What we learned: Monday, 21 November
With that, we will wrap up the blog for the evening. Amy Remeikis will be back with you first thing tomorrow morning.
Until then, here were the major developments of the day:
In one of the final question time sittings of the year, the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has returned to culture wars of the past, questioning why Labor signed up to funding a climate fund when charity “begins at home”.
Several companies have vehemently denied claims aired by the independent MP Andrew Wilkie under parliamentary privilege today that they had been “lying for years about the quality of our coal” and had been engaged in bribes. Wilkie made explosive claims that companies including Peabody energy, Glencore and Macquarie Bank have been involved in “lying for years about the quality of our coal”.
The independent MP for Mackellar, Sophie Scamps, supported Wilkie’s call for a parliament inquiry into the allegations.
Australia’s top intelligence official, Andrew Shearer, has praised the US-led release of intelligence ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “masterclass” in how western governments can gain a strategic upper hand.
And a group of primary school students have been taken to hospital on Sydney’s north after reports of a chemical explosion. Children believed to be about 10 years old were treated at Manly West public school on Monday afternoon, with some transported to hospitals for further treatment.
Man charged in WA over stabbing murder of woman at Perth hotel
Western Australian police have charged a man in relation to the murder of a woman at a Perth hotel.
In a statement, police confirmed that homicide squad detectives charged a 42-year-old man in relation to the death of a 40-year-old woman in east Perth.
Police were called to a hotel on Adelaide Terrace on Sunday morning where they located a woman with stab wounds. She was taken to hospital but later died.
The man, who is known to the victim, was taken into custody at the time and has since been charged with murder. He was refused bail and is due to appear in Perth magistrates court on Tuesday.
China to take military action against Taiwan within two decades: Rudd
The former prime minister Kevin Rudd argues China remains on track to take military action against Taiwan within the next 10 to 20 years.
Rudd is speaking at the Australian National University tonight. The former Labor leader is delivering the JG Crawford Oration titled “The Return of Ideological Man: China under Xi Jinping”.
According to speech notes distributed to media in advance, Rudd is set to welcome the Albanese government’s attempt to “take down the temperature” of the relationship between Australia and China. The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met with Xi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali last week.
But Rudd is set to declare that the challenges in the relationship remained “formidable”. Rudd will argue that China should use the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on 3 December to remove trade sanctions against a range of Australian exporters and to release the Australian journalist Cheng Lei from detention.
Rudd is set to warn that a possible war between the US and China over self-governed Taiwan would be the most costly since the second world war, and that the next five years would be crucial to shaping the future of the region.
Rudd will observe that the meeting between the US president, Joe Biden, and Xi in Bali last week – the first in-person meeting since Biden assumed office – showed that Beijing and Washington appear to have taken their first tentative steps towards a form of “managed strategic competition”.
But Rudd believes it would be foolish to conclude that Xi has shelved his aspiration to take Taiwan. According to Rudd’s speech notes, Xi’s language on Taiwan in the official readout from the Bali summit was “arguably more hardline than before”.
Rudd is expected to say it remains his conclusion that China “still remains on track to enhance its military preparedness, as well as its financial, economic and technological preparedness, to take action against Taiwan from sometime in the late 2020s or in 2030s – when Xi, of course, still aims to be in power”.
Rudd’s speech notes that it is important to be clear-eyed about the distinction between stabilisation of relationships in the short to medium term, and medium to long term preparations for potential conflict. Rudd is set to argue that the only way to avoid conflict in the medium to long term is for there to be an effective deterrence strategy by the US, its allies and Taiwan – militarily, technologically, financially, economically and in foreign policy and political terms.
Take a look at our Afternoon Update newsletter, which has just gone live.
Agencies ‘unable to produce evidence’ of compliance with encryption laws, report finds
Law enforcement agencies were “unable to produce evidence” that they had considered intrusion to privacy and whether technical assistance requests would create “systemic weaknesses”, the commonwealth ombudsman has found in its first major check of compliance with controversial new encryption laws.
The Telecommunications Interception and Access Act, passed in December, created a world-leading scheme for law enforcement agencies to request or require tech companies to help them break or circumvent users’ end-to-end encryption.
In a report tabled in parliament on Monday, the ombudsman reveals that none of the compulsory powers in part 15 of the Telco Act have been used – but the voluntary powers (technical assistance requests) have been used 18 times.
One of these Tars was “invalidly authorised”, it said, because there was “no delegation instrument in place”.
Only three of nine authorised agencies have started using the powers (New South Wales police, Australian federal police and Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission).
All three “used industry assistance powers before they established comprehensive governance and compliance frameworks”, the ombudsman said. “In our view, this created a risk (in some instances realised) of statutory non-compliance during these agencies’ early use of the industry assistance powers.”
The ombudsman said Tars were requested where the request had the “potential to affect the privacy of numerous individuals who were not the target, or who were not of interest to the requesting interception agency” - but agencies were “unable to produce evidence” they had considered this.
Similarly, they weren’t able to produce documents about consideration of whether the Tar would create a “systemic weakness” – a key safeguard in the bill.
Government looks to tighten buy-now-pay-later industry regulations
The assistant treasurer and financial services minister, Stephen Jones, has appeared on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing discussing reforms to the $16bn buy-now-pay-later industry.
The federal government is edging towards a stronger set of laws governing the credit providers – who allow customers to repay for items of up to $2,000 with instalments.
Jones said the government was “very sensitive” to disincentivizing financial innovation by bringing in greater regulation.
The real moment of realisation for me was when I walked into my doctor’s surgery and I saw on the counter a sign saying you can pay by Mastercard, pay by visa card or AfterPay. Now, two of those are regulated as a credit product and the third one isn’t. Just because of the way the contracts are written from a consumer point of view, it’s a credit product and we should be looking at it as such.
Great innovation, but let’s have a level playing field. Let’s have appropriate regulation which frankly is appropriate to the risk.
Jones said there were three options up for consultation – due to close at the end of December. The status quo, a modified arrangement under the National Consumer Credit Act and to apply all the existing arrangements product.
Winds are expected to reach 110 km/h in parts of Tasmania from late Tuesday morning as gusty weather continues.
Meanwhile further west, “dry lightning” is possible.
‘Broken’ Indigenous officer says only overhaul in QPS leadership can fix issues
An Indigenous officer who resigned after 26 years in the Queensland police service after attempts to address racism in the organisation left him “broken”, says “transformative and genuine reforms” to the police can only be realised through an “overhaul of [its] leadership”.
Richard Monaei said:
We have a leadership that perpetuates the system, and until such time as we get a diversity of perspectives and individuals and views and lenses of the people that sit in those decision making positions, we’re not going to see genuine change.
The leadership needs to be reflective of the diversity that we see in our community.
Monaei’s resignation letter was read aloud at the inquiry into QPS responses to domestic and family violence last month.
On Monday, he said he had little confidence in the report’s calls for better engagement with First Nations people, given he had seen similar calls being used as “smokescreens” over his nearly three decades in the force:
In my experience, the organisation is tone deaf when it comes to genuine, authentic and purposeful engagement.
‘The women of Queensland deserve better’ says legal boss after release of domestic violence report
The head of Women’s Legal Service Queensland, Nadia Bromley, says she hopes the “troubling but not surprising” evidence of racism and sexism within the state’s police force will “shock” the state into action.
Bromley welcomed the fact that the 78 recommendations of the independent Commission of Inquiry into Queensland Police Service responses were “timebound” with deadlines of up to 18 months meaning that, unlike previous inquiries, this would “really allow the government to be held to account”.
“The women of Queensland deserve better and I hope that everyone who reads this report is is shocked into action, into believing the women and their stories,” she said.
Because I suppose some people found it hard to believe that this was a reality, but we can now see, in black and white, that this is what is happening to women all around our state.
Bromley described the report’s recommendation that all police stations designate a private, safe and secure area for all persons presenting for domestic and family violence matters as “positive but disturbing”.
How have we come to a place where we need an independent commission to provide a safe space for people to make complaints in police stations?
More on Wilkie’s claims of widespread fraud in coal export industry
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has appeared on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing after using parliamentary privilege today to make allegations of widespread fraudulent behaviour in the coal industry.
Wilkie claimed whistleblowers provided him thousands of documents revealing companies were falsely claiming Australian coal was cleaner than it was to boost profits.
I wish I didn’t have to go into the parliament and to ventilate these sorts of issues. I would have hoped that our regulators and other agencies could be trusted to look into these sorts of allegations. Regrettably, though, this particular whistleblower has been trying to bring these agencies to the table for literally years …
I’m now calling on the federal government to have some sort of effective inquiry into the allegations which, in essence, are that Australian coal exporters are using fraudulent quality control reports to sell their product.
Telstra to reduce retention time of customer ID data
In the wake of the Optus and Medibank data breaches, Telstra has announced it will reduce the time it holds scans of people’s IDs from two years to six months.
In a blog post on Monday, the Telstra CEO, Vicki Brady, said the recent cyber breaches had been “a wakeup call for everyone” and the company had been examining what data it collects and stores - with a focus on the standard 100-point ID check when people sign up for accounts.
