What we learned – Thursday, 22 December

With that, we’ll wrap up our live news coverage for the day.

Here’s a summary of the day’s main developments:

  • Queensland police have revealed there was a warrant issued for Nathaniel Train’s arrest in the months before he took part in the Wieambilla shootings, but insist there were no “flags” to indicate officers visiting the property were in danger.

  • Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld has agreed to pay $2.15m to the husband and two children of a woman who died when a ride malfunctioned in 2016.

  • The Liberal party was driven to the “most serious” election loss in its history by perceptions Scott Morrison failed to manage the Covid-19 pandemic and address the concerns of women, a review has found.

  • The percentage of property owners selling their homes for a profit in Australia remains at heights not seen in more than 12 years, with recent subtle falls in prices mostly affecting investors offloading high-density apartments, often seen as lower-quality builds.

  • Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has addressed the US Congress.

Have a great evening. We’ll be back again tomorrow.


Opiod as strong as fentanyl found in heroin in NSW

Health authorities in New South Wales have issued a warning after a potent opioid was found in heroin in the state.

NSW Health released a statement wishing to alert of the potential dangers from a potent opioid (nitazene class) detected in heroin following recent cases of serious overdose on the state’s Central Coast.

In the statement, medical director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, associate professor Darren Roberts, said heroin contaminated with a potent opioid such as a nitazene, can cause unexpected and severe overdose or death.

Nitazenes can be as strong, or stronger than fentanyl and may be more likely to affect breathing than other opioids, he said.

Roberts said:

It’s important people recognise the signs of an opioid overdose early and know how to respond. Taking the appropriate action early can save a life,

Opioids can cause drowsiness, loss of consciousness and slowed breathing, and can be life-threatening.”

NSW Health said anyone who has taken a drug, such as heroin, and is experiencing unexpected symptoms, such as loss of consciousness and slow breathing, should call Triple Zero (000) immediately or seek urgent medical attention. Naloxone should be given immediately if available.


WA taxpayers face $2m bill in premier v Clive Palmer defamation case

West Australian taxpayers face a $2 million legal bill after premier Mark McGowan’s defamation battle with mining magnate Clive Palmer, reports AAP.

McGowan says Palmer has paid $445,700 in costs to the WA government in recent days.

But he said that left the state to cover the remaining $2,021,665 in relation to the initial defamation claim and the premier’s counter-claim.

“Obviously that’s a significant amount of money,” the premier said on Thursday. “I didn’t start the proceedings. But the state and myself could not give in to Palmer in relation to these matters.

“I’m frustrated like everyone. Frustrated by this set of events,” McGowan said. “This was very, very unfortunate.”

WA premier Mark McGowan.
WA premier Mark McGowan. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

Palmer initiated the defamation proceedings in 2020 as the pair feuded over WA’s Covid-19 response, particularly its border closures and claim for damages over a mining project. In response, McGowan issued his own defamation proceedings against the billionaire.

In August, federal court justice Michael Lee ruled the pair had defamed each other, although he noted the premier had offered to settle the proceedings.

He ordered Palmer to pay $20,000 to McGowan, who was in turn directed to pay $5000 to the Queensland businessman.

“Both men went too far in their political jousting, and both men litigated, but only one was willing to draw back and avoid a long and costly hearing,” the judge said.

McGowan said it was important to remember what was happening in 2020 when the action was launched.

“It was in the context of the state of Western Australia doing its utmost to protect the state against Covid that was killing millions of people around the world,” he said.

Palmer was in transit and unavailable for comment. But in a response to the bill facing taxpayers, a spokesman urged the WA premier to personally “stand up and put the funds forward”.


Nazi symbols spark anguish in Melbourne on eve of ban

Nazi swastikas have been found painted in Melbourne’s east and south-eastern suburbs, a week before a ban on the symbols is enforced in Victoria, reports AAP.

Two swastikas were discovered in the past week at the Central Gardens in Hawthorn and on a fence in Brighton, while an anti-Semitic phrase was found painted on a Cheltenham garage last Sunday.

A woman whose relatives died in the Holocaust discovered the Brighton swastika. She said the ordeal was distressing.

A Menorah displayed at the Elwood beach foreshore was ripped down on Wednesday and thrown into the water, Anti-Defamation Commission chair Dvir Abramovich said.

He said the Nazi symbols and anti-Semitic phases were being used to drive hate in the lead up to the swastika ban.

From 29 December, it will be a criminal offence in Victoria to display the symbol in public.

Those who do will face penalties of up to nearly $22,000, 12 months in jail, or both.


Analysis: Volodymyr Zelenskiy channels Churchill to briefly unite a polarised US Congress

For a former actor and comedian, it was the curtain call of a lifetime.

His address delivered, Volodymyr Zelenskiy walked up the centre aisle of the House of Representatives chamber to thunderous cheers, a standing ovation, eager handshakes and some members clamouring to touch him with almost religious reverence. One group had brought a giant Ukrainian flag. Others wore blue and yellow, the national colours.

They were last impressions to warm Zelenskiy as he flew back to bleak, wintry Ukraine. He could also reflect that he had written one more chapter in the strange, eventful history of America and Ukraine, two nations whose fates have become unexpectedly intertwined.

The 44-year-old president was making his first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February. He was in Washington to thank Joe Biden, Congress and the American people for their support. The climax was his address to a joint session of Congress that included representatives, senators and members of Biden’s cabinet.

Read more from David Smith in Washington:


More on Dreamworld’s settlement with family of woman who died on ride

Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld has agreed to pay $2.15m to the husband and two children of a woman who died when a ride malfunctioned in 2016.

Sydney woman Cindy Low, 42, died on the Thunder River Rapids ride, along with Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi, when a water pump failed and caused the raft they were in to overturn.

Queensland supreme court justice Susan Brown last week approved a settlement agreement between Dreamworld’s parent company, Ardent Leisure Limited, and Cindy’s husband, Matthew Low.

Low had sued Ardent and filed a claim for dependency costs and economic loss in June 2019 on behalf of the couple’s two children, Kieran and Isla, who were aged 10 and six respectively at the time of their mother’s death.

Read more:


A lot of people are profiting from property sales

The percentage of property owners selling their homes for a profit in Australia remains at heights not seen in more than 12 years, with recent subtle falls in prices mostly affecting investors offloading high-density apartments, often seen as lower-quality builds.

In the three months to September, the rate of profitability in residential real estate was 93.3%, down slightly from 93.9% in the previous quarter, according to Corelogic’s Pain and Gain report released this week, which analysed the 83,000 residential properties resold in the quarter.

However the September figure remains within 1% of the 94.2% recorded for the three months to May, which marked a record for profitability not seen since July 2010, when 94.5% of property resales made a profit.

Read more:


Heavy rain predicted as BoM issues cyclone warning for parts of NT and WA

A cyclone warning has been issued for parts of the Northern Territory and West Australian coasts as a tropical low deepens over the Timor Sea.

