That's it for today – thanks for reading
Here are the main stories on Monday 12 December:
There will be no compensation to fossil fuel companies under the energy cap plan, the prime minister Anthony Albanese says, as senators question the extent of the plan;
The chief medical officer has warned of two years of “regular” Covid waves as the national Covid-19 health management plan for 2023 is released;
The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has promised to help elevate the voice of Pacific island countries in international climate negotiations during a visit to Vanuatu;
Melbourne is shivering through unseasonable weather with summer temperatures in the mid-teens, as Sydney is smashed by another storm;
The independent Fiona Patten has conceded her upper house seat to former Labor MP Adem Somyurek in Victoria; and
Antibiotics are in short supply across Australia, with GPs calling for a long-term fix.
We will see you back here for more news tomorrow morning.
Hundreds of calls for help as storms buffet NSW
Emergency rescuers in New South Wales have been swamped with close to 300 calls for help within the space of a few hours, as dangerous wind gusts and heavy thunderstorms hit the state.
Severe cells and dangerous winds battered Sydney and inland parts of NSW on Monday before tracking towards the state’s north, Dean Narramore from the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“We’re seeing damaging winds from the Victorian border all the way up through the Hunter area for many of our eastern elevated parts of NSW,” Narramore said.
Peak gusts of 100km/h are expected over numerous NSW towns today including Nowra, Bowral, Katoomba, Goulburn, Cooma and Bombala, with the Bureau warning winds will be strong enough to down trees, powerlines, and cause damage to property.
Severe, fast-moving thunderstorms are also currently tracking across northeastern NSW, with regional towns Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Glen Innes, Inverell, Sawtell and Dorrigo subject to severe weather warnings on Monday night.
Earlier, storm cells caused significant damage in Sydney and multiple members of the NSW State emergency Service were continuing to respond to calls Monday afternoon, NSW SES spokesperson Sean Kearns said.
Some of the damage included fallen trees and roofs being ripped off homes, he said.
“One of these in particular was at Mortdale where a large part of a workshop roof was removed due to the damaging winds,” he said. “Thankfully no one was injured.”
More than 270 calls for help came in to the NSW SES on Monday between 6am and 2pm, with 185 from the Sydney metro area.
Trees were at higher risk of falling in high winds, after months of heavy rainfall softened soils, Kearns added.
In the coming days, much of southeastern Australia will be plunged into an unseasonal cold snap, as a cold front brings showers, localised hail and severe thunderstorms to parts of NSW, Victoria, and Tasmania.
Temperatures could dive to between five and fifteen degrees below average for several days, with the frostiest conditions set to be on Thursday and Friday.
“For some, it could be the coldest December day or December night on record,” Narramore said.
– via AAP
Coal and motorists also in the energy mix
The energy spotlight has focused mostly on gas for a couple of reasons. One is the federal government has few levers to pull when it comes to coal, with the states mostly in charge of regulation for that fuel.
Queensland seems to be satisfied that it will get more from the Rewiring the National plan – federal Labor’s $20bn war-chest – as a result of negotiations with Canberra. NSW, we understand, was easier to get across the line (even though it’s led by a Coalition government).
As of Monday evening, it’s not clear when the Perrottet government would recall parliament to change legislation, with a session before Christmas not yet ruled out.
It’s notable too that while APPEA, the gas industry lobby, is warning about investment being hit by the price cap and the uncertainty about what a “reasonable rate of return” might look like, the same concerns don’t seem to be evident in the coal industry.
“The NSW mining industry stands ready to support policies that reduce pressure on energy prices while strengthening the NSW economy,” Stephen Galilee, CEO of the NSW Minerals Council said. “Such measures should also protect NSW mining communities and preserve the reputation of NSW as a destination for mining investment.”
“We will examine the details of Friday’s decisions to determine their impact and effectiveness, and seek constructive consultation with the NSW government on any proposed measures,” Galilee said.
One outstanding query is whether there will be much, if any, money paid to coal producers as compensation for the price caps. That’s a major objection to the plan from the Greens, and they may well be persuaded that reported totals of $500m are overblown.
While the attention is understandably on electricity and gas prices (and their effect on inflation), it’s worth noting especially as holidays approach that petrol prices are on the way down.
The past week’s average retail price was down about 5 cents/litre nationally, and now sits well below the average for the past 12 months (even with the “excise holiday” cutting 22 c/l off the price over half that time).
But no, it’s probably not the time to stock up on petrol or diesel generators.
Proposed energy price relief package 'a Band-Aid on a festering wound', Pocock says
Independent senator David Pocock says the government’s proposed energy price relief package is “a Band-Aid on a festering wound”, criticising fossil fuel companies for making “eye-watering” profits.
The Labor government must win over either the Greens or Coalition to see their price caps on gas pass the Senate on Thursday. Normal Senate calculus sees Labor require either the Greens plus one crossbencher, or the Coalition, to pass legislation – Pocock has reservations about the changes, but Jacqui Lambie and Tammy Tyrrell say they support the proposal, meaning the government just has to worry about getting one of the larger parties onboard.
Pocock is still seeking detailed briefings on the change, and will meet with the government on Tuesday. He will ask ministers why they aren’t considering a windfall tax on fossil fuel companies profits. He said on Monday afternoon:
Clearly people across the country are feeling the pinch when it comes to cost of living and have to find solutions to that.
This package provides short-term relief but is essentially a Band-Aid on a festering wound that has arisen from long-term failure of energy policy to plan for the transition to renewables.
Coal and gas companies are making eye-wateringly high wartime profits. We need to look beyond the short-term cost-of-living relief to help households get off coal and gas, unlocking savings for them year-on-year into the future.
Pocock says he will “keep pushing government on the bigger picture transition”.
The Greens, who will also hold meetings of their own on Tuesday, have called on the government to tip in more money to help households transition from gas to electric appliances – as well as suggesting a windfall profits tax.
Progress stalls on bridging gender pay gap
Australian women are earning nearly $26,000 less than their male colleagues as efforts to close the gender pay gap stall, AAP reports.
The latest data released by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency shows the pay gap remains stuck at 22.8 per cent.
