The day that was, Monday 21 February
That is where we will leave the live blog for today. Thanks for following along.
Here’s some of what you might have missed today:
- All Sydney trains were cancelled due to industrial action, leaving thousands of commuters stranded across the network.
- The NSW state government and the Rail, Tram and Bus Union spent the day contending who was responsible for the shutdown.
- International borders completely reopened for the first time in two years, sparking emotional scenes amid reunions.
- AGL Energy rejected a takeover bid by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian asset management giant Brookfield, saying the preliminary offer “materially undervalues the company”.
- A magnitude 5.2 earthquake hit New Zealand’s south island.
- The PM made an $86m forestry announcement in Tasmania which will supply grants to new timber plantations.
- NSW recorded 4,916 new Covid cases and seven deaths, Victoria recorded 5,611 new cases and three deaths, Queensland recorded 4,114 new cases and six deaths, the ACT reported 458 new cases and one death, WA reported 224 new cases, SA reported 1,217 new cases, the NT reported 627 new cases and Tasmania reported 569 new cases.
Thanks for reading.
Queensland Police have arrested Graham Potter, one of Australia’s most wanted men, after more than a decade on the run.
Potter has been wanted since he failed to appear at Melbourne magistrates court in February 2010 on charges of conspiracy to murder.
Police said they were acting on information they received, and found Potter at a home in the Tablelands:
Acting on information received, Tablelands detectives, uniformed police and the Cairns dog squad attended an Ascham Street residence at approximately 8:45am where the 64-year-old was located and taken into custody.
Detectives from Victoria Police will now travel to Queensland to see Potter’s extradition.
A significant number of searches and public appeals have been conducted over the past 12 years in an effort to locate Potter.
Potter is expected to appear before Mareeba magistrates court tomorrow.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe has warned there will be a “shock” to home buyers with big mortgages when rates are lifted.
Lowe was at a G20 Meeting of central bank governors over the weekend, and said that heavily indebted households posed an economic risk.
Rising interest rates on higher debt with higher asset prices – you can see the fault lines here.
We know from previous experience that when countries are on different paths in terms of interest rates, stresses do emerge in the global financial system. I think it’s quite possible, in fact probable, there will be stress points over the next couple of years.
We can’t be sure where the next shock will come from, but we can be sure there will be another shock.
Sydney Trains say safety concerns associated with roster
Matthew Longland, Sydney Trains chief executive, held a press conference earlier, and outlined that they believed the protected action the unions had proposed going into the weekend would have prevented a number of train crews working.
He added that meant there was “no way that we would be able to put those trains into service safely and reliably”.
He said they are “absolutely focused” on resolving the situation before tomorrow, saying they would “work into the evenings if required”.
The safety concerns were not about operational safety. What we were concerned about was customer safety.
Running two-and-a-half thousand services across the network each day, without an agreed roster for train crew, would mean that we would risk trains being stranded across the network, and customers being stranded across the network.
That was too great a risk.
RTBU secretary: we still don't know the safety issues
Alex Claassens, the RTBU NSW secretary, was on the ABC earlier, and indicated that trains may not resume tomorrow, while adding that the union still doesn’t know what safety issues caused the shutdown.
Claassens said it was still not clear what safety concerns the state government and Sydney Trains actually had that sparked the halt of the train system.
So far, we haven’t been able to get to the bottom of what that safety issue is. Because we actually take that sort of allegation seriously.
Any allegation we are unsafe, we take that to heart, we don’t accept that, we have always acted with safety in mind and any sort of noise they’re making around safety, well, tell us what it is and we’ll do something about it.
Claassens said the union was disappointed and hurt the decision was made. He said this afternoon at the Fair Work Commission, the “other side” requested extensions, and he said they “weren’t ready yet”:
They were supposed to be in there at 9am. The decision was made to have us all back there at 9am, we were all back there at 9am, but they weren’t ready yet.
At various times during the day, they’ve asked for adjournments, they’ve asked for extensions, and I just got a message saying the commission won’t hear anything until Wednesday.
So, everybody has been asking what is the safety issue? Why aren’t we utilising these train crews and everybody out here ready to run these trains, but all we get out of management is ‘oh, it’s too difficult, it’s too unsafe’.
But we don’t actually know what it is that is so unsafe.
The Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) wants Woodside Petroleum to explain an omission in its financial reports that meant the company did not detail how much extra it would cost to decommission oil rigs and other infrastructure.
The fossil fuel company announced an extra $239m to cover future decommissioning costs on oil rigs, pipelines and other onshore and offshore rigs in its last report filed for the year ending 31 December 2021.
But this information was absent in the company’s report for 31 December 20202, an oversight that the corporate regulator said in a statement that it had raised with Woodside.
“Restoration obligations for companies in the offshore oil and gas sector can be significant and ASIC encourages directors of other industry participants to reassess the reasonableness of their financial reporting obligations and the adequacy of disclosures,” the statement said.
The development comes after the Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) filed shareholder resolutions with Woodside and oil giant Santos, to force them to disclose decommissioning costs.