The Bureau of Meteorology issued the warning on Thursday afternoon, saying the low may develop into a tropical cyclone on Friday morning before crossing the coast near the WA-NT border, reports AAP.

It declared a warning zone from Dundee Beach in the NT to Kalumburu in WA including Wadeye, Kununurra and Wyndham, but not including Kalumburu.

Senior meteorologist Rebecca Patrick told the ABC the system would weaken when it passed over land but regardless of its intensity “it will remain as a deep depression and still bring heavy rainfall”.

NT Emergency Service deputy director Robert Evans said evacuations were not being considered and would only come into play if there was “a significant increase” in cyclone category. However he warned residents: “Don’t enter flood waters. If it is flooded, forget it.”

The BoM said the tropical low had sustained winds near its centre of 45km/h with wind gusts to 85km/h. At 12.30pm Darwin time on Thursday it was about 210km west of Darwin and 225km north of Wadeye, moving south at 11km/h.

The BoM said gales with gusts to 90km/h may develop overnight between Wyndham and Dundee Beach including Wadeye, and if the system tracks further west then gales may extend to areas west of Wyndham.

“Severe thunderstorms are also possible from this afternoon and during Friday, with heavy rainfall and damaging wind gusts possible,” it said. “Large waves may produce minor flooding in low-lying coastal areas during Friday.”


Australian company barred from releasing unsanctioned Pokémon NFTs

The owners of the Pokémon brand hired private investigators to track down the Australian developers behind a crypto-based online game that uses its characters without the Japanese company’s permission.

The Pokémon Company International (TPCI) won orders in the federal court on Wednesday preventing Parramatta-based developers Kotiota from using the popular video game, film and television characters in their software, releasing Pokémon-branded non-fungible tokens, or representing that the company has a relationship with The Pokémon Company International.

TPCI was alerted that Kotiota was presenting itself as a developer of Pokémon games in August this year, when news outlets said they had received legal letters from Kotiota claiming that articles about games should name Kotiota as a Pokémon developer despite having no agreement with TPCI, the court heard.

Read more:


A tropical low may developing into a tropical cyclone Friday morning before crossing the coast near the WA/NT Border. Please refer to https://t.co/AWJKLhynnl for more information. pic.twitter.com/jYFfQ6r51m

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) December 22, 2022

Australia’s lobster industry hopes China drops sanctions

The lobster industry is cautiously optimistic that China could soon remove trade restrictions, but exporters are wary of being “burned again” by sanctions and volatile diplomatic relations.

Many businesses have been paying close attention to foreign affairs minister Penny Wong’s trip to China this week – the first by an Australian minister in three years – where she discussed “trade blockages” with her counterparts.

At the height of a diplomatic rift in 2020, Beijing imposed a range of tariffs, bans and restrictions on Australian exports including wine, barley and lobsters, which are popular with Chinese consumers.

Read more:


Regional cities buck trend of falling house prices

House prices in smaller cities and regional areas are outperforming Sydney and Melbourne as buyers turn to affordability in the face of cost-of-living pressures.

The latest Hotspotting price predictor index (PPI) found Townsville was the best performing area in the last quarter of the year, while Perth, Adelaide and Darwin had also experienced growth.

Regionally, Armadale, Marion, Toowoomba, Wanneroo and Woollongong also resisted the downward trend for house prices.

Hotspotting director Terry Ryder said at a time when Australia’s major cities had experienced back to back falling sales, Townsville had been doing the opposite.

Sales activity has risen throughout 2022 and 23 of the 26 suburbs included in our analysis are classified as rising markets. No other municipality in Australia can match that performance.

Ryder said Perth in Western Australia was the nation’s most “vibrant market”, with about three-quarters of suburbs rising or consistent, while the Northern Territory had also produced “buoyant sales activity” due to its affordability.

He said in bigger cities where markets were down, cheaper areas were doing better.


Some of you may have seen that I had a bit of a false start signing off earlier today. This time I will well and truly be leaving the blog for the day, I swear. You’re in the excellent hands of Elias Visontay now.


Flood watch issued for Western Australia

A tropical low in the Timor Sea is moving steadily south towards the NT and WA coasts. Heavy rainfall is expected through northern and eastern parts of the Kimberley. A flood watch has been issued.
Track Map: https://t.co/2kjpjLHT77
Flood Watch: https://t.co/qWAK7V4Inu pic.twitter.com/djqyYkhXA8

— Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia (@BOM_WA) December 22, 2022

Tropical cyclone warning issued for Northern Territory and WA

A tropical low in the Timor Sea could develop into a tropical cyclone tomorrow morning before crossing the coast near the Western Australia/Northern Territory border, the Bureau of Meteorology warns.

A tropical low may developing into a tropical cyclone Friday morning before crossing the coast near the WA/NT Border. Please refer to https://t.co/AWJKLhynnl for more information. pic.twitter.com/jYFfQ6r51m

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) December 22, 2022

It comes as Territorians are also being warned to watch for floods as heavy rain and thunderstorms are forecast in coming days.

Ian Carlton from the NT emergency services told ABC News:

We’re expecting anywhere between 30mm to 60mm. But we could have up to 100mm of rain across various areas in the southern part of the Northern Territory.

We have a flood watch for the coastal areas, the north-west coastal areas and inland waterways of the Northern Territory. Filling up that north-west part of the Northern Territory, WA border, coming down into the Tanami Desert. A vast area.

⚠️Severe Weather Warning over the northwestern Top End⚠️

DAMAGING WIND GUSTS with peak gusts to around 90 km/h & HEAVY RAINFALL which may lead to FLASH FLOODING are possible.

Warning: https://t.co/IadGtBMYCy
Tropical Cyclone Advice is also current: https://t.co/9CeDotFePS pic.twitter.com/hda8UkPjVz

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) December 22, 2022


QUT hit with ransomware attack

Queensland University of Technology is the latest organisation to be hit with a ransomware attack.

QUT says it has shut down its systems as a precaution as staff investigate.

The attack is purported to be by the Royal ransomware group. Royal ransomware attacks emerged in January this year.

The attackers send out text file ransoms that warn those affected that their files are encrypted and they could be posted online if they do not pay the ransom.

Bleepingcomputer reported the way these attackers get into a system is through a phishing attack in which they pretend to be a delivery company and then convince someone to install remote access technology on their computer to gain access to a network. It is not clear whether this is what happened in the case of QUT.

A spokesperson for QUT said the attack had affected one system and no student data had been compromised:

QUT has experienced a cybersecurity incident today which purports to be a Royal ransomware attack. One of our systems has been affected and as a precaution, other systems have been shut down. No student data has been compromised.

Technical staff are currently investigating.


Christmas travel rush slams airports

It’s the first Christmas without any restrictions since the pandemic and Australians are taking advantage, with domestic travel bouncing back to more than 90% of pre-pandemic levels.

