The day that was, Tuesday 6 December
That is where we will shut down the live blog for the night.
Here’s what made the news today:
The Reserve Bank of Australia has raised the cash rate by 25 basis points to 3.1%. It is the highest the rate has been in a decade, and marks the eighth straight month of rate rises.
Westpac and NAB immediately announced plans to pass on the rate increase.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said that the impact of the rate increases – while immediately felt in household budgets – would take time to flow through and affect inflation.
Chalmers also suggested the federal government may consider compensating states for forgone revenue should the government look to cap coal prices. He said the government is not keen to pursue a windfall profits tax.
That will all be discussed at national cabinet, now meeting online on Friday rather than Wednesday as the PM isolates at Kiribilli House with Covid-19.
The Reserve Bank has indicated it will likely continue to raise rates to combat inflation, with the next meeting to be held in February.
Lawyers for Scott Morrison said his “reputation is on the line” as they argued the former prime minister should be able refer to secret cabinet documents when he takes the stand at the robodebt royal commission next week.
A heatwave warning has been issued for Queensland and the Northern Territory.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has put airlines on notice amid historic high domestic airfares, with carriers to be “closely” monitored to ensure they aren’t deliberately slowing their return to full service capacity so they can “keep air fares high”.
Until tomorrow, stay safe.
Sydney teen rescued from stormwater drain
AAP reports emergency crews have rescued a teenage boy who fell into a stormwater drain and fractured his arm while trying to retrieve a ball in Sydney’s western suburbs.
Emergency crews were called just before 11am after the teen slipped into the drain near Grahame Thomas oval in Bankstown.
Rescuers worked quickly on a plan to rescue the boy and he was walked out by Fire and Rescue NSW crews after midday, Fire and Rescue spokesperson Steve Brown said.
He was taken to Bankstown Lidcombe hospital in a stable condition.
NSW Ambulance inspector, Craig Watkins, said special operations team paramedics were able to begin treating the boys fractured arm before safely extricating him.
“This is an unfortunate incident for the patient but it has had a positive outcome given the danger that stormwater drains can present,” he said.
Both NAB and Westpac have announced they will increase their variable interest rates in full, in line with the RBA’s rate increase of 25 basis points.
NAB’s is effective from 16 December, while Westpac’s is effective from 20 December.
Danny Lim ‘not OK’ two weeks after arrest
Sydney street personality Danny Lim says he is “not OK” and is still using walking sticks to get around after being thrown to the ground during a “discontinued” arrest by New South Wales police officers two weeks ago.
Snowy Hydro ploughs on with pumped hydro project after contractor collapse
The federal, state and territory energy ministers are due to meet in Brisbane on Thursday.
It was supposed to be a gathering a day after National Cabinet had sorted out gas and/or coal price caps, and now will be “Energy Solution Eve” given the NatCab has been delayed until Friday as the PM fights off Covid.
It’s not as if the energy ministers don’t have enough to work through without another worry to add to the list.
Enter Snowy Hydro, with more signs that its giant 2.0 pumped hydro project will struggle to come on line by the end of 2026. (That’s what it keeps telling the market operator, but they take the timing with a pillar of salt - releasing “sensitivity” scenarios if its start is put back as seems inevitable.)
Anyway, as the AFR reported earlier this week, a major contractor for the multi-billion dollar project, Clough, has gone into voluntary administration.
Snowy, through a spokesperson, says it’s “aware” of Clough’s financial status.
“Snowy Hydro notes Clough’s earlier financial disclosure indicates financial issues with projects separate and unrelated to Snowy 2.0,” she said.
“As work continues on Snowy 2.0, Snowy Hydro’s first priority is ensuring the wellbeing and continuity of Clough’s workers on the project,” the spokesperson said. “We are working closely with the joint venture to ensure construction on the project progresses smoothly.”
It’s understood the blue-collar staff are employed at an arm’s length from Clough and its would-be suitor Webuild Australia. Snowy expects Italy-based Webuild will employ any Clough white-collar staff connected to Snowy ASAP. Let’s see if they do.
US, Australia express joint aim to counter China’s ‘destabilising military activities’
The Australian and US governments have said they are determined to counter China’s “destabilising military activities”.
The US has issued the following readout after the meeting between the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, and the Australian deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, at the Pentagon:
The two leaders affirmed their commitment to deepen bilateral defense cooperation, including with respect to operations, force posture, and defense technology collaboration. They exchanged views on the regional security environment, noting in particular their joint determination to counter destabilizing military activities by the People’s Republic of China.
Finally, they agreed to continue cooperation with regional partners in support of a shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
This was a meeting between Austin and Marles, but early tomorrow morning Australian time they will be joined by the Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, for the annual meeting known as Ausmin.
Here’s the afternoon update.
Labor wins tightly contested seat of Northcote in Victorian election
Kat Theophanous has been re-elected after a nail-biting count in the marginal Melbourne seat of Northcote, AAP reports.
The Labor MP won the seat by 184 votes after preferences, defying a swing of almost 1.5% against Labor.
The result came 10 days after the Victorian election and a tight contest in the inner-north seat involving a legal challenge.
Greens candidate Campbell Gome conceded to Theophanous as he trailed her by almost 900 votes on Thursday.
That was until Monday, when the vote count tightened and the Greens then said they would be looking closely at the final data.
Days before polling day, Theophanous challenged the local council in the supreme court over the removal of election billboards from private properties.
It’s understood several billboards, each costing up to $1700, were removed over two months of campaigning and taken to the tip.
The case was settled after Darebin city council promised her billboards would be left alone.
Northcote has been held by Labor since 1927, except for 2017 when now-senator and Greens candidate Lidia Thorpe won it in a by-election after the death of sitting MP Fiona Richardson.
Theophanous was first elected in 2018 and was on Monday named parliamentary secretary for women’s health.
Labor has won at least 53 seats, the coalition has at least 31 and the Greens have four seats in the lower house.
Final results for several other close seats are expected to be known over coming days such as Preston, Bass and Pakenham.
More from Helen Davidson and Chi Hui Lin in Taipei:
Taiwan’s foreign minister, Joseph Wu, acknowledged Australia was facing a “balancing act” as it seeks to improve the relationship with Beijing:
But we don’t question the support of the Australian government, the Australian parliament, and Australian people for Taiwan, especially as Taiwan is already a democracy.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in Bali last month, the latest step in what the Australian government calls a stabilisation of the relationship with China. But Albanese told parliament last week that Australia’s substantive policy positions remained unchanged, and he held the meeting “with no concessions, not one, no preconditions”.
In today’s interview with the Guardian, Wu noted that China’s expansionist activities were not limited to Taiwan, and that this year’s security deal with Solomon Islands, its build up of military installations in disputed parts of the South China Sea, and activities that extend beyond the first island chain (of which Taiwan forms a major part), are of significant concern to Australia.
I’m sure the Australian government… want to reach out to China to smooth out the dispute in between the two sides, or to repair the damage that has been caused or to improve the relations between the two. But at the same time, I’m very sure the Australian government is very concerned about the Chinese expansionism.
The increasingly authoritarian government in China claims Taiwan as a province and has vowed to annex it – by force if necessary. In recent years Taiwan has gained support from the west as a democracy in need of defensive support, as well as a geopolitically and economically strategic partner that the west does not want to see Beijing control.
After a high-profile visit by the US House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, in August, China’s military surrounded Taiwan’s main island and conducted live-fire exercises including the firing of missiles. In defiance of Beijing’s reaction, Taiwan continued to welcome several (pre-planned) delegations from the US – albeit of lower rank than Pelosi – and from other nations.
The Australian parliamentary delegation is just one of many parliamentary delegations coming to visit us.
We have visitors coming from the UK, we have visitors coming from Germany, from France, and from other parts of Europe. And we will have more, even heavier-weight delegations coming to visit Taiwan.
