What we learned – Sunday 20 November

And that’s where we’ll leave you this evening. Here are today’s highlights:

  • Federal parliament’s sitting calendar may be extended beyond its scheduled Christmas break as the government hopes to pass a raft of complex legislation and fulfil election promises before the end of the year.

  • Cybercriminals have released the data stolen from about 1,500 Medibank customers, including details of sexually transmitted infections and treatment for mental health, after the company refused to pay a US$10m ransom.

  • Flood warnings have been issued across New South Wales and Victoria as rain continues in parts of these states. More than 70 NSW local government areas are subject to disaster declarations.

  • Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll said there are “definitely positives” to be expected in a review of the state’s police service, due for release on Monday.

  • Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews has said the state deserves “better than violent extremism” and US-style politics after upper house MP, Catherine Cumming, told a crowd of protesters yesterday that he should be turned into “red mist”.

  • NSW Labor pledged to ban mobile phones in the state’s high schools if elected next year.

  • A historic deal to set up a “loss and damage” fund to pay poorer countries harmed by the impacts of the climate crisis has been agreed to at Cop27, after a decades-long fight by climate campaigners and developing nations.

  • Crikey’s editor-in-chief Peter Fray will take indefinite leave after his “unacceptable” behaviour at the Walkley awards, Private Media CEO Will Hayward announced.

  • And Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has reinstated the banned account of former US president Donald Trump.

We’ll be back with you bright and early on Monday morning. In the meantime, look after yourselves and have a lovely evening.


Crikey's editor-in-chief on indefinite leave after 'unacceptable' behaviour at Walkleys

Crikey’s editor-in-chief Peter Fray will take indefinite leave after his “unacceptable” behaviour at the Walkley awards, Private Media CEO Will Hayward has announced.

Fray heckled the ABC journalists who won the Gold Walkley during their acceptance speech at Thursday night’s gala journalism awards ceremony, repeatedly yelling out, “What about Crikey?”. He apologised on Friday afternoon.

I wish to unreservedly apologise for my actions at last night’s Walkley awards. They were unacceptable. I have apologised to the ABC’s news director Justin Stevens,
the deserved winners of the Gold Walkley, Anne Connolly, Stephanie Zillman and Ali Russell and ABC editorial.

— Peter James Fray (@PeterFray) November 18, 2022

Hayward said on Sunday:

Peter’s behaviour was unacceptable, and does not reflect the standards we aspire to at our company.

I would like to take the opportunity to apologise on behalf of Private Media to Anne Connolly, Stephanie Zillman and Ali Russell and the ABC, and congratulate them on their well deserved win.

Fray, who is also the managing editor of Private Media, said on Sunday his behavior was totally unwarranted, inappropriate and out of character:

I deeply regret my actions at the Walkley awards and again apologise to the worthy Gold Walkley winners – Anne Connolly, Stephanie Zillman and Ali Russell – attendees on the night, the Walkley foundation’s staff and board members and all staff at Private Media.

I will use the period of leave to deeply reflect on my actions and seek appropriate assistance. I can’t undo my actions on that evening, as much I wish to do so. It was wrong for me to question the veracity of the ABC’s work and the excellence of its journalism.


World Cup: 10 things to look out for on day one

It was only in August this year that Fifa switched the World Cup tournament opener to Qatar v Ecuador, instead of Netherlands v Senegal. The change is in line with a long-standing tradition of the first matches involving either the hosts or reigning champions. So, now we have the curtain-raising opening ceremony followed by Qatar kicking things off, here are 10 things to look out for as the tournament begins.


More flood warnings issued in Victoria

Some flooding updates for Victoria from emergency services, including a “Prepare Now” warning for Tallandoon and a “Too Late To Leave” notification for Iraak Island.

If you’re in an area at risk of flooding, please make sure you check for active warnings and follow emergency services’ advice.

This WATCH & ACT - RIVERINE FLOOD - Prepare Now has been issued for the Mitta Mitta River at Tallandoon

This Watch and Act message replaces the Minor flood warning issued at 12pm today.

More details at https://t.co/cSAfZhFZvO pic.twitter.com/E5kicdjQjS

— VICSES News (@vicsesnews) November 20, 2022

This EMERGENCY WARNING - RIVERINE FLOOD - Too Late to Leave has been issued for Iraak Island

An Evacuation Warning remains current, but it is now too late to leave as Rudds Road is closed due to its deteriorating condition.

More details at https://t.co/tCGUThNgv4 pic.twitter.com/grRWosT6Oc

— VICSES News (@vicsesnews) November 20, 2022


Parliament might need ‘extra time’ to meet election pledges: Albanese

Federal parliament’s sitting calendar may be extended beyond its scheduled Christmas break next week, as the government hopes to pass a raft of complex legislation and fulfil election promises before the end of the year.

As we mentioned earlier, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has conceded the Senate may need “extra time” to consider his contentious industrial relations bill, with the government still needing to woo crossbench senators to pass the workplace legislation.

With just eight sitting days scheduled before the end of 2022, and bills including the national anti-corruption commission and the territory rights euthanasia changes still to be debated, the government is open to keeping politicians in Canberra to continue debate.

Albanese told Sky News on Sunday:

We might well have to sit extra days and that’s fine. I don’t mind the parliament sitting at all.

Parliament resumes on Monday for its final scheduled sitting fortnight of the year. The current sitting calendar, designed by the Labor government and agreed to by the parliament in July, would see the last sitting day for 2022 on 1 December.

If sittings were extended beyond 9 December, it would clash with school holidays in Queensland. The government has previously said it wants to minimise sessions sittings during school holidays.