Sydney Airport is expecting 2.2 million passengers during the peak holiday period of December 12 until New Years Day, with 60 additional staff added to help corral the crowds and help priority passengers.

Melbourne Airport is registering roughly 100,000 passengers a day in the lead-up to Christmas, with December 24 and Christmas Day itself expected to be slightly quieter.

Passengers can expect delays when claiming their baggage, with a spokesperson for the airport explaining staffing issues were affecting wait times.

With fewer staff that just creates a challenge of unloading the planes and getting it to passengers quickly.

But we’ve been working with all of the airlines and their ground handling companies and they’ve been working to build back up their staffing.

Sydney Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said earlier this month the expectation for the holidays was “busy but not chaotic”.

Some parts of the operation are still fragile, and we estimate we are around 2000 employees short of where we need to be, but are working hard to make sure most passengers will have a typical pre-Covid Christmas experience.

Passengers are advised to check-in online and arrive two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. Those travelling with Christmas presents are reminded to pack them in their checked baggage.

Sydney Airport said in a statement:

Yule be sorry if your perfectly wrapped gifts need to be unwrapped during security screening if you take them in your carry-on luggage.

- from AAP

Melbourne airport crowds in December.
Melbourne airport crowds in December. Photograph: Amy Remeikis/The Guardian


Ukrainians prepare for a surreal first Christmas in Australia

My colleague Cait Kelly has spoken with three different Ukrainian families who will be spending Christmas 14,000km from home, having been displaced by the war.

It’s an unimaginable situation for so many in Australia, but their stories give us a window into the lived reality of fleeing a war zone and the fears for the family and friends who remain behind.

Mariia Mykytiuk left after the occupation of her hometown, Bucha, and is now sharing a bedroom with her two children in a small flat on the upper north shore of Sydney. She said:

Every day we read news about Ukraine and communicate with relatives.

My husband is a platoon leader, he only gets in touch once a week. We are constantly worried he will die.

Physically we live in Australia, but spiritually we are in Ukraine.

Read the full story here:


Justin Hayhurst appointed Australian ambassador to Japan

Justin Hayhurst – a senior foreign affairs official who specialises on the Indo-Pacific region – has been named as Australia’s next ambassador to Japan.

The post became vacant when the Albanese government promoted then-ambassador to Japan Jan Adams to be new secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Before Adams’ appointment, Hayhurst had been one of the names speculated as a possible contender for the secretary post.

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, announced today that Hayhurst would begin as ambassador to Japan in early 2023. Curiously this wasn’t included in the round of appointments announced earlier this week (which included career diplomats to various heads of mission but was dominated by news of Kevin Rudd’s deployment to Washington).

Wong said in a statement a short time ago:

Mr Hayhurst is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was most recently Deputy Secretary of the Geostrategic Group and Australia’s Senior Quad Official.

He was previously First Assistant Secretary International in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Mr Hayhurst has served overseas as Deputy Head of Mission, Beijing, and in the Philippines.

Justin Hayhurst during a Senate estimates in 2021.
Justin Hayhurst during a Senate estimates in 2021. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Wong, who returned to Australia today following her trip to Beijing, underlined the importance of the relationship with Japan. She said Australia and Japan shared “a Special Strategic Partnership, with an aligned strategic agenda, strong commercial relations, and enduring people-to-people links”. Japan, she added, was Australia’s second-largest trading partner, second-largest export market, and third-largest source of imports:

Our security and defence relationship is critical to both nations and supports regional stability, prosperity and peace, enabled by a bilateral Reciprocal Access Agreement and the Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation signed by Prime Ministers this year.


Japanese encephalitis returns to NSW with case detected in central west

The first NSW summer case of Japanese encephalitis has been identified in a resident of Lake Cargelligo, in the state’s central west.

NSW Health’s executive director, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said the case was in an older man who likely acquired the infection in early November. He is continuing to recover at home from an unrelated illness.

McAnulty reminded locals and visitors to the area to be especially vigilant and safeguard themselves against mosquito bites.

Mosquitoes in NSW can carry a range of viruses, including Murray Valley encephalitis virus, Kunjin virus, Ross River virus, Barmah Forest virus, as well as JE virus. Vaccine is only available for JE, so avoiding mosquito bites is the most important way of preventing these infections.

McAnulty also reminded the community that people aged two months or older who live or routinely work in at-risk locations are eligible for free vaccination if they are regularly outdoors for long periods or assisting with the flood clean-up.


Homeless youth in state of emergency this Xmas as inflation hits charitable giving

Those working in youth homelessness in NSW are declaring a state of emergency as demand for their services spike at the same time as charitable giving has plummeted.

A new report by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) reveals that only 3% of community services can meet the growing and increasing demands placed upon them.

It comes as charitable giving has dropped significantly according to the CEO of youth homelessness organisation Stepping Stone House, Jason Juretic:

What we’ve found with inflation rising is that we are receiving fewer discretionary donations. People are pausing regular giving, or giving less.

Juretic worries that a lack of support for young people at risk of homelessness will have terrible knock-on effects:

We know that young people at risk of homelessness are more likely to end up in our health, mental health and juvenile justice systems if they don’t get help early.

Kelly Beaumont, CEO of Leaders for Impact, said her organisation has noticed a lot of givers on low to medium incomes are unsubscribing.

In terms of discretionary donations and larger one-off contributions, those are being impacted as well.

Consecutive interest rate rises, increasing utilities, and the war in Ukraine have all contributed to a rise in the cost of living and that appears to be impacting giving.


Eight more people issued with bans following pitch invasion

A further eight people have been issued with bans by Football Australia relating to their involvement in the chaotic scenes that caused the abandonment of the A-League Men’s Melbourne derby last weekend.

The bans range from five to 20 years, effective immediately, and preclude the eight from all football-related activity, including attending matches and registering as a participant.

Football Australia promised swift action to “weed out” those who caused the disruption, and today’s announcement brings the number of bans issued by FA to 10. Two men were banned for life earlier in the week.

The latest eight people, who range in age from 18 to 28, have been sanctioned on a variety of violations including, according to an FA statement, “entering the field of play without authorisation; engaging in conduct that did or was likely to cause harm or endanger others; engaging in conduct that did or was likely to cause unlawful damage to the venue or the various forms of infrastructure within the venue; and throwing a projective and/or missile in a dangerous manner.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson said:

As promised to the Australian football community of over 2 million participants and the wider public, Football Australia has taken swift and decisive action against those who have brought our game into disrepute by their conduct during the Melbourne derby, and we will continue to do so as part of our ongoing investigation.

Football is the beautiful game, it brings together people like no other sport can, and we will not let the actions of these non-football fans cast a dark cloud over the game we love.

Football Australia will continue to work with Victoria police and the venue to identify other guilty parties and rid our game of such people.