This means that for the first time, the gap in the 2021/22 financial year was the same as the year before, with women paid $0.77 for every $1 earned by men.
Seven in 10 employers have pay gaps that favour men while women continue to be under-represented in leadership.
The agency’s census found men were more likely to hold managerial positions, even in female-dominated sectors such as healthcare and education.
The number of female chief executives rose from 19.4 per cent in the previous year to 22.3 per cent, and by just five per cent since 2014.
About one in five boards do not have any women members.
Women in other senior levels of management earned almost $100,000 less over the same period.
Only two industries have more women in management than their proportion in the workforce, these include the grouping of transport, postal work and warehousing (26 per cent managers) and mining (21 per cent managers).
Workplace Gender Equality Agency director Mary Wooldridge said the stalled progress should encourage employers to take action.
“Lasting change requires employers to make bold, creative choices that send a signal to all employees that gender equality is a core part of their business strategy and a priority for those in leadership and managerial roles,” Ms Wooldridge said.
“Leading employers are already putting solutions in place that address challenges like workforce shortages by tailoring factory shifts around school pick-up and drop-off times or promoting flexible hours or part-time work arrangements among managers and executives.”
Tourists not at risk from Bali sex crackdown: governor
Reuters has filed this story with the latest update on Bali’s changes to the criminal code:
Visitors to Bali will not be put at risk by Indonesia’s newly ratified criminal code, the island’s governor said, dismissing concerns that revised laws which include articles criminalising sex outside marriage may scare away tourists from its shores.
Indonesia’s parliament last week passed the controversial bill that also prohibits cohabitation between unmarried couples.
Seeking to reassure visitors, Bali governor, Wayan Koster, in a statement on Sunday noted the new laws, which come into effect in three years, could only be prosecuted if there was complaint by a parent, spouse or child.
Those who “visit or live in Bali would not need to worry with regard to the entry into force of the Indonesian Criminal Code”, he said.
The governor said provisions in the criminal code on this issue had been altered from an earlier, stricter version so “would provide a better guarantee of everyone’s privacy and comfortableness.”
Bali’s government would ensure “there will be no checking on marital status upon check-in at any tourism accommodation, such as hotels, villas, apartments, guest houses, lodges and spas,” Wayan said.
Wayan also denied what he said were “hoax” reports of cancellations of flights and hotel room bookings, adding that data from travel agents, tour and accommodation operators, as well as airlines, showed the number of people set to visit Bali from December 2022 to March 2023 had increased.
Bali is the centre of tourism in Indonesia and the tourism association is targeting foreign arrivals on the predominately Hindu island to reach pre-pandemic levels of 6 million a year by 2025. Decades in the making, legislators hailed the passage of the criminal code as a much-needed overhaul of a vestige of Dutch colonial rule. Officials say it aims to uphold “Indonesian values” in the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation.
But Maulana Yusran, deputy chief of Indonesia’s tourism industry board, said last week the new code was “totally counter-productive” at a time when the economy and tourism were starting to recover from the pandemic.
The United Nations has also expressed concern over threats to civil liberties posed by the criminal code, which also includes laws that make it an offence to insult the president, the national flag and state institutions.
Electricity prices turn lower but so do some energy stocks
As noted in an earlier post, Origin Energy’s share price didn’t fare well after the Albanese government unveiled its gas and coal price caps – and later indicated it was looking at longer term measures to ensure prices in eastern Australia remained “reasonable”.
Origin’s shares lost almost 8% on Monday, as investors fretted about what it might mean for the $18bn takeover planned by the Brookfield/MidOcean consortium. (The latter is continuing its due diligence, while “noting” the new government interventions.)
Shares of AGL, which even welcomed the efforts to support consumers, fell 2.4%, but pared an early loss of about triple that. Whitehaven Coal’s sagged almost 2%, but investors obviously didn’t see the end of the world imminent for gas producers with Woodside up 2.7% and Santos up 0.7%.
One point, PM Anthony Albanese did make on Friday was that wholesale power prices had been trending down for some time as the market braced for some government action.
This chart from EnergyAction backs that comment up, and also indicates further falls on Monday.
Readers might wonder, what’s gas and coal got to do with power prices? Well, wholesale spot prices are set every five minutes, with the last generator to fill demand setting the price for all bidders.
Hence, if gas and black coal prices can be forced down, so too will be electricity prices. Note, though, that generation is only about one-third of your power bill (think transmission and distribution), so cheaper wholesale prices is only part of the solution.
Still, Treasury reckons retail prices will rise 23% next fiscal year – steep, but less than the 36% climb that would have happened without intervention. Let’s see if that target is hit.
Here is a full story on that wild fireworks incident at a Christmas carols we mentioned earlier today:
Windy conditions hamper search for teen missing at a lake
Windy conditions have hampered the search for a teenager missing at a lake on the Victoria-NSW border, AAP report.
Two 16-year-old boys were fishing in a tinnie on Lake Mulwala at Yarrawonga about 9am on Sunday when they were hit by a wave and fell overboard, police said.
A good samaritan swam to their aid and pulled one of the boys to shore using a flotation device.
He returned for the second boy but could not find him.
Victoria’s State Emergency Service, the NSW Centre for Maritime Safety, NSW and Victoria police and other search-and-rescue squads are working together to locate the missing boy.
Victoria Sr Sgt Nathan Ractliffe said windy conditions had made the search difficult.
“The weather conditions today and the next couple of days aren’t very favourable to assist police but we’re doing everything we can in our capability to locate that male,” he told reporters on Monday.
The surviving teen is said to be receiving family support after the traumatic incident and is continuing to help police.
Police divers and members of the Air Wing searched the lake on Sunday until about 7pm. They resumed the search at 8am on Monday.
Vanuatu ‘not established any security agreement’ with China, minister says
The Australian bipartisan delegation’s trip comes against the backdrop of the Australian government’s concerns about China’s attempts to increase its influence in the region, including its security presence. Beijing reached a security agreement with Solomon Islands shortly before the Australian election.
Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs, Jotham Napat, was asked during his joint press conference with the Australian ministers to describe how he saw China when it comes to a security partner.
