What we learned, Tuesday 15 November
Guardian Australia’s political editor Katharine Murphy is in Bali following Anthony Albanese at the G20 summit, and will file a despatch from the prime minister’s meeting with China’s president Xi Jinping. That will be live on our website shortly.
With that, we’ll wrap up our live coverage of the day’s news.
Here’s a summary of the day’s main news developments:
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has raised the cases of two Australian citizens detained in China, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and concerns over Taiwan during a 32-minute meeting with China’s president Xi Jinping, as he became the first Australian leader to hold talks with Xi since 2016.
The New South Wales town of Forbes faced record flooding on Tuesday, as the community of Eugowra reeled from the “inland tsunami” that inundated the town on Monday and resulted in more than one in five residents requiring an emergency rescue.
Tennis star Novak Djokovic will be given a visa by the Australian government, allowing him to compete in the 2023 Australian Open.
The Reserve Bank has stoked expectations it is prepared to pause in lifting its key interest rate, while also flagging it will curb the telegraphing of future moves.
Covid hospitalisations have increased by 11% in the past week, the federal health minister Mark Butler said, as he announced new vaccines have been approved to boost supply.
Two genetic experts have told the inquiry into the convictions of Kathleen Folbigg that a “bad variant”, or rare genetic mutation, likely led to the deaths of her two daughters.
Billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has succeeded in shaking up the board of Australia’s biggest electricity producer, with all four of his proposed directors winning support from shareholders at AGL Energy’s annual general meeting.
Have a great evening. We’ll be back to do it all again tomorrow.
Eugowra residents recall moment flood hit NSW town leaving ‘total carnage’
The first warning came through on Sunday.
Heavy rainfall – for the second time in a fortnight – was lashing central west New South Wales, from Mudgee in the north to Albury in the south.
The Belubula River at Canowindra was flooding at a level not seen in more than 70 years. Flooding was expected to be worst at the nearby township of Eugowra early on Monday morning.
When the rain came it came down hard. The mayor of Orange, Jason Hamling, was at home on Sunday night when it started “teeming down”. “It came rolling through and the country was already saturated,” he said.
Then, the Wyangala Dam spilled, releasing torrents of water into the nearby Lachlan River. Hamling watched footage that showed the moment a tidal wave came rushing at the rate of 230,000 megalitres a day.
Read more from Caitlin Cassidy and Cait Kelly:
PM says Xi meeting went ‘over time’
Anthony Albanese played down any significance over the short length of his meeting with Xi – which lasted just 32 minutes in contrast to the three hours that Xi spent in his G20 meeting with US president Joe Biden.
The prime minister denied Xi ended the meeting early, and insisted it had in fact run over time.
It went over time (for) when it was scheduled, and it was very constructive.”
Climate change ‘requires a global response’: Albanese to Xi
Anthony Albanese spoke with Chinese president Xi Jinping about the climate crisis and “the need for us to work together in tackling climate change”.
I referred to the floods that are occurring in New South Wales, that climate change is a global issue and it requires a global response.”
Albanese also said he spoke to Xi about his concerns over Taiwan.
China has an important role to play on Taiwan. I certainly raised that issue. I put Australia’s position which is support for the status quo, which I put forward in the meeting. And that we didn’t wish to see any change to that status.”
PM raises detention of Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun with China’s president
Anthony Albanese said he raised issues including the detention of Australian citizens Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun during his meeting with Xi Jinping.
The prime minister said he “put forward Australia’s position when it comes to the blockages in our trading relationship”.
He said he also “put forward the differences that we have on human rights issues, including Xinjiang”, a reference to allegations of human rights abuses against the region’s Uyghur population.
I also put forward our position on Ukraine and asked that China exercise its influence on Russia, specifically about Russia’s threats to use tactical nuclear weapons. I noted that China had called that out, and that that is a good thing.”
Albanese says G20 meeting with Xi 'a positive and constructive discussion'
Anthony Albanese is speaking after his meeting with China’s president Xi Jinping.
The prime minister said the meeting was “a very positive and constructive discussion”.
And I was pleased that it was held. We know that China is Australia’s largest trading partner. They are worth more than Japan, the US and Republic of Korea together, combined. So it’s an important relationship for Australia and Australia seeks a stable relationship with China. We have big differences to manage, but we’re always going to be better off when we have dialogue and are able to talk constructively and respectfully but also honestly about what those differences are and we were able to do that this afternoon.
Today I think both countries took an important step to moving forward. There are many steps of course that we are yet to take and I have said consistently since before I became prime minister we will cooperate where we can and disagree where we must act in the national interest.
One of the things that struck me was that both of us spoke about how we have highly complementary economies. It is clearly in Australia’s interest to export some of the foreign products that we have a choice in China’s interest to receive those foreign products. And so it was a very constructive discussion.”
Anthony Albanese said his meeting with China’s president Xi Jinping was “a positive and constructive discussion”.
In a tweet, the prime minister said:
It was good to discuss our relationship with China’s President Xi Jinping.
It was a positive and constructive discussion.
We will cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, and engage in our national interest.”
The leaders are on the clock tonight. They need to get to the summit’s gala dinner.
The bilateral between Joe Biden and Xi Jinping spanned three hours on Monday night.
Officials say the meeting between Albanese and Xi has now wrapped. The conversation spanned 32 minutes.
China-Australia relations 'worth cherishing': Xi Jinping
Here is a translation of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s comments during the opening remarks of the bilateral meeting.
According to the AFP news agency, Xi said:
“I am very glad to meet Mr prime minister Albanese here. This is our first meeting so hereby I congratulate you again for your appointment as Australia’s prime minister.
China-Australia relations used to be in the forefront of China’s relations with developed countries for a long time. This is worth cherishing. In the past few years, China-Australia relationship has run into some difficulties. That was not what we were willing to see. Because China and Australia are both important countries in the Asia Pacific Region.
We should improve, maintain and develop our relationship as it is consistent with the fundamental interests of both countries’ people, and it is beneficial to peaceful development of the region and the world.
Since you assumed the leadership, you have talked about China-Australia relations on various occasions and expressed multiple times that you would handle China-Australia relations in a mature manner. I attach great importance to your opinion.”
After thanking Xi for the meeting, Albanese noted the discussion came at a time of great uncertainty. The world faced supply chain shocks, economic headwinds, the Covid-19 recovery and the lived reality of the climate crisis.
“As we manage these challenges we need to work towards a stable, prosperous and peaceful Indo-Pacific, and an international system that is governed by international law and the principles enshrined in the United Nations charter.”
“We have had our differences and Australia won’t resile from our interests or our values. But our bilateral relationship is an important one. Both sides have worked to stabilise the relationship based upon mutual respect and mutual benefit.”
This conversation is happening at the luxury Mulia Resort in Nusa Dua, Bali. Xi entered the room first. Albanese second. They shook hands and then took their places at the tables. As is the case during international summits, these events are high security, and they are covered by a small pool of journalists and cameras.
The West Australian’s political editor, Katina Curtis, is the pool reporter for the Australian delegation. She tells me Xi had his head down writing notes as Albanese spoke.
Albanese and Xi talks end Australia-China diplomatic freeze
Hello from Bali. The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, have just delivered the opening remarks of tonight’s bilateral.
Xi spoke first, in Mandarin, we do not yet have a translation. Albanese followed. Albanese told Xi he was very pleased the two leaders were meeting.
Tonight ends a diplomatic freeze that’s been playing out since 2016. But he also made the difficulties clear. Albanese said the two countries have had their differences and Australia won’t resile “from our interests or our values”.
Anthony Albanese begins talks with Xi Jinping at G20
Anthony Albanese has begun talks with the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali this evening.
Speaking in front of cameras at the beginning of the meeting, the prime minister said it was happening at “a time of great global uncertainty”, noting the “challenges of Covid and the recovery, dealing with climate change and also supply chain shocks”.
“As we manage these challenges we need to work towards a stable, prosperous, and peaceful Indo-Pacific, and an international system that is governed by international law and the principles that are enshrined in the United Nations Charter,” Albanese said.
Albanese also acknowledged the bilateral relationship had soured in recent times:
We have had our differences, and Australia won’t resile from our interests or our values, but our bilateral relationship is an important one.
Both sides have worked to stabilise the relationship based upon mutual respect and mutual benefit. We will soon reach, of course, the milestone of 50 years of diplomatic relations, when a former Labor prime minister, Gough Whitlam, established diplomatic relations between Australia and the People’s Republic of China in 1972.
We agreed on principles to guide the relationship, based on equality, mutual respect and benefit and a commitment to co-exist peacefully, and these principles remain important today.
President Xi I look forward to a constructive exchange and dialogue today, I thank you.
Fair Work Commission may stop lockout at tugboat operator Svitzer
The Fair Work Commission has announced that tugboat operator Svitzer’s announcement of a lockout on Friday has prompted it to consider making an order on its own initiative to suspend or terminate protected industrial action by Svitzer.
The commission will hold a hearing at noon tomorrow to consider terminating the lockout which has prompted fears of widespread supply chain disruptions ahead of Christmas.
The Fair Work Commission vice-president, Adam Hatcher, noted that in February 2022 it had suspended proposed 48-hour stoppages at Svitzer because they “threatened to cause significant damage to an important part of the Australian economy”.
He said that findings the commission made at that time “give rise to a concern that the protected industrial action recently announced by Svitzer may similarly threaten to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it”.
Anthony Albanese to meet Xi Jinping at G20 summit in Bali
We’ll be keeping this live blog open a little later than usual tonight, as Anthony Albanese meets with China’s president, Xi Jinping, on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Indonesia.
Ahead of the meeting, the Business Council of Australia has hailed the Albanese government’s “tremendous reset” with China.
The BCA chief executive, Jennifer Westacott, told journalists on Monday night that Labor’s “huge foreign policy reset” with Indonesia and Pacific countries, as well as the thawing in relations with China, was creating opportunity “for business to come in behind … and start building those business-to-business relationships”.
You can read more of the Guardian Australia political editor Katharine Murphy’s coverage from Bali here:
‘Everything has been ruined’: Molong Bowling Club left devastated by flooding
The Molong Bowling Club has been a central part of life in the small town in central NSW, and has been completely upended by flood waters.
A stench of rotting carpet and rubbish hangs over what was once a space of celebration, with the bowling green covered in mud, unusable anytime soon.
The club’s treasurer, Yvonne Clyde, takes a deep breath when asked how she feels seeing the club ruined and empty.
“I’m just very drained, very drained and devastated,” she says. “The water had come up to knee height and just got into every space and crevice. It feels like every time we make some progress with the clean-up, we find more mud, more water.”
She says no part of the club was untouched by the surging flood waters, from the ATM to the glasses, the honours board, the vaults and seating, even the small office from which the club is run.
“Everything has been ruined. I think we’d need a year to recover fully, beyond just the cosmetic clean-up.
“I’m hoping we can rebuild, but we have already lost so much. We had so many bookings, so many parties and functions that are now lost. And its especially damaging because we were heading into Christmas.”
‘Everything has been touched by mud’: Molong unites for massive flood clean-up
Empty shopfronts dot Bank Street in central Molong, as the town begins processing the scale of damage flood waters have wrought.
Restaurants have emptied their seating onto the footpath, volunteers hose the mud out of businesses, and people hug closely when they see each other.
Residents say they are proud of the resilience and community spirit in the small town, as people band together to quickly clean the major damage before getting to the more arduous, final phase of the clean-up.
Volunteer Jenny, who is helping clean the local gym, says the water has “severely damaged” parts of the town.
“We’ve seen flooding before, but not like this. It’s just gone through everything, all the equipment here is damaged, everything has been touched by mud.
