The day that was, Tuesday 7 June
That’s where we will wrap the blog on another busy day.
Here’s what made the news today:
- The Reserve Bank of Australia hiked the official cash rate higher than expected, raising it by 50 basis points to 0.85% in a bid to curb inflation.
- The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, described the decision as “difficult” news for homeowners, while warning that inflation will get worse before it gets better.
- New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, is due to visit Sydney later this week as the first foreign leader to visit since the change of government.
- The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and his ministerial and business delegations have wrapped up their two-day visit to Indonesia.
- China has defended its military pilots, saying they acted properly and were protecting its sovereignty, after complaints by Canada and Australia that Chinese planes engaged in risky manoeuvres with their aircraft over the Pacific.
- The Australia-Britain Free Trade Agreement is due to be passed through parliament when it resumes, and will likely come into effect by the end of the year or early 2023.
- There were 29 reported Covid-19 deaths across Australia.
Until tomorrow, I hope you keep warm.
A bit more on the RBA’s “jumbo hike” as I see one news wire referring to the 50 basis point surprise this afternoon, or the “shock and awe” rate rise as economist (and former journalist) David Bassanese dubbed it.
As economists had been tipping a 25-40bp increase, the bigger move has them scrambling to reassess where they think rates will be by the year’s end.
The CBA, the biggest bank, now expects the RBA to hike by another 50bp in July, and then 25bp for each of the meetings in August, September and November (why not October)? That would leave the cash rate at 2.1% by the year’s end, “a level we consider to significantly contractionary”, the CBA said. The brakes, in other words, will be on.
Westpac, too, is now expecting another half-point rise in July, taking the cash rate to 1.35%.
“Having eliminated the emergency policy settings of 2020 at today’s meeting the next move would be to take back the 75 basis points of cuts we saw in 2019 when the Bank was frustrated at the consistently low inflation prints,” Westpac said. “Recall that the cash rate entered 2019 at 1.5%.”
ANZ is slightly less hawkish. “August seems more likely than July [for a 50bp increase], coming as it does after the June Quarter CPI data and a couple more employment reports,” the bank’s economists said.
“As such, we think the RBA will hike by 25bp in July and then deliver a 50bp increase in August,” they said. They expect the RBA to get the cash rate to around the bottom of the 2-3% range for its neutral cash rate by the end of the year.
A few busy months ahead for the RBA and various ministers and their shadows.
Two public servants in Tasmania have been stood down in the space of two days over contemporary child sexual abuse allegations, AAP reports.
The suspension of the workers, both from the state’s north, was disclosed by the state government on Monday and Tuesday as part of routine reporting.
Tasmania is holding a commission of inquiry into state government responses to allegations of child sexual abuse in the public service.
During two weeks’ of public hearings last month, survivors told of complaints falling on deaf ears and alleged perpetrators being moved to different schools.
The inquiry, set to hold further hearings and produce a final report by May, was announced in 2020 after child abuse accusations were made against nurse James Geoffrey Griffin and staff at Ashley Youth Detention Centre.
Since October 2020, 32 state service employees have been stood down over child sexual abuse allegations.
Six have returned to work after being cleared after state government code of conduct investigations.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has just wrapped up his two-day visit to Indonesia, and is on his way back to Australia.
National Covid summary
Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 29 deaths from Covid-19:
- Deaths: 2
- Cases: 722
- In hospital: 92 (with 1 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 8
- Cases: 6,385
- In hospital: 1,307 (with 36 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 222
- In hospital: 12 (with no people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 5,314
- In hospital: 316 (with 4 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 5
- Cases: 2,715
- In hospital: 234 (with 7 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 776
- In hospital: 39 (with no people in ICU)
- Deaths: 12
- Cases: 9,181
- In hospital: 514 (with 24 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 2
- Cases: 5,787
- In hospital: 290 (with 15 people in ICU)
66-year-old Queenslander charged with impersonating commonwealth official over fake conspiracy video
The Australian Federal Police say a 66-year-old Queensland man has been charged as part of an investigation into a fake video that circulated on social media last year, where a man claiming to be AFP commissioner Reece Kershaw planned to overthrow the federal government.
The video went viral in online conspiracy groups in August last year.
In the recording, a man claiming to be Kershaw says he had been approached by groups including the army about an intention to “bear arms on the government”, and how the governor general, David Hurley, would be removed and replaced by a former political candidate.
The Queensland man was arrested and charged in Cooktown today by Queensland Police, and police allege the man took delivery of 500 counterfeit AFP badges from China – 470 have since been recovered.
AFP’s assistant commissioner, Scott Lee, said the AFP was continuing to investigate this matter:
While there is no evidence the group had the ability to carry out any specific violent acts, the AFP and its partners take all threats of this nature seriously, and we have not hesitated to bring people before the courts to answer for their alleged criminal acts. The AFP will continue to work with our partners to keep the Australian community safe.
The man has been charged with impersonation of a commonwealth public official and over the prohibited imports. The maximum penalty for these offences is two years’ imprisonment.
Chris Bowen to meet state energy ministers tomorrow
With the dust still settling on the RBA rate rise jolt, it’s worth looking at the energy markets ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s virtual meeting of energy ministers – the first since Chris Bowen took over as climate and energy minister about a week ago.
Bowen’s arrival in the job coincided with the Australian Energy Market Operator (Aemo) introducing price caps on some gas markets after a gas retailer, Weston Energy, exited abruptly at the end of May.
Signs of gas shortages amid a cold snap contributed to wholesale power prices rising above $1000 a megawatt hour in some states during at least one evening. They averaged $87 a MW/H during the March quarter.
As of a few minutes ago, prices were ranging from $200-plus in Tasmania to $540 in Queensland. For a little while, Aemo also had an alert for a second-level “lack of reserve” for NSW on Thursday (they do look forward), but that was cancelled once extra generation capacity was tapped.
It seems that Wednesday’s energy ministers meeting from 4pm AEST will mostly involve update briefings from market regulators, including how longer-term projects are faring, such as the potential for introducing a market to pay for reserve capacity. (The wrangle is whether to limit such capacity payments to new entrants rather than coal plants that might be so easily brought out of mothballs in a pinch.)
About a quarter of coal-fired power plants are offline at the moment, meaning the shortfall from brown coal, hydro, sun and wind energy has to be mostly made up by expensive (and scarce) gas.
AGL’s Liddell coal plant in the Hunter valley is one example. At the start of April, it shut one of its 420Mw units down with the aim to run the remains three until the plant’s complete closure next April (right after the state elections, handily). Another unit, though, has also stopped generating.
“Unit 4 at AGL’s Liddell power station was taken out of service three weeks ago due to a malfunction with a generator transformer,” a spokesperson said. “We’ve completed an investigation into the issue, and we’ve arranged for an on-site replacement transformer. The unit is expected to return to service in the second half of July.”
It’s understood extending Liddell’s operations is not part of anybody’s plans.