A study supported by the federal government in 2021 found decommissioning costs on oil rigs and other infrastructure would cost more than $62b dollars (USD$45b) over the next 50 years.
The CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Andrew McKellar, has welcomed the reopening of Australia’s international borders, saying the tourism industry is “ready to roar back to life.”
In a statement, McKellar said the reopening was a “lifeline” to the industry, adding that the border reopening meant “fortress Australia at last comes to an end.”
Australia’s tourism industry is ready to roar back to life.
Today, fortress Australia at last comes to an end. This is the moment tourism business, devastated by international border closures, have been waiting 23 long months for.
The international reopening is a lifeline for our 300,000 tourism businesses and the 700,000-strong workforce that they employ. Prior to the pandemic, the economic benefit realised by inbound tourism was extensive, contributing up to $45bn in export income every year.
Australia has had one of the longest and harshest border closures anywhere in the world, while disparate Covid-19 restrictions have differed across the country. Australia has a huge task ahead of it to repair its international reputation.
In the same statement, the Chamber’s tourism Tourism executive chair, John Hart, echoed earlier calls that it would take until 2024 for tourism operators to return to pre-Covid levels:
Businesses that are primarily reliant on international tourist arrivals have been crippled by the international border closures for almost two years. As such, targeted financial support for those businesses hit hardest will help them stay afloat until their operations can resume.
Some of the surreal sights that greeted commuters today:
So earlier today, amid the discussions of the train stoppage, we also had the reopening of Australia’s international borders.
But Sydney Airport chief executive officer Geoff Culbert had earlier declared the tourism industry won’t completely recover until 2024.
Speaking to Sky News, Culbert said international arrivals were still only at 15% of pre-pandemic levels:
International [arrivals] is still only at 15 per cent of pre-Covid levels, but we’ll have 5,000 passengers come through today.
That’s less than 100 passengers a day – so we’re having a good day today.
NSW train shutdown designed to make 'commuters turn on workers', AMWU says
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union has released a statement on today’s rail shutdown in NSW, claiming the decision to suspend the rail network was “designed to have commuters turn on workers”.
This shutdown is just the latest obstacle to securing a fair enterprise agreement.
Union members would never put commuter safety at risk when taking industrial action. The only people impacted would be Sydney Trains management.
Sydney Trains and Transport for NSW must stop the attacks on workers and return to the bargaining table.
The AMWU NSW and ACT state secretary Cory Wright said the lockout had reflected that Sydney Trains “never intended to negotiate with workers in good faith”:
The government has shown it will disrupt the lives of NSW residents simply to try and damage the reputation of transport workers and their unions.
Good afternoon, just a quick thanks to Cait Kelly for expertly navigating the morning’s news. Mostafa Rachwani with you this afternoon, with much still going on.
I am going to hand you over to my colleague Mostafa Rachwani who will take you through the evening.
Labor has formally written to the government to request an urgent briefing on Thursday’s laser incident involving the Chinese military.
Labor’s defence spokesperson, Brendan O’Connor, said in a letter to the defence minister, Peter Dutton, today:
I am writing to request a briefing for Labor on the recent incident where a laser was detected emanating from a People’s Liberation Army – Navy vessel illuminating an ADF aircraft. This is an extremely disturbing incident and therefore request from the Defence Department and the ADF a briefing for the Shadow Foreign Minister [Penny Wong] and I as a matter of urgency.
Labor has joined with the government in condemning the incident.
The Liberal party’s federal preselection woes in New South Wales have worsened, with action launched in the NSW supreme court on Monday and one preselection candidate at risk of withdrawing from politics altogether.
NSW state MP Melanie Gibbons has indicated she may quit politics if she’s unsuccessful in gaining preselection for the seat of Hughes, which could trigger a byelection and plunge the NSW government further into minority government.
Magnitude 5.2 earthquake hits New Zealand's south island
There has been a 5.2 magnitude earthquake in New Zealand.
Recorded just after 3pm local time, the earthquake was 36km south-west of Blenheim, on the south island.
More to come.
Australia’s plateauing Covid-19 vaccination rates among 5 to 11-year-olds will be discussed at a round table of federal and state government representatives and public health experts on Friday.
The round table is being convened by vaccine uptake expert Prof Julie Leask, with less than 50% of Australia’s 5 to 11-year-olds having received their first Covid-19 vaccine dose.
A candidate endorsed by the United Australia Party told an anti-lockdown rally she wanted to say “hang Dan Andrews” but said she was “not allowed”, before continuing a chant of “jail Dan Andrews”, according to footage of the event.
Clive Palmer’s party last week announced candidates for all 151 lower house seats, and attempted to boost their profile by publishing their names, photographs, and phone numbers in major Australian newspapers.
There were tears, DJs, Vegemite and drag queens as families, friends and lovers reunited at Sydney airport after the resumption of all international travel to Australia.
Police drones to zoom in on northern Queensland
High-tech police drones will be deployed in Cairns and Townsville as part of a new 12-month trial, but a “line-of-sight” rule will limit their capability for situations like car chases.