The federal government is looking to change laws around what data is held and for how long, but Brady said Telstra was looking at what it could do in the meantime, and has reduced the amount of time ID scans are held by Telstra from two years to six months.
As I’ve said previously, there’s a fine balance between retaining this data to help combat crime and protecting our customers’ privacy. But it’s a balance I think can be achieved.
One of the lessons from the recent data breaches, for all organisations, was the need to continually assess what data needs to be stored, and how and where it is stored. We’ve kicked off a review of our systems to really challenge ourselves to minimise the government ID data we hold, and the time we hold it for, while continuing to meet our existing legal obligations.
The ID numbers will still be retained for longer, as law requires, Brady said, but said Telstra would continue to advocate for changes to ID checks and how that data is managed.
NSW SES receives 270 requests for assistance amid damaging winds
It is very windy on Australia’s east coast, leading to power outages of around 30,000 customers.
The NSW SES has received more than 270 storm related requests for assistance in Sydney in the 24 hours to 3pm, with at least 150 requests involving trees being blown over due to high winds and the rest roof damage.
Meanwhile, Victoria has been lashed with winds of up to 100 km/h, including at Essendon Airport in Melbourne.
‘I am deeply sorry’ says QPS boss after release of domestic violence report
The Queensland police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, has issued a statement following today’s release of the Commission of Inquiry report into police culture and handling of domestic violence incidents.
She says the report is a “very difficult read” and presents “many examples” of where the force should have done better.
I acknowledge these issues and how they have affected the way we interact with the most vulnerable people in our community. For those who have experienced this, I am deeply sorry.
There have been some examples of racism, misogyny and sexist behaviour which is not acceptable in our community – and even less acceptable from our police. Our police are our community, but we will rightly be held to a higher standard.
You can read our dedicated live blog here:
Narracan election declared ‘failed’ by VEC after death of candidate
The Victorian electoral commission has declared the election in the district of Narracan “failed”, following the death of National Party candidate Shaun Gilchrist at the weekend.
The acting electoral commissioner, Dana Fleming, says under the state’s laws, if a candidate dies before 6pm on election day, which is Saturday 26 November, the election for that district is declared “failed” and the nomination deposits are returned to all candidates in the district.
She said people in the electorate will still be required to vote for their upper house candidates or face a $92 fine:
Votes received to date for Narracan district will be set aside and from this point on only Upper House ballot papers for Eastern Victoria Region will be taken and counted.
A writ will be issued for a ‘supplementary election’ for Narracan district, using the electoral roll prepared for the original election. The VEC will seek a timeline for the supplementary election and communicate this as it is known.
Narracan, which begins outside Melbourne’s eastern fringe and finishes before the Latrobe Valley, is one of the Coalition’s safest seats and was held by the retiring Liberal, Gary Blackwood, on a 10% margin.
Gilchrist was expected before court on 30 November charged with one count of rape and three counts of sexual assault ahead of a trial that had been scheduled for next year but his body was discovered at Rawson, in the state’s east, on Sunday.
The lower house has passed legislation needed to implement Australia’s trade agreements with the UK and India.
The bills passed the House of Representatives this afternoon and will head to the Senate next - likely from tomorrow.
Both agreements were negotiated under the Coalition so this legislation is not expected to face any holdup in the upper house.
Industry leader raises concerns over industrial relations bill
Andrew McKellar, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is appearing on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, raising concerns regarding the Labor party’s industrial relations bill.
The body is already running paid advertisements mobilising public opinion – and possibly trying to sway cross-benchers – against the bill, which McKellar says is “not fit to pass” in its current form.
I think the important message here is that you have all of the chambers of commerce and industry around Australia acting in a unified way, coming together to reflect the concerns that businesses are saying they have about this legislation.
If the bill is to go forward as it stands really our concern is it’s not fit to pass … if we rush into this, there’s no way back.
McKellar says his greatest concern with the bill is its capacity for multi-employer bargaining.
Whether it’s an engineering firm, whether it’s the small business, a retail outlet … we’re finding many examples of businesses that are saying … that they can potentially get roped in to agreements that they don’t necessarily want to be part of which they can’t necessarily afford.
Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie is paying tribute to the late Peter Reith on behalf of the party.
She describes Reith as a “great Victorian,” known as the “hard-man” during the Howard government, not just in his work in the industrial relations space.
He was elected to the seat of Flinders in 1982. He served in parliament for more than 17 years.
His loyalty and dedication are well renowned within the Coalition and even more renowned was his wicked sense of humour.
Many thanks to the lovely Amy Remeikis for kicking off the working week. I’ll be with you for the rest of the afternoon.
The parliament is still ticking over and negotiations are ongoing for some of the government’s big bills.
Caitlin Cassidy will take you through the rest of the afternoon, but I will be back bright and early tomorrow morning as this parliamentary year draws to a close. Thank you so much for your company, and please – take care of you.
The Senate is now holding its condolence motion for Peter Reith.
Greens provide statement on shooting at gay nightclub in Colorado
Greens MP Stephen Bates who is also the party’s LGBTQIA+ spokesperson has released a statement on the shooting at Q Nightclub in Colorado Springs:
My heart goes out to the families of victims of the horrific shooting that has occurred at Q Nightclub in Colorado Springs.
Events like this serve as a reminder to queer people that we are never truly safe from hatred and discrimination.
We are lucky to live in a country where guns are not readily available to far-right extremists. But queer and gender diverse people face the risk of persecution and violence every single day.
The words of politicians and extremists have real world consequences. We must actively ensure we advocate for the rights and equality of all LGBTQIA+ people, at all times, to combat the hate that makes events like this possible.
It breaks my heart to know that people who thought they were in a safe space were confronted with such violent hatred. I admire the bravery of those who put their own safety at risk to subdue the perpetrator.”
Question time ends
With another dixer from Mark Butler, question time comes to a close.
Paul Fletcher wants Milton Dick to explain the practice that allowed him to split up David Coleman’s question?
Dick says that practice says that the majority of the question needs to be relevant to the minister (I am paraphrasing) and that in his opinion, the Coleman question was straight down the middle.
I know you were all dying to ask that yourself, so there you go.
Monique Ryan has another of the crossbench questions. Dr Ryan is also one of the only people in the chamber wearing a mask”
Some 31,000 people sought asylum in this country by sea between August 2012 and January 2014. Prior to the recent election, the ALP promised to provide permanent protection for those people, who have been stranded on temporary visas for up to 10 years. It’s six months today since the Albanese Government was elected. When we will see an end to these punitive TPVs and others?
Andrew Giles steps up:
Thank you very much, Speaker. I acknowledge your deep interest in this issue. Indeed, it’s one of the reasons why you are the member for Kooyong in this place. I was asked a similar question by the member for Clark in the last sitting week, or fairly recently. I want to say that the issues that she raises are very important to this government in and of themselves. They are important, in and of themselves, but they are also important because they go to this government’s character. We are a government that keeps our promise in every respect.
(The opposition begins to heckle and Milton Dick tells them to hush)
…Thanks, Speaker. And, look, members opposite seem to find this something that’s worthy of shouting. I think they should listen carefully.
They should recognise... Yeah, keeping promises. We saw nine years, nine years of broken promises, cuts, causing neglect in this space. Nine long years. This government is determined to keep our promises, and this is an important promise.
It’s to a group of people who arrived here before Operation Sovereign Borders, a group of people who have been in the community for a decade, paying taxes, making a contribution.
We recognise this and we are working through this issue, which has many complexities. I have been meeting with lawyers, I’ve met with the member for Kooyong. I believe we’re meeting again on Wednesday, I think, this week with other members of the crossbench to work through all of these issues, to make sure that we meet this commitment in a way that is consistent across the cohort, that is effective, and is enduring, which recognises everything that they have been through as people who have been trapped in limbo and denied so many opportunities through that time.
We are doing so also in a manner that recognises the wider circumstances, that recognises that the prime minister has said so often, correctly, that what Australians want - indeed, what Australia needs in this place - are policies which secure our border but do not abandon our humanity.
That is the watch word with which this government approaches these issues, in a consistent and considered and consultative manner.
And in that regard, I was very pleased to announce - I was pleased to announce, only a few days ago, that the government has made changes to the travel arrangements affecting people on TPVs and others, and reflects that these people have been separated from families for more than a decade.
We will be compassionate without abandoning our resolve to maintain the security of our borders.
We’ve also flagged important changes that have been made to family reunion - again, an issue affecting people who have been here for a long time - which goes directly to those two principles. Securing our borders, including by securing safer passage to people who need our protection. That is the way that we are approaching these issues, not treating vulnerable human beings as political footballs, as those opposite did for too long.
More on chemical explosion at Sydney primary school
Breaking into question time to update you on the Manly West public school situation:
Eleven students and one teacher are in a stable condition after a science experiment caused a chemical explosion at a school on Sydney’s north.
New South Wales Ambulances have confirmed two students have suffered serious burns while nine students and one adult – believed to be a teacher – suffered superficial burns as a result of the explosion at Manly West public school on Monday afternoon.
