment NSW CEO to focus on the core activities of investment attraction.

Investment NSW can confirm that Amy Brown has not resigned from her role as CEO, nor is it a requirement under the GSE Act, but rather due to the scale and significant nature of the work in both positions, the role of Investment CEO has been separated out from the secretary role description, title and accountabilities.


Good afternoon. Thank you so much to Natasha for her expert blog-wrangling today. I’m Stephanie Convery and I’ll be with you until this evening.


Thanks for following along with the blog on this eventful Tuesday. This is where I leave you in the very excellent hands of Stephanie Convery.


Defence minister overturns Dutton’s ban on staff pursuing 'woke agendas’

Richard Marles has torn up a Coalition-era ban on defence staff holding morning tea celebrations around some diversity and cultural events, with defence force chiefs saying they want to foster a “a diverse and inclusive workforce”.

In May 2021, the then defence minister Peter Dutton asked defence officials to issue a directive restricting special events that had “particular clothes in celebration”. That came after defence morning teas where staff were encouraged to wear rainbow pins or shirts for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.

Dutton told the Nine newspapers that defence should not be “pursuing a woke agenda” and that “our task is to build up the morale in the Australian Defence Force and these woke agendas don’t help”.

On Tuesday, the defence secretary Greg Moriarty and the chief of defence Gen Angus Campbell issued another directive to defence staff, saying that Marles, the deputy prime minister and defence minister have “instructed that this direction be lifted, with effect 23 August 2022”.

The department update was first reported by the Canberra Times.

The officials said such events “contribute to our inclusive culture by acknowledging and promoting awareness of our diverse workforce.”

The note specifically mentioned “team activities in support of not-for-profit organisations, charity events, and upcoming days such as Wear it Purple and R U OK Day”.

We look forward to working with all of you to build capability through fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce to deliver on Defence’s mission.

Defence staff will now be free to support LGBTQ+ and diversity events at work.
Defence staff will now be free to support LGBTQ+ and diversity events at work. Photograph: Leonardo Fernández Viloria/Reuters


Election spending caps and truth in advertising on the menu, committee confirms

The joint standing committee on electoral matters has announced terms of reference for its inquiry into the 2022 election, confirming a Guardian story in July that spending caps, truth in political advertising laws, and one-vote-one-value reforms are all on Labor’s agenda.

The special minister of state, Don Farrell, told Guardian Australia that Labor will be “putting the case” to the inquiry “as to why those things should be done”, signalling their likely inclusion in a government bill to be presented ahead of the next election.

The terms of reference, announced by committee chair Kate Thwaites, include:

(a) reforms to political donation laws, particularly the applicability of ‘real-time’ disclosure and a reduction of the disclosure threshold to a fixed $1,000;

(b) potential reforms to funding of elections, particularly regarding electoral expenditure caps and public funding of parties and candidates;

(c) the potential for ‘truth in political advertising’ laws to enhance the integrity and transparency of the electoral system;

(d) encouraging increased electoral participation and lifting enfranchisement of First Nations people;

(e) the potential for the creation of a single national electoral roll capable of being used for all federal, state and territory elections in Australia;

(f) encouraging increased electoral participation and supporting enfranchisement generally, and specifically in relation to:

i. accessibility of enrolment and voting for persons with a disability;

ii. voting rights of Australians abroad;

iii. Australian permanent residents and new Australian citizens; and

iv. New Zealand citizens residing in Australia; and

(g) proportional representation of the states and territories in the Parliament, in the context of the democratic principle of ‘one vote, one value’.


Key event

Radioactive rock found at Sydney school

A radioactive rock that was found at a Sydney high school did not pose a danger to students or staff, the New South Wales education minister says.

Sarah Mitchell was questioned on Tuesday about the radioactive substance that was found at Randwick Girls High in Sydney’s east on August 17.

No harm was posed to staff or students at the high school after a science teacher discovered the rock sample in a storeroom, she told a budget estimates hearing.

“There should be no cause for concern or alarm from ... parents,” she told the inquiry.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (Ansto) was called in to clean the site and collect the hazardous material.

Mitchell said:

We have made it clear the independent experts have come in and assessed the situation and have said very clearly that no harm was posed to staff or students, so that needs to be very clearly put on the record.

Ansto scientists said the sample would have to be held for 250 hours consecutively to have any adverse effects.

Labor MP Courtney Houssos pushed department secretary Murat Dizdar to identify the specific radioactive sample but he refused saying he couldn’t understand the chemical symbols.

Mitchell accused Labor members of the committee of “scaremongering” adding that it was an “isolated incident”.

– via AAP

Sarah Mitchell says there’s no cause for alarm over a radioactive rock found at a Sydney school.
Sarah Mitchell says there’s no cause for alarm over a radioactive rock found at a Sydney school. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


Opposition 'will work with the government' on 'reasonable' post-Morrison reforms

The shadow attorney general, Julian Leeser, says the Coalition is prepared to entertain “reasonable proposals” in the wake of Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial self-appointments, but it is unclear whether the opposition would back an inquiry of the type flagged by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

After the solicitor general’s advice on Morrison’s appointment to administer the industry department, Leeser said the opposition “acknowledges” the report.

Leeser said in a statement:

The Solicitor-General confirmed that the appointments were validly made but proposed various mechanisms by which practices could in future be improved.

The Opposition will work with the Government on any reasonable proposals to provide clarity to processes and improve transparency in ministerial appointments.

Guardian Australia has contacted the opposition leader Peter Dutton’s office for comment on whether the Coalition would back an inquiry into Morrison’s actions.


Cold blast in NSW with thunderstorms in north-east

If you’re in Sydney, the beautiful sunny day we woke up to is fast disappearing with the promised cold blast coming through.

Thunderstorms currently occurring over northeast #NSW - shown by red and orange dots on this image - while the rest of the state gets a cold blast. #Snow for higher parts of the tablelands this afternoon and evening. Check the latest #weather forecast at https://t.co/pTY2W4aRaW pic.twitter.com/V0JjMS1Qnm

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) August 23, 2022


Defence minister overturns Dutton’s ban on ‘woke’ events – report

The Canberra Times is reporting that the defence minister Richard Marles has overturned a ban on military and public service staff from engaging in certain “woke” charity, cultural and diversity events, imposed by the former minister Peter Dutton last year.

The previous directive was unofficially known as the “morning tea ban” because it came after defence held morning teas where staff wore rainbow clothing to mark the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia.

The ban will be lifted immediately to allow staff to recognise upcoming Wear it Purple and R U OK? days.

Harley Dennett reports:

Top Defence officials, now allowed to resume some staff inclusion activities, say a diverse workforce is “essential to Defence’s capability and effectiveness”.

In a memo to staff on Tuesday, Chief of the Defence Force Angus Campbell and departmental secretary Greg Moriarty said the organisation would now explore a wider range of events that Defence would participate in next year.

The defence minister, Richard Marles.
The defence minister, Richard Marles. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Smoking ban to be expanded in Melbourne

Smoking and vaping will soon be banned across more of Melbourne’s CBD, AAP reports.

Melbourne city council is investigating how to extend smoke-free zones across train station entrances and council-owned buildings.

The ban is currently in place across 13 outdoor areas, but could also come into effect at landmarks such as town halls, libraries and community sporting centres.

Lord mayor Sally Capp said residents have been calling for the extension:

We know that smoking is incredibly harmful, not just for smokers themselves but for recipients of second-hand smoke.

The City of Melbourne is working hard to ensure more residents, workers, visitors and families can enjoy our beautiful city without health concerns.

Melbourne city council has no say over whether bans should be in force at state-owned buildings, including areas surrounding the MCG.