Read more here:


No fossil fuel phase out but Cop27 deal a victory for Pacific: Greenpeace Australia

Greenpeace Australia said the final decision text did not include any “improved commitments to phase out all fossil fuels or sufficient measures to reach the 1.5 degree target, but it does contain a breakthrough agreement to establish a loss and damage finance facility.”

Shiva Gounden, Pacific advisor at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said in a statement on Sunday that the decision was a victory for low-lying Pacific Island countries describing the moment as a “new dawn for climate justice”.

We’ve worked for a generation for this moment. More than thirty years after the idea of loss and damage was first introduced by Vanuatu, it is Pacific Island nations and the developing world that has made Cop27 a real moment for action on climate justice.

Moving forward into discussion of the details of the fund, we need to ensure that those most responsible for the climate crisis make the biggest contribution. For countries like Australia that spent a staggering $11.6 billion on fossil fuel subsidies in 2021-2022, this means paying up, not paying off polluting industries.

The Australian government must take stock of this moment and truly champion our journey for climate justice through words and action, and through addressing the causes and symptoms of the climate crisis.

Ulaiasi Tuikoro, Fijian climate activist and representative of the Pacific Youth Council, said the deal offered the Pacific Islands said the world must now “move on agreeing to phase out all fossil fuels”.

It was devastating for us Pacific Islanders to go into rooms and negotiate. We don’t negotiate numbers and clauses, we negotiate our lives, cultures, communities, people, and our very existence.

The commitment to a loss and damage finance facility at Cop27 is a result of solidarity and a step forward for climate justice, but in order to give the Pacific a fighting chance we must tackle the causes and the consequences of the climate crisis simultaneously.


UN secretary general António Guterres has welcomed the creation of a loss and damage fund at Cop27.

#COP27 has taken an important step towards justice.

I welcome the decision to establish a loss and damage fund and to operationalize it in the coming period.

Clearly this will not be enough, but it is a much-needed political signal to rebuild broken trust. pic.twitter.com/5yhg5tKXtJ

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) November 20, 2022


Councils grappling with an influx of homeless Australians

There are only three residents left in Huntly Lions Park, a campground just north of Bendigo’s city centre. In August, the council rezoned the land and told everyone living there in tents and caravans they had 14 days to leave.

Council staff say the decision was in response to some residents not “feeling safe” when visiting the park and because the site was unsuitable for long-term living. But Lee-Anne Gray, who has been living at the campground since January, refuses to leave because she has nowhere else to go.

She became homeless after losing her job and rental and has been unable to find another home, according to Damian Stock, the chief executive of Arc Justice, a community legal centre advising Gray on her rights.

As the housing and cost of living crisis deepens, a growing number of Australians have turned to public land and campgrounds to set up makeshift homes until there is a better option. That has forced local councils to grapple with a social issue they argue is caused by the failure of other levels of government – particularly of the states – to build enough social and emergency housing.

For more on this story read the full report by Guardian Australia’s reporter Jordyn Beazley:


Queensland police chief staying positive ahead of review report

Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll says there are “definitely positives” to be expected in a review of the state’s police service that will be released on Monday.

Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Carroll would not be drawn on the contents of the report as it was still cabinet in confidence, but said “more reform was needed” after an inquiry found horrific levels of sexual harassment and misogyny within the law enforcement agency.

Carroll did not directly respond to questions about a petition circulating for her to be replaced.

I think everyone is – can start petitions if they wish. I do want the public and Queenslanders to have high confidence I have commenced earnest reform over the last three years.

And there needs to be more. Significantly more amount of work to be done. It’s been relentless in reform and I know those recommendations will come and we will further transform.

But I want Queenslanders to have confidence in me to deliver that and in me to deliver that as well.

Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll.
Queensland police commissioner Katarina Carroll. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

Carroll said she would be looking for the positives when the review is released, saying “whenever you do a review of any type, there’s always positives”.

She also said the Queensland police service was still attracting women into the force despite the scandal.

The final report of the inquiry into the Queensland police is expected to be released on Monday. It follows an inquiry that has highlighted the massive scope of sexual harassment and misogyny within the force; raised alarm about alleged police failures to adequately investigate the deaths of First Nations women; and detailed the way police failed to pursue credible domestic violence allegations against officers.

For more on this story, read the Guardian Australia’s Queensland correspondent, Ben Smee’s previous reporting:


Rare honeyeaters released in New South Wales

The wild population of one of Australia’s rarest birds is being boosted this week with the release of 50 zoo-bred regent honeyeaters in the Lower Hunter Valley.

NSW environment minister James Griffin said on Sunday that the release on Wonnarua Country was the second large-scale release of the endangered honeyeaters undertaken in NSW.

The regent honeyeater used to flock in its thousands from Queensland to South Australia, but now there are only around 300 birds left in the wild.

We’re releasing conservation-bred birds to boost numbers in the wild as part of a national effort to save this critically endangered species.

We recently learnt that wild regent honeyeaters are losing their song culture because there are fewer older birds for young regent honeyeaters to learn from.

Griffin said the ability for the honeyeater to sing and call was vital to attracting a mate and the introduction of the Taronga Zoo-bred birds would give the wild birds the chance to learn their songs again, find mates and ensure survival into the future.

In 2021, 58 regent honeyeaters were released in the Lower Hunter Valley, and breeding activity was documented along with assimilation of zoo-bred birds into wild flocks.

Mindaribba Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO Tara Dever said the release on Mindaribba land reflected the deep relationship between the birds and the country at the foot of Mt Tomalpin.

“While conditions need to be just right to ensure the birds have enough food and shelter, the deep connection between First Nations People and this land has assisted with the success of the release,” Dever said.

The breeding program is led by Taronga Conservation Society Australia, BirdLife Australia and the NSW government’s $175m Saving our Species program.