Children believed to be about 10-years-old. One of the students with serious burns was airlifted to Westmead children’s hospital with serious burns, while the other student was taken to that hospital by ambulance.
The nine other students were taken to the Royal North Shore and Northern Beaches hospitals. The adult was not hospitalised.
The Greens MP for Brisbane, Stephen Bates (still tieless) has a question for Anthony Albanese:
The climate summit in Egypt reinforced the urgency of phasing out fossil fuels to avoid catastrophic breakdown. And Vanuatu says support for Australia hosting a future summit relies on no new coal and gas handouts. Why then does the government’s first Budget continue to subsidise fossil fuels, including $1.9bn to open up a new LNG terminal and petrochemical hub in Darwin Harbour and support for a new gas project in Victoria?
I thank the member for his question. He should visit Darwin and actually have a look at what it is. He should actually go and have a look at what it is and look at the facts rather than just the rhetoric. And the fact is that this parliament has adopted a reduction of 43% emissions by 2030.
We have now legislated for net zero by 2050. And when I met with leaders at Apec and G20 and East Asia Summit, I did speak to them about Australia hosting a conference of the parties.
Let me tell you, there’s enormous support for it. There’s enormous support for it because Australia is back in the game of dealing with the challenge of climate change. Including in our region with our Pacific neighbours.
Our Pacific neighbours have met the minister for climate change and energy at the COP in Sharm el-Sheikh, and there was enormous support there from them, as there was from our European colleagues, who I discussed it with in the European Union, the prime minister of the United Kingdom, the president of the United States, and other leaders in our region, in Asean as well.
The fact is, the fact is that we are dealing with a situation where, for nine years, we had no energy policy in this country, no climate policy in this country. Indeed, you don’t have to rely upon just us.
Peter Tomsett had some interesting comments last week, the chairman of Newcrest. This is what he said, “If you don’t have policy for long enough, which has been our situation, you wind up with a situation where intervention is required.
This need not have happened had the right energy policy been put in place. What we’re seeing is a symptom.
We had every form of energy known to humankind in spades and we haven’t been able to harness that in a coherent policy that encourages the right investments to also meet our greenhouse gas commitments as a country.”
And what we are doing, what we are doing, is putting in place policies that encourage investment in new energy, and the cheapest form of new energy is, of course, renewables.
But we saw under the previous government four gigawatts leave the system and only one gigawatt enter the system. No wonder there is a problem.
As Richard Court, a former WA Liberal premier, described it: “The past decade of energy policy has been a slow-moving train wreck.”
While this government is getting on, getting on with the policy that’s required, I believe very clearly we have an opportunity to be a renewable energy superpower for the world, to create jobs, to create economic growth, and to make an enormous difference to drive down emissions while growing our economy.
The communications minister, Michelle Rowland, gets very agitated about the NBN and the former government’s rollout and Paul Fletcher, a former communications minister, gets agitated over Rowland’s comments.
We move on.
Glad everyone got all of that off their chest.
The argument to ban university debaters from becoming MPs continues.
The Liberal MP for Banks, David Coleman asks:
My question is to the minister for housing and it concerns the decision to abolish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Master Builders Australia have told a Senate inquiry that the government’s decision to abolish the ABCC will exacerbate supply-side pressures in the residential construction industry. How can the minister possibly deliver her promised 1m new affordable homes when the government has declared war on the building industry?
There is a bunch of too-and-fro about whether this question is relevant for Julie Collins (housing) or for Tony Burke (IR) and so Milton Dick splits the question and gives half to Collins and half to Burke.
And I thank the member opposite for their question in relation to the housing accord. It’s a really important piece of policy. This is the first time we’ve had three tiers of government agree. This is about getting all three tiers of government on the same page. It’s about the industry and the sector. The Master Builders Association were, of course, a part of the accord and agreed to the accord, as did other parts of the industry and the sector, including superannuation funds. This is about bringing people together. This is about seriously dealing with housing affordability and the low supply. We need more stock of housing in this country and the accord is a ground-breaking, once-in-a-generation piece, and to actually implement this and to build a million homes from 2024 to 2029. The Master Builders Association agreed with this and they’ve signed up to it and they’re part of the accord.
I’ll tell you about the ABCC, I’ve yet to see the residential house that wasn’t built because there was a union sticker in the corner of a safety sign. I’m yet to see the home that couldn’t be built because of the flag that was flying at a site. I’m yet to see - I’m yet to see any relevance, any relevance of the obsessions of ABCC with whether or not a home gets built.
Have a listen what federal court judges had to say about the ABCC. They were blasted for prosecuting union officials for “having a cup of tea with a mate”. Apparently, those opposite think that’s the enemy of residential housing. Described as a minuscule, insignificant affair. Described by ... Described as ‘a battleship in full steam that treated proceedings as a blood sport.’
Issues that the Fair Work Ombudsman would deal with. The way you can tell, whenever they ask a question about the ABCC, never once do they refer to any of the things that only the ABCC deal with. So, they want to talk about criminal matters, which the ABCC couldn’t deal with, or they want to talk about bullying matters or right-of-entry matters, the province of the Fair Work Ombudsman anyway. All of those don’t stack up to a regulator that was meant to be politicised from the beginning, that was there about - those opposite were engaging, because they had one objective put people in their corners. It was their method of governing, not industrial relations.
Paul Fletcher takes time out from his busy point of order schedule to ask:
My question is to the minister for small business and again concerns the government’s radical industrial relations bill. Can the minister for small business, i again ask, can the minister for small business identify a single small business that has told her that it supports these radical new laws? Just one.
Thank you, Mr Speaker. And I thank the member for his question. If he met with small businesses and spoke to them on a regular basis, he would know that there are a range of issues that small businesses are raising, including, of course, staff shortages. He would also know that there are many small businesses paying above award wages to maintain their staff, given the staff shortages.
He would also note that when low-paid workers get a pay rise, that many of these workers spend their money in local small businesses.
Mark Dreyfus takes a dixer on the anti-corruption commission legislation:
The bills that will be debated in this House this week are the outcome of months of work and extensive consultation. The bills have been examined by three committee inquiries, including a joint select committee inquiry that delivered an unanimous report.
This is an opportunity for this House to come together, respect the mandate given by the Australian people, and support these bills. We are not afraid of constructive criticism and dialogue. In fact, we’ve encouraged it throughout the process that led us to this point. There will be significant debate as these bills pass through the House and the Senate, as there should be.
But through that debate, we should not lose sight of the task that has been given to us by the Australian people to deliver a National Anti-Corruption Commission with teeth and without delay.
This government stands ready to deliver and I call on all sides of the parliament to join us in that task.
Sussan Ley starts a question with the phrase “ram through” the IR laws as “pay back trade unions” for their support and Tony Burke has a point of order that members can’t assign motive.
And also, I know not everyone paid attention in history, but Labor was literally built on the back of trade unions. The Labor party emerged from the labour movement. So of course the unions support the Labor party. It is not exactly rocket science.
Milton Dick upholds the point of order (shocking) and Ley rephrases the question to take out the parts of the question which were objected to:
The National Retail Association has warned that retailers will be forced to pass on increased costs to Australians when they go shopping this Christmas, making a bad cost-of-living situation worse. Can the Minister for Small Business name one small business who has told her they support these radical new laws?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. I thank the member for her question. As I said in this place just a week or so ago, we are meeting with small businesses all the time and discuss a range of matters right across the board, and we continue to have discussions as we work through this important piece of legislation that is actually about getting wages moving. As she would be aware, there are many low-income, particularly in feminised industries, workers who desperately need a pay rise who need a pay rise.
Jim Chalmers takes a dixer on flood support and gives this update:
Our immediate support to individuals includes the one-off disaster recovery payment, $1,000 for adults and $400 for children. These are currently available to 46 local government areas. The disaster recovery allowance provides up to 13 weeks’ income support, has been activated for 150 local government areas.
So far, more than $55m in direct financial assistance has been provided to more than 47,000 claims across New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania.
And as the House knows, we also provision something like $3bn in the budget in October to help communities with the recovery. Now, this is first and foremost a human tragedy. It does have economic consequences as well.
Pressure on our supply chains, pressure on the price of groceries, and it will have an impact on economic growth in the near term as well. Now, these economic and budget considerations are substantial, but they are secondary to helping people through these difficult times.
And so I say to people in flood-affected communities, your government will be there for you, you are not on your own, communities will need to rebuild, the bill will be substantial, and the federal government will play its part and pay its share.
Helen Haines has the first crossbench question and it is an actual question about people in her electorate.
In my electorate, the same record rainfall that’s caused widespread flooding has also caused a massive landslide which has cut off access to Falls Creek for five months, decimating the summer season economy. But those affected look at the Services Australia website and only see financial assistance for people directly affected by floods. Can the minister confirm these people are eligible for the disaster recovery allowance and are there plans for further support?
Many local government areas right across Australia have been affected by incredibly damaging natural disaster events. Falls Creek, in the Alpine Shire in the north-east of Victoria, is one of 153 communities that are currently eligible for disaster assistance. There’s been a landslide on the way to Falls Creek and it’s affected the businesses, and Falls Creek, whilst it’s a year-round tourist facility, most of its season is in the winter. But there are businesses who still seek to operate all year round.
