Chris Bowen defends energy price relief plan – as it happened

Last modified: 06: 50 AM GMT+0

Households expected to save around $230 on average after national cabinet agrees to energy price cap scheme. This blog is now closed

What we learned today, Saturday 10 December

That’s this blog done for today, thanks for being here. We’ll be back doing it all again tomorrow. Here are today’s takeaways:

  • The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, announced Magnitsky-style sanctions on a range of Russians and Iranians.

  • Sol Bellear, Stan Grant and Matthew Doyle shared their memories of former prime minister Paul Keating’s famous Redfern speech.

  • New details were released in the Bruce Lehrmann case, containing allegations he had previously “made a pass” at Brittany Higgins.

  • HSC students were able to access their “preliminary” results days before they were due to be officially released.

  • The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared the mountain mist frog, which was once found across most of the tropics, extinct.

  • Atagi’s vaccine rules are stopping “desperate” parents from being able to protect their children, according to the Labor MP and infectious disease specialist Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah.

Enjoy the rest of your Saturday, wherever you are!


Bertin Huynh has written a lovely piece on the joys of the round ball:

The pool offers a left and right-hand wave, with different difficulty settings. On Saturday, the level is cranked to advanced – with a special aerial setting being offered for a freestyle session during a break in competition.

Kieran Pender’s written all about it here:

Mike Bowers has pulled together a beautiful end-of-year album:

In more froggy news, Christopher Knaus mentioned earlier that the poor mountain mist frog made an appearance in the album Songs of Disappearance – here’s the background to that brilliant project from Andrew Stafford:

Adam Morton has taken a closer look at that sad story about this “beautiful endemic rainforest species”:

Here’s the full story on the new “Magnitsky” sanctions the federal government has imposed:

Here we go – the Australian federal police have trained four new tech dogs and got eight new labrador puppies this year (they now have more than 100 K9s, including Coral, who looks like a very good girl).

Apparently labradors are the most common breed in the program “because of their hunting genealogy”.

Detection dog Coral from Brisbane’s canine unit
Detection dog Coral from Brisbane’s canine unit. Photograph: Australian federal police

The AFP says:

The dogs are often used during the execution of search warrants linked to suspected child sex offenders, terrorists and illicit drug and weapon traffickers.

The dogs specialise in sniffing out many items favoured by criminals including explosives, firearms, currency, drugs and electronic devices.

The evidence they find is often hidden and could otherwise be missed in a search warrant. Using dogs and their keen sense of smell helps support the full range of AFP investigations and allows investigators to save valuable time and get better results in search warrants.


Thanks, Christopher Knaus! I’m going to search for stories about dogs, I feel like that’s what this afternoon needs.

And with that, I’m going to hand you back to the esteemed Tory Shepherd, who will guide you through this afternoon’s developments.

Thirty years ago today in Redfern, former Prime Minister Paul Keating delivered this landmark speech.

Watch 👇 (1/2)

— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) December 10, 2022

It was the first time an Australian Prime Minister spoke the truth about this country’s past & how through reconciliation we can create a better future for everyone. (2/2)

— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) December 10, 2022

Investor threatens to divest from Lendlease over koala concerns

The ABC is reporting that Australian Ethical, an $8bn investment fund, is threatening to divest from Lendlease if it proceeds with a 4,000 hectare home development south-west of Sydney, which threatens a vulnerable koala colony.

The housing project is among three developments in the region that have been fast-tracked by the NSW government. It has prompted concerns for one of the state’s last healthy koala colonies.

The then environment minister Matt Kean told Lendlease in 2020 that he would not sign off on the project until it complied with advice from the NSW chief scientist.

But Australian Ethical says the project in its current form is not transparent on the protections in place for koalas. The fund’s ethical stewardship lead Amanda Richman told the ABC:

What we are really concerned about is a lack of transparency.


NSW education body apologises after HSC results accidentally released

We’ve just heard from the NSW Education Standards Authority on that story mentioned below about the accidental early release of HSC results. A spokesperson says:

For a short period this morning, some students were able to access a preliminary set of 2022 HSC results.