Taronga Conservation Society Australia wildlife conservation officer Monique Van Sluys said almost 600 regent honeyeaters have been bred at Taronga Zoo Sydney and Taronga Western Plains Zoo since 2000.

“Over the past 20 years, Taronga has refined its approach to conservation breeding and increased our understanding of this beautiful and rare species,” Sluys said.

“Juvenile zoo-bred regent honeyeaters are now housed in aviaries with wild adult birds to be exposed to their wild regent honeyeaters’ song prior to release. This crucial step allows the birds to learn and refine their distinctive song.”

BirdLife Australia’s NSW Woodland Bird Program manager Mick Roderick said around 39 birds will be monitored for up to 10 weeks by BirdLife Australia.

“Monitoring will involve a small radio-tracking crew, following transmitter signals and recording individual bird locations and behaviour to understand survival, breeding attempts and dispersal patterns,” Roderick said.

– from AAP


Governments meeting at Cop27 agree to creation of loss and damage fund

A loss and damage fund will be created after the Cop27 meeting in Cairo has run into overtime over negotiations about whether to compensate developing countries for harms caused by climate change.

President of Cop27, Sameh Shoukry confirmed the fund would be created just prior to the plenary restarting.

Here is the language of the document – it’s in UN climate speak but it is significant:

The Conference of the Parties and the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Paris Agreement,

Recalling the Convention and the Paris Agreement…

Decide to establish new funding arrangements for assisting developing countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change, in responding to loss and damage, including with a focus on addressing loss and damage by providing and assisting in mobilizing new and additional resources, and that these new arrangements complement and include sources, funds, processes and initiatives under and outside the Convention and the Paris Agreement;

Also decide, in the context of establishing the new funding arrangements referred to in paragraph 2 above, to establish a fund for responding to loss and damage whose mandate includes a focus on addressing loss and damage.

The document, agreed by almost 200 countries, also establishes a committee to come up with rules to make the fund happen. That committee will report back at next year’s Cop.

For more follow the Guardian’s live coverage of the Cop27 meeting:


Cost of living bites as nearly one in two Australians dread Christmas

Just 51% of people say they are looking forward to Christmas this year, according to a new survey by online payments giant PayPal.

Amid cost-of-living pressures, around 60% of Australians plan to spend less than $500 on Christmas presents this year and one in six hope to spend under $200.

One way Aussies are planning to cut costs is by shopping the end of year sales like Black Friday and Cyber Monday which this year fall on 25 and 28 November.

Some say they will even wait until Boxing Day to buy gifts, to take full advantage of potential savings.

For more on how people are dealing with the rising cost of living, read how five Australians are responding going into Christmas.

– with AAP


Analysts read RBA tea leaves for hints of future rate rises

All eyes will be on the Reserve Bank of Australia this week to see how it’s factoring in recent strong wages and jobs data, ahead of its next interest rate meeting in December.

At its board meeting earlier this month, the central bank floated the near term possibility of keeping the cash rate steady at 2.85% up to Christmas to allow monetary policy tightenings to date to flow through the economy.

But since then, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has published robust wages and employment figures that suggest the economy is still roaring along and further rate rises may be needed to temper demand.

RBA governor Philip Lowe is due to speak at a Committee for the Economic Development of Australia dinner in Melbourne on Tuesday and his speech will be scanned for any changes in the central bank’s messaging.

But AMP Capital economist Shane Oliver said a pause was unlikely given the solid 3.1% rise in wages in the year ended September and a surprisingly low jobless rate of 3.4% for October.

“A pause is unlikely in December though and we continue to expect another 0.25% rate hike but a pause is likely from early next year where we expect the cash rate to peak at 3.1%,” he said.

The RBA board does not meet in January but will gather on the first Tuesday in February.

– from AAP


Investigator arrives at WA’s Burrup to examine industry’s impact on rock art

Traditional owners on the Burrup peninsula in Western Australia have welcomed the arrival of a government-appointed investigator responsible for examining the impact of nearby industrial operations on rock art.

Alison Stone was appointed as part of an assessment secured by the Save Our Songlines campaign to examine the cumulative effect of all industry on the Burrup peninsula.

Stone has until November 30 to take submissions from traditional custodians as part of the assessment process and her findings will be considered by the minister when deciding to impose permanent protections through legislation.

It is the first time the impact of climate change is to be considered as part of the process.

This weekend, Murujuga Elders and community members gathered to meet with government-appointed investigator into threats to the Burrup, Alison Stone.

Add your voice to support our calls for protection of country: https://t.co/vCwP3U3mJ9 pic.twitter.com/fCFbBvwu3M

— Save Our Songlines (@SaveBurrup) November 20, 2022

Raelene Cooper, Mardudhunera woman and former chair of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation who is part of the Save Our Songlines campaign, said in statement:

We welcome the arrival on the Burrup of the Section 10 Reporter Alison Stone to allow all traditional custodians to have their say on the full cultural heritage assessment of all industry on the Burrup Hub.

The extension of the submissions process by the federal government will allow our whole community to engage fully in this critical process and enable detailed scientific submissions from experts.

The latest research provides timely evidence of the significant damage being done to our sacred Murujuga rock art by emissions from these plants. It clearly demonstrates the need to make permanent protections to limit the long term impact of emissions in addition to preventing the immediate removal of rock art to facilitate these projects.

The Burrup is home to a significant industrial operations, including Woodside Energy’s Pluto Train 2 plant being built as part of its $16bn development of the Scarborough gas field.


A note about Twitter embeds

We’ve also been getting a few comments about the continued use of Twitter embeds in the blog and I just wanted to address this briefly: despite all the chaos that has unfolded with Twitter in the last two weeks, the platform remains a key line of communication for many emergency services and government agencies.

