What we learned, Monday 29 August
And with that, we are going to put the blog to bed for the evening. Thank you so much for spending the day with us.
Before I bounce, let’s go through the big stories:
Liberal party MP Russell Broadbent called for the government to drop the planned stage three tax cuts, saying the world had ‘turned on its head’ since the legislation was passed.
It came after Anthony Albanese said during his address to the National Press Club that the Labor government ‘stands by’ the legislation.
The former prime minister Scott Morrison will reportedly ‘cooperate’ with the inquiry into how he secretly swore himself in to five additional ministries while in government.
Unions and small businesses have agreed to work together on workplace reform in the lead-up to the jobs and skills summit.
The builders of Australia’s planned warship fleet say they have clawed back more than a year of an announced 18-month delay, with construction of the new fleet to begin in May.
Three people have died in a light plane crash west of Brisbane this afternoon it has been confirmed.
And Ernst and Young (EY) will conduct a “comprehensive and wide-ranging” after a woman was found dead in the company’s Sydney offices on Saturday.
We will be back tomorrow to do it all again - stay safe and have a great night.
Ernest and Young to conduct review after woman found dead in Sydney office
Ernst and Young (EY) will conduct a “comprehensive and wide-ranging” review of the company’s health, security and social policies after a woman was found dead in the company’s Sydney offices in the early hours of Saturday morning.
New South Wales police said emergency services were called to the George Street offices at 12.20am on Saturday where officers located the body of a woman.
The Australian reported the woman in her early 30s had attended a company social event at the Ivy nightclub on the same street earlier Friday evening and returned to the office afterwards.
The EY chief executive, David Larocca, said in a statement the company was “deeply shocked and saddened” by the tragic event.
“Our hearts go out to family and we have been in contact to offer our support and condolences,” he said.
“As a result of this tragedy we are in the process of conducting a comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review encompassing health and safety, security and social events as they relate to our staff.”
The company’s chief mental health officer will be part of the review and counselling has been offered to all staff.
NSW police said an investigation into the incident was under way and a report would be prepared for the coroner.
Three people killed in Queensland plane crash
Three people have died in a plane crash west of Brisbane this afternoon it has been confirmed.
The Cessna aircraft was reported missing after failing to return from a flight on Monday.
A search was launched after the plane was confirmed to be overdue and due to the remoteness of the area paramedics had to enter on foot, Nine News reported.
The plane ran into bad weather before dropping. It was tracked leaving Roma in western Queensland, stopping at Dalby, before disappearing in the Somerset region.
Eric Bogle confirms he was not banned from Mt Macedon writers’ festival
In a blog post on Monday afternoon the singer-songwriter confirmed what the festival told us earlier today, that his music was not in keeping with the spirit of the festival around the environment.
The committee replied that, while they were great fans of my music (isn’t everyone), they thought that it would be more in keeping with the spirit of the festival, which will have a strong environmental focus, if an artist with environmental credentials was hired instead of one who specialised in war songs. I must stress that the description “pro war songs” was never used at any stage.
They understandably probably wanted a willowy young female in dressed in muslin and chiffon playing a harp and singing about climate change and the price of lettuce rather than a balding red-faced wee Scotsman singing about war and it’s many unpleasantries. Talk about being typecast ... a quick perusal of my songwriting catalogue revealed at least 15 songs about the environment, climate change, etc. etc.
Bogle wished them luck saying: “I truly believe that you can’t have enough writers’ festivals.”
Australian scientists to monitor Nasa spacecraft on its way to the moon
The Nasa mission has mannequins on board and is a “full dress rehearsal” for sending humans to the moon in 2035, CSIRO’s Canberra Deep Space Communication Complex spokesperson Glen Nagle says.
Hail and storms hit western Victoria leaving homes without power
Huge hailstones fell in Mildura this afternoon and Victoria’s State Emergency Service is urging people to stay off the roads during storms.
There are 800 properties in western Victoria without power.
New South Wales rejects accessible home standards
Australia’s most populous state confirmed it will opt out of implementing the clauses that would require new homes to have basic accessibility features such as at least one step-free entrance, a toilet on the entry level and reinforced walls in the bathroom.
Three people feared dead in a plane crash west of Brisbane
The aircraft with three people on board was reported missing after failing to return from a flight on Monday, police have confirmed.
A search was launched after the plane was confirmed to be overdue.
Police are yet to reveal details the aircraft, its flight plan or intended destination.
The plane ran into bad weather before dropping, Nine News reports.
Victorian man pleads guilty to harassing ABC journalist Mark Willacy
On 9 November 2021, Rickard and his workmates had a site meeting about 5am where Willacy’s reporting was again discussed. He decided to do a Google search for Willacy’s name, found his contact number and left a message, the call lasting about 20 seconds.
Eric Bogle was never booked for Mt Macedon writers’ festival, organisers say
Earlier today we reported Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle had reportedly been canned from the Mt Macedon writers’ festival, with him posting on Facebook that it was due to his songs being “pro-war” (despite his songs being famously anti-war).
The Mountain writers’ festival has told us he was not cancelled from the festival, as he had not been booked. The festival was going to host live music but opted against it. The focus of the festival is on the environment and nature. The festival finalised its speakers list a couple of months ago, so they were unsure why this had come up today.
We have sought additional comment from Bogle.
Josh Taylor has more on today’s stabbing at a school in Orange here:
How the Covid pandemic influenced far-right extremism in Victoria
The growth of far-right extremism in Victoria and how the Covid-19 pandemic influenced it will be explored in a new report.
Victoria’s Legal and Social Issues Committee will hand down its final report on Tuesday after the due date was repeatedly pushed back.
The inquiry was announced in February following a neo-Nazi gathering in the Grampians in January 2021 and the erection of gallows outside parliament as MPs debated pandemic legislation in November.
Liberty Victoria president, Michael Stanton, warned against sweeping reforms to combat the influence of far-right extremism during public hearings in June.
“We need to make sure that in responding to those confronting scenes ... that we do not have a legislative response that throws the baby out with the bathwater,” he said.
The inquiry also investigated the risk the movement poses to Victoria’s multicultural communities, as well as their methods of recruitment and communication.
In her appearance, Swinburne University researcher Belinda Barnet pushed for the expansion of mainstream social media platform regulations to encrypted apps and a national anti-racism strategy.
Severe thunderstorms are impacting western Victoria:
Thwaites also says the government needs to look at “multinational tax avoidance, we need to look into our long-term tax system so we can pay for the services we all expect and rely on into the future”.
Labor MP Kate Thwaites, who is also being interviewed on Afternoon Briefing has defended Labor keeping the stage three cuts:
We stand by the commitment we took to the election. I think it is important that we are clear with people and that we stand by our commitments.
So, we make the point, you know, great for Russell to talk about where he is now and where he is individually.
These were tax cuts that were put through in the last parliament under his government, and I haven’t seen his party leadership take any sorts of moves to suggest they’re open at all to revisiting that.
They’re open at all to not mounting what we have seen happen from Liberal oppositions in the past, which is probably pretty misleading campaigns about tax cuts and broken promises and what happens there.
Broadbent says he has been “talking to other people for a long time” about how the tax cuts should be scrapped:
You think what has happened since that time, and the mountain of debt that we have, the things that have changed, these issues as Kate [Thwaites] would be well aware, that I have raised, where we could spend the money, they affect women in Australia more than they affect men.
So these are things that we should be doing as a nation and saying, that’s where we were back there, that was a proposition put forward by government, we had a one-seat majority, I don’t think I was going to come out at the time and oppose everything the government was doing, although some in my party say I usually do.
What I’m saying now is the world has changed. It’s turned itself on its head. So therefore, when it changes, we should change.
'Sending the wrong message': Liberal backbencher says stage three tax cuts should be scrapped
Liberal party MP Russell Broadbent is being interviewed on Afternoon Briefing on the ABC – he has called for the government to drop the stage three tax cuts.
He said higher earners, like politicians, do not need tax cuts now:
When things change, we should change. The world has turned on its head since the tax cuts were introduced. So people like me don’t need tax cuts.