NESA is investigating the cause of the issue and sincerely apologises for any inconvenience caused.

Final HSC results will be released this Thursday.


South Australia’s Riverland region prepares for rising flood waters

In South Australia, the Riverland region is still bracing for floods, with flow forecasts down the Murray River expected to surpass 200GL by late December.

The latest update from the SES, issued on Friday, says:

Today’s updated flow report from DEW explains water levels in the River Murray near the South Australian border are currently similar to 1974 flood levels and the total flow is estimated to be approximately 180 GL/day.

It is forecast that the total flow at the South Australian border will reach a peak in the range of 190 GL/day to 220 GL/day in the last week of December 2022.

The SES forecasts that the Murray flow rates and water levels will continue to rise over the coming weeks and increasingly impact on communities.

Consider following your emergency plans. This includes considering your personal circumstances (medical, financial, etc), the likelihood of losing power, what you need to do if you decide to leave. Plan your route carefully to avoid flooded roads and allowing extra travel time.

Relocate early if you think you may not be able to manage impacts.

News Corp reports that tourism operators throughout the Riverland are having to close riverside caravan parks.

A levee at the Big4 caravan Park in Renmark, South Australia
A levee at the Big4 caravan Park in Renmark, South Australia. Photograph: Dean Martin/AAP


Space agency asks Australians to help find Christmas asteroid

The European Space Agency is asking Australians and others in the southern hemisphere to help it locate what it describes as a “mystery asteroid” approaching Earth.

The asteroid, named 2015 RN35, will make a safe close approach of Earth on 15 December, passing by at 686,000km.

Those in the southern hemisphere will get the best view of its approach, the ESA said. Telescopes 30cm and larger should be able to detect the asteroid.

A 60-140-m asteroid is approaching Earth, and to celebrate the release of ESA’s new asteroid toolkit we are calling on amateur astronomers to find it. Our Christmas asteroid, 2015 RN35, poses no threat, but like many middle-sized space rocks out there, we just don’t know that much about it.


If you’re struggling to work out what the government’s energy price relief plan actually means, my colleague Peter Hannam has written this comprehensive explainer of how it works, and what it means for your hip pocket.


Error allows some HSC students to see their results early

The New South Wales Education Standards Authority is investigating after an error allowed some HSC students to access their results early Saturday morning, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

Results are expected to be released on Thursday morning, but a set of preliminary results for each course were mistakenly made accessible on Saturday morning by mistake, between 8am and 10am, the Herald reports.


Bowen is asked whether allowing elevated prices for fossil fuels would encourage the shift to renewables. He says:

Nobody is more in favour of the move to renewables than I am. Nobody. But the way to do it is not to make the prices of existing power exorbitant. That is not the way to do it. The way to do it is what we are doing – have the capacity investment scheme to bring the investment on and to provide all relevant assistance for community solar banks and batteries, as we are doing. It is not to see Australians paying these war prices, that is not the answer to the transition to renewables.

Bowen is asked whether he would consider taxing the fossil fuel sector. He responds:

The cap is an intervention, which I don’t expect every coal and gas company to welcome. It is an intervention on the national interest. We looked at all sorts of models, all sorts of things, this is the one we decided to give for the most impact, most sensibly, most quickly.

In addition, I think most Australians would say it is fair enough of the government to step in with these rebates to help those Australians most at risk of these increased power bills impacting on their way of life, to give them some relief. That is an appropriate thing for a government to do.


Bowen is asked about concerns from the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, which says the plan will deter investment and drive up prices in the long term.

He says:

With respect, I just reject that argument. I mean, people were making $12 a gigajoule last year, and they were investing … I find that a particularly difficult argument for people to mount. These caps don’t apply to new gas installations.

We have carefully designed to ensure, just as governments around the world are intervening, you know, every government around the world has had to come up with a response they would not have contemplated 12 months ago. Rightwing governments, leftwing governments are all working through these issues.