The ability to quickly share and embed Tweets into the blog allows us to rapidly communicate information to those who may need to it, wherever they are – especially when it is weather or flood-related. Sometimes this information is complex and the Tweets contain links to the most accurate and up-to-date statements.

Right now we will to continue sharing critical information as needed, whether it’s a major government announcement, or information about flood warnings, weather forecasts and other material that may help people make decisions about their safety.


Twitter lifts Donald Trump ban, but will he return?

His Twitter account may be unlocked but former US president Donald Trump has been coy about whether he will make a return to the platform.

During an appearance by video link at the Republican Jewish Coalition annual leadership meeting in Las Vegas on Saturday, Trump told his audience that Twitter had “a lot of problems” and encouraged them to stick to his own social media platform, Truth Social.

I hear we’re getting a big vote to also go back on Twitter. I don’t see any reason for it, and a lot of problems at Twitter. You see what’s going on, they may make it, it may not make it, but the problems are incredible, the engagements are negative. And you have a lot of bots and a lot of fake accounts. Truth Social has taken the place for a lot of people and I don’t see them going back onto Twitter.

The last post on Trump’s twitter account is dated 9 January 2021 and reads: “To all those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th”. It has not been updated since.

Elon Musk made the decision to reinstate the former president to the platform after an online Twitter poll.

He posted the results of the poll, showing a narrow win for allowing Trump back to Twitter with 51.8% voting yes and 48.2% voting no. “The people have spoken,” Musk tweeted.

Ironically, it is not clear how many of those votes were legitimate as Musk acknowledged during the poll that vote numbers were being influenced by automated bot accounts.

“Bot & troll armies might be running out of steam soon. Some interesting lessons to clean up future polls,” Musk said.

For all the details, read the full story:


NSW Labor pledges to ban phones in high schools if elected

Mobile phones will be banned in NSW high schools if the Labor party wins next year’s state election.

Parents have been calling for the change but the NSW government has not been listening, opposition leader Chris Minns said in a statement on Sunday:

As a parent of three children myself, I share the concerns of parents worried about the impact of phones and devices on our kids and their learning.

NSW Labor will restrict phone use in schools to help cut distraction, deal with cyber-bullying and help improve student outcomes.

Phones are already banned in NSW primary schools but there are no mandatory restrictions in place for high school settings.

Under Labor’s proposal, all NSW public school students will have their phones turned off during school hours and kept out of sight until the end of the day.

There will be exemptions for students with special circumstances, like those needing to monitor health conditions.

South Australia, the Northern Territory, Victoria and Western Australia have already implemented a mobile phone ban in schools.

NSW residents will go to the polls on 25 March.

- via AAP


Victorian premier responds to MP’s call for him to be turned into ‘red mist’

Daniel Andrews says Victoria is “better than violent extremism” after upper house MP, Catherine Cumming, told a crowd of protesters that he should be turned into “red mist”.

Cumming is being investigated by police for inciteful behaviour after she was filmed giving a speech outside Flinders Street Station on Saturday afternoon.

She told the crowd:

I joined the Angry Victorian Party for one reason – to make Daniel Andrews turn into red mist.

In the army, we would call it pink mist, but I want him into red mist. Give anyone here in the army a job to blow someone up, and they will.

“Pink mist” is a military term used to describe the blood that comes out of a sniper’s target when they are hit.

Speaking in Narre Warren South on Sunday, Andrews said Cumming’s speech was a “matter for police”:

I will just say this. I think we’re better than this. Our multicultural, multi-faith state, a thoughtful, inclusive, compassionate state. We are much better than this. We’re much better than violent extremism. We ought to leave that to the United States.

This is not America, and I for one will do nothing to contribute to the Americanisation of our politics. We’re putting a positive and optimistic plan to the Victorian community, and then it will be their choice.

I’ll leave it to others to defend their actions, their statements, their preference deals that stand – indeed the conduct of their candidates. That’s a matter for them.

Andrews was referring to the Liberal party’s decision to preference fringe parties above Labor in every seat.

He announced that if re-elected, Labor will spend $584m to establish 50 new low-cost child care centres across the state by 2028. It will also spend $159m to attract and retain early childhood educators.

Catherine Cumming at the ‘The Worldwide Rally for Freedom’ protest against mandatory vaccinations and lockdown measures in November 2021.
Catherine Cumming at the ‘The Worldwide Rally for Freedom’ protest against mandatory vaccinations and lockdown measures in November 2021. Photograph: James Ross/EPA


Aaand he’s back. Donald Trump’s Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, has been reinstated.

Victorian opposition leader defends candidate who railed against Indigenous recognition and abortion

Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has defended a Liberal party candidate who railed against Indigenous recognition, climate change, abortion and described a senior MP as a “prick”.

Speaking in Bentleigh on Sunday, Guy said Timothy Dragan – the Liberal candidate for Narre Warre North – had apologised for comments reported by the Age on Sunday, including that Australia should not recognise First Nations people because “we won this land fair and square”.

Asked if he was confident having Dragan on his team, Guy replied:

He’s apologised for silly comments. He’s not alone in this world for making silly comments and he’s apologised for the ones he made ... Some of those were disrespectful. I know they were disrespectful. I saw what was printed. He apologised for those as he should. But the first thing you’d ask of someone who makes any disrespectful comment is for an apology. And he gave that and I think that’s fair and reasonable.

Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy in Melbourne on Saturday
Victorian Opposition leader Matthew Guy in Melbourne on Saturday Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP


Elon Musk reinstates Donald Trump’s Twitter account

Elon Musk has just announced he’ll be reinstating former US president Donald Trump’s Twitter account, after running a Twitter poll on whether or not he should.