Not only dealing with national debt as far as the eye can see, we’re dealing with bushfire recovery, flood recovery, we’ve got a housing and rental debacle, we’ve got staffing issues and supply chain issues. What could we be spending that money on? That $700bn over 10 years? We could be spending that money on social housing, defence, it goes on and on.
We’re just sending the wrong message to the Australian people at this time that tax cuts for the wealthier cohort of our community are acceptance. I think the government should bite the bullet and drop those tax cuts now and send a real message to the Australian people that we are on about those that are doing it tough.
Unions and business council strike landmark deal to fix ‘broken’ system
The peak body for unions and small business representatives have struck a landmark deal on workplace reform ahead of the federal government’s jobs and skills summit.
The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Council of Small Businesses Australia (Cosboa) have agreed in principle to work together to simplify and reduce complexities within the current industrial relations system.
This includes a pledge to support new options for collective bargaining, proposed by the ACTU last week, enabling multiple workplaces to work together to secure deals for employees.
But any changes to bargaining arrangements would be opt-in rather than mandated, Cosboa chief, Alexi Boyd, said.
“We’re not looking at any mandates or whole-sector requirements or anything like that,” she said.
“It’s about finding what’s fit for purpose for a particular business so that ... we can help them navigate the system, because right now the system is broken.”
Small businesses had previously been left out of industrial relations discussions, but that must change, Boyd said.
Statement from NSW education department on Orange stabbing
I have a statement from the NSW department of education about today’s stabbing in Orange:
Emergency services were called to Canobolas Rural Technology High School today following an altercation between two students. Staff immediately provided first aid.
The school was placed into lockdown for a short period of time as a safety precaution.
Wellbeing supports are in place for all staff and students.
As this is a NSW Police matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further.
In a 20-minute interview from inside the Indonesian jail from which he could soon be released, Patek said he “disagreed” with the plan to bomb two nightclubs.
Retail sales up 1.3% in July, ABS reports
Retail sales jumped higher than expected in July, showing that consumers are still spending despite cost-of-living pressures.
Retail sales rose 1.3 per cent in July, which was sharply higher than the 0.3 to 0.4 per cent increase expected by analysts.
The latest lift in retail turnover follows a slowdown in momentum in the past two months, with retail sales increasing by 0.2 per cent in June and 0.7 per cent in May.
“After slowing growth in recent months, the 1.3 per cent rise in July was the largest since the 1.6 per cent rise in March,” Australian Bureau of Statistics head of retail statistics Ben Dorber said.
Overall retail trade was up 16.5 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Sky News is reporting that Scott Morrison will cooperate with the Virginia Bell inquiry into his secret multiple ministries.
We asked his spokesperson, who replied:
Unfortunately, Mr Morrison is yet to receive any information or formal communication from the Prime Minister or his Department about the Inquiry the Prime Minister has initiated or its terms of reference. Mr Morrison will wait to hear from Justice Bell and communicate directly with her as appropriate and respect the confidences of their interaction.
Wong says she comes with the same message Gough Whitlam did when he visited the country after independence.
I‘m here today with that same message that you are profoundly important to us. We share history, we share values, we share an affinity.
Our futures are tied together.
Penny Wong is now speaking in Port Moresby about Australia’s relationship with Papua New Guinea.
Over Twitter people have reacted to the news the former PM will appear before the inquiry – but is still to receive the reference letter (which is publically available):
Scott Morrison reportedly to ‘cooperate’ with secret ministries inquiry
Sky News is reporting that Morrison will appear before the inquiry into his secret ministries:
NSW government urged to pay for nursing courses as shortages cripple sector
With a crippling shortage in nurses and midwives across NSW, the union is urging the government to pay for university courses to attract and retain people to the profession.
The NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association (NSWNMA) is calling on Premier Dominic Perrottet to follow Victoria’s lead by investing in the nursing and midwifery workforce.
The Victorian government is recruiting and training 17,000 nurses and midwives and will cover the university fees of more than 10,000 nursing or midwifery undergraduate courses.
The latest demand comes as nurses prepare to walk off the job for 24 hours on Thursday, while maintaining life-preserving care.
The Union’s General Secretary Shaye Candish said it was critical for the government to address staff shortages impacting the state’s public hospitals.
“The Victorian government’s announcement is exactly the type of forward-thinking we have been championing in NSW to address some of the workforce concerns we can already see coming down the line here,” she said on Monday.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Australian singer-songwriter Eric Bogle wrote ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ – which criticises war as futile and gruesome.
A weird twist that he has now reportedly been canned from the Mt Macedon Writers’ Festival:
Last week’s decision by the Albanese government to open up 47,000 sq km of waters to oil and gas exploration understandably sent mixed messages about how Australia would decrease greenhouse gas pollution while promoting industries that increased it.
Our colleague Adam Morton detailed the issues today in his weekly column:
Discussions with people in the energy industry, though, have pointed to a disconnect between the high prices for coal, oil and fossil gas and the lack of a subsequent increase in exploration.
Indeed, the latest ABS data out today on such spending looks to support that view:
Total spending on petroleum exploration fell 21.4% to $245m in the June quarter.
To be sure, it’s not as though geologists have given up assaying our lands for things to dig up or pump out.
For the June quarter mineral expenditure was up almost a quarter to $1.054bn. Iron ore exploration rose 44% to just over $200m, the ABS said. Coal, though, barely moved.
What’s going on? Given the long lead time to find and develop (after approval) new resources, it might well be that energy producers are not betting those high commodity prices will last long.
By contrast, demand for a range of mineral resources needed for the transition to clean energy including the electrification of transport is likely to remain strong – or at least we’d better hope so if we’re making that shift off fossil fuels to curb global heating globally.
Keeping Sydneysiders hydrated in the future may mean embracing recycled water, according to this new strategy.
While a “very substantial” network of dams existed, “meeting the demand for water from a growing population means that we can’t rely solely on these dams and the Sydney desalination plant to meet all our future water needs,” it found.
Read more here from Anne Davies:
Hello everyone! This is Cait Kelly – before we get into it I want to give a big thanks to Calla who took us through the morning.
First up, I have this from AAP:
Far-right extremist Neil Erikson has been found guilty again of disturbing religious worship after storming a community church service.
Erikson was jailed for 70 days in 2021 but appealed his conviction and sentence over the incident on Mother’s Day in 2019.
Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on Monday found prosecutors had proven the charge.
“(Erikson) is guilty of the charge,” he said.
The incident was live streamed online to Erikson’s followers.
During a service at the Metropolitan Community Church Erikson got to his feet in front of about 20 parishioners and asked: “Does your church marry Sodomites?”
Parishioners were shocked by the incident and Reverend Susan Townsend stood up and asked him repeatedly to leave.
With that I’ll hand over to m’colleague Cait Kelly to take you through the afternoon.
Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe has been very critical of prime minister Anthony Albanese’s slightly baffling decision to hold a joint press conference with American basketball great Shaquille O’Neil about support of the Indigenous voice to parliament.
Thorpe said that the government has yet to reach out to her, as a First Nations woman in parliament, to discuss the referendum proposal.
The New South Wales Rural Fire Service has been criticised after an investigation into the crash of a firefighting aircraft that killed three Americans helping during the black summer bushfires.
Ian McBeth, Paul Hudson and Rick DeMorgan travelled to Australia to fight the devastating bushfires and died when their large air tanker crashed fighting a fire on 23 January 2020.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau released its report on Monday into the crash in the Snowy Mountains region of NSW.
It found the RFS sent the aircraft to an area with unfavourable conditions, without aerial supervision, and relied on the pilot to assess the risk without providing all the information required.
Paramedics are responding to a reported stabbing at a school in Orange, in regional NSW.
NSW Ambulance on Twitter said the patient has arm and chest injuries.
Private discussions between governments necessary ‘to produce outcomes’, PM says
The last question was from Amanda Copp from the community radio network, who asked: if Albanese is so critical of his predecessor’s “obsession with secrecy” and so committed to transparency, whether he will remove the privilege over national cabinet discussions which precludes them from freedom of information laws.