Bowen says the government is not suggesting its plan is a “magic bullet” or that energy prices will fall.

We are suggesting this takes the big impact of the increases out of the system, especially when you add in the rebates, which the treasurer will be discussing with his colleagues in coming weeks, that sees real relief flow through to those who need it most.


Bowen says the scheme will be temporary.

We certainly intend for this to be a temporary and targeted measure, absolutely. The gas caps will be replaced by the managed code of conduct for gas purchases, so that comes into place after the gas cap comes off ...

Obviously the coal caps will also be temporary because they shouldn’t be in place forever. What we will do, though, is continue with the medium-term plan.


Chris Bowen describes energy plan as 'decisive action that makes a difference to consumers'

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, is speaking about the “energy price relief plan”, announced on Friday.

The four-point plan will cap, for 12 months, the price of black coal at $125 a tonne and the price of gas at $12 a gigajoule, within about a week. The commonwealth will transfer $1.5bn to the states and territories to cut energy bills for eligible households and small businesses.

Bowen says:

I welcome the feedback from groups around the country.

The Australian Industry Group said this package would likely be very helpful in dampening the immediate economic pain of this global energy crisis.

Acoss said it was an important step towards preventing disaster for the most vulnerable people in our society.

The Energy Users Association said yesterday’s announcement was a balanced approach for the gas crisis that looks after energy users and the national interest and gives manufacturers hope.

The Energy Consumers association said it would help to curtail further price increases while shielding consumers from the very high impact of high energy bills. That’s what it’s all about. That’s what we were trying to do, that’s what we did do yesterday.

There is one group that hasn’t welcome yesterday’s announcement – that’s the federal opposition.


Our political editor, Katharine Murphy, has analysed the government’s attempts to achieve a diplomatic reset. She writes:

For weeks, all eyes have been on soaring energy prices, and what the governments of Australia will do to give households and businesses relief. Governments answered part of the national water cooler question on Friday, agreeing to new price caps for coal and gas, and to rebates for people on low and middle incomes.

The impact of the proposed price caps seems clear. Power bills will increase, but they will be lower than they otherwise would be in the absence of government intervention. Consumer rebates are still a bit of a work in progress, requiring final agreement between the treasurer Jim Chalmers and his state counterparts.

While energy has dominated the headlines since October, other important policy conundrums are gathering speed as we stagger towards the summer break. The Albanese government has been pushing ahead in diplomacy, security and in defence policy.


Medibank back online after completing cybersecurity overhaul

One of Australia’s largest private health insurers has completed a cybersecurity overhaul, months after a major hacking scandal.

Medibank has resumed all customer-facing platforms on Saturday morning after temporarily shutting down its IT systems to improve security.

“All customer-facing platforms have been fully tested with IT security experts from Microsoft and are operational with enhanced security protections,” the company said in a statement.

“The IT systems were back online ahead of schedule at 6.15am (AEDT) on Saturday 10 December 2022. Customers can now access Medibank systems as usual, including the website and apps, and they can use Hicaps when claiming again.”

All retail stores and call centres will remain closed until Monday.

Medibank’s IT systems had been offline since 8.30pm on Friday in a planned procedure as part of Operation Safeguard, which was carried out at the company’s Melbourne headquarters with IT security experts from Microsoft.

The overhaul was in response to a massive cyber attack in October.



Speaking of Knaus, he’s back behind the steering wheel for a while and I’ll see you here again later.

Christopher Knaus pointed out this fabulous piece on former prime minister Paul Keating’s famous Redfern speech a bit earlier. Here’s the full transcript if you want more:

Transcript of Prime Minister Paul Keating's Redfern speech, December 10, 1992 [PM Transcripts]

— Canberra Insider (@CanberraInsider) December 9, 2022

Richard Marles speaks about the need for nuclear-powered subs and other defence technology

Yesterday, Daniel Hurst wrote about the deputy prime minister and defence minister, Richard Marles, opening the door to Japan on Aukus. In a speech Marles gave to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation in Tokyo, he talked about the need for nuclear-powered submarines and other defence technology:

Aukus will also drive the development of other advanced capabilities, allowing our three countries [Australia, the US and the UK] to pursue advantage in undersea and electronic warfare, hypersonics and counter-hypersonics, advanced cyber and quantum technologies and artificial intelligence.