A person smoking a cigarette in Melbourne’s CBD.
A person smoking a cigarette in Melbourne’s CBD. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/Getty Images


Flood warnings still in place in Victoria after recent rainfall

⚠️ A number of #FloodWarnings and a #FloodWatch still current after recent rainfall.💧
Rivers will continue to respond over coming days as water moves through the catchments; keep an eye on the warnings page for all updates: https://t.co/SVBvxiM1Yh#VicWeather pic.twitter.com/Hnth1cBrUc

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) August 23, 2022

Watch PM’s response to legal advice on Morrison ministries saga

If you missed Anthony Albanese’s press conference earlier today responding to the solicitor general’s legal advice on Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial appointments, you can watch some key moments here:


Greens call for ‘royal commission powers’ in Morrison inquiry

The Greens want a parliamentary inquiry into Scott Morrison’s secret ministerial appointments to have “royal commission powers” to compel witnesses and demand documents.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has flagged some form of inquiry into Morrison’s unprecedented arrangements, and said his cabinet will “consider what form that inquiry will take”.

This morning he would only say that there were “a range of different options available”, but that “it needs to be not a political inquiry, but an inquiry with an eminent person with a legal background to consider all of the implications”.

David Shoebridge, the Greens’ spokesperson for justice, said he wanted to see a full inquiry into the episode, with substantial powers. He said:

The Greens will work with the Government to ensure this inquiry has full Royal Commission powers with the power to compel witnesses including the former Prime Minister.

The core issue here is the balance between the powers of the executive and the powers and privileges of Parliament, and all parties have a stake in the inquiry and its outcomes.

Too many inquiries are announced to respond to pressing political pressure, but don’t have the powers, scope or resources to get to the bottom of the problem and make the changes needed. That can’t be allowed to happen here.

Greens senator David Shoebridge says the inquiry needs the powers and resources to ‘get to the bottom’ of what happened.
Greens senator David Shoebridge says the inquiry needs the powers and resources to ‘get to the bottom’ of what happened. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

In his own statement, Albanese said he would “give consideration to whether any further immediate changes are required”, after his direction for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to work with the governor general’s office to publicise ministerial appointments. Albanese’s statement said:

Cabinet has agreed there will be an inquiry into these events and will now consider what form that inquiry will take.

Our democracy is precious and we are committed to strengthening it.


Morrison legal advice correct but bereft of new information on appointments: Twomey

Prof Anne Twomey has endorsed the solicitor general Stephen Donaghue’s conclusion about Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to administer other portfolios.

Twomey said:

The one problem is – and this is not Stephen Donaghue’s fault, he’s been given very little information. He appears not to have been told at all what happened in [the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet], and that is unfortunate. They ought to have briefed him with material about what the normal practices are with respect to gazettal [of appointments], and what happened in this case, which resulted in [PMC officials] not telling relevant ministers [about Morrison’s appointments].

For example, Twomey noted reports that former attorney general Christian Porter gave advice about the first appointment to the health portfolio, and said that it was not known whether this was oral advice or written in some form and retained by the AG’s department.

If there is an opinion from Christian Porter it is important to find it, she said, suggesting this could be a job for the future inquiry foreshadowed by Anthony Albanese.


NSW rail industrial action to go ahead Thursday despite looming ‘breakthrough’, union says

Claassens has flagged a “breakthrough” with the state government could be imminent.

He was asked if it’s achieved by Thursday the strike will be off, but Claassens says it’s too far gone.

Even if magically everyone agrees to the deed overnight, it is still going to go through a process.

Our members who ultimately tell me what is going to happen, they are the ones that will ultimately decide whether our actions go on or off.


Transport union accuses NSW government of backflips on train safety

The media conference from the Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens has just wrapped up in Sydney.

The transport workers union strikes have been ongoing but Claassens is providing a bit of history about how these disputes over train safety began, from the union’s perspective:

The deed around the new intercity fleet is our big-ticket item – the thing we have been trying to negotiate for six years.

Six years ago [the NSW state government] ordered a train from South Korea that clearly [had only] a driver on the train, designed to get rid of the guards.

We thought that then we had a breakthrough … Andrew Constance [did] a similar press conference with me and agreed to fix it. Unfortunately when he got re-elected, he cancelled that variation and we didn’t find out until the train started to come off the ship, it was still designed as a driver on the train.

We’ve been trying everything to fix that and been really close a couple of times. The last time was on the 30 June and I signed a deed treated for us and we were almost ready to sign it. We signed it. The transport secretary was not allowed to sign up by the government and they flipped and said hang on the minute we’re only going to agree to fix the train if you agree to all the items over here.

We said that is not going to happen because that enterprising bargaining assassination is happening with the six unions involved in that and everybody has to be a part of the process.


Investment NSW chief steps down after Barilaro saga

The head of Investment New South Wales, Amy Brown, has announced she will step down from her role after a months-long saga over the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to a lucrative New York trade job.

Brown, who remains the secretary of the state’s Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade, will stand aside as chief executive of Investment NSW after an independent report found Barilaro’s trade appointment was not “fully in keeping” with the code of ethics governing public servants in the state.

A draft internal memo written by Brown, and first revealed by the Australian Financial Review and confirmed by the Guardian, said the trade saga, which has since widened amid questions over the appointment of former NSW Business Chamber chief Stephen Cartwright as the state’s senior trade commissioner in London, had prompted her to step aside to focus on her role as secretary.

She wrote:

The events of the past eight weeks, including a review commissioned by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and a NSW Legislative Council Inquiry into the recruitment process for the senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas have reinforced the need for me to focus my full attention on my role as secretary.

Given that, I have made the decision that I can best serve the needs of our state by separating my dual roles as chief executive officer of Investment NSW and secretary of Enterprise, Investment and Trade.

Amy Brown giving evidence during the inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro to a New York trade role.
Amy Brown giving evidence during the inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro to a New York trade role. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Brown was due to face budget estimates next week, but the decision to step down from her CEO position means that appearance is now in doubt.

Her future has been subject to intense scrutiny following the release of former NSW public service commissioner Graeme Head’s report into the posts, with the premier Dominic Perrottet refusing to guarantee she would keep her job.

Instead he has left the decision to the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet, Michael Coutts-Trotter.

Brown has previously expressed concern about the handling of the trade positions to a parliamentary inquiry, saying she was “nervous” about Barilaro’s appointment and contradicting former deputy leader of the NSW Liberal party Stuart Ayres’s insistence the appointment was done “at arm’s length” from ministers.


‘Breakthrough’ on NSW train negotiations may be close, transport union says

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s NSW secretary Alex Claassens is taking to the microphone in Sydney with an announcement on the dispute they have had with the state government over the safety of the new intercity fleet.

Claassens says the dispute has been ongoing for more than six years, “trying to get them to commit to a document in writing that actually guarantees [safety].”

I can say this morning we had a meeting with some people and that part of the process is moving forward. Unless another minister interferes in that process, we may actually be able to come out and say sometime tomorrow afternoon or in the next few days that there will be a breakthrough on the deed.

Every time we get close to that, there is a backflip. Hopefully there won’t be one this time. And we can get on with the business of doing what we do best and running trains through the state of NSW. We are where we are. Most people are totally angry and totally frustrated.


Banking Association to attend jobs summit, PM confirms

Albanese was also asked at the media conference about what role the banks will play at the upcoming jobs and skills summit, and replied:

The Australian Banking Association, of course, the peak organisation, has been invited and will be participating. The treasurer has met with the CEOs of all the four banks.

He went on to emphasise the summit is more than just the two days in Canberra as it includes a variety of hearings around the country.

This summit isn’t just about the two days that are held here in Parliament House next Thursday and Friday. It’s also the more than 60 summits and hearings that we have held right around the country, some of which are being held today, some of which have been held in regions, they have been held with the section groups.

So, for example, they attended last week here in Parliament House the meeting convened by Bill Shorten about disabilities and people with disabilities and their employment and skills and opportunities to get into work and to advance. So there is a range of forums and opportunities for people to participate and, of course, the financial sector too will have a number of representatives.

The truth is, we could have 1,000 people here in Parliament House and those 1,000 people would all have merit. There are some limits. We have tried to make sure it is a representative group.