As Paul Karp has previously reported, Albanese in opposition criticised the Morrison government for blocking the release of national cabinet documents under FOI , but then backflipped once in office and opted to continue to prevent the release of documents.
Albanese said he has “told the public exactly what’s happened at every national cabinet meeting”, but that private discussions between governments were necessary “to produce outcomes”. He also suggested there were no documents to release.
That implies that there’s all these documents floating around, and that would be just a mischaracterisation of the nature of the discussions which are taking place … What we’re doing is working things through, largely verbally, of what is occurring and then coming to a common ground of positions. I assure you, to give you the big tip – before the last national cabinet was meeting was called – a Saturday meeting before Friday night – you can have all of the papers exactly, because there weren’t any.
We had a discussion about the issues that we were dealing with on paid pandemic leave. We had a discussion, we came to an outcome. It was announced. It was a good thing. But people have between governments, from time to time, people have got to be able to have discussions as well that are private that produce outcomes. That has to happen. And, quite frankly, I’m about outcomes in terms of these processes and I make no apologies for that. The issue of so-called secrecy – previously, you didn’t know even when they were happening. The next national cabinet meeting is happening on Wednesday and I’m very positive that we’ll come to some good outcomes with it.
Australia will continue to engage with Pacific region on China, PM says
Dom Giannini from AAP asked whether Australia needed to adjust its response to China, given China’s actions have not changed since Labor took government.
It is true that Australia’s international relations and global circumstances haven’t been completely transformed in a hundred days. That’s true. But what we have done is change the way that we’re perceived. Penny Wong today is in Papua New Guinea. Later this week she’ll be in Timor-Leste.
I continue to have discussions – some of which are public, some of which are private – with leaders in our region. And we’ll continue to engage including in the Solomons. But this is something that didn’t happen on our watch. This is something, though, that we believe in the national interest we need to engage with in a way that’s respectful of people’s national sovereignty. But in a way that clearly makes it clear what Australia’s national interest is.
Job of budget and tax reform an ongoing one, says Albanese
Jade Galiberger from the Herald Sun asked when the PM would be “willing to have a debate” about how the government would pay for its policies, rising costs, and substantial inherited debt, and whether further tax reforms will be part of that debate.
We are having a consideration now of our budget in October. And you’ll see … our commitments, how we’re going to pay for them, and our analysis as well of the expenditure that we have inherited. Going through line by line, trying to knock out waste and rorts which are there.
So the job of reform is never done. It’s not a date in which you come along here to the National Press Club, and I’ll have mission accomplished, sign at the back there, that says we’re done. We’ll continue to engage in economic, social, and environmental policy reform.
Bloomberg’s Ben Westcott asked whether Australia has missed the boat in building a green manufacturing industry, when the US, China and Canada have all already made it a major part of their economic platforms.
Albanese says Australia is starting from behind but has natural advantages in the form of raw minerals and materials, and would work to be better at commercialising scientific and technological breakthroughs that originate in Australia.
Changes to Fair Work Act will include gender pay equity targets, says PM
Channel Seven’s Mark Riley asked when the government would legislate to make gender pay equity a part of the Fair Work Act. He also asked what Albanese would like that gap to be by the time of the next election – it’s currently 14%.
Albanese said they will legislate this year to include gender pay equity as one of the objects of the act.
He does not name a target for the gender pay gap, but says he wants to see it narrow.
And a success would be a closing of the gap rather than expanding. The recent figures were going the wrong way. We want it to go the right way.
Albanese: ‘We stand by the comments’ made on stage three tax cuts
Peter van Onselen also asked about stage three tax cuts, saying he sensed there was “a bit of wiggle room” in Albanese’s earlier answer on the subject.
During the election campaign Labor promised it wouldn’t repeal them. Is there an ironclad rolled gold promise, or any circumstances you can envisage in this term of government doing anything at all that would resemble repealing the stage three tax cuts?
We stand by the comments we made.
Albanese says government will make decisions on Mer Island’s use of Chinese-owned telecommunications services based on national security
Anna Henderson from SBS and NITV asked Albanese whether he was worried that some people on Mer Island in the Torres Strait were engaging with a Chinese state-owned telecommunications companies in order to get basic telecommunications assistance.
We’ll make decisions based upon Australia’s national security interests. And that includes in areas of communications.
The PM travelled to the Torres Strait with the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, this month, and said his government will continue to engage with TI leaders.
Potential reduction of Covid isolation period to be discussed at national cabinet this week, says PM
The Australian’s Rosie Lewis asked if the issue of reducing the isolation period for positive cases from seven to five days will be considered at national cabinet this week.
Albanese said it will be discussed, in the context of the latest public health advice.
Albanese says temporary visas to address skills shortages ‘incredibly inefficient’
Phil Coorey asked whether the government was anticipating lifting the migration target, off the back of the jobs summit.
Albanese said he’ll be undertaking “genuine consultation” on the matter with business and union representatives this week.
He adds that it “probably wasn’t the wisest decision during the pandemic to tell everyone who was a temporary visa holder to leave”.
And to provide them with no income and no support, which means many of them have left, with ill feeling towards Australia and that spreads around. We’ve got a globalised labour market. And we need to enhance our reputation – Australia is a great place to live, or to visit, and we need to always bear that in mind and I think some of the actions that occurred then weren’t wise.
He then said that migration targets are not just about numbers, they are about addressing areas of urgent need in skills shortages, but doing so without undercutting the pay and conditions for workers.
Albanese also made some comments that appear to go against the use of temporary visas to address skills shortages. He said:
The idea that you train someone and bring them out here for a couple of years and then go and try and find someone else to do the same job is, in my view, incredibly inefficient. And is part of a way that potentially the IR systems are undermined by that as well.
Far better to give someone a sense of ownership and a stake in this country. We’re, with the exemption of First Nations people, all migrants, or descendants of migrants – we are a migration country. We need to look at … [addressing] areas of skills shortage that can be identified as ones that will continue to be there.
‘Cabinet processes under former government were completely trashed’, PM says
Karen Barlow from the Canberra Times asks what Albanese has discovered about the state of the public service since coming into government.
Albanese says the “independence and processes of the public service were undermined over a long period of time”.
I’ve been somewhat surprised because some of the detail isn’t known until you’re in government, that people who I knew, good professional public servants, put off by the department of you know, widgets, then reemployed, as contractors, being paid more than they were as the dep sec of the department of widgets …
The truth is that cabinet processes under the former government were completely trashed. Cabinet isn’t powerpoint presentations from pollsters. It’s for serious consideration of policy based upon advice from the public service. There’s someone here I met just before, who is a former secretary, who spoke about that.
I think that it will take time to rebuild, but we’re doing that. I met with the secretary of all the departments of the public service. Every one of my ministers has gone to their department and had meetings, not with the secretary and dep secs and the executive, with all of the public service who are there. I met with all the workers at various agencies, including our intelligence agencies. And that’s been really well received. Guess what, who knew if you treat your workers with respect, you’ll get better outputs.
Exporting of Australia’s mineral wealth will remain important, says PM
Nine News’s Chris Uhlmann asked about Australia’s mineral wealth. Specifically, he asks: “Can you tell us what work is being done to find out what minerals Australia will need, how many minerals we’ll need, what will happen to the cost curve of those resources when the entire world wants them at the same time?”
Albanese says that Australia has “a lot” of the rare earths and minerals that are in demand and will increasingly be in demand over the coming years.
What we need to do is to make sure that in the structures that are put in place, we can still have access to them. But also I believe it’s an opportunity for us to take a bit of a different approach to what perhaps we’ve done in the past with resources. The exporting of our resources will continue to be important. Where possible, we should value-add here. With the changing nature of the production process, with labour being less a portion of input costs for production, we have that opportunity.
Albanese says manufacturing onshore also goes to Australia’s national security.
We need to actually learn these lessons of the pandemic to be more resilient, to take more advantage, to stand on our own two feet, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m so optimistic about Australia’s future. We have these natural advantages and let’s not waste the opportunity.