China warns Australia to stop ‘provocations’ or face ‘serious consequences’
China warns Australia to stop ‘provocations’ or face ‘serious consequences’
Tan Kefei, a spokesperson for the Chinese ministry of national defense, made the remarks after an Australian P-8A ASW aircraft repeatedly approached Chinese airspace in the Xisha Islands for close-in recon on 26 May.
Chinese military identified and verified the Australian aircraft and warned it to leave, Tan said.
The Australian aircraft seriously threatened China’s sovereignty and security, said Tan, adding that the Chinese military’s response was professional, safe, reasonable and legal.
UK-Aus FTA to be signed soon, high commissioner says
The Australia-Britain Free Trade Agreement is due to be passed through parliament when it resumes, and will likely come into effect by the end of the year or early 2023, AAP reports.
The British high commissioner to Australia, Vicki Treadell, has met with the new trade minister, Don Farrell, to discuss the deal, which was signed virtually in December.
The commissioner says the process will be concluded when the 47th parliament begins on 26 July.
“The trade deal is done and dusted. It’s signed, so it’s going through parliamentary processes because free trade agreements are international treaties and have to be legislated,” Treadell said.
“That’s gone very well so far. We very much look forward to the Free Trade Agreement coming into effect at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.”
Opposition: Labor spending will ‘stimulate extra inflation’
After Chalmers is the shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, who is once again arguing for tighter government spending.
He claims the $20bn transmission rewiring project would add to inflation and suggests it should get a cost-benefit analysis done:
It will be a total of $80bn including private sector investment that’s not recommitted. I’m using that as an illustration [of] spending that Labor committed to off-budget that will stimulate extra inflation and higher interest rates. That’s not what we need.
Why there was a $100bn improvement in the budget position in the lead-up to the election? Because we understood well we needed to reduce inflationary pressures and, most importantly, on interest rates.
He also says the childcare spend for people on higher incomes is not needed.
When asked whether the stage three tax cuts should still go ahead, Taylor says the Coalition believes in “aspiration”, and says it will be important “to open the economy up”.
Chalmers: ‘We can’t flick a switch’ and make the energy market better, ‘but we’re working around the clock’
On energy prices, Chalmers says there has been a decade of “policy chaos” under the former government, and the government will now seek to “inject resilience and certainty” into the energy market.
Asked about the 25% of the market being offline at the moment, he said there’s no easy way to flick a switch and turn it back on.
It’s a big part of the problem. Some of the outages are planned maintenance and some unplanned around weather and other events. One of the things that [the] ACCC will be able to advise us [on] is the role and the impact of those shutdowns on the energy price.
There [are] a whole range of levers already available to the regulators. We saw the market operator, for example, impose a price cap and guarantee in the gas market in particular. Those are really important levers.
One of the reasons why Chris Bowen is sitting down with state and territory ministers tomorrow is because a lot of the powers exist at the state level. We will discuss with the states and territories their powers, get advice from the ACCC on additional regulatory influences that we may want to bring to bear on the market.
But unfortunately, there’s a perfect storm of events, there’s the outages, there’s Russia/Ukraine obviously, there’s been flooding. There’s issues around the response to the weather that we’ve got at the moment. All these things together have created this perfect storm. You can’t just flick a switch and make it better again but we are working around the clock.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is on ABC News, and says inflation is much more of a challenge than it appeared at the time of the last budget under the former government.
This inflation challenge looks more difficult than the government said at the time of the last budget. We have high and rising inflation, rising interest rates, falling real wages and our ability to deal with some of these challenges is constrained by the fact that the budget is absolutely heaving with the trillion dollars of Liberal debt. Those are the challenges before us.
We have some things going for us at the same time but serious choppy waters to navigate first.
He says it will be important to boost the economy without adding to inflation:
The responsibility for the government – and one we take seriously and you will see this in October when I hand down the budget – is to make sure every dollar is ... investing in getting an economic dividend.
One way to grow the economy without adding to inflationary pressures is to make sure that the economy has more capacity, whether it’s skills and human capital, making it easier for parents to return to work to earn more and work more ... by making childcare more affordable, whether it’s investing in the care economy, or advanced manufacturing, these are the ways that we boost the capacity of the economy so it can grow without adding to the inflationary pressures and how we get real wages moving by boosting productivity so we can have wages’ growth without inflation.
Washington Post: Portion of Cambodian naval base will host Chinese military presence
Just a bit more on the Cambodia report, China’s government is allegedly involved in the construction of a naval base in Cambodia for the exclusive use of the Chinese military, according to reports in the Washington Post.
China’s involvement in the construction work on the base is known, but plans to allow a military presence has been strongly denied by both the Chinese and Cambodian governments.
Citing unnamed Western and Chinese officials, the Washington Post said on Tuesday the base will host a Chinese military presence in its northern section.
It said a Beijing official confirmed a “portion” of the base would be used by the Chinese military but denied it would be exclusively so. The official said the area would also be used by scientists, and that China was not involved in any activities on the Cambodian portion of the base.
Albanese: prospect of Chinese naval base in Cambodia ‘concerning’
The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, who was visiting Indonesia on Tuesday, said he was concerned about reports of a planned Chinese naval base in Cambodia and called on the Chinese government to be open about its intentions.
“This is concerning,” Albanese told reporters in Makassar, when asked about the prospect of a Chinese naval base within the northern portion of Cambodia’s Ream naval base.
“We are in regular contact with the Cambodian government and we have been consistently assured that no foreign military will be granted exclusive access at Ream.
“We’ve been aware of Beijing’s activity at Ream for some time. We encourage Beijing to be transparent about its intent and to ensure that its activities support regional security and stability.”
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor says Labor should reduce spending to contain inflation
The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, says in response to the rates rise that government needs to reduce spending to contain inflation.
He says the new Labor government has committed to $45bn in off-budget spending and $18bn in on-budget spending. He says this is “unnecessary” spending that will fuel inflation.
He calls for questions but there were none, and so the press conference ends after a very short time.
CoreLogic and Westpac react to rate rise
Tim Lawless, the research director for property group CoreLogic, says the back-to-back monthly rate rises of a combined 75 basis points will add about $200 per month for a $500,000 loan compared with April.
Concerns about higher borrowing costs have already taken some of the steam out of property markets, with “dwelling sales” down almost one-fifth in the three months to the end of May.
Where might you benefit from the higher rates? Well if you’re planning an overseas holiday, your dollar probably got a bit stronger against most currencies, including the US dollar (as noted in an earlier post).
“By opting for the least-forecast choice of hike, a long way north of market pricing, the RBA delivered a jolt of energy to the Aussie [dollar], which jumped from 0.7185 [US cents] to a high of 0.7249 before consolidating around 0.7200/20 in the initial response,” Westpac said in a briefing note. “The bold move should reverberate for some time.”
In case you missed here, here is the main article on the move:
Ardern: Australia is ‘like family’
Just circling back to the earlier announcement of New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern visiting Australia later this week.
Ardern described the countries as being “like family” with many shared values.
Australia is our closest international relationship and it is traditional to meet the incoming prime minister as soon as possible after their election.
The pair will meet for dinner on Thursday evening, before attending a formal bilateral meeting on Friday.