“But we’re so lucky to have this supportive community, they’ve just turned up. It’s amazing how quickly they cleaned everything up.”
Harriet Pederick, who says she’s lost $40,000 worth of stock from her health store, says that despite the devastation the town spirit is “amazing.”
“Everyone has come together for this massive clean-up, it’s been amazing to see.
“There are some true heroes in this town, everyone has been out here today and yesterday, some just here to have a cry with.
“We’ll be back though, we won’t give up on our business and this town.”
Meanwhile, some more footage is coming out of Eugowra, the town of about 700 where more than one in five residents had to be rescued by emergency services on Monday.
Floods have also hit Victoria this week.
Had a busy day? Unable to keep up with the news?
Check out Guardian Australia’s Afternoon Update:
‘Weeks and weeks of cleaning up to do’: Molong begins long process of rebuilding after flood
Molong is in recovery mode, as residents begin the long process of rebuilding after flood waters swept through the town centre yesterday morning.
Windows are boarded up, businesses closed, and volunteers are still hosing down the mud this afternoon, with a sense of exhaustion hanging over the town.
Sharon Costa is volunteering at the hardware store, at the end of Bank Street, which saw waters reach as high as the awnings at the pub across the road. She says that while there is stock to be saved at the hardware store, many other businesses are completely ruined.
“Their windows have been shattered, doorways and ceilings have collapsed, machinery or anything electrical is ruined. The local newsagency had to just throw everything out. It’s devastating.
“I think some of these businesses won’t survive this.”
Costa describes the scene as “surreal” as the sun shines on the town’s muddied roads. While much of the obvious debris and rubbish has been cleaned, she says the work has only begun.
“It looks OK on the outside now, but there is weeks and weeks of cleaning up to do, behind and beside the buildings, in places you don’t notice. There’s still so much to do, behind the broken windows, down the alleyways of mud and rubbish.”
Second Australian dies after Seoul crush
A second Australian has died following a Halloween crowd crush in the South Korean capital last month, reports AAP.
The woman succumbed to injuries sustained during the crush after two weeks.
More than 150 people were killed in the tragedy during festivities in Seoul’s Itaewon district.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was providing assistance to the woman’s family.
Sydney film production assistant Grace Rached was the first Australian to die in the days after the tragedy.
Keep up to date with the current Covid wave using our data tracker
Guardian Australia brings together all the figures on Covid-19 cases, as well as stats, charts and state-by-state data from NSW, Victoria, Queensland, SA, WA, Tasmania, the ACT and NT. Here you can also find the numbers on the vaccine rollout and fourth dose booster vaccination rates.
You can view Guardian Australia’s Covid-19 data tracker, put together by data journalists Josh Nicholas, Nick Evershed and Andy Ball, here:
Novak Djokovic to be granted visa to play in Australian Open
Tennis star Novak Djokovic will be given a visa by the Australian government, allowing him to play the 2023 Australian Open.
Guardian Australia understands that immigration minister, Andrew Giles, will give Djokovic a visa, overturning a three-year ban that accompanied the decision by the previous government to cancel his visa on the eve of the 2022 open.
Read more of the Guardian’s exclusive story here:
Wyangala dam spill forecast to ease but flood risks remain
Most of the inland dams in eastern Australia are either full or spilling, it seems, with Wyangala Dam in central NSW putting on quite a spectacle:
Of course, all that water entering the Lachlan River is not a good thing, swelling the river and raising the major flooding risks downstream in places such as Cowra.
At its peak flows, Wyangala was dumping water at the record rate of 230 gigalitres a day (or almost half a Sydney Harbour). Fortunately, the spill rate had dropped to 80GL/day by Tuesday morning, WaterNSW said earlier today.
With inflows mercifully dropping from 265GL/day at their peak to about a third of that, the dam outflows were forecast to drop to 60/GL a day too. Dam capacity remained slightly above 100%.
All that flooding will likely raise questions about whether the dam wall should be raised 10 metres, as proposed by the fomer Berejiklian government.
The price tag, though, had tripled to $2.1bn as of a couple of years ago, prompting unkind comments that it was a “brain fart”.
More to the point, though, a higher dam wall would only increase the capacity by half to 1867GL. At the rate of the recent increases, would a couple of days of delayed outflows be worth spending so much money on?
No doubt this issue will be debated - not least because the Albanese government is unlikely to stump up half the cash as originally agreed between the then Coalition-led federal and NSW governments.
Health authorities in New South Wales are urging residents to check any poppy seeds in their kitchen are not affected by a nationwide recall of poppy seeds linked to poisoning.
Investigations into the non-food grade poppy seeds sold as part of food grade products have indicated the presence of unusually high levels of the naturally occurring chemical thebaine that is causing toxicity.
While warnings have previously been issued in relation to the poppyseed recall, new information discovered as part of the investigation has found the poppyseeds should not be consumed in any amount.
A NSW Health statement said:
Reports of unusual and severe symptoms following poppy seed consumption have now seen at least 12 people requiring medical attention in NSW after developing poisoning soon after ingestion, with additional cases nationally.”
Medical director of the NSW Poisons Information Centre, associate professor Darren Roberts, said the product was not considered safe to eat or to drink as the chemical detected in the poppy seed product can be dangerous.
Roberts urged anyone experiencing any unusual and severe symptoms to seek immediate medical attention. Reported symptoms have so far included severe muscle cramping, muscle spasms and abnormal movements, seizures and cardiac arrest.
Products affected are listed on the FSANZ website and will be updated as needed. The NSW Poisons Information Centre can be contacted 24/7 on 13 11 26 and can provide more information about poisons and what to do in suspected cases of poppy seed poisoning.
Snow falls in Tasmania
Parts of Tasmania have been dusted with spring snow, with a weather system dumping more rain on the already drenched state.
Snowfall reached as low as 400 metres on Tuesday morning and settled on areas including Hobart’s kunanyi/Mt Wellington, south of the capital and the Central Highlands.
Sun Cable inks deal with Indonesia to “unlock” renewable riches
Sun Cable, a firm backed by billionaires Mike Cannon-Brookes and Andrew Forrest, has inked a deal on the sides of the G20 meeting in Bali to boost “inter-island connectivity”, among other things.
As we noted earlier, Cannon-Brookes has had a busy day with changes at AGL (outside his day job of being co-boss of Atlassian).
Anyway, Sun Cable is planning a $30bn giant solar farm in Australia that could supply electricity to Darwin but also to Singapore via an undersea cable. Since that cable will run through Indonesia, it’s been a live question (so to speak) whether Indonesia might also tap into the power.
Well, according to an MoU signed today between Sun Cable and Indonesia’s minister for energy and mineral resources, Arifin Tasrif, a formal collaboration will emerge “to advance opportunities for renewable energy generation and transmission within Indonesia”.
Numbers can be a bit inflated around these things, but the two could help spur a “green industry” bonanza which would add as much as $US115bn to Indonesia’s GDP by 2035, the partners say. (In $A, that’s about $171bn, but in rupee, it’s 1.6 quadrillion - or a pretty big number).
From what we can make of it, Indonesia has identified five key industries from mining and metals processing that could do with some “green hydrogen” (ie not made with fossil fuels), to transport and even “green fertilisers”.
Sun Cable’s “expertise in solar energy generation and long distance transmission” could play a role. Given Indonesia is reportedly also talking about linking up Australia’s large lithium reserves with its plans to expand its battery production, we might expect more such ventures.
Major anger among minor parties over preferences sting
The state leader of Derryn Hinch’s Justice party, Stuart Grimley, has come out swinging against the Animal Justice party after it gained the support of parties working with “preference whisperer”, Glen Druery, but directed its own preferences to others at the last minute.
The state election manager and lead southern metropolitan candidate for the Animal Justice party, Ben Schultz, gained Druery’s trust over several months and was allocated preferences from his voting bloc of minor parties.
Schultz was meant to reciprocate but instead directed preferences to a bloc of progressive parties, including Fiona Patten’s Reason party, Legalise Cannabis, the Victorian Socialists, as well as Labor and the Greens.
Druery’s preferences flowing to AJP candidate Georgie Purcell makes it much harder for Grimley’s Justice party colleague, Tania Maxwell to retain her seat in the northern Victoria region.
Grimley says the Animal Justice party “had a deliberate strategy, from the outset, to deceive other minor parties in preference negotiations. They sought to scam parties, and they did”.
“The Animal Justice Party will tell you they’re a party of integrity but take one look at their voting record and you’ll realise they’re just a lacky for the Government. Nothing more. If the AJP are happy to lie and deceive their way into the Parliament, what do you think will happen if they hold the balance of power? If you thought it couldn’t get any worse than the last 4 years, think again.
Electoral analyst Ben Raue had an interesting take on the matter:
Here’s our story on the saga - described by Druey as the “most elaborate sting in minor party history”:
Forbes the focus of SES floods response as Eugowra reports significant damage
The State Emergency Service in New South Wales is focussing its flood assistance and rescue efforts on the town of Forbes, as the Lachlan River continues to rise toward record levels.
The NSW SES chief superintendent, Dallas Burnes, said his organisation has “as many emergency services resources as possible in the Central West, including rescue helicopters” and that the Australian Defence Force and international personnel are arriving today.
“After 120mm of rain fell in the area on Sunday night, our members have worked alongside emergency service partners to prepare the Forbes community, including sandbagging and public information.”
Eugowra – the community of about 700 which faced devastating flood levels on Monday which resulted in more than one in five residents needing to be rescued – has reported significant damage with power and telecommunication coverage still being restored.
“We have reports of floodwater moving whole houses downstream and bridges being moved off pylons. Police are continuing to work with welfare services to assist the Eugowra community.
Burnes said the SES is asking flood victims to use the Australian Red Cross Register. Find. Reunite (https://register.redcross.org.au/) channel to connect family, friends and loved ones.
The SES said planning is underway for more international resources to be deployed to assist with flood response and recovery, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting further storms in the state’s south next weekend.
In the 24 hours from 3pm on Monday, the SES in NSW has performed:
Requests for assistance: 489
Flood rescues: 34
As of 3pm on Tuesday, the SES has 120 warnings in place, including 25 emergency warnings to either evacuate or shelter, 76 watch and act warnings and 19 alerts at advice level.
Ask us anything
It’s time for another ask us anything with the Canberra political team. Have a burning question on what’s been going on in parliament or Australian politics in general? Let us do our best to answer it for you.
Email us at Australia.email@example.com by 10am on Thursday.
Australian Open organisers hopeful Djokovic can play
Tennis Australia head, Craig Tiley, is optimistic about Novak Djokovic returning for next year’s Australian Open but has ruled out seeking any favours from government officials who will determine the Serb’s eligibility to enter the country, reports AAP.
Djokovic is serving an automatic three-year ban from Australia after being dramatically deported on the eve of this year’s Open for trying to enter the country while not vaccinated against Covid-19. While the vaccine mandate is no longer an obstacle for the former world No.1, Djokovic’s lawyers are still trying to have his visa ban overturned.
“Nothing official yet. We are waiting. They are communicating with the government of Australia. That’s all I can tell you for now,” Djokovic told reporters after winning his opening match at the ATP finals in Turin on Monday night.
With Wednesday marking two months before the 2023 Open gets underway in Melbourne, the stalemate is hardly ideal, but Tiley is hopeful tennis fans - and Djokovic - will not have to endure a re-run of this year’s soap opera.
Tiley said Djokovic would have to go through the normal visa application process and that he doesn’t think the former world No.1, nor any other players, should receive “preferential treatment”. Tiley told AAP:
I fully expect to have an answer for everyone by the time that they need to book their flights and come in, including Novak.
