What happened on Tuesday 22 November, 2022
With that, we’ll wrap up our live coverage of the day’s news.
Here’s a summary of the day’s main news developments:
The first six refugees to be resettled in New Zealand from Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru have landed in Auckland.
Electric cars are set to become cheaper and government fleets will go green after members of the crossbench struck a deal to pass a Labor bill and phase out public support for petrol-based plug-in vehicles.
Anthony Albanese received a mixed reception as he visited flood-hit Eugowra in New South Wales.
The strong winds that have battered much of south-east Australia are due to ease after days of damaging gusts.
Serial protester Danny Lim has been left bloodied and seeking hospital treatment after a “discontinued” arrest by NSW police officers in the Sydney CBD on Tuesday.
Buildings were left damaged and widespread power outages were reported in the Solomon Islands capital, Honiara, after two earthquakes struck just off the south-west coast on Tuesday.
Ahead of the Socceroos’ opening World Cup match against France, the Australian coach, Graham Arnold, will rely on his players to have each other’s backs when they meet the millionaire world champions. The match kicks off at 6am AEDT on Wednesday.
Thanks for reading. Have a pleasant evening (and early rise for those waking up for the Socceroos match). We’ll be back to do it all again tomorrow.
Review into laws that could see businesses fined $50m for data breaches recommends legislation be passed
A Senate committee reviewing legislation that would bring on up to $50m in penalties for businesses that suffer data breaches has recommended the legislation pass the parliament.
The Labor-majority committee made just three recommendations after the review of the legislation in the wake of the Optus and Medibank data breaches. The recommendations ask the attorney general’s department to define “serious” and “repeated” interference in the Privacy Act, and to consider whether to more tightly define what an “Australian link” should be for companies to be covered by the legislation if Australian data is held by that company.
But the committee recommended that this form part of the department’s review of the Privacy Act – due for a government response by the end of this year.
The LNP senator Paul Scarr supported the recommendations, but suggested wording around “benefits” that companies might get out of data breaches should be changed in determining the size of penalties given, because it would not cover businesses that were wilfully reckless or grossly negligent and then suffered data breaches.
The Greens senator David Shoebridge made similar comments, but also said the $50m fine amount would be seen as a “nuclear option” and one that could lead to disastrous results. He said there should be a tiered fine system.
Shoebridge also raised concerns about the capacity for the office of the Australian information commissioner to launch investigations – given the Optus breach will cost the office $5.5m to investigate.
With a total budget of just over $33m annually, from which all of the FoI and privacy work must be undertaken there is an obvious lack of practical
capacity for the OAIC to undertake any more than one serious privacy breach investigation at a time.
This lack of financial capacity is even clearer when you consider that the FoI work is already chronically delayed and underfunded, causing year-long delays in resolving reviews.
The end result may well be that the parliament agrees to tougher penalties but the government starves the regulator of the funds to ever seriously enforce them. That, at best, is a pyrrhic victory for data security.
Independent David Pocock criticises rush on workplace relations bill
The Senate employment committee has delivered its report into the secure jobs, better pay bill.
Consistent with Senator David Pocock’s public comments, his additional comments in the report have criticised the rushed process of the bill and inquiry.
Senator Pocock notes the inadequate amount of time afforded to the committee to give due consideration to submissions and prepare for committee hearings.
The Senate committee process provides an invaluable opportunity to scrutinise legislation in the best interest of the Australian community. 1.2 In this case, witnesses often did not have sufficient time to complete their submissions ahead of appearing before the committee, or submissions were circulated as witnesses arrived to give evidence. 1.3 This detracted from the value of the committee process. 1.4 The committee has had only ten days to consider 96 submissions, with six of those days taken up by Senate Estimates.
1.5 While the bulk of this bill introduces what are almost universally viewed as extremely welcome and long overdue reforms, a small number of provisions have caused deep concern across a wide variety of stakeholders. 1.6 For this reason, Senator Pocock maintains that those provisions of deepest concern should be split out and considered separately with adequate time to work through any unintended consequences, while also ensuring a mechanism to lift wages for all workers.
1.7 Senator Pocock again reiterates his support for measures to urgently lift wages with the current cost of living crisis, and notes in this context the desperate need for the Australian Government (government) to review and lift the rate of JobSeeker.
Pocock also raised fresh concerns about flexible work provisions:
Senator Pocock notes the many benefits flexible working provisions will bring to a range of workers. Senator Pocock also acknowledges concerns that some employers and employer organisations have raised around how this may operate in practice and the role of the Fair Work Commission in arbitrating not just the process but also the outcome. 1.22 Senator Pocock notes the two recommendations put forward by ACCI on this part and encourages the government to consider them on their merits as a sensible compromise.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry had suggested FWC conciliation, but not arbitration, or, if arbitration is insisted upon, to include an ability to later revisit the decision if circumstances change.