Aukus is a capability and technology partnership; one which we hope will form part of a broader network Australia seeks to build, in which Japan is central.

My intent is to grow defence industry integration with Japan: bilaterally, through our trilateral mechanisms with the United States, and, when ready, via our advanced capabilities work in Aukus as well.

This is an incredibly ambitious agenda. But the world is changing and so we must respond.

Richard Marles at a meeting with Japan’s defence minister in Tokyo yesterday
Richard Marles at a meeting with Japan’s defence minister yesterday in Tokyo. Photograph: Laurent Fievet/AFP/Getty Images


My excellent colleague Kris Swales is on a mission to get your “weekend juices flowing” (!). Please enjoy:

Female workers’ needs being ignored in skilled trade workplaces, survey finds

Women are being widely ignored across skilled trade workplaces, which can act as a barrier to female participation, new research suggests.

One in five women electrical workers don’t have access to sanitary bins in their workplace, according to a national survey by the Electrical Trades Union.

The amenities survey, which examined 2,656 responses from women in the trades sector, found multiple gender disparities among workers, raising serious health and safety concerns.

Women are eight to 10% less likely to have access to gendered or permanent bathrooms compared with their male comrades.

The survey reflected the gender disparity in electrical trades workers. Only 8.5% of respondents identified as female. Just 2% of Australia’s electricians are women.

Nearly half of the female respondents said they raised an issue in their workplace about inadequate amenities compared with less than 30% of men.

Industry experts have called for a review into setting minimum health and safety standards for workplace amenities. The ETU acting national secretary, Michael Wright, said:

Suitable toilets aren’t ‘nice to haves’. Having access to hygienic, reliable and adequate loos at work should be a basic expectation and a no brainer in 2022.

White-collar workers expect these basic standards, yet for women on construction sites, there’s still no guarantee of a usable toilet.



Josh Butler has been talking to Dr Michelle Ananda-Rajah about access to vaccinations, which feels like the next chapter in an unsatisfactory conversation we’ve been having for years now:

Sydney grandfather walks to Perth to raise money for Landcare

Good morning! I hope your respective weekends are extremely productive. Are they this productive? Via AAP – the 68-year-old man crossing the Nullarbor:

After eight months on the road and battling wind, rain, heat and fatigue, a Sydney grandfather will this week reach his Perth destination, having crossed the continent on foot.

Richard van Pijlen has been pushing a trolley of supplies for more than 4,000km to raise money for the community bush regeneration group Landcare to plant one million trees. He told AAP:

I didn’t really think things through too much, and just focusing on, you know, 30km and then another 30km.

When AAP first caught up with Van Pijlen in May a few weeks after he’d set out, he was expecting to walk around 25km a day. But on one occasion he reached 85km.

In November, after spending six weeks crossing the vast arid Nullarbor Plain, the former painter walked 27 hours almost non-stop, resting only to eat. He said:

I’ve never been as exhausted in my whole life, like that moment. You think you have nothing left, but there’s still a little bit left.

Richard van Pijlen pictured in Stanwell Park, NSW in May
Richard van Pijlen pictured in Stanwell Park, NSW in May. He will soon reach his Perth destination. Photograph: Liv Casben/AAP


Attorneys general release draft report on age of criminal responsibility

The nation’s attorneys general have released a 2020 draft report on the age of criminal responsibility which urged for the minimum age to be raised to 14 years.

Federal attorney general Mark Dreyfus met state and territory counterparts on Friday to discuss justice issues. They agreed to release the 2020 draft report, following significant pressure from advocates.

The draft report has now been released. It recommended commonwealth, state and territory governments should raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age.