That’s entirely up to the Australian government. I know Novak wants to come and play and to get back to competing.
He loves Australia and it’s where he’s had the best success but the timing (on any announcement) is up to somebody else and we’ll just play that one by ear.
But I don’t know that. That’s really between he and the feds. But the conditions have changed significantly from where they were a year ago and I’d like to have Novak here.”
Queensland police commissioner ‘hoping to survive’ in role amid force’s racism and sexism scandals
The Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, says she is “hoping” to keep her job amid increasing pressure on the Queensland police service’s leadership over revelations about racism, sexism and misogyny in the ranks.
On Tuesday Carroll and the police minister, Mark Ryan, spent almost an hour answering questions from the media after the release of audio recordings – published by Guardian Australia – that contained officers using racist and violent language.
“The stuff that we heard in the watch house is truly abhorrent,” Carroll said.
Elias Visontay will take you through the rest of the afternoon. We will let you know if there is any more information on the Forbes flood situation.
Thanks for joining me today and please – take care of you.
RBA signals a rate rise pause while pulling back on forecasts
The Reserve Bank is, as we know, as much about messaging as it is about interest rate hiking or cutting. Getting the public worried about coming rate rises helps dent demand, and in doing so, removes some of the need for those raises.
So it’s notable today that the RBA is sending slightly mixed messages.
On the one hand, the release of the minutes from its 1 November board meeting (when it raised interest rates for a seventh time in as many meetings) suggests the central bank might be quite happy to leave the cash rate at 2.85% a bit longer if necessary.
Missing from the October board minutes this time around were the words that conditions were “likely to require further increases in interest rates over the period ahead”.
As CBA’s top Australian economist, Gareth Aird, notes, the November tea leaves launched comments that were echoed later that day by governor Philip Lowe that, “the board is prepared to keep rates unchanged for a period while it assesses the state of the economy and the inflation outlook”.
Aird counts five times this phrase has appeared since the rate hike ... basically every time a senior RBA official has popped her or his head up in public.
We’ll find out on 6 December whether the RBA’s assessment is to stay relaxed and smiling as we head to the Christmas break. The bank, after all, takes a holiday in January unless something dramatic happens. (The GFC wasn’t dramatic enough for a board meeting in January.)
Anyway, there’s another messaging issue to look at.
The RBA has reviewed its “forward guidance” and whether telling everyone that it was unlikely to hike the cash rate (with certain caveats) until 2023 or 2024 was not an optimal outcome.
The forward guidance was state-based, but at various times included a time-based element,” the RBA said in its findings.
This complicated the Bank’s attempts to communicate the state-based nature of its policies and it could have done more to emphasise the conditionality of its statements about the future path of the cash rate.”
In short, it will reserve the right not to give such specifics in the future.
Forward guidance on interest rates will not always be provided, although the Board will continue to outline how monetary policy settings are adjusted in response to evolving economic conditions,” it said.
The review of the RBA will go to the government next March. Expect that report to have a few more things to say about the bank’s communications.
Five and a half million Australians haven’t had a third Covid vaccine dose
In his press conference Mark Butler said:
I‘ve said on a number of occasions in the first half of 2022, that then was the time to put out a very strong information campaign about the importance of booster doses. The evidence from around the world at that time was very clear that two doses, particularly against the Omicron variant of the virus - that has really swept the whole globe - that two doses of the vaccine was not sufficient, and you needed at that stage three doses to be fully vaccinated.
And I think we lost very important time over a period of a few months leading into and during the election campaign not having that information out. We moved very quickly to provide that sort of public information, we’re still doing that, states have been doing that as well.
But I think we all have to accept that it we’re not really shifting the dial much at all. So I talked about five and a half million Australians being eligible for a third dose last week, only 7000 of that five and a half million got their third dose, so that that number just is not shifting.
We are taking advice about how to shift that, during the building wave that we’ve been experiencing over the last couple of weeks, is the obvious opportunity to reiterate the importance of being up to date with vaccinations. And as I said, the fact that vaccine numbers have increased by about 50% over the last fortnight, that’s pleasing, but there’s still much more to do, and we’re considering what we can do to improve that.
Grok mystery solved
One of our readers has answered a question which appeared a little earlier in the blog – so thank you!
There was a question earlier on the blog “what’s a Grok”. It comes from the sci-fi novel by Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land. It is a word Heinlein invented for his Martian language that means “to know everything” or “to empathise” or “to understand someone else so thoroughly you become part of them”
In other words it is super-nerdy and perhaps also MCB making a statement about ethical investing.
Thank you to all our readers for the lovely community you have built. We truly appreciate it, and you.
Aged care minister says facilities preparing for Covid outbreak
Further to health minister Mark Butler’s press conference on Covid wave preparations, aged care minister Anika Wells says the government is also working to shore up the the nation’s nursing home settings with more personal protective gear.
By Friday we will have contacted every aged care facility to check on their PPE and antiviral treatment supply,” she tweeted on Tuesday afternoon.
Wells said the health department was “pre-deploying summer packs of PPE” to all residential aged care facilities, making booster shots and anti-viral drugs more available, and readying a surge workforce if needed.
The government will also continue funding for the Covid-19 support grant to support providers with outbreak costs, and maintain support for the High-Risk Settings Pandemic Payment for casual workers to not attend work if they contract Covid.
The government says it is trying to be “on the front foot” in aged care as the Covid wave continues. Chief medical officer, Paul Kelly, said Australia was likely nearing the middle of this wave, which he expected to be “short and sharp”. Covid infections in Australia spiked 47% last week and government officials are urging people to get booster shots if they are eligible.
New Covid vaccines approved to boost supply
Melissa Davey has looked at Mark Butler’s announcement a little earlier this afternoon.
Covid hospitalisations have increased by 11% in the past week, the federal health minister Mark Butler said, as he announced new vaccines have been approved to boost supply.
A fifth vaccine dose has not been recommended by the Australian Technical Advisory Group of Immunisation (Atagi) for the general population at this time, Butler said. But he said this may change next year ahead of winter, particularly if other variants emerge.
Butler said the Omicron subvariant XBB, now present in Australia, led to a “short and small” wave of infections in Singapore, with severe disease and death very rare for people who had at least two vaccine doses.
Government moves to protect ABC funding
Amanda Meade reports the Albanese government is looking at ways to protect the ABC’s funding no matter who is in power.
The Albanese government is reviewing ways to protect the financial stability of the ABC after the public broadcaster lost $526m in funding under the Coalition.
The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, told Guardian Australia that on top of a new five-year funding cycle work was under way on a review of funding certainty.
A public consultation in the new year will examine how more stability can be given to the national broadcasters to “safeguard against funding cuts and political interference”.
You can read the rest of that report, here:
Second Victorian independent candidate to challenge VEC on how-to-vote cards
Victorian independent candidate for Hawthorn, Melissa Lowe, is also challenging the Victorian Electoral Commission’s (VEC) decision to reject her how-to-vote card:
At 10.30am yesterday, I submitted my how-to-vote card to the Victorian Electoral Commission for registration.
At 11.22am today, the VEC advised that they would be rejecting my HTV [card], stating:
‘The VEC is satisfied that the how-to-vote card is likely to mislead or deceive an elector in the casting of their vote because the how-to-vote instruction contained on the how-to-vote card does not contain a preference or sequence of preferences that would result in a formal vote, or is likely to result in the elector voting in a way that is inconsistent with their intent.’
This is despite my how-to-vote card prominently displaying instructions in four places to number every box according to the elector’s preferences.
I have since taken legal advice and will be seeking an urgent hearing at VCAT to appeal this decision.
The VEC has cited no evidentiary basis for its decision, which appears to have been made on subjective (rather than objective) grounds.
Mark McGowan will not hold inquiry into youth prisons
The Western Australia premier, Mark McGowan, has declines to hold an inquiry into the state’s youth prison, AAP reports.
WA’s troubled youth prison system is “working incredibly well”, the premier said, but the use of dangerous restraint techniques will be reviewed.
Disturbing footage has been shown on the ABC’s Four Corners program of a teenager being “folded up” at Perth’s Banksia Hill juvenile detention centre.
The technique, which involves officers using their body weight to force a person’s arms and legs against their head, is considered to pose a risk of suffocation.
McGowan said WA may follow Queensland in outlawing the practice but any ban would not come into effect immediately.
“We’re going to go to the department and say … that other techniques need to be investigated to deal with these sorts of situations,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday.
But they’re not easy situations for the staff. Our youth custodial officers have to deal with some very difficult situations.
Prison officers were only authorised to use the folding-up restraint as a last resort when there was a safety risk to staff or other detainees, WA’s Department of Justice said.
Aboriginal leaders have led calls for an independent inquiry into Banksia Hill, the state’s only dedicated juvenile prison.
Detainees have been subjected to repeated lockdowns which were ruled unlawful earlier this year by the supreme court.
A group of boys accused of destructive behaviour has since been moved to Unit 18, a separate wing at the maximum-security Casuarina adult prison.
Children’s Court president Hylton Quail last month warned the government was at risk of being found in contempt over its continued use of lockdowns at the facilities.
Sign up for Guardian Australia’s Afternoon Update newsletter
If you need to catch up on anything, or just like your news to come in a handy, curated format, make sure you sign up to our Afternoon Update newsletter.
Antoun Issa and his team work very hard to make sure you receive all you need to know – as well as a little lighthearted quirky news you may have missed.
Lawyers claim Catholic church is pressuring survivors into smaller payouts
The Catholic church has been accused of using recent rulings to pressure child abuse survivors to accept “paltry” amounts in cases where alleged perpetrators have died.
We reported this morning that the Catholic church had taken an increasingly aggressive approach in civil cases where alleged paedophile priests had died. That followed rulings in the New South Wales courts that permanently stayed cases where clergy had died. In those cases, the courts found that the church could not have a fair trial.
The child abuse royal commission found that, on average, survivors took more than 20 years to come forward, meaning that many cases involve alleged perpetrators who have since died.
But multiple law firms told the Guardian that the church was using the recent rulings to try to pressure survivors in such cases.
The head of Arnold Thomas & Becker’s abuse case team, Kim Price, said:
We have absolutely seen a change in the behaviour of defendants since these rulings were delivered, in particular the Catholic church.
Defendants now frequently threaten to stay a claim on the basis that they cannot have a ‘fair trial’ because of the delay taken by a survivor to come forward. Including, astoundingly, cases where the alleged paedophile has multiple victims. The threat usually relates to the perpetrator being deceased and unable to assist the defendant with their investigations or defence.
Rightside Legal, based in Victoria, said it expects the church to use the tactic as its latest strategy to discourage survivors from pursuing civil action. Partner Grace Wilson said the NSW cases had not yet been mirrored in Victoria, but said:
It’s pretty galling to survivors that a religious order can say, ‘Our paedophile priest, whom we did nothing to deter, is dead and we can’t properly defend the claim because of that.’
Mike Cannon-Brookes congratulates new AGL board members
As noted in earlier posts, Mike Cannon-Brookes – the billionaire climate activist – has had some more success in shaping AGL’s future.
Against the wishes of the board, all four of his picks for directors got the nod from shareholders at today’s annual general meeting for AGL.
A spokesperson for Cannon-Brookes’ Grok Ventures (his slightly discordantly named family company – one shareholder asked, “what’s a Grok?”) – said they congratulated Kerry Schott, Christine Holman, Mark Twidell, and Prof John Pollaers. Plus added a bouquet to Miles George who was also re-elected to the AGL board.
AGL shareholders clearly believe that these five directors bring essential experience and credentials to the board.