Representatives of the banking sector will attend the jobs summit, Anthony Albanese says.
Representatives of the banking sector will attend the jobs summit, Anthony Albanese says. Photograph: Asanka Ratnayake/Getty Images


Albanese to Torres Strait Islander people: ‘They are very much a valued part of our nation’

Circling back to that press conference with the prime minister earlier: Albanese was asked about a group of Torres Strait Islander leaders who have released a separate statement to the Uluru Statement from the Heart, as the reporter put it, “essentially asking for the right to break away as a state or territory, if they so choose”.

Reporter: “What is your message back to them?”

Anthony Albanese:

That they are very much a valued part of our nation of Australia. I met with the Torres Strait Regional Authority, which is made up of the representatives elected on all of the islands, just last week, as well as people from the northern peninsula as well, where there is a large number of Torres Strait Islander peoples. What I got back from the Torres Strait Islander representatives, unanimously, was support for a voice to parliament and their support, as part of that, the recognition in the Australian Constitution and another national birth certificate of Torres Strait Islander peoples.


Victorian premier calls for skilled migration boost

Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews has called for a boost to Australia’s skilled migration intake to fill critical labour gaps ahead of next week’s federal jobs and skills summit.

The Victorian government unveiled its skills plan on Tuesday, showing that an extra 373,000 workers are needed across 13 key industries by 2025.

Andrews will attend the federal government’s jobs and skills summit next week with other political leaders, employers and unions. Andrews, alongside NSW premier Dominic Perrottet, had previously urged the Albanese government to clear the backlog of visa delays to tackle the skilled visa shortage plaguing numerous sectors.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Andrews said the Victorian government would push for more pathways to permanent migration at the summit:

I don’t think that temporary visas are necessarily the way to go. I think pathways to citizenship so you can come here, build a career, build a life and be part of our Victorian community, be part of our Australian community. I think that’s absolutely the way to go.

It’s not a customer shortage at the moment. It’s a staff shortage.

The federal government has flagged increasing Australia’s skilled migration program and removing barriers that prevent temporary skilled migrants from being able to settle permanently.

Daniel Andrews at the Austin hospital in Melbourne today, being shown a new MRI machine by consultant radiologist Dinesh.
Daniel Andrews at the Austin hospital in Melbourne today, being shown a new MRI machine by consultant radiologist Dinesh. Photograph: Andrew Henshaw/AAP


WA records two Covid deaths

Western Australia has recorded two Covid deaths and 1,772 new cases in the latest reporting period, with 243 people in hospital and five in intensive care.

You can read the full update here.


SA records 10 Covid deaths

South Australia has recorded 10 Covid deaths and 850 new cases today, with 242 people in hospital, eight in intensive care and three people ventilated.

South Australian COVID-19 update 23/08/22.

For more information, go to https://t.co/XkVcAlWPSN pic.twitter.com/uiuW5DEdYf

— SA Health (@SAHealth) August 23, 2022


Albanese says nation’s thoughts are with John Farnham as press conference ends

Albanese’s press conference ends with a question of his message to John Farnham and his family as the legendary musician undergoes cancer surgery.

All Australians love John Farnham and we wish him all the best for him and his family at this time, it is difficult news for people to have received this morning. John Farnham has been and continues to be a great Australian.

He has not only provided entertainment for Australians over many decades, he also has been a contributor to the nation.

When people need to raise money for bushfire recovery of anything else, John Farnham is always there and Australians’ thoughts are with John Farnham and his family today.


Morrison ‘misses the point here completely. This is about the Australian people’: Albanese


Scott Morrison has apologised to those ministers whose duties were duplicated. Does he owe anyone else an apology?


Scott Morrison owes the Australian people an apology for undermining our parliamentary democracy system of government that we have, something that can’t be taken for granted. And it’s one thing to see this as an issue between him and Josh Frydenberg or other individuals, he misses the point here completely. This is about the Australian people. That’s who, at the end of the day, we are accountable for.

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra on Scott Morrison’s secret appointments to multiple government porfolios. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP



And we also know that … I know is not normal practise, that the prime minister was appointed as the final decision-maker for grants in excess of $800m for a manufacturing fund. Now, that is also, in my view, something that is an issue for accountability.



What we know is that there was no transparency here at all and that, according to Mr Morrison’s own press conference last week that I think … raised more questions than provided answers, he himself said that the interviews that he gave to the journalists from the Australian who are writing a book about Mr Morrison’s time responding to the pandemic, that these were contemporaneous interviews that were given at the time that gave out the information about what were the first two [portfolios] of health and finance.

We know that at that time there was no transparency, but we know it was then added to as well, not just with the industry, science, resources, and energy portfolio, which is a substantial one, we know that within the portfolio there was a decision on Pep-11.


Questions continue regarding the role of the governor general.


Are you satisfied with the way the governor general conducted himself in this situation, despite questions around transparency? And when it comes to that inquiry that you’ve flagged, would it investigate whether or not the governor general instructed Scott Morrison to make his portfolios public?


The issue there is that the governor general, in the discussions that he has with the prime minister of the day, is not obligated … normally they would be discussions that are kept private. That is the protocol which is there.

It’s a matter for the governor general or for Mr Morrison whether there is any change to that. I’m not privy to that information that the governor general has made that clear in the statements he has made when he has also said that there was no reason why he would think [the appointments] would not be made public. Now, I think there are implications in that statement by the governor general.


Some in Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet were aware, Albanese says

Albanese is asked about the knowledge of the public service:

There clearly were some people in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet who were aware.


Government ‘still dealing with Covid response’, Albanese says, regarding pandemic royal commission

Circling back to Albanese’s media conference, where Albanese is being asked about what other advice the government is waiting on before calling a royal commission into the Covid-19 response.

Albanese says:

To be very clear, there are two issues.

One is the advice about this issue of Scott Morrison being appointed to multiple ministries. We are awaiting advice on that.

The issue of the Covid response is something that we are still dealing with, the pandemic. We have just dealt with a major spike in terms of the wave and we are dealing with that. What I have said is, at an appropriate time, which the government will consider, we will look at what form of examination is required, but our priority in terms of the health response has been improving the vaccination rates, the additional funding that we have given to hospital services, dealing with the consequences of that bump in wave, including, of course, the additional support that we gave full paid pandemic leave as well.

That has been our priority of the commonwealth and the states, it must be said. We have acted as one. And we will be meeting again, the commonwealth and the states, as a national cabinet, meeting next Wednesday. The focus of that will be the jobs and skills summit, but we will also be giving consideration to other issues as well.

Anthony Albanese
Anthony Albanese speaks to the media during a press conference on the release of legal advice pertaining to former prime minister Scott Morrison’s secret appointments. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Morrison appointment legal but ‘inconsistent with convention”: solicitor general

The solicitor general’s advice on Scott Morrison’s appointment to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources has concluded it was legal, but unconventional.

The advice says current practices are “deficient”, flagging the need to close the loophole that allowed Morrison not to disclose the appointments.

The SG’s advice said:

The governor general, acting on the advice of the prime minister, has power under s64 of the Constitution to appoint an existing minister of state, including the prime minister, to administer an additional department of State. The governor general has no discretion to refuse to accept the prime minister’s advice in relation to such an appointment. Nor is there any constitutional or legislative requirement for notification of such an appointment as a condition of its validity, or for the minister to subscribe another oath or affirmation following such an appointment. Accordingly, Mr Morrison was validly appointed to administer DISER on 15 April 2021.

That said, the fact that the Parliament, the public and the other ministers who thereafter administered DISER concurrently with Mr Morrison were not informed of Mr Morrison’s appointment was inconsistent with the conventions and practices that form an essential part of the system of responsible government prescribed by Ch II of the Constitution. That is because it is impossible for parliament and the public to hold ministers accountable for the proper administration of particular departments if the identity of the ministers who have been appointed to administer those departments is not publicised.