The report says:

This report has found that the reasons for children coming into contact with the criminal justice system are varied and complex. The entry of children into the youth justice system disproportionately impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. Most children under youth justice supervision come from backgrounds that are disadvantaged. These children have often experienced violence, abuse, disability, homelessness and drug or alcohol misuse.

They may have witnessed family members who are part of the criminal justice system, thereby normalising their own potentially criminal behaviour. There is a direct correlation between criminality and entrenched social and economic disadvantage. The major risk factors for youth criminality include poverty, homelessness, abuse and neglect, mental illness, intellectual impairment and having one or more parents with a criminal record.

Studies have shown that the younger the child is when first having contact with the justice system, the more likely they are to go on to reoffend. This may suggest that criminalising the behaviour of young children may result in them becoming entrenched in the justice system.

A win for #RaisetheAge! 💪🏾 After sitting on it for 2 years, Aust Attorneys Generals have finally agreed to release the secret report telling them what we already know - we need to raise the age of criminal responsibility to at least 14, without exception.

— Change the Record (@Change_Record) December 9, 2022


Remembering Paul Keating’s Redfern speech 30 years on

It’s 30 years to the day since Paul Keating gave his famous Redfern address. The speech is often referred to as the greatest in Australian political history. It was the first time a prime minister spoke about the dispossession and violence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples had survived.

Guardian Australia asked those who were on the stage with Keating, and some of those who were in the crowd, to share their memories of the day and reflect on the legacy of those words.

You can read what Sol Bellear, Stan Grant and Matthew Doyle remembered of that moment here:


Fallout from Bruce Lehrmann case continues

The fallout from the Bruce Lehrmann case continued on Friday, after the Guardian revealed the director of public prosecutions Shane Drumgold SC made a series of explosive allegations against investigators in the case.

He accused them of trying to pressure him into accepting their view that Lehrmann should not be charged, bullied Brittany Higgins to the point where she needed to be insulated from contact with them, and then aligned themselves with the defence during the trial.

His concerns are now being dealt with by the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, which works in private.

In a letter on 1 November, he told chief police officer Neil Gaughan that he wanted a public inquiry to examine police and political conduct.

The ACT attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, is yet to decide on whether such an inquiry should be held.

On Friday, both Gaughan and Lehrmann’s barrister, Steven Whybrow, supported calls for a public inquiry. They said they wanted the inquiry to examine the conduct of all parties, including the DPP.

In a letter to his officers, Gaughan said the allegations made by the DPP were untested. He said:

In his letter to me, the DPP did raise with me his view that there should be a public inquiry into political and police conduct during the investigation and the trial of this matter.

I welcome a public inquiry into all aspects of the matter including (but not limited) to the actions of police, the prosecution and defence, issues leading to delays in the trial, issues leading to the subsequent mistrial, the decision not to proceed and the associated allegations of contempt of court.

Lehrmann has consistently maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent.

He says no sexual activity occurred with Higgins, a fellow political staffer. The collapse of the trial leaves him with the presumption of innocence.


Mountain mist frog’s call preserved on Songs of Disappearance

Sticking with the mountain mist frog, which has just been declared extinct, a kind reader has just sent me a Spotify link to a recording of its calls, as part of a collection called Songs of Disappearance. The frog has not been seen for 20 years.

You can listen here.


Mountain mist frog declared extinct

The mountain mist frog, a species once found across two-thirds of Australia’s wet tropics, has been declared extinct in the latest update to an international “red list” of threatened species.

The frog has not been seen for more than 20 years. It is believed to have been affected by chytrid fungus, a disease that attacks the skin and has wiped out amphibian populations. Rising temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions have also reduced its mountain habitat. It is still listed as critically endangered by the Australian government.

It is one of 26 Australian species on the red list, which is compiled annually by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Most of the Australian species with a declining status are types of orchid.

There is also some good news. The Australasian bittern, a bird that belongs to the heron family, has had its status improve from endangered to vulnerable.