This represents another majority vote by AGL shareholders pointing to their desire for change, fresh thinking and more execution capacity to realise the potential of this great company.
The AGL board has Grok Ventures’ full support to deliver on the monumental task ahead, of rebuilding the company to lead Australia’s green energy transition, for the benefit of all stakeholders.
That sounds like a “get on with it” message, rather than “let’s shake things up more”. Let’s see if that’s the way it pans out.
Here’s our article on the gathering:
Victorian independent candidate to appeal against how-to-vote card rejection
As Benita reported a little while ago, Sophie Torney, an independent candidate for Kew, has decided to appeal against the Victorian Electoral Commission’s rejection of her how-to-vote cards:
Today the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) rejected our how-to-vote cards on the basis that the VEC believes they will mislead voters. This decision ignores significant evidence from the federal election where blank boxes on how-to-vote cards were used by several independent candidates.
In the 2022 federal election, Kooyong independent candidate, Dr Monique Ryan, had blank boxes on her how-to-vote card with instructions to number every box. At that election, the informal vote in Kooyong was 2.89% – lower than the national average of 3.4%, lower than Victoria’s average of 3.5%, and lower than Kooyong in the 2019 federal election at 2.97%.
The VEC’s position is that in order for us to display a replica of the ballot on our HTV card we must direct preferences, as the political parties do. That is undemocratic, party-centric and not supported by legislation.
Due to the VEC’s decision today, we will not have any how-to-vote cards at mobile polling booths. The VEC’s decision unfairly discriminates against our campaign, prevents us from sharing information with Victoria’s most vulnerable voters, and will cost us votes.
Victoria’s Electoral Commissioner, Warwick Gately, has failed to respond to our urgent letter of inquiry of Thursday 10 November. The VEC has failed to provide a rationale and evidence for their claim that our how-to-vote card could mislead voters. The VEC has offered only a subjective view on the matter.
Our campaign has engaged legal representation and will challenge the decision in VCAT.
Medical experts concerned ‘hospitals have relaxed or removed mask requirements’
On some of the confusion around mask use in hospitals, Mel Davey has this story:
Chief health officer says to consider wearing masks
The chief health officer asks people who are at risk of Covid complications to consider wearing masks. That is good advice for anyone.
Kelly also says he thinks Australia is in the middle of this latest wave.
Two shipments of the new Pfizer vaccine are due in Australia in the next two weeks.
Chief health officer says antivirals important to prevent severe illness
Prof Paul Kelly expands on the need to have an anti-viral plan if you are 50 and over with two risk factors or over 70:
For example, a person over 70 who, even those that have three or four dose of vaccine, can halve the rate of death by taking the tablets. Halve the rate of death. It is incredibly important to get those treatments as quick as possible within a day of being diagnosed as best but up to five days, it would also make a difference in both your chance of severe illness lengthy hospitalisation or indeed of dying from Covid.
Vulnerable people should speak to GP about antivirals – Butler
People over the age of 50 with two risk factors are being encouraged to have a plan with their doctor to be able to access antivirals in the case they test positive with Covid.
We know even from recent evidence from Victoria, just again, how important antivirals can be in protecting vulnerable Australians from severe disease, hospitalisation or even worse.
Mark Butler says fifth dose of Covid vaccine not reccommended
The health minister Mark Butler says Atagi has not recommended a fifth dose:
Atagi has considered international evidence as well as the local data around the vaccination numbers as well as case numbers in the pandemic. And decided not to recommend a fifth dose or a third booster, if you like. At this point in time. They have said they anticipate new booster recommendations being made in early 2023 in preparation for the southern hemisphere winter.
Liberal MP says report of bullying and harassment in NSW parliament was ‘not surprising’
The leader of the New South Wales parliamentary advisory group of MPs, and current and former staff, Leslie Williams, has followed up O’Dea’s statement with one on behalf of the group.
She acknowledged the harms that had occurred including abuses of leadership positions, the progress that had been made and what was still to be done following the Broderick report.
The Liberal MP said while the extent of bullying and harassment claims captured in the report was “both disturbing and confronting” it was also “not surprising” for many.
She told the parliament:
We as an advisory group want to convey to all survivors, we stand with you, and we look forward to working collaboratively to address the recommendations to ensure that the NSW parliament and elected offices are safe and respectful places to work. We make a strong and unequivocal commitment to work towards change that will ensure a positive professional supportive culture for all.
She explained the plans of the advisory group moving forward:
We will recognise the unique and escalated risks of misconduct experienced by people of diverse gender, race and sexuality, Aboriginal people and people with disability. We will value and respect the role of survivors and their representatives in designing and monitoring responses to the risks of misconduct and we will ensure that the contributions of underrepresented voices are actively sought out and taken into account.
Government approves Pfizer’s Omicron-specific booster vaccine
Here is the media release for those who can’t read the tweet:
Atagi has found this next generation vaccine triggers a modest improvement in the immune response against both strains. This vaccine and the original vaccines still provide significant protection from severe disease against Omicron subvariant infections.
The first doses of the bivalent vaccine have arrived in the country and are undergoing batch testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Rollout of this vaccine will commence from 12 December 2022.
This is the second bivalent vaccine approved for use in Australia. The Moderna Spikevax Bivalent Original/Omicron BA.1 vaccine has been available for people aged 18 years or older since 14 October 2022.
A separate recommendation from ATAGI to make the paediatric Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine available for certain at-risk children aged 6 months to under 5 years has also been accepted. This vaccine will become available for eligible children from mid-January 2023.
The Pfizer vaccine is being restricted to children who are severely immunocompromised or who have other specific conditions that put them at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19.
Government has also approved Pfizer’s Omicron-specific booster vaccine.
Covid vaccination update
Mark Butler is holding a press conference with the chief health officer, Dr Paul Kelly.
That is after Atagi gave this advice on immunisation:
“Atagi recommends the Pfizer 6 month to 4 years Covid-19 vaccine as a primary course of vaccination against Sars-CoV-2 for children aged 6 months to 4 years with severe immunocompromise, complex or multiple health conditions, or disability with significant or complex health needs.
“This includes children with the following or similar conditions:
Severe primary or secondary immunodeficiency, including those undergoing treatment for cancer, or on immunosuppressive treatments as listed in the Atagi advice on 3rd primary doses of Covid-19 vaccine in individuals who are severely immunocompromised.
Bone marrow or stem cell transplant, or chimeric antigen T-cell (CAR-T) therapy recipients.
Complex congenital cardiac disease.
Structural airway anomalies or chronic lung disease.
Type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Chronic neurological or neuromuscular conditions.
A disability with significant or complex health needs, such as severe cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21).
“The Pfizer 6 months to 4 years vaccine requires 3 primary doses, each containing 3mcg of mRNA. Atagi recommends an interval of 8 weeks between each dose. Children with severe immunocompromise are also recommended to receive three primary doses. Atagi will update this recommendation if future evidence demonstrates a need for additional doses.
“Atagi currently recommends the administration of Covid-19 vaccines be deferred for 3 months after a confirmed Sars-CoV-2 infection. Vaccination after this interval is likely to provide a better immunological response and optimise the duration of protection.”
Queensland police commissioner’s future under scrutiny – reports
The Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, says she is “hoping” to keep her job after the release of an inquiry report that is understood to be critical of her leadership.
Carroll and the police minister, Mark Ryan, held an hour-long press conference on Tuesday morning.
Most questions were about Guardian Australia’s reporting on the Brisbane city watch house tapes, which recorded officers using racist and violent language.
The stuff that we heard in the watch house is truly abhorrent.
It’s tough to stand here and listen to that being said and I know that I have apologised and I apologise again.
A report in the Australian on Tuesday said the final report of the inquiry into QPS responses to domestic violence was critical of Carroll. Guardian Australia understands the report includes an entire section on leadership and that Carroll’s future is being discussed by the state government, ahead of the release of the report next week.
Ryan said Carroll had his confidence. She would need the confidence of the cabinet to continue.
Asked if she thought she would survive, Carroll said:
I am hoping to survive. I actually believe that I am the person to take this organisation forward.
AGL shareholders unimpressed with remuneration plan for executives
AGL Energy’s AGM continues with the chair, Patricia McKenzie, retaining support from shareholders for now.
Shareholders, were less enamoured with the company’s remuneration plan (which also includes four more directors after today) – delivering what looks to be the first “strike” about executive pay.
Reaction to the new directors – a win for Mike Cannon-Brookes – was initially positive on the stock market itself. Shares were up about 1% on the news, but have given up their gains to be roughly unchanged by midday.
Among the reactions, director of independent thinktank Climate Energy Finance and energy finance analyst, Tim Buckley, who says today was a “turning point for the company”.
AGL has been by far the biggest carbon emitter in Australia, and a global laggard in accepting and acting on the climate science.
This board renewal is critical for AGL investors given the opportunity to start to reverse the $10bn of shareholder wealth destruction in the last six years, but also for the wider context given AGL is a key Australian energy sector incumbent, with financial resources and staffing that can be leveraged constructively, with the right leadership.
NSW parliament acknowledges bullying and harassment
Harms caused by poor behaviour in the New South Wales parliament have been acknowledged in a statement delivered by the house speaker, Jonathan O’Dea.
The statement comes following the Broderick review that found systemic bullying and widespread sexual harassment in parliament.
Today, as we near the end of the parliamentary term, we deliver this statement of acknowledgment on behalf of the NSW parliament. We sincerely apologise to all those who have experienced bullying, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct in any of the parliament’s workplaces. We acknowledge the harms caused and deeply regret the trauma experienced by some here in this parliament and in our offices that serve the communities of NSW.
We acknowledge your pain and the mental stress and anguish caused by such behaviour. We understand the lasting impact of your experiences. We thank those who came forward to share their lived experiences and observations as part of the review. We acknowledge how hard it is to speak up about these issues. Your courage will help to create the safe, inclusive and respectful workplaces we all deserve.
He said the implementation plan to deal with the recommendations made by Broderick would be released shortly.
Five years since Australia’s marriage equality vote
For many people, today is not a commemoration, but a reminder of just how much people had to go through:
Science minister thanks outgoing CSIRO chief for ‘dedicated service’
The federal science minister, Ed Husic, has responded to the news the CSIRO chief executive, Dr Larry Marshall, is finishing up in June 2023:
Dr Marshall has steered CSIRO through a rapidly changing scientific environment. A period of much scientific promise amid global turbulence, particularly through the Covid pandemic.
When he completes his term in June next year, Dr Marshall will have been the national science agency’s longest serving chief executive in the past 50 years.
Undoubtedly he will leave the organisation with a lasting legacy and I thank him for his dedicated service.
Husic paid tribute to achievements the body made under Marshall’s tenure, including the launch of the CSIRO missions program, which brought together Australia’s top researchers and research bodies, with government, industry and community to try to address some of the nation’s most pressing issues.
Husic finished with:
I particularly welcomed the opportunity in August to launch CSIRO National Vaccine and Therapeutics Lab alongside Dr Marshall.
CSIRO’s contribution to Australia’s resilience during the pandemic cannot be overstated. And it will play a vital role in developing sovereign capability in the years to come.
Commonwealth Bank of Australia reports $2.5bn profit
The Commonwealth Bank has reported a $2.5bn profit in the September quarter – 13% more than it made in the same period last year.
AAP reports the unaudited figures show the bank’s operating performance was also up 12% from the last two quarters.
The CBA chief executive, Matt Comyn, said:
In a competitive environment we remained disciplined and achieved good volume growth in our core markets.
The economy has shown resilience in the face of growing cost of living and interest rate pressures and despite these near-term challenges we remain optimistic on the medium to long term outlook.