The people have spoken.

Trump will be reinstated.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei. https://t.co/jmkhFuyfkv

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2022


Victorian Liberal leader criticised over decision to dump Senate candidate

Tim Smith, once a close ally of Victorian opposition leader, Matthew Guy, has criticised the decision to dump an upper house candidate who is a member of a conservative church from the Liberal party a week before the state election.

Renee Heath is still expected to be elected to parliament, given she occupies the top position on the Liberal party’s ticket for the eastern Victorian region.

But her involvement with the City Builders Church, where her parents are pastors, has repeatedly come under scrutiny, including in an investigation published by the Age on Saturday.

The report prompted Guy to announce she would not sit in the Liberal party room if elected.

Smith, the current member for Kew, who will not contest the election after crashing his car while drunk last year, has weighed in on the decision:

I hadn't wanted to comment on the election, but given @MatthewGuyMP attempt to cancel Renee Heath I’ve changed. Guy has no power to do what he's proposed. This is Andrew Thorburn on steroids.
This is cultural Marxism and whilst I’m a member of our Party I’ll call this crap out.

— Tim Smith MP (@TimSmithMP) November 19, 2022

The Age on Sunday reported nine senior Liberal Party members wrote to Guy and other party leaders weeks ago warning about Heath’s candidacy and received no response.

Speaking in Bentleigh on Sunday morning, Guy says he does not remember receiving any letters:

Frankly, that matter has been dealt with.

Guy says Heath’s preselection went through the appropriate “checks and balances”:

As [state director] Sam [McQuestin] says today, the material that [Heath] had presented to them is how they have to judge someone - you can’t judge things on things they don’t know that’s not fair and reasonable.

Here’s McQuestin’s statement:

I have reviewed all correspondence and information available to me regarding the preselection of Ms Renee Heath.

None of that information shows Ms Heath’s ongoing and recent engagement with Pastor Jonathan David and his organisation.

On November 11, I had a conversation with Ms Heath to discuss questions Ms Heath had received from 60 Minutes.

Yesterday morning, it was clear that the responses Ms Heath provided during that conversation were inconsistent with reports in The Age newspaper.


Australia’s sports minister and Coalition counterpart to attend FIFA World Cup

Federal sports minister, Anika Wells, and her Coalition shadow counterpart Anne Ruston are heading to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar this week, in a bid to promote Australia’s hosting of the Women’s World Cup next year.

Wells said she hoped Qatar’s hosting of the men’s tournament would be a “powerful influence for social and cultural change”, and plans to talk about human rights reform in the Middle Eastern country.

“Qatar’s hosting of the event has enabled it to show signs of progress towards advancing reform in human rights, particularly labour, which we hope will continue beyond Qatar’s World Cup host year,” she said on Sunday.

Australia’s campaign kicks off on Wednesday morning, with their first game against reigning champions France.

“Australia and Qatar have a positive bilateral relationship, based on trade and investment, aviation and education. The visit will be a valuable opportunity for minister Wells to engage in conversations on human rights reforms in Qatar,” her office said.

Wells said she would promote the 2023 women’s World Cup, to be co-hosted in Australia and New Zealand next year, as well as cheering on the Socceroos.

“The Australian government is also committed to advancing human rights globally and Qatar’s hosting of the FIFA World Cup has provided opportunities to promote meaningful reform in human rights which we hope will continue beyond the tournament,” she said.

“Major sporting events can be powerful influences for social and cultural change, and I hope that is the case with the FIFA Men’s and Women’s World Cups.


Flood warnings have been issued across NSW and Victoria

Flood warnings have been issued across New South Wales and Victoria as rain continues in parts of these states.

🚨107 current warnings across NSW:
24 Emergency Warnings
71 Watch & Act
12 Advice

👉 Interactive map and all warnings: https://t.co/FZooFazTsU.

📞 For emergency help in floods & storms, call #NSWSES on 132 500. In life-threatening situations call 000.

Current 6.55am Sun 20 Nov pic.twitter.com/XrFDVUNtRV

— NSW SES (@NSWSES) November 19, 2022

This WATCH & ACT - RIVERINE FLOOD - Prepare Now has been issued for King River

Minor flooding is likely along the King River at Docker Road Bridge Sunday morning, with further rises to the moderate flood level possible.

More details at https://t.co/QFVutUBmbA pic.twitter.com/4ZnoBVzsIX

— VICSES News (@vicsesnews) November 19, 2022

Thunderstorms and damage wind warnings have been issued over northwest Queensland.

⚠️⛈️Severe Thunderstorm #Warning issued for Damaging Winds: fast-moving thunderstorms this morning over parts of northwest #Qld. Warning area includes #JuliaCreek and #Richmond. Julia Creek recorded a gust of 96 km/h at 6:56 am. Warning details: https://t.co/LIKD3X5l5z pic.twitter.com/ouBE9J1C2N

— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) November 19, 2022

A “vigorous” cold front is sweeping across the southeast from South Australia and across Victoria.

Another vigorous cold front and associated westerly airstream are forecast to cross southern and eastern parts of South Australia today. Locally damaging wind gusts are to redevelop across southern parts of the state today. Keep up to date here: https://t.co/5wxFrWeCue pic.twitter.com/lMYXaAaif9

— Bureau of Meteorology, South Australia (@BOM_SA) November 19, 2022

⚠️ Severe Weather Warning for Damaging Winds ⚠️
Westerly winds averaging 40-60km/h with gusts to 100km/h are possible over western districts of Victoria, extending eastwards during the day.
See latest warnings: https://t.co/pAAxNQztIP pic.twitter.com/gLMO1XZDdI

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) November 20, 2022

Flood warnings have also been issued for the Macquarie River in Tasmania.