Equipped with tracking and thermal imaging cameras, the drones will be useful in disaster response, siege situations and to help find lost people, remote pilot Sergeant Mark Gamer says.
While they have a range of about 5km, pilots are only permitted to fly them to visual line of sight - meaning they must be visible at all times.
“Even though the drone can only be used within visual line of sight, the zoom beyond that is quite incredible,” Gamer said on Monday.
“We don’t use drones for car chases, drones are used for static type jobs like sieges ... [and] intelligence operations.”
Nineteen journalists from Papua New Guinea’s leading television media company, EMTV, have been suspended following a walk-off protest by staff.
The staff walked off the job last week in support of their head of news and current affairs, Sincha Dimara, who was suspended earlier in February for “insubordination” which according to reports consisted of running stories about the arrest of Australian businessman Jamie Pang including criticism of police and criminal procedure in the case.
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus has posted this on Twitter in response to the PM’s (incorrect) comments today that train workers are striking and a Labor government will mean more strikes.
Perrottet urged to work with union over NSW transport dispute
New South Wales opposition leader Chris Minns urged the government to work with the union to resume train services.
Let’s be clear - the only people who didn’t turn up to work today is the NSW government. The NSW government needs to sit down and work this out. Perrottet shut down the rail network. He needs to work to open it back up.
Northern Territory records 627 new Covid cases
The Northern Territory has reported 627 new Covid-19 infections, with the region set to welcome the return of international tourists.
NT Health officials said 123 people remained in hospital with Covid-19, including three in intensive care.
There are 6,106 active infections.
A Qantas flight from London was due to touch down in Darwin on Monday morning following the opening of Australia’s international borders.
The tourism minister, Natasha Fyles, said the Territory’s management of the pandemic had put it in a strong position to welcome the return of international visitors.
“This will be an economic shot in the arm for tourism businesses who have been doing it incredibly tough over the past two years,” she said.
AGL Energy has rejected the first salvo in a multi-billion dollar takeover play by a consortium led by the tech billionaire, Mike Cannon-Brookes, to fast-track Australia’s exit from coal-fired power.
The consortium on Monday said it intends to spend A$20bn to transform AGL’s generation fleet consistent with a target to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
“The consortium remains optimistic that an agreement can be reached with the AGL board,” the group told AAP on Monday.
“If successful, this will be one of the biggest decarbonisation projects in the world today and show Australia is capable of globally significant projects,” said Cannon-Brookes, who made his fortune through software company Atlassian.
“It will create over 10,000 Australian jobs and ensure customers don’t bear the brunt of higher power prices – a likely scenario if the proposed demerger happens.”
Jo Haylen is the shadow minister for transport in NSW – she tweeted this just before:
The Victorian government has unveiled a $200m stimulus package in a bid to revitalise the state’s hospitality and tourism sectors.
The package includes $10m for the Melbourne Money voucher scheme to entice people to dine in the CBD, $30m on regional tourism vouchers, $30m for entertainment vouchers and $60m in ventilation vouchers to help small businesses become more Covid-safe.
More than $34m of Jobs Victoria funding will also help 1,500 workers find placements across the hospitality, warehousing, logistics, tourism and food processing sectors.
The tourism minister, Martin Pakula, said:
We think this is the best way to target support. We think what businesses need is customers back, money in the hands of customers so that they can spend and enjoy bringing our city back to life.
WA records 224 new cases
Western Australia has reported 224 new cases of Covid overnight, with 213 of them locally acquired.
Confused about the Chinese laser situation? Here is a really good rundown from the Conversation.
The last time I hugged my mum was early on a July morning in 2019 as I put her in a taxi outside my house in Canterbury, Kent. I should have been driving her to Heathrow myself.
I’d picked her up at 6am when she’d arrived from Australia, but I was feeling fractious after five weeks together in my cramped terrace house, writes Kate Guest.
Some more from earlier, when the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, fronted the media at Sydney Airport alongside the minister for tourism, Stuart Ayres.
The long anticipated celebration of international travel resuming has been soured by ongoing transport disputes. Perrottet said he would be meeting with the union later this morning.
On the transport minister, David Elliot’s, comments earlier this morning comparing the actions of the union to terrorism, Perrottet said he was “clearly frustrated, as we all are”:
We’ve been working through these issues for a period of time just like we always do and their approach is incredibly poor, so I can completely appreciate how frustrated the transport minister is.
The ACT records one Covid death, and 458 new cases
The ACT has recorded one Covid death, a man in his 80s. It is unclear if he was vaccinated.
There were 458 new cases recorded, 37 are in hospital and of those, one is in ICU.
Perrott says it’s a strike, but train drivers say they turned up to work as rostered to start their shifts – which is not very strike-like.
I’ll do whatever it takes to ensure this doesn’t happen again but the unions are responsible and they need to be called out for it.
Perrottet said it was a coordinated attack:
I’m incredibly disappointed. I feel the anger of everybody across our city. Make no mistake - this is a coordinated attack by the Labor party and the Union movement. What we saw this morning, based on the actions of the Union, was absolutely disgraceful. It should be condemned.