Helen Davidson and Chi Hui Lin write from Taipei:
Taiwan’s foreign minister has said the Australian parliamentarians visiting the self-governed democracy this week want to have “some quiet encounters” with officials.
The minister, Joseph Wu, told the Guardian this morning that the Australian delegation, which includes former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, were “indeed in Taiwan already” and that he would be meeting with them:
But they want to have some quiet encounters with us, and they want to discuss with us on some of the issues that interest them and interest us. So we would allow this to go through the process. And indeed I will have some quiet times with them, and we shall show respect to them by not disclosing too much on what we are going to talk about.
Joyce, the former Nationals leader, is among six federal politicians from both sides of Australian politics that are visiting Taiwan this week. Joyce told Sky News this week that he supported the “status quo” on Taiwan and he would be focused on economic ties.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has played down the trip, saying it is a resumption of bipartisan trips by MPs that were only suspended after 2019 because of the pandemic, but Chinese state media have warned Australia against “playing with fire”.
The Australian group is the latest group of foreign parliamentarians to visit Taiwan - following a British group last week - as Western nations seek to show support for the island democracy even if they don’t recognise it as a country.
Foreign visits to Taiwan are often highly publicised affairs, press conferences, public meetings with the president Tsai Ing-wen, even occasionally live-streams from the airport of their plane arriving or departing.
But Australia, which is simultaneously trying to repair its relationship with its largest trading partner, China, appears to be taking a quieter path.
After Chalmers, his shadow Angus Taylor is up next. He’s not keen to comment on Chalmer’s previous suggestion about compensating the states for a cap. He says it’s still speculative.
He goes back to his earlier point, also, about getting more gas in the domestic network to bring prices down.
[continued from previous post]
“I just don’t understand why those documents or why this level of detail in relation to the existence of those documents gets anybody any further,” Holmes said.
Renwick replied that was “because his reputation is on the line and he is entitled to answer the notice [from the commission] in a complete fashion.”
Renwick said reference to specific documents made an “enormous difference” because they could demonstrate a “collective decision of government following proper processes rather than the decision of an individual minister”.
But setting aside Morrison’s role as social services minister, Holmes there was no suggestion other decisions relating to robodebt while Morrison was treasurer or prime minister were not “collective decisions”. “I’m struggling to see why his reputation’s at risk on those.”
Renwick said Morrison was “entitled to put his best foot forward and answer your questions”.
He suggested Morrison “couldn’t fairly be criticised in that respect in the final report” if he wasn’t able to properly defend himself.
Renwick was also rebuked by Holmes after he claimed: “What I’m saying, with all respect is that an inquiry at this stage, when we put forward the best evidence ... I don’t understand why you don’t want it?”
Holmes replied: “You know that’s that really not the situation. The situation I have to determine is public interest immunity. I have to consider the public interest in the preservation of confidentiality of cabinet material.”
Renwick withdrew the comment.
Renwick likened the situation to the former prime minister, Kevin Rudd’s, use of cabinet documents during the pink batts royal commission.
The parties will consider the matter at a future private hearing.
The royal commission continues.
Chalmers hints at government help to lower energy bills
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing. On getting energy prices down, he repeats his earlier comments that the government is trying not to pursue a windfall profits tax, but indicates that regulation may involve “some kind of sensible, time-limited contribution from the Commonwealth budget”, that the government may contemplate, but he says “it’s not a blank cheque”.
That would go to what he was asked previously about potential compensation to the states for caps on prices for coal.
Morrison’s lawyers request use of secret documents at robodebt inquiry
Lawyers for Scott Morrison said his “reputation is on the line” as they argued the former prime minister should be able refer to secret cabinet documents when he takes the stand at the robodebt royal commission next week.
James Renwick SC, counsel for Morrison, told the royal commission on Tuesday it would be difficult for his client to give “true, complete and correct evidence” without being able to refer to such documents.
Renwick later expanded this to suggest that Morrison would not be able to properly defend himself from criticism without the use of such documents.
Morrison was social services minister when the robodebt scheme was established in 2015. The commission is also exploring the period when the scheme was expanded while he was treasurer, and when it faced legal challenges while he was prime minister.
He is expected to give evidence next Wednesday.
The commissioner, Catherine Holmes SC, said she could see some instances where she could possibly reconsider a public interest immunity ruling she made over documents.
But she said she was not convinced this applied to all documents that Morrison had referred to in the 46-page statement he has provided to the royal commission.
Holmes said Morrison could just “refer in general terms to government decisions”. “It’s not clear to me why he would need to talk about particular [expenditure review committee] meetings,” she said, as an example.
If RBA isn’t done yet, how much hiking to go before rates peak?
Prior to today’s RBA rate rise, investors were betting the cash rate would peak at about 3.6% (well down from 4% a few weeks back).
Lowe stressed the “importance of avoiding a prices-wages spiral”, although there’s very little sign of that. (The September quarter wage price index was 3.1%, a record gap between it and the consumer price index of 7.3% for that period.)
Still, that wording encouraged economists to take it as a given the RBA will go higher.
David Plank, head of Australian economics at ANZ, said his bank still expects three more rate rises to come, with a peak rate of 3.85% by May.
We think inflation and wages growth will prove to be too high for the RBA to stop hiking anytime soon. We expect a 25bp increase in February, after the Q4 CPI and with the extension of the RBA’s forecasts out to mid-2025 still expected to show inflation at 3% or higher.
“Wage data in mid-February should then make the case for another 25bp in March,” he said, adding that a pause was possible in April before a final quarter-point increase in May.
Brendan Rynne, KPMG‘s chief economist, reckons the board will lift the cash rate another 25bp when it returns in February, and any pause after that will hinge on how wages and prices are faring.
Sean Langcake, head of Macroeconomic Forecasting for BIS Oxford Economics, predicted the RBA has another half-point of rises to come before the cash rate peaks at 3.6%.
About a third of the population has a mortgage and another third are outright homeowners. The other third who are renting probably won’t escape some fallout from today’s hike either.
“Soaring interest rates have a butterfly effect, as many landlords pass on the increases to renters,” said Mark Degotardi, CEO of the Community Housing Industry Association in NSW. “And with record-low vacancy rates, many families have no choice but to pay the higher rent and live in housing stress, or face homelessness.”
Territorians urged to stay cool amid NT heatwave
People across the Northern Territory have been urged to drink plenty of water and stay cool as a severe heatwave tightens its grip on the region, AAP reports.
NT Health on Tuesday issued a severe and extreme heat health alert, with residents and visitors urged to take action to avoid heat stress and dehydration.
The Bureau of Meteorology had earlier issued a heat warning for most of the territory, including the Daly, Arnhem, Carpentaria, Gregory, Barkly, Lasseter and Tanami districts.
Temperatures in central Australia will soar with Alice Springs forecast to reach 41C on Tuesday and 42C on Wednesday.
In the Top End, Darwin is also set to swelter, with a top of 35C forecast for Tuesday and 34C expected on Wednesday in humid conditions.
Timber Creek, near the Western Australian border, will be among the hottest places in the NT with maximum temperatures in the forties, including 45C on Friday, until Sunday.
People are encouraged stay indoors in air-conditioning or seek out shady areas with a breeze and drink cold or iced water.
They’ve also been told to decrease physical activity, wear lightweight, light-coloured, loose clothing and a hat.
Taylor wishes the PM a speedy recovery from Covid, when asked about the delay to national cabinet. He doesn’t specifically address whether the meeting should have still happened tomorrow instead of Friday. Just says the government has wasted six months in government.
Shadow treasurer speaks post rates announcement
The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, says the government promised cheaper mortgages, cheaper electricity and lower cost of living but “what we’ve seen is the exact opposite”.