But Jess Abrahams, a nature campaigner with the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the list showed Australia’s extinction crisis was continuing. The country has one of the highest rates of species decline in the developed world, and has lost more mammal species than any other continent.

We know what’s causing this crisis: habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change. We know the solutions to the crisis: stronger environment laws, stronger climate action and increased investment in habitat protection and restoration.

The Albanese government is heading in the right direction by instituting an overhaul of our flawed national environment law, but it must not delay or cut corners.

The list was released during Cop15, a global summit focused on the biodiversity crisis. The Australian environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, flies to Montreal next week for the latter part of the meeting. You can see the Guardian’s coverage of the summit here.

My colleague Patrick Greenfield has written about what else has changed on this year’s red list.

About 54 of Australia’s 212 species occur in the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area.
The mountain mist frog (Litoria nyakalensis) is a critically endangered rainforest specialist, endemic to the Wet Tropics.
#Fornature #frogs #biodiversity #frogIDweek

— Wet Tropics Management Authority (@WetTropicsMA) November 9, 2020


Nobel peace prize sends 'powerful message'

Elaine Pearson, Human Rights Watch Asia region director, is speaking to the ABC about the awarding of the Nobel peace prize to Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, Russian rights group Memorial and jailed Belarusian activist Ales Byalyatski. The award was announced on Human Rights Day.

Pearson says:

I think that sends a very powerful message that this is not just about … we see all the horrors of the war that is taking place right now in Ukraine, but we don’t always see the actions of the human rights defenders who are documenting those war crimes at great personal risk to themselves. We don’t always see the actions of the human rights defenders who are opposing these war crimes, groups like Memorial. We had to close our office earlier this year, which shows how difficult the climate has become. So I think it’s really meaningful that this award is being shared between three different human rights organisations that are really putting their lives on the line in order to defend human rights.

Nobel Peace Prize 2022 winner chairman of the Russian human rights organisation Memorial Yan Rachinsky signs the Nobel Committee’s guest book as Nobel committee secretary Olav Njolstad, chairwoman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee Berit Reiss-Andersen and an interpreter stand by at the Norwegian Nobel Institute in Oslo, Norway. Photograph: Hakon Mosvold Larsen/NTB/AFP/Getty Images


The demonstrators caught up in the new anti-protest laws

Reporters Joe Hinchliffe, Sean Ruse and Michael McGowan have looked in-depth at the crackdown on protesters by state governments, which are using heavy-handed laws to counter provocative demonstration tactics.

They report:

As activists use increasingly provocative – and divisive – tactics in a bid to highlight the urgency of the climate crisis, state governments are beginning to respond with a suite of heavy-handed new laws aimed at curtailing the demonstrations.

In New South Wales, 32-year-old Deanna “Violet” Coco was last week handed a 15-month jail sentence after she blocked a lane of traffic on Sydney’s Harbour Bridge in April.

Coco was the first person to be jailed under controversial laws passed earlier this year that introduced a possible two-year prison sentence for people who block major roads, bridges or ports.

The laws have been widely condemned by a coalition of environmental groups, unions, civil liberties organisations and legal groups, but enjoy the support of both the Coalition government and Labor opposition.

You can read the full story here:


ATO raids 35 properties

The ABC is reporting that the Australian Taxation Office raided 35 properties across the country as part of a crackdown on tax avoidance and under-reporting of sales.

The ATO reportedly raided properties across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and Tasmania, but would not say which businesses were raided or whether charges have been laid. The ABC reports that the investigation focussed on businesses suspected of using or supplying electronic sales suppression tools, which help artificially hide business transactions and reduce sales values for the purpose of avoiding tax.


Just sticking with the sanctions story, for a moment.

Penny Wong and Tim Watts, the foreign minister and assistant foreign minister, have released a joint statement just now.

They say:

The listings demonstrate the Australian government’s commitment to take clear action to assert our values, and to hold perpetrators of serious human rights violations and abuses to account.