Debate between government and unions over Sydney transport closures
The tit-for-tat over if train workers did go on strike has continued with Dominic Perrottet addressing media a little earlier in Sydney.
This is what he had to say:
Yes, they did go on strike. The decision was made by Sydney Trains because of the lack of agreement based on the fact the unions and negotiations that have been occurring in good faith ... on Saturday, when a decision was reached, the unions took a different approach.
It was called back on Sunday and they [the unions] didn’t even turn up ... we will continue to negotiate in good faith.
Anglicare Australia has released a federal election wish list – with five ideas for political candidates to pick up.
Executive director Kasy Chambers said:
After an unprecedented two years, the nation faces major challenges. Record numbers of Australians cannot afford a home. People out of work are struggling to make ends meet. And the climate crisis looms large as we face more extreme weather.
That’s why so many people are hungry for ideas. They want leadership with vision and empathy – leadership for everyone.
Within months, Australians will vote in one of the most important elections we have ever faced. Our hope is that parties and candidates will sign up to our ideas – and work with us to turn them into action.
In Five Ideas Australia Needs Now, Anglicare Australia is calling for:
- A basic income
- A jobs guarantee
- A community climate fund
- A home for every Australian
- Governing for all: a people’s inquiry into Covid-19.
The Communist party of Australia has distanced itself from ALP leader Anthony Albanese after the Tele published this story:
Union asks PM to apologise over rail strike claims
The RTBU is asking the PM to apologise after falsely saying the trains stopped this morning because of striking workers:
National Covid-19 update
Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 17 deaths from Covid-19:
- Deaths: 1
- Cases: 458
- In hospital: 37 (with one person in ICU)
- Deaths: 7
- Cases: 4,916
- In hospital: 1,288 (with 74 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 627
- In hospital: 123 (with 3 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 6
- Cases: 4,114
- In hospital: 401 (with 34 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 1,217
- In hospital: 190 (with 13 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 569
- In hospital: 10 (with 2 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 3
- Cases: 5,611
- In hospital: 361 (with 49 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 224 (213 locally acquired)
AGL Energy’s shares have jumped on the ASX after the company resumed trading after a weekend bid for the company by billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian asset manager Brookfield.
In early trading, the stock was up about 8.7%, or 62 cents, to $7.78.
That’s above the $7.50 a share unsolicited offer lobbed by the consortium for the country’s largest electricity generator and also biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.
AGL this morning rejected the bid as “materially” undervaluing the company, given it offered a premium of under 5% of Friday’s ASX close.
Tasmania records 569 new Covid-19 cases, with 10 people in hospital
Tasmania has reported 569 new Covid cases and no deaths in the last 24 hours. Ten people are in hospital; of those two are in ICU.
Lastly, the PM is asked about the Queen having Covid:
This is very upsetting and I’m sure particularly for her majesty and her family, at 95, getting Covid is more of a concern than, other age groups.
We wish for a full recovery and there are few more resilient people than her majesty.
Scott Morrison says Tourism Australia has kicked off its $40m campaign:
Look around us. This is the best tourism product in the world. It’s the best tourism experience in the world.
This is what they waited for, we are opening and we were set build again with the aviation links being restored, with the support being provided to work with the tourism and travel operators around the world to bring tourists back to Australia.
It will recover and my hope is that will recover strongly and soon but we shouldn’t overestimate the challenge we have had because everyone else will be competing with us and we’ll be right out there competing against them.
The PM has jumped in to attack the ALP:
If you can’t have control of your budget, if you manage your finances carefully, that puts pressure on inflation, drives inflation up, meaning you’ll see interest rates rise as well.
The Reserve Bank set interest rates and the pressure on interest rates to rise is only going to increase over the next few years. The pressure on inflation is only going to increase and what Australia can’t afford is a Labor Party that doesn’t know how to manage money.
Josh Frydenberg jumps in on a question about why the federal government ignored a request from the Tasmanian government to help out financially:
Premier Gutwein did write to me and also the NSW government asked us for further economic support but we took a decision that the economy is recovering strongly and we have to draw the line.
The PM says strikes are what people can expect from a Labor government:
If people want to hand the country to unions under a Labor government led by the most leftwing Labor leader in 50 years since Gough Whitlam – and that’s probably being a bit unkind to Gough Whitlam, you might have to go back further – this is what they can expect.
We cannot stand up to that sort of intimidation by unions.
The PM has been asked about the situation with Sydney trains. He incorrectly has labelled the industrial a strike:
They are shutting down the city with a massive big strike and the international gateway for the international tourists to Australia and the union movement set up a big welcome by shutting down the trains and causing gridlock in the city.
Joel Fitzgibbon, the Labor member, said today Sydneysiders would be sympathetic this. I don’t think so.
Scott Morrison has now been asked about the situation in Europe:
We are working very closely with our partners right across the region in Europe and more broadly, that involves the actions we will take and sanctions, should Russia follow through on their threats of violence and intimidation on Ukraine.