Also reported – household deposits have grown by 8.6% year on year, home lending increased by 6.3% and business lending rose by 12.6%.
The number of loans and assets the bank considered to be “troublesome and impaired” fell slightly from 0.48% to 0.45% since the last quarterly report.
All in all, that saw share prices increase 1.4% to $106.53.
Victoria’s electoral commission rejects independents’ how-to-vote cards
The Victorian electoral commission has rejected the how-to-vote cards of at least four independent candidates who placed a “1” beside their names only.
Nomi Kaltmann in Caulfield, Kate Lardner in Mornington, Melissa Lowe in Hawthorn and Sophie Torney in Kew have all told Guardian Australia the VEC rejected their how-to vote cards, which had the number one beside their names and blank preference boxes next to other candidates.
The same type of cards were distributed at the federal election in May by independents Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel.
Under Victoria’s Electoral Act, how-to-vote cards for election day must be registered with the commission and indicate the voting preference for all candidates listed on the card, or contain a statement that a number must be placed against the name of each candidate.
In 2018, the independent MP for Shepparton, Suzanna Sheed, unsuccessfully attempted to overturn the rejection of her how-to-vote card due to blank boxes at the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
Kaltmann, Larder, Lowe and Torney, who are all being backed by Simon Holmes à Court’s Climate 200 outfit, are considering taking legal action.
Inquest into 2020 Canberra bushfires adjourned until next year
The ACT chief coroner, Lorraine Walker, has tested positive for Covid, resulting in the hearings for the inquest into Canberra’s 2020 summer bushfires being postponed until 2023, AAP reports.
The inquest was announced in July 2021, but the wait for information on how it took 45 minutes for an army helicopter’s crew to alert the ACT Emergency Service Agency they had started a fire will continue.
On Monday, the court heard the crew on board the MRH-90 Taipan helicopter were landing for a toilet break when they inadvertently ignited the monster blaze.
They were scouting remote helipads in preparation for bushfire season, when they landed with their searchlight still on and started the fire in the Orroral Valley.
An onboard recording heard one of the helicopter’s passengers yell “Come up, come up, we’ve started a fire, turn the searchlight off”.
The helicopter only stopped for about one minute before returning to Canberra airport, but neither the pilots nor their passengers contacted emergency services to let them know they had started a fire, which one pilot estimated was already “200m by 200m” when they evacuated.
The pilot said he was “concerned we were going to fall out of the sky” because of aircraft damage.
The fire, which burned for five weeks, was declared out of control after 6pm when more than 1000ha were alight and would eventually grow to burn 87,923ha throughout the ACT.
Walker opened proceedings by saying the inquest wasn’t about “crucifying any individual or decision made in the heat of the moment”.
“We’re here to explore how we can learn from it with a view to enhancing everyone’s safety in the future,” she said.
Acting eSafety commissioner in contact with local Twitter representatives
Australia’s eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant wrote to Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk earlier this month expressing concern about the mass sackings at the company and what it might mean for the company’s ability to comply with Australian law when it comes to child protection and dealing with online harassment and abuse.
The acting commissioner Toby Dagg told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that Twitter had since been in contact with the commissioner’s office since the letter to confirm that people in the company are still contactable:
I’m pleased to say we’ve re-established those connections.
Dagg did not say who he was in contact with, but said it was local and regional representatives for Twitter.
Dagg said there had not been a marked increase in the number of reports made about Twitter since the takeover. In response to questions from Greens senator David Shoebridge about why eSafety had not taken a proactive approach in investigating problems on the service, Dagg said eSafety could not “police the internet” and Twitter was a huge website, so the organisation is reliant on complaints being made.
If you haven’t read it as yet, this from Peter Lewis raises some interesting questions:
Pat Cummins to skip 2023 IPL season citing international schedule
For cricket followers, Pat Cummins has some news, as AAP reports:
Cummins’ decision to forego a $1.3m Indian Premier League (IPL) pay cheque has exposed cricket’s overloaded calendar, with Australia’s best players set for more than 100 days of international games in the next 12 months.
Cummins made the call on Tuesday morning to skip next year’s IPL tournament for the Kolkata Knight Riders, pointing to a heavy international workload.
Australia have a four-Test tour of India next February and March before the tournament, followed by an Ashes series in England and one-day World Cup in India.
Cummins’ decision comes just weeks after he was elevated to the captaincy of Australia’s one-day team, meaning he will probably feature in more white-ball series before next year’s global event.
I’ve made the difficult decision to miss next years IPL.
The international schedule is packed with Tests and ODI’s for the next 12 months, so will take some rest ahead of an Ashes series and World Cup.”
When factoring in all Tests this summer as well as one-day and T20 series on the road in 2023, Australia’s players have up to 106 days of international cricket in the next 12 months.
That figure includes a possible World Test Championship final in London with Australia currently top of the table, as well as the semi-finals and final of next year’s ODI World Cup.
The problem is most significant for fast bowlers Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood, and allrounder Cameron Green who will each play against England in ODIs this week.
David Warner, Alex Carey, Steve Smith, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne also play across both red and white-ball formats, meaning nine of Australia’s top XI are now regulars in the Test and one-day teams.
ABC reports Australian navy was tracked by Chinese military last month
The ABC’s defence correspondent, Andrew Greene, has reported two Australian warships were “closely tracked” by the Chinese military last month, as they travelled in the South China Sea. That was part of naval exercises with the US and Japan.
Officials with knowledge of the operation say destroyer HMAS Hobart and auxiliary tanker HMAS Stalwart sailed close to the Spratly Islands and were challenged by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in international waters claimed by China.
The interaction with the PLA occurred during a ‘regional presence deployment’, where the Australian navy was accompanied by the Japanese destroyer JS Kirisame and US navy destroyer USS Milius for a trilateral transit of the South China Sea.
One defence figure, speaking to the ABC on the condition of anonymity, said the Chinese military closely tracked the vessels and showed a ‘significant increase in tactical acumen and use of EM (electronic warfare) capabilities’.
AGL's climate plan gets shareholder tick at AGM
Guardian Australia understands that AGL energy’s climate plan has been approved by shareholders.
The number voting in favour isn’t yet known, but the proposal has the numbers.
Mike Cannon-Brookes, via his Grok Ventures family company, had been pressing AGL to do more than was proposed. In short, he argued the decarbonisation approach taken by the company implied a path consistent with a world heating 1.8C v pre-industrial era levels
He wanted a plan consistent with a 1.5C path, but that meant exiting coal faster than AGL wanted.
In September, AGL announced it would bring forward the closure date of its Loy Yang A brown coal-fired power station in Victoria by a decade to 2035 while leaving its black-coal burning Bayswater power station in NSW running until between 2030 and 2033. AGL’s Liddell plant, also in NSW, shuts next April.
So, AGL thinks shareholders are satisfied with this plan. One question is whether Cannon-Brookes, with his 11.3% or so holding in AGL, will stay put – especially if he thinks he has a more supportive board.
Victorian Labor pledges $71m for women’s health
The Andrews government has vowed to deliver a $71m women’s health funding package if it wins this months’ state election.
Healthcare is a key battleground in the state election. Under the funding, $58m would be delivered for 20 new women’s health clinics across the state. The state government has also pledged to almost double sexual and reproductive hubs across the state as part of a $6.4m package.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said the funding was about “equity” and “funding.”
Victoria’s health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, said women’s health issues had been routinely ignored by the sector.
Thomas said the sexual health hubs would be a “one-stop shop” for women in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria.
An update from Katharine Murphy at G20
Good morning from the G20 meeting in Bali. Events yesterday moved at a clip so readers might appreciate a short stock take of where things are up to.
After days of speculation about whether or not Australia’s prime minister would meet the Chinese president when both delegates arrived in Bali, Anthony Albanese confirmed the meeting was on minutes after disembarking his aircraft on Monday.
If you’ve been hanging on the daily news of the summit season, you’ll know Joe Biden met Xi Jinping face-to-face for the first time in the Biden presidency last night on the sidelines of the G20 in an effort to reset great power relations. So Albanese’s meeting with the president will be the focal point of the day but it will be this evening Australia time (around 7pm).
Meanwhile, the G20 has opened in Bali. I’m watching arrivals now. Australia’s former finance minister Mathias Cormann, now head of the OECD, has just made a jaunty entrance along the red carpet.
Apart from tonight’s meeting, Albanese will participate in today’s summit events considering energy, food security and global health.
Mike Cannon-Brookes wins bid to install new AGL board directors
AGL Energy’s board will expand with all four of the candidates put up by tech billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes winning support from shareholders ahead of today’s annual general meeting in Melbourne this morning.
AGL’s chair, Paticia McKenzie, has opening the meeting by stating:
Based on the proxies lodged ahead of the meeting, the election of Mark Twidell, Dr Kerry Schott, Christine Holman and John Pollaers as directors has been supported by our shareholders. The board welcomes these new directors to the board and will work constructively with them in the best of interests of shareholders.
MCB, as the Atlassian founder and climate activist is known, backed these four in September, claiming they would be independent. (Schott, a former head of the Energy Security Board, was reported in the AFR as saying she had never spoken to Cannon-Brookes.)
AGL’s board had only supported Twidell, a solar energy veteran, ahead of the vote.
Anyway, assuming Miles George, a wind energy specialist, is also of a like mind to MCB, it’s possible to count five of the nine board members as being particularly pro-renewables.
More to come, as the AGM rolls on.
‘Planning for the worst': Forbes' small businesses lament lost turnover
Small businesses in Forbes are preparing for their second major flood in two weeks, with many having to once again lift or remove their stock and close up, hoping the damage is minimal.
The Forbes CBD has completely shut down as flood waters rise, with many small business owners lamenting the lost business during what should be a busy period.
Business owner and head of the Forbes Business Chamber, Margaret Duggan, said some businesses could lose up to 50% of stock and trade.
This should be a positive and happy time, its a time of harvest, and its close to Christmas, but its deja-vu once again after the floods last week.
People are very anxious about what’s going to happen, we’re planning for the worst and hoping it doesn’t happen.
Duggan said that while residents had been keeping a positive mindset, and were resilient, there are concerns for the mental health of business owners in the town.
We had businesses lose 25% to 30% of turnover when the main highway into the town was closed due to flood waters. We’re mentally trying to prepare, but the repeat floods take their toll.
Lots of places are damaged already, water has gotten into places its never been before. We’ve never had this kind of ran before, and we’re on flat ground so its all water logged.
It’s just a waiting game now.
CSIRO chief Larry Marshall to leave science agency
The head of CSIRO for the past eight years, Larry Marshall, will exit the post when his third term ends in June 2023, Australia’s national science agency said this morning.
The chair of the CSIRO board, Kathryn Fagg, said:
Dr Marshall has led CSIRO to deliver significant scientific breakthroughs, translate its research into real world solutions and deliver a staggering benefit for our nation – eight times the investment.
Marshall thanked the 5,672 people from CSIRO “who bring their best every day for the nation”:
It is a rare privilege to work with people so driven to achieve for the benefit of a nation and its people. Over the past eight years, together we have reignited Australia’s ambition to solve our greatest challenges with science.
Marshall’s term, the longest in half a century, was not without its controversies, none bigger perhaps than his aborted effort to cull most of climate science at the agency. (As was reported here at the time.)
Lately, some of the wariness about CSIRO’s commitment to climate science surfaced when the agency scrapped its fully funded decadal climate research (and forgot to tell the World Meteorological Organization about it).
Hints that the Albanese government wasn’t entirely happy with CSIRO showed up with the science minister, Ed Husic, warning the agency about “renting out its brand”.