Top of the agenda will include developments in the region, climate change, the Pacific, Australia’s controversial ‘501’ deportation policy and the rights of New Zealanders in Australia, Ardern said.
We are fortunate to be close neighbours who share common values, history, personal connections, and business relationships....This meeting also comes at an important moment in our reconnecting programme, as for New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses alike, Australia is a source of prosperity, labour, tourism, innovation, science and knowledge.
Asked if he thinks there is deliberate manipulation of the energy market by coal and gas suppliers, Chalmers says this is why he asked the ACCC to dial up its monitoring of the prices in the market.
We want to make sure that there is nothing dodgy going on in energy markets [in] a time where there is an extreme volatility, which is absolutely punishing industry and punishing ordinary households as well. We want to make sure the markets are operating effectively in a competitive way ... [which is what] the ACCC is responsible for.
Chalmers: previous government treated the budget as a ‘giant political slush fund’
Chalmers says the budget and the government’s economic plan will be about addressing the economic challenges, without adding to inflationary pressures.
Budgets should always recognise and respond to and reflect the precise combination of economic challenges that exist at the time.
The best thing that we can do as a government is to make sure that we grow the economy without adding these inflationary pressures, that we get real wages moving again and that we actually have something to show for this trillion dollars in debt that our predecessors have racked up, because what really matters here when it comes to the level of government spending – in the context of high and rising inflation – is not just the management of government spending but the quality of that spending as well.
Our economic plan is all about growing the economy without adding those pressures.
He says he and the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, have been going through the budget line by line “auditing rorts and waste” and “for too long now, the best part of a decade, our predecessors have treated the budget as a giant political slush fund”.
Chalmers on the effect of the rate rise on government debt
Chalmers says he will provide an update on how the government paying down the debt will be made harder by the rates rise:
Our commonwealth budget has a combination of different dates for the way that money has been borrowed, and so that combination matters when it comes to servicing costs.
But when you think about the fact that it was already costing around $20 billion a year, give or take, to service that debt we have inherited, part of it will be impacted by these rising interest rates. I will talk more about that when I update the parliament at the end of July or soon after that.
Treasurer speaks about rate rise
And now we switch to the treasurer, Jim Chalmers.
He says Australians expected higher interest rates today, but that doesn’t make the news any easier:
For an average mortgage of $330,000 remaining, it’s about $87 a month that Australian homeowners will have to find. For an average new mortgage, it’s almost twice that, at about $157 a month.
He says in addition to the cost of living pressure, inflation will also make it harder for the Australian government to pay down the trillion-dollar debt left by the previous government.
We do have some things going for us in the labour market and in terms of relatively strong household demand.
We have an incredibly difficult challenge of combinations. High and rising inflation, rising interest rates, falling real wages at a time when our ability to respond to these challenges is constrained by the fact that the budget is absolutely heaving with Liberal debt.
He says in the October budget there will be a “cost of living package” aimed at getting long-term downward pressure on energy prices and real wage increases.
He says he will speak to the parliament when it returns (in July) about the challenges ahead.
While we are waiting for the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, to front a press conference about the RBA’s rates decision, the prime minister Anthony Albanese is also having a press conference in Indonesia. He says he won’t comment on domestic matters while overseas, when asked about the rates rise.
RBA statement hints at more rate rises to come
The RBA statement accompanying the second RBA surprise in as many months (the first increase last month was also bigger than economists had been tipping) has a few interesting aspects.
“The Board expects to take further steps in the process of normalising monetary conditions in Australia over the months ahead,” Philip Lowe, the governor, said, as a pointer to more rate rises to come.
“The Board is committed to doing what is necessary to ensure that inflation in Australia returns to target over time,” he concluded. In March, the underlying inflation rate came in at 3.7%, outside the 2-3% band that the bank targets.
This figure is also the one the Fair Work Commission will be looking at, rather than the more alarming headline consumer price index that was 5.1% in May, and heading towards 6%, perhaps far higher.
And what is the expected impact on the property market and mortgage holders?
“Housing prices have declined in some markets over recent months but remain more than 25% higher than prior to the pandemic, supporting household wealth and spending,” Lowe said.
The RBA is relying on the fact the household saving rate remains higher than it was before the pandemic, so they can draw down a bit, while “many households have built up large financial buffers”.
“While the central scenario is for strong household consumption growth this year, the Board will be paying close attention to these various influences on consumption as it assesses the appropriate setting of monetary policy,” it said.
Earlier today, as it happens, we saw the latest evidence that consumers are pulling back.
The ANZ and Roy-Morgan’s latest weekly survey found sentiment has dropped another 4% to the lowest level in about 22 months, or roughly during the first Covid wave.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, responds to the rate rise new – the first rate rise under the new Labor government.
Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe said re the decision to raise rates:
Inflation in Australia has increased significantly. While inflation is lower than in most other advanced economies, it is higher than earlier expected.
Inflation is expected to increase further, but then decline back towards the 2–3% range next year. Higher prices for electricity and gas and recent increases in petrol prices mean that, in the near term, inflation is likely to be higher than was expected a month ago.
RBA raises official interest rate
The Reserve Bank has raised its official interest rate by the most in 22 years as the country’s central bank tries to quash inflation before it gets out of control.
The RBA board at its regular monthly meeting has just announced it has lifted its cash rate target 50 basis points to 0.85%. Economists were mostly split between predicting a 25bp or 40bp increase, according to Bloomberg.
Jacinda Ardern to visit Sydney this week
New Zealand’s leader, Jacinda Ardern, will visit Sydney this week for meetings with Australian prime minister Anthony Albanese – his first foreign visitor since winning the election last month.
NZ media reported that Ardern would travel to Sydney on Thursday, along with her finance minister, to meet Albanese and the treasurer, Jim Chalmers. Albanese’s office confirmed the visit to Guardian Australia and said a statement would be issued shortly, with the Australian PM currently visiting Indonesia.
“We are fortunate to be close neighbours who share common values, history, personal connections, and business relationships,” Ardern said, according to NewsHub.
“This meeting also comes at an important moment in our reconnecting programme, as for New Zealanders and New Zealand businesses alike, Australia is a source of prosperity, labour, tourism, innovation, science and knowledge.”
Ardern’s statement said the trans-Tasman countries would “continue to cooperate closely in a world of increasing challenges”. NewsHub said the NZ PM expected to discuss “developments in our region” with Albanese, including climate change, the US’ Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Aukus, and the upcoming Pacific Islands Forum.
Albanese speaks on renewable energy opportunities with Indonesia
Albanese then speaks about the government’s plan to rewire the energy grid. He says it will ensure that renewables account for 82% of the national energy market by 2030.
He says he wants to see clean energy available and affordable across the region “as we move forward to a net zero world together”
That is why my government will expand our cooperation with Indonesia on climate change, including through our commitment to establish a new climate and infrastructure partnership. We [will] work with Jakarta to build a resilient clean energy sector and unlock green trade and investment opportunities.