FA’s focus will now shift to processing Victory’s response to the show-cause notice issued to the club in the wake of the derby and an update is expected on Friday.


Severe thunder and heavy rainfall predicated for central Victoria

For people in parts of Central and North Central Forecast Districts.
Severe thunderstorms possible over central Victoria.
Stay informed: https://t.co/T05ONtwAm3 pic.twitter.com/p5dmIHljfC

— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) December 22, 2022

Kathryn Campbell salary scrutinised

The former chief of the foreign affairs department Kathryn Campbell remains on her top-tier salary package of nearly $900,000 a year, despite no longer managing any people in her new role as roving Aukus adviser.

The defence department has confirmed Campbell “currently has no direct reports” – meaning people she supervises directly – and “retains conditions of employment from her previous role as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade”.

Campbell’s role has attracted scrutiny because she is one of the senior public servants who has faced extensive questioning at the royal commission into the robodebt debacle.

As the former head of the Department of Social Services and, before that, the Department of Human Services, told the commission she accepted the scheme had been a “significant” failure of public administration.

She said she had assumed the scheme was lawful despite earlier advice raising serious questions and conceded external legal advice should have been sought:

In hindsight it was a big assumption to make.

Read the full story here:


Flood watch in NT

Heavy rain is basically a given in the Northern Territory during wet season, but the Bureau of Meteorology has issued a flood watch for much of the central and southern NT with a tropical low in the Timor Sea moving south in coming days.

A Flood Watch has been issued for much of the central and southern NT. A tropical low in the Timor Sea will move south tomorrow, bringing increased rainfall to the Territory over the next several days.
Flood Watch: https://t.co/VPj3DkQv6Y
Warnings: https://t.co/50yL07CodD pic.twitter.com/Zu1bd8ArNe

— Bureau of Meteorology, Northern Territory (@BOM_NT) December 22, 2022


Dreamworld to pay $2.1m over woman’s death

Gold Coast theme park Dreamworld has to pay $2.15m to the husband and two children of a woman who died when a ride malfunctioned in 2016, AAP reports.

Sydney woman Cindy Low, 42, died on the Thunder River Rapids ride along with Kate Goodchild, Luke Dorsett and Roozi Araghi when a water pump failed and caused the raft they were in to overturn.

Brisbane supreme court justice Susan Brown last week approved a settlement agreement between Dreamworld parent company Ardent Leisure Limited and Cindy’s husband, Matthew Low.

Low sued Ardent and filed a claim for dependency costs and economic loss in June 2019 on behalf of the couple’s two children Kieran and Isla, aged 10 and six respectively at the time of Cindy’s death.

Kieran was on the ride when his mother was killed but suffered only minor injuries.

The terms of the settlement were not revealed in court but public documents now show that Ardent Leisure agreed in September to pay $2.15m plus $280,000 in costs and outlays to the Low family.

The two children’s share of the settlement will be managed by a discretionary trust until they turn 18.

Low’s legal representatives, the firm Clayton Utz, had originally filed a claim for more than $2.46m.

Ardent Leisure was fined $3.6m in 2020 after pleading guilty in Brisbane magistrates court to breaching the Work Health and Safety Act.

The company has reportedly paid a total of more than $5m in compensation claims as of 2020 to other family members of the victims as well as emergency responders and witnesses.

Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure must pay more than $2m to family of a woman who died in 2016.
Dreamworld’s parent company Ardent Leisure must pay more than $2m to family of a woman who died in 2016. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images


Morrison v Albanese contrast was prime vote loser: review

The Liberal election review is very, shall we say, polite about the role of the former prime minister Scott Morrison in the 2022 defeat.

The report blames a number of factors for the defeat and frames Morrison’s unpopularity as a consequence of attacks by Labor and hostile state premiers.

Still, in the bowels of the report it is clear that Morrison’s unpopularity was the biggest vote loser in the campaign.

It said:

A series of national political issues prosecuted aggressively against the government were not sufficiently and effectively addressed in a timely manner. Two, in particular, had a significant impact: perceptions that the government and the prime minister (in particular) had not adequately managed the response to the pandemic (despite Australia’s internationally leading position in responding) and, very importantly, that the prime minister was not attuned to the concerns of women and was unresponsive to issues of importance to them.

A number of issues, including some related to the management of Covid, resulted in individuals who would otherwise support the Coalition switching their support to minor parties or independents on the right. This impacted not just the party vote, but also its grassroots volunteer base.

As a consequence, the prime minister’s standing with voters deteriorated significantly through 2021 to become a significant negative. The prime minister and the party were seen as “out of touch”. The leadership choice between Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese became the most influential driver of voting intention during the campaign period.


Most serious loss in Liberal party history: review

The review by senator Jane Hume and former federal director Brian Loughnane labels the 2022 result the “most serious loss for the party in its history”.

The pair said the loss was “driven by a combination of major strategic factors, reinforced by a series of individual and state and local issues”.

It said:

In the 12 months prior to the federal election, there was a loss of political capital and an accumulation of negative issues impacting on the government.

The report said this included:

  • The demands of managing the pandemic and the consequent loss of political focus

  • Allegations of the poor treatment of, and attitude toward, women within the government and the party, and by associated figures

  • Examples of scandal, disunity and instability within the government

  • The longevity of the government and lack of a clear forward agenda

  • The inability of a number of state divisions to meet their responsibilities in a challenging political environment


2022 'not comparable' in Australian history: Liberal review

The Liberal election review describes the 2022 result as “not comparable to any previous one in Australian political history”, warning that “it poses a significant and unique challenge to the party”.

In particular, the review singles out the party’s poor performance in metro areas and among women.

It said:

The Liberal party now holds only four of the 44 inner metropolitan seats. The party has lost nearly all of its inner metropolitan seats: 13 seats lost, six to Labor, five to teal, one to Green, and one to redistribution. The Coalition now holds four. The party has not held or provided any gains in outer metropolitan seats: five seats lost; three to Labor, one to teal, one to Green. The Coalition now holds 16.

Of particular concern in the results is that in seats with high numbers of female professional voters, the Liberal party only holds three of the top 30 seats where previously it held 15. In the top 50 seats by female professionals, the Liberal party only holds 10 seats where previously it held 25.

The party performed better in provincial seats but still went backwards: one seat lost to Labor. The Coalition now holds 10 of the 24 provincial seats.


Liberal party releases review into ‘disappointing’ 2022 election defeat

The Liberal party has released its 2022 election review, available here.

The federal president of the party, John Olsen, said in a statement:

The federal executive of the Liberal party of Australia has received the final report of the review of the 2022 federal election.

I would like to thank Brian Loughnane AO and Senator the Hon Jane Hume and the many people who assisted, including Liberal party members and supporters who made over 600 submissions.

The review is thorough and forward looking. It makes 49 recommendations relating to: the parliamentary team; party structure; executives and memberships; preselections and candidates; demographics; and campaign preparedness.