In addition to human rights sanctions, Australia is joining partners to announce further targeted financial sanctions on three Iranian individuals and one business involved in the supply of drones to Russia for use against Ukraine.

Russia is using Iranian-made drones to target civilians and critical infrastructure, with the intention of denying Ukrainian people energy, heating and water as they face freezing winter temperatures.

The supply of drones to Russia is evidence of the role Iran plays in destabilising global security. This listing highlights that those who provide material support to Russia will face consequences.

The Australian government calls on countries to exert their influence on Russia to end its illegal, immoral war.

Australia stands with the people of Ukraine and with the people of Iran.

We employ every strategy at our disposal towards upholding human rights – ranging from dialogue and diplomacy to sanctions – consistent with our values and our interests.

The Albanese Government’s approach is to deal with the world as it is, and seek to shape it for the better.

Foreign affairs minister Penny Wong speaks during a conference at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. Photograph: José Luis Magaña/AP


The Sydney Morning Herald is also reporting the Labor government will deploy special forms of sanctions for the first time, including on seven intelligence operatives allegedly involved in the poisoning of Alexei Navalny.

The Guardian reported this morning that the targeted sanctions include asset freezes and travel bans, and will target the head of Iran’s morality police, among others. The sanctions are being used on 13 alleged human rights abusers for the first time by the Albanese government.

The Herald has published an opinion piece by foreign affairs minister Penny Wong, who says:

The Iranian regime’s flagrant and widespread disregard for the human rights of its own people has appalled Australians, and the perpetrators must be held accountable.

Sanctions are not our only choice, and they will rarely be our first choice.

It’s about making the best judgement I can in this role, about the right approach at the right time.


Penny Wong imposes sanctions against Iran's morality police

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has imposed sanctions against Iran’s morality police and Basij Resistance Force amid growing criticism of Iran’s crackdown on protesters.

The move follows weeks of calls from human rights groups and the opposition to use the Magnitsky-style targeted sanctions laws, which passed the parliament a year ago and before now had only been used once by the Coalition.

A sanctions notice was signed off by Wong on Thursday and posted on the federal government’s register of legislative instruments on Friday.

The instrument shows Wong has listed Iran’s morality police and Basij Resistance Force as designated entities. The list of sanctioned individuals also includes Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, who is the head of the morality police, and Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, the head of the Tehran division of the morality police.

The instrument also cites Gholamreza Soleimani, who commands the Basij, a paramilitary force, and Iranian police chief Hossein Ashtari.

A number of Russian citizens who were suspected of involvement in the poisoning of Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny have also been included in the sanctions list. Those sanctioned are subject to Australian travel bans and asset freezes.

The Australian government’s explanatory note states that it is listing 13 persons and two entities “that have engaged in, been responsible for, or been complicit in, serious violations or serious abuses of human rights in Iran and Russia”.

It adds:

The listings cover serious violations or serious abuses of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. These relate to the oppression of women in enforcing the Islamic dress code and violent suppression of peaceful protests in Iran and the attempted assassination of Alexei Navalny by poisoning in 2020.

Wong’s office was contacted on Friday but did not respond. Earlier this month the Coalition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Simon Birmingham, said Australia shouldn’t be slow to impose sanctions on Iranian figures, “particularly at what feels like it could be a moment in time for Iranians who are showing such courage and bravery in taking to the streets and in standing up for basic rights that the rest of us take for granted”.

Japan and Australia signal greater defence cooperation

Japan could deploy combat aircraft including F-35s on rotations to Australia after senior ministers from both countries met in Tokyo late yesterday to ramp up defence cooperation.

A statement issued overnight said Japan would also look to increase training opportunities with the US forces in northern Australia. Japan and Australia would also cooperate on strategic capabilities, including long-range guided weapons and undersea warfare.

The Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, and the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, met their Japanese counterparts, Yasukazu Hamada and Yoshimasa Hayashi, in Tokyo yesterday. Marles and Wong visited Japan after talks in the US earlier in the week.