Albanese confirms government will not scrap stage three tax cuts
ABC’s Andrew Probyn up next, asking if Labor would now reconsider its decision not to strike out the stage three tax cuts.
Well, Andrew, people need to look at what happened with the tax cuts. Which were that we actually tried to amend out the stage three of the tax cuts. And we weren’t successful. And they were legislated.
And what we said at the time, if you go back and look at the comments that I made, I said at the time that it wasn’t wise to consider that you knew in 2019 exactly what the economy would look like in 2024-25. But the parliament made a decision. The parliament made a decision to legislate those tax cuts, and we made a decision, we made a decision that we would stand by that legislation rather than relitigate it, and we haven’t changed our opinion.
But if it wasn’t wise then, have you got the courage to argue why it’s not wise now?
This is a bonus question to Mr Probyn. I don’t want to channel my predecessor about Andrew, Andrew, but … We made those statements then and we weren’t successful. We weren’t successful at the time. We inherited it, and I said that we haven’t changed our position that we articulated when we made that call.
Because we were in a situation of all-or-nothing at the time. And we voted for tax cuts because to vote against the package would have been voting against tax cuts including for people who desperately needed it at the time.
That’s five “at the times” in the PM’s two-parter response, just so you’re quintuply sure it was a decision made in 2019.
Albanese suggests wages growth will help reduce debt in budget
Sky News’s Keiran Gilbert asks Albanese whether his government is prepared to undertake the budgetary reform needed to pay for the growing costs of things like the NDIS and aged care.
The PM replies:
It’s a good question. And it’s one that government will have to address. Of course, over a period of time.
He then speaks of the fiscal situation the government has inherited from the Coalition, with a trillion dollars in debt and rising expenditure. He suggests that increasing wages will help:
If you improve secure work, if you improve the wages that people are paid, they pay more tax, they are less of a burden on the welfare system, businesses increase their profits, therefore there’s more company tax being paid as well. You boost productivity, you boost national economic growth, our plan is a growth agenda.
Legislation to criminalise wage theft to be introduced in early September, says PM
The Conversation’s Michelle Grattan asks whether the government is willing to legislate for significant reform on the industrial relations system “even if there is not consensus”, and whether any of that legislation will precede the white paper.
Albanese says they will have some legislation ready for the next parliamentary session, which begins 5 September.
That’s the legislation to change the Fair Work Act to make wage theft a crime and a range of other measures we committed to in the election. We’re hopeful if this week near consensus emerges from the discussions on Thursday and Friday, then we would look at change in an expedient fashion.
He praised Sally McManus and Jennifer Westacott, who are both in the audience, for coming together to agree on a number of points before the job summit. But says that even if consensus cannot be reached, “we also are prepared to lead on issues”.
Albanese says he will not commit to extending Victoria’s scheme to waive nursing and midwifery HECS debts
To questions now. National Press Club president, Laura Tingle, starts by asking whether the federal government will expand on Victoria’s announcement to offer free university degrees for nursing and midwifery by waiving the HECS debt for nurses who are already working.
Albanese says he will not make such a commitment on the stage, and quips that finance minister, Katy Gallagher, is present at the talk to make sure he doesn’t “make multibillion-dollar commitments on the run”.
On the substance of the question, he says:
I did speak to Premier [Daniel] Andrews this morning and it’s a good initiative that he’s undertaking. But we have our own initiatives as well. Fee-free TAFE, the additional university places, aimed at areas of skills shortage.
So, the different levels of government have to pull the levers that are available to them. And we are certainly pulling those levers for across the workforce, across the health workforce, including the commitments that we’ve made to support increases of wages, for example, for people in aged care.
So that’s a no, at least for now.
‘Labor governments change the country’ with cooperation, says Albanese
Albanese wraps up his address with:
This is how Labor governments change the country. Investing in people’s potential, rewarding their hard work, supporting their aspirations. If we cooperate, if we work together, if we act with purpose and unity and ambition, then we won’t just ride out these tough times, we’ll be well on our way to a better future. And it is that better future that remains our light on the hill, as it always has been. Thanks very much.
‘We need to rebuild trust in government’, Albanese says
Back to Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club. He has been outlining his government’s ambitions, and the need to govern by consensus and cooperation.
I’m not saying this will be easy, or it can come without compromise. But I do want the Australian people to know we’re up for this challenge. Put simply, we’re having a crack …
[Governments can] draw on our national values. Governments foster a culture of reform and progress, and co-operation, nourish the spirit of shared effort for fair reward. Whether it’s the summit or the parliament, or national cabinet, or here indeed with the Canberra press gallery, we’re never going to agree on everything. We won’t have 100% of people 100% happy with every decision and with every outcome.
But I know we’ll get more done and we’ll do it better if we disagree constructively, if we debate respectfully, if we look at the substance of issues rather than question motives, and together, if we search for solutions.
Good government must drive this culture to make the case for reforms. In order to do that, we need to rebuild trust in government. My colleagues and I don’t share the strange self-loathing of our predecessors, raging against the role of government while in government. Obsessing over secrecy, having to be shamed into doing the bare minimum at the last possible moment. An ideology that meant even as they made government bigger, the Liberals and Nationals showed no interest in making government work better.
100 days ago, on 21 May, the Australian people voted for a better future. Australians have placed their trust in our new Labor government and I thank them for it.
We are determined to repay that trust by demonstrating a commitment to transparency and integrity. Holding ourselves to a higher standard of behaviour than “it’s not illegal”. Creating an anti-corruption commission with real power and authority, and examining brutal failures of government services like robodebt to make sure that kind of betrayal of vulnerable people can never ever happen again.
Above all, we recognise that renewing people’s trust in government requires us to prove government can deliver for people. I know good government can change lives. But I understand that many Australians feel like government doesn’t work for them. That politics is obsessed with the short term. And frankly, the only way to change that is to deliver on what matters to the Australian people.
SA records one new death from Covid, 565 new cases
South Australia has recorded one new death from Covid-19, as well as 565 positive test results.
Australia lost a decade to ‘inertia’ caused by needless political conflict, PM says
Albanese says “the best way to achieve progress is to bring people together”.
That’s why they are seeking cooperation and bipartisanship at the jobs and skills summit this week, he said.
I know there’s a school of political thought that views cooperation as capitulation, I know there’s those who think everything has to be about conflict, but Australians have conflict fatigue. Our country has lost nearly a decade to the inertia that division produces. We’ve seen the damage it does to the economy, the toll it takes on the country.
Not only does a culture of division and dysfunction and conflict create these kind of urgent problems in the short term, it stops our country building for the long term. If your priority is scoring day to day political points, then the future loses out. This is why our government is focused on solutions, not arguments.
‘Australia is already in the recovery phase’ of the pandemic, says Albanese
Albanese says that while Australia is still recovering from – indeed, is still in – the Covid-19 pandemic, it is time to remove from the first phase of emergency response to one of reform and recovery.
He says that the response to the pandemic in first few months was a race, and was not treated as such by the former government.
We found ourselves economically exposed, hanging on the end of the global supply chain. And we saw the harm of petty partisanship, the damage which was done by the federal government stoking division with the states.
Whatever we may wish, Covid isn’t gone, or forgotten. Our health system, our hospitals, and our extraordinary healthcare workforce are still under enormous strain. We continue to encourage all Australians to get their third and fourth dose of the vaccine. We’ve made it a priority to cooperate with state and territory leaders and the health experts to provide support and resources where they are most needed.
But clearly, no one is going back to the response phase. Australia is already in the recovery phase. And that’s presenting its own economic challenges. Including significant and unpredictable supply and demand imbalances which are driving up costs for businesses, as well as for families. Our immediate priority as a Labor government is shoring up the economy to give families, households, businesses, the security and certainty they need.
Albanese says the pressure placed on health, aged care, and education workers during the pandemic saw them “pushed to breaking point”. Those sectors had already been underfunded, he says.