He says the government has no plan, and still no clear path forward to reducing energy cost pressures. He says the government has now wasted six months, and has left the RBA to “carry the can” in attempting to reduce inflation.
He says the Coalition would, if in government, attempt to get more gas into the domestic network.
RBA signals more to come, sending dollar up, stocks down
Markets have responded to the slightly hawkish tone of the RBA and confirmation that interest rates are yet to peak.
Stocks went from being about flat for the day just before 2.30pm to about 0.4% lower soon after. The Australian dollar also crept about 0.15 US cents higher to 67.3 US cents. Not big moves by any measure but a hint of which way the sentiment shifted.
It being the last RBA board meeting before Christmas, season puns are of course unavoidable. (No ‘Santa pause’ was our guilty offering.)
Gavan Ord, a senior manager at CPA Australia, couldn’t resist either:
Christmas is not coming early for businesses this year. The interest rate rise is no surprise but it will add pressure on business and household budgets at a critical time of the year.
Among 1200 people surveyed in December, more than a fifth named rising interest rates as their number one concern for the new year.
A hint of why is that many will be coming off fixed rate loans whose interest rates will be bumped up by as much as four percentage points, as we noted in this preview.
The focus on interest rates may puzzle those without a mortgage but it’s worth remembering that a typical loan of $500,000 is now $834 more costly to service than it was in May (when rates were lifted off record lows).
The higher borrowing costs dwarfs increases in other parts of household bills – including energy ones, that are also in the news these past few months. You can read more about the relativities here:
Government reluctant on windfall tax, Chalmers says
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, says the government is trying to protect Australia’s reputation as a good supplier for commodities in the world, which is why the government is reluctant to go down the path of a windfall tax.
He says the government recognises the pressure on the states, and wants to get to an outcome the serves Australians, industry and the economy. That’s the end of the press conference.
Question: Is the government open to compensating the states with intervention in the energy market?
We have made it clear we’re prepared to negotiate with the states in good faith to see if we can come to an agreed decision on the high and rising energy prices. Every Australian has an interest in a meaningful and effective and temporary response to these energy price hikes and there have been important constructive discussions between the prime minister and his counterpart, counterparts, the various state governments, in the lead-up to national cabinet on Friday.
We welcome the spirit with which the various states are engaging with us on this really complex and difficult public policy question. We’ve made it clear that all options are on the table. We would prefer where possible a regulatory response here but we said we are prepared to consider other options as well, including if there’s a case for some responsible contribution from the Commonwealth, then obviously that will be part of the conversation.
Chalmers says his preference is to not go down the path of a windfall tax. He says the government made it clear to companies and organisations that a regulatory outcome is preferred.
Full impact of interest rate rises still to be felt: Jim Chalmers
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, says the Australian economy has a lot going for it with low unemployment, some wages growth and very high prices for a number of our commodities, but says there is much outside of our control.
Obviously the war in Ukraine is causing havoc on global energy markets. The Covid situation in China is something that we’re monitoring closely, given the often consequences for our economy. There are some welcome signals out of the US but we’re still expecting a substantial tightening of monetary policy there. The UK is obviously in a very difficult position as is Europe.
The full impact of these interest rate rises from our own independent central bank are obviously still to be felt. And the magnitude of that impact and the timing of that impact is still in many ways uncertain. And as always, as we approach the Christmas season, the festive season, obviously harsh weather events and natural disasters have the capacity to have a substantial impact on our economy and on our budget.
He says high prices for commodities are helping the budget a bit but are hurting households a lot.
“We need to take the sting out of these energy prices,” Chalmers says, saying the government is working with states and regulators to acting in a meaningful, temporary and responsible way, and the government plans to have a response between now and Christmas.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers speaks following rate rise
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is speaking after the RBA raised the cash rate to 3.1%.
He starts by wishing the PM, Anthony Albanese, well in his recovery from Covid-19. He says he was able to speak to the PM this morning about energy policy, the economy and about issues more broadly.
Turning to the rate rise, Chalmers says the rises are having “harsh and heavy consequences” on household budgets and mortgage repayments, but the full impact of the rises has not been felt in the economy yet.
He says the economy is expected to slow next year as a result of the rate rises and the downturn in the global economy.
Chalmers said the September national accounts will be out tomorrow, but stresses they’re backwards looking. They’ll capture some of the uncertainty but not all of it, he said.
Summer road, rail works to cause delays for Victorian commuters
Victorian commuters should expect delays and plan alternative travel routes around works scheduled over summer, AAP reports.
Annual maintenance on the West Gate Bridge will run from Boxing Day to 4 January, with four outbound lanes closed to traffic.
Drivers can expect delays of more than 90 minutes in and around the city as a result.
City loop trains will also be impacted from 2 to 15 January as crews upgrade smoke detection, extraction and sprinkler systems at the Flagstaff, Melbourne Central and Parliament stations.
Those stations will be closed with city loop services instead going direct to Southern Cross and Flinders Street.
The deputy premier and transport infrastructure minister, Jacinta Allan, said more trams would be running through the city to manage the demand.
“People can continue to move around the city and enjoy what the city has to offer,” she told reporters on Tuesday.
“There’s a lot of activity happening ... that will help make our cities and state stronger in the future.”
Buses will replace trains on parts of the Hurstbridge, Alamein and Sandringham lines as the city loop works are carried out.
Commuters on the Cranbourne, Pakenham, Frankston, Stony Point and Sandringham lines will also need to take replacement buses from January 4 as crews prepare the tracks for the Metro Tunnel.
Coaches will replace trains on the Gippsland line between Southern Cross and Bairnsdale from 4 to 31 January, so upgrade works can be carried out between Pakenham and Traralgon.
Allan apologised for the disruptions but maintained summer was the best time to carry out works with commuter numbers down significantly.
“The alternative is to spread these works out over a much longer period of time,” she said.
“It would cause more disruption and it would also take longer for these projects to be completed.”
Planned works will continue into February with coaches to replace trains between Bendigo and Swan Hill for upgrades to train detection at level crossings.
Level crossing removals at Union and Mont Albert roads in Surrey Hills will also lead to buses replacing trains on sections of the Lilydale and Belgrave lines from 17 February.
Reserve Bank flags further interest rate hikes
As widely expected the RBA has increased the cash rate by a quarter-point to 3.1%, the highest level since the end of 2012.
The accompanying commentary by governor Philip Lowe seems at first glance to be very similar to recent previous ones. The need for achieving price stability while keeping the economy on an even keel is the gist of it.
The conclusion from Lowe is that the central bank has more work to do:
The Board expects to increase interest rates further over the period ahead, but it is not on a pre-set course.
The size and timing of future interest rate increases will continue to be determined by the incoming data and the Board’s assessment of the outlook for inflation and the labour market.
More here to come as we go through the commentary and the reaction, but you can also see the news here:
Reserve Bank raises rates to decade high of 3.1%
The Reserve Bank of Australia has hiked interest rates for an eighth time in as many months, lifting its cash rate by 25 basis points to a decade high of 3.1%.
Telstra to face court over allegedly misleading NBN speed claims
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has launched fresh court action against Telstra over allegedly making false or misleading representations about uploads speeds for nearly 9000 Belong NBN customers.
The competition watchdog alleges that between October and November 2020, those customers were on a plan promising 40Mbps in upload speed, but could only achieve a maximum 20Mbps upload speed.
The ACCC alleges Telstra failed to notify customers about the drop in upload speed, even though the cost charges by NBN to Telstra was $7 less per month for each service.
ACCC commissioner Liza Carver said:
We allege 8,897 consumers who signed up to a Belong NBN plan between May 2017 and October 2020 were affected by this change and deprived of the opportunity to make an informed decision about their internet service.
Telstra acknowledged the failure to 2,500 customers in 2021, and gave them a one-off $90 credit, the commission said, but the remaining customers had not been informed, the ACCC alleges.