Now, residents at Falls Creek, I can inform the member, are eligible to apply for disaster recovery allowance, and also a Commonwealth-funded disaster recovery funding arrangements. Services Australia has investigated for me today, in the course of today, about Falls Creek and whether or not there were payments which people were eligible for and haven’t been made.
As I understand, there have been 46 claims made for disaster relief allowance. They have all been paid. There is one claim where the status is indeterminate, but 46 out of 47 have been made. In terms of the businesses affected year-round, that doesn’t fall within the immediate [duty of] Services Australia, and I will certainly raise it with the Victorian government.
But as far as my ministerial obligation are, everyone who has put in a claim has actually had it processed. If there are other people who the member is aware of who haven’t, we’ll, of course, attend to it straightaway.
And I just want to thank Services Australia staff. They have been working all around Australia right through Central New South Wales to Rochester and Victoria, and they’re doing a great job, and I send them our best wishes from the parliament for helping people affected.
Back to question time and Peter Dutton joins Anthony Albanese in welcoming Sean Turnell’s release:
I join with the prime minister and congratulate the government on this outcome.
Sean Turnell, somebody who went to try and provide assistance and a better way of life and future for the people of Myanmar. He worked very closely there with a number of Australian colleagues who were involved in that cause.
And, of course, we were all shocked when he was taken into custody, and the operation to release him commenced on that very day. We acknowledge the work of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Defence, many other departments that have been involved in this operation to lead to the point of his release.
I want to say thank you very much for the perseverance that the prime minister spoke of, of many of our near neighbours and friends within Asean, with whom we’d had close conversations over a long period of time, every angle of opportunity to bring pressure to bear to see him released has been under way for about 650-odd days, and I want to say thank you personally to the prime minister as well.
It’s right that he’s been released. It was wrong that he was held for so long. And I hope that it sends a message to the rest of the world that Australia will never tolerate our people being incarcerated in circumstances like that, and we will fight every day until they’re released.
Children taken to hospital after chemical explosion in Sydney’s north
Breaking into question time for this breaking news from Elias Visontay:
A group of primary school students have been taken to hospitals on Sydney’s north following reports of a chemical explosion.
Children believed to be about 10-years-old were treated at Manly West public school on Monday afternoon, with some transported to hospitals for further treatment.
The number of students and exact cause of the incident is not yet clear. Some media are reporting between 10-12 students were injured.
A New South Wales Ambulance spokesperson told Guardian Australia the chemical explosion appeared to be the result of a class science experiment.
New South Wales Police officers responded to reports of a “Hazmat incident” at about 1.20pm on Monday afternoon.
Police said, via statement:
A number of students, believed to be around 10-years-old, have been treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics and will be taken to various hospitals.
The next dixer (government question written for government minister) is on Professor Sean Turnell’s release.
Indeed, it was a great day last week when Professor Sean Turnell was released after 650 days in detention by the Myanmar regime. 650 days in a Myanmar prison. It was one of the great honours of my life to have the phone call with him when he landed in Bangkok at around about the same time that I did the other evening.
It was fantastic that he was able to reunite with his wife, Dr Havu, an economics lecturer, in Melbourne on the weekend after 22 months apart, and they were able to be flown home to Sydney.
Mr Turnell is a great Australian and he’s very proud to be an Australian, and we should all be proud of him. What was extraordinary about the conversation I had with him was that he was just busy thanking people, thanking the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, thanking the Foreign Minister Penny Wong, thanking the embassy staff in Yangon and in Bangkok, thanking the Australian people who had campaigned so strongly for his release from that hellhole in prison. When I spoke to him, he spoke about getting food in a bucket, but that the Australian Embassy would deliver food for him, food hampers, with an Australian bag with the crest of the emu and the kangaroo.
The emu and the kangaroo, of course, don’t go backwards, they only go forwards. And he would put their bag facing outside of the cell so that those people who had incarcerated him would see his pride in Australia. He is a great Australian.
He, of course, is a highly respected academic. He developed a specialty in the Myanmar economy and he worked as an adviser long-term to Aung San Suu Kyi, who he met in the 1990s. He continued to live in Sydney but he travelled regularly to Myanmar to provide advice to that country on how they might develop. He was detained on 6 February 2021, five days after the military coup.
I do want to thank our friends in ASEAN who made strong representation, our friends throughout, including the Cambodian ... prime minister, but others as well, from Vietnam, from I pay tribute to him for his courage, his determination and his resilience, and I wish him and his family all of the best
Angus Taylor is up next and continues his one-man show “irony, is it even a thing?” as he asks:
The chief economist of Goldman Sachs has warned that the cash rate will continue to rise to 4.1% over the next year, meaning Australian mortgage-holders will be paying more for longer under this government. Will the prime minister confirm the promise of cheaper mortgages is now just another broken promise?
Treasurer Jim Chalmers takes this one:
Given the shadow treasurer seems temperamentally incapable of asking me a question, I’ve gotta take my chances when I can.
I’ve gotta take my chances when I can. Mr Speaker, since 25 October, there have been two eclipses - one solar, one lunar - and there have been two questions from the shadow treasurer to the treasurer about the budget.
Questions from the shadow treasurer to the treasurer after the budget are as rare as a very rare celestial event, Mr Speaker. And so I’ve gotta take my chances when I can and jump when I can.
Now, let me get this straight, let me get this straight, Mr Speaker. One of the worst ministers since Federation, the member for Hume, in one of the worst governments since Federation, one of the least responsible when it comes to the budget since Federation, which racked up a trillion dollars in debt and had almost nothing to show for it, who sprayed billions of dollars around to their mates in the interests of their political purposes and their political objectives, now wants to get up and talk about spending in the budget. I mean, give me a break, Mr Speaker.
What was different about this budget in October compared to the budget handed down by those opposite in March is, what we did when we got a temporary boost to revenue from high commodity prices, we returned for two years 99% of that upward revision.
That meant over the forward estimates there’s less debt in my Budget over the forwards than there was in the budget handed down by treasurer Frydenberg from this dispatch box.
And so what that has meant is our budget was geared towards the inflation challenge because we know that high inflation is pushing up interest rates.
Now, treasury modelling released today, and reported on today, showed that if we had spent that $114bn of tax upgrades, like those opposite would have wanted to do and would have done in our position, then interest rates would be another 1.4% higher, percentage points higher, than they are.
And so that has meant - that has meant that the rising interest rates that we inherited from those opposite, interest rates started going up before the election, which might be news to the shadow treasurer as well - had we not handed down such a responsible budget, then interest rates would be higher than otherwise, and inflation would be higher than otherwise.
And that’s why we did put so much effort into it, at the same time as we kept faith with our election commitments on cheaper early childhood education and fee-free Tafe and all of the other priorities in the budget. We made sure that we showed spending restraint, which is completely foreign to those opposite. They used to spend 60% of revenue upgrades.
The Howard government used to spend 70% of revenue upgrades. We spent 1% over the next two years. That’s how you hand down a budget which doesn’t make the inflation problem worse.
Anthony Albanese’s first dixer is on his recent trip and the importance of it for Australia:
I held 14 bilateral meetings, the important one, of course, the first meeting with China for six years. It was a very constructive meeting with President Xi and I want us to move forward together with a stabilisation of the relationship.
It’s very clear that we have differences, but dialogue promotes understanding. My attitude towards China is that we must cooperate where we can, disagree where we must, but engage in our national interest.
I also had an important meeting with prime minister Modi, and I will lead a business delegation to India in the first quarter of next year. In addition to that, we were able to further develop the constructive relationship that we now have with president Macron of France and other European leaders to promote the EU-Australia free trade agreement that I’m hoping to advance next year.
Question time begins
The first question from Peter Dutton takes us back to rhetoric and times a lot of people hoped we had moved on from.
But Dutton, as Murph highlighted in a recent column, is hoping to reignite a culture war which served the coalition well for many years.
Prime minister, at a time when Labor’s policies are driving up cost-of-living pressures for families, the government has just signed up to funding a $2tn loss and damage climate fund which will send money overseas and beyond our region. Prime minister, doesn’t charity begin at home? And when will you start helping Australian families instead of giving away their money?
And I do thank the leader of the opposition for really repeating a question that he answered last week. And I will begin the same way. I’ll tell you what we will do - or we won’t do, which is to stand at a press conference ... with a microphone making jokes about Pacific Islands drowning.
That is what we won’t do. And the misleading statement from the leader of the opposition aimed clearly...
Paul Fletcher interjects, because that seems to be his main job now –arguing that an opposition MP has been “reflected upon” and then being told he does not have a point of order.
Thanks, Mr Speaker. I tell you what was offensive, it was the tactics committee meeting that came up with that question this morning. That was what was offensive. Because the idea, the idea that any foreign aid is giving Australians money to foreigners ahead of Australian interests, the Leader of the Opposition knows better, and he knows exactly what he is doing with that question. He knows exactly. And the only people who are pleased about that question are the people sitting in the corner up there. Because they represent seats that have rejected that sort of dog-whistling tactic from the Liberal party, from the Liberal party.