It’s no wonder people are exhausted. It’s no surprise that so many teachers and nurses and carers are thinking about leaving their vocation …
Over the next decade we’ll need more educators and more carers and more nurses in every part of our system. We won’t do that with broken institutions and burnt out staff. And whether it’s educational skills or healthcare or aged care, we can’t just stem the bleeding and hope for the best. We can’t return to business as usual when we know that business as usual was simply not good enough. We have to aim higher than just recovery. That’s why I say we need reform to achieve renewal.
PM says government focused on building ‘a better future’ of fair wages, growth and quality services
Albanese begins by acknowledging the traditional owners (but not naming the Ngunnawal people) and saying: “I’m proud to lead a government that’s advancing the implementation of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.”
Colleagues: the great privilege, the great opportunity, and the solemn responsibility of government is putting our ambition for the country into action. Converting the promises of a campaign into the progress of a nation. Writing our vision for Australia’s future into the laws of the land.
Our government is only 100 days into this journey. But we’re resolved on the destination of a better future. We are focused on building a fair wage, strong growth, a high-productivity economy; an Australia where working hard means you can pay the bills, support your family, save for the future and achieve your aspirations.
An Australia where everyone can trust in quality services. Strong Medicare, affordable childcare, decent aged care, and a national disability insurance scheme that fulfils its great promise.
An Australia where investments in education and training and skills and housing and infrastructure and technology mean the doors of opportunity are open to everyone, in every part of our great country.
I recognise that we’re facing challenging times right now. I know a lot of people are doing it really tough. But I’m optimistic about our country. I believe in the Australian people and I’m energised by the work of building a better future.
Anthony Albanese speaking at national press club
Anthony Albanese is speaking at the press club to mark 100 days in office.
We previewed the prime minister’s speech this morning – you can read it here:
A severe weather warning has been issued for damaging winds in Victoria’s eastern ranges.
Here is more on the arrest of Comanchero bikie boss, Tarek Zahed, who was arrested yesterday and charged with murder for the 2014 killing of 29-year-old Youssef Assoum.
Rise in retail sales across Australia in July outstrips expectations
Retail sales rose 1.3% in July, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
AAP reports that results were higher than expected, with most analysts anticipating a 0.3 to 0.4% increase in retail sales for the month:
The latest lift in retail turnover follows a slowdown in momentum in the past two months, with retail sales increasing by 0.2 per cent in June and 0.7 per cent in May.
“After slowing growth in recent months, the 1.3 per cent rise in July was the largest since the 1.6 per cent rise in March,” ABS head of retail statistics Ben Dorber said.
Overall retail trade was up 16.5 per cent compared to the same time last year.
Turnover lifted in five of the six industries, with department stores reporting the largest rise of 3.8 per cent.
“This shows that, despite cost-of-living pressures, households are continuing to spend,” Dorber said.
Household goods was the only category to record a fall in turnover, down 1.1 per cent for the month.
Spending in this category has fallen three times in four months.
Tasmania was the only state to record a slowdown in retail sales - its first decline all year.
Turnover in the state fell 0.3 per cent in July.
Retail sales were strongest in Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia.
Meanwhile, employers are offering higher pay packets to entice workers into vacant jobs but the boost in advertised salaries is still falling short of inflation.
Salaries listed on job ads have surged 4.1 per cent over the year to June, although growth is no longer accelerating.
In July, advertised salaries for new hires grew another 0.4 per cent, following a 0.4 per cent uptick in June.
While wages are trending upwards amid fierce competition for workers, advertised salary growth was still falling behind the 6.1 per cent annual increase in the consumer price index in the June quarter.
The data, released by job marketplace SEEK, revealed salary growth across the board.
“Unlike previous labour market booms, such as the mining boom, this is not a situation in which some parts of the country pull ahead much more rapidly than the rest,” SEEK economist Matt Cowgill said.
“The labour market has been almost uniformly strong.”
Advertised salaries picked up across every state and territory, although South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory recorded relatively modest uplifts.
ACT records 148 new Covid cases, 106 people in hospital
The Australian Capital Territory has reported 148 positive Covid test results on Monday.
There are 106 people with Covid in hospital in the ACT, including two in ICU and one on a ventilator. No new deaths were reported on Monday.
RTBU says NSW government dropped requirement for new enterprise agreement before alteration work on new train fleet as a ‘stunt’
The Rail, Tram and Bus Union has dismissed as a “stunt” an offer by the NSW government to withdraw its requirement that a new enterprise bargaining agreement be struck before it begins work on the new intercity fleet, in a bid to head off a large train strike on Wednesday.
More from AAP:
The union is scathing about the latest offer contained in “an eleventh-hour letter” after a weekend spent negotiating the industrial stoush that’s caused widespread disruption for commuters all year.
RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens said “this latest stunt by the government doesn’t add anything to the progression of the dispute”.
“You can’t just send us a letter late on Sunday, especially one as poorly drafted as this, and expect everyone to jump to attention,” he said in a statement on Monday.
Claassens said the union needed more time “to work through the letter and sit down and explain what they mean by it”.
“If they don’t then this really was just a stunt to get a headline,” he said.
“When we get something that is capable of us accepting, we can move forward with the democratic process of taking it to our members and delegates, for them to decide on it.”
He accused a “revolving door of ministers” of spreading misinformation about the dispute “for the benefit of the members and the travelling public”.
The mothballed NIF has been at the centre of negotiations with the union, which maintains the trains are not yet safe to operate in NSW.
The union has been conducting industrial action including targeted, rolling stoppages throughout August.
The action is due to culminate with workers refusing to operate foreign made trains on Wednesday, which would affect about 70 per cent of the fleet.
Negotiations continue at a meeting between rail unions and government officials on Monday.
Fatal 2020 waterbombing aircraft crash occurred in ‘hazardous’ conditions, report finds
The crash of a waterbombing air tanker in the 2020 bushfires, which killed three American firefighters, occurred in “hazardous” conditions without aerial supervision, an investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau has found.
The investigation, released today, also found that the pilot of the EC-130Q air tanker was “very likely” not aware that the bird dog – a smaller plane to provide observation support – had declined the task.
The report said:
Despite an awareness of these conditions and that all other fire‑control aircraft (including a Boeing 737 large air tanker) were not operating in the area at the time due to the weather conditions, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (RFS) continued with their tasking of N134CG to Adaminaby without aerial supervision (birddog). In addition, they relied on the pilot in command to assess the appropriateness of the tasking but did not provide them all the available information to make an informed decision on flight safety. That information for the tasking to Adaminaby should have included details about actual hazardous environmental conditions, resulting in the cessation of local aerial operations, the birddog pilot declining the tasking due to the forecast weather conditions, and a report from the Boeing 737 crew that conditions precluded them from returning to the fire-ground.
The crew of N134CG were therefore very likely not aware that the birddog pilot had declined the tasking to the Adaminaby fire-ground, nor that the smaller fire-control aircraft had ceased operations in the area, due to the hazardous environmental conditions. While this was only one risk factor among others that would be considered by the crew when accepting a task, having this information would have allowed them to make a more informed decision about the weather conditions.
Queensland records 1,233 Covid cases, no new deaths
Queensland has recorded 1,233 new positive test results on Sunday, but no new deaths.
There are 283 people in hospital with Covid in Queensland and 10 in ICU.
Victoria records four deaths from Covid and 2,147 cases
Victoria also recorded four deaths of people with Covid-19, with 343 people in hospital and 22 in ICU.
There were 2,147 positive test results recorded in the past 24 hours.
NSW records four deaths from Covid and 3,394 cases
New South Wales recorded four deaths in people with Covid-19 on Monday and 1,879 people in hospital.
There were 3,394 positive test results recorded in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
NSW premier to push for reduced isolation period at national cabinet meeting
NSW pensioners and concession card holders are being offered 10 free rapid antigen tests, as the NSW government pushes for a reduction to the isolation period for people who test positive.
More from AAP:
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has flagged he will push for a national reduction in the Covid-19 isolation period from a week to five days when national cabinet meets on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Customer Services minister Victor Dominello says pensioners in NSW will be able to pick up 10 free RATs through Service NSW Centres and at neighbourhood and community centres or disaster recovery centres.