⚠️MINOR #Flood Warning issued for #MacquarieRiver. Renewed minor flooding possible at Ross and Cressy Pumps from Sunday afternoon due to recent rainfall. See https://t.co/V9LYfDjneQ for details and updates; follow advice from @SESTasmania. #TasFloods pic.twitter.com/aiHjVO93Jm

— Bureau of Meteorology, Tasmania (@BOM_Tas) November 20, 2022

Out west new fire danger ratings have been issued for parts of Western Australia.

☀️ Fire Danger Ratings have been forecast for WA. You can find which Local Government Authorities are affected and relevant community safety messages on https://t.co/hYCrBsWsIr

— DFES (@dfes_wa) November 19, 2022


Treasurer pledges movement on industrial relations and anti-corruption commission

The federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has spoken to reporters in Queensland ahead of parliament returning for the next fortnight.

He says parliament will be considering bills on a national anti-corruption commission, cheaper child care, a disaster fund, “progress for older people who want to work more” and the government’s proposed changes to industrial relations laws.

Chalmers says under the previous government “wage stagnation and wage suppression” was a “deliberate design feature” of its economy policy – but the current government is cautious on negotiations with the senate crossbench.

We take no outcome for granted in the Senate. We will continue to engage in a meaningful way and in a respectful way with colleagues in the Senate, particularly the crossbench, because this is the Parliament’s big chance to get wages moving properly again.

We cannot do that without fixing a broken bargaining system and that’s what our industrial relations changes are all about.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP


Medical data from 1,500 customers released after Medibank refuses ransom demand

Cyber criminals have released the data stolen from about 1,500 Medibank customers, including details of sexually transmitted infections and treatment for mental health.

On Sunday the private health insurer confirmed the Russian-linked hackers had released a fifth tranche of stolen patient data, after the company refused to pay a US$10m ransom.

The data was released in four folders on the dark web labelled labelled ‘sexually transmitted diseases’, ‘HIV’, ‘psycho’ and ‘viral hep’. In a statement, Medibank confirmed the data included chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma, people with cancer, people with dementia, people with mental-health conditions, people with infections and people who have sustained injuries, amongst other conditions.

Medibank’s chief executive officer, David Koczkar, said Medibank was working to determine the accuracy of the leaked data. He said that some of the data was from previously released files, and that some previously released data had not matched the company’s records.

Koczkar said:

We will continue to support all people who have been impacted by this crime through our Cyber Response Support Program. This includes mental health and wellbeing support, identity protection and financial hardship measures.

For more on this story:


No end to rain as New South Wales residents assess flood damage

Major flooding is forecast to continue along several river systems in NSW as flood-hit communities survey the damage and authorities warn it could be months before the deluge comes to an end.

More than 70 NSW local government areas are subject to disaster declarations.

The latest emergency warning was issued early on Sunday for the township of Euabalong on the Lachlan River where residents were warned to shelter in “a sturdy raised structure” as evacuation routes are likely to be cut off.

“You may now be trapped without power, water, and other essential services and it may be too dangerous for NSW SES to rescue you,” the SES warning said.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the Lachlan River at Euabalong may reach around eight metres with major flooding higher than the 1952 flood.

The NSW State Emergency Service performed eight flood rescues in the 24 hours to 7am on Sunday and received 255 calls for help.

“We are expecting to see the impacts of flooding for weeks, even months to come as this water makes its way downstream across several river catchments,” assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said.

Major flooding is expected to continue along several river systems, including the Lachlan, Darling and Murrumbidgee, affecting towns including Forbes and Condobolin in the central west, Bourke in the northwest and the Riverina town of Hay.

Prolonged major flooding in Forbes isn’t expected to ease until early next week.


Major flooding expected along Lachlan River

Ashley Sullivan, chief superintendent of the New South Wales state emergency service, has given an update on flood waters to the ABC.

He said river levels around Forbes and further downstream have receded. Emergency services are now supporting communities in the area with damage assessments and cleanup operations.

The second cleanup here in Forbes in as many weeks. A huge many impact of this community, particularly in Forbes from the major flooding they have experienced.

Sullivan said major flooding is expected along the Lachlan River, with “significant amounts” of water in western and southern New South Wales presenting a “significant risk” to communities.

Meanwhile the Esk River has cut off communities, but Sullivan said the SES are sending resources into Avalon where there are concerns about the levees in the community.

We have seen some levees fail and early this morning we did see the levee breach.

We have helicopters and personnel heading into those communities are supporting and evacuating those that want to be evacuated. Out to a major town with support.

Sullivan said it is expected flood waters will peak at Condobolin along the Lachlan River around Monday with a sandbagging effort underway.

For more on this story:


NSW authorities find body of Eugowra man lost in flood waters

New South Wales police have found the body of an 85-year-old man lost in flood waters on Saturday.

Authorities were searching for Ljubisa “Les” Vugec late on Saturday afternoon in a wide-ranging search in Eugowra.

A body was found on the outskirts of town.

No formal identification had taken place but it is believe to be Vugec.

He was last seen at his Eugowra home on Monday morning and was reported missing when family members couldn’t contact him.

The find brings the death toll to two after the body of 60-year-old Diane Smith was recovered from floodwaters days earlier.

– with AAP


PM prepared to extend parliament sitting days to deliver IR reform

Prime minister Anthony Albanese says he is prepared to extend parliament this year in a bid to deliver on the government’s industrial relations reform.

The legislation will be debated in the Senate in the coming fortnight, having passed the lower house.

We might have to sit extra days and that’s fine, I don’t mind the parliament sitting at all.