Australian winemakers hit back at EU bid to ban them using prosecco name
In Victoria’s King Valley tourists travel down Prosecco Road, so called because the wine region has now become known for the variety.
Otto Dal Zotto, an Italian immigrant from the town of Valdobbiadene, the birthplace of the sparkling white wine, was the first person to grow the grape variety commercially in Australia when he planted his first vines on the fertile slopes above the King River in 1999.
“When we started there was nothing. Nobody knew actually what prosecco was,” he said.
But now the work of Dal Zotto and the other Australian producers who have invested to grow the local product to become a $205m a year industry is under threat.
Local growers may no longer be able to call it prosecco, as the European Union is seeking to ban Australian producers from using the variety name as part of the Australian-EU free trade agreement currently being negotiated.
Daniel Andrews’ SEC constitutional promise could end up in high court, expert says
A promise by Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, to amend the state’s constitution to protect public ownership of the revived State Electricity Commission could be the subject of a future high court challenge, a constitutional law expert says.
Andrews said on Tuesday a re-elected Labor government would introduce legislation to amend the constitution to ensure the SEC – which was privatised in the 1990s – could not be sold again.
“Imagine how much further along the transition, the reform, the change … we would be today, if these assets had not been sold,” he told reporters.
However, Prof George Williams, a constitutional law expert from the University of New South Wales, said entrenching a policy outcome in a state constitution was “unusual”.
“It’s certainly not common in other state constitutions and that’s because constitutions typically deal with the mechanics of government – how parliament, courts and governments run,” he told Guardian Australia. “But there’s no wrong or right answer here.”
Man jailed for swindling $1.9m off retiree
When an 82-year-old Victorian man listed his $1.6m family home for sale, Brian Wilson visited and befriended the retiree.
Wilson, 54, helped the man to move his belongings into a retirement home, paying for a skip to help dispose of his rubbish, reports AAP.
The elderly man, who said he “was not as sharp as he used to be”, opened up to Wilson. He revealed the home he had sold, in Melbourne’s south-east, was mortgage-free.
After the move, Wilson visited the man at his Rosebud retirement village, which was when his almost $2m con began.
Between October 2018 and September 2019, Wilson swindled $1.929m from the man, convincing him to invest in fake business ventures, including selling cleaning products, a car sale and water jet cutting machines.
Wilson used the victim’s money to place bets on gambling websites Tabcorp, Sportsbet, Beteasy and Ladbrokes. The victim was left totally devastated by the offending and previously told the court he would never recover.
Wilson faced Melbourne’s county court on Tuesday by video link, where he learned his fate after pleading guilty to nine charges of obtaining financial advantage by deception and two of obtaining property by deception offences. Judge Trevor Wraight said Wilson’s offending against a vulnerable victim was sophisticated, deceptive and planned, as he jailed him for five years.
Not kept up with the day’s news?
Check out Guardian Australia’s afternoon update:
Andrew Redmayne happy to keep low profile as Socceroos plot France upset
Believe it or not, Andrew Redmayne is more than happy to blend into a crowd. Ideally a crowd which does not recognise him as the dancing goalkeeper, or the grey Wiggle, or the guy who denied Peru a place at the World Cup.
“I had a photo last night in a suit,” he says in the Australian camp in Doha. “A suit and a photo are my two worst enemies.”
This is the same man who, back in June, produced a humdinger of a penalty shootout performance and engaged in the kind of top-shelf shithousery that would absolutely get him recognised in quite a few places. Doha, thankfully is not one of them.
Read more from Guardian Australia’s Emma Kemp in Doha, ahead of the Socceroos’ opening World Cup match against France early tomorrow morning.
Serial protester in hospital after police ‘discontinued’ arrest in Sydney CBD
The serial protester Danny Lim has been left bloodied and seeking hospital treatment after a “discontinued” arrest by New South Wales police officers in the Sydney CBD.
Known for the sandwich boards he is commonly seen wearing, Lim was walking through the Queen Victoria Building while wearing a sign when security told him to leave. They called police, who then confronted him.
Speaking to Guardian Australia from hospital – where he was being assessed for a possible broken cheek bone – the 78-year-old claimed police “smashed me on the concrete floor”, causing his cheek to bleed.
“I could be dead when they threw me down like that,” he said.
La Niña lingers while southern influences keeps odds tilted to damp
The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest fortnightly update on the main climate drivers affecting Australia points to conditions remaining wetter than average over most of the nation.
The La Niña event in the Pacific remains on the weak side and so it won’t take a lot to nudge conditions back to neutral – and that’s what’s expected by January.
While it’s tempting to look at that tail pointing to an El Niño later next year, we do have a “predictability gap” in autumn. Beyond April, it’s a bit hard to say what will come next.