While acknowledging the party has a numbers of strengths, the review also makes frank assessments about where we can do better.

While the election result in May was disappointing, the Liberal party is determined to rebuild and offer Australians the strongest possible alternative at the next election.

The federal executive will carefully consider the review and its recommendations, with a clear focus on making our party stronger and returning to government.


Queensland police reveal lines of inquiry in Wieambilla shooting

Returning to the press conference with the deputy Queensland police commissioner Tracy Linford, she also provided examples of some of the lines of inquiry in Queensland that they’re “currently undertaking”.

First, and most importantly, there’s the combing of the crime scene that took many, many days. And as a consequence of that work, many items and exhibits had been seized. Each of those now have to be examined.

Our intelligence personnel completing profiles of each of the Train family members. Those profiles and the work that they are doing, they’ll help us create a timeline of all the things that the Train family members were involved in in the weeks and months leading up to Monday last week.

We’re also creating a timeline, everything that we knew in our policing system, and we’ve now got contact with other policing agencies, namely NSW police about what information they had as well and creating a timeline of all of that information. Now that involves looking at Q-prime system, the NSW cops’ system, it looks at email exchanges, phone calls that have taken place, police communications transmissions as well.

We’ve been trawling through social media, and I’ve been using the expertise of the AFP in that work. Trying to understand and trying to find any postings or information about the Trains on social media and some of that media are aware of already. That’s difficult piece of work. I can tell you in some of the things we’ve been able to find so far there are names other than the actual Train family names.

We are taking statements from all the police involved. We had 16 members attend in the very early stages of the siege situation to assist the two police officers who had managed to escape from the scene. They were all the Cert members who ultimately resolved the incident later that evening.

We’ve got to take statements from family members of the Trains, friends that we identify, associates, past employers, neighbours and other local community members who may have known them.

Because I said we’re trying to create a timeline of everything they did in the weeks and months leading up to last Monday, that means looking at all the phone data, texts, call charge records, emails, examining all their electronic devices, examining all documents that were seized. We trawling through all their bank accounts, looking at what purchases have been made and that might lead us into other avenues of inquiry.

And we’re also following up on many Crime Stoppers reports that have been submitted to the Queensland police service. I’m also talking about Crime Stoppers so I might take this opportunity to appeal to anybody who might have information that might be able to assist us around this investigation to contact police.


Severe thunderstorms possible across much of Victoria

⚠️Thunderstorm forecast for today: Severe thunderstorms possible across much of Victoria this afternoon/evening. Elevated moisture levels across the State mean heavy rainfall is the main concern with any storms that do develop. Stay up to date: https://t.co/HLs2UYFQyQ pic.twitter.com/fZyoEO80fL

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) December 22, 2022

ACT DPP welcomes inquiry into handling of Lehrmann trial

The ACT director of public prosecutions, Shane Drumgold, has welcomed an inquiry into the handling of the Bruce Lehrmann trial. Despite the explosive allegations between police and prosecutors, Drumgold said the relationship remains “strong”.

On Wednesday the Australian Capital Territory chief minister, Andrew Barr, and the attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, announced an inquiry into Lehrmann’s case after the prosecutor’s explosive allegations the police “aligned” with the defence in his trial for the alleged rape of former colleague Brittany Higgins. The investigation was announced three weeks after prosecutors said they would not pursue a retrial as it would pose an “unacceptable risk” to Higgins’ health.

In a written statement on Thursday, Drumgold responded.

The director of public prosecutions welcomes the establishment of a board of inquiry into DPP v Lehrmann.

Notwithstanding the independence of both institutions, the DPP and ACT Policing relationship remains strong and collegiate, and the joint support for this inquiry speaks to this strength and collegiality.

Last night, it was reported Lehrmann’s lawyers had sent concerns notices to several media outlets over their reporting of the allegations.


The Linford press conference has now ended.


Tara officers first over the fence

Linford is asked about whether all four police officers arrived on the scene at the same time. She says:

They all went together.

But that the two police officers from Tara were the first over the fence.


Police not classifying shooting as domestic terror event

Linford is asked about whether police are considering classifying the shooting as a domestic terror event. She says:

We are not classifying it as a domestic terror event at this point. What we can see is sentiment displayed by the three individuals, the three Train family members, that was anti-government, anti-police, conspiracy theorist … but we can’t see them connected to any particular group they were working with.


Linford clarifies that Nathaniel Train’s firearms licence was suspended as a result of the two firearms he left unsecured at the border during the incident on 17 December 2021.


Six firearms, three bow and arrows seized

Linford says police seized six firearms from the property.

Two were registered to Nathaniel Train. Three were unregistered.

She says police are following up lines of inquiry to see who the sixth firearm belonged to.

Linford says police had also found three compound bow and arrows, as well as three knives at the property.


Linford said police were not aware of Gareth and Stacey Train’s YouTube channel when they set out to visit the property.


‘Run-of-the-mill policing job,’ deputy police commissioner says

Linford says there has been a lot of interest in why four officers were sent to the site.

She says Nathaniel Train had been reported as a missing person.

That report came from his wife in NSW, who had not physically seen him in over 12 months. She had not spoken to him on the phone since May.

She had a genuine concern for his welfare and as a consequence of that she reported him missing to the NSW police, who relayed a request to Queensland police to attend the address in Wieambilla to see if he was there.

Linford said on getting that request, Queensland police did a check and identified the outstanding warrant for him in relation to the incident on 17 December 2021.

In the scheme of things this was a run-of-the-mill policing job.


Queensland police had no reason to have any ‘flags’ against Wieambilla shooters

Queensland police deputy commissioner Tracy Linford says Queensland police had no reason to have any “flags” against the Trains when they sent police officers out on the missing persons check.

What I can tell you at this stage what we’ve been able to glean so far is that the Queensland police had very little history about the Train family members.

The coroner has allowed the police to reveal limited details of the Trains.

Linford says the only police record of Nathaniel Train was an outstanding warrant in relation to an incident on 17 December 2021 where he left two firearms that were registered to him unsecured at the Queensland-NSW border. She says he was a registered firearms licence holder at the time. However, the licence was removed following the incident.

Nathaniel Train’s only history with us was a 2014 driving offence. And then more recently, events that have been highlighted in the media around events that occurred on the 17th of December last year.

That revolved around reports that Nathaniel Train had crossed over the Queensland border from NSW and had driven his vehicle through an e-gate, causing damage and his vehicle got bogged at that location.

And when police subsequently investigated the vehicle because they were speaking to other locals in the area, two firearms were handed in.

Those firearms were registered to Nathaniel Train. He was a firearms licence holder.

The only history for Gareth Train was a 1998 offence of an unlawful possession of a firearm but Linford says “in that instance, he had an expired firearms licence”.