That’s what we’re paid to do, so if the Senate needs extra time to give consideration to any matters before it, then I’d welcome that.”

Albanese said the bill demonstrated it had struck the right balance, as both employers and unions had disagreed with aspects of the legislation.

We’ve sat down constructively with employers over many weeks now, and we’ve sat down with unions as well.

I know that there’s some disagreement from employers, there’s some disagreement from some unions, that to me says we’re getting the balance right.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton said there was consensus among independents that the process for the industrial relations legislation had been rushed.

The multi-employer bargaining arrangements are just the start of this bad bill.

We should apply a lot of scrutiny and the bill should be voted down.

Albanese also flagged a decision on a possible price cap on gas to help ease cost-of-living pressures for struggling families also bearing the brunt of rising inflation and interest rates, would come before the end of the year.

We’re having a look at a range of options which are there.

I’ll be briefed when I get back to Australia. We’ve said that we’ll look to make an announcement before Christmas and we intend to do that.

– from AAP


Birmingham against a windfall tax for oil and gas companies

Birmingham says he is opposed to a windfall tax for oil and gas companies to help assist with rising energy prices.

We don’t think that simply slugging a tax in relation to companies is going to do anything for the energy prices of Australians. You’ve got to fix supply in the gas market to provide for genuine outcomes there, and those types of taxes will actually only hurt you in the longer term because they will act as an investment disincentive and you have less supply for the future.

Birmingham said any tax would create a “disincentive” for new investment into new oil and gas exploration.

Two points on this:

  • The International Energy Agency (IEA) has previously said limiting global heating to 1.5C as set out in the Paris agreement meant there can be no new oil, gas or coal investment beyond 2021.

  • A windfall tax is not about shoring up gas supplies, but generating revenue which can re-invested in new renewable energy projects and other decarbonisation projects.

The interview closes with a question about constitutional recognition of the Indigenous voice to parliament. Birmingham says he is still undecided on the issue.

I strongly support recognition and have done for many years and, of course, the debate around the voice has come along subsequent to early efforts to try to achieve Indigenous recognition. When it comes to the model for the Voice, I do think Australians deserve to see more detail and have more answers about how it will work, how it will be constituted and how it will make a difference. I understand the very passionate views by those who argue for the voice and I don’t wish to see them disrespected in any way, but I also acknowledge that there are strong Indigenous views of doubt and question about whether the voice will be actually effective in achieving any substantial change on the ground in relation to Indigenous disadvantage.

We are going to be asked to support a constitutional change for a model that is as undefined by the government in relation to that model. It is not unreasonable to want to see the detail of the model.


Maintaining economic strength will help grow wages: Birmingham

Questions now turn to domestic issues – Birmingham says the Coalition is waiting for the committee processes to play out before it takes a position on whether it supports the proposal for a National anti-corruption commission but says “hopefully we can offer bipartisan support for its passage”.

He is also asked about the proposed industrial relations reforms, which the Coalition opposes and what the Coalition’s plan is to get wages movement.

Birmingham says the Coalition wants to see wages rise but does not believe the IR bill is the way to do it. Its proposal to grow wages is to “maintain economic strength”.

An economy growing as strongly as possible, keeping unemployment as low as possible – those are the things that our government managed to achieve, with strong economic growth in our last year in office, with unemployment down to 50-year lows, creating the conditions for economic growth to help to drive productive wages growth.

Birmingham was then challenged on the obvious point: wages didn’t grow under the Coalition when it was in power. Birmingham evades the question, saying instead Labor’s bill “is essentially legislation that pushes wages in some sectors, it is also going to push unemployment up in many sectors”.


Birmingham on the prospect of higher sanctions on Iran

Birmingham is also asked about the prospect of higher sanctions on Iran. He says targeted sanctions against the leadership of Iran, along the lines of others that have been imposed, should be imposed.

Australia is a long way behind like-minded countries and comparable nations when it comes to actions in relation to Iran. Since the murder of Mahsa Amini, we’ve seen many other lives lost, but we’ve also seen enormous courage from Iranian civilians coming out onto the streets in their thousands, making clear that they are standing firm in support of the rights particularly of women and girls, and there is a sense that this could be a moment of time in relation to Iran.

We won’t know that for sure until things unfold, but Australia should be leaning in to support those brave souls in Iran and to stand consistent with other nations.


Sanctions for Myanmar should be on the table: Birmingham

Birmingham says he would like to see an Australian visit to Taiwan – something which the Coalition did not do while it was in government, though Birmingham says “there was discussions about a possible visit just prior to Covid occurring”.

Birmingham has also been challenged over the previous Coalition government’s refusal to engage with the government of Myanmar to secure the release of Prof Sean Turnell. He stands by the Coalition government’s refusal to engage based on the government’s human rights record.

He is also asked whether Australia should target Myanmar with sanctions.

Well, Australia should be looking for how we work with regional partners to increase pressure on Myanmar and sanctions should be on the table, as part of that.

Again, he is asked about how the Morrison government did not impose sanctions during its time in power.

Birmingham says he wants Magnitsky laws passed to be applied to allow Australia to sanction foreign officials. On Myanmar:

We cannot turn a blind eye to the thousands of other individuals who are detained in Myanmar, to the abuses occurring across the country, to the oppression of minorities that are happening, to the suppression of democracy, and to the fact that it would appear they are preparing to undertake a sham election next year as an entry to try to, entree to get themselves back into the international acceptance.


Taiwan should not be recognised as a nation sate: Birmingham

Birmingham says Taiwan should not be recognised as a nation state – which is consistent with Australia’s foreign policy.

There is no change in the bipartisan there. Recognising one China but not expecting and wishing to see any change to the status quo undertaken in a unilateral way.