Similarly, the agency’s plan to accelerate the commercialisation of science at CSIRO – potentially at the expense of science that might have broader public benefit – raised fresh questions about the direction of the agency.
Something for Marshall’s successor to consider.
Liberal senator Andrew Bragg is still hopeful he will get his crypto bill up.
Queensland youth prison expansion does not address drivers of offending, expert says
Queensland has more children in detention than any other jurisdiction in the country, AAP reports.
The state’s adult prison population also surged 68% over the past decade – the fastest pace of growth in the country, according to a Justice Reform Initiative report released on Tuesday.
Almost nine in 10 of all children in detention in the state are yet to be sentenced, while the number of youths in detention under the age of 17 has risen from 172 to 219 since 2014-15.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are also significantly over-represented in the figures, making up 35% of the adult prison population and nearly 63% of young people.
The rate of incarceration for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children is 33 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.
According to the report, the “revolving door” model costs Queensland taxpayers $716.9m a year in prison operating costs and this is set to grow further as the incarceration rate continues to climb.
The growth in incarceration has been driven “by political, policy and legislative choices”, it said.
The Justice Reform Initiative executive director, Dr Mindy Sotiri, said building more prisons, as the Queensland government was planning to do with its proposed $500m youth prison expansion, did not work to deter crime or rehabilitate offenders.
“This is a shortsighted and counterproductive policy that will make it more likely that vulnerable children will commit further offences and become trapped in the revolving prison door that has become a devastating feature of Queensland’s justice system,” she said.
Holding children in detention fails to address the underlying drivers of incarceration, she added.
Sotiri said taxpayers would be far better served by investment in early intervention, diversion and evidence-based alternatives outside the youth justice system.
‘We’re worried, but prepared’: Forbes prepares for worst flooding
In New South Wales, Forbes is preparing for what could be the worst flooding its ever seen, with the Lachlan River already rising higher than expected.
The town’s deputy mayor, Chris Roylance, said Forbes had been “cut in half” by the rising flood waters, and that the CBD had been emptied by evacuation orders.
My wife was one of the last cars through now, the town is about to be cut in half. The river was expected to get to 10.55 metres, and its already at 10.62. I’ve lived through many floods in my time here, but this will be the biggest we’ve ever seen.
The town has been cut off by the rising flood waters, with roads in and out currently blocked.
Roylance said the CBD looked like a “war zone”, but added that the community sentiment was still positive.
Everyone is prepared, we’re all sandbagged and set, we’re just sitting around waiting. We told people to get out and make sure they didn’t wait around, so the CBD has been emptied out.
It looks like a war zone down there, with plastic covers all over and sandbags everywhere. We’re worried, but prepared.
CSIRO chief to leave science organisation after term ends
The CSIRO is about to receive (another) shake up. The science agency’s chief executive, Larry Marshall, will leave in June.
(As an aside, the CSIRO is an excellent Instagram follow, if you aren’t following already.)
Australian physicians back Raise the Age campaign
The Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) is part of the Raise the Age campaign, calling on governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 14, which is in line with medical evidence and advice.
Children as young as 10 years old are being locked up in Australian detention centres, despite medical evidence showing they are too young to take responsibility for what they have done.
The RACP president and paediatrician, Dr Jacqueline Small, said children need help, not prisons.
The college has been campaigning for years for state and territories to raise the age of criminal responsibility.
Incarcerating children this young causes serious harms for them and their communities.
14 years old is the absolute youngest age a child should be held criminally responsible, and we’ve been very disappointed to see the NT government attempt this reform, only to miss the mark with an age of 12.
More must be done to ensure children are not incarcerated for behaviours that are a direct consequence of their young age, their disability or their earlier trauma and provide these children with the care, support and treatment that they need and that preserves their dignity and human rights.
Exposure to the criminal legal system has direct consequences on the education, development, mental and physical health, and adult incarceration rates, on these children.
Tasmania flood advice warning for Tahune Bridge area
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a minor flood warning for the Huon River:
A “flood advice – monitor conditions” warning has been issued for Tahune Bridge and surrounds by Tasmania SES.
Locations likely to be affected are: Tahune Bridge and surrounds
During the next 12 to 24 hours:
Flooding in nearby streams and rivers is likely.
Some low-lying properties may become isolated by flood waters.
Property, livestock, equipment, and crops in low lying areas may be at risk from flood waters.
Driving conditions may be dangerous.
If you live in or are travelling near the Tahune Bridge and surrounds, SES advises:
If you have a flood emergency plan, check it now.
Monitor conditions and prepare now to go to a safer place if conditions become more dangerous.
For SES Flood Warning updates, visit TasALERT.com or listen to ABC local radio.
Have your Medibank records been posted online? You can tell us your story
In the past week, we have seen a bit over 1,000 Medibank customer records being posted on the dark web by a Russian hacking group after the Australian health insurer refused to pay a ransom to the company.
If you are one of those people who were included in the records posted online, and feel comfortable telling your story to us (your name and details can be anonymised) please get in contact with reporter Josh Taylor by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just noting that Medibank will have likely contacted you more directly to tell you what ended up online and have assigned you a case manager if that is the case.
If you’ve just received an email informing you that your data was taken – it doesn’t yet mean it has been posted online.
Later this morning, we’ll get the Reserve Bank of Australia’s minutes from its 1 November meeting when it raised its cash rate for a record seventh time in as many meetings.
Ahead of that 11.30am (AEDT) release, it’s worth looking at how consumer sentiment has been holding up. According to the latest weekly survey from ANZ and Roy Morgan, confidence actually perked up a bit, with the 2.7% snapping six weeks of declines that lowered the index more than 10%.
We’re still down in the dumps, apparently, although still spending like we’re emerging from lockdowns all cashed-up.
While many sub-indices have lately improved, the “good time to buy a major household item” gauge has retreated further – and is the lowest since the April 2020 Covid wave.
As the ANZ’s top Australian economist, David Plank, notes there’s a paradox in that “household spending has held up despite the weakness in sentiment”.
Whether this disconnect can continue is a central issue for policymakers.
(By which he mostly has the RBA in mind.)
In fact, inflation expectations have also eased in the past week, and are steady on a rolling four-week average:
That’s interesting since fuel prices have continued to nudge towards the $2 a litre mark, according to the Australian Institute of Petroleum.
Speaking of energy, more than a few people will be watching AGL Energy‘s annual general meeting that kicks off in Melbourne at 10.30am AEDT. (You can follow it here.)
It’s something of a clash of the titans, with Atlassian billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes effectively trying to change the board of AGL and potentially upend the remaining leaders on Australia’s largest electricity generator.
We published this primer on Sunday to set the scene at the Melbourne Recital Centre here:
Cyclone season lining up to add to strains for emergency services
As bad as the floods are for New South Wales and Victoria of late, it’s worth keeping in mind that the tropical cyclone season is also under way.
Now, it worth noting that in an average year, we should get about 11 tropical cyclones in the Australian region for the November-April period. During La Niña years, odds tend to favour a busier than usual season, and that’s what the Bureau of Meteorology is predicting – that there’s a 75% chance this season will get more than 11.
As it happens, the number of tropical cyclones has been of decline in the past couple of decades even as waters have warmed. But a new science paper out recently suggested the decline may be natural variability, and conditions may snap back to longer-run averages.
We have written about the paper here today:
A couple of key take-aways include that cyclones are likely to get more intense and keep that intensity longer (in large part because of those warming waters).
Also of worry is the prospect that these tempests will travel further south (or north, in the northern hemisphere). We got a taste for that last year when tropical cyclone Seroja crossed much further south on the Western Australia coast than is usual for a cyclone (let alone one that was of category three severity):
As noted by Andrew Watkins, a senior BoM scientist, we saw a Gold Coast cyclone in the 1950s.
But, of course, we have a lot more people in south-east Queensland and northern NSW now than we did seven decades ago (more than 3 million).
Australia’s biggest insurer, IAG, supported that cyclone research. They think it’s time to consider strengthening our building codes to limit future damage – and step up retrofitting efforts.
Anyway, a reminder that a hotter world, with a more energetic atmosphere, is something we need to both work against (limiting emissions) and prepare for.
Good morning everyone and very big thank you to Tash for taking us through a very busy morning.
If you are in the New South Wales central-west, we are thinking of you and we will keep you updated with any new information as it comes to hand.
I am bidding you farewell for now. It’s a surprise treat as we have Amy Remeikis back on the blog outside parliament sitting!
The BoM spokesperson moves on to other river systems beyond the Lachlan:
Turning to the Macquarie River and specifically Bathurst, we have major flooding occurring at Bathurst. The river at Bathurst peaked at 6.64 metres around yesterday afternoon. It is currently falling and that level is very similar to the flooding that they had in 1998 at 6.69 metres. It’s currently at four and a bit metres and it’s falling but it’s still in the major flood category for Bathurst.
Turning to the Bulubula and Mendageri Creek which feed into the Lachlan we had major flooding at Canowindra and Eugowra, of course. For Canowindra, upstream, that has peaked at 7.79 metres yesterday morning. And that is the highest peak it’s had in 70 years according to hydrologists this morning. So that’s a significant flood for the town of Canowindra. In Eugowra, of course, it’s peaked and it is falling but it’s had significant impacts. The levels are around the 9-metre mark.
In Tamworth, moderate flooding is occurring. The Tamworth Road Bridge peaked at 5.35 metres last night. It’s currently falling but it’s in the moderate flood range.
For the Tumut and Murrumbidgee Rivers, we have major flooding higher than the September 1974 flood occurring at Hay. I’ll point to Hay specifically as that’s the most significant one in that area. It’s 9m and it’s rising with major flooding. And it may stay that way right through till Wednesday.
And just a brief touch on the Murray and the Edwards River. Major flooding higher than the 1975 flooding occurring at Yacool Junction there and possibly at Boundary Bend, Euston, Mildura and Wentworth as flood waters move further south.
Eight major flood warnings in NSW
The Bureau of Meterology spokesperson moves onto floods:
For the floods, the focus is on the fact that we still have 17 flood warnings issued for the state. Eight of those are in a major category and they’re the focus of today. They’re affecting about 25 locations.
Moving through some of these catchments, probably in order of significance right now, for the Lachlan River and Lachlan catchment, we have major flooding occurring at Forbes and we have a reach mark of 10.8 metres possible this afternoon. That’s similar to the June 1952 flood.
We have major flooding at Cowra, Nanami, Cottons Weir and Jemalong Weir. I’ll focus on this particular catchment for some details. For Cowra in particular we have a peak of 14.3 metres. It’s steady at the moment. In November, it peaked at 13.5 metres, so it’s a metre above the early November peak. If you’re wondering how that peak arrived, Cowra from a rainfall event over the weekend had 121mm and according to records this morning, that’s the highest daily rainfall at the Cowra ag station in 118 years.
For the Lachlan and the Namoi, the town of Namoi it may reach 13.6 metres this afternoon. Earlier this November, it was 13.4.
In Forbes, the Ironbridge may reach 10.8 metres this afternoon – for context, the flood in Forbes in earlier November was 10.67 metres.
Further downstream for Cottons Weir, it may reach 7.3 metres today. Potential for further rise is possible as more water is coming down.
Downstream of the Lachlan, I want to point to Condoblin. Condoblin Bridge is currently at 7.35 metres and steady. It does have major flooding and it’s likely that it may remain around 7.4 metres through to Thursday. So it’s a significant lag in the way it moves away from the bridge there.
In Euabalong, it may reach 7.4 metres around 20 November, as the flood peaks move further south or further along the river. And it’s slightly below the 1952 flood.
Significant cooling of conditions in NSW, as more November snow predicted: BoM
A representative from the NSW Bureau of Meteorology is up next – they’re providing a general update of weather conditions before giving flood-specific info.