Still, El Niños do often follow hard on the heels of a La Niña ... and with all that vegetation around thanks to the rain, we might well be talking about bushfire threats this time next year.
Meanwhile, the influence favouring above-average rainfall coming out of the Indian Ocean continues on its decline. The negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole is pretty much over – but the effect takes a while to unwind.
As an island continent (including Tasmania), the Southern Ocean also plays a role in the weather and climate (ask anyone in the southern parts of the nation this week).
The Southern Annular Mode is the gauge that BoM uses to assess what we might expect from that region in the near term. For now, the Sam is likely to be in its positive phase for most of the rest of the year.
All up, those three influences are why the bureau is expecting a wetter-than-average summer for most of eastern Australia. The good news, though, is that the odds are winding down that it’ll be a lot wetter.
The wildcard, though, will be how busy the cyclone season is. As we noted here over the weekend, the outlook here is a bit of a worry:
And on that note, I shall hand you over to Elias Visontay to take you through the evening.
I’ll be back bright and early tomorrow morning. Thank you so much for joining me and make sure you stay hydrated, and most importantly – take care of you.
It is going to be a long night.
The hours motion passed by the Senate also provides that:
The hours of meeting on Thursday, 1 December 2022 be 9am till adjournment, divisions may take place after 4.30 pm, and the routine of business from 5.30pm be: (a) consideration of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022; and (b) adjournment without debate after consideration of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022 has concluded, or on the motion of a minister, whichever is earlier.
Senate in for long sitting
The Senate could be in for a very long night next Thursday, after the government successfully passed a motion that will keep the upper house sitting indefinitely until it deals with the “territory rights” bill.
That bill would abolish the so-called “Andrews laws”, which ban the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory from making their own laws on euthanasia.
As flagged earlier, the government will keep the Senate sitting on the next two Fridays - a rare move, with the parliament usually only sitting Monday to Thursday. The actual motion just passed through the Senate, and next Thursday night, the only matter on the agenda will be the territory rights bill.
The Senate will sit “9am till adjournment” and adjournment can only happen “after consideration of the Restoring Territory Rights Bill 2022 has concluded, or on the motion of a minister, whichever is earlier.”
Australian and Chinese defence ministers to meet
The defence minister, Richard Marles, is due to have a second meeting with his Chinese counterpart, in the latest sign of easing tensions.
Marles arrived in Cambodia this morning ahead of tomorrow’s Asean Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus), a grouping that includes south-east Asian countries but also their dialogue partners such as China.
So far today Marles has met with his counterparts from India and South Korea.
He is expected to meet shortly with China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, whom he first met in Singapore in June.
The latest contact follows Anthony Albanese’s meeting with China’s president, Xi Jinping, in Bali last week.
Earlier today, the trade minister, Don Farrell, told ABC TV the meeting between Albanese and Xi was “a first step” but there was “still a long way to go” to remove trade blockages between the two countries:
We’re going to have to work hard to convince the Chinese government that they need to lift these trade blockages
And for those who didn’t see it, here was the end of question time
And it is official:
Jenny McAllister questioned on EV laws
The assistant minister for climate change and energy is asked about the changes the government has made on its EV legislation:
The overall goal here is to give consumers more choices. You’ll know that the take-up of electric vehicles and low-emissions vehicles in Australia is considerably lower than other countries we might compare ourselves with.
Labor’s plan is essentially to reduce some of the taxes and charges that would ordinarily be payable on those vehicles to pull more of them into the system.
We’re obviously in this policy, as with everything else we bring to the parliament, willing to work constructively with other partners on the crossbench, the opposition - really whoever wishes to work with us.
On this occasion, I understand that minister Bowen and treasurer Chalmers have been in discussion with the crossbench about some changes that they would like to see. I think that there is agreement that, whilst in the short-term providing this kind of support for both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and fully electric vehicles is appropriate, in the medium-term, the subside should really be targeted at electric vehicles. I understand that’s the agreement.
This is going to be a very long day:
Greens and Labor team up on superannuation transparency
A few months ago the Coalition and the crossbench in both houses teamed up to advocate for a disallowance motion restoring rules requiring super funds to disclose disaggregated political donations and spending on ads to their AGMs.
The Greens chose to negotiate with assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, to improve transparency in a different way, rather than tear up his new regulations.
The result is a bill that passed Labor’s caucus today, aligning super funds’ transparency obligations with public companies. Instead of reporting those figures at the AGM, they will go into an annual report given to ASIC. APRA will produce an annual super transparency report helping people compare the data between funds.
Greens treasury spokesperson, Nick McKim, said:
The Greens welcome the minister’s commitment to establish a super transparency report. From the outset we have called for a holistic approach, and that is why we worked with the government to deliver this outcome.
Putting all reportable data, all together, all in the one spot will create meaningful transparency. It will allow people to see what their super fund is doing in comparison with what other super funds are doing.