There was no criminal history or intelligence holdings on Stacey Train.

Linford says there was nothing in their history that would have raised any “flags” for police.

So you can see from that, we knew very little about the Trains and there was nothing that would have caused a particular flag for our members who attended on that day, last Monday, that would have raised any particular concerns about those individuals.


A multidisciplinary investigation

Linford says it is a multidisciplinary investigation being led by the ethical standards command.

The reason the ethical standards command lead the investigation is because of the police response to the events of last Monday police took action that resulted in the deaths of three people which is a class’s death and police operations.

However, she says they are being assisted by the homicide team because there is a parallel investigation in the three homicides that occurred – the deaths of the two police officers and Alan Dare.

Linford said the security and counter-terrorism teams have also been involved

The reason they’re involved they’re skilled at looking at motivation of why people do things like we saw last Monday. They’re skilled at looking at things like religiously motivated extremism, ideological motivated extremism, issue motivated extremism, grievance-fuelled violence, and even pathological fuelled violence. So they’re assisting the investigation center, and ethical standards command.


Queensland police giving update on Wieambilla shooting

Queensland police deputy commissioner Tracy Linford has just stepped up to speak in Brisbane with an update about the Wieambilla shooting.


Andrews government admits error on age of children in youth detention

The Victorian premier Daniel Andrews “misspoke” when he incorrectly claimed in parliament earlier this week that there were no children aged under 14 in the state’s youth detention system.

A state government spokesperson confirmed there were in fact six children aged 13 and 14, but none aged 10, 11 or 12, as of 19 December being held in youth detention. All the children are on remand, rather than sentenced detainees.

An earlier version of this post said all the children were 13, but a government spokesperson has clarified that they are 13 and 14. The exact number of children under 14 could not be provided for privacy reasons.

Andrews had been responding to a question on Tuesday about whether his newly reelected government planned to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14 when he said:

That is why we have built new, much safer, much more fit-for-purpose correctional facilities for offenders across the board. It is why we are also pleased to say that my last report, late last week, was that we had less than 100 young people in the youth justice system –98 I think was the number last Thursday, which is still too high. None of them are 10 years old – none. I am happy to try and get a further breakdown, but I do not believe any of them were 11 or 12 or 13 years old either.

One of the 13-year-olds on remand is a boy charged with the murder of Declan Cutler, who is set to face trial next year after a magistrate decided that, despite his youth, he was capable of forming a criminal intent.

The Greens and the Liberal opposition have flagged an intent to push the government to reform the criminal justice system in the new parliament.


NSW facing decade-high bushfire risk

NSW is facing its most dangerous bushfire season in more than a decade as hazard reduction burns are hampered by months of rain.

La Niña has brought two years of above-average rainfall, dramatically increasing fuel loads, meaning any grass fire in the coming weeks has the potential to be larger and more intense than usual.

Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW) says the state’s west is particularly vulnerable after bearing the brunt of recent floods.

Months of wet weather significantly affected planned fire mitigation efforts, but FRNSW is making the most of every opportunity to undertake hazard reduction burns.

FRNSW bushfire and aviation commander Scott Donohoe is urging homeowners and landholders to take precautions now.

It could only take a few days or weeks of hot and dry weather to ignite current heavy fuel loads and create a fire emergency in our own backyards.

People are being urged to prepare a bushfire survival plan and farmers should establish firebreaks around paddocks, homes, sheds and equipment.

– from AAP


Albanese government begins ‘overdue’ review of commonwealth secrecy offences

The Albanese government has commenced a comprehensive review of the commonwealth secrecy offences, which the attorney general Mark Dreyfus says is long overdue.

Dreyfus says multiple reviews have raised concerns about the number, inconsistency, appropriateness and complexity of commonwealth secrecy offences.

However, the former government failed to act on the recommendations of two unanimous and bipartisan reports of the parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security (PJCIS) to complete a formal review, he said.

Despite the former government agreeing to complete a review of secrecy offences in June 2018, and then again in December 2020, no review was ever completed.

The failure comes at the expense of public interest journalism, which Dreyfus said PJCIS highlighted as a particular concern whether existing legislation adequately protected.

Dreyfus said with the Albanese government’s commitment to complete the review is “the first critical step to ensuring that these laws, which are designed to protect essential public interests, remain fit for purpose”.

He also said the review will specifically consider whether amendments are needed to protect individuals who provide information to royal commissions, which was a recommendation of the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide.

Dreyfus said his department will consult widely across government and civil society, including media organisations and legal experts, to ensure the review is informed by a broad range of expertise and perspectives.

An interim report will be completed by 31 January 2023 and a final report will be delivered by 30 June 2023.

The terms of reference for the review are available here.


Deliveroo riders to be paid out the $19m next year

Restaurants and delivery riders owed millions after Deliveroo went into administration next year will be paid out the $19m they are owed in full early in the new year.

On Wednesday, creditors agreed to accept a deed of company arrangement proposed by Deliveroo’s parent company Roofoods, to pay close to $19m to resolve all claims against the company after it went into administration in November.

The deed will see $9.5m paid to employees, riders and restaurant partners in early 2023, and $9.3m available for all remaining creditors to be distributed in April 2023.

The agreement provides ex gratia payments for staff and riders beyond the statutory entitlements, administrator KordaMentha said. With employees to get 169% of their entitlements, with riders to get an average of 342% of their statutory entitlements and restaurants to get 100% of their claims.

The company owes in some cases tens of thousands of dollars to restaurants, including $88,005 to Grease Monkey, $28,385 to a Zeus Greek St Editions restaurant in Collingwood, Victoria, and $30,664 to Oriental Tea House.

A Deliveroo worker in Brisbane in November.
A Deliveroo worker in Brisbane in November. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Federal government reaches regional planning agreement with NSW

The federal and NSW governments have reached a deal to develop a regional planning model in the state that would set out where development can and cannot occur in particular regions.

Part of the government’s response to the 2020 review of national environmental laws, regional planning exempts certain types of development from the need to gain a federal environmental approval where those activities are covered by what is known as a regional plan.

The Albanese government has said its proposed model also aims to address the cumulative effects of development on threatened ecosystems and guide conservation work across a whole landscape.

The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, has already announced the commonwealth will work with the Queensland government on a regional planning approach in the state’s south-east.

Minister for the environment and water Tanya Plibersek.
Minister for the environment and water Tanya Plibersek. Photograph: Russell Freeman/AAP/PA Images

It has now reached a similar deal with the NSW government to trial regional planning in four areas: the Central Coast where urban development is increasing, the Hunter-Central Coast renewable energy zone, the northern rivers to guide reconstruction in flood affected areas, and the NSW component of the Loxton-Parilla Sands Basin, a 300,000 sq km area over the South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales borders with large mineral deposits.

The government has proposed that regional planning will occur in conjunction with a new traffic light-style system where development would be largely off-limits in areas considered to be of high environmental value, managed in areas considered of moderate value, and there would be no commonwealth approval required for “development priority areas”.