That conclusion does not depend on the extent to which Mr Morrison exercised powers under legislation administered by DISER, because from the moment of his appointment he was responsible for the administration of the department.

The existing practices by which appointments under s64 of the constitution are notified to the parliament and the public are deficient. I propose various mechanisms by which those practices could be improved at the end of this opinion.


Governor general acted consistently with responsibilities, Albanese says


In terms of the future inquiry, will that examine the role of the governor general in this particular scenario would you feel it should be exempted?


The governor general’s role has been examined here and the governor general has made a very clear statements as from his perspective, he operated according to, taking the advice of the government of the day, which is consistent with the responsibility of the governor general.


Albanese is insisting he will follow proper process in dealing with the fallout

I want to run a government that gets proper advice and makes decisions based upon it. And in contrast to what we have seen of the shambles and chaos of the government that we have succeeded.

Censure motion could be considered when parliament sits


Do you have any concerns that people were aware of the situation? And you didn’t actually answer whether you would be looking at a censure motion in parliament?


I haven’t seen any motions moved [so] wWe will make those decisions when parliament sits. I don’t tend to engage in hypotheticals there. We have not given consideration to that. My consideration has been to get to the bottom of what is happening. The inquiry needs to do that. It needs to have the power to do that, and that is why we will give proper, considered thought into what the structure of an inquiry should be based upon proper advice that I have asked the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to give me.


Independent inquiry will make recommendations for reform, Albanese says

The inquiry… needs to look at future reform. How we can ensure that this doesn’t happen in the future. So making positive future recommendations as well which I can’t envisage that the government would not act on all of the recommendations which are made.

Morrison needs to be held accountable, Albanese says


The deputy prime minister, Mr Marles, this morning said there should be severe consequences for Scott Morrison for what we now know was a breach of the principles of responsible government. What should those consequences be?


Various people have expressed views. Karen Andrews has said that Mr Morrison should resign from parliament. That in my view is a matter for Mr Morrison and his colleagues.

Quite clearly, I think that Mr Morrison’s behaviour was extraordinary. It undermined our parliamentary democracy and he does need to be held accountable for it.


Legislative changes to be enshrined, Albanese says

I think one of the things we will need to consider is any future legislative changes to make sure that that is enshrined. To make sure that it is not dependent upon the goodwill of the government of the day.

I think it is fair to say that what we are dealing with here wasn’t envisaged. I don’t think anyone in this room … sat around and said ‘I wonder if Scott Morrison has been put in charge of the Department of Industry, Science, the Department of Home Affairs, or whether he has made himself Treasurer?’ Given that it wasn’t considered by the former treasurer, then I don’t think that is surprising.

But clearly, there is a need to ensure there is absolute confidence in our political system and a political going forward.


Albanese directs his department to adopt a practice of publishing future appointment of ministers

The prime minister has just provided some more detail of the independent inquiry he has just promised:

There are a range of different options available to the government, but it is agreed that it would be good … it needs to be, not a political inquiry, but an inquiry with an eminent person with a legal background to consider all of the implications.

In the solicitor general’s advice it goes through some of the mechanisms that could be required. I have directed the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to work with the Office of the Official Secretary to the Governor General to adopt a practice of publishing, in the commonwealth gazette, future appointment of ministers to administer department[s].

Such a practical thing that needs to happen that doesn’t need any further advice and [that’s] something that we will do. We will also give further consideration to whether any further immediate changes are required.

So we will make a future announcement about an inquiry. I am giving notice today that that inquiry will take place. This isn’t something that can be just dismissed. This is something that goes to our very system of government which the … solicitor general’s advice makes clear.


Albanese commits to further independent inquiry


This was just an opinion based upon the known details which are out there very publicly. Not dealt with in this opinion is also a range of issues. I will name one, which … has been raised by Christine Holgate yesterday: the fact that Mr Morrison was also responsible for administering departments that were shareholder responsibilities.

And finance, for example, is something that Christine Holgate has raised, and I think raised legitimately, the questions that she has around that. There are of course a range of other implications there as well. I distributed the advice to the cabinet this morning and we gave consideration as to a way to proceed.

The cabinet has determined that there will be a need for a further inquiry and we will give consideration at a future meeting into the nature of that inquiry.


Responsible government ‘fundamentally undermined’ by the former government’s action: solicitor general


Paragraph 42 goes to the changes that were made to the form when ministerial lists are tabled in the parliament, and of course [the advice] can’t draw a conclusion as to why that occured or who made those changes, but that is another issue that raises further questions.

Paragraph 44 and 46 go to the principle of responsible government being, to quote the solicitor general, “fundamentally undermined” by the former government’s action.


Albanese is now going into a bit more of the detail of the report:

Clause 29 goes to the fact that, according to the solicitor general, whether the notification was consistent with the principle of consistent government that is inherent in chapter two of the Constitution. The constitutional implications of this, according to paragraph 33, go back to 1926.

So it is not like they are new, they are well known. In paragraph 35, [it] goes to the potential brief of House of Representatives practice which is there in quotes.


Advice is ‘clear criticism’ despite validity of appointments, Albanese says


The advice though is, I think, a very clear criticism and critique of the implications that are there for our democratic system of government of what happened under the former Morrison government.



In summary, the solicitor general has concluded that Mr Morrison was validly appointed by the governor general to administer the various departments to which he was appointed. It particularly considered the issue of the Department … of Resources, because quite clearly we know it is a decision that was made on the Pep-11 gas project there.


Albanese says release of opinion a ‘one-off’

Today, given the highly extraordinary and unprecedented nature of this issue, I am releasing opinion as a one-off. It should not be considered to be a precedent.

But, very clearly when we are speaking of an issue of transparency and secrecy and accountability, that it was important that that opinion be released, which was released to you in time for you to consider it prior to this press conference. I note as well. So it is released publicly for people watching at home on the pmc.gov.au website.


Albanese speaking on legality of Morrison's actions

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has begun speaking on the solicitor general’s findings into the legality of former prime minister Scott Morrison secret ministerial appointments.

Solicitor general Stephen Donaghue handed down his findings yesterday and Albanese is now making the findings public.

‘Principles of responsible government are fundamentally undermined’: solicitor general

The solicitor general’s opinion on the validity of the appointment of Morrison to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources was that the public and parliament not being informed fundamentally undermined the principles of responsible government.

The capacity of the public and the parliament to ascertain which ministers have been appointed to administer which departments is critical to the proper functioning of responsible government, because it is those appointments, when read together with the AAO [Administrative Arrangement Orders], that determine the matters for which a minister is legally and politically responsible.

To the extent that the public and the parliament are not informed of appointments that have been made under s64 of the Constitution, the principles of responsible government are fundamentally undermined.

An unpublicised appointment to administer a department therefore fundamentally undermines not just the proper functioning of responsible government, but also the relationship between the Ministry and the public service.


Morrison’s actions ‘inconsistent with the conventions’ but valid, solicitor general says

Here are some standout quotes from the solicitor general’s opinion on the validity of the appointment of Scott Morrison to administer the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.

The fact that the parliament, the public and the other ministers who thereafter administered DISER concurrently with Mr Morrison were not informed of Mr Morrison’s appointment was inconsistent with the conventions and practices that form an essential part of the system of responsible government.

It would have been a clear breach of the applicable conventions for the governor general to decline to accept and act upon the prime minister’s advice. That is so whether or not the governor general was aware that the appointment would not be published.

The fact that there was no notification to the public, the parliament or the other ministers administering DISER of Mr Morrison’s appointment on 15 April 2021 does not invalidate that appointment.

Plainly enough, it is impossible for the parliament to hold ministers to account for the administration of departments if it does not know which ministers are responsible for which departments.


Legal advice on Morrison published

The department of prime minister and cabinet has released the solicitor general’s findings into the legality of former prime minister Scott Morrison secret ministerial appointments.

We’ll bring you more on what it means shortly as well as what the prime minister Anthony Albanese has to say about it.