He has used it to pivot back to the Chinese naval vessel using a laser on an ADF aircraft:
You would have seen reports of a Chinese naval vessel using a laser to target Australian defence force surveillance aircraft.
This is completely unacceptable and so we have demanded there be an investigation on the behaviour of what occurred on the vessel, it was dangerous, it was reckless and it was unprofessional for what should be a sophisticated navy.
We expect China to provide answers on those matters and we’re going through the appropriate channels to achieve that.
The PM is asked if he still backs Bridget Archer even though she crossed the floor.
Of course. There is a difference between the Liberal and Labor party and my dear Victorian colleague could speak more to this about the Labor party in Victoria that I can but, in our party, we don’t throw people up because we don’t always agree on everything.
That’s the nature of the Liberal party, it’s called Liberal for a reason.
In Victoria at the moment, the Victorian Labor party is looking to run out of town, ran out of the party someone who is blowing the whistle on alleged corruption in that state. What’s the Labor party’s response? To throw out a female member of parliament, run them out of the Labor party because they are standing up on an issue that’s incredibly important.
Josh Frydenberg is also asked about the bid:
I wouldn’t pre-empt any decisions out of that because we aren’t yet at a point where the bid has been accepted by the shareholders.
The key point is that Australia is investing heavily in renewables and we have a plan of net-zero by 2050. A key issue for Australians together with lower emissions is the affordability of power and across the rest of the world we have the energy prices go up.
The PM has been asked about the attempted AGL takeover by Mike Cannon-Brookes:
Let me be clear about something, we need to ensure that our coal-fired generation of electricity runs to its life. Because if it doesn’t, electricity prices go up.
They don’t go down. If our government is very committed to … to ensure that businesses can get access to the electricity and energy they need to have. Affordable prices are key to people in jobs.
What is essential is that we get the balance right with our energy policy, for the opponents in the election, the Labor party, have election targets which are not forecast to be achieved when it comes to current policy settings.
Josh Frydenberg says the unemployment rate is 4.2% nationally and 3.8% in Tasmania – the lowest rate in 13 years:
And we are heading to the lowest unemployment rate in some 50 years. That is an enormous achievement.
Josh Frydenberg is speaking now:
The Morrison government has stood by the people of Tasmania every step of the way through this pandemic. More than $3.5bn has been provided to the people of Tasmania. And, as our economy strongly recovers, it is easy to forget what the conditions were like back in early 2020.
When we announced jobkeeper, that provided $1.4bn to the people of Tasmania, including more than 70,000 workers across the state. The cash flow boost provided another $700m to the people of Tasmania.
Morrison is announcing $86m to help the forestry industry:
The forestry industry has taken, like the tourism industry, quite a hit.
We already invested $80m to help, whether it was the saw millers or the plantation owners or others trying to get back up on their feet. And now we are investing $86m, that is 150m trees, new plantings, they will help us achieve our goal of ensuring that we have a sustainable forestry industry, not just here in Tasmania but all around the country.
He is starting by talking about Josef Chromy, who owns one of the largest vineyards in the state:
Josef came to this country, fleeing Czechoslovakia, and he escaped with two other young men and was the only one who got through.
He came to this country like so many have, and he has established something magnificent here in Tasmania.
He is an incredible Australian story, who is an Australian hero. And I asked him a little while ago, as we were walking through the bowling area, and I said, ‘Did you ever think it would get as big as this?’ He said, ‘I thought I would just have a butcher shop.’
And look at all of this. Just shows what is so possible in this country.
The PM is speaking now from Tasmania.
Queensland reports six Covid-19 deaths, with 401 people in hospital
Queensland has recorded six deaths of people with Covid-19, with 401 people in hospital. Of those 34 are in ICU.
There are 4,114 new cases.
The six deaths were people between the ages of 60 and 80. Only one was fully vaccinated and four had had two doses of vaccine.
Australian health authorities are warning parents to stop feeding their babies three brands of formula as they may be contaminated with dangerous bacteria.
Both Victorian and New South Wales health authorities issued alerts on Sunday night, after EleCare, Similac and Alimentum instant formulas were recalled.
The federal government is providing an additional $678m to seal another 1,000km of the Outback Way, a series of roads and dirt tracks that pass through Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia.
Prime minister Scott Morrison said the government was committed to sealing the entire 2,720 kilometres of the Outback Way, cutting travel times for freight and tourists while giving residents along the route the supplies they need.
He said the upgrades would support 2,197 jobs and deliver an important economic boost across Australia’s centre:
Investing in infrastructure right across Australia will keep our economy strong and growing while ensuring Australians, regardless of where they live, have jobs.
Our investment locks in a pipeline of works that will drive investment in regional Australia and boost economies from Winton in Queensland to Laverton in Western Australia.
Election seasons invariably bring an uptick in leaders popping up for commercial radio interviews.
Anthony Albanese turned up on NovaFM 96.9 with Fitzy and Wippa this morning and sketched out his pitch to voters as follows:
Australians will say themselves, ‘OK, is this as good as it gets, or can we do better?’ And we’ve been busy trying to hold the government to account, but also putting forward some positive ideas for free Tafe and extra uni places and dealing with climate change.