Precisely where each of these areas will be is to be worked through in consultation, and environment groups say the success of regional planning and turning around Australia’s extinction crisis will require a focus on conservation across whole regions and not just using the model as a tool to green-light development.

Plibersek said developing regional plans would be “collaborative” and take in the views of communities, governments, business, natural resource management and environment groups and First Nations and technical experts:

By planning across a region, rather than approving individual projects, we can determine up front which sites must be protected from development because of their environmental significance.

She said it also meant areas where development could occur would be identified up front.

Doing business in this way means that environmental planners can address the cumulative impacts of having multiple projects in one area.


Flood peaks expected from today onwards in Renmark and Berri

Many communities living on the River Murray in South Australia are facing a nervous end to the year with major flooding expected.

The South Australian SES have revised the peak flow dates in different towns:

Revised DEW peak flow dates for major townships on the River Murray: https://t.co/Jrb3dgCv8O

Renmark: 21 - 28 Dec
Berri: 22 Dec - 02 Jan
Waikerie: 29 Dec 09 Jan
Swan Reach: 02 - 13 Jan
Murray Bridge: 03 - 14 Jan

For River Murray flood links and advicehttps://t.co/vi6uS4pGck pic.twitter.com/MdnOHdpJLz

— SASES (@SA_SES) December 21, 2022

Tasmanian police seize $400k worth of MDMA pills

Tasmanian police have seized about $400,000 worth of MDMA pills and charged a Hobart man over the discovery.

The 47-year-old was arrested by officers after a search yielded more than 11,000 MDMA pills and a “significant quantity” of drug manufacturing equipment.

The man was charged with trafficking a controlled substance, manufacturing a controlled drug and possessing a controlled plant or its products.

He was also charged with destroying property and possessing something used to administer a controlled drug.

The man will appear in Hobart magistrates court today.

– from AAP


Morning Mail: Wong breaks China ice, Lehrmann’s defamation letters, Zelenskiy meets Biden

To get across all the headlines abroad and at home, including Zelenskiy’s meeting with Biden, as well as Trump’s “shockingly gracious” letter to Biden on leaving office, the Morning Mail is your best bet.

Martin Farrer gives you all the important stories you can get across in the time it takes you to commute.


Zelenskiy and Biden holding press conference at the White House

We have a live blog covering Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s visit to the United States – his first foreign visit since the Russian invasion.

The Ukrainian leader, still wearing army fatigues, is holding a press conference with President Joe Biden.

Zelenskiy’s just expressed his certainty Putin will not succeed:

This guy is, well…he’s going to fail.

Follow along the rest of what he and the US leader are saying here:


Albanese visits Museum of Chinese in Australia to mark diplomatic anniversary

The prime minister has marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations with China by visiting the new Museum of Chinese in Australia in Sydney.

While Penny Wong was visiting Beijing to mark 50 years of PRC-Australian relations, @AlboMP went to the new Museum of Chinese in Australia (MOCA) in Sydney. #auspol pic.twitter.com/J3JzDyNKff

— @phannam@mastodon.green (@p_hannam) December 21, 2022

Penny Wong has of course marked the week the Whitlam government established dialogue 50 years ago with a bit of a longer journey – to Beijing itself.


Pocock calls for immediate to change to native forest logging laws

The independent senator for the ACT, David Pocock, has taken to social media calling for environmental laws to be updated early in 2023 to remove the exemptions of regional forest agreements from federal environment laws. The exemption allows native forest logging to continue despite their role as carbon sinks and so many native species’ survival dependent on them.

Pocock’s comments come after VicForests announced a $54m loss, but calls to protect native forests have also intensified following the conclusion of the Cop15 biodiversity summit from the Greens environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young and Independent MP Sophie Scamps.

VicForests announced yesterday they made a $54 million dollar loss cutting down native forests.

Taxpayers are funding the logging of our native forests. Forests that are huge carbon sinks and home to amazing species like Greater gliders.https://t.co/evU6HZsPtg

— David Pocock (@DavidPocock) December 21, 2022

Environmental laws should be updated early in 2023 to remove exemptions of Regional Forest Agreements from federal enviro laws.

We need ensure jobs in native forest logging have transition pathways to plantation forestry, firefighting, native forest management & other sectors.

— David Pocock (@DavidPocock) December 21, 2022

Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop medals and papers taken

Papers and war medals belonging to renowned world war two Australian surgeon Colonel Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop have been stolen from a home in Melbourne.

The haul was part of a wider theft of jewellery and electronics taken from a property in Toorak this week.

Victoria police believe the home was broken into sometime between 7.30pm on 18 December and 11pm the following day:

Once inside the property the thieves have removed a safe which contained numerous letters and documents belonging to and written by Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop.

The safe also contained medals and honours presented to Sir [Edward] along with jewellery and electronics valued at over $30,000.

Dunlop, who was born in Wangaratta in 1907, was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Java in 1942. The army surgeon worked tirelessly to help Australian POWs on the Thai-Burma Railway.

During the war, 22,376 Australians became prisoners of Japan, most at the fall of Singapore in 1942. Of those, 8,031 (36%) died in captivity due to starvation, overwork, brutality and mistreatment.

Dunlop died in 1993 aged 85.

– from AAP


Private hospitals nurses to walk off the job for first time in decades

Staying in NSW, nurses at two major private Sydney hospitals will walk off the job later today.

The members of the Nurses and Midwives’ Association of Mater private hospital in North Sydney and St Vincent’s private hospital in Darlinghurst will stop work for an hour at 1pm this afternoon.

The action is in protest at excessive workloads and pay offer increases not offering real wage growth.

The action by private hospital staff is understood to be the first in more than 20 years, the AFR is reporting, with strikes more common in the public sector.


It wasn’t a jump for Liberals ‘to protect the people’ with energy market intervention, NSW treasurer says

That energy deal was brokered in exchange for the NSW’s government support on the federal government’s fossil fuel price cap.

State treasurer Matt Kean has also been doing the media rounds this morning, and is speaking to ABC News Breakfast. He says the governments expects the measures it passed when parliament was recalled yesterday to have an immediate impact on electricity bills:

The Australian market regulator and the cap price that people pay for electricity will make their announcement in February about what bills people will pay for next year. And we expect that the move will feed directly through to that and see downward pressure of up to $243 on electricity bills of what it was previously going to be.

ABC News asks:

How much of a philosophical jump was it for you as a Liberal, to intervene in the market in this way and cap the prices?


Well, it wasn’t a jump at all to stand by people following the illegal war in Ukraine, which is pushing up electricity bills. The government is there to protect the people – not the other way around.

And that’s exactly what we did. We looked at a range of measures to support people to deal with these high electricity prices. And this is the one that the commonwealth government asked us to do and, obviously, our No 1 priority is standing by the people of New South Wales using our balance sheet to support families and businesses. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.