…The leader of the opposition, who pretends he wants to be kinder and gentler, comes into this house ... comes into this house and asks a question like that.
Well, I tell you what the entry fee is to enter into discussions around the table with our international partners. Whether it’s the United Kingdom, whether it’s the United States, whether it’s Japan, whether it’s India, it is taking climate change seriously.
That is the entry ticket that you need in international affairs in 2022. What you don’t need is that sort of nonsense. And for a political party who say that Australia ... isn’t good enough because we need a global reduction in emissions, but then to press that button shows the contradiction which is there, shows the contradiction which is there.
I’d say to the leader of the opposition, “You’re better than that. You’re better than that.” Or maybe you’re not.
The speeches from Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton end (with no mention of children overboard) and the condolence motion heads to the federation chamber.
Question time begins.
Ahead of question time is a condolence motion for Peter Reith.
Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton will both speak on the motion and then it will most likely head to the federation chamber.
It is time for question time
So get ready for some very lame calls, some fake laughs and some confected outrage.
And she thinks the opposition will be on-board.
I do and I am very pleased that that appears to be the case. I think there will still be discussion and debate around the edges of the legislation, that has probably been foreshadowed in the committee inquiry into the bill on the crossbench has indicated that they seek to move some amendments as well and that is a normal process, and a good one. But I think that I have always said that in order for an integrity commission to be successful, it cannot be political or it will fail at the first hurdle.
‘There needs to be strong protections for whistleblowers’: Bridget Archer
Liberal MP Bridget Archer says she agrees with the crossbench on the issue of whistleblower protections. She told the ABC:
There needs to be strong protections for whistleblowers as part of an integrity framework.
We have had assurances from the attorney general that there will be additional legislation brought forward to deal with the issue of whistleblowers and that must sit alongside an anti-corruption commission. So I take the attorney general at his word and I look forward to seeing that work through constructively.
Because, much like an integrity commission, I think that these issues should be beyond partisan politics and what Mr Wilkie has said today gives the importance of having protections for whistleblowers.
You need to have people be able to have a mechanism to bring this information forward and know that they are protected. These are very serious matters but, also, there is a lot at stake and whistleblowers risk a lot.
Crossbench comes together to support Andrew Wilkie
The independents on the crossbench have come together to support Andrew Wilkie and his call for stronger protections for whistleblowers.
Kooyong MP Monique Ryan said it is what people voted for.
Six months ago the Australia people told them what action on climate change and action on transparency and integrity in government. Andrew’s actions today are acting on that we are all calling on the government to follow suit.
Peabody and Anglo American deny Andrew Wilkie's coal export claims
Several companies have vehemently denied claims aired by the independent MP Andrew Wilkie that they had been “lying for years about the quality of our coal” and had been engaged in bribes.
As we reported earlier, Wilkie claimed, under parliamentary privilege:
This shocking misconduct includes exports to Japan, South Korea, China and India, and involves companies including Terracom, Anglo American, Glencore, Peabody and Macquarie Bank.
A Peabody spokesperson told Guardian Australia “Peabody strenuously denies Mr Wilkie’s claims.”
A spokesperson for Anglo American also rejected the claims.
The allegations made by Andrew Wilkie MP with regard to Anglo American are entirely false.
We take these matters very seriously and when issues surrounding testing were first reported on by media in early 2020, we undertook an investigation which found no evidence that any of our cargoes had been impacted.
We have communicated with Mr Wilkie’s office to ensure he has correct information.
We’ve also contacted Terracom, Glencore and Macquarie Bank for comment.
Greens to try and block loan for East Gippsland gas project
The Greens will try and stop a federal government commercial loan being given to GN Energy to accelerate the Golden Beach gas production and storage project in East Gippsland. It was granted ahead of the last election, but the Greens are hoping to get support for a disallowance motion to stop the loan from going ahead.
It is unlikely to pass the Senate, but Dorinda Cox says it is something worth fighting for:
On Monday, the Senate will have an opportunity to show it’s serious about fixing the climate crisis by blocking public money going to new gas projects.
Labor can’t criticise gas corporations one day, then hand out public money the next.
Real climate action in Victoria means stopping new coal and gas projects from the 12 Apostles to Gippsland, and that is what The Greens will do.”
I have had a few messages from people about why it seems a little quiet today, given how busy the agenda is.
Think of this week as the calm before the storm. The Senate is where the real action is. And the government isn’t ready to send all those bills up for debate as yet.
So there is a lot happening behind the scenes as everyone prepares for what is going to be, as Katy Gallagher said, a pretty “wild ride”.
The national anti-corruption legislation has to get through the house and that debate will be a looooong one. Plus, each of the amendments are going to be considered separately. And there are a lot.
They aren’t ready for the vote on IR – that will be the most of the white knuckle ones – and the territory rights bill, which potential IR legislation king maker David Pocock holds in great importance – also has to be voted on before the end of the sitting.
So right no, the “cheaper child care” legislation is in the Senate and things are ticking away in the background.
It is going to be a tight race to the finish line for some of these bills. So strap in. (And also get a coffee. And a snack.)
‘He was respected by so many’: Daniel Andrews on death of Nationals candidate Shaun Gilchrist
Benita Kolovos has shared the statement Daniel Andrews has released in response to the death of the Nationals candidate for Narracan, Shaun Gilchrist.
On behalf of the Victorian Government, I offer our sincere condolences to the family and friends of the National Party’s Candidate for Narracan, Shaun Gilchrist.
While Shaun and I had never met, I know he was respected by so many across the community for his warmth, his humour and his hard work.
I have no doubt he shared the same ambition so many of us do in wanting to get involved with politics to change society for the better, and make a positive contribution to the community around him.
Our thoughts are with his family and friends, as well as his colleagues and his supporters, who are all grieving the most tragic of losses.
We understand the Gilchrist family has requested privacy at this time, and we ask that be respected.
Australian intelligence chief on the challenges spy agencies face in the modern world
Andrew Shearer, the head of Australia’s Office of National Intelligence, has also spoken about how technology, bots and internet troll farms have reshaped the battle to influence narratives.
Shearer said the speed and scale of such trends was “something that I think we’re all grappling with”.
Shearer told a disinformation-focused session of the Halifax International Security Forum:
When I think about what’s the intelligence component of this, you know, this is about truth and responding to these different tactics. How do we provide our traditional function in a way which is strategic warning, it’s actionable insights into intelligence, collecting information that enables us to verify what’s going on and making sense of it, assessing it? None of that’s changed, but we have to do it in this incredibly dynamic, ultra-fast, massive high-volume, information-volume world and I think that’s a real challenge.
Shearer was also asked about strategic decoupling from places like China. He didn’t respond directly about China, but spoke about the need for western governments to “partner” with technology platforms and civil society “in completely different ways”. And he alluded to the shutout of Chinese telco Huawei from Australia’s 5G network:
Data will be at the heart of this and I’m personally proud of the role that the Five Eyes played in helping to warn of some of the perils of 5G technologies, for example. I think that’s a good example of where we need to go. But it also leads you to new partnerships. Back in that cold war model that I was talking about: that was essentially a government-led contest. We can’t win this contest just with government - we need to partner with the platforms, with civil society in completely different ways. From an intelligence point of view, we need the technology and the tradecraft to do open-source collection at a massive scale. And we also need to be exploring things like artificial intelligence that can help us get behind deep fakes and so forth.
Australian intelligence chief praises US ‘masterclass’ during Ukraine invasion
Australia’s top intelligence official, Andrew Shearer, has praised the US-led release of intelligence ahead of the Russian invasion of Ukraine as a “masterclass” in how western governments can gain a strategic upper hand.
The head of the Office of National Intelligence made the comments at an international security conference in Halifax, Canada, at the weekend, saying it could serve as a model to be used against other countries – which he did not name.
Prior to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine in February, the US released detailed information about its assessment of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s intentions and about the massive buildup of Russian troops along Ukraine’s border.
Shearer told the Halifax International Security Forum:
I can’t really be here and not give a shout out, especially to my American counterparts, Avril Haines [the director of national intelligence in the Biden administration] and the entire US intelligence community [for] the masterclass that they put on leading up to and following the Russian invasion. Intelligence has completely reshaped the international narrative and gave the west the strategic initiative in an incredibly powerful way against a guy [Putin] who made his whole life about these techniques that we’re talking about here.
Shearer was one of the panellists in a session titled “The Disinformation Nations: Kidnapping Our Citizens, Corrupting Our Officials, Stealing Our Stuff”.
Shearer, who has previously served as a security adviser to John Howard and Tony Abbott and was influential in shaping Scott Morrison’s approach to China, suggested that western countries should think about whether the tactics could be adapted for use against “other actors”:
The intelligence role in this can be really important for getting back the strategic initiative, which I think is the power of the Ukraine example and for getting ahead of it. Frankly, once that happened, because of the breadth and the depth and the robustness of that intelligence base, it was like a shutout right? He couldn’t – he never has got the strategic initiative back in that contest. To my mind that’s the value intelligence can add.