The good news is the rain and thunderstorm risk we experienced over the weekend has eased and abated. There is still a slight chance of thunderstorms around the Hunter to the mid north coast today. But largely you’ll see settled conditions across much of the state.
Conditions are cooling off today in the southern districts and they’ll be the first to feel a fairly significant cold snap. The rest of the state into tomorrow, Wednesday, will start to see temperatures drop to eight or 10 degrees below average, which is a significant cooling of conditions for this time of year.
That is likely to lead to frost for the tablelands, very unseasonable for November, and we will likely see some snow on the Alps this week. That said, it is generally settled. The next front that is lining up in the west of the state or over in the Bight is scheduled around the weekend.
Power outages and communication problems due to flooding in Eugowra
York goes on to say flooding has also seen power outages which has caused people to become concerned for loved ones they are unable to reach:
So there are a number of power outages and communication problems around the Eugowra area and the broader geographical area of Eugowra.
A number of people have obviously heeded our warnings and evacuated early, but, because of the communication problems, sometimes you can’t reach your friends and loved ones, and family are concerned.
I’d remind you of the benefit of registering at the Red Cross’s Register Find Reunite. It’s important if you have not gone to an evacuation centre but have left your home, that you registered on the site – Register, Find, Reunite – so we aren’t sending out resources to search for you when you are safe and well at other premises.
York also reminded farmers to keep their animals dry:
There are many rural properties severely affected by these floods and, again, particularly downstream of Forbes we’re asking those farmers to ensure their livestock are put to higher ground so they are safe as well.
York has reiterated that “the flood risk remains high for weeks and months to come”.
Biggest flood response operation in NSW history: SES
Carlene York, NSW SES commissioner takes the mic saying this flood event has required the biggest operations in the state’s history.
The New South Wales SES are leading what would be the biggest operations in relation to flood response across New South Wales in its history. And I thank our emergency services partners to be able to go out and meet the community’s needs and respond to their requests for assistance.
Our main area of focus today is Eugowra and as mentioned, at Forbes, so what we’re seeing is a number of creeks and rivers flowing into that Lachlan river area, flowing down into Forbes and then expected to flood further downstream from Forbes.
York says rivers are now rising more quickly than expected in the central west:
Yesterday, we had an immense amount of requests by communities for our assistance in flood rescues in the Eugowra area and it did rise much quicker than we had expected, as is Forbes today, rising quicker than we had expected. It was incredibly serious and significant. We saw river heights double in size through to 8am on Monday morning, where it peaked at 9.75 metres and the emergency warning was issued at 6.14am.
We received 180 requests for assistance and 159 flood rescues, many off roofs of houses and businesses. We’ve been able to preposition resources there but when calls for assistance came, we moved many more resources and helicopters to assist in those flood rescues.
We had over 140 emergency service personnel assisting that community. We had 14 helicopters and we have four that are helping us move our resources around that can’t get down the roads because of flooded waters down those roads so today not only are we helping to respond downstream from Forbes but we’re starting rapid damage assessments. We have 100 additional ADF personnel coming in to assist us today and we have 12 personnel from New Zealand fire and emergency services come and help us.
Condobolin entirely isolated by flooding, as schools all along Lachlan River closed
We are also turning our attention to downstream of Forbes. Once the peak passes through Forbes, we know the lower Lachlan area has been in major flood now for 12 months and, again.
Our heart goes out to the communities of Condobolin which are entirely isolated at this point.
We have schools all along the lower Lachlan who are closed at present. We have children learning from home and assisting their families on properties as required.
Seventy local government areas affected by NSW floods now in 63rd day
Everyone across New South Wales today is thinking of the communities right across the central west, where we’ve seen inundation in many communities, including Canowindra, Eugowra and Molong. We are deploying as many resources as we possibly can to get into those communities as quickly as that flood water recedes, so that we can do those rapid damage assessments and get people back into their homes.
We now have 70 local government areas that are the subject of a natural disaster declaration as a result of this event, which is now in its 63rd day.
And so our focus at this time is really two-pronged. We are still in the emergency response in many communities and that includes as the premier has mentioned, Forbes and Eugowra, and we are in the early stages of recovery in places like Molong and Canowindra.
Up to 600 homes and businesses to be inundated in Forbes
NSW emergency services minister, Steph Cooke, is up next:
Overnight we’ve seen the river levels at Forbes increase faster than expected which has led forward to the bring forward of the evacuation order from 9:00am to 7:00am this morning.
We’ve got around 1,000 properties covered about by that order, hundreds of people, and we are expecting that 500 to 600 homes and businesses will experience inundation from the flooding that we anticipate to come through Forbes because we’re anticipating similar river levels there, around 10.88m over the days ahead, similar to what that community experienced just two weeks ago.
It’s devestating for the Forbes community that they are experiencing this once again and particularly in such a short period of time. Many of those residents have not been able to return to their home from the flooding two weeks ago and are now facing a situation where their home is likely to be inundated again. This is not just people’s houses. This is their homes. It’s their belongings, their memories, their livelihoods and futures.
One hundred ADF personnel to assist NSW flood efforts
Perrottet thanks the defence minister, and acting prime minister, Richard Marles, for the support that Australian defence personnel have provided flood affected communities.
I want to thank the acting prime minister, Richard Marles. I spoke to him yesterday in relation to getting additional ADF support. We’ll have more boots on the ground today, an additional 100 ADF personnel. The cooperation between the federal government, the state government and local councils in those areas has been incredibly important in making sure that care and support is there.
Perrottet said there are also more than 14 aircraft from the SES, ADF, police and Surf Life Saving that have been rescuing many people in the Eugowra area.
SES perform 222 flood rescues in NSW
A press conference is happening at the NSW emergency operations centre.
Premier Dominic Perrottet is up first:
Over the last 24 hours, we’ve had over 900 requests for assistance. There have been 222 flood rescues.
There’s obviously concerns for our communities in Eugowra and Forbes, particularly Forbes this morning, where evacuation orders are in in place. Those evacuation orders affect properties, impacting hundreds of people.
I say to the community in Forbes we will be with you every step of the way. We were only there two weeks ago. They have gone through flood event after flood event after flood event. We do expect a difficult period of time over the next couple of days …
We know for many communities in the central west, there is a lot of pain and hurt. We’ve got through these challenges in the past and will get through them again.
Australia spearheads online safety push
Australia’s eSafety Commission will team with online regulators from the UK, Ireland and Fiji to create new laws combating abuse, harmful content and illegal material on social networks.
Representatives for the four countries announced their partnership at a conference in Washington DC on Tuesday, revealing the global online safety regulators network would collaborate on an “international approach to online safety regulation”.
The news comes after Australia introduced a world-first adult cyber abuse scheme and Online Safety Act in January, and follows major cutbacks to online safety and moderation teams at Twitter and Facebook this month.
The collaboration received early praise from social media experts who said the fight against online abuse and trolls needed “all the firepower” it could get.
The group will be made of Australia’s eSafety Commission, UK communications regulator Ofcom, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, and Fiji’s Online Safety Commission.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said teaming up would allow the agencies to share information and develop consistent laws, avoiding a “splinternet” of rules for social networks and their users across different countries. She said:
I’ve always believed the future of effective online safety regulation would involve a network of global regulators working together to make the online world a safer place for everyone.
Ofcom chief executive Melanie Dawes said sharing experiences and research across countries would help to ensure the safety of “everyone from Melbourne to Manchester”.
- from AAP
Steggall calls for MPs to speak up on koalas and native forest protection
Federal and state politicians as well as advocates have welcomed the news that the NSW government has pulled its contentious forestry bill which would have threatened koala habitat, but say more needs to be done to protect natural resources and species.
Independent MP for Warringah, Zali Steggall, has called on more members of parliament to “speak up and cross the floor”.
Svitzer to lock out 590 workers
The workplace relations minister, Tony Burke, has said that he’s “devastated” at the way the industrial dispute at Svitzer has unfolded.
Danish tug boat company Svitzer has said it will lock out about 590 workers from 17 metropolitan and regional ports from midday on Friday, and will keep them shut out indefinitely.
Svitzer and the unions have been working to finalise a new enterprise agreement for workers at the 17 ports for the last three years, however increasing agitation from the union has begun to harm their operations, the company says.
Burke told 2GB Radio that it was long-running disputes such as this one that had led Labor to propose giving the Fair Work Commission the power to arbitrate “intractable” disputes. He noted under the current law, the “umpire can only blow the whistle” when both sides agree to arbitration.
I want the umpire to be able to make decisions on protracted disputes. This is not the only long running dispute that has been driving people spare, particularly across NSW over the last 12 months or so. You’ll often get in a negotiation brief disputes that go back and forth ... compared to other countries, we don’t have a lot. But these long protracted ones – you need to have a system where the umpire can step in and say ‘OK we’re going to sort this out’. I’m hopeful we’re only two or three weeks away from that being law. I wish the company could just pause and take breath and wait for those laws to be in place.
Record first day of early voting in Victoria sees 52% increase
Early voting yesterday opened for the Victorian state election which saw a record 115,065 votes cast.
The Victorian Electoral Commission said the figure represented a 52% increase on the figures recorded on the first day of the last state election.
The surge might be explained that Victorians don’t have to give a reason for voting early at the state level, unlike the federal election. Nevertheless, the result comes despite the fact printing delays and wet weather did delay 21 centres from opening on time.
Of course, votes will not be counted before election day.
Australians can help Somalia, World Vision chief urges not to be overwhelmed
With famine looming over Somalia, World Vision Australia’s chief says it’s not too late to help those in the “hungriest place on Earth”.
Daniel Wordsworth talked to Guardian Australia from a town called Doolow, where a camp for displaced people has been set up. He said people are travelling for weeks to get there, walking at night to avoid the heat, searching for food and clean water. He said:
I talked to one grandma who’s in her 90s. She travelled for 20 days. I talked to a young mother, who had five children … they’re all under the age of 10. I talked to another family whose kids are all under 10 and they lost one of their bubbas on the way there.
It’s hard to imagine as a parent making that decision [to leave home in search of aid] because you are fully realising that if you stay, it may be too late. We get too weak, we’ve gone without for too long and we can’t make the journey. We go now, when we have some strength, you realise you may lose someone on the way. That’s a dreadful decision.
Wordsworth said once they get to the camp, people are triaged, with medical help for the most urgent cases, while the others set up basic camps. He said he worries that Australians might feel overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe unfolding, but that they should be reassured they can help. He said:
There’s always a danger that you can feel like there’s nothing you can do. You feel like you’re just one small thing, how, in the face of something like global famine, can you actually do anything?
But you can … we are here on the ground, we can translate within days, donations into life-saving assistance. It’s real. It actually happens. So you don’t have to worry that alone you can do nothing.
Because you’re not alone.
Read more about the crisis in Somalia here:
Break in rain coming
Our resident weather connoisseur Peter Hannam has good news for (most of) you.
Up to a week to clear derailed rail wagons near Geelong
It could take up to a week to reopen the rail corridor between Melbourne and Adelaide as authorities work out how to remove more than a dozen derailed train carriages near Geelong, in Victoria’s west.
Shipping containers were sent tumbling when a 1.7 kilometre-long train with 55 carriages derailed near Inverleigh early on Monday.
Sixteen of the carriages went off the tracks, blocking the rail corridor between Adelaide and Melbourne.
No one was injured and the cause is under investigation.
The Victorian State Emergency Service chief officer, Tim Wiebusch, told reporters on Monday:
We know there was heavy rainfall and some flash flooding in that area but at this stage it’s too early to know what the cause was of the train derailment.