Controversial $1bn Dendrobium coalmine expansion plan abandoned

Australian mining company South32 has abandoned plans to expand its Dendrobium metallurgical coalmine in the New South Wales Illawarra region.

In an announcement to the ASX, the mining company said the expected financial returns were not enough to justify the $1bn investment the extension would require.

The Dendrobium project has been controversial after the NSW government overturned a 2021 decision by the state’s Independent Planning Commission to reject the expansion, which would have extended the mine’s life to 2048 and allowed South32 to extract an extra 78m tonnes of coal from two areas near the Avon and Cordeaux dams.

The IPC found the project could cause irreversible damage to the Sydney and Illawarra drinking water catchments.

Albanese due to speak on secret ministries at 12.10PM

Prime minister Anthony Albanese is due to speak to media at 12.10pm today about legal advice from the solicitor general on Scott Morrison’s secret ministries.

Albanese’s speech comes after he has briefed Cabinet.


Assistant treasurer pushes greater transparency for super funds

Stephen Jones, the assistant treasurer, is speaking to Sky News as he leads a superannuation investors trip to Indonesia.

Along with a delegation of Australia’s largest superannuation funds, Jones is meeting with Indonesian leaders to discuss the opportunities for partnerships through investment.

Jones says the super system needs to be strengthened and protected, including measures for greater transparency. He told Sky News:

Members need to know what their fund is doing.

Jones says some supers are “bombing people with information in the guise of transparency.” He said members need more genuine idea of what their savings are being used for, from organisations “investing in excess of $2bn every year.”

We are in Indonesia this week with a delegation of Australia’s largest superannuation funds. It was great to catch up with Indonesian Finance Minister Sri Mulyani to discuss the opportunities for partnerships through investment. pic.twitter.com/ZJSjlLnyTY

— Stephen Jones MP (@StephenJonesMP) August 22, 2022


Victorian Greens pledge to increase public transport services ahead of state elections

Melbourne commuters would be able to catch a train or tram every 10 minutes or less across the majority of the city’s public transport network seven days a week under a plan put forward by the Victorian Greens ahead of the November election.

The election pledge would see commuters only having to wait between five to 10 minutes for a train, between 7am and 7pm, on the majority of the city’s network.
Trams would also run at peak-hour frequency all day from 7am to 7pm, instead of from 9am-4pm and every 10 minutes during off-peak times.

The Greens have also committed to fast track the planning of new tunnels and tracks needed to increase peak-hour services across greater Melbourne and regional Victoria.

The party’s policy has been costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office at $821.5 million over the next four years.

The Victorian Greens’ transport spokesperson, Sam Hibbins MP, said:

A massive increase in public transport services will make it easier for people to switch to cheaper and climate-friendly transport.

Making commuters wait for up to 20 minutes for a train or tram is not acceptable in a world-class city like Melbourne.

More trains and trams will cut climate-damaging transport emissions and make it easier and cheaper to get around our city.

Victoria goes to the polls on 26 November.

Sam Hibbins of the Victorian Greens
Sam Hibbins, the Greens’ transport spokesperson, says more available public transport will help cut emissions. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP


China’s economy is losing momentum. Why does it matter for Australia?

We often hear of China as a military threat, but it’s also worth considering the economic implications of what’s happening in the Middle Kingdom. Among the economic tailwinds are some scary heatwaves that our colleague Helen Davidson noted here last week:

The heatwaves are notable for smashing many records and worsening droughts that will diminish major crops at a time when extra demand for food imports is not what the world needs.

Unimaginable heat in China 🇨🇳

The longevity and intensity of the heatwave is hard to comprehend. Too many heat records to count, both day and night.

Beibei hit 45°C for two consecutive and some places not falling below 34°C at night.

The heat is ongoing... pic.twitter.com/pxWgaMDZQ0

— Scott Duncan (@ScottDuncanWX) August 20, 2022

There are ongoing Covid clampdowns too, with tourists stranded in Hainan province in the south and Tibet. Few foreign tourists are venturing to China given the week-plus quarantine requirements.

But it’s also worth looking at China through a wider lens, as we do in this article today:

The key stat is probably this one: China’s GDP is about three-fourths of the US and Europe’s, but its property values are double America’s and triple Europe’s. Does that make a lot of sense?

A couple of supplementary points, such as this graphic of how China’s population is forecast to more than halve by 2100, if recent trends persist.

China's ageing population is a significant issue not least because its overall population at (around) 1.4bn is probably at its peak and may start to shrink as soon as this year, as reported here: https://t.co/ax9D87cHUu pic.twitter.com/yzD7iv0xtm

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 23, 2022

On this correspondent’s most recent visit to China, back in 2019, a trip in Yunnan province in the south revealed some pretty amazing engineering under way. But given there will only ever be so many people wanting high-speed access beyond Lijiang into the mountains, you have to wonder about the economics of such projects.

China's ageing population is a significant issue not least because its overall population at (around) 1.4bn is probably at its peak and may start to shrink as soon as this year, as reported here: https://t.co/ax9D87cHUu pic.twitter.com/yzD7iv0xtm

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 23, 2022


Whale freed!

We brought you the concerning news earlier of a whale trapped in shark nets off Currumbin on the Gold Coast.

The good news it that the rescue efforts from Sea World and the Department of Fisheries have been successful and the whale is now free.

The bad news: at least 10 humpbacks have been tangled in shark nets in Queensland this year, the ABC is reporting.

JUST IN: A whale that became tangled in shark nets on the Gold Coast has now been freed by rescue crews.

The whale is one of many to have become trapped in nets, sparking debate as to whether shark nets should be removed across the coast. #9News

MORE: https://t.co/wdFLnkla4e pic.twitter.com/Ctegr7tHIR

— 9News Gold Coast (@9NewsGoldCoast) August 23, 2022


Snow levels rising in Victoria

Showers, hail and storms are also possible, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

Cold front moved across #Victoria yesterday, with strong winds and rain. Snow level dropped to ~500m before dawn, but is on the rise already, expected to reach ~900m by this evening.
Isolated showers, small hail, and storms possible today. 🌧️#VicWeatherhttps://t.co/0KUXahrGpO pic.twitter.com/mHAV98JOgm

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) August 23, 2022


Queensland records 26 Covid deaths and 411 people in hospital

There were 2,782 new cases in the last reporting period, and 10 people are in intensive care.

Today we have recorded 2,782 new COVID-19 cases.

Sadly, we have reported 26 deaths since our case post reporting on Saturday.

Full details ➡️https://t.co/rKHIwrH8sQ pic.twitter.com/0SgjrbYGnR

— Queensland Health (@qldhealth) August 23, 2022


Victorian Coalition pledges regional cancer centre using money from Suburban Rail Loop

A new cancer centre and health school would be erected in regional Victoria under another health-related election pledge by the state opposition, AAP reports.

The Victorian Liberals and Nationals have vowed to allocate $100m to develop the Integrated Cancer Centre and Clinical Health School at Goulburn Valley (GV) Health in Shepparton if the Coalition wins the 26 November state election.

The money for the facility would come from shelving construction of the first part of the Victorian Labor government’s Suburban Rail Loop from Cheltenham to Box Hill, the opposition said.

It would allow GV Health to expand its current cancer and oncology services and make the existing site up to four times larger, ensuring improved access for cancer patients across the region.

The school would support more than 300 nursing and allied health enrolments each year under a proposed partnership with La Trobe University, expanding the opposition’s previous commitments to build new teaching hospitals in Mildura, Wodonga and Warragul.

The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said in a statement today:

Training healthcare workers in regional Victoria, like we have committed to do in Mildura, Wodonga and Shepparton, will put more doctors, nurses and staff in the areas they’re needed most.


Parthenon replica coming to Melbourne

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has announced that a replica of the ancient Greek temple is coming to Melbourne this summer.

The replica will be built in the National Gallery of Victoria’s garden, where local artists will be invited to cover it in murals.