But, and there is a but, that’s off the back of decades of intelligence work against the former Soviet Union and Russia by the United States, the United Kingdom, the other Five Eyes [Australia, New Zealand and Canada], it’s off the back of established … networks for getting that intelligence out to your partners and allies. And we need to think hard about: how do we learn the lessons and transfer them to other areas and other actors?
Senate set to pass Labor’s cheaper childcare bill
The Senate is considering Labor’s cheaper childcare bill, which will pass given the Liberal leader Peter Dutton has expressed the opposition’s support for it.
The opposition did successfully move amendments to require an independent review of the new subsidy scheme, to begin no later than July 2024 and report within three months – meaning there will possibly be some fodder in there for debate before the 2025 election.
Senator David Pocock moved a symbolic amendment calling on the government to use the forthcoming Productivity Commission review to “include consideration of activity requirements, education outcomes, addressing access for disadvantaged children and sector workforce requirements as part of its work”.
More significant Greens amendments, including removing the activity test, have been voted down.
Greens move to block federal funding for Victorian gas project
The Greens’ resources spokesperson Dorinda Cox will move to block federal money for a new gas project in Victoria in a Senate disallowance motion on Monday.
The Morrison government approved a $32m commercial loan with GB Energy to accelerate the Golden Beach gas production and storage project in East Gippsland just before this year’s federal election.
Greens leader Adam Bandt said:
Labor can’t keep backing new coal and gas projects. The big gas corporations are making giant profits and the public shouldn’t be on the hook for a new gas project that will make the climate crisis worse. Labor needs to work with the Greens to ditch this terrible Morrison decision to back more gas.
Sophie Scamps supports Andrew Wilkie's call for coal inquiry after fraud allegations
Independent MP for Mackellar, Sophie Scamps, is supporting Andrew Wilkie’s call for a parliament inquiry into allegations that Australia’s coal industry has defrauded trading partners in relation to the quality of coal exports.
In a statement, Scamps said:
The reality is there is no such thing as clean coal, and the evidence provided by this brave coal industry whistleblower suggests that the coal industry has been misleading the world for years.
If true, what this information does is confirm three things. It shows the lengths the coal industry will go to mislead Australians, our trading partners and the world.
Secondly, it shows we cannot trust the coal industry ...
Finally, it shows the value and importance of whistleblowers and why we must protect whistleblowers. Whistleblowers must be better protected under the National Anti-Corruption Commission, and we also need a whistleblower commissioner to enforce whistleblower protection laws.
Companies were ‘lying for years’ about quality of clean coal exports, Wilkie claims in parliament
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has made explosive claims that companies including Peabody energy, Glencore and Macquarie Bank have been involved in “lying for years about the quality of our coal”.
In a speech to the House of Representatives this morning, under parliamentary privilege, Wilkie alleged that “coal companies operating in Australia are using fraudulent quality reports for their exports, and paying bribes to representatives of their overseas customers to keep the whole scam secret”.
And this has allowed them to claim, for years, that Australian coal is cleaner than it is in order to boost profits and prevent rejection of shipments at their destination.”
Wilkie said he’d been provided with thousands of documents from a coal industry whistleblower. He alleged:
This shocking misconduct includes exports to Japan, South Korea, China and India, and involves companies including Terracom, Anglo American, Glencore, Peabody and Macquarie Bank.
A spokesperson for Peabody told Guardian Australia that the company would provide a statement shortly, but rejected the claims and said they had been reported previously.
Wilkie also claimed coal testing companies ALS and SGS had been involved in fraudulent testing.
Guardian Australia has contacted each of those companies for response.
Wilkie detailed one specific instance where he claimed the moisture content in a coal sample was initially set at 16.7%, but later amended to 15.9%, which is drier and burns cleaner. He alleged that such a change represented “hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra profit” and meant an export shipment wouldn’t be rejected on arrival.
Wilkie wants the parliament to set up an inquiry into the claims, so the whistleblower can detail their information. He claimed that federal and NSW police, as well as government departments and agencies were aware of the information, but had not taken action. Wilkie said:
That’s important because the fraud is environmental vandalism and makes all the talk of net zero emissions by 2050 a fiction. It could also be criminal, trashing corporate reputations as well as our national reputation.
Options under consideration to close BNPL regulation gap
For those looking for more information on the buy now, pay later consultation paper Stephen Jones has been talking about, this is what Treasury are looking at:
Today’s paper outlines three options to close the regulation gap:
Option one: Stronger industry self-regulation plus a new “affordability test” requirement;
Option two: Partly bringing BNPL into the Credit Act, including licensing providers and a sliding “unsuitability test”;
Option three: Completely bringing BNPL into the Credit Act in line with credit cards and other traditional credit products.
Anyone can make a submission – you can find the details here.
If you missed the news out of Cop27 over the weekend, this is an excellent snapshot:
Fellow independent MP Dr Sophie Scamps has come out in support of Andrew Wilkie’s call for an investigation into the coal industry.
Chamber of commerce campaign against IR bill heats up
Australia’s chambers of commerce have penned an open letter to senators, pleading with them to either split or kill the government’s proposed workplace relations overhaul.
With the Labor government aiming to pass the bill before the year is out, the letter blasts the timeframe on the bill as “absurdly short” and says jobs and businesses are in jeopardy if it becomes law.
It’s signed by Australia’s national, state and territory chambers of commerce, and calls on senators to try to split controversial elements out of the bill and pass some straightforward changes as soon as possible.
If that can’t happen, they want senators to oppose the bill in its entirety.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, businesses are dealing with surging energy costs, rising interest rates and face serious global economic headwinds,” the letter reads.
“The last thing we need is for jobs to be in jeopardy because of rushed new rules and red tape.”
The letter outlines business concern multi-employer bargaining changes will “drag them into a complex system they can’t afford”.
They also say higher costs will drive inflation and push up interest rates, and “one-size-fits-all” wages will undermine flexibility and productivity.
“We all share the ambition of wage growth, but lifting productivity is the way to do this, not by taking control away from businesses and their employees,” it reads.
“Some employers will cut back on ambitions to grow. Others will be forced to close their doors.”
Labor has indicated it won’t let the controversial elements be split from the bill, saying that would defeat the overall purpose of getting wages moving.
– via AAP
Katy Gallagher on whether the upper house will sit for longer: ‘If the Senate agrees, then that will occur’
Just to be clear, it is almost a done deal that the Senate will be sitting longer.
For those who missed it, this was Katy Gallagher this morning, speaking to ABC radio RN:
I’m talking to all of the crossbench around the sitting program and whether or not we can secure some extra days. And I think I’m pretty hopeful that might look like a Friday this week and a Friday next week. And we’ll see where we get to at the end of the first week. We’ve got a lot of bills to get through. And the Senate is going to be a pretty wild old place for the next fortnight in processing legislation and debating legislation. So I think we will end up with extra hours. We haven’t locked everybody in on that yet. But I think the government’s position is we’d like to sit to get a whole range of bills done. And if the Senate agrees, then that will occur.
(The Senate has to agree, which means a vote – which is why she is talking to the crossbench).
Nationals Victoria on ‘tragic and unexpected death of candidate for Narracan, Shaun Gilchrist’
The Nationals Victorian director, Matthew Harris, has issued a statement following the death of the party’s candidate in Narracan – Shaun Gilchrist – less than a week out from the state election:
Today I have written to the Victorian electoral commission to advise of the tragic and unexpected death of the Nationals’ candidate for Narracan, Shaun Gilchrist.
The Victorian Nationals express our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Mr Gilchrist, and our thoughts remain with them at this difficult time. The Gilchrist family has asked for privacy and respect during their time of grief.
The seat of Narracan is currently held by the Liberals’ Gary Blackwood, who is retiring at the 26 November election, on a 10% margin.
Greens push for amendments to childcare bill
The Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi has a few amendments she would like to move on the government’s cheaper childcare bill (including changing the name):
The amendments aim to:
Improve access to early education and care by abolishing the activity test,
Improve transparency measures within the bill by expanding reporting requirements for providers,
Extend staff discounts for early education and care, and
Rename the bill from “Cheaper Child Care” to “More Affordable Early Education and Care”.
The government and at least one crossbencher would have to vote for them for it to pass (if the opposition does not support it).
Faruqi says they are necessary changes:
The activity test is cruel, punitive and beyond repair. As the Senate inquiry heard from numerous stakeholders, the activity test has the effect of denying access to early education for the most disadvantaged children and punishing families with insecure, casual work.
We welcome new reporting requirements for large providers in the bill but consider that these requirements should be expanded to cover all providers.
The Senate inquiry heard that the language of ‘cheaper childcare’ used in the bill could undervalue the role of educators. We agree and will move to rename the bill to refer to ‘more affordable early education and care’.
The Greens believe early childhood education and care is an essential service that should be free and accessible for all. High-quality early education can give children the best start in life and is a critical component of lifelong learning.
While the government bill does not go nearly far enough to achieve our vision of universal and free early education and care, the Australian Greens support the bill as it nonetheless represents a step in the right direction.
Financial services minister says buy now, pay later regulation about ‘regulating to risk’
Stephen Jones has spoken to the Seven Network about the buy now, pay later consultation paper, saying it was about “regulating to risk”.