Because both of our countries recognise climate change is not only a problem to be solved, but presents opportunities to us, to embrace opportunities, particularly to benefit the younger generations who I see at this university today.
Albanese press conference in Indonesia
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking in Makassar, Indonesia.
He gets cheers after saying it is his eighth visit to Indonesia.
He speaks about how much the bike ride and meeting with president Joko Widodo meant yesterday:
I have been out cycling with your president, you might have seen. I was both honoured and touched that the president suggested a bike ride through the palace gardens. It was such an enjoyable way to see the magnificent grounds there、 but it was also a great pleasure to engage with the president in such a personal one-on-one way yesterday. And it will be a memory that I cherish for the rest of my life.
He is now speaking about the close ties between Australia and Indonesia, and the long relationship between the Makassan seafarers and First Nations people of Australia, built around trade.
He mentions he is proud his ministry has for the first time, two Muslim Australians, Ed Husic and Ann Aly.
Both of them held the Koran as they were sworn in as ministers last week, both elected to parliament from diverse communities, one in Sydney in Ed’s case and in and Ann’s case, Perth.
An important point to make here about the nature of Australian society is that for both of them, the Muslim population in their electorate is a very small majority ... I take this as really heartening confirmation that we are mature ... as a nation.
This is the enduring value of Australian multiculturalism and the great spectrum of Australia’s religious and cultural diversity.
And with that I will leave the blog in the steady hands of Josh Taylor for the rest of the day. Thanks for reading.
While coverage of the PM’s trip to Indonesia has been extensive, I can guarantee that you have not yet seen the best of it yet.
That would come in the form of an edited video posted to Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s Twitter, where Albanese’s visit is cut together like an action film. Worth a watch:
Labor's Andrew Leigh declares war on charities 'ended on 21 May'
Labor’s charities minister, Andrew Leigh, has addressed an Australian Progress conference, and declared the “nine-year war on charities” over.
Leigh said the Labor government will work towards “doubling philanthropy” and reforming “outdated” laws:
Charities will no longer suffer attacks on their ability to advocate for the most vulnerable people in our community.
Australia faces a social capital crisis. Rates of joining, volunteering and participating have declined.
To create a reconnected Australia, we need to work with charities. Our goal is to strengthen the social fabric and build resilient communities.
We have set an ambitious goal to double philanthropy by 2030, to reform outdated fundraising laws, and to build the sector.
Albanese says Australia has 'sophisticated relationship' with Indonesia
As Albanese touched down, he had time for one question, and said his main message for his trip was a recognition of Indonesia’s vast diversity and “opportunity.”
It’s a sophisticated relationship. We had a very successful visit in Jakarta and a wonderful warm welcome from president Widodo. And the Indonesian government were very pleased when I made a request to visit Makassar.
I wanted to make sure that we send a message as well that we understand that this vast country is one that’s diverse, one that is a land of opportunity. It will grow into the future.
Makassar has a great future as part of Indonesia’s growth, which will see it grow to one of the top five economies in the world in coming years. Thank you very much.
Albanese touches down in Makassar
Dressed in traditional garb, prime minister Anthony Albanese has touched down in Makassar, giving a quick presser and emphasising that Indonesia is more than its major cities.
This is the first visit from any Australian prime minister to Makassar. Makassar is an important financial centre.
The largest city in [eastern Indonesia] and the visit here is to signify as well that the Australian government understands that Indonesia is such a vast country and that we need to reach out.
There are opportunities for Australian business and investment here in Indonesia.
Albanese will be visiting the second largest flour mill in the country, as well as local businesses and a university.
Sally McManus speaks on Fair Work Commission’s upcoming minimum wage decision
The Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary, Sally McManus, has addressed the media in Canberra about the Fair Work Commission’s minimum wage decision, expected in the next week.
McManus said there was “no doubt” that inflation will be headed higher than 5.1%, and given productivity is already greater than 1%, the unions’ claim for a 5.5% minimum wage rise will not be inflationary.
The ACTU secretary said calls for the pay rise to be delayed by three to six months in some industries were “disturbing” and questioned the morality of some employers groups advocating for that action, arguing this had been done as an emergency measure during the pandemic and lockdowns, but should not occur this year.
McManus welcomed the Labor government’s submission that low-paid workers should get pay rises that keep pace with inflation, but argued all one-in-four workers who rely on the FWC decision for a pay rise are low-paid, even though only 2% are on the national minimum of $20.33 per hour. McManus said many of the rest are in sectors like hospitality, retail or aged care where the minimum is little better at about $22 per hour.
She also said unions are happy to work with the new government and employers to address low wage growth at the employment summit, but suggested some “urgent legislation” could be passed before then – such as inclusion of family and domestic violence leave in the national employment standards.
McManus also called on Labor to do something about the “shockingly stacked” Fair Work Commission, “including the minimum wage panel”.
The comments follow the ACTU’s call to discipline one of the expert members of the panel for comments criticising Labor’s wages policy.
Western Sydney University staff are on strike today
Staff at Western Sydney University are striking today, demanding a fair pay rise and better job security.
The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) had previously described a 2% pa increase currently offered by the university as “pitiful”, especially as cost of living continues to rise.
NTEU NSW secretary Dr Damien Cahill told the ABC the union would also push management to covert casual staff into secure contracts.
We were on the cusp of an agreement that would deliver mass conversion of casual work into secure jobs, with good conditions.
But management now says if we want this, staff need to accept a pay rise well below inflation.
Good afternoon, and a quick thanks to Caitlin Cassidy for her stellar work this morning. Mostafa Rachwani with you for a bit this afternoon, on standby for that RBA announcement.
With that, I will pass you on to the excellent Mostafa Rachwani who will keep you covered for the rest of the day, including the RBA interest rates decision, due to land at 2.30pm, and all the latest updates from Indonesia.
SA records five deaths, 2,715 new Covid cases
The South Australian government has also released its daily Covid update.
There have been 2,715 new Covid cases detected and five deaths.
There are 234 people in hospital with the virus, including seven people in ICU.
WA records two deaths, 5,787 new Covid cases
Western Australia’s premier Mark McGowan has released the state’s daily Covid update.
There have been 5,787 new cases reported and two further deaths, reported to WA Health yesterday but dating back to previous days.
There are 290 people being treated in hospital with the virus including 15 people in ICU.
China defends actions of its military pilots
China has defended its military pilots, saying they acted properly and were protecting its sovereignty, Associate Press reports. This follows complaints by Canada and Australia that Chinese planes engaged in risky manoeuvres with their aircraft over the Pacific.
Defence ministry spokesperson Wu Qian said China “swiftly took reasonable, forceful and professional measures in response to Canada’s provocative acts and unfriendly and unprofessional operations”.
Last week the Canadian military accused Chinese planes of not following international safety norms on several occasions and putting a Canadian crew at risk. A 1 June statement said the Chinese planes had tried to divert a Canadian long-range patrol aircraft from its path, and that the crew had to change direction quickly to avoid a potential collision.
The Canadian plane was deployed to join other countries in watching for fuel transfers between ships at sea that could be helping North Korea evade UN sanctions over its missile and nuclear tests.