“Although we are heading out of winter, the risk of COVID-19 remains and we want to ensure RATs are easily accessible for pensioners and concession card holders,” Dominello said in a statement on Monday.
Seniors Minister Mark Coure said the free tests built on an earlier commitment to pick up the federal government’s Concessional Access Program, which was discontinued last month.
“We are making sure we keep the pressure off as many people as possible by stepping up and filling the gap that really should have not been created in the first place,” he said.
The free tests are available until the end of October to Commonwealth Concession Card holders in NSW, including those who have a Pensioner Concession Card, Commonwealth Seniors Health Care Card, Health Care Card, and Department of Veterans’ Affairs Gold, White or Orange card.
More than 6,000 NDIS participants homeless or at risk of homelessness in last financial year, inquiry hears
The disability royal commission today kicks off a five-day session looking at experiences of homelessness among people with disability.
Ronald Sackville, the royal commission chair, said in his opening address that the commission had already heard evidence of people with disability experiencing homelessness or being at risk of homelessness for a number of hearings.
New figures revealed by Sackville showed that in 2021-2022, 6,306 national disability insurance scheme participants were either homeless or at risk of homelessness.
That included 1,594 who were confirmed as homeless, the data showed. There are about 500,000 NDIS participants in Australia.
Sackville said the figures revealed “a significant social problem that demands attention”.
Of course, NDIS participants are not the only people with disability who experience homelessness or are at risk of homelessness. Additional data will be presented during this hearing to provide a more complete picture of people with disability who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Kate Eastman SC, counsel assisting the commission, said the previous 2016 census found that people with severe or profound disability were also overrepresented among certain forms of marginal housing.
ACTU and Cosboa ‘not looking at any mandates’, says Alexi Boyd
Boyd says Cosboa’s members have “wholeheartedly got behind us” in supporting the agreement and the push for reform.
We’ve been talking about this for a number of months now, obviously, because it’s an important decision for Cosboa. We have the backing of our members and a recognition that what we are fighting for is to understand the differences … It’s not a one-size-fits-all. And that’s why it’s going to take time to articulate and go through the processes and find out what’s best, perhaps for an industry, or perhaps for a particular business. But we have to start working through this process one by one.
I think what’s really important about this is that this is an opt-in process. We’re not looking at any mandates or requirements or whole sector requirements or anything like that. It’s about finding what’s fit for purpose for a particular business so that they can help on a one by one basis and help them to navigate the system. Right now, the system is broken.
Our own Paul Karp asked Boyd what the threshold should be for employer bargaining – that is, what proportion of a workforce needs to be involved.
Boyd says that’s one of the details that is yet to be worked out.
It’s going to take time to work out what those agreements look like. It will take time and when we say multi-employer – that may be a different articulation to what’s been talked about in the past. But we need to work out the details as the time goes on.
Small business deal a 'historic and important step forward', ACTU chief says
The ACTU and Council of Australian Small Business Organisations are giving a joint press conference in Canberra, about their agreement to work together to progress multi-employer collective bargaining.
Cosboa acting chief executive, Alexi Boyd, said it is difficult for small business owners, particularly those just starting out, to understand what their obligations are under Australia’s industrial relation systems.
What we’re trying to do with this memorandum of understanding is start a conversation about what simplicity in the system for small businesses looks like. In the past, there’s been lots of conversations in industrial relations, trying to make the situation better for business. But this is the first time we’ve put small business first.
As the largest employer in the country, it’s important that small businesses do things right for their workers, but make sure that their compliance is correct as well. So we’re really thrilled to be working together with the ACTU for the months to come, to work out the detail about what this looks like.
ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, said:
It’s a really historic agreement between the ACTU and Cosboa. It’s really important that the employees in small businesses can benefit from the same benefits as employees in large businesses have had from bargaining, from collective bargaining.
The system of today was not built for the economy of today. We now have small businesses being the largest employer in the country. When we developed the enterprise bargaining system 30 years ago, that wasn’t the case. And so it was built for big businesses. So, we need to have new flexible options that work for small business so that we can see small business owners and their employees also benefit. So this goes to the issue of simplicity.
It goes to the issue of, also, compliance, like making sure that workers clearly understand what they’re meant to be paid, and same with the employers so they don’t have to worry about multiple awards or other that might be in a very small workplace.
We recognise, as the union movement, that small business doesn’t have the same resources as large business in terms of HR departments and things like that. And that it’s in their interest to be able to bargain in an efficient manner in a way that doesn’t take up the precious time that those employers need to run their businesses.
So we’re working on multi-employer options that work for small business so that we can see a bargaining system that works for more people and the different types and sizes. We have a one-size-fits-all system at the moment and currently, actually, it’s not fitting anyone. That change needs to happen, and today is a really historic and important step forward in modernising our current industrial relations system.
The Victorian government has announced a “jobs guarantee” for students who graduate with a social services qualification from TAFE.
It follows on yesterday’s announcement of free university courses for 10,000 nursing and midwifery students, as part of the Andrews government’s pre-skills summit skills blitz.
Students who graduate from a diploma of community services between 1 September this year and 31 August, 2024, will be guaranteed a job, assistant treasurer Danny Pearson said.
Registration for the program will open on 1 September.
In a statement, Pearson said:
Right now, there are thousands of Victorians in need - women experiencing family violence, children needing care and Victorians with disability looking for support.
That’s why we are looking for people who are ready to make a difference and apply for jobs that matter now.
Guaranteeing graduates in priority areas a job when they finish their study will help thousands of Victorians get the jobs they want, to give Victorians the care they need.”
Thunderstorms and heavy rain expected across Victoria today
After a warm and sunny weekend, Victorians will see heavy rain and thunderstorms today.
Severe storms are expected in the west of the state, from Mildura to Hamilton and across to Ballarat, Maryborough and Kerang. There is also a likelihood of severe thunderstorms in the central and north east districts, as well as in Melbourne.
It’s currently bucketing down with a lot of thunder here in central Victoria.
Fortescue Metals Group posts second-highest ever full-year profit
Fortescue Metals Group, Twiggy Forrest’s Western Australian iron ore mining company, has posted its second-highest ever full-year profit, AAP reports.
Australia’s third-biggest iron ore miner reported underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation of $A15.4 billion for the year to June 30, 2022.
Net profit after tax was $A9.0b.
Record shipments of 189 million tonnes contributed to the second-highest earnings and operating cash flow in the Pilbara miner’s history.
Outgoing Fortescue CEO Elizabeth Gaines said Fortescue was accelerating the transition to a green energy and resources company and was leading the way on decarbonisation.
She said the company had experienced a “strong start” to FY23.
Net cash flow from operating activities was $A9.6b and free cash flow was $A5.2b after investing $A4.5b in capital expenditure.
Fortescue said it has a strong balance sheet with cash on hand of $A7.6b and net debt of $A1.3b at June 30.
The fully franked final dividend of $A1.21 per share brings the total dividend declared in FY22 to $A2.07 per share.
Adam Morton on Albanese government’s mixed messages on energy
The Albanese government has to decide if it wants people to think it is taking the climate crisis seriously or whether it wants to continue supporting new oil and gas developments, writes environment editor Adam Morton.
Adam writes that while the Albanese government has made some progress in its first 100 days in government – passing legislation to enshrine a 43% emissions reduction target, supporting the offshore wind industry, encouraging the uptake of electric cars – it has also repeated the actions of previous governments in supporting new fossil fuel exploration.
He says the language from the government in supporting new oil and gas exploration permits, and a reference to the as yet unrealised promise of carbon capture and storage technology, “sounds a lot like climate denial”.
It was on display last week when the resources minister, Madeleine King, announced the release of new areas along the Australian coast for the oil and gas industry to explore and potentially exploit.
You can read Adam’s full column here:
Comanchero charged with murder
Comanchero bikie boss Tarek Zahed has been arrested and charged with the murder of a man in Sydney’s west eight years ago, AAP reports.
Police arrested the 42-year-old during a vehicle stop on New South Head Road in Edgecliff at 4.50pm yesterday, after shooting out his car windows with rubber bullets.