The ACCC is seeking declarations, penalties, consumer redress, costs and other orders from Telstra in the federal court.
In November, Telstra, TPG and Optus agreed to pay a collective $33.5m after the ACCC took the telcos to court over promised NBN speeds that could not be delivered to some homes on fibre-to-the-node service.
Police to boost presence at airports this holiday season
An AFP spokesperson told the media:
In the lead-up to the holiday season, the AFP will boost its patrols at airports around the country, particularly in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, Darwin, Gold Coast and Cairns.
And we will continue to do that as we see more and more people travelling. We are keen to ensure that people stay safe. But we’ll also have a zero tolerance attitude to people who behave poorly, are unruly or disruptive in the airport environment.
My message is simple - we will have a zero tolerance approach to anyone who is intoxicated, who behaves badly, aggressively towards staff or other people in the airport environment, whether it is in airports or on aircraft. People need to understand that if we wish to enjoy their holidays, they need to behave appropriately, because if they do have an interaction with police, they may not be able to enjoy their holiday or see family and loved ones where they were intending to travel.
Reserve Bank decision on interest rates 30 minutes away
About half an hour to go before we learn what the Reserve Bank has decided on interest rates for its last scheduled board meeting for 2022.
Economists seem pretty united in their view that the RBA will raise the cash rate to 3.1% from 2.85% now. Investors weren’t quite so sure, rating the odds of a 25 basis point increase at only 54% as of yesterday.
The RBA has surprised us a few times in 2022, so perhaps they will do it again. (For instance, most analysts expected a 15bp increase back in May when the RBA began its now record run of seven consecutive rate rises in a row. They’ll make it eight shortly, most are guessing.)
Anyway, apart from the rate decision itself, the focus will shift to the accompanying commentary by Governor Philip Lowe. Almost certainly, he’ll retain words such as “price stability is a prerequisite for a strong economy”, and that the bank is aiming to keep “the economy on an even keel”. (Presumably he doesn’t want to torpedo it.)
If the RBA does lift the cash rate, this line from previous RBA decisions may disappear: “the Board expects to increase interest rates further over the period ahead.”
If it does, then most people will figure the central bank is inclined to pause further rate hikes while it studies the response to the 300bp (tbc) of increases in borrowing costs since May.
The RBA will at least take a break in January when its board takes its traditional summer holidays. After the year they’ve had, they probably need one.
Indigenous foster kids in Victoria losing contact with Aboriginality, inquiry hears
One of Australia’s leading Indigenous child welfare advocates has warned permanent care orders in Victoria are cutting First Nations kids off from their culture, with some foster parents trying to erase foster children’s Aboriginality.
Muriel Bamblett, chief executive of Victoria’s Aboriginal Child Care Agency, appeared before the The Yoorrook Justice Commission – the state’s Indigenous truth-telling inquiry – today.
Bamblett told the inquiry there was no oversight of plans written into care orders that aimed to keep Indigenous children connected to their culture and language:
The worst permanent care plan I saw was a child from a big Aboriginal family and they were moving to South Australia. In a report to court they [foster parents] wrote they would take the child to the museum as part of exposure to culture... White Australia doesn’t have an understanding of cultural obligations and what they mean for young people.
The commission is holding hearings into Victoria’s child protection system and the impact on Indigenous children.
Victoria has the highest rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care in the country. Premier Daniel Andrews on Monday vowed to overhaul the system, saying too many First Nations children were being taken away from their families by the state.
That’s it from me. You’re in the excellent hands of Josh Taylor.
Queensland heatwave to extend into NT and WA
We brought you the news earlier that the bureau of meteorology has issued a heatwave warning for Queensland, as temperatures are set to soar, especially around the far west of the state.
Jonathan How from the bureau spoke to the ABC a little earlier about the situation:
We are seeing a significant heatwave across Queensland, but more broadly, across much of northern Australia with severe heatwave conditions for parts of South East Queensland, including Brisbane, reaching even extreme heatwave conditions for central and northern parts of the state.
And we’ve seen the extreme heatwave conditions extend even into the Northern Territory and northern parts of WA. So today, we’re seeing temperatures already in the mid to high 30s in large parts of central Queensland and into the mid-30s in the south-east, and even dipping into north-east New South Wales.
But from tomorrow, we’ll see even more heat build across the west of state. We are expecting to see temperatures climb well into the 40s for many locations including Cloncurry and 46 in Birdsville. For those in South East Queensland, we will see the hot temperatures peaking at 36 degrees in Brisbane and even up close to 40 for some of the western suburbs. A very hot number of days to come.
Royal commission into robodebt scheme continues
Damning new evidence presented to the royal commission shows government lawyers warned officials the robodebt scheme may have to be wound up in March 2019, eight months before it was finally stopped.
The March 2019 draft legal advice from the Australian government solicitor was prepared in response to a legal challenge brought by Madeleine Masterton and Victoria Legal Aid.
The advice said Masterton had very good prospects of success in her case, because the “income averaging” method central to robodebt was not consistent with the social security act. It noted that while it was commenting on Masterton’s case, the AGS was “conscious it had broader implications”.
Yet rather than winding up the scheme or pausing it while the solicitor-general opinion was sought, the Department of Human Services wiped Masterton’s debt two months later, as Guardian Australia revealed at the time.
This left Masterton with no case, forcing VLA to find a new plaintiff, which it eventually did. This plaintiff, Deana Amato, won the case in November.
Documents shown to the royal commission show the Department of Human Services had wiped Masterton’s debt because it did not want the federal court to make a determination about the legality of the robodebt scheme.
The royal commission was shown an email from DHS chief counsel Tim Ffrench to top DHS official Annette Musolino and compliance general manager Craig Storen.
Storen told the royal commission he didn’t necessary know that this advice would mean the scheme would have to stop.
The advice wasn’t to me. I was copied into it. I was aware of the general thrust of the advice … I was aware that there was then processes in place to seek a firmer Commonwealth position on the legality of apportionment.
Storen was then shown a part of the advice which noted it had “broader implications” beyond the Masterton case.
Storen said later he understood the government needed to “consider its position more broadly”.
“The Commonwealth was yet to determine its position on where it wanted to take the delivery of the program,” he said.
The royal commission continues.
Government commits over $6m to combat coastal erosion in SA
Seawalls will be constructed at key locations across the South Australian coast to help mitigate erosion sparked by climate change.
The federal government has provided $6.7m for the work, with walls to be built near Kingston in the state’s southeast, and at Victor Harbor, south of Adelaide.
South Australian Environment Minister Susan Close said recent modelling showed the state could expect more extreme weather over the next 25 years, and coastal projects would be vital to reduce the impact on local communities.
Projects funded under the scheme include the construction of rock seawalls and breakwaters, large-scale beach erosion protection, and work to improve community awareness of coastal hazards.
It is absolutely critical we build resilience to climate changes within our communities, and these projects will help to do this.
Climate change is expected to increase the risks of flooding, storm surges and erosion, so it’s vital we get on with these type of projects aimed at mitigating risk.
- from AAP
Marles meets with US counterpart
The US Embassy in Australia have shared images of the defence minister Richard Marles’ visit with his US counterpart, the secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin.
Teen trapped in Sydney storm drain
Emergency crews are working to rescue a teenage boy who fell into a stormwater drain near a cricket oval in Sydney’s western suburbs, AAP reports.
Emergency crews were called just before 11am on Tuesday after the teen slipped into the drain near Grahame Thomas Oval in Bankstown.
The teenager fractured his arm during the fall, NSW Ambulance paramedics said.
Rescuers are working on a plan to retrieve the boy safely, Fire and Rescue NSW spokesperson Steve Brown told AAP.
Wait times ease at Melbourne royal children’s hospital
Lengthy wait times have eased at Melbourne’s royal children’s hospital after some patients were forced to wait for 12 hours to see a doctor, AAP reports.