Chinese ships are suspected of taking part in the transfers. The US and Japan have also taken part in the surveillance.
Wu said Canada would bear responsibility for any serious consequences from what he called its risky and provocative acts.
In a separate incident, a Chinese J-16 accelerated and cut in front of the Australian plane, releasing chaff with small bits of aluminium that was sucked into the latter’s engine, defence minister Richard Marles said.
China’s defence ministry has not commented on the incident.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the Chinese military always conducts operations based on international law and practice and in a safe and professional manner:
We urge Australia to respect China’s national security interests and major concerns, and to be cautious with its words and deeds so as to avoid a miscalculation that could cause serious consequences.
Zhao said China would not allow any country to violate its sovereignty in the name of freedom of navigation.
NT records 222 new Covid cases
The Northern Territory has recorded 222 new Covid cases in the 24 hours to 8pm last night.
There were 97 cases recorded in the top end region, 58 in central Australia, five in Eeast Arnhem, 20 in the big rivers region, one in the Barkly region and 41 are under investigation.
There are 12 people being treated in hospital with the virus; none are in ICU.
Queensland high school students to get free tampons and pads
All Queensland state high school students will get free period products such as tampons and sanitary pads from next year, AAP reports.
The state government has been trialling vending machines dispensing period packs, containing six tampons and two sanitary pads, in 53 state schools, five Catholic schools and four independent schools.
The machines, provided by charity Sharing the Dignity, were set to be installed in another 58 schools in the second half of this year.
State premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the machines will be installed in all 276 state high schools in Queensland as part of this year’s budget:
Access to free period products can make a real difference to children, especially students whose families are doing it tough, have unstable accommodation or are fleeing domestic and family violence.
Access to period products should never be a barrier to learning.
The pre-budget announcement comes a day after treasurer Cameron Dick revealed taxes on bets taken by gambling companies will be lifted to 20%.
The point of consumption tax on wagering companies will rise from 15% to 20% and be broadened to include free and bonus bets.
Much of the east coast has been struck with some wintry weather this June. But in Bradshaw, the second highest temperature on record was recorded on Sunday.
Queensland records 4,288 new Covid cases
Queensland Health has released today’s Covid update. There have been 4,288 new cases reported and no deaths.
There are 316 people being treated in hospital with the virus, including four people in ICU.
Makassar's long history of trade with Indigenous Australians
A little bit has been made in the media about prime minister Anthony Albanese’s visit to Indonesia being more than just about Bali and Jakarta.
The side trip to Makassar on the island of Sulawesi is a place probably few Australians have heard about, but hopefully that will change after today. Sure, there is a new consul being opened up there but I bet Albanese will acknowledge a longstanding relationship between that region and northern Australia.
A few years ago (in another guise) I was lucky to visit the Yolngu people of Arnhem Land and gleaned a bit about the history of land theft as pastoralists invaded. Without the missionaries present, more people would have been murdered, with one-sided clashes lasting into the 1900s.
Anyway, the link with Makassar is that probably for centuries, people from that region sailed their perahus each year to Arnhem Land to collect sea cucumbers, or trepang, to on-trade to China.
Rather than just take the trepang and going, the sailors saw it as an exchange, and provided various goods – fish hooks and line, and other implements – that ended up in central Australia or beyond, again through trade. (Words for money and the Dutch “Belanda” were also picked up.)
The amicable relations even extended to some Yolngu living in Sulawesi, something I’m betting the PM will highlight today. Perhaps he will meet some descendants of those who were stranded.
As for what happened to the trade, historian Richard Trudgen has detailed how the British put a stop to it. The South Australian government, which ran Northern Territory from Adelaide, banned it in 1906.
As I understand it, trade was already in decline because the British insisted the Macassans first got permission in Darwin for the trade. It required a diversion that was not favoured by the seasonal trade winds.
So, here’s betting today’s speech contains a bit of reflection, and perhaps a bit of an apology from the PM. Yes, there are new chapters of history to be written but it wouldn’t hurt if Australians became more acquainted with existing ones.
In Victoria, the Greens are pushing for mask-wearing to return to the public’s psyche in response to the continued spread of Covid-19.
Drowning deaths of older Australians
Twenty per cent of drowning deaths of older Australians happen after an unexpected fall into water, AAP reports.
A decade-long study by Royal Life Saving scrutinised almost 600 drowning deaths over a 10-year period of people aged 65 and older.
It highlights the need for older Australians to be vigilant around water and notes that in almost a quarter of cases, the person who drowned had impaired mobility.
It found 89% of drownings involved a pre-existing medical condition, mainly cardiovascular disease (72%) and dementia (22%).
In the vast majority of cases, the person who drowned after falling into the water did so while at home or close to home.
Royal Life Saving researcher Alison Mahony said the data highlighted the need for older Australians to be careful around water at all times, rather than just when they went swimming or boating.
Of the 116 deaths where people fell into water, around a third drowned in a swimming pool and a further third drowned in a river or creek:
Pre-existing medical conditions, medication use, impaired mobility and use of mobility aids, history of falls and environmental hazards all contributed to falls.
In almost a quarter of cases, the person who drowned was known to have impaired mobility. In some cases, this presented as episodes of dizziness or light-headedness.
In 19% of cases an environmental hazard such as steep or slippery surfaces, poor lighting and trip hazards were present.
The largest number of deaths occurred in NSW (47%), followed by Queensland (22%).
Update from Indonesia:
Tasmania records 776 new Covid cases
Tasmania has recorded 776 new Covid cases and no further deaths. There are 39 people being treated in hospital with the virus, none of them in ICU.
Consumer confidence takes a hammering
Before what’s expected to be another RBA rate rise this afternoon – the first back-to-back increase in 12 years – there are more signs of wilting consumer confidence in the economy.
The ANZ and Roy-Morgan’s latest weekly survey finds sentiment has dropped a further 4% to the lowest level in about 22 months, or roughly during the first Covid wave.
All the five confidence subindices registered losses and sentiment dimmed in all states but South Australia. NSW (where there’s a budget next week) and Queensland posted the biggest falls.
David Plank, ANZ’s head of Australian economics, said the confidence drop was “most likely on cost-of-living concerns as inflation expectations rose to 5.7%, its highest weekly reading since early April:
Consumers are especially pessimistic about the current economic outlook and their current financial circumstances.
Confidence dropped a similar amount for both consumers paying off their home loan as well as for those who own their home: 6.2% and 6.5%, respectively.
And it will be inflation expectations that the RBA will be monitoring like an eagle as a guide to how many times it will have to lift rates.
Investors, though, have their own ideas, and they are consistently pushing for steady rises well into next year (they have pencilled in some for January even though the RBA’s board by convention takes a break then):
Some of the key themes are covered here, in case you missed it:
Australia open to high-level talks with China
Speaking of Richard Marles, the Australian government has left the door open for high-level dialogue with China as the deputy prime minister prepares to head to Singapore for a defence summit, AAP reports.