He played down the suggestion of Vanuatu deepening security ties with China:
We have not established any security agreement; we have not even discussed any matter in relation to security.
The press conference returned to the focus on climate change. Last month, Vanuatu’s new climate change minister, Ralph Regenvanu, told Guardian Australia that the region’s support for Australia hosting a UN climate conference in partnership with the Pacific in 2026 should be “conditional on no new government money being given to fossil fuels”.
I understand completely where Minister Regenvanu is coming from and I understand the desire from your country and many others in the Pacific for there to be swift action on climate. What I would say is this. We have a very emissions-intensive economy ... We are seeking to make a very big change and we are seeking in the space of less than a decade to go to in excess of 80% renewables in our economy. That’s a big shift.
So what I would say is we are committed to ambitious reductions, not just by 2050 but in the near term. No Australian government has been as ambitious as the one represented here today. I would just ask respectfully that that be considered, the scale of what we are seeking to do.
Wong said Australia’s desire to host a conference of the parties to the UN framework convention on climate change in partnership with the Pacific would be “a very powerful statement” and give “powerful momentum” to the UN process. It would enable the voices of Pacific island countries to be heard.
Wong, a former minister for climate change, added:
I was at Copenhagen when Copenhagen failed and let me tell you momentum matters.
Advent of summer cold comfort for Victoria
Victorians will have to keep their winter jackets on hand, weeks after the beginning of summer, as the Bureau of Meteorology warned that Sunday was the last warm day in the state for a while.
In Melbourne, the weather will remain in the mid to high teens for the next week, reaching its lowest maximum on Wednesday with a forecast of 15C.
Read more on that story here:
‘A partnership of equals’: Wong hails relationship with Pacific islands
The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has promised to help elevate the voice of Pacific island countries in international climate negotiations.
Wong, at the press conference in Vanuatu, began by highlighting the importance of the bipartisan delation that it travelling to Vanuatu, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau:
It’s a statement about the enduring nature of our partnership with Pacific island nations – the importance we attach relationship with you, Vanuatu and all other members of the Pacific Islands Forum …
It’s a partnership of equals and we have a lot to learn and we have a lot to share and we have a lot to do together. I’m hopeful that our discussions here today and our ongoing discussions will allow us to share and do more in the future.
Wong said she had previously travelled on one of these bipartisan trips when Julie Bishop was foreign minister and Wong was the opposition’s foreign affairs spokesperson (now she is joined by the opposition’s Simon Birmingham). She quipped:
I was in Simon’s shoes then. I like this better. I think it was a really good initiative and I’m really pleased [we are resuming it].
Wong acknowledged that Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs, Jotham Napat, had mentioned the Boe declaration on regional security, a 2018 statement by the Pacific Islands Forum that says climate change “remains the single greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific”.
Wong said the Boe declaration was an incredibly powerful document, and a reminder of the weight with which Pacific nations speak regarding climate:
They speak about climate with the authenticity and weight of lived experience. Part of Australia’s obligation is not only to respect that but to elevate those voices in the international fora.
Birmingham thanked the Australian government for the invitation. He said:
Australia is at its strongest when we speak with one voice and by being here in a bipartisan delegation we are making clear that Australia’s support for Vanuatu and all Pacific island nations is valued across politics in Australia. It is one of the highest priorities for all parties of government.
Birmingham acknowledged the need to respond to the challenges of climate change that were “so clearly enunciated” in the Boe declaration.
Climate change ‘single greatest threat’ to Vanuatu, says minister
Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs, international cooperation and external trade, Jotham Napat, thanked the Australian politicians for taking time out of their busy schedules “to grace us with their presence”. He acknowledged Australia’s role as Vanuatu’s primary humanitarian partner and stressed that the climate crisis is a security threat:
On the issue of regional security, we acknowledge the existential threat of climate change, identified by the Boe declaration as the single greatest threat … Vanuatu welcomes Australia’s recommitment to the Paris agreement. Furthermore I acknowledge Australia’s policy on climate change.
Wong and Birmingham hold joint presser in Vanuatu
It is not something you see every day, but the minister for foreign affairs, Penny Wong, and her opposition counterpart, Simon Birmingham, have begun a joint press conference in Vanuatu.
Wong and Birmingham are in Vanuatu on the first leg of a bipartisan visit that also includes the minister for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, and his opposition counterpart, Michael McCormack.
The three-country trip – they will also be visiting the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau from today until Thursday – is designed to send a signal to the Pacific that Australia’s commitment to the region is above domestic politics. They are holding a joint press conference with Vanuatu’s minister for foreign affairs, international cooperation and external trade, Jotham Napat.
Tax official tells royal commission they had concerns over robodebt program
Tax office officials were aware of that the reams of pay data they provided to the Department of Human Services for the robodebt program was “not fit for purpose”, a royal commission has heard.
Two Australian Taxation Office officials, Tyson Fawcett and Michael Kerr-Brown, told the inquiry they started having concerns about the way the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) data was being used by the department once the robodebt scheme hit the headlines in late 2016.
The inquiry has previously heard that Fawcett, director of data management at the ATO, fired off an email to DHS counterparts in early 2017 warning them to “cease and desist” the use of the data until the tax office was assured it was being used legally.
Appearing at the royal commission on Monday, Fawcett, who still works at the ATO, was unable to independently recall specific details about why he had sent the strongly worded email.
Senior counsel assisting, Justin Greggery KC, suggested Fawcett was essentially threatening to stop the robodebt program if the DHS did not provide assurances.
He questioned whether Fawcett felt pressure from the ATO in giving his evidence today. Fawcett said he did not and was simply unable to recall much detail about the period given the passage of time.
DHS officials agreed to meet with Fawcett after his email, but noted the government’s support for the robodebt program.
The commissioner, Catherine Holmes AC, said it appeared the DHS official was telling Fawcett to “back off” because of the government’s support.
Fawcett said he was unable to comment on the official’s motives but “it definitely could imply that”.
Kerr-Brown told the royal commission that DHS officials had insisted the PAYG was being used as it had been previously.