These are all the reasons that we do want to look at them, but we want to ensure that we’re regulating to risk. And we’re also mindful of the fact that for the majority of consumers, they’re using this as an alternative to a credit card and they’re doing so safely. We don’t want to crash down on innovation. We don’t want to stop people getting access to something that they’re using properly and safely. But we do want to ensure that there is a basic level of check in place here that ensures that it’s both affordable and appropriate to the consumers, which is the basic test inside the National Consumer Credit Act. The thing is, these aren’t home loans, and that’s an important distinction to make. These are generally small amounts of credit in the one and $200 level. So we want to ensure that if we are moving to regulate, it’s appropriate to the level of risk involved.
You can find the Senate paper here.
For those wanting to see the program:
And … the parliament is sitting
The House and Senate have commenced. It is going to be a very long couple of weeks.
Jim Chalmers: Cop27’s loss and damage fund ‘the beginning of the conversation’
On the loss and damage fund the Cop27 agreed to establish (it is not funded as yet) Jim Chalmers told the Nine Network it is the start of the conversation.
The fund is designed to help developing nations cope with the impacts of climate change. It was one of the things Chris Bowen was negotiating for while at the UN climate conference.
First of all, it’s not a compensation fund, it’s not about reparations or compensation. It’s based on a pretty simple principle that I think a lot of Australians would agree with, and that is that the developed world has a role to play in helping the developing world deal with the impact of climate change.
I think, particularly for Australians, we do have a responsibility to our brothers and sisters in the Pacific, in particular, to see what we can do to help. Now, this fund that was agreed at the COP conference, it’s been agreed in concept, it’s the beginning of the conversation, not the end of the conversation – the design of the fund, the contribution of the fund, that will all be subject to further conversations.
Andrew Wilkie makes accusations of ‘fraud' in Australia's coal industry
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie will make claims of “fraud” in the Australian coal industry in parliament this morning, with the transparency advocate to make accusations that fossil fuel companies have been using fraudulent reports about the quality of their product – and paying bribes to keep it quiet.
“This has allowed them to claim, for years, that Australian coal is cleaner than it is in order to boost profits and to prevent rejection of shipments at their destination,” Wilkie claimed.
The accusations, first revealed in the Nine newspapers this morning, stem from what Wilkie says are thousands of documents provided to him by a whistleblower, who he says is an executive in the coal industry. Wilkie will detail more of the claims at 10am in a speech to parliament, and wants the government to launch an inquiry into the explosive allegations.
In essence Speaker, coal companies operating in Australia are using fraudulent quality reports for their exports, and paying bribes to representatives of their overseas customers to keep the whole scam secret.
And that’s important because the fraud is environmental vandalism and makes all the talk of net zero emissions by 2050 a fiction. It could also be criminal, trashing corporate reputations as well as our national reputation.
I call on the government to at least establish a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, one where the witnesses of this misconduct, including the whistleblower I’m in contact with, can safely present their testimonies and evidence, and where the industry can explain itself.
We’ll bring you more after 10am, with Wilkie also to hold a press conference at 11am.
Katy Gallagher says government ‘won’t be distracted’ by campaigns against IR bill
There are quite a few advertising campaigns against the government’s IR legislation. As AAP reports, the government is pushing on regardless:
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry is launching a campaign opposing the bill, arguing it will cost workers jobs rather than lift wages.
The bill has already passed the lower house and is set to be debated in the Senate in the next fortnight as the government pushes to pass the laws by the end of the year.
Labor’s Senate leader Katy Gallagher said the fierce opposition to the bill would not shake the government’s belief it was the right course of action.
‘We won’t be distracted by an advertising campaign and we will continue to advocate on behalf of working Australians and getting wages moving,’ she told ABC Radio.
‘We’ll fight for this legislation on its merits and we’ve been doing that since the legislation has been released.
‘Where people spend money on advertising campaigns is their decision; some will argue money could be better spent on other things, but that is their decision.’
She added she was hopeful the Senate would sit two extra days – Fridays this week and next – to ensure the bill passed before the end of the year.
We’re working very hard with the gas companies and state and territory governments to do exactly that, to bring down the price of energy. We’ve really got to focus on gas in the short term, but in the longer term we know what the plan is. It’s to get cheaper, cleaner, renewable energy into the grid.
We’ve got $20bn set aside to upgrade our transmission networks. We’re on a target of 82% renewable energy because we know that renewable energy is the cheapest form of electricity in human history.
It’s not. It’s not. It’s just not.
And that’s why three – it is, Barnaby – and that’s why 3 million people –
It’s wrong. It’s not.
… have put solar panels on their roof.
It’s ridiculous saying it. It’s like …
Because they know that it’s cheaper.
Oh my God.
It’s cheaper, Barnaby.
Look at your power bill.
Of course, it is.
Look at your power bill. That is the reality of it. And covering the country with wind turbines. I’ll tell you what their plan is, they’re about to – AGL is about to blow up Liddell. So good luck. In June the grid almost fell over, and the power price, if you want the facts.
If you want the facts, don’t go to Joyce.
Joyce labels emissions targets ‘inflationary’
Asked what he thinks, Barnaby Joyce launches into nonsense.
It’s just nonsense:
Well, what we have is a whole group of things that are causing major problems, and the advent of the Labor party coming to power we’ve got the 2030 legislated targets that’s inflationary, that’s putting up the price of electricity which puts up the price of food, the price of your power bill, the price of fuel.
He writes about this tactic in his book, Weatherboard and Iron, and how he made it work with the “$100 lamb roast”. You just keep saying something until it’s all people are talking about and then it becomes its own truth.
Joyce is banking on people not having moved on from the carbon tax (which was never a tax) but he might find that voters, who are dealing with floods, and have dealt with fires and massive storms as well as a pandemic, have shifted their views on climate change somewhat since he last tried this move.
Plibersek v Joyce
Tanya Plibersek once again had to “debate” Barnaby Joyce on the Seven network this morning, this time on the government’s IR bill. Asked about the mining industry claim it will cost 30,000 jobs, Plibersek says:
I think that’s a completely hysterical reaction to what we’re proposing, which is more secure work and better pay. We know that Australians haven’t had a pay increase in nine years. They’re finding it really hard to make ends meet, the cost of everything’s gone up. Wages haven’t been keeping up.
Our industrial relations laws are designed to give Australians a pay rise when they work hard. We know the previous government said that low wages were a deliberate design feature of their economic architecture. They said that. We came to government promising to get wages moving and that’s what we’re determined to do.
Under the legislation as it now stands, workplaces on an EBA don’t have to take part in multi-employer bargaining.
PM still in the air …
Because he hasn’t had enough travel in the last two weeks during summit season, Anthony Albanese will deliver his speech to the trade conference in Melbourne, before heading to Canberra for the parliament sitting.
‘We are acting with some urgency’
The changes will most likely come through regulations, meaning they won’t need legislative changes, but Jim Chalmers said he understands the clock is ticking:
We’ve made it clear that we are acting with some urgency here but there are a lot of considerations and complexities to weigh up. Our intention is to announce our approach here before Christmas, as we’ve said. We will deal with any of the legislative or regulatory issues as they arise. This is a complex issue that we’re dealing with. It has big consequences for Australians and for Australian and industry. We are acting with some urgency but we’re also making sure that we get it right – that we weigh up all of the considerations and complexities and we’ll act as soon as we can.
High energy prices blamed on ‘Russian aggression and Coalition incompetence’
The treasurer did a quick press conference this morning where he didn’t say a lot new, but did recommit the government to finding some sort of solution for energy prices by the end of the year. Both the treasurer and prime minister have said they want to give an answer by Christmas.
We are looking for ways to take some of the sting out of these high energy prices which are punishing Australians and Australian industry and employers as well. Later today I’ll be engaging with the manufacturing sector, in particular, and Australian industry more broadly. We will have more to say on our plans for the energy market by the end of the year. There’s a lot of complexity here, there are a lot of considerations to weigh up, we have made it very clear that we are interested in a temporary, meaningful, responsible, sensible intervention in the energy market to help to take the sting out of some of these high energy prices. We will have more to say about that before the end of the year.
High energy prices are a consequence of Russian aggression and Coalition incompetence – those are the two factors which are feeding into these high and rising energy prices. The war in Ukraine is causing havoc with energy markets worldwide, we’ve had a decade of denial and delay from our predecessors which has meant more energy capacity has come out of the system than gone in and that has made us more vulnerable to these international shocks, so we will do our best to deal with the consequences of Russian aggression and Coalition incompetence in our energy markets. Australians and Australian industry are paying a hefty price for that Russian aggression and that Coalition incompetence and we will do what we can to intervene in a temporary, meaningful, responsible, sensible way to see if we can take some of the sting out of that.
Snowy Hydro bonuses in spotlight
The government will ask the Snowy Hydro boss for an explanation about how it gives bonus payments after it was revealed the company gave nearly $30m in bonuses to staff last year.
In answers provided to the Senate, Snowy Hydro said it gave $29,631,371 through its “incentive programs” in the 2022 financial year, to 1,446 staff – an average of $20,492 for each employee.