Gotta get that Greek vote pic.twitter.com/zE85iMekRd

— Benita Kolovos (@benitakolovos) August 23, 2022


ACT records no Covid deaths and 119 people in hospital

There were 258 new cases in the last reporting period, and two people are in intensive care.

ACT COVID-19 update – 23 August 2022
🦠 COVID-19 case numbers
◾ New cases today: 258 (127 PCR and 131 RAT)
◾ Active cases: 1,586
◾ Total cases since March 2020: 200,796 pic.twitter.com/Dc2aOC6EHw

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) August 23, 2022


Modest uptick in consumer confidence

More signs that consumers are weathering the rate rises, with the weekly confidence survey from ANZ and Roy-Morgan showing another – modest – uptick.

More sign of consumer sentiment holding up, with @ANZ_Research and Roy-Morgan's weekly gauge of confidence picking up again. It's now back to early June levels with most sub-indices perking up as well. pic.twitter.com/yCrtCBWK9g

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 23, 2022

ANZ’s head of Australian Economics, David Plank, said the unemployment rate dropping to 3.4% in July – the lowest since August 1974 – “might have helped boost sentiment, though the news on wages, especially in real terms, was disappointing”.

Plank said:

Consistent with this, confidence is still exceptionally low; but consumers are modestly optimistic about their future financial situation despite the prospect of further increases in interest rates.

Also heading in the right way are inflation expectations, which have been easing back. The RBA’s rate rises are intended to squelch such concerns, so they’ll presumably be happy about that (with the usual caveats about one week at a time, of course) ...

Also notable from the @ANZ_Research is a slide in inflation expectations, which will be of interest (sts) for the RBA. (Investors are still predicting the cash rate will double by next June to 3.75% from 1.85% now.) pic.twitter.com/d9Hr8IQNQ1

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 23, 2022

What’s happening at the petrol pump will also influence inflation views, of course.

That’s not just a function of what global oil prices do, but also what margin service stations take. In the most recent week, that margin has fattened again, the Australian Institute of Petroleum notes:

Fuel prices underpin inflation worries to a big degree. The latest weekly data from the Australian Institute of Petroleum show average retail prices rose to 172.4 cents/litre last week from 168.8. Wholesale prices, though, fell from 155.5 cents to 152.9, hence the widening gap. pic.twitter.com/jCb1eS87Yv

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 23, 2022

The fuel excise “holiday” ends late on 28 September, with 22.1 cents a litre to be added back then ... unless the Albanese government changes its mind about not extending the six-month cut in the excise.


Andrew Giles criticises previous government’s disconnect between immigrations and skills

The immigration and citizenship minister, Andrew Giles, told Sky News this morning he isn’t putting a number on the increase to migration but it has to be the “right number to meet the challenges of the moment and set ourselves up for the future”.

Immigration has to be seen fundamentally as part of a nation-building role of national government, and it is something that has been neglected over the last nine years of conservative governments and that has created some of the challenges we are responding to.

We’ve got to look at it as a whole. We can’t have this lazy approach to immigration that’s so often characterised the last nine years, which separated the immigration function of government from that connected to skills and training.

We’ve got to recognise that we’re in a global competition for talent.


Nick Kyrgios' lawyer aims to 'finalise' assault matter but loses bid for longer delay

The ACT magistrates court has adjourned Nick Kyrgios’ matter to 4 October, rejecting his lawyer’s bid for a longer delay until November for an application he foreshadowed may finalise the matter.

In July Australian Capital Territory policing confirmed that Kyrgios had been summonsed to face a charge of assaulting his former girlfriend. It relates to an incident in Canberra last December.

On Tuesday, Kyrgios’ lawyer, Michael Kukulies-Smith, asked the case’s magistrate, Louise Taylor, to adjourn the case to 25 November, a time he said that Kyrgios would be back in the ACT and before Kukulies-Smith would go on leave in December and January.

Kukulies-Smith foreshadowed an application on that date “capable of finalising the matter” but said he did not wish to say more, noting the many journalists present in court. Kukulies-Smith said he did not want to take up time making an application for the court to be closed.

Taylor said:

I am not sure what the case is for the secrecy ... [The proposed November date is] an indulgence for you and your client. I am not going to list the matter on the basis of some application that might be made.

The ACT DPP did not oppose the application, but Taylor rejected the request to “set aside time for some unknown reason”, noting the ordinary process is to ask the defendant “if there is a plea of guilty or not guilty”.

As a fallback, Kyrgios’ lawyer asked for a 6-week adjournment. Taylor granted it, listing the matter for 4 October.

In July, an ACT Policing spokesperson said:

ACT policing can confirm a 27-year-old Watson man is scheduled to face the ACT magistrates court on 2 August in relation to one charge of common assault following an incident in December 2021.


Energy change needs thousands of electricians

Australia must train tens of thousands of new sparkies if it wants to be a renewable energy superpower, according to the Electrical Trades Union, AAP reports.

The warning comes as the climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, hosts a jobs summit in Canberra on Tuesday with industry, unions, environmental groups and community advocates.

Electrical apprentice completion rates currently sit at just 52%, which is too low if Australia is to overhaul energy and industrial processes to meet its climate commitments, Michael Wright, the acting secretary of the ETU, said.

The federal government is setting aside $100m to support 10,000 New Energy Apprenticeships. But electrical apprentices are failing to complete their training because of the soaring cost of living and lack of mentoring, according to a survey conducted by Essential Media for the union.

Wright said:

Australia will need tens of thousands of skilled electrical workers to connect renewables like solar, wind and batteries to our electricity grid.

The survey of 642 electrical apprentices showed more than a third (37%) were thinking about quitting.

Man on roof connecting solar panels
The Electrical Trades Union says tens of thousands of new workers will be required to help connect renewables to the grid. Photograph: SolStock/Getty Images


New SA River Murray commissioner gives hope for state’s water management

Richard Beasley, the bluntly spoken senior counsel in the 2019 South Australian Murray-Darling Basin royal commission, has been appointed as SA’s River Murray commissioner.

Beasley recently described efforts in NSW and Victoria to stymie part of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan that would deliver 450 gigalitres of environmental water as a “pretty rotten way to operate”.

State water minister Susan Close said:

Mr Beasley’s appointment will ensure South Australia’s voice is heard when it comes to the management of the River Murray. His time on the Murray-Darling Basin royal commission showed he has a great capacity to connect people and build relationships, skills that will be vital in his role as commissioner.

He will also be a much-needed voice for our river communities. Having a commissioner for the River Murray sends a clear message to upstream states that SA is serious about defending its water rights, including the 450 gigalitres promised but not delivered.

Mr Beasley has a deep understanding of the issues relating to the river and the entire Murray-Darling Basin, and I look forward to working closely with him to fight for the future of the river.


‘We shouldn’t have to fight this hard to get a train fixed,’ union says

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens yesterday defended the latest rail action. He told Channel 9:

We kept working all the way through Covid, we delivered a service, and we deserve better respect than this. We shouldn’t have to fight this hard to get a train fixed and we certainly shouldn’t have to fight this hard to get decent wages and conditions. It’s ridiculous.


NSW Labor should tell unions to end strikes, treasurer says

Circling back to that Sky News interview with NSW treasurer Matt Kean who was also asked about the train delays Sydney commuters continue to see due to ongoing dispute between the government and the transport workers union.

Kean is accusing the unions of waging “industrial warfare” and “holding the NSW public to ransom … over something NSW government said it would fix”.

Kean has urged opposition leader Chris Minns to tell unions to end the strikes.


Victoria records 25 new Covid deaths and 433 people in hospital

There were 3,638 new cases in the last reporting period and 26 people are in intensive care.

We thank everyone who got vaccinated and tested yesterday.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives.