The four ministers said in a statement issued afterwards that Australia and Japan shared a vision “for a free and open Indo-Pacific that is inclusive and resilient [and] where sovereignty and international law, including universal human rights, are upheld”.

The statement flagged plans to expand air-to-air refuelling pairings between the Japan Air Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Air Force aircraft.

It said the two countries were also “accelerating the consideration of” measures such as:

  • Manoeuvre deployment training of Japan’s F-35s with an eye to future rotational deployment of Japan’s fighters including F-35s in Australia while welcoming Royal Australian Air Force F-35s coming to Japan next year for the first time to participate in Exercise Bushido Guardian.

  • Enhancing the complexity of Japan Self Defense Forces’ participation in Exercise Talisman Sabre.

  • Options to conduct submarine search and rescue training between the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and the Royal Australian Navy.

  • Amphibious operations, exercises and guided weapon live-fire drills.


Good morning and welcome to our rolling news updates this Saturday morning. Christopher Knaus will be here to guide you through the day but first let’s look at what has been making news overnight.

The energy deal nutted out at national cabinet yesterday is making the headlines today. Estimates are that households will save at least $230 on average on their power bills after prime minister Anthony Albanese and state and territory leaders signed off on plans to cap the price of coal and gas. The federal government will provide $1.5bn in energy bill relief to eligible households and small businesses, which will be paid through state or territory governments. Parliament has been recalled for next week to ratify the plan.

Big news as well from Victoria where Labor clinched the remaining seat of Bass to confirm an even bigger state election triumph than the 2018 “Danslide” won by premier Daniel Andrews despite overseeing the controversial long lockdowns in the state and rumblings about infrastructure spending.

The really important news is that an oversupply of mangos has seen the price of the succulent summer fruit plummet to as low as $1.90 apiece. So great for those of us who love mangoes but not great for farmers. Brett Kelly, chief executive at Australian Mangoes, said the low price was being driven by an overlap in supply from different regions. “There will be a tremendous amount of volume over the next few months, so consumers will be able to get their mangoes,” he said.


Tory Shepherd and Christopher Knaus (earlier)

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Qld announces reopening plan; ACT hotspot status ends tonight – as it happened
All today’s news as it happened

Mostafa Rachwani and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

18, Oct, 2021 @8:26 AM

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PM’s meeting with Chinese president confirmed – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Elias Visontay and Natasha May (earlier)

14, Nov, 2022 @8:05 AM

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ANZ and CBA to raise after central bank decision – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Tory Shepherd and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

03, May, 2022 @10:23 AM

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National cabinet announces housing plan – as it happened
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Henry Belot and Tory Shepherd and Emily Wind (earlier)

16, Aug, 2023 @8:15 AM

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Coalition defends robodebt process as Labor applies pressure – as it happened
Government services minister Stuart Robert apologises for $7,000 demand sent to dead man. This blog has now closed

Amy Remeikis

30, Jul, 2019 @7:44 AM

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Parliament recalled after national cabinet strikes energy deal – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Tory Shepherd (now) and Royce Kurmelovs (earlier)

09, Dec, 2022 @8:05 AM

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Coalition defends energy plan by attacking Labor's record – as it happened
The Coalition has agreed to dump the renewable energy target and replace it with the ‘national energy guarantee’. Follow all the day’s events from Canberra

Amy Remeikis

17, Oct, 2017 @6:34 AM

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Dodson ‘taken aback’ by Nationals’ call on Indigenous voice – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Mostafa Rachwani and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

28, Nov, 2022 @8:01 AM

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Albanese voted winner of election forum with 40% of votes to Morrison’s 35% – as it happened
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Tory Shepherd (now) and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

20, Apr, 2022 @11:09 AM

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ABC head defends Four Corners 'toxic culture' investigation before Senate estimates – politics live
David Anderson says program’s evidence ‘rock solid’; Asio chief warns of ‘real threat’ from foreign spies; incoming Biden administration vows to sign back up to Paris agreement. Follow all the updates

Lisa Cox and Amy Remeikis

09, Nov, 2020 @8:03 AM