He was taken to Surry Hills police station and later charged with the murder of 29-year-old Youssef Assoum on 11 December 2014.
Homicide squad commander Detective Superintendent Danny Doherty said Zahed was one of several Taskforce Erebus targets allegedly linked to serious crime:
We will be alleging this person is responsible for the killing of Mr Assoum in 2014 and that his senior position in the Comanchero OMCG links him to a number of other matters relevant to police.
Zahed – the Comanchero national sergeant-at-arms – was also charged with kidnap in company with intent to commit serious indictable offence (special aggravated kidnap).
He was refused bail and is set to appear at Downing Centre local court today.
Victoria paying more than $1.1m a day to imprison people on remand
The Victorian government is paying more than $1.1m a day to keep people on remand in prisons, Benita Kovolos reports.
The remand population in Victoria – that is, people who have not been sentenced and in many cases are awaiting trial, meaning they have not pleaded or been found guilty – has grown 140% in a decade, thanks in large part to a tightening of the state’s bail laws.
At the same time, the sentenced prisoner population has fallen, thanks in part to a reduction in jail terms due to the risk of Covid-19 in prisons.
You can read Benita’s full piece here:
NSW minister offers olive branch to rail unions
An olive branch has been offered to the NSW rail unions in a bid to end the long-running industrial stoush with the state government and avert another strike this week, AAP reports.
Employee relations minister Damien Tudehope says the government has withdrawn its requirement that a new enterprise agreement be reached before it begins modifications the union wants on the New Intercity Fleet (NIF). The sticking point in the protracted negotiations has been the government’s insistence the agreement be locked in before the modifications begin.
After appropriate testing and warranty confirmation, the government will immediately authorise the commencement of work to make the alterations to the NIF. The offer is conditional upon the rail unions agreeing that, pending the finalisation of the new enterprise agreement, all unions will call off any further industrial action.
The mothballed NIF has been at the centre of negotiations with the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, which maintains the trains are not yet safe to operate in NSW.
Transport minister David Elliott has put the price of modifications to the fleet at $1.1bn, or $264m “depending on how you account for the cost”.
The union has been conducting extensive industrial action including targeted, rolling stoppages throughout August. The action is due to culminate with workers refusing to operate foreign-made trains on Wednesday, which would affect about 70% of the fleet.
The offer will be discussed at a meeting between rail unions and government officials today.
The government statement said:
The NSW government urges the rail unions to accept this offer, and put a stop to its industrial action, today.
Push for full employment
Acoss, the ACTU and the Business Council of Australia have released a joint policy paper saying that achieving and sustaining full employment should be the “guiding framework” of the jobs and skills summit.
That would include “reducing inequity and removing barriers to participation in the labour market”.
Which, according to Acoss acting CEO Edwina MacDonald, would mean raising the jobseeker rate.
In a joint statement with the ACTU and BCA, MacDonald said:
If the hundreds of thousands of people who are looking for paid work are supported to join the workforce, that will be a win for those currently left out, a win for employers, and a big step towards Full Employment in Australia.
We proudly stand with unions and business ready to work together with Government to find less brutal ways to contain inflation and address labour shortages, so that our incomes can grow again, the quality of jobs – including in essential care services – improves, and no one is left behind.
Jobseeker rate lobbying
As mentioned earlier, the jobseeker rate will be among reforms discussed at the jobs and skills summit this week.
The Australian Council of Social Skills has said it will lobby the government to make the reform a “core goal” in a bid to reduce the social harm of joblessness, particularly for 750,000 long-term unemployed people.
Acting Acoss CEO Edwina MacDonald said:
With ambition and commitment we can create an economy where people secure the jobs and paid working hours they need, wages and other incomes – including jobseeker payment – are growing again, and no one is left behind.
You can read Peter Hannam’s article on this here:
Australia announces $31.5m in medical research grants
New Covid-19 treatments, hospital trials, and further research into long Covid are among more than a dozen projects that will be funded by a $31.5m boost from the Medical Research Future Fund.
The health minister, Mark Butler, will announce the grants on Monday, saying the government is committed to supporting medical researchers to drive innovation and contribute to global efforts to understand Covid 19.
Monash university will receive more than $10m from the grant pool across three different projects, including $4m for a hospital trial on antivirals, and more than $6m for the Prophecy study which compares the immune response between healthy and vulnerable people and children to evaluate their protection against future variants.
The study will go towards better understanding how to improve the vaccine response in vulnerable patient groups.
The University of Melbourne has successfully secured four research grants, the largest of which is $3.8m to test a new nasal spray for elderly Australians for whom vaccines may lose potency. The new medicine, called INNA-051, is seen as complementary to vaccines, and strengthens natural defences against Covid-19 in the nose where infection starts.
Researchers at the university have also secured $3m for studies into the immune response across age groups and vulnerable populations, $1m for the development of an mRNA-based antiviral therapeutic, and about $1m to study airborne transmission of the disease.
This study will include experiments to determine how aerosolised particles and viruses move through complex spaces, and will also examine the effectiveness of various mitigation measures.
The University of NSW will also receive $1m to look at aerosol transmission, including to model the movement of the virus inside a hospital ICU ward.
Along with grants for new treatments and medications, the government will also announce $3m for the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare to establish a Australian COVID-19 Register and linked data set.
The new platform will integrate for the first time Covid-19 case information with a range of relevant existing health data sets. The new data set will help inform public health planning, but will also be made available to external researchers.
Butler said the research would give insights into the longer-term impact of Covid-19 on the health of Australians and help inform disease prediction, diagnosis and treatment.
Hamilton bound for Brisbane
Hamilton is coming to Brisbane, and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda spoke to ABC News Breakfast this morning from inside what appeared to be a space capsule.
Hamilton has already opened in Melbourne and Sydney.
Miranda told the ABC:
Hamilton always kind of surpasses every hope I had for it. I remember thinking as I was writing it, ‘I hope there are enough history teachers that will take their classes that we’ll hopefully run for a few years and make our money back for our investors’ … it just continues to resonate with people and I can’t explain that.
He said he was proud the show had supported and promoted hundreds of non-white actors around the world:
That’s one of the things I think I’m proudest of is that so often Hamilton is the first entry in an incredibly talented actor’s CV. And I know that from anecdotal evidence, that the Australian cast are like rockstars in Australia and I can’t wait to see what they do next and I’m thrilled that we get to be a footnote in their journey as artists.
John Farnham in intensive care after cancer surgery
The singer remains in a stable condition in intensive care, according to a statement released by his family this morning.
The Farnham family said they wanted to acknowledge and thank everyone for their ongoing messages and well wishes that have been shared throughout the last week:
It really lifts our spirits knowing that everyone is thinking of John.
Jill Farnham said:
John remains in a stable condition in ICU following the removal of a cancerous tumour in his mouth on Tuesday. He is awake and responding well to the care he’s receiving.
Pocock pushes for scrapping of stage-three tax cuts
Independent senator David Pocock was on RN speaking about the stage-three tax cuts, which he says should be “resisted” – no matter what was promised before the election.
What I’ve said is that they should be revisited … [Anthony Albanese] has a really strong case to relook at these these tax cuts and see what what else that could actually be spent on, given the you know the huge amount of money that they represent.
Pocock said the money could instead be spent on raising the Medicare rebate, fully electrifying homes or any number of reforms. (If you want to see how you would spend the $243bn that would be saved by scrapping the cuts, try out our interactive here.)
Pocock said Australia “should have a sensible discussion about this”:
Things have changed a lot since these were where they decided. We’ve had bushfires, a global pandemic. We’ve had flooding and stagnant wages, and now people are in a cost-of-living crisis across the country. And so I just don’t think that we can justify handing out $240bn over the next 10 years to the wealthiest Australians.
Will jobseeker be raised?
Lifting jobseeker from $46 to $70 a day will be raised at the jobs and skills summit – it has already been raised in submissions – but employment minister Tony Burke has poured cold water on hopes that it will be implemented at this stage:
Ultimately, when we hit the budget in October – which is where these issues get reviewed every year – when you look at the budget, there will be things that we want to do that we can’t do. And that’s the reality of a trillion dollars of Liberal debt, particularly as inflation goes up. That debt now costs a lot more than it costs even a year ago.