More data soon: https://t.co/OCCFTAchah pic.twitter.com/D8X1GLnehV

— VicGovDH (@VicGovDH) August 22, 2022


NSW records 32 more Covid deaths and 1,928 people in hospital

There were 5,567 new cases in the last reporting period and 49 people are in intensive care.

COVID-19 update – Tuesday 23 August 2022
In the 24-hour reporting period to 4pm yesterday:
- 96.9% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine*
- 95.4% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine* pic.twitter.com/UtNbnZPxwM

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) August 22, 2022


‘Just need to start stamping passports’: Kean criticises federal jobs summit

NSW treasurer Matt Kean has continued his criticism of the Albanese’s jobs and skills summit while appearing on Sky News this morning.

Kean said there is a backlog of 65,000 skilled workers waiting to enter Australia.

He says what’s needed more than the jobs and skills summit is for the government to “start stamping passports”.

He is urging the government to stop waiting for permission from the unions and bureaucratic processes.

NSW treasurer Matt Kean.
NSW treasurer Matt Kean. Photograph: Monique Harmer/AAP


Rock star reception for Albanese at Gang of Youths concert

Prime minister Anthony Albanese was spotted at a Gang of Youths concert in his electorate at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre last night.

The PM was there with his partner Jodie Haydon and was seen downing a beer as the crowd cheered him on.

‘Plan B’ needed for Sydney trains dispute

As Sydney commuters face yet another day of delays, both sides of the dispute are calling for an arbiter.

A third party could be needed to resolve the stalled negotiations in the long-running dispute between the NSW government and the rail union, AAP reports.

Sydney commuters face more delays on Tuesday.
Sydney commuters face more delays on Tuesday. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Employee relations minister Damien Tudehope says he doesn’t know where negotiations will go next. He told Sydney radio 2GB:

I think there has to be a plan B.

Let’s get a sort of independent arbiter to sort of work between us but it’s got to be conditional upon a suspension or pausing of industrial activity.

Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens agrees. He said on Monday:

We need somebody to drag us all in around the table and keep us there until the matter is resolved.

At this point nobody has done that, all we get is a succession of different ministers ringing me up and saying ‘we’ve got to sit at the table’.


New Victorian schools to be named Indigenous language words

The Victorian government has selected Indigenous language words as the names for several new schools that are due to open next year.

The Andrews government is planning to open 100 new schools between 2019 and 2026 to cater for the state’s biggest growth regions.

Victoria’s education minister, Natalie Hutchins, revealed the names which include local Aboriginal language for flora and fauna. It followed a community consultation process.

Hutchins said the naming of the schools was a milestone as they prepare to open their gates for new students:

It’s so important for families and young people to feel connected to their local schools, and we’re thrilled the community has had their say on these names that really reflect the areas’ culture, history and environment.


Jupiter revealed auras and all

Jupiter is being shown as never before in new images from the world’s biggest space telescope.

Scientists released the pictures Monday from the James Webb space telescope, which were taken in July.

They captures Jupiter’s northern and southern lights, and swirling polar haze.

NASA Releases New images of Jupiter, Outer Space.
A Nasa image shows a false colour composite of Jupiter obtained by the James Webb space telescope. Photograph: NASA/ZumaPress Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock


Well-wishes for Farnham pour in as singer’s cancer diagnosis revealed

John Farnham’s family this morning revealed the legendary singer will undergo surgery for cancer.

Farnham’s friend Derryn Hinch, who appeared in the video for his hit song You’re the Voice alongside Jacki Weaver, said he is shocked by the news.

Shocked by John Farnham’s cancer news. Thoughts are with you and Jill, mate. Jacki sends love.

— Derryn Hinch (@HumanHeadline) August 22, 2022

According to the Daily Mail, Hinch had also advised Farnham at one time not to release You’re the Voice, telling him the lyrics didn’t make sense.

Go well, precious one! https://t.co/Xk4nYUsV2N

— Melanie Tait (@MelanieTait) August 22, 2022


Greens senator renews calls to ban shark nets as latest whale trapped

Shark nets are indiscriminate killers and weapons of mass destruction. Australia is the only country in the world to use these lethal and unjustified measures to provide a false sense of security to surfers, swimmers and other ocean goers. We need #netsoutnow! https://t.co/KnrOtD5c84

— Peter Whish-Wilson (@SenatorSurfer) August 22, 2022

Whale trapped off Gold Coast

A rescue team is trying to free a whale tangled in shark nets at Currumbin.

It’s the seventh whale caught this year, according to Leonardo Guida, shark biologist with the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

#BREAKING: A rescue operation is underway to free a whale trapped in shark nets off the Gold Coast. #9Today | WATCH LIVE 5.30am pic.twitter.com/bmknJzmBky

— The Today Show (@TheTodayShow) August 22, 2022

#BREAKING: #Whale entangled in Currumbin #shark nets on the Gold Coast. That's no 7 for this year, folks. Hopefully this one survives and the rescue crew stay safe. Whale migration season still has another 2 months to go. @MarkFurnerMP get the #NetsOutNow and put drones up.

— Dr Leonardo Guida (@ElasmoBro) August 22, 2022


Dorinda Cox criticises Plibersek’s approval of contentious fertiliser plant near ancient rock art

Cox is now responding to the news that the federal government will not intervene to block a controversial $4.5bn fertiliser plant near ancient rock art on WA’s Burrup peninsula.

WA Greens senator, Yamatji and Noongar woman Dorinda Cox.
WA Greens senator, Yamatji-Noongar woman woman Dorinda Cox. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Guardian Australia’s environment editor Adam Morton reports:

The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has ruled a controversial $4.5bn fertiliser plant near ancient rock art on Western Australia’s Burrup peninsula can go ahead after being told it had the support of a local Aboriginal corporation.

Work on the development had stopped after Save Our Songlines, a separate traditional owners organisation opposed to the project, asked the minister to protect five culturally important sites, including petroglyphs. Three of the five are due to be moved during construction.

Plibersek appeared on ABC Radio earlier and said she was following the support of the traditional owner group recognised as the most representative organisation for the five traditional owner groups in the region.

Cox says Plibersek’s decision is “disappointing” and that it’s fair to compare the situation with Juukan Gorge.

Cox says the project endangers the environment and cultural heritage, most prominently its significance for Indigenous Songlines.


Greens senator says traditional owners need better consultation in environmental projects

Greens Senator Dorinda Cox is speaking to ABC Radio as traditional owners are challenging a massive Northern Territory offshore gas project.

She attended a landmark bush court hearing yesterday at the Tiwi Islands which heard from traditional owners via song and dance.

Cox said two emails and an unanswered phone call did not constitute proper consultation for Santos’ plans to drill in the Barossa gas field.

Traditional owners in the Tiwi Islands are trying to stop Santos’ Barossa gas project in northern Australia.
Traditional owners in the Tiwi Islands are trying to stop Santos’ Barossa gas project in northern Australia. Photograph: Rebecca Parker


Key event

Gas fitter charged over NSW baby ward death

A man allegedly responsible for a rare gas mix-up in a neonatal ward at a Sydney hospital has been charged with a newborn’s manslaughter and causing serious harm to another baby, AAP reports..

The boy died of severe hypoxemia 57 minutes after he was born in Operating Theatre Eight in the Bankstown hospital on 13 July 2016.

He required resuscitation after his birth and while medical staff believed they were administering oxygen, the boy was given nitrous oxide from the theatre’s neonatal medical gas system, killing him.

The system had also been used on another baby a month earlier, leaving that girl with a permanent brain injury.

The incorrect gas connection was discovered the next week.

Following a coroner’s referral of the case to the director of public prosecutions, Christopher Laurie Turner, 61, attended Bankstown police station on Monday and was arrested.

He now faces charges of manslaughter by criminal negligence and causing grievous bodily harm by a negligent act or omission.

Police allege Turner failed to adhere to the Australian standards when certifying oxygen connections within the neonatal medical gas outlet at the hospital in July 2015.