There were 100 patients seeking treatment at the hospital’s emergency department on Monday night, leading to warnings for families to find alternative care when possible.
As of 7am on Tuesday, there were only 14 patients seeking emergency care, with expected wait times dropping from 12 hours to about four hours.
It was not rising Covid-19 cases driving the emergency department demand, but patients presenting with gastro-like symptoms and fevers, royal children’s hospital chief executive Bernadette McDonald said.
McDonald said there were also workforce issues, with 120 staff members off each day because of Covid.
“Our workforce is getting really tired,” she told ABC Radio Melbourne on Tuesday morning.
“They are working extremely hard. I think there’s 1,600 staff unavailable to work across the whole health system at the moment. It is extremely challenging with Covid.”
The deputy premier, Jacinta Allan, said the health department was working closely with the Royal Children’s and other hospitals to manage the demand.
“The cumulative impact that the pandemic has had, particularly on our healthcare workforce, is putting some additional pressures at this point of the year,” Allan told reporters on Tuesday.
“There is work that is always ongoing to support the great work of our hospitals and our healthcare workers.”
Australian Financial Review appoints new editor
Fiona Buffini has been appointed editor of the Australian Financial Review, following the resignation of Paul Bailey after 11 years.
Buffini, who joined the Financial Review nearly 25 years ago, was the masthead’s deputy editor, digital editor and news director.
I am deeply honoured to join editor in chief Michael Stutchbury and managing editor Cosima Marriner to lead the best newsroom in the country.
I am excited to continue the Financial Review’s digital evolution, to find new audiences for our indispensable reporting and to build on the extraordinary achievements of editor Paul Bailey.
The AFR is a national financial daily owned by Nine Entertainment.
Government urged to consider natural disasters for policy addressing poverty
The second hearing of the Senate poverty inquiry is taking place today with a focus on family and domestic violence.
Fiona Hunt, the director of specialist community legal centre, Basic Rights Queensland, told the inquiry the levels of hardship and homelessness are unprecedented in her experience.
Zig Zag Young Women’s Resource Centre also presented evidence, saying their service is overwhelmed trying to help women deal with domestic violence.
The centre also gave the particularly alarming anecdote that women are thinking of committing crimes just to be housed in a facility.
The Centre Against Domestic Abuse as well as the Antipoverty Centre urged the government to look at climate poverty and natural disasters when making policy.
Australians heading overseas help produce first trade deficit since 2019
The rush of Australians abroad to make up for Covid disruptions helped send the country into a trade deficit of $2.3bn in the September quarter, the ABS said.
Markets had pencilled in a surplus (CBA expected it would nudge $12bn) and this will subtract 0.2 percentage points from GDP growth data for the quarter that we’ll get this time tomorrow.
Soaring commodity prices had delivered a string of 13 quarters of a current account surplus, but now that these have started to turn south, we might get a few more deficits to come. (The terms of trade – which compare changes in prices of what we export v what we import fell 6.6% in the September quarter.)
The trade in goods and services remained in surplus, at $31.2bn, but that was down by about a quarter in part because of those overseas travellers (and not yet a commensurate increase of visitors to these fine shores).
Rain also affected some exports such as minerals, but also food, you’d have to expect.
The net primary income deficit swelled to a record $33.2bn for the September quarter. One factor was the transfer of strong dividend payments to overseas investors (something that might be based on “windfall profits” that the Albanese government must be soooo tempted to touch).
The ABS data also includes a few other numbers to ponder about. Australia’s net international investment liability position rose $17.1bn for the quarter to $861.6bn.
And our net foreign debt increased by a similar amount to $1.163tn. Not a small amount.
Heatwave warning issued for Queensland
The warning is severe for north-west, northern to central interior and south-east inland areas of the state.
Parliament shouldn't get vote to send troops to war, defence argues
The Department of Defence has urged parliamentarians not to change the law to give parliament a binding vote on whether to send troops to war, arguing this would “risk significant adverse consequences for Australia’s national security interests”.
Parliament’s joint standing committee on foreign affairs, defence and trade has been tasked to investigate the government’s war powers for international armed conflict. Labor promised to launch such an inquiry if elected, with campaigners arguing the power to send military forces overseas should not be left to the prime minister and cabinet alone.
Defence said in a newly published submission that it believed the current decision-making arrangements “remain appropriate” because the executive government could access the full range of highly sensitive security and intelligence assessments to inform its decision making:
Any shift in these decision-making powers to the parliament would risk significant adverse consequences for Australia’s national security interests.
The submission argued that “no decisions relating to armed conflict have ever been taken lightly by the executive”. It said while the government was not legally required to consult parliament when declaring war or deploying forces overseas, “there remains a strong history of parliamentary consultation on these decisions”.
It said modern conflict was “fluid and dynamic” and the current rules allowed for “timely and flexible decision making, as well as the necessary confidentiality of highly classified information”. It added that requiring a parliamentary vote could delay deployments, with Australia yielding “strategic and tactical advantage to adversaries” that could “jeopardise the likelihood of success in achieving our military objectives”. It would also have potential implications for the Australian defence force’s operational security and undermine “Australia’s international credibility as a security and intelligence partner”.
Such approval arrangements could undermine the confidence of our international partners as a reliable and timely security partner in support of regional and global stability, with significant diplomatic impacts.
It said sanitising or redacting intelligence into a version that parliamentarians could see before voting on a deployment was not viable. That would only ensure that parliament, when weighing up one of the most serious decisions Australia could make, acted “based on incomplete and mostly unclassified advice” resulting in “significantly less effective decision-making than under the status quo”.
Alison Broinowski, president of the group Australians for War Powers Reform, criticised the submission and asked whether it was “appropriate for the department to intervene in this matter which should rightfully be considered by the parliament and civil society”. She said in a statement today:
Giving our MPs and senators a vote on the crucial issue of war is not a risk or a threat. It’s democracy …
The current “captain’s call” system which gives the PM and the executive alone the power to decide on war, has failed us time and time again, the Iraq disaster being the most glaring example.
Guardian’s Christmas good gift guide just got even bigger and better
The second round of Guardian Australia’s Christmas gift guide is out with even more fun and thoughtful gifts added.
The lifestyle team have done all the hard work for you to be able to offer your friends and family something really special, whether it’s a great gift from a flood-affected community or something you didn’t even know you could give them, like a handmade suit. My favourite addition has to be the little owl tee.
There’s a whole range of prices on this list to suit every budget, so be sure to check it out for yourself.
Government keeps renewables agenda in sight even as it considers short term fix, Bowen says
The energy minister, Chris Bowen, says while Friday’s national cabinet meeting will be all about trying to work with the states on a short term solution to bringing power prices down, the long term solution remains investing in renewables.
I think Australians understand the government has a short term imperative and a longer term mission. Short term imperative: It’s in nobody’s best interest to see Australian industries under pressure from rising energy prices, to see industries potentially close through no fault of their own because gas and coal was more expensive than last December. That’s in nobody’s best interest. That needs to be dealt with in the short-term.
In no way does that in any way deviate the government from its medium and long-term agenda from a renewable energy revolution. We need to do all of the above. In fact, the contrary’s the case, this crisis is caused by coal and gas prices. Anybody who says it is caused by renewables is lying and that needs to be called out.
Renewables are the solution to this crisis, not the cause, and the government is not deviating one moment from our agenda at 80% renewables in the grid by 2030 and a whole range of other measures on the way to get there as part of our 43% emissions reduction.
Strategic landscape ‘as complex and precarious’ as it’s been since WW2: Marles
Marles said he had earlier joined the US ambassador to Australia, Caroline Kennedy, on a visit to the site in Connecticut where the US builds Virginia class nuclear submarines. He said he had observed “the sheer complexity of what’s involved in building a submarine”. He noted that the UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, would also join Marles and Austin later in the week for a first meeting of the Aukus defence ministers.