When the host suggested “free welding”, Albanese jumped in with this sick burn:
If you want a guy to shampoo your hair and weld without a mask on and all that, then play a ukulele – kind of – then Scott is your guy.
Albanese said people just wanted Morrison “to do his job – and his job was to order enough vaccines, his job was to order rapid antigen tests, his job was to plan; the crisis in aged care is there right now”.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners says new research finding that expectant parents are encountering misinformation about childhood vaccines on social media and small inner circles is deeply concerning.
The Flinders University study found vaccine anxiety is driving parents to seek information from sources where misinformation is rife, including social media.
RACGP vice-president Dr Bruce Willett said the research highlighted the need for improved vaccine education for parents:
While we have high childhood vaccination rates in Australia, with 95% of five-year-olds having received all scheduled childhood immunisations, vaccine hesitancy remains a serious threat to our community.
Before the pandemic, we were seeing horrifying outbreaks of measles. It was in isolated pockets, but we really shouldn’t be seeing this disease in our country because we have readily available vaccines.
Since then, the pandemic has led to the proliferation and rapid spread of vaccine misinformation in our community.
This research should be a wake-up call – it shows the urgent need for improved education that’s appropriately targeted to parents and those who are pregnant from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
Can you survive in the Australian wilderness alone?
Australian campers, survivalists and reality TV fans are all in for a treat, with SBS announcing the launch of an Australian version of Alone, the international hit that sees contestants compete to survive the longest in remote locations:
While we are on the trains: NSW transport minister David Elliott has used some (quite frankly ridiculous) language this morning – likening the situation to terrorism.
Elliott said the government wasn’t to blame, and that the union had failed to turn up to an industrial conciliation meeting last night. He told 2GB:
I think we’re going to have a large standoff right now because they cannot use Sydney’s transport system for some sort of terrorist-like activity.
The action is the latest chapter in a long-running dispute between the government and the union over safety guarantees, hygiene and privatisation concerns.
Not sure why this needs to be pointed out but the fact that no trains are running in Sydney right now is not the same as a terrorist attack.
– with AAP
Unions and workers are stressing over social media that they are not on strike – they do in fact want to work.
Dutton warns Ukraine invasion likely
Defence Minister Peter Dutton says it is difficult to see how Russian President Vladimir Putin hasn’t given troops the order to invade Ukraine given the military buildup on the border.
Speaking after reports from US intelligence and warnings from British prime minister Boris Johnson the conflict would be the biggest war in Europe since 1945, Mr Dutton said invasion seemed inevitable.
“Troops continue to build up, the presence of the ships in the Black Sea, the cyber attacks, the false flag activity, it’s all pointing in one direction sadly,” he told the Nine Network on Monday.
“We just don’t want to see women and children as the victims of another war, but it seems that is the path that Vladimir Putin is set on embarking.”
Mr Dutton said any conflict would have a knock-on effect for the world and while there are hopes of an 11th-hour reprieve, “There is no sign of one yet.”
A few people on social media were reporting a massive surcharge on Uber because Sydney trains have stopped
This is so good – a group of drag queens are at Sydney airport welcoming international arrivals:
NSW records seven Covid-19 deaths
NSW has reported seven deaths of people with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours; 1,288 people are in hospital, of those 74 are in ICU.
Victoria reports three Covid-19 deaths
Victoria has recorded three deaths of people with Covid-19 in the last 24 hours; 361 people are in hospital and of those 49 are in ICU and 11 are on a ventilator.
We had a few lines from Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW secretary Alex Claassens on the blog earlier. My colleague Tamsin Rose has the full press conference here:
Claassens insisted the action was not a strike and workers were ready to go.
We are not on strike.
All the people sitting in the meal rooms, all across the network are ready to work at a minute’s notice.
The union has been tense in negotiations with the government over a new enterprise agreement.
Our members have got a right to negotiate a fair enterprise agreement.
It’s not about money. It’s always been about safety issues, about protections against privatisation.
It’s also about protections for the commuters, to make sure we maintain a safe and clean network.
NSW employee relations minister Damien Tudehope told the ABC semantic disagreements about it being a strike or not wouldn’t make today any easier for commuters.
We will continue to negotiate with the union with a view to trying to reach some sort of resolution.
We want the trains running. We want people back at work.
We’ve got international flights arriving in Sydney and people are arriving to union-inspired chaos.
Scott Morrison also wished the Queen a “speedy recovery” after she tested positive to Covid. He told 2GB:
There are few people more resilient than her majesty. And we wish her all the best as she works her way through this.
Scott Morrison has hit back at “all the narks, you know, in the bubble [who] want to have a crack at me” after he lifted his welding face shield during a photo opportunity in the Northern Territory on Saturday.
The prime minister, in a radio interview this morning, suggested that he was “showcasing the great work of our apprentices and small businesses”. The footage gained attention on social media, with some pointing out the lifting of the face shield was dangerous.
The president of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, asked: “What do the tradies of Australia think of this?”