Energy deal a ‘long time’ in the making

New South Wales received the funding connecting Snowy 2.0 and renewable zones in exchange for signing up to the federal government’s energy market intervention, which included the price cap on gas and coal. Chris Bowen clarifies:

We’d already been talking about it for a long time before that. You don’t do these deals in a matter of days.

On the matter of ongoing energy deals with other jurisdictions, RN Breakfast host Sarah Dingle asks:

It’s been reported that your talks with Queensland are at an advanced level, what is Queensland going to get to signing up to your intervention?


Queensland have already announced a very ambitious renewable energy plan, which is great.


Energy minister cites ‘global race on transmission’

Chris Bowen:

We are in a global race on transmission. I mean, everyone in the world is doing this too, so booking in the slots to get the raw materials necessary, the metal, the very high voltage wire, etc, is very important, and it’s a global race.

And so, these funding deals that we’ve announced yesterday together with the deal we announced with Tasmania and Victoria earlier in the year and the deals that we will announce when other states and territories in the not-too-distant future really give the developers the certainty they need to get on with the job.

There’s always going to be challenges particularly around supply chains, labor shortages. That’s why careful planning prudent management is so important to really minimise the risks of those challenges.


‘There’s absolutely no point developing this renewable energy unless we connect it to the grid’

Chris Bowen says the projects and the transmission lines can be built simultaneously.

We have to. That’s got to be our aim – no point having one finished before the other, really.

So, yes, it is about making sure that the transmission matches the development of the projects because there’s absolutely no point developing this renewable energy unless we connect it to the grid. The grid connection is important to bring on that clean, green, cheap renewable energy which is so important.


NSW energy deal to unlock $12bn market benefit, Chris Bowen says

The federal and NSW governments yesterday struck a deal to connect Snowy 2.0 and renewable zones. The deal was made in return for support for the coal price cap.

Energy minister Chris Bowen is speaking to ABC Radio about the deal. Explaining what will be built with the $4.7bn commitment for renewable energy infrastructure in NSW, he says:

This is part of our rewiring the nation commitment that we took to the election to upgrade our grid to make it fit for purpose for a renewable-based grid.

It’s $4.7bn from the federal government, $3.1bn from the NSW government … which will unlock about $12bn of market benefit and also unlock a lot of private sector investment and a lot of renewable energy, particularly in the regions whether it be the central west, or the Hunter Valley, or New England or any New South Wales renewable energy zones.

You can read more about the deal from our state correspondent Michael McGowan:


Australia’s ambassador to China ‘protesting vigorously’ against China’s jail visits ban

Penny Wong confirmed she had raised the cases of the detained Australian journalist Cheng Lei and writer Dr Yang Hengjun, pushing for them to be reunited with their families and the resumption of regular consular access.

AAP has a bit more background about the need for consular access, after a ban on consular visits to jailed citizens was introduced in China due to the massive wave of Covid-19 sweeping the country:

Diplomats have not been able to visit detainees like Australian-Chinese journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun since September, after China enforced a total ban on consular access – for all countries to all prisoners.

Australia’s ambassador to China Graham Fletcher said consular officials were particularly focused on regaining access to detained citizens. He told reporters in Beijing:

At the moment because China is experiencing a surge, it has unfortunately stopped regular access to all prisoners ... for all countries. We are protesting vigorously about that.

Wong’s trip to China is the first ministerial visit Fletcher has hosted since former trade minister Simon Birmingham travelled there in November 2019.

The ambassador said he believed Australia was in “good position now” to “repair” the relationship and collaborate on “worthwhile” initiatives:

There are lots of things that Australia and China can work well together on ... like climate change, renewables, health.

Fletcher said “China has learned that Australia has a sense of itself and a national interest”.

The ambassador said he believed once Covid-19 was no longer an impediment to international travel, people-to-people connections between China and Australia through business, tourism and education would resume.

Fletcher said he was looking forward to future trade, ministerial, state premier and business leader visits as travel restrictions eased.


Australia and China to resume regular high-level talks

Good morning! Natasha May on deck with you.

Penny Wong last night spoke to her counterpart in Beijing, Wang Yi, in a meeting that lasted 90 minutes.

She told reporters after the bilateral meeting that China and Australia would be resume regular high-level talks:

We’ve continued to put the view that we are able to grow our bilateral relationship and uphold our respective national interests if we navigate our differences wisely, and that is the challenge for this generation.

I did set out our positions on issues which I know are so important to Australians and are important to the government – relevant consular matters, trade blockages, human rights, as well as regional security, international security and the norms and global rules which underpin our prosperity.

There was a discussion about opportunities for further dialogue to work through how we might do what I think is in the best interest of both countries and consumers in both countries.

We have agreed to maintain high-level engagement and we’ve agreed to further dialogue in a range of those areas.

You can read more about that meeting from our foreign affairs correspondent Daniel Hurst:


Liberal party 'not fit for purpose', internal report says

The Liberal party brand is no longer “fit for purpose” and has lost its volunteer base on the ground, according to an internal review seen by the Australian. The report says membership numbers have dwindled amid factional battles and it is also expected to conclude that the unpopularity of former prime minister Scott Morrison was a key factor in May election defeat.

The Australian reports:

A key recommendation, which the report says was fundamental to the party being competitive at the next election, was the resurrection of a volunteer base and grassroots campaign activity. This, it claims, was a major factor in the party’s inability to defend against teal independents who had swamped key Liberal seats with volunteer brigades of 1500-2000 people.


Good morning

Welcome to our rolling coverage of the day’s news. Natasha May will be along soon to take you through the day but in the meantime this is Martin Farrer getting the news rolling along – and these are the stories making the headlines this morning.

Penny Wong will return to Australia today after what appeared to be a successful trip to Beijing for talks with her opposite number Wang Yi designed to rebuild bridges burned between the two countries in recent years. The foreign affairs minister said she had raised the key issues of human rights and trade during the discussions in Beijing. A joint statement published after the meeting said China and Australia had agreed “to a relationship based on mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and navigating differences”.

Kathryn Campbell, the former social services department chief who was grilled at the robodebt commission hearings, remains on her top-tier salary package of nearly $900,000 a year, despite no longer managing any people in her new role as roving Aukus adviser. Defence has confirmed Campbell “currently has no direct reports” – meaning people she supervises directly – and “retains conditions of employment from her previous role as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade”.

Multiple media outlets have received legal letters from lawyers for Bruce Lehrmann, as the former Coalition staffer begins potential defamation action over coverage of allegations by Brittany Higgins that she was raped in Parliament House in 2019. Guardian Australia has been told by a source close to Lehrmann’s team that media outlets including News Corp Australia, Paramount and the radio station WSFM have been issued with concerns notices.



Elias Visontay and Natasha May (earlier)

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