We are lucky we weren’t dealing with a passenger train in this instance and that the crew on board that freight train were also unscathed.
Wiebusch said authorities were working out how to get heavy machinery to the rural area and it could take more than a week for the debris to be cleared.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has taken control of the site. Bureau chief commissioner Angus Mitchell said:
Investigators will survey the site and collect any relevant components for further examination and analysis.
They will also obtain and review any recorded data, weather information, witness reports, and relevant train and track operator records.
– From AAP
Torrents of water spill from Wyangala Dam
We mentioned on the blog earlier that Wyangala Dam across the Lachlan River is spilling over record megalitres of water and increasing the risk of flooding for those surrounding central west communities, including Forbes.
The Wyangala Dam ais at at 104.1% capacity, with WaterNSW saying the 230,000 megalitre outflow from the dam was a record surpassing the 205,000 megalitres during flooding in 1990.
To understand how big those numbers are, just take a look for yourself.
'Chaos in energy markets ... the defining challenge in the global economy': Chalmers
Chalmers says the war in Ukraine hangs over the G20 meeting, with Russia’s invasion making it “difficult to get outcomes”.
The chaos in energy markets, brought about by Russia’s war in Ukraine is the defining challenge in the global economy.
On domestic gas prices, the treasurer says when it comes to mechanisms:
Our first preference is to find a regulatory solution here, rather than a tax solution here, I think we’ve said that in different days over the course of the last couple of weeks and see if we can find a temporary, meaningful, sensible and responsible intervention in this market.
Karvelas asks Chalmers, once a decision on the intervention is made, how long until it starts to lower prices?
We’ll do it in a calm and considered way, but we’ll do it as urgently as we can.
There’s a lot of complexity in these policy areas and I don’t want to pretend to your listeners there’s an easy lever to pull.
You can’t click your fingers and make a war in Ukraine go away.
Karvelas challenges Chalmers that you can make the “glut of greed” of gas producers go away, as the industry minister Ed Husic has pointed out.
Nobody pretending issues raised ‘will be solved overnight’: Chalmers
Albanese has said there are no preconditions ahead of the meeting with Xi but Karvelas is pressing Chalmers on what could be on the table. He’s staying pretty tight-lipped but here are some of his answers.
On whether the meeting between Xi and Albanese will see trade sanctions wound back, Chalmers says:
We’ve made it really clear for some time … that these trade sanctions are not in Australia’s interests, and we want to see them lifted.
Beijing has made its own demands of Australia, Chalmers is asked what concessions Australia will be willing to make:
I don’t think anybody pretends some of the issues China has raised, certainly some we have raised will be solved overnight, but again we give ourselves a much better chance where there is engagement and dialogue.
On whether the prime minister would bring up the treatment of two Australians including journalist Cheng Lei and writer Yang Hengjun, Chalmers says:
Australia’s made its views clear over a long period of time when it comes to the detention of these two people.
PM’s meeting with President Xi seeking to stabilise relationship with China, treasurer says
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is speaking with ABC Radio following the big news yesterday that the country’s leader Anthony Albanese had secured a meeting with his Chinese counterpart for the first time since 2016.
Chalmers has just gotten back from the G20 meeting in Bali where he was with the prime minister yesterday.
RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas:
What’s Australia’s ambition here?
We seek a more stable relationship with China.
We will speak up for our national interest where necessary, but we believe engagement is important to give ourselves the chance to work through some of these issues if we’re talking to each other.
Lachlan River reaching major flood level at Forbes
Shortly after residents of Forbes were told to evacuate or risk being cut off, data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that the Lachlan River at Forbes is reaching major flood levels.
Tasmanians warned of heavy rainfall in south east corner
Tasmania’s south east corner is getting drenched. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a severe weather warning for heavy rainfall.
Australia needs more ‘impactful projection’ and lethality: Marles
The acting prime minister and defence minister, Richard Marles, last night spoke at the Sydney Institute, revealing some of his thinking after receiving the interim advice from the defence strategic review.
Gone are the days of simply paying the entry price to obtain our guarantee from our security guarantor. The world and our region is far too precarious for that. We will have to be willing – and capable – to act on our own terms, when we have to. Crucially, for my portfolio, this will mean ensuring that the military arm of national power is match fit.
Australia’s defence capabilities cannot match those of major powers. Australian statecraft is only viable if it is underpinned by the ability to project force and power: to deter military threats, and defend Australia’s national interests within our immediate region.
And so I believe the cornerstone of future Australian strategic thought will be impactful projection. We must invest in targeted capabilities that enable us to hold potential adversaries’ forces at risk at a distance and increase the calculated cost of aggression against Australia and its interests. And we must be able to do this through the full spectrum of proportionate response.
This will require the Australian defence force to recalibrate its military capabilities, force structure and posture. Our approach must strengthen the lethality, resilience and readiness of the ADF. We must ensure we accord adequate priority to high-end military capabilities to do this. The ADF must augment its self-reliance to deploy and deliver combat power through impactful materiel, enhanced strike capability – including over longer distances – and better logistics and supply chain support, including through a vibrant and innovative partnership with industry.
But Marles also flagged the need for cuts elsewhere:
If we are to grow the defence budget, then in the same breath we must also open up defence spending to scrutiny. The defence strategic review will inevitably foreshadow some difficult decisions. As we think about how we reconfigure our defence force for a very different strategic environment inevitably we will have to make some hard choices. But the very process of exposing the defence budget to scrutiny and criticism is exactly what will provide the licence for the defence budget to grow in the way it must.
He warned of a defence personnel crisis:
Today, the reality is defence faces greater challenges to recruit, retain and grow its workforce than we have for decades. The ADF is almost 3,000 below its allocated force strength. The Department of Defence is more than 1,000 below its budgeted size. In part the defence establishment is simply experiencing the demand for labour which is being felt right around the country. But it also has to do with ensuring that defence’s recruitment reflects the way young Australians approach their careers and that within this context the defence offering is competitive. What is completely clear is that urgent action is required if we are to respond to our more challenging strategic environment. Because right now we have a defence personnel crisis.
Equality Australia asks ‘what’s next’ on five-year anniversary of yes vote
Five years ago the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the results of the marriage law postal survey: 61.6% of Australians voted yes to allow two people, regardless of sex, to be able to marry.
Three weeks later, marriage equality became law. Since then, almost 18,000 same sex couples have married in Australia, according to the ABS. Including 6,538 in the year following the yes vote (5.5% of all marriages).
On Tuesday peak LGBTIQ+ body Equality Australia will use the anniversary to launch the YES, What’s Next? campaign, calling for an end to gender and sexuality discrimination in religious schools and organisations, ending “conversion therapy” practices and ensuring trans people are fully equal.
Equality Australia chief executive, Anna Brown, said:
Five years ago, Australians said YES to marriage equality. They said yes to love, fairness and acceptance. It’s a bittersweet day for our communities – both a landmark moment in our national history that has brought great happiness to 36,000 people and their families, and a reminder of a divisive and unnecessary public debate about our lives and our families ... We’ve come a long way as a society in the last five years, but there’s so much more to do. Still today, many of us face discrimination at school, in our workplace or when accessing services. Violence against people in our communities still happens and the opponents who lobbied against marriage equality have shifted focus, doubling down on their attacks on trans and gender diverse people in Australia.
Ian Thorpe, five time Olympic gold medal swimmer and prominent marriage equality campaigner, said:
The YES vote meant more than simply saying yes to same sex marriage, it was also saying yes to all the LGBTQ+ kids out there that they are just as much a part of society as everyone else, and that all of us are equal no matter who we love. Australia is at its best when we embrace all of our differences. We are better and stronger together. And that’s what the YES vote did, it brought us all together – not only in spirit but also in law ...
The YES, What’s Next? pledge is a rallying cry to political leaders across the country to build a more fair, equal and just society by ending conversion practices, ensuring trans people are fully equal, protecting LGBTIQ+ students and staff from discrimination in religious school, and protecting intersex people from harm.
Forbes warned to evacuate
Natasha May now on deck with you.
Residents of Forbes were warned to evacuate before 7am or risk being cut off this morning as the SES say the Lachlan River is rising faster than originally forecast.
The central west town in NSW has had several major floods over the past 12 months, the last only two weeks ago coming in just under the level reached in the June 1952 flood.
This time, the Bureau of Meteorology predicts water levels will peak around 10.8 metres on Wednesday – similar to the 1952 level.
The flooding in Forbes comes as the Wyangala Dam across the Lachlan River is spilling over at at 104.1% capacity.
A WaterNSW spokesman told the Sydney Morning Herald that the 230,000 megalitre outflow from the dam was a record surpassing the 205,000 megalitres during flooding in 1990.
NSW flood warnings for Lachlan and Macquarie rivers
The Bureau of Meteorology has issued more flood warnings for central west New South Wales as the state continues to feel the impact of massive rainfall over recent days and the Wyangala Dam continues to spill.
“With all the rain over the weekend we are still seeing significant flooding for large parts of the country – particularly for Bathurst and Forbes,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Jonathan How told Australian Associated Press.
The BoM released a warning for the Lachlan River in the early hours of this morning:
Moderate to heavy rainfall observed across the Lachlan River catchment has resulted in renewed river level rises and areas of flooding. Major flooding is occurring at Cowra and Nanami. Major flooding is likely at Forbes from early Tuesday morning. Major flooding is occurring at Cottons Weir.
It also said major flooding was occurring at Bathurst but the Macquarie River was now falling.
Further south-west, the town of Eugowra has been cut off and residents had to be rescued by helicopter and taken to Orange.
Our reporter Cait Kelly filed this story last night, including this quote from emergency services minister, Steph Cooke.
“With a population of 700, one in five residents have been rescued in the last few hours, by helicopter or by boat. This [severe weather] event is now in its 62nd day, and every day it throws up new challenges.”
And that’s it from me this morning, my colleague Natasha May will keep you up to date on everything you need to know.
Australia still lags developed countries in climate performance
A new report published overnight shows that Australia still lags most developed countries in the climate performance index despite the Labor government’s attempts to improve the country’s standing.
Australia is ranked 55th out of 63 in the index, a slight improvement on its 59th place last year as a lack of national plan to phase out fossil fuel mining contin ues to hold the country back.
Nicki Hutley, an economist with the Climate Council, said Australia had “gone from dead last to a pass”. “Despite the nation’s recent progress, there is no escaping just how far behind we are and how much catching up we’ve got to do,” she said.
Adam Morton has the full story here.
Welcome to our live blog where the day will be dominated by the run up to Anthony Albanese’s meeting with Xi Jinping in Bali tonight. My colleague Natasha May will be here soon to guide you through the day but in the meantime, let’s see what’s coming up.
The Business Council of Australia has hailed the prime minister’s meeting with Xi as a “tremendous reset” and an opportunity to rebuild relations with our biggest trading partner after trade wars and spats about the pandemic and human rights. Our political editor, Katharine Murphy, is in Bali and will keep us informed every step of the way. She has this take on the comments by BCA chief Jennifer Westacott.
Another summit, another country, and climate minister Chris Bowen is in Egypt for the Cop27 climate talks. He plans to give a speech later today criticising the World Bank for failing to offer a rigorous enough response to the climate emergency, and also suggesting that the architecture of the global financial system needs to be reworked to create better solutions to the problem. Our environment editor, Adam Morton, is in Sharm el-Sheikh and has filed this take on Bowen.
Severe flooding continues to pose a serious risk to communities in the central west of New South Wales with major flooding expected in towns including Forbes and Bathurst. In addition, there are emergency orders in place for areas from the Queensland border to Victoria as far south as Geelong.