The 2GB host Ben Fordham raised it during an interview with Morrison this morning:
We’ve seen some footage of you over the weekend, having a crack at welding, prime minister; we’ve seen you playing the ukulele. We’ve seen you washing hair in women’s hair salons and now you’ve had a go at welding in the Northern Territory. Apparently, you’re supposed to have the face shield down when you’re welding. Did you know that?
Well, of course I did. This was a pretty tricky little device I was trying to use I hadn’t used that one before. But Ben what I like to do, and it doesn’t matter whether I’m at a welding shop, or whether I’m in a hairdressers, I like to learn and understand what our trainees and apprentices are doing.
Morrison went on to spruik the number of trade apprentices in training.
So if people want to have a chip at me, because I’m not a good welder. Well, that’s not my day job. Or I’m not a good hairdresser.
And you know, I think it’s sort of a bit passing strange, you know that they’ll – they never used to say anything about me doing things on welding or you know, those things that people think are more blokey jobs, but I go and do what young female apprentices are learning to do at a hairdressing salon, and they have a crack at me.
I think they’re fantastic. I think all of our apprentices are fantastic. They’re hard jobs. And you’ve got a lot to learn, as I showed everybody, I’ve got a lot to learn if I wanted to do those jobs.
I just think our apprentices and the small businesses that are giving them a go are fantastic. And if all the narks, you know, in the bubble want to have a crack at me, well, they can. But what I’m doing is showcasing the great work of our apprentices and small businesses.
At Sydney airport the minister for tourism, Dan Tehan was asked whether government rhetoric on China would prevent Chinese tourists from returning to Australia.
He says “obviously we have some challenges with the Chinese government” but Australia has a strong Chinese community.
“It will pick up when the government gets rid of its zero Covid policy,” he says, assuring he would be doing “everything possible” to keep the border open.
“We will continue to stand for Australia’s national interest with the Chinese government when we need to.”
Tehan was also asked about Scott Morrison’s scare campaign of the past week suggesting that the opposition leader is the preferred candidate of the Chinese government.
“If you want to stand as prime minister in this country you’ve got to withstand the character test,” he replies.
“You’ve got to be consistent with the policy approach that you take … don’t say one thing to one audience and another thing to another.”
AGL Energy rejects takeover bid
AGL Energy has rejected a takeover bid by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian asset management giant Brookfield, saying the preliminary offer “materially undervalues the company”.
Brookfield and Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures made the extraordinary offer to take over Australia’s most polluting company on Saturday, with a goal to shut its coal power plants earlier than planned.
The unsolicited offer was for Brookfield and Grok Ventures to acquire AGL’s power generation and energy retail divisions, which include coal, gas and renewable energy generation assets.
In a statement to the Australian Stock Exchange, AGL confirmed the offer was to acquire the company for $7.50 a share, which it said represented a 4.7% premium to its closing value on Friday.
Cannon-Brookes and Brookfield are expected to speak about the offer today.
Morrison travels to Tasmania for a forestry announcement
Good morning folks.
Now that the federal parliament has risen until budget week at the end of March, politics will be in full campaign mode. Over the weekend, Labor unveiled a $200m roads package in the Northern Territory. The long-serving Labor MP Warren Snowdon, who holds the territory seat of Lingiari is retiring from public life, and Labor will want to hold his seat.
This morning Scott Morrison is in Tasmania, armed with an $86m forestry announcement. Obviously, there are a couple of Liberal-held marginal seats in Tasmania that Labor is targeting in this contest. Through the program to be flagged on Monday, the government is proposing to supply grants (to be matched by the states and territories and industry) to support new timber plantations.
The government envisages the commonwealth will fund 40% of the contribution with participating states and territories providing the rest.
The funding will be available for plantations of new soft or hardwood in existing regional forestry hub areas. There have been timber shortages during the pandemic, and the government says global demand for timber is expected to quadruple by the middle of the century.
As we all know, there’s a range of things that we have been asking for. It’s not about money. It’s always been about safety issues, about protections against privatisation.
It’s also been about protections for the commuters, to make sure we maintain a safe and clean network.
Rail, Tram and Bus Union secretary Alex Claassens is giving a press conference in Sydney now.
This is not a strike.
As people will remember, we have been trying to negotiate since the expiry of the previous one in May last year. We have been taken various forms of protected industrial action since September.
And as everybody will remember, we’ve actually only been on strike on two occasions during this current round of industrial action. An eight-hour overnight stoppage and a four-hour stoppage which we took. Other than that, we’ve continued to put on a range of bans and limitations, which makes life difficult for management – we get that.
But, you know, at the end of the day, our members have got a right to negotiate a fair enterprise agreement.
Sydney trains cancelled due to industrial action, leaving commuters stranded
All Sydney trains have been cancelled due to industrial action, leaving thousands of commuters stranded across the network on Monday morning.
Workers have been warned to brace for a “very difficult” day by Sydney Trains chief executive Matt Longland.
“We’re urging customers to obviously avoid travel today or to use the transport journey planner to look for alternative options, such as buses, ferries and light rail if possible,” Longland told 2GB.