“I was being given assurances they weren’t doing anything different with the data,” he said. “They were just doing more of the same.”
In fact, DHS was now using the annual ATO data to raise welfare debts after calculating whether people had underreported their fortnightly income to Centrelink. Previously the annual data was only used as a trigger to investigate a case, given it provided no proof of what a person had earned in a fortnight.
Kerr-Brown’s evidence continues.
NSW SES receives more than 270 requests for assistance in just eight hours
The NSW State Emergency Service received more than 270 requests for assistance between 6am and 2pm today, it said in a statement.
Of those, 185 have been calls to the Sydney metro region as a result of the storm, which is now moving up the NSW coast.
The NSW SES assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said:
NSW SES units have been busy responding to jobs relating to roofs coming off properties and trees falling down. One of these in particular was at Mortdale where a large part of a workshop roof was removed due to the damaging winds. Thankfully no one was injured.
These winds bring great risk to already saturated soils, creating a perfect storm for trees to get pulled out and damage property or roads.
People in the impact locations should move cars undercover and away from trees and powerlines and secure loose items around your home.
There are 41 current NSW SES warnings, including two emergency warnings.
Thank you for your service Natasha May.
Thanks for your attention today. If you’re in Sydney I hope you’re enjoying the sun again after the storm. You’re in the hands of the wonderful Nino Bucci now.
Flash flooding of concern in NSW as SES respond to 270 requests
Meanwhile, the NSW SES say they have received more than 270 requests for assistance between 6am and 2pm today off the back of Sydney’s brief but intense storms.
The SES say 185 of the requests came from the Sydney metropolitan area, which was impacted by severe winds that are now expected to move up the coast throughout the day to morthern NSW.
NSW SES Sean Kearns has said this storm has caused damage across Sydney:
NSW SES units have been busy responding to jobs relating to roofs coming off properties and trees falling down. One of these in particular was at Mortdale where a large part of a workshop roof was removed due to the damaging winds. Thankfully no one was injured.
These winds bring great risk to already saturated soils, creating a perfect storm for trees to get pulled out and damage property or roads.
People in the impact locations should move cars undercover and away from trees and powerlines and secure loose items around your home.
The SES said flash flooding remains a concern as thunderstorms can bring bands of rainfall to catchments across the state, in particular, northeastern NSW.
Man rescued from flood water in rural NSW
The NSW Rural Fire Service has today rescued a man trapped in his car in flood water near Wallanthery, in the state’s south-west. The footage shared by the RFS shows you just how severely flooding continues to affect inland parts of the state.
Mixed market response to government’s energy plans
As we posted earlier, shareholders of Origin Energy aren’t overly impressed by the Albanese government’s plan to intervene to cap the prices of gas and coal.
The company’s stock is trading near its low for the day, off a punishing 7.6% last time we checked, at $7.21.
AGL Energy, the other big listed electricity generator, saw its shares fall more than 6% in early trading before bouncing back to more than halve the losses. Still, the 2.4% drop is about four times the drop in the overall market.
We note, though, that Santos shares are up today by about 0.6% while Whitehaven Coal’s stock is off about 1.9%.
The public comments are quite mixed too. Origin’s boss Frank Calabria told the AFR that “interventions like price caps will have the opposite impact to that intended”, discouraging investment in new gas resources and likely driving up prices over the longer term.
One reason for the nervousness for Origin might be the fact the company (which includes a big generation portfolio but also a gas export one) is facing a proposed takeover, as reported here:
For now, the takeover plan is proceeding.
A spokesperson said:
The consortium notes the federal government’s announcement and will continue its evaluation throughout the due diligence process.
AGL’s spokespeople, meanwhile, are striking a more positive stance:
Increasing cost-of-living pressures, including the rising cost of energy, are a concern for all Australian households and businesses.
While details are still to be sorted out about the price caps on coal and gas, AGL said it welcomed “the government’s targeted support for low- and medium-income households and are supportive of the government directly helping households and other energy consumers that are struggling with affordability, particularly vulnerable customers”.
Santos, meanwhile, said it is yet to make a public comment about the changes.
Ten additional Medicare-backed psychologist appointments not to continue past 2022
Butler also announced that the 10 additional Medicare-backed psychologist appointments made available through the pandemic, on top of the existing 10 sessions, would not continue past the end of 2022.
He said a review of the Better Access program found that the additional appointments “aggravated existing waitlists and aggravated barriers to access”, with most of those appointments going to existing patients, and that it actually discouraged new patients from seeking help.
It also found that all of the growth – all of the growth – in services went to the highest-income Australians, with the lowest-income Australians actually receiving fewer services over this period than they had before the introduction of the additional 10.
People who have had their extra sessions approved by the end of the year will still be able to have their appointments next year.
National Covid-19 health management plan for 2023 released
The health minister, Mark Butler, has announced a host of changes to how Australia’s medical system will deal with Covid next year, with updates to testing regimes and mental health support.
As flagged earlier, PCR tests will only be available with a referral, generally. The national Covid-19 health management plan for 2023, released today, states that “from 1 January 2023, to obtain a Medicare-funded PCR test you will require a referral from a medical or nurse practitioner”.
There is no public health requirement or recommendation for low risk individuals to seek PCR testing.
We’ve since clarified with Butler’s office, who say people can get a referral from the specialist GP respiratory clinics, as well as their normal GP. The joint federal-state-funded public drive-through testing clinics, which have been scaled back since the peak of the pandemic, may still be operating in some areas and they will not require a referral, Butler’s office said.
The document stresses that access to antiviral Covid-19 treatments can be provided after either a positive PCR test or RAT – so you can get those drugs after a rapid test.
The chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, wrote in the report:
The likely emergence of new variants, including those able to partially evade immune responses, mean the Australian community can expect to experience new waves on a regular basis for at least the next two years.
Weather bureau warns of ‘giant hail’ across north-east NSW
The Bureau of Meteorology has confirmed storms are no longer occurring in metropolitan Sydney but more wild weather is on the way for the north-east of the state.
Initially, people in an area between Gosford and the north-west slopes were warned about large hailstones. The bureau then added another warning for the area further north extending to the Queensland border to be wary of giant hailstones.