Marles said it was a time “to be close with friends” and said the alliance with the US had “never been in better shape, and that’s a big thing to say because the alliance has always been in very good shape”. Marles said:
I think we are meeting at a time where the strategic landscape that we face – by that I mean collectively, both Australia and the United States, the world really – is as complex and precarious as it’s been at any point really since the end of the second world war. We see it in Ukraine, with the rules-based order being tested there, but we see it in the Indo-Pacific as well.
US defence secretary condemns China at meeting with Marles
The US defence secretary, Lloyd Austin, condemned China’s “coercive and destabilising military activities” as he welcomed the Australian deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, to a meeting at the Pentagon this morning.
The pair met ahead of tomorrow’s broader meeting that will also include the Australian foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
Austin – who has met Marles several times since the change of government in Australia – said the two countries were “focused on ambitious steps to further strengthen our unbreakable alliance”. He said the two democracies were “so closely aligned on our most important strategic challenges and opportunities”, adding:
Our two countries share a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and we seek a region where all countries are free to chart their own course. Where all states adhere to international rules, and where all disputes are resolved peacefully and free from coercion.
Now we’re meeting at a time of tension, especially from Russia’s reckless and lawless invasion of Ukraine, as well as from coercive and destabilising military activities by the People’s Republic of China. But the United States and Australia are stepping up to support the rules-based international order. Today, we’ll discuss a range of issues, including deepening our bilateral security cooperation on posture, capabilities, and defence industrial ties.
Austin said Australia and the US would also talk about growing their trilateral cooperation with Japan, and work with India through the Quad. He said “moments of challenge like this” were a reminder of “the importance of staunch allies and friends”.
As we would say, long time no see, given that we saw each other literally about 10 days ago in Cambodia. But I really appreciated the opportunity of doing more and more with you.
Economists predict 25 basis-point rate rise from RBA today
Of more interest, so to speak, for the RBA is the sustained drop in inflationary expectations. That’s really what the central bank wants to see – and the board members may well chat about the numbers during morning tea.
One reason why people might be getting more relaxed about inflation are recent signs that a peak in inflation might not be that far off. For instance, October’s minor CPI drop.
Petrol prices that even EV drivers can’t ignore when they drive past a service station have also lately been trending lower (with more to come if China’s economy keeps wobbling).
Still, economists seem pretty convinced the RBA will lift its cash rate another 25 basis points to 3.1% later today. That would make it eight hikes in as many meetings, a record run.
We preview the meeting here with a bonus “mortgage cliff” that the RBA board will also likely be chatting about as they look beyond today:
Consumer inflation worries retreat as the RBA weighs another rate hike
First Tuesdays of the month (save for January) are RBA board meeting days. For 15 of them before last May, there were moments of calm when nothing happened and the cash rate sat at a record low of 0.1%.
Since then, we’ve had seven consecutive rate hikes as the RBA played catchup with most other nations once inflation turned out – thanks to Russia’s Putin – not to be very transitory at all.
Ahead of today’s rate verdict (set your alerts to 2.30pm AEDT), the weekly ANZ-Roy Morgan survey offers hints about a couple usual things.
For one thing, consumer confidence remains low, with a minor drop in the most recent week.
Inner west Sydney ‘voice volunteers’ start training today
A hundred and fifty volunteers from Sydney’s inner west will today begin a “civic education program” on the Uluru Statement from the Heart and the upcoming referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament.
More than 800 people have registered for the training, designed to help people have informative conversations with their neighbours and friends about the referendum. Inner west mayor, Darcy Byrne, said:
Everyone knows this is an important moment in time and that this chance, for a just settlement with Aboriginal people, will not come again.
The volunteers involved in this project will go out and talk to their neighbours and travel to other communities in Sydney and NSW to build awareness there too.
I believe what we are doing should be a model for councils all over Australia.
The inner west is partnering with Youth Off the Streets to provide the training.
The training program was announced in June at a public forum with the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, and got the personal stamp of approval from prime minister and proud inner westie, Anthony Albanese, in November.
ACCC puts airlines on notice over airfares
The consumer watchdog has put airlines on notice amid historic high domestic air fares, with carriers to be “closely” monitored to ensure they aren’t deliberately slowing their return to full service capacity so they can “keep air fares high”.
In a statement marking the release of its quarterly airline competition report, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission notes recent government data monitoring showing cheapest domestic air fares for December at prices not seen since 2004. Last week, Guardian Australia revealed a surge in interstate train and coach ridership, especially between Sydney and Melbourne, in response to high prices.
The ACCC also found a 27% increase in all air fare types between October 2019 and October 2022, and noted that discounted economy fares have increased the most because “with fewer flights but strong demand, the airlines don’t currently need to offer special fares to fill their planes”.
The ACCC commissioner, Anna Brakey, said “historic lows and highs for discount air fares in the same year illustrate how changeable this market has been as the industry recovers from the pandemic”.
Brakey also noted that Qantas Group, which includes budget carrier Jetstar, Virgin and Rex all expect to be profitable in the current financial year ending June 2024, following sizeable pandemic losses. She noted that Qantas’ projected $1.45bn underlying profit for the six months to December is close to the company’s record for a full year of operation.
We accept that the airlines are still experiencing some pandemic-related resource challenges, but the ACCC will be monitoring them closely to ensure they return capacity to the market in a timely manner to start easing pressure on air fares.
We would be concerned if airlines withheld capacity to keep air fares high.
Albanese says ‘constructive dialogue’ is happening with states on energy despite criticisms
Anthony Albanese says delaying the national cabinet meeting will have “zero” impact on delaying power and gas price relief for consumers, and has taken a veiled swipe at state premiers who have questioned how the federal government will be able to do what it is promising.
Albanese dialled into ABC Melbourne radio this morning, for what host Virginia Trioli joked was a “proof of life” interview after his Covid diagnosis last night. The prime minister said he’d taken a Covid test after one of his staff tested positive, and admitted he wasn’t feeling 100% well, but was using paracetamol and ibuprofen to manage his symptoms.
The diagnosis means national cabinet, scheduled for Wednesday, will be moved to a virtual meeting. It has also been pushed back to Friday, which was criticised by acting Coalition leader, Sussan Ley, as the meeting is to discuss the power price relief that Albanese and his ministers have been promising for some months.
Asked why the meeting had been rescheduled if he was well enough to hold a radio interview, Albanese dismissed suggestions that the slight delay would affect the outcome of the meeting.
The idea you make a decision and it has an impact immediately on prices is not right.
He said the government would still take action before Christmas, ahead of power price changes in February, so rejected the idea that delaying the meeting by two days would make any difference.
The impact, apart from people who want to speculate in the media, is zero – between whether we hold it on Wednesday or Friday … it will have no impact on any price or any decisions which are made.
Premiers in NSW and Queensland have raised concerns about potential caps on coal and gas prices, and the impact it may have on those states’ own coffers through taxes and royalties. The NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, earlier this morning said the states wanted more detail of the federal plan ahead of the meeting.
Asked about the criticisms, Albanese said his government had shared detail.
You’ve got to draw a distinction between what premiers and some states say in public in order to promote their own position, and what is actually happening. And what’s been happening is very constructive dialogue.
People have been given a whole lot of detail about what is proposed. People have also been given the legal advice, bureaucrats have been working this through for months.
Pushing national cabinet back to Friday ‘no actual delay’, Albanese says
Albanese’s illness has meant national cabinet has been pushed back to Friday instead of Wednesday when it was initially scheduled.
Virginia Trioli asks Albanese why the meeting couldn’t take place remotely as planned on Wednesday if he’s well enough to be speaking with her. The federal government and state ministers are supposed to come up with a plan to tackle soaring energy prices.