Marles says while a request for a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Shangri La Dialogue at the end of the week hasn’t been received, Australia remains open to discussions.
It comes after Marles yesterday said he would not be seeking a meeting with his Chinese counterpart at the summit, leading to some confusion about whether Australia would reject any olive branches offered by Beijing. A spokesperson from his office said:
Deputy prime minister Marles said he has not received a formal invitation to meet with his counterpart at the Shangri La Dialogue. The Australian government has said that it welcomes the opportunity to resume ministerial dialogue with China.
China’s foreign minister told state media outlet Xinhua that Beijing will continue an “open attitude and carry out more trilateral or quadrilateral cooperation with Australia and New Zealand in the Pacific” as it tries to push a regional security deal with Pacific island nations.
Wang Yi previously said any defrosting in China and Australia’s relationship would need to be sparked by “concrete actions”.
Marles says he is hoping to organise discussions with United States defence secretary Lloyd Austin.
Austin is addressing the conference about US Indo-Pacific defence policy, while China’s minister of national defence Wei Fenghe will speak about Beijing’s vision for the Asia-Pacific.
Don’t underestimate the brutal honesty of young children, deputy prime minister.
’Ndrangheta ‘pulling the strings’ of organise crime in Australia
Ryan says “in many ways” the ’Ndrangheta are the ones “pulling the strings” of different other organised crime groups, particularly more violent groups like motorcycle gangs:
Historically the ’Ndrangheta, mafia-type organisations, were directly responsible for the violence and the intimidation. Now more so we see that it is more about their reputation and that violence, that apprehension, is borne about from the reputation of the ’Ndrangheta. When if actually comes to the actual violence on the a lot of that plays out more in terms of I guess some of the puppets they control in Australian organised crime.
AFP issues warning to Italian crime families
“Why are you doing this”, Ryan is asked, “why are you alerting them?”
We’re certainly not giving up our whole hand here.
It’s become apparent, very apparent ... that the Italians have been able to fly under the radar for many, many years. The Italians have established themselves since the early 1920s in Australia and the way that they’ve operated over the years has actually changed and they’ve been able to, in many ways, legitimise their business and their ill-gotten gains. So this is really a warning to Italian organised crime that they’re on our radar.
What we’re actually doing here is they’ve been able to operate in darkness for so long that we’re shining a light on it. The ’Ndrangheta pride themselves on the fact that they ... work in this secrecy and silence and this loyalty. We need to really draw that out because what it’s doing in terms of our society is not on. We want to attack them at the source.
‘Multimillion dollars a day are being laundered in Australia’
Ryan says this is a “warning” to Italian organised crime that “they’re on our radar”. The majority of ’Ndrangheta’s 5,000 Australian members are Australian citizens.
The AFP has started mapping familial relationships of the ’Ndrangheta in Australia, attacking finances, communications and operations.
Multimillion dollars a day are being laundered in Australia on behalf of illicit drug syndicates that try and conceal their source of wealth. Money laundering poses a significant threat to Australia’s national security as it subverts, exploits and distorts legitimate markets and economic activity. A key strategy in disrupting illicit drug trafficking involves dismantling the money laundering organisations that move and legitimise drug profits.
Unleashing this next phase will be long and challenging but the AFP is up to the challenge. And, to be frank, we need to be. If we don’t cut off the head and tail of organised crime, we face living in a very different Australia.
About 51 organised Italian crime clans operate in Australia, AFP says
Ryan says for the past 12 months, it has used intelligence to understand how transnational organised crime syndicates operate and communicate.
It is estimated about 51 organised Italian crime clans operate in Australia, at least 14 of them being ’Ndrangheta, responsible for 70% to 80% of the world’s cocaine.
These targets now include Italian organised crime, namely the ’Ndrangheta. They also include those who facilitate billions of dollars in money laundering in Australia each year. The ’Ndrangheta are not just an Australian problem. They are a global problem. They are responsible for 70% to 80% of the world’s cocaine and they are flooding Australia with illicit drugs. They are pulling the strings of Australian outlaw motorcycle gangs who are behind some of the most significant violence in our communities.
We believe we have about 51 Italian organised crime clans in Australia and to date we have confirmed at least 14 of these as being ’Ndrangheta, which we believe have thousands of members in Australia. They have been able to stay under the radar by living modest lives in modest homes. They funnel their illegitimate wealth into their legitimate construction, agricultural and catering businesses. I want to underscore that AFP targets criminal syndicates, not countries nor ethnic groups.
Operation Ironside crackdown on organised crime
Assistant AFP commissioner Nigel Ryan is providing an update on organised crime, including Italian crime and money launderers.
Ryan says over the lifetime of Operation Ironside, the AFP and domestic partners have executed 769 search warrants, charging 383 alleged offenders:
We also seized about 6.3 tonnes of illicit drugs, 147 weapons and $55.6m in cash. Outside of Australia, more than 700 alleged offenders have been charged and 65 tonnes of illicit drugs have been seized.
The AFP has developed 54 target packages for our international partners who are using this intelligence to take further action against alleged offenders in their own countries. This global takedown of organised crime was enabled because of the dedication of the AFP, the FBI and our key partners.
Melbourne based hound lovers - this one’s for you.
“Very good doggos” around inner-city Melbourne could benefit from one of eight new dog parks under consideration via a City of Melbourne proposal to double the number of off leash areas.
At a committee meeting tonight, councillors will consider designating eight new off leash areas for dogs in parks across West Melbourne, Southbank, Carlton, Dockloads, Kensington, Parkville and East Melbourne.
Dog registrations have increased by more than 20% in the past two years in Melbourne, part of a “pandemic puppy” lockdown boom.
Top dogs across the municipality include Cavoodles, Labradors and Jack Russell Terrier crosses.
Mayor Sally Capp:
With a growing population of Lunas, Buddys and Milos, we see a need to up the ante when it comes to designated spaces for pooches large and small to run free – to exercise and socialise with their friends.
PM heads to Makassar
Anthony Albanese’s visit to Indonesia continues today as he aims to solidify ties with the nation.
He is flying to Makassar, a port city and the capital of South Sulawesi, a province Indonesia’s president wants to develop. Makassar is the largest city in Indonesia’s east with a population of about 1.4 million, including a sizeable Chinese community.
Here’s the latest analysis from Katharine Murphy:
Anthony Albanese says Australia’s economic relationship with Indonesia has “struggled to keep pace” with the country’s “extraordinary economic rise” but the new government in Canberra will dig in behind emerging opportunities, including partnerships in clean energy.
Martin Foley tests positive
Victoria’s health minister has tested positive for Covid.
Victoria records 12 deaths, 9,181 new Covid cases
Victoria has released today’s Covid update. There have been 9,181 new cases detected and 12 deaths.
There are 514 people being treated in hospital with the virus, including 24 people in ICU.
NSW records eight deaths, 6,385 new Covid cases
NSW Health has released today’s Covid update. There have been 6,385 new cases detected and eight deaths.
There are 1,307 people being treated in hospital with the virus, including 36 people in ICU.