Perrottet won’t be ‘threatened’ against gambling reform
Dominic Perrottet has insisted he won’t be “threatened” into not pursuing reforms of poker machine gambling in New South Wales after the state’s clubs lobby said it would campaign against MPs who it believed were opposed to it at the next election.
The premier has repeatedly said he wants to pursue the introduction of a cashless gambling card following the release of a crime commission report that found billions of dollars in “dirty” money is being gambled in pubs and clubs in the state.
The government is yet to release a detailed response to the report, but ClubsNSW has vocally opposed the proposal, insisting it would cost jobs in the sector.
Today the head of ClubsNSW, Josh Landis, told the Daily Telegraph the peak lobby group for the industry would campaign against the independent MP Helen Dalton after she said the multibillion-dollar poker machine industry should be reined in “a bit”.
Landis did not rule out expanding the campaign to target other MPs perceived to be “in opposition to clubs” in the wake of Perrottet’s push for the cashless gaming card.
Asked about the potential for a third-party campaign at the March election, Perrottet said he would not be “threatened” into dumping his push for change in the sector.
This government’s not going to be threatened. My members are not going to be threatened because we are focused on doing what’s right. They can say whatever they want ... We are focused on solving a major societal issue in relation to money laundering, in relation to problem gambling, and we will work with the industry to achieve, but we are not going to be threatened.
The push for a cashless gaming card – and the backlash from the industry – has sparked fears among Nationals MPs and some Liberals about the prospects of a damaging campaign in the lead-up to the March poll. But today Perrottet said he wouldn’t change his policies based on “fear and lies”.
You don’t go into politics to win elections. You go into politics to do what’s right. That’s what we’re going to do. There’s not an election that passes where people run smear campaigns. That’s part of it. People run campaigns based on fear and lies.
Jacqui Lambie Network senators back energy price cap plan
The Jacqui Lambie Network’s two senators have come out in favour of the government’s plans for energy price caps, indicating they’ll back the plan when the Senate reconvenes on Thursday.
As the government continues negotiating with the Greens, the Coalition and David Pocock, the Tasmanian duo say they support changes to coal and gas prices. While they do have some questions of their own, they say they won’t block the legislation.
Jacqui Lambie told Guardian Australia:
On the face of it, this bill will give relief to those who need it. I’ve said that people need rebates to help them out. People are struggling to afford everyday groceries and they’ve got school fees hitting them at the start of next year. This will be welcome news.
I’m not going to stand in the way of people getting the help they need.
Her colleague, Tammy Tyrrell, said she was “really pleased to see the rebates in place” for those on government payments:
They’re going to help a lot of people. I’m glad small businesses are included in this; Tassie businesses have told me power bills are their number one concern right now.
However, Lambie raised questions over the ongoing consultation process that will run for several months, despite federal politicians being asked to consider and pass the bill this Thursday in a special sitting day. She said:
I am concerned that consultation for the bill doesn’t finish until the start of February and the government wants to pass the legislation this week – what’s up with that?”
I want price relief for Aussies, but I want to make sure bills are going through the proper consultation process as well.
We’ll do our research and ask any questions that need to be asked, but we’re not here to block anything that’s going to help people.
Adem Somyurek is a little more cautious about his prospects of claiming an upper house seat, despite the concession of Fiona Patten. He tweeted a short time ago:
Whilst it’s gracious of candidates to concede before the counting is concluded I’d urge caution. LC counts are complex. Every point of elimination may throw up surprises which change the dynamic of a count. I’ll wait till the button is pressed before I claim victory.
‘Terrible decision’: A-Leagues’ move to sell off grand final sparks fan anger
The A-Leagues have sparked anger among fans after selling off the rights to host its grand finals to the New South Wales government, with Sydney to host the men’s and women’s showpiece events for the next three years in a reported eight-figure deal.
In a departure from tradition for Australian football, the title deciders could potentially be played away from the highest-placed team’s home ground.
The NSW government said the move aimed to leverage recent interest in football off the back of the Socceroos’ successful World Cup campaign and with the Women’s World Cup to be played on home soil in 2023. But the announcement on Monday was not universally well received.
You can read more on that story here:
Here’s the full story on Fiona Patten, an independent in Victoria, conceding her upper house seat to Adem Somyurek. It will be fascinating if Somyurek’s victory forces the Andrews government to instigate voting reform, as the state’s group party tickets have been widely panned as undemocratic (and worse).
Story by Benita Kolovos:
Free PCR tests only available with referral from next year
My colleague in Canberra Josh Butler is reporting that under the new federal Covid management plan, free PCR tests will only be available with a referral in 2023.
‘Introduce more gas into the system’: Dutton
A reporter asks Dutton to explain his concerns about the pricing caps:
If you’ve got a situation where you have more and more demand in the system for gas and you’re restricting supply, the prices will go up.
And we have been very clear for a long period of time now – you need to introduce more gas into the system. That is the advice that’s there from Treasury, from industry and from every economist that looks at this debate. They’re all telling the government to put more gas into the system.
And yet, in the budget, this government funded the environmentalists who are taking court action against the companies that want to bring more gas supply into the system.
You can’t have it every way. And the prime minister, on the one hand, is providing relief and on the other is making decisions to restrict supply into the system, which is going to drive up prices.
What you know in this situation that the government’s presiding over is that: if you provide more pressure on inflation, you’ll see interest rates go higher than they otherwise would be.
Dutton criticises government’s delay in delivering energy legislation
The opposition leader Peter Dutton is speaking about the government’s energy plan in Toowoomba:
You can’t trust this prime minister. He doesn’t have the instinct to make the calls on the economy. He’s had six months to come up with a plan. We find out now the plan he announced on Friday is not even properly drafted yet. He said in interviews over the course of the weekend and at the train wreck press conference he had on Friday that this was a plan that was put together. Now it turns out they’re still drafting it. I think Australians are rightly shaking their heads at a prime minister that promised so much and is delivering so little.
Roof swept off workshop part of ‘havoc’ created by Sydney storms: SES
The SES have received more than 80 jobs off the back of the intense storm and sever winds that came through Sydney about an hour ago.