The idea that you make a decision and it has an impact immediately on prices is not right, of course. [Changes to] what the default market offer, that will occur is expected to be in February.
So what we’re looking at is trying to act before Christmas, which is what we said we would do so that there’s no actual delay in anything except the formal meeting that will take place now on Friday.
We had to make the call pretty quickly. The positive test came through at 5pm last night.
The impact – apart from people who want to speculate in the media – is zero between whether we hold it on Wednesday or Friday.
‘I’m doing OK’: Albanese
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, might be in isolation with Covid-19 but it’s not stopping him from getting out on the radio waves. He’s just begun speaking with ABC Radio Melbourne from Kirribilli House in Sydney.
How is he doing?
I’m not 100% obviously, but I’m doing OK.
He says a member of his staff tested positive for Covid yesterday, which led him to test.
I did a RAT yesterday morning and it was negative. Then I did another RAT that was negative again. And then I started to feel a little bit of a tickle in my throat. So I did what the advice is and went and got a PCR and, unfortunately, it has come up positive, so I am isolating while I have symptoms.
Albanese says he isn’t taking any antiviral medication, “just drinking lots of water.” He also says his doctor expects the disease to be more mild this second time around.
The good news is for me is that the advice from my doctor - I’ve had four shots now and [it’s] the second time I’ve contracted Covid, so my immunity and the response should be quite high – and therefore he’s expecting that my symptoms will be much more reduced than they were the first time I contracted it, which was of course in the middle of an election campaign.
Fortunately, we’re through parliament last week. We had a very busy week last week … It’s better, I guess, to have it while parliament’s not sitting.
Sydney storm in images
If you were in Sydney last night, lightning storms put on quite a display with huge bolts cracking the sky. Photographer Haig Gilchrist’s images manage to capture both the grandeur of the shots towering over the city as well as the jagged detail of their plant-like tendrils.
Hybrid car sales racing ahead of electric
More Australians are choosing eco-friendly vehicles for their next ride, with sales figures revealing low-emission cars are soaring in popularity.
It’s not high-profile electric cars racking up the greatest sales though, but hybrid vehicles that combine battery and fuel technology.
Hybrid vehicles have become so popular in Australia they now make up more than one in every three cars sold by Toyota.
But experts say the trend may be a “halfway” measure in Australia’s transition to a more environmentally friendly fleet, and a result of overdue electric vehicle policies.
New sales figures from the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries this week revealed Australians’ new love for hybrid vehicles, with more than 8,500 sold in November – almost double the number of battery electric vehicles at 4,457.
Plug-in hybrid cars, which feature electric and fuel engines, represented a much smaller percentage of the market, selling just 459 vehicles during the month.
Australia’s top-selling car brand, Toyota, dominated the hybrid vehicle sales surge, with its cars making up 85% of all hybrids sold in Australia during November.
A spokesperson said hybrid vehicle sales now represented more than one-third of cars it sold in Australia, and hybrid sales this year had outstripped 2021 sales with a month still to go.
The company currently sells nine hybrid vehicles in Australia, ranging from the smaller Yaris and Corolla Hatch to the larger Rav4 and Kluger.
- from AAP
Some other visits abroad by members of parliament
Barnaby Joyce along with other backbenchers are in Taiwan as we mentioned earlier on the blog, but they aren’t the only members of parliament abroad.
The assistant minister for foreign affairs, Tim Watts’s first stop is Morocco before he goes on to visit Ghana and South Africa where he says he is looking to advance Australia’s foreign policy, security and economic interests.
The defence minister, Richard Marles, and the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, are in the US where today they will speak their defence and foreign affairs counterparts, the US secretary of defence, Lloyd Austin, and the secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
The independent MP for Mackellar, Sophie Scamps, is in Papua New Guinea where she is learning about health and education outcomes as well as the impacts of climate change on Australia’s neighbour.
NSW funds space and defence research
The NSW government will ramp up investment in defence and space industry research, areas it says will be critical to Australia’s future economic success.
This financial year the government will spend $15.2m through its defence, space and smart sensor “research networks”, announced today.
The networks aim to foster collaboration between government, researchers and industry to take ideas from the drawing board to the board room.
Smart sensors refer to the application of hardware that respond to real world input and converts it into a digital response, such as those used on self-driving cars.
The minister for science, innovation and technology, Alister Henskens, said NSW should be leading the country in the commercialisation of innovations across these industries.
We are investing in our human capital to help our innovative researchers unlock their potential and turn their ideas into solutions that will grow the economy and secure a brighter future for the people of NSW.
Defence projects in line for funding include a prototype system to assess military diver health and a “cloud” system that uses a constellation of satellites to store and process data.
NSW Defence Innovation Network director, Mike Gallagher, said the funding would ultimately help increase Australia’s defence capabilities.
- from AAP
National cabinet to meet online Friday
National cabinet will meet after all on Friday this week, after a few days’ postponement due to Anthony Albanese’s Covid diagnosis.
The prime minister’s office says the meeting will happen virtually on Friday, with state and territory leaders expected to discuss the power and gas pricing issues that have many Australians concerned. More details of the meeting are expected to be laid out in coming days.
NSW treasurer and energy minister, Matt Kean, told ABC Radio National this morning that the states were still waiting for detail on the federal government’s plans, which Albanese and his team say they’ve been working on for weeks now.
The meeting, scheduled to happen on Wednesday, had to be pushed back after Albanese last night announced he’d come down with Covid for a second time.
Shorten confident solution will be found ‘well before Christmas’
The national cabinet meeting was supposed to see the federal government negotiate with the states on an acceptable intervention on soaring energy prices.
The Queensland and NSW premiers have said they won’t support the prime minister’s cap on coal prices unless their states are compensated.
The government services minister, Bill Shorten, told Nine news the government remains confident a solution will be found “well before Christmas”.
It will be delayed just a few days. The fact of the matter is all options are on the table.
It’s no secret with the premiers, the challenge is Putin’s war in Ukraine has flowed through to coal and gas prices all around the world and it’s affecting Australian families.
But there is a point here where the prime minister and the government want to do something before Christmas comes because families are doing it tough the at the moment. Families are doing it tough.
You look at the whammy between mortgage rates, this, and inflation caused by supply shortages. I assume that things will be tackled well before Christmas.
Federal government jumps 26 points in WWF’s renewable scorecard
WWF Australia has released its Renewable Superpower Scorecard which rates how Australia’s states, territories and federal government are performing in the space of renewable energy.
The federal government has seen the biggest jump in its scorecard of 26 points … but it still comes only equal fourth on the list, with only Western Australia and the Northern Territory behind it.
New South Wales is at the top of the list and Tasmania comes in at second, with Queensland and South Australia on equal third and Victoria tied with the federal government at fourth.
Third meningococcal death in NSW
People in NSW are being warned to be alert to the symptoms of meningococcal disease after the death of a third person in the state this year.
NSW Health says there have been 29 cases reported this year, the majority due to meningococcal B strain of the infection.
A woman in her late teens died recently from the disease and NSW Health is warning it can be fatal within hours if left untreated.
The disease can occur in people even if they have been vaccinated, and children under five and 15- to 25-year-olds are at the greatest risk of contracting the infection.
NSW Health’s Jeremy McAnulty says early intervention can be lifesaving.
Meningococcal disease symptoms can appear suddenly and become very serious very quickly.
I urge everyone not to discount symptoms when they appear, or assume it may be just a mild infection. If you suspect meningococcal disease, don’t wait for the rash – see a doctor immediately.
The symptoms include: severe, unexplained limb pain, difficulty waking up, high-pitched crying in babies, severe headache, aversion to bright lights, stiff neck and a red-purple rash which doesn’t disappear when pressed with a glass.
The rash does not always occur, or may present late in the illness.