Update on NT bus crash
A man has died and eight other passengers have been injured after a tour bus rolled over in remote central Australia, AAP reports.
The bus crashed near Hermannsburg, 125km west of Alice Springs, about 3.30 yesterday afternoon.
Eight passengers were transferred to Alice Springs hospital, with four in a serious condition. The man died at the scene, Northern Territory police said.
The bus is believed to have been carrying 21 passengers, St John NT operations manager Craig Garraway said.
The injured were treated by paramedics and medical staff at a clinic in the remote Aboriginal community. Additional medical staff also travelled from Alice Springs.
The NT police major crash unit and NT WorkSafe are investigating the crash.
Hermannsburg is also known as Ntaria and has a population of about 600 people.
It’s famous for being the home of Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira and a National Trust-listed historic precinct due to its historic German-style whitewashed mission buildings dating from the 1870s.
The Australian Electoral Commission says there have been more than 300 checks of preferences so far with more to come as the vote count continues.
Up to 75 seats may need a full distribution of preferences before achieving the “mathematical certainty for a formal and legal result declaration”, double that of 2019.
Electoral commissioner Tom Rogers said while results in “almost all seats” were publicly known, counting must continue until deadline, 28 June, to declare all results.
Right, not rushed – It’s a key principle for us and despite an understandable external desire for things to be wrapped up quickly, it is a principle that maintains the strength of Australian elections. We will deliver legal, transparent and trusted results by the legislated deadline.
NSW plans toll rebate scheme to counter cost of living
Some Sydney drivers will be handed up to $750 as part of a toll rebate scheme announced by the NSW government on Tuesday.
The $520m toll relief package will see drivers who spend at least $375 in tolls a year receive a 40% rebate starting at $150.
The scheme is expected to be the cost-of-living centrepiece at the upcoming state budget.
Premier Dominic Perrottet said:
Not only is the rebate available for families across our state but also for small business.That will support our small business sector who obviously use the roads every single day as well.
The scheme will be capped at a maximum rebate of $750 a year. State opposition leader Chris Minns has already panned the plan as a “band-aid solution for a broken system”.
Julian Assange’s father urges action from new government on son’s plight
Julian Assange’s father John Shipton has said it is “clear” the new government is in a position to settle his son’s plight.
Shipton appeared on ABC News Breakfast this morning before the network’s screening of documentary Ithaka, in which he stars:
Anthony Albanese did something quite strong the other day when he indicated that this is clearly a political matter. And that was reinforced by attorney general who, when questioned, said that the matter is now a foreign affairs matter. So it’s clear that the new government understands the circumstances much more clearly and is in a position to work towards a settlement of this matter.
We do whatever we can to convince prime minister Albanese that this would bring great benefit to his government ... as I travel around Europe and the United States, often I’m asked – ‘well, what’s happened to Australia? Where is Australia? Where is the strength of Australia?’ So we’re seen as politically feeble in geopolitics, even though we are strategically one of most vital continents on the earth.
Angus Taylor urges prudent spending amid inflationary pressures
Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor appeared on News Breakfast this morning.
Asked if rising electricity prices, interest rates and petrol costs made him “reflect” on what his previous government could have done, he said Australia had traversed “global inflationary pressures ... better than most countries” but acknowledged they were “very real”.
He then appeared to suggest the government was fuelling inflationary interest rates despite being sworn in less than a fortnight ago:
Governments can play a role in avoiding fuelling those inflationary interest rates pressures. In particular, that means managing spending very, very carefully. $45bn of budget spending that Labor has committed to is not helping ... it is important that governments be prudent and careful with their spending at a time when we’ve got such strong inflationary pressures.
Taylor said a pandemic had factored into the trillion dollars in debt Labor has been left with under his government, and the spending was necessary and temporary:
We’ve seen record levels of investment in household solar, renewables more generally. The highest levels of household solar in the world. One of the highest rates of investment per capita in renewables in the world.
It’s got to be matched by dispatch-ability. That’s why gas is crucial. It’s crucial they work with the gas producers to balance the grid ... but we don’t need excessive investment because that puts upward pressure on prices. Getting the balance right is crucial. We saw a 20% reduction in emissions since 2005. But the balance must be maintained.
Australians need to brace for interest rate rise, treasurer warns
Treasurer Jim Chalmers was also up on the Today show. Asked what he was hearing about the RBA decision on interest rates today, he said “we will know more at 2.30” but it was expected there would be a rise:
I don’t have new visibility on the deliberations of the independent Reserve Bank. It is the expectation of everyone that follows that there will be an interest rate rise today and the governor flagged a number of rises ... began before the last election. I think Australian homeowners do need to brace for an interest rate rise today.
It will be difficult for a lot of people ... the impact of a rate rise on an average mortgage of $330,000 is ... about $43 a month. So people will have to find that. At the same time as they are confronting spiking prices for petrol and electricity and gas at the same time …
I don’t want to pretend to your viewers there is some kind of quick fix to this cost-of-living crisis, but we will work around the clock to do what we responsibly can do alleviate some of this pressure.
Victoria takes steps towards First Nations treaty
Victoria is set to establish an independent authority to help oversee the nation’s first treaty negotiations between a government and First Nations people.
The minister for Aboriginal affairs, Gabrielle Williams, will introduce the treaty authority bill to parliament today, after the government struck an agreement with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria, the body elected by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to help develop a treaty framework.
The authority will be an independent umpire with the legal powers necessary to facilitate treaty negotiations between the government and traditional owners, and resolve any disputes between parties.
It will sit outside government bureaucracy and will not report to a minister.
There’s no magic fix for inflation, Jason Clare says
Education minister Jason Clare appeared on the Today show this morning alongside Scott Emerson.
He acknowledged inflation was “through the roof” and it would be a tough road ahead for Australians grappling with the rising cost of living:
Inflation is through the roof. Wages are through the floor. We have got interest rates knocking at the door. The Reserve Bank ... have made it clear there will be a number of interest rate rises, which makes it harder for people with big rate rises already. Especially for people who are ahead in their mortgage, but if you have just signed up and the bank says you have to pay more, it will make it harder and harder.
There is no simple magic fix to this.
Inflation will get worse, treasurer says
With the Reserve Bank due to make a decision on interest rates today, Jim Chalmers said inflation would “get worse before it gets better” and expected rates would lift today, as was flagged by the RBA before the election:
The market expects them to increase interest rates because we have an inflation problem in the economy and rising interest rates were something that the Reserve Bank governor flagged before the election and that is the trajectory we are on, but just because these interest rate rises are expected, it won’t make them any less difficult for a lot of people who are already confronting cost-of- living pressures.
That is the unfortunate reality. There is no point mincing words about that. Our job is the government is to make sure that after some of this near-term cost-of-living relief runs out that it is replaced by responsible long-term sustainable cost-of-living relief in areas like medicines and childcare, getting power bills down over time and getting real wages moving again.
Treasurer forecasts 'difficult and expensive' winter
Jim Chalmers is up and about this morning doing the media rounds.