The SES say the weather created “havoc” in the eastern half of the state, like the roof of a workshop in the southern Sydney suburb of Mortdale being blown on to a power line.
Phone app to help with heart attacks in South Australia
A potentially life-saving smartphone app has been launched in South Australia to help people having a heart attack get access to help sooner.
The GoodSAM app will be used by SA Ambulance staff and volunteers before being rolled out to other health professionals, emergency services personnel and people with first aid training.
It sends an alert to registered users if there is a cardiac arrest near them.
The responder can accept the call for help and head to the scene to provide emergency care while an ambulance is on the way.
The system can identify if any responders are in the vicinity and alert the three closest.
If one or more of those responders accept the alert, it sends them the location details.
The health minister, Chris Picton, said:
Recruiting the help of those nearby is an important start in the chain of survival before an ambulance arrives and will save lives.
First launched in the UK, GoodSAM is already in use in Victoria, where there are already more than 11,000 registered responders.
In the Adelaide CBD, GoodSAM will alert responders who are within 400 metres, while in the broader metropolitan area and regional cities, it will alert those within 600 metres. In regional areas the response radius will be 5km for regional towns and up to 15km in more remote locations.
– from AAP
Fiona Patten concedes upper house race, reflects on 'pretty amazing eight years'
Fiona Patten has conceded she will be ousted from the Victorian parliament’s upper house by former Labor minister Adem Somyurek, who contested the election for the conservative Democratic Labour party.
The Victorian Electoral Commission is set to distribute preferences for the upper house on Tuesday but with 3.6% of first-preference votes to Somyurek’s 4.8%, Patten says she is in an unwinnable position in the northern metropolitan region.
Patten told Guardian Australia:
Of course I’m disappointed but I also feel like I’ve had a pretty amazing eight years and I’ve been able to do so much in my time in parliament.
I didn’t take any moment for granted. I certainly won’t die wondering.
The Reason party leader, who entered the upper house at the 2014 election as a member of the then-called Sex party, helped lay the groundwork for several of the Andrews government’s signature progressive policies over the past eight years.
This includes the introduction of voluntary assisted dying laws, Melbourne’s first safe injecting room, safe access zones around abortion clinics and the decriminalisation of sex work.
Fiona Patten concedes in Victorian upper house race
The leader of the Reason party, Fiona Patten, has conceded to Adem Somyurek, who has won a seat in Victorian upper house.
Patten has taken to social media to reflect on her eight years as a member of the Victorian Legislative Council, hailing the progressive change made. She said:
I tried every day to make things a little better and fairer.
Here’s a profile Victorian state correspondent Benita Kolovos wrote on Patten earlier this year:
Government hearing Greens’ message ‘loud and clear’: Bandt
Parliament is being recalled on Thursday for the government’s proposal to cap energy prices. The plan includes compensating gas and coal corporations but it won’t be part of the legislation.
Bandt was asked by a reporter at that press conference whether that makes the Greens more inclined to support the laws on Thursday:
We’ll have to see what the legislation is. And the government, over the weekend, and again this morning, made clear they’re looking at compensating coal corporations, which we think is just wrong.
Now, the government seems to be hearing the Greens’ message loud and clear that we won’t back compensation to coal corporations.
We just have to look at the legislation. We haven’t seen the legislation. The Greens will consider our final position when our party room meets tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully, if we’ve got legislation by then, we’ll be able to consider it. So we’ll just have to see what the final legislation ultimately looks like.
Time to rein gas companies in, Greens say
In Melbourne, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, held a press conference earlier about the government’s energy market intervention.
The government just defers the cost on households and businesses, unless there’s a plan to get people off gas while these temporary price caps are in place. Now, the government needed the Greens’ support to recall parliament. The Greens willingly gave that support because we want to see the big coal and gas corporations reined in.
But we also want people get the support they need, including getting money to meet the upfront costs of doing things like trading in their gas cooker for an electric one, or trading in a gas heater for air conditioning so that when these temporary price caps are lifted, people have shifted over to cheaper, cleaner, renewable electricity. And we’ve helped people get off gas.
What is clear is that these big gas corporations are going to continue to gouge people and take this country for a ride, and it is time to rein them in. The public should not be compensating with big coal and gas corporations. It should be the other way around.
These big gas corporations pay next to no tax. They often get their gas for free, and now the coal corporations even have their hand out for compensation from the public purse. The public shouldn’t have to put their hand in their pocket to give compensation to coal or gas corporations. It should be the other way around.
‘Winter-type cold fronts’ begin in Melbourne
In more La Niña summer weather news, Melbourne is mourning yesterday as the last warm day across the state for a while, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
The bureau is warning there will be a sequence of “winter-type cold fronts crossing the state this week.”
The intensity of the Sydney storm seems to have passed, but not without some casualties.
Thunderstorms generating gusty winds across Sydney and delaying flights
If you’re in Sydney, you’d be aware the weather has turned pretty crazy in the space of 15 minutes. I am watching the rain coming in at a 45-degree angle as the intensity of it hammers the roof.
The Bureau of Meteorology helping us understand why:
The storm also appears to be delaying flights:
Energy stocks sink in the wake of government gas price caps
Shares in AGL and Origin retreated in early trading, with both losing about 6% in value.
The falls come in the wake of the federal government’s plan to impose price caps for gas and coal.
Some turbulence was expected, as well as industry complaints. The gas industry, in particular, is not happy that the new package has a provision to examine what is a reasonable rate on return for investments.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, today made it clear the consultation in coming months will examine that longer-term issue.
Gas companies ‘continue to do really well. We just want this market to work better.
This approach will be welcomed by big gas users, but opens up the matter to rolling debate in the weeks and months to come.
Thunderstorms active in NSW, including Sydney
Phil Donato resigns from the NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party
NSW Shooters, Fishers and Farmers MP Phil Donato has resigned from the party and intends to run at the upcoming state election as an independent.
A spokesperson for the member for Orange this morning confirmed the changes to Guardian Australia.