Greens senator Janet Rice asked Snowy Hydro at Senate estimates on 7 November about bonuses given to the entire staff of the company. In answers provided on notice, published on Monday, Snowy Hydro gave the 2022 and 2021 figures.
The latest figures showed a nearly $5m boost to incentive payments over the two years. In 2021 financial year Snowy Hydro gave out $24,915,156 in bonus payments to 1,457 staff, an average of $17,100 each.
Snowy Hydro said it had “significantly reduced the maximum incentive under the long-term incentive scheme” and that no payments for long-term incentives had been made in the 2021 and 2022 financial year. The bonuses paid were under its “short-term incentive program” in which all retail and generation staff take part.
Guardian Australia understands the government has asked Snowy Hydro to undertake an external, independent analysis to give the government its rationale for remuneration policy decisions, as well as views about how the performance bonuses can be improved, and details about the performance targets.
The government is also seeking to have Snowy Hydro’s CEO placed into the remuneration tribunal’s principal executive officer framework, which sets limits on remuneration and bonuses for office holders.
‘We had snow in Tassie about five days ago’
Jacqui Lambie also had some thoughts about the “nuts” weather the east coast is experiencing at the moment.
We had snow in Tassie about five days ago. It’s still sitting there. It’s amazing. In Canberra usually this time of year you are sweating at six in the morning. It’s so bizarre what’s going on.
And then in the meantime when flying over and when you’re flying into places into Melbourne yesterday, with the change over coming to Canberra, you know, it’s nice to see all their waterways are full. Their dams and all that stuff.
Seriously, this time of year you don’t see that. Let’s just hope that means we’re not going to get those disastrous bushfires over the summer period.
Seriously, we also can’t afford too much more rain. We certainly can’t in Tasmania, for sure. We’re at our peak in our dams and our waterways and our creeks and all the rest. Let’s just hold back on that rain it will be good. Don’t want to be doing that over summer either.
Lambie says IR bill should be split
Jacqui Lambie told the Nine Network:
They’ve [the Labor government] have done well in the first six months. Seriously, guys, we need to take a few steps back here from this IR bill. Split it with the good stuff. I would like to speak about it after Christmas [with small business]. Let small business get their head around them.
At this point (it is all subject to change) the bill only impacts businesses with fewer than 15 employees. And a majority of employees would have to vote to take part in any multi-employer bargaining move.
Buy now, pay later review has been coming for a while
The last time the issue was examined, under the previous government, it was decided the industry could regulate itself.
But with no credit checks, and no limits to how many services people can sign up for, people, particularly those on low incomes and already financially vulnerable, ran into trouble.
The government is now looking at treating BNPL schemes like credit. Which would mean credit checks and also take into account other credit lines someone has before being able to use a service.
Credit checks for buy now, pay later schemes
At a minimum, putting in in place some sort of credit checks to make sure the product is affordable and suitable for the people it is being pitched at.
We don’t want to see people in the same situation they were in the bad old days of the credit card and other parts of the credit card and other parts of the credit market where they might have had five, six, seven or eight credit cards, no one company knew the other had one and this person was simply unable to pay off their debts and they were in a credit downward spiral.
That’s what we want to address. We want innovation, we want people to have access to these great products but we want to ensure that there’s proper guardrails in place.
‘It’s operating outside the normal credit laws’
Financial services minister Stephen Jones spoke about the buy now, pay later crackdown on the Nine network this morning. The government is looking at regulation:
We’ve heard lots of stories, which is why we want to get some evidence. We’ve heard stories about people saying, “This is a great innovation, enables me to use my phone like a credit card.” But therein lies the trap, it is not a credit card, it’s operating outside the normal credit laws and a lot of people are getting into hot water. The number that surprised me, there’s only 7m buy now, pay later accounts in Australia, most of them for people between the ages of 20 and 35.
The thing is, though, a lot of people have got not one, not two but three or four buy now, pay later accounts and it appears that there is a small percentage of the market where people are getting into hot water. We want to ensure that this product is operating safely – safely, where it’s being marketed, where it’s being pitched at consumers, it is operating within the normal guardrails of other products.
Wells heads to Qatar for World Cup
Minister for sport Anika Wells is off to Qatar for the World Cup.
I will be following the Men’s World Cup keenly and cheering the Socceroos to glory.
I will also be taking every opportunity to promote Australia co-hosting the 2023 Women’s World Cup to a global audience of football fans.
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.
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.
‘I expect that the Senate will sit additional hours’
Will the Senate sit later, or for additional days?
Well, the upper house is in charge of its own fate (meaning it would have to vote to agree to it), but Katy Gallagher says “maybe”:
We are looking at extra hours or days in the Senate. Obviously, we can’t do that on our own if we don’t have the majority vote in the Senate.
So we’re negotiating again with the crossbench around that. I think that there is an acknowledgement that it is our job to sit and pass laws. We have a lot of laws to get through. And not a lot of time. So I expect that the Senate will sit additional hours.
But that’s all subject to negotiation, as is everything in the Senate. So there will be lots of that unfolding over the next few days.
I have had a couple of messages from the early birds who work in parliament as they can’t get food or coffee before 7.30am at the trough (the staff cafeteria where, yes, people pay for their food).
There is a lot of outrage in the DMs.
‘A packed fortnight of legislation to get through’
Asked about how the IR negotiations were going, Katy Gallagher says:
My understanding is that Tony Burke continues to talk to all members of the crossbench who are wanting to engage. It’s coming to the Senate. We have a packed fortnight of legislation to get through and it will be a wild ride in the red chamber this fortnight, and looking at how to progress industrial relations is a key priority for the government.
So Tony Burke will continue to talk, to negotiate. I know that the Senate committee will report this week.
I think they’ve got an additional hearing into that bill. Then they’ll report and hopefully we’ll be able to progress the bill in the second week. In the first week we’ve got a whole lot of other legislation to get through.
Buy now, pay later in spotlight
Finance minister Katy Gallagher told ABC News Breakfast this morning that it was time for the government to look at buy now, pay later schemes:
Well, I think we’ve seen it emerge as a very popular option for people. Buy now, pay later – and that’s a good thing. We want people to have choices. But I think we’re also seeing certainly some pressure on people in terms of getting into serious trouble with schemes like this.
So I think that it is responsible for the government to have a look at how to regulate it or how to put some guardrails around it, make sure that consumers are safe.
And you know, people are starting to see it as a credit card.
Whether or not it should be included under the credit card regulations, so under the credit code, to give people some protections and also put some responsibility back on the providers about ensuring that people are able to afford to get into the contracts that they’re entering into.
‘Fairness has to be fought for,’ PM to tell unions
Anthony Albanese will start his morning with an address to the International Trade Union Confederation.
It’s a bit of here’s what we’ve done so far. And a bit of a warning.
In the past month, our government has introduced:
New protections against sexual harassment. New measures to improve job security. New initiatives to revitalise bargaining, enhance productivity and get wages moving again.
And a new focus on closing the gender pay gap.
Now, of course, there are those who oppose these changes.
Those who want to stand in the way of this progress.
Those who have an ingrained ideological objection to workers being paid fairly for their contribution, who somehow believe that the only way to grow the economy is to limit opportunity and diminish security.
We know there are always those who say that any improvement in workers pay, any improvement in the status quo, will see the sky fall in.
They say it every time, they are wrong every time.
And we will push ahead like we do, every time.
We know fairness has to be fought for, we know progress has to be earned.
Most of all we know it’s worth it – we know the difference that it makes to people’s lives is worth it.
Welcome to the first day of the last sitting fortnight.
There is a chance the Senate will have to sit for another week to get through all the legislation the government wants to pass before the end of the year.
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has given a little bit of leeway by saying if the government misses the end of the year deadline it set itself it is not the end of the world.
It is the IR bill which is the sticking point. The government is still hoping it will get David Pocock over the line for the whole package. Those negotiations are ongoing, and Pocock doesn’t want to be rushed – he has said several times that he wants to get it right. And that might mean waiting until the first sittings next year.
Also on the agenda is the national anti-corruption commission bill, which, now it is back from the joint committee, is about to face a whole heap of amendments. The government has agreed not to rush the debate, or declare it urgent, and that amendments can be moved one by one rather than in blocks. Mark Dreyfus wants the Nacc to be something the whole parliament has had a say in so he is prepared to give a little – but it means it will also take some time.
There is also the territory rights bill, which supporters want to bring to a vote while there is momentum.
All in all, it will be a busy couple of weeks.
In the Senate, the Greens are hoping to make it easier for people on jobseeker to earn a living wage by being able to increase their hours at work without a financial penalty to their social security.
And that’s not counting all the stuff that just pops up.
Katharine Murphy is back from the prime minister’s summit season whirlwind, so she will be able to guide you through the final sitting, with Josh Butler, Paul Karp and Daniel Hurst. You’ll have Amy Remeikis on the blog for most of the day. Mike Bowers is still covering the flood emergency in central western NSW and we will bring you those updates as well.
I am already on my third coffee. It is going to be that sort of week. But it has been that sort of year, so it tracks.
Let’s get into it.