Services will be disrupted across the city including routes connecting Sydney to the Blue Mountains, the south coast and Newcastle and commuters are being told to allow for extra travel time.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, condemned the action, accusing the union of making it hard or impossible for some essential workers this morning.
“There are people this morning who are going to have an overpriced Uber or they’re going to be not able to get to work,” he told 2GB.
“This is not how you treat your fellow citizens.
“I feel for all of those Sydneysiders today who are affected by the strike.”
Extra buses will be added to the network today, transport for NSW secretary Rob Sharp confirmed early on Monday morning.
“We are doing everything possible to minimise the impact to commuters and sincerely apologise to everyone inconvenienced by this industrial action,” Sharp said.
Services were cancelled around midnight last night after negotiations between the Rail, Tram and Bus Union and Transport for NSW broke down overnight, following dozens of meetings between the groups.
The parties appeared before the Fair Work Commission twice over the weekend before the state government decided it would be impossible to safely operate services due to planned union action.
“We appeared before the Fair Work Commission twice over the weekend, including at 8pm last night, seeking a stop to this industrial action by the RBTU,” Sharp said.
“These actions will impact hundreds of thousands of commuters and come at a time when people just want to get back to work, back to school and back to university – it’s not what our community needs at this time.”
RTBU NSW Secretary Alex Claassens said the planned action – which would see workers only perform the actions they were set without any changes – would have only impacted management, not commuters.
“Workers will be taking protected industrial action, but only transport management will notice the impact, not commuters,” Claassens said in a statement.
“If commuters see any impact to their services, it won’t be because of workers’ actions, but because the NSW government is spitting the dummy and trying to make a point.
“There’s no strike – workers are simply performing the shifts we’re set without any changes.”
The groups will be back before the Fair Work Commission later today.
The minister for trade tourism and industry, Dan Tehan, is speaking now from Sydney international airport.
He says today is a “great day” for the nation’s tourism industry, hit by two years of border closures.
“The future is looking very, very bright,” he said.
“To see the way people have been united, the hugs, the tears, has been wonderful.
“It’s been a party out here at Sydney airport.”
Sydney airport is a hive of activity this morning with the border fully opened to international travellers for the first time in three years.
Some 56 flights are expected to touch down in Australia today, more than half in Sydney – where arrivals are being greeted with koala and kangaroo toys, Vegemite and eucalyptus sprigs.
Sam Brain has just arrived from London after two years away from her friends and family. Her school friend, Emma, was there to greet her with a tearful hug. Sam is planning to surprise her mother later on today – who doesn’t know she’s made the visit.
“It’s been an amazing experience coming back, quite overwhelming with everyone here”, she says. “And a DJ. The whole process getting here was so worrying … but I’ve made it.
“My mum has to idea, she’s going to have a heart attack.”
Rishm Singh arrived from Toronto this morning with her children, and couldn’t wait to spend long-awaited time with her family.
“I was feeling a lot of anticipation – are we going to make it?” she said.
“But we have, and I feel so grateful … the past two years were horrendous, heart wrenching.”
Prime minister Scott Morrison says the government is using diplomatic channels to call for an investigation into the lasering of an Australian military aircraft by a Chinese warship.
Morrison said China needed to explain how such a dangerous act could be undertaken by “what is supposed to be a professional defence force”.
“This is a dangerous and reckless act and worse, it can be seen as an act of intimidation and bullying,” he told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday.
The aircraft was in Australia’s exclusive economic zone in the Arafura Sea off the country’s Top End.
“Could you imagine if that had been an Australian frigate up in the Taiwan Strait and they were pointing lasers at Chinese surveillance aircraft?” the prime minister said.
“Could you imagine the reaction to that in Beijing?”
The action came after a week of Labor and the Coalition arguing over national security, with the PM hoping to paint Labor as soft on China to win votes.
My colleague Caitlin Cassidy is at the airport this morning. This is the scene greeting international arrivals.
Good morning everyone, this is Cait Kelly. We have a lot happening this morning, so let’s get into it.
The first international tourists in two years have touched down at Sydney international airport this morning, greeted by jubilant well-wishers waving Tim Tams, jars of Vegemite and stuffed koalas.
Federal tourism minister Dan Tehan was there to welcome the first arrivals, who all need to be at least double vaccinated to enter.
“What wonderful, wonderful news for our tourism industry and the 660,000 people employed in it,” Tehan told the Nine Network.
Meanwhile, thousands of NSW commuters have been left stranded after all Sydney train services were cancelled due to industrial action.
Sydney Trains CEO Matt Longland says commuters are in for “a very difficult” morning and urged people to avoid trains.
The Italian ambassador to Australia, Francesca Tardioli, 56, has died after falling from a balcony in her hometown in Foligno in the Umbria region. The incident is being investigated by the police in Italy.
And power company AGL Energy is the target of an $8bn takeover bid from Australian tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes and Canadian investment firm Brookfield.
The offer promises to get AGL out of coal in just a decade.
– With Australian Associated Press