The move comes after the SFF leader, Rob Borsak, survived a leadership challenge from Barwon MP Roy Butler over the weekend.
Donato was understood to be supportive of the challenge and following the party AGM on Saturday in Singleton, he confirmed he was reconsidering his future with the party.
Robodebt inquiry to hear from tax office
Senior tax officials and unionists are scheduled to take centre stage when the royal commission into the defunct robodebt scheme resumes today.
The commission, sitting in Brisbane, is looking into how the automated robodebt scheme went ahead despite federal departments knowing the calculation method was unlawful.
The scheme from 2015 until 2020 wrongly recovered more than $750m from 381,000 people, with several victims taking their lives while being pursued for the false debts.
Today, in its second block of public hearings, the inquiry is scheduled to hear evidence from Australian Tax Office officials Tyson Fawcett and Michael Kerr-Brown.
The Community and Public Sector Union national secretary, Melissa Donnelly, and the union’s former deputy national president Lisa Newman are also set to appear at the investigation.
Former prime minister Scott Morrison and minister Marise Payne are due to front the commission tomorrow.
– from AAP
Emergency management minister en route to Mildura
A major flood warning remains in place in north-eastern parts of Mildura in north-west Victoria. The minister for emergency management, Murray Watt, is heading out there today and has just shared this pretty astounding image of the inundation from the air.
Place-based solutions to tackle disadvantage
The federal government hopes to tackle entrenched disadvantage with “innovative” new community-led ideas, as it establishes a national centre to tackle complex social issues.
Some $2.5m has been allocated to begin foundational work on a National Centre for Place-Based Collaboration, with a group including the University of Queensland, the Australia and New Zealand School of Government and not-for-profit Collaboration for Impact starting consultations early next year.
Place-based initiatives have proven to be effective when working with entrenched disadvantage or for people with complex social needs, because the solutions are designed with and led by local communities.
The centre will work with more than 130 communities around the country and build on the knowledge informing the Closing the Gap priorities.
It is expected the national centre will be operating by early 2025.
The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, said:
We need to look at addressing complex social problems and entrenched disadvantage in new and innovative ways. What we’ve been doing to date hasn’t always worked.
Creating more place-based solutions would help communities by facilitating shared decision-making, working across different levels of government and empowering local groups to find the best help that suited their needs.
– from AAP
Domestic violence to be considered before return orders made under Hague convention, attorney general says
The Hague convention is an international agreement designed more 30 years ago to respond to a child being taken out of the country by one parent without the consent of the other parent.
Today, the Albanese government announced it is amending the Australian law to make it clear that allegations of domestic violence can be considered before return orders are made for children under the convention.
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, says the regulations will make clear that family and domestic violence is a relevant consideration under the “grave risk” defence. A court will not need to be satisfied that such violence has occurred or will occur before it is taken into account.
Australia fully respects our international obligations under the Hague convention. These regulations affirm that protection from family and domestic violence is an important consideration in proceedings.
The amendments demonstrate the Albanese government’s commitment to an effective, accessible, fair and safe family law system that supports victim-survivors of family and domestic violence.
Steggall welcomes government’s climate risk disclosure framework
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, will say in a speech today that Australian firms “need to make credible disclosures to remain competitive in global capital markets”.
As my colleague Daniel Hurst writes:
Banks and other big businesses will be forced to come clean with the public about what they are doing to cut emissions under plans put forward by the Albanese government.
The government is also looking for ways to crack down on “greenwashing” – or when businesses try to win over consumers by overhyping their environmental practices.
It’s a move Independent MP Zali Steggall has welcomed:
This is a vital step for Australia’s emissions reduction ambitions. Improved accountability will drive a more efficient transition to net zero and boost investor confidence in Australia.
Global markets are already on the move. Countries like the UK and New Zealand are already well on their way to implementing this kind of reporting. Australia needs to be in the race.
Search continues for teenager in border lake
A search has resumed for a teenager who fell from a boat into a lake on the Victoria-NSW border.
Two 16-year-old boys were fishing in the tinnie on Lake Mulwala at Yarrawonga about 9am yesterday when they were hit by a wave and fell overboard, according to police.
Two men swam to their aid and managed to pull one of the boys to shore. They could not find the second teenager.
Police divers and members of the Air Wing and Victoria’s State Emergency Service were searching the lake until about 7pm. They resumed the search at 8am today, according to police.
– from AAP
Severe weather warning for damaging winds in NSW and Victoria
Sydney children injured in Christmas firework display
Several children have been injured after a firework shot into a crowd during a Christmas event in Sydney’s northern beaches last night.
In video footage of the event, people begin screaming after the fireworks display malfunctions.
Officers from northern beaches police area command attended the scene at Allambie Heights Oval after receiving a concern for welfare report shortly after 9.30 last night.
An 11-year-old boy was initially taken to Royal North Shore hospital, before being transferred to the Children’s hospital at Westmead for treatment of burns and a chest injury.
An eight-year-old girl was taken to Northern Beaches hospital for treatment of burns and a wrist injury. She has since been released.
Police have been told a 12-year-old boy was taken to hospital by his parents for treatment to minor burns and has since been released, and six other people were treated on scene by NSW Rural Fire Service for minor injuries, and left prior to the arrival of paramedics and police.
Police established a crime scene, and SafeWork NSW will attend the scene this morning.
Bipartisan visits reinstated with first trip to the Pacific since 2019
Penny Wong is leading the first bipartisan visit to Pacific island countries since 2019.
The minister for the Pacific, Pat Conroy, the shadow minister for foreign affairs, Simon Birmingham, and shadow minister for the Pacific, Michael McCormack will be joining the foreign affairs minister.
I am pleased we are delivering on the Albanese government’s promise to reinstate bipartisan parliamentary delegation visits, demonstrating Australia’s enduring commitment to strengthening our Pacific partnerships and addressing regional challenges.
The first stop of the visit will be in Vanuatu where a cyberattack brought down government servers, crippling the nation’s critical infrastructure. You can read more about it from the Pacific project:
Australia’s national security situation ‘more complicated’ than the cold war, former intelligence officer warns
A former senior intelligence officer has warned that the growing complexity of Australia’s national security situation increases the risk of governments making the wrong call on major decisions.