- from AAP
NSW Treasurer wants to see federal Liberals support Indigenous voice to parliament
The NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, follows on ABC Radio. Karvelas asks Kean if he wants to see his federal colleagues campaign yes on the referendum?
I do. I think it’s an opportunity to unite our nation. I think it’s an opportunity to strengthen our democracy and the Liberal party supporting a voice to parliament will ensure that there’s broad support for a voice to parliament for our First Nations people to be consulted on matters of policy. There’s broad support right across our democracy.
Detail needs to come from government on which parts of voice they will legislate, Birmingham says
The Nationals came out last week saying they would not be supporting the Indigenous voice to parliament. It puts the spotlight on the Liberal party, who have yet to state their position on the referendum.
RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas asks Simon Birmingham, who is the opposition leader in the senate, about his position. This is what he had to say:
I certainly don’t want to see a voice referendum put and fail. I think that would be undesirable for the country and many people who hold the issue dear. I can understand why people want the government to spell out, out of the various reports and analyses that have been done, precisely what type of model [they] are going to proceed with and give some detail to it. But this is an issue that is one where constitutional change has been shown to be difficult in this country, even when parties have not taken firm positions against it.
As a leading moderate, is it your philosophical view that a free vote should be held so people like you can advocate for a yes vote?
There are definitely different views across the many who simply want to try to make informed decision based on the detail. I think there will no doubt be differences of opinion right through until people pass the ballots.
You’re in the cabinet. You got that report from Ken Wyatt twice on the model. Did you read it?
I haven’t read the report cover to cover. No. I had lots of reports that came through. I’m well aware of the type of model and concept proposed… There’s lots of detail. What isn’t there is clarity from the government about which elements of these proposals they are definitely going to put into legislation. So, it is important for the government there to say of such reports. What are they going to do with them? and how are they going to proceed progressive it’s not reasonable just to say there’s a report they’re not actually fully which the government is.
Backbencher visits to Taiwan ‘business as usual’, Birmingham says
As parliament has wrapped up for the year, many members have headed off for official overseas visits. The defence and foreign ministers are meeting their counterparts in Washington today.
There are also six backbenchers from the Labor, Liberal, and National parties, including former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, visiting Taiwan at the moment. Chinese state media the Global Times has been critical of the visit, saying:
The politicians from certain countries who visit Taiwan to seek limelight are like political god of plague and pestilence. They bring nothing but risks and tension to Taiwan and no benefit to their own countries …
The shadow foreign affairs minister, Simon Birmingham, is speaking to ABC Radio, and says there’s nothing unusual about the visit to Taiwan.
These sorts of delegation visits are not at all uncommon. This is really the resumption of normal practice following the shutdown during the Covid period. It is essentially to understand better Australia’s relations, particularly in this case economic ties, with an economy like Taiwan.
The only [message the visit] should send to anybody, is that Australia is getting back on with business as usual in the post-Covid shutdown era. No more, or no less, should be read into it.
Big wet fails to dampen farm production
Australian agriculture has seen another near-record year of production, despite devastating floods in eastern states taking its toll on some crops, reports AAP.
The quarterly outlook for December from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences also found the value of exports is expected to reach a record for 2022 to 2023.
Abares’ Dr Jared Greenville said:
The gross value of agricultural production is forecast to be a near-record $85bn in 2022-23, just shy of the record set the previous year.
Another bumper year combined with high commodity prices means Australia’s agricultural exports are forecast to break records at over $72bn in 2022 to 2023.
Meanwhile, the winter crop is forecast to be the second largest on record at over 62m tonnes.
That comes despite a decrease in winter planting by 10% in NSW and 9% in Queensland because of the big wet.
Crops in Western Australia and South Australia benefited the most from spring conditions, with total production in both states forecast to reach record levels.
Total production in Queensland is forecast to reach the second highest on record, despite parts of the Darling Downs missing out on plantings due to floods.
While the bureau also concluded that summer crop planting in 2022 to 2023 may fall by 9% because of excessively wet conditions and flooding across major production regions in New South Wales.
The report found New South Wales bore the brunt of the damage from the spring rains and floods.Greenville said the total production for the state has been revised down by 2m tonnes since the last crop report in September.
Opposition urges government to reconsider delaying national cabinet
Good morning! Natasha May now on deck with you.
We found out yesterday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, tested positive to Covid-19 and Wednesday’s national cabinet meeting has been delayed as a result. It was meant to see the federal and state governments develop a plan to tackle rising energy prices. A new date has not been proposed.
The opposition has wished Albanese a speedy recovery but urged the government to reconsider the decision on national cabinet.
Acting Liberal leader, Sussan Ley, said that Australians are “desperate” for the cost of living relief promised by the meeting.
In a statement, Ley highlighted a remote meeting was possible as Albanese planned to work from home and that the national cabinet had almost exclusively met online since its inception early 2020.
Human Rights Watch says Australia too slow to use Magnitsky-style sanctions laws
A human rights organisation has accused the Australian government of being too slow to use Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions laws, a year after the new powers passed the parliament.
In a statement issued overnight, Human Rights Watch said the only time Australia had used the law was in March, when the then minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, targeted 39 Russians implicated in the death of an accountant and the corruption he exposed.
By contrast, in the first year since the United Kingdom parliament passed its targeted sanctions regime in July 2020, more than 78 designations were made against individuals and entities from 11 situations of human rights violations in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Europe, according to an analysis by nongovernmental organization Redress.
Human Rights Watch said Australia should start by joining the Canada, the EU, UK, and US in imposing targeted sanctions on senior military leaders and entities in Myanmar responsible for human rights violations since the February 2021 coup.
It also called for Australia to join others in imposing sanctions on Chinese officials implicated in crimes against humanity against Uyghurs and other Turkic peoples in Xinjiang. It further suggested sanctions against Iranian entities and individuals responsible for serious rights violations including over the current crackdown against protesters.
Elaine Pearson, the Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said:
One year has passed since Australia’s parliament passed Magnitsky-style sanctions, yet the government seems reluctant to use this tool to hold human rights abusers accountable. Australia’s democratic allies have imposed such sanctions to good effect around the world and Australia should too.
Good morning. Welcome to the live news blog. My colleague Natasha May will be along shortly to take you through the day’s events, but until then, here are some of the main stories making headlines this morning.
Our top story this morning comes from emails obtained by Guardian Australia showing that the Liberal MP Stuart Robert told a lobbyist and potential donor not to donate to colleague Angus Taylor’s fundraising group. Robert was sent an email from his friend David Milo, the chief executive of lobby group Synergy 360, inquiring about an invitation he had received to join the Hume Forum, “the official supporters’ network of federal minister and member for Hume, Angus Taylor”. Asked if Milo should give money, Robert, one of the Liberals’ most proficient fundraisers, said: “Nope. It will be declared and it will hurt you.”
The Reserve Bank meets today to make its last interest rate decision for the year. Will it continue its record series of seven hikes in as many months, as analysts are tipping? Or will there be a Christmas miracle for mortgage payers? Read Peter Hannam’s preview here.
The big story in Victoria today is that Melbourne’s royal children’s hospital has warned parents to seek alternative care as its emergency department struggles to cope with demand and sick children face waits of more than 12 hours to be seen. The demand was “unprecedented” with a high number of extremely unwell children, a hospital spokesperson said. It follows warnings from the state’s ambulance service last week that patients faced long delays due to huge demand.
Socceroos players have returned to a heroes’ welcome at a packed Sydney airport, with fans clapping and cheering for the players after a historic run to the knockout stages at the World Cup. About a quarter of the squad that lost valiantly to Argentina in the round of 16 arrived back in Sydney on Monday night, with another contingent landing in Melbourne. “It was unforgettable,” one fan told our reporter Mostafa Rachwani at Sydney airport. “The Tunisia game was one of the best moments of my life. We came tonight to thank the players and to show them how proud we are of them.”