He also spoke about the gas trigger, while speaking to Sunrise:
[The trigger] is about making sure that we can intervene in gas markets to make enough of it here. The issue with the gas trigger, unfortunately, is even if we were to pull the trigger today, it would come into effect until the beginning of next year, so again, not a quick fix.
But there are some things we can do on pricing. The regulators have only taken some steps with some price caps and guarantees and those steps have been welcomed, and if there are further steps to take in there are further steps to take in the near term, we will take them, but the most important thing is a good long-term energy policy and that is what we will be implementing.
Chalmers acknowledged it would be a “difficult and expensive” winter despite measures the government could implement:
Unfortunately, we have a lot of outages either planned or unplanned and we have flooding which is impacting, but also some maintenance, a whole range of issues unfortunately coming out at once, so will be a difficult winter and it will be an expensive winter ... we are in the minutes of a full-blown cost-of-living crisis.
Gas trigger ‘remains on the table’
Madeleine King is asked if the federal government is still considering whether to pull the “so-called” gas trigger. This has been floating around in the media a lot, despite the fact it wouldn’t come into effect until January next year.
King says “everything remains on the table”:
We will explore it, it comes up for review and has to be renewed as a matter of law, it is about to end, that gas trigger.
We’ll be looking to see how we keep the ability to use that going and explore if it’ll help.
What I said before, the export side of this is also very important. This is an industry that only exists because of international investment that was there for those exports.
We have to be mindful of the whole story.
Coal companies ‘need to get power stations back online’, Madeleine King says
Madeleine King repeats it is the “coal companies themselves and the operators of the coal stations that need to get these power stations back online”.
Asked if Labor was prepared to step in to offer government assistance, King said she would “let them do their work”:
It wouldn’t matter how much money anyone put in right now. We just need the operators to get moving and fix their plants right now.
All indications are they are and they’re working at it right now – I will let them do that work.
King said she was insulted by accusations from the Nationals leader that she wasn’t picking up the phone and speaking to gas producers, adding it was what you would expect from a party that she said didn’t respect women:
It was very nice of David Littleproud to demean me in that fashion.
If Angus [Taylor] and David want to make stuff up they can go right ahead but it’s really ridiculous.
Resources minister on gas shortage
Resources minister Madeleine King is appearing on Radio National now.
Asked how constructive her conversations have been with major gas producers on the energy crisis hitting consumers, she replies:
All the gas producers I’ve spoken to, and there’ve been many of them, have been very productive in the conversations we’ve had.
There are other constraints within the market, it’s very difficult to get more gas from the Queensland gas producers simply because ... the pipeline is at capacity.
King says “the missing piece of the puzzle” is for coal-fired stations to get back online in the short term:
In the very short term ... we need to have the coal stations come back online because ... there’s been many outages ... I hope they’re doing their level best to make sure this power source comes back online.
King says operators “know this is what they have to do” and she’s confident “they are doing it”.
Pacific region threats
The Indo-Pacific region is “particularly vulnerable” to hybrid threats that stay below the line of conventional warfare, a new report has warned.
The report, published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, cites coercive diplomacy, cyberattacks, disinformation, foreign interference and militarisation of contested islands as examples of hybrid threats. It says hybrid threats are increasing in breadth, application and intensity across the region:
The consequences for individual nations include weakened institutions, disrupted social systems and economies, and greater vulnerability to coercion – especially from revisionist powers such as China.
The report – titled “Countering the Hydra: A proposal for an Indo-Pacific hybrid threats centre” – says hybrid threats are a mix of military and non-military, covert and overt activities by state and non-state actors that occur below the line of conventional warfare:
Their purpose is to blur the lines between war and peace, destabilise societies and governments and sow doubt and confusion among populations and decision-makers. They deliberately target democratic systems and state vulnerabilities, often leveraging legitimate processes for inimical ends, and typically aim to stay below the threshold of detection, attribution and retaliation.
They’re the same activities that the Australian Government attributes to the ‘grey zone’, involving ‘military and non-military forms of assertiveness and coercion aimed at achieving strategic goals without provoking conflict.
The report, by researchers Dr Lesley Seebeck, Emily Williams and Dr Jacob Wallis, calls for the creation of a new Indo-Pacific Hybrid Threat Centre “as a means of building broader situational awareness on hybrid threats across the region”.
The centre would be modelled on the existing Nato-EU Hybrid Centre of Excellence in Finland, but would need to adjust to reflect the differences between the European and Indo-Pacific security environments, especially the “lack of pan-regional Indo-Pacific security institutions”.
It would focus on research and analysis, engagement, information sharing and capacity building, aiming to “contribute to regional stability and the security of individual nations”.
The report was released today after the Australian government vowed to continue to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, despite what it said was a dangerous interception of an Australian surveillance plane by a Chinese military plane last month.
Fatal bus crash in NT
Police were on the scene of a bus crash in the Northern Territory last night that had claimed the life of one man and left others in hospital.
The bus crashed 5km east of Hermannsburg, a remote community west of Alice Springs, about 3.30pm yesterday.
NT police said in a statement that the NT fire and rescue service and St John ambulance also attended the crash, which was being investigated by the NT police major crash investigation unit and NT WorkSafe. The statement said:
A number of other passengers have been injured and are being treated by the local clinic and medical staff who have travelled from Alice Springs.
The ABC reported that the crash involved a tourist bus, and that about 20 people had been onboard at the time.
Feeling chilly? A marine wind warning is current in parts of every state and territory today, while sheep graziers in Victoria have been warned that cold temperatures, showers and winds may risk losses of lambs and sheep.
The weather will be frostiest in Tasmania:
But the ACT is also in for a cold day, where it now “feels like” -1.1C and will only reach a maximum of 8C.
Anthony Albanese is continuing his official visit to Indonesia today, where he has flagged new measures to ease visa restrictions for a string of Indonesian citizens including tourists and business people.
President Joko Widodo highlighted difficulties and delays for Indonesians to visit Australia, while also welcoming stronger ties with Australia on key issues including security, education, trade and climate change.
While in Indonesia, Albanese denounced an encounter in which a Chinese fighter plane forced an Australian plane into a dangerous manoeuvre. He told reporters Chinese actions were “an act of aggression and a dangerous act”.
Defence minister Richard Marles has confirmed Australian surveillance flights will continue over the South China Sea despite the encounter.
Pacific Island leaders sit down in Suva today for a meeting about regional unity. Australia is flying three Micronesian leaders there for the high-priority meeting about the future of the Pacific Islands Forum.
In Victoria, the state government will today introduce the treaty authority bill to parliament, following a historic agreement with the First Peoples’ Assembly of Victoria.
The bill will allow the authority to be established as an “independent umpire”, with legal powers overseeing negotiations between the government and First Nations Victorians.
And the Reserve Bank faces a delicate task of raising the interest rate fast enough to quell inflation today. Any rate rise would be the RBA’s first back-to-back monthly increase in 12 years.
This is Caitlin Cassidy here to guide you through today’s news. I am personally hoping there will be more cycling to live blog but we will have to wait and see.
Let’s jump on in.