So there will be things that that we would want to do that people would like us to do that aren’t going to be possible as an example. It’s basically saying, ‘Yeah, this is just too too expensive.’
Asked by Patricia Karvelas whether the low rate of the jobseeker payment creates an “inability to get yourself job ready”, Burke said there were employment programs designed to provide support to people.
He referred to the Workforce Australia jobs program which has had teething issues:
We’re only in the second month of that new system. A lot of it was designed before we came to office and the contracts had all been signed before we came into office. So I’m still very mindful of what we can do. But the the challenges of the people who are in the system right now are exactly as you’ve described.
Incidentally, independent senator for the ACT David Pocock, who will be at the first day of the summit, does support an increase to the jobseeker rate.
He told Radio National:
I think to live on $46 a day is incredibly difficult if not impossible.
Burke signals he’s open to change on better-off-overall test
Tony Burke also said he may be open to a change to the better-off-overall test (Boot), a change he has previously resisted:
Up until the summit I’ve been pretty hardline on the better-off-overall test. And I took the view that if I was expecting everybody else, to come forward with compromises and to try to find a way together at the summit, that I should be willing to do the same.
So while I’m very careful and wary of changes to the better-off-overall test, I’m not ruling out that we might be able to find compromises that that makes the whole system work more effectively.
Link to closing gender pay gap
Tony Burke said even if the reform were adopted, “the main form of bargaining will continue to be enterprise bargaining”:
Directly between workers and employers will, I think, always be the agreements that are most common.
But particularly in small businesses, the agreements that hadn’t been possible had been agreements in industries like childcare, like aged care, like smaller retail, and when you look at those industries, in pretty much every case you’re looking at workplaces where the majority of people working there women. [They] are the ones that have tended to miss out on bargaining. There’s a direct link between this conversation and some of the things we need to do to close the gender pay gap.
Minister welcomes multi-employer collective bargaining deal
Employment minister Tony Burke is speaking on Radio National about the agreement between unions and small business to work on multi-employer collective bargaining.
(We have an explainer on multi-employer collective bargaining here.)
Burke said this agreement was “exactly the sort of cooperation we’ve been hoping to achieve with the summit”:
When the concept of multi-employer bargaining was first flagged by the ACLU last week, I leant in saying I was very interested in it. And one of the areas that really caused me to be interested is small business, effectively for both employers and for workers.
If you’re in small business right now, you are cut out of any of the benefits of enterprise bargaining … a small business doesn’t have an HR department. They don’t have the resources to do this. I grew up in a small business family myself, I’ve run my own small business. I know that you’re you’re spending your day on the fundamentals of the business and something like bargaining is something that you’re not going to have the opportunity to be engaged with.
Multi-employer is the only way that you’re going to have a chance to significantly open this up to the small business sector.
‘The current bargaining system was not built for us’
Alexi Boyd, the CEO of the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, said small business had been “looking for a way forward” on workplace reform, and particularly workplace bargaining, “for a long time”:
We do not have resources that are available to big business with lawyers and HR departments. The current bargaining system was not built for us, it is not efficient and is too complicated. We welcome the opportunity to explore new flexible single or multi-employer options that can be customised to our circumstances. The one size fits all approach doesn’t work … Small business is seeking an environment that is conducive to employ more people and that reduces the complexity of compliance.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus said unions were committed to working with small business “to put in place bespoke and modern agreements that are easy to administer and suit the needs of employees and business owners”:
The current enterprise focused system was built for an economy of 30 years ago, it needs to be upgraded and work for the economy of today. The employees of small businesses, and their owners, should be able to access the same benefits from bargaining that bigger businesses have enjoyed.
Unions and small business agree to workplace reform principles
Unions and small businesses have agreed to work together on workplace reform in the lead-up to the jobs and skills summit.
The ACTU, which represents more than 1.6 million workers, and the Council of Small Business Organisations Australi, which represents more than 800,000 small business members, announced their agreement this morning:
COSBOA and the ACTU have agreed to come together to explore ways to simplify and reduce complexity within the industrial relations system that will enable small businesses to employ more people and grow their businesses
The two organisations have agreed to support development of a simpler system for small business that includes:’
1. The ability for small business to be able to correctly embrace the workplace relations requirements
2. A simpler BOOT (better off overall test)
3. New options for flexibility in the workplace
4. New options around collective bargaining which include multi-employer agreements
Both organisations recognise the importance of small business owners and employees to our economy and have committed to work together with new laws to deliver workplace arrangements that are customised for small businesses that benefit owners and employees.
Jobs and skills summit explainer
Lifting wages and productivity and easing skill shortages will be at the top of the agenda at the jobs and skills summit this week, Paul Karp explains
The guest list is tight and has not yet been released in full. It will comprise of 30% employers and their representatives, 30% workers and unions, 30% subject matter experts and representatives from the community, education, employment services and social services sectors, and 10% from government.
You can read Paul’s full explainer here:
Construction of Australia's new warship fleet to begin in May
The builders of Australia’s planned warship fleet say they have clawed back more than a year of an announced 18-month delay.
BAE Systems Australia and defence officials say the design process has mopped up a range of issues on the $45bn project, so the planned 2031 delivery date is now “high confidence” and can be moved forward if the government wants an early delivery.
The news comes after Spanish shipbuilders Navantia pitched to build three more air warfare destroyers amid rising concerns about geopolitical instability in the region, and Australia’s military capability.
The Covid pandemic caused delays with the British type 26 ship the Australian ship is based on, and there were further delays because of the number of changes to that reference ship required by the defence department.
Craig Lockhart, BAE Systems Australia’s maritime managing director, said the company was “comfortable” that it had mitigated risk in the nine-ship program.
With the 18-month delay, construction of the first ship was not going to start until June 2024, but now it will go ahead in May 2023.
If the government were to ask for us to accelerate beyond what we are currently trying for, I think we’ve got more we can throw at it.
Tony Dalton, the defence department’s deputy secretary of national naval shipbuilding, said:
I don’t want to say that it’s going to be simple, everything in shipbuilding is hard and when we talk about accelerating the program we have to understand how we are managing those risks.
The anti-submarine Hunter class frigates are to replace the existing Anzac class ships and the project has been troubled by concerns they will be bigger and slower than expected because of the additional capability defence demands.
Defence officials said some of the issues were what-ifs and they had been addressed, and the ship would meet the navy’s requirements.
They were also sceptical that any “off-the-shelf” air warfare destroyers (such as those offered by Navantia) would be available sooner than the frigates, considering the need to integrate US weapons systems.
Today marks 100 days of the Albanese Labor government. Prime minister Anthony Albanese will mark the milestone with a speech at the National Press Club.
In a draft of the speech, seen by Guardian Australia, Albanese says he wants to move from the recovery phase of the pandemic to a period of reform and renewal:
After a wasted decade, we are not wasting a day. Government has a responsibility to plan for the future, to build for the long-term, to implement the reforms that arm people with every chance to fulfil their potential. Not change for the sake of it, reforms that help people lead better lives.
A key election promise, the jobs and skills summit, will take place this week. His aim for the two-day summit, he says, is to create “a culture of cooperation – a renewed understanding between unions and industry and small business and government and community groups”.
Albanese has already flagged support for a central ask of the Australian Council of Trade Unions submission to the summit, which is to allow industry-wide bargaining.
Also on reform, the national cabinet on Wednesday will reportedly discuss reducing the isolation period for a person who tests positive to Covid-19 from seven days to five. It comes as Australia is just recovering from the winter wave of Covid cases, which at its peak saw more than 5,000 people with Covid admitted to hospital a day. The daily hospitalisation rate now sits at about 3,000, according to our Covid data tracker.
We’ve also got an update on Australia’s long-awaited warships. There was an 18-month delay in production but that’s apparently now only six months. More on that shortly.
Let’s crack on. If we miss anything, you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @callapilla.