The gas fitter, according to a court in 2020, signed a form stating he’d tested the Operating Theatre Eight outlets and 100% oxygen was flowing from the pipe labelled oxygen.

A magistrate on Monday granted Turner bail on the condition he report thrice weekly to police, live in a specific address near Lake Macquarie and have someone put up a $10,000 surety.

He’s also banned from contacting prosecution witnesses except through his lawyer.

The matter was adjourned until 26 October to allow the brief of evidence to be served on Turner.


If Morrison saga was playing out in the corporate world, he would have been stood down from job, Christine Holgate says

Former Australia Post boss, Christine Holgate continues to weigh in on revelations former prime minister Scott Morrison secretly appointed himself to the finance portfolio, overseeing her independent review without her knowledge.

Holgate told ABC News Breakfast this morning:

I feel extremely disappointed … To to be told and go through that experience inparliament and then to be told that there will be an independent investigation into you, and then a full Senate inquiry. At no point did I ever know ... the arms-length independent review was actually overseen by Mr Morrison as the finance minister. That doesn’t sound very independent to me.

If this had happened in a corporate world, you know, that person would have been stood down for their job. There would be an enormous set of consequences. But unfortunately, this is allowed to take place in parliament, it feels. I think it’s almost incredible. And actually quite disturbing.

Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate (left) and former PM Scott Morrison.
Former Australia Post CEO Christine Holgate (left) and former PM Scott Morrison. Composite: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Deputy PM commits to closing loopholes revealed by Morrison saga

"if there are loopholes that need to be closed here, they'll be closed"

- @RichardMarlesMP

— RN Breakfast (@RNBreakfast) August 22, 2022

Understanding Morrison’s actions needs to be ‘starting point’ of inquiry, deputy PM says

The host of ABC RN breakfast, Patricia Karvelas, is pressing Marles on what the scope of an inquiry should look at.


Should the inquiry should be broadened to include the governor general’s role and that of the public service?


The starting point is we need to understand what Morrison did here as the former PM ... and look at those other questions subsequently to that.

We also want to understand the legality of this so that we can make sure not only our government but governments in the future operate in a way which is transparent.

Former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison speaks to media during a news conference in Sydney on 17 August.
Former Australian prime minister Scott Morrison speaks to media during a news conference in Sydney on 17 August. Photograph: Reuters


Marles: There need to be consequences for Morrison, whatever the legal outcome

Earlier, the deputy PM Richard Marles told ABC News Breakfast:

Whatever the legal outcome here is, what is really clear is that Scott Morrison treated firstly the Australian people with complete contempt by not making transparent the decisions he was taking in respect of who was running Australia at that point in time, but he’s treated his own colleagues with contempt.

Importantly here, he has treated the cabinet process with contempt. That’s at the heart of the Westminster system. As we go forward, whatever the legal advice, there needs to be some political consequence for a person who has flouted the, really, the Westminster cabinet system so completely.


Consequences for Morrison’s actions are a question for the Liberal party – Marles

The deputy prime minister and minister for defence Richard Marles is speaking to ABC Radio now.

The first question gets straight to the big news of the day – the fallout of Scott Morrison’s secret ministries saga ahead of the public release of the solicitor general’s legal advice.

Marles has previously said he thinks the consequences for Morrison’s actions should be severe, but when asked what that looks like he said:

That is a question for the Liberal party and I want to see what Peter Dutton thinks should be done here.

For someone who has so completely flouted our own system of government, there has to be some political consequence.

Deputy PM Richard Marles.
Deputy PM Richard Marles. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


NSW pushes to reconsider Covid-19 iso period

A push has been revived for Australia’s leaders to consider cutting the isolation period for Covid-19 cases as the nation’s latest Omicron wave winds down, AAP reports.

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has flagged putting Covid-19 isolation back on the agenda when national cabinet is next due to meet on 31 August.

He previously raised shortening isolation from seven days to five, and wants the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, as well as his state and territory colleagues to look at it again as spring approaches.

He told reporters yesterday:

Given where we are we should have a national approach … that’s more beneficial than states going their own way.

The push comes as the latest research published in the journal Nature shows that more than a quarter of people with Covid may still be infectious after seven days “irrespective of the variant type or how many vaccine doses people had received”.


Katy Gallagher heading to Bali to attend G20 conference for women’s empowerment

Katy Gallagher is on her way to Bali for the G20 ministerial conference for women’s empowerment.

It’s the first time an Australian minister has attended this conference in person. That’s because it was established in 2021 (during Covid) and was held in a hybrid format (in-person and virtually).

This meeting will allow Gallagher some bilateral meetings with her Indonesian, EU, UK, Indian and Fijian counterparts and what’s discussed at this conference will form some of us taken to the G20 (also in Bali) later this year.

Gallagher is the third Australian minister to visit Indonesia since Labor won government, following the prime minister and foreign affairs minister Penny Wong.

Minister for finance, Katy Gallagher.
Minister for finance, Katy Gallagher. Photograph: Dean Martin/AAP


‘We need to have an honest conversation’: health minister to tell workforce roundtable

Ahead of next week’s jobs and skills summit, the health minister, Mark Butler, will hold a health workforce round table on Tuesday.

He will tell peak medical bodies, unions and Indigenous health groups that he wants an “honest conversation” about what more can be done to address chronic skills shortages in the sector, listing workforce challenges as a priority in his portfolio.

Butler will say, according to draft excerpts of his speech:

My message to the frontline health workers in this room, is that you walk the wards every day, you know the system and you know where we can do better.

The fact is that if you don’t support skilled workers to deliver healthcare to the community, the health system fails.

Butler said he would be holding a series of meetings over the next two months to “understand what governments can do better” as he forged ahead with a new health workforce taskforce set up with the states and territories.

The challenges ahead of us are not insurmountable, rather many of these challenges present opportunities for us to improve and future-proof our health workforce.

We must get the distribution of the health workforce on track to strengthen the role of primary care and make sure people, no matter where they live, can access the care they need, when they need it.

Butler said while international skilled migration would always be necessary, this was “only one strategy” and more needed to be done to ensure the training and career pathways for the health workforce were set correctly.

We need to have an honest conversation about what else we need to do, to ensure we have the health workers we need in regional, rural and remote areas – tackling the difficulties are complex.

Specifically, providing adequate health worker accommodation and ensuring access to childcare and essential services are key.

There are no easy answers, but we need to take on these difficult issues if we’re to have the workforce we need for our growing and ageing population.”


John Farnham undergoing surgery for cancer

Music legend John Farnham has been diagnosed with cancer.

Farnham’s family has released a statement to say he has been admitted to hospital for surgery and treatment.

The Farnham family, pictured here in 2018
The Farnham family, pictured here in 2018 Photograph: Supplied

The statement also includes words from Farnham himself, taking comfort in the fact that “countless others have walked this path before me” and the excellence of Victoria’s healthcare professionals.

Music legend John Farnham has revealed he’s been diagnosed with cancer and has this morning been admitted to hospital for surgery and treatment. pic.twitter.com/NChs45cGYv

— Monique Hore (@moniquehore) August 22, 2022


Good morning!

The legal advice from the solicitor general of former prime minister Scott Morrison’s secret appointment to five additional ministries will be made public today.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will brief cabinet about the advice before making it public.

Samantha Maiden from News.com is reporting the advice will be “scathing”:

News.com.au has confirmed with senior government sources that are familiar with its contents that the legal advice is sharply critical of the conduct of the former prime minister and will lay the groundwork for a formal investigation into Scott Morrison’s ‘ministry of secrets’.

ABC Radio is reporting Albanese has flagged another investigation is under way by the department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported the results of an exclusive survey showing the Albanese government is enjoying an extended “honeymoon” of post-election support, while the new findings show voters have cut their primary vote support for the Coalition from 36% to 28% since the election.

Ahead of next week’s jobs and skills summit, the health minister, Mark Butler, will hold a health workforce round table today.

Let’s kick off!


Stephanie Convery and Natasha May (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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