In a paper published today, Lowy Institute research fellow Ben Scott offers a bleak assessment of a range challenges that Canberra has to navigate:
The challenge posed by a rising China and by US-China rivalry to Australia is more complicated than the cold war was. Modern China is more enmeshed in the global economy, and especially Australia’s economy, than the Soviet Union ever was. At the same time, Australia cannot be as confident about the stability and reliability of its ally, the United States, as it could be before the ascendancy of Donald Trump to the US presidency. The populist nationalism Trump embodies still constrains US policy and presents an enduring threat to democracy, in the United States and elsewhere.
Australia’s national security environment contains more variables than ever. Canberra can make fewer assumptions than it previously could about the natural environment, international order, and even the behaviour of the United States. The unpredictable and potentially volatile interaction of these variables adds to the complexity.
Scott recommends that before a major national security decision is made, governments should seek multiple assessments of the problems they are trying to address and “not insist that they be reconciled before being presented to ministers”.
He explains that governments “usually prefer to be presented with a harmonised assessment and for the bureaucracy to have ironed out any different views”. This means the cabinet’s national security committee often receives a single assessment from the Office of National Intelligence. Scott says while this process enables efficient decision-making, it risks imposing an artificial unanimity.
Albanese will be ‘stunned’ if Liberal party vote for higher energy prices, he says
Patricia Karvelas asks Anthony Albanese if he will negotiate directly with Adam Bandt, who wants to see changes to the bill in exchange for the Greens’ support.
Albanese remains coy on the issue, maintaining: “I speak to people all the time.”
He lists the people he’s spoken to about the energy package across the political spectrum, including opposition leader Peter Dutton and members of the crossbench. He says he spoke to both David Pocock and Bandt on Friday.
Pressed on how much he is willing to negotiate, Albanese has this to say:
It’s not a complex package. It’s a very simple package, which is for a cap on gas. Now, we know that manufacturers out there are doing it tough whereas prices were around about the $10 mark. They’ve risen in some cases up to $30. $35 has been quoted. This will put a price cap on uncontracted gas of $12 for a period of 12 months. People have to decide if they support that or not.
And then they have to decide, do they want people who are pensioners … to get energy bill relief next year. That is what they will have to vote for, to be very clear, that is what will be before the Senate …
I would be stunned, quite frankly, if the Liberal party – in spite of their rhetoric – is actually going to vote for higher energy prices.
PM says ‘of course’ he will meet with gas industry calling
Anthony Albanese is responding to criticisms from the gas and coal industry.
He says there will not be ongoing regulation of prices:
This is a temporary measure … it has no impact on the record prices they are receiving for the exports, nor does it apply for any additional and new investment in new fields. It applies for just eight months.
The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association is seeking an urgent meeting with the PM, saying they are even more concerned about the cap after seeing the draft legislation.
Albanese told ABC “of course” he will meet with them. He also flags the government has met with Appea previously:
I’ll meet with them when we meet with them this week.
Anthony Albanese has recalled parliament to pass his government’s emergency energy legislation but he faces a roadblock in the Senate and a campaign against the cap from the energy industry.
The PM is speaking on ABC radio now. Patricia Karvelas is asking about the nuts and bolts of the energy package – how much will bills be reduced by and when will that reduction kick in?
Treasury analysis suggests that the cap will reduce bills by some $230 as a result of the cap on gas and on coal in there will be relief for commonwealth recipients of payments.
So pensioners, jobseeker recipients, people who receive family tax benefit through the social security system will all receive further support through a reduction in their bills that will be paid through state governments.
Greens to oppose compensation for coal and gas companies
With the Coalition fiercely critical of the package, the Greens sense an opportunity to use their influence as a crucial voting bloc in the Senate to push the government to make changes.
The Greens said yesterday they would “oppose any compensation to coal corporations, and coal and gas corporations should instead fund higher levels of price bill relief through a windfall tax”.
The leader of the Greens, Adam Bandt, said his party also wanted “more money to go to households, renters and businesses, including to get off gas, switch to electric appliances and install batteries”.
It is unclear whether the Greens would be prepared to scuttle the entire package if their demands are not met, but they will formalise their position at a meeting tomorrow.
Gas industry demands meeting with PM over price cap concerns
The Albanese government is facing heat from multiple directions over its energy price package.
Appea, which represents the oil and gas industry, said the draft bill “would confer unprecedented powers to intervene in the gas market”, including allowing government agencies to directly determine price and the terms of and conditions of gas supply agreements.
The government’s explanatory notes say a mandatory gas market code will “ensure a more robust pricing framework centred on reasonable price”.
The industry body’s chief executive, Samantha McCulloch, said in a statement:
Appea seeks an urgent meeting with Prime Minister Albanese so we can address the serious concerns we have over his proposed dismantling of the gas market and Australia’s reputation as an open, market-based economy.
The government said it was introducing a temporary price cap – but now we learn those caps can be extended and its mandatory code of conduct will have the ongoing power to regulate prices permanently.
The government has hit out at the gas industry’s complaints:
The gas industry is demanding an urgent meeting with prime minister Anthony Albanese after the announcement of his government’s energy price package last week.
Parliament is due to be recalled on Thursday as the government tries to pass the gas price cap but the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association said it was even more concerned about the plan now that it had read details of draft legislation.
Meanwhile, the Greens are saying the plan doesn’t go far enough. Leader Adam Bandt says his party will oppose the government compensating gas and coal companies for the temporary caps. He told ABC radio this morning:
There’s a number of elements that we want to work through. One is this suggestion that perhaps there might be compensation for coal corporations. We don’t support that. These greedy coal and gas corporations should be compensating the people, not the other way around.
The level of compensation for people as obviously not as much as ours – $250 versus $750.
And a crucial area is that there’s no support to help people get off gas.
Albanese will be speaking on ABC radio shortly after 7.30 – we’ll bring you what he has to say in response to the heat.
Beyond energy, the royal commission into the robodebt scheme continues today with senior tax officials and unions to give evidence.
Let’s get into it.