Birmingham is probed about the Coalition’s position on what Australia should do if a conflict erupts over Taiwan.

My view is to assess all of these matters carefully as things unfold and develop, but we should be prepared for any eventuality, so we will be looking clearly and closely at the Defence strategic review when it is released early next year.


Birmingham welcomes meeting between Albanese and president Xi

Simon Birmingham says he “welcomes” the meeting between prime minister Anthony Albanese and Chinese president Xi Jinping but says it needs to be understood in the context of decisions by previous Coalition governments.

Importantly the previous governments under Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison had to make many necessary but difficult decisions on foreign investment, on protection of critical infrastructure in safeguarding our democracy, in handling sensitive telecommunications decisions such as the rollout of Huawei.

These were difficult decisions and they were always going to cause difficulty in relation to our relationship and engagement with China, but the conduct of these meetings demonstrates that China’s attempts in terms of diplomatic isolation of Australia, the attempted economic coercion through the unfair trade sanctions have not been yielded to, they have not seen any change in Australian policy.

I welcome the fact that the Labor government has maintained those policy settings of the Coalition and has maintained a recognition that the strategic challenges of the environment we are in have not changed.

Birmingham is asked about the change of tone between the governments, with Albanese dialling back calls for war and the comparisons to the 1930s. He says it is “important that we maintain consistency in policy and a consistency where possible in language as well but that language has to be one that reflects the reality of the challenging circumstances we face.”

I think it is important that we maintain a position in our language and approach to the region that seeks to be as engaging as possible to all partners in the region, as respectful as possible, but also firm in terms of Australia’s national interest and, where necessary, calling ow egregious breaches by others, be that in relation to activities such as in the South China Sea or human rights matters.


Shadow foreign affairs minister Simon Birmingham will be speaking to ABC Insiders on Sunday morning.

We will bring you the latest as it happens.


Australia open to doing business with China: Albanese

Prime minister Anthony Albanese said his meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping was “much more positive than was anticipated”, at the end of his two-week summit season trip.

Asked on Sky News whether Xi had given Albanese “any sort of hope or inkling that he might act on any of those”, the PM said no, but that he had optimism.

No, I think the positive statement from president Xi was that he emphasised that he wanted a better relationship with Australia. So when it comes, for example, to trade, it is in Australia’s interest to export our wine, our meat, our seafood, our wonderful products, our mineral resources. But it’s in China’s interest to receive them as well. This isn’t a charity case we’re asking for here. This is, do you want these products that are in demand in China to be traded? It’s in their interest to do it. It’s in Australia’s interest as well. And I’m very hopeful that what we can see now is positive steps forward.

Looking to the domestic picture, ahead of the (potentially) final two weeks of parliament starting on Monday, Albanese said his government was still planning to make an announcement on gas prices in coming weeks.

“We’re having a look at a range of options which are there. I’ll be briefed when I get back to Australia. More work was being done in the last week,” he told Sky.

Further with several contentious and complex pieces of legislation still in progress, including the industrial relations bill and the federal integrity commission, there has been speculation the Senate may be forced to sit for extra sitting days beyond the scheduled end of the parliamentary year next week. Albanese indicated this may be on the agenda.

We might well have to sit extra days and that’s fine. I don’t mind the parliament sitting at all. That’s what we’re paid to do.

So if the Senate needs extra time to give consideration to any matters before it, then I’d welcome that.


Long road ahead on China relationship: Albanese

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has given a round of pre-recorded interviews on Sunday morning covering Australia’s relationship with China and the thinking behind its engagement with its neighbours in south-east Asia.

Speaking to the ABC, Albanese sought to water down expectations of a thaw in the relationship between China and Australia after his meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, instead suggesting it was the beginning of a “dialogue”.

It was no preconditions for the dialogue, but it was a very constructive, engaging discussion with president Xi. It’s one I appreciated. It clearly is in Australia’s national interests, but also in China’s interests, to have a stabilisation of the relationship.

Albanese said the discussion was “positive and constructive” and that China made clear that it “wants a good relationship” with Australia, though there was no suggestion the country lift $20bn trade sanctions it has imposed against Australia.

The fundamental areas of disagreement – the issue of the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, the Uyghurs – all of these issues are ones that have bipartisan support. There’s a bipartisan support for a One China policy, with support for the status quo on Taiwan. These are issues that aren’t the subject of partisanship between Labor and the Coalition.

So they’re Australia’s positions going forward. That clearly is understood. It’s in China’s interests to understand that – that we will continue to have disagreements. We have different political systems. That should not mean that you can’t have economic cooperation. That should not mean that you can’t have dialogue. Because out of dialogue comes understanding.

On Taiwan, Albanese said Australia won’t change its position on Taiwan and refused to be drawn on whether his government may consider sanctions against Myanmar following the release of Prof Sean Turnell.


Good morning

And welcome to another Sunday morning Guardian live blog.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has returned after spending the last nine days meeting international leaders at the regional Asean summit in Cambodia. In a sign of easing tensions, Albanese secured a meeting with Chinese president Xi Jinping, the first time leaders of the two countrys have met in six years, though the prime minister has been warned against rising expectations as China’s $20bn in trade sanctions remain in place.

New South Wales residents in flood-hit regions are once again beginning the process of recovery despite continued warnings along several river systems. Authorities say it could be “months” before the rain eases in some places with many areas still without power and water, stopping families from being able to return.

I’m Royce Kurmelovs, taking the blog through the day. With so much going on out there, it’s easy to miss stuff, so if you spot something happening in Australia and think it should be on the blog, you can find me on Twitter at @RoyceRk2 where my DMs are open.

With that, let’s get started ...


Stephanie Convery (now) and Royce Kurmelovs (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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