We also welcome the minister’s commitment to include profit flows in the super transparency regime. The exclusion of dividends and other profits flows from current super transparency regulations makes no sense.
The Greens look forward to seeing the draft regulations and hearing people’s views on them.
While we appreciate that Apra are currently working through technical aspects, we want the regulations to include an entity level break-down of the recipients of payments and profits.
We have made the minister aware of this and will work with him to ensure this happens.”
What about the prospect of Prosec-no? (credit to Paul Karp)
The EU free trade agreement is still being worked out and one of the issues is the geographical indicators (like only wines from the Champagne region can be called Champagne). That could mean an end to Australian produced Prosecco. Or, as it shall now be known, Prosec-no.
I’m also meeting all of the wonderful Prosecco winemakers coming from a wine region myself - I’m very familiar with the issues and the problems of the wine industry. Look, you’re right - the Europeans have listed that as one of the items that they want dealt with in the European Free Trade Agreement. We have not conceded to that request by the Europeans. And we continue to fight hard for Australian winemakers. There’ll obviously be discussions taking place over the next 3-6 months
Don Farrell says the Indian agreement will be easier than the UK one (in terms of the process of ratifying it)
The Indian process simply requires a decision of the Indian cabinet. And I would be reasonably confident that we’ll get that decision in the next couple of weeks. So all of the benefits that flow from the India Free Trade Agreement should be available to Australian producers this year. Unfortunately, the English system is slightly more truncated. I’m still hopeful we might get it this year, but it may be early next year.
Australia’s trade minister addresses India and UK trade deals
The trade minister, Don Farrell is a guest on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, where it is pointed out that he will be the trade minister recorded as being in place when the free trade deals with India and the UK.
Well, in the Australian system, of course, the governor general has to approve them. I would think that would be a very quick process, and we’re likely to see that the next time ministers meet with the governor general, which is probably in the next few days.
For them to come into law, that also requires reciprocal arrangements in the UK and India. I’ve spoken with both the Indian and the UK governments today to let them know that we have largely completed all of our processes and, as I’d indicated last week, that we would get that process finished by the end of this week.
Christopher Knaus was on the ground when Anthony Albanese visited Eugowra with Dominic Perrottet. This is what he saw:
If you would like to read more about Ben Doherty’s story, you can find it here:
Support for South Australians affected by flooding announced
The nine LGAs eligible for funding are Alexandrina, Berri Barmera, Coorong, Karoonda East Murray, Loxton Waikerie, Mid Murray, Murray Bridge, Pastoral Unincorporated Area and Renmark Paringa.
Under DRFA, assistance will be available for clean-up activities and support to state agencies and councils to provide counter disaster operations, including sandbagging and the construction of temporary levees to prevent inundation of residential properties and critical infrastructure.
The joint funding will also provide:
Personal Hardship grants: one-off payments of $400 an adult and $140 a child (with a maximum of $1000 a family) to individuals and families/couples in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, to meet needs such as purchasing food, clothing and medical supplies.
Accommodation grants: up to two weeks emergency accommodation for individuals and families unable to return to their homes (due to damage, road closures etc.), or for financial support for those unable to return to their homes more than two weeks after the disaster.
This joint support will also be complemented by a South Australian government support package, and the state government will also appoint a Community Recovery Coordinator to support the coordinated recovery effort in the affected regions.
First refugees from Nauru resettled in New Zealand
The first six refugees to be resettled in New Zealand from Australia’s offshore processing regime on Nauru have landed in Auckland.
The flight is the first fulfilment of a resettlement deal first offered by New Zealand nine years - and three prime ministers - ago when it proposed taking 150 refugees from Australia’s offshore centres every year.
On Tuesday, six men - four Rohingyan men from Myanmar, one from Sudan and one from Cameroon - each of whom had been held on Nauru for more than eight years, flew to Auckland.
Home affairs minister Clare O’Neil confirmed the transfer.
“We confirm a flight left Nauru today destined for New Zealand with an initial six refugees on board. The Australian and New Zealand governments continue to work together to resettle annually 150 refugees from Australia’s existing regional processing cohort.”
There remain just under 100 people held on Nauru, and a similar number in Papua New Guinea where Australia’s former offshore processing centre was found to be illegal and forced shut.
A separate direct deal between PNG and New Zealand will allow for refugees - previously held within Australia’s offshore centre on Manus Island - to be resettled in New Zealand. That scheme has seen one Iranian man, his Papua New Guinean wife, and their child, resettled in New Zealand.
Victorian election candidate to isolate with Covid
Kate Lardner, an independent candidate in the seat of Mornington, has tested positive for Covid-19 and will isolate for the remainder of the Victorian election campaign.
Lardner says while there is no mandatory isolation period in Victoria, she cannot attend pre-poll in “good faith”:
As a doctor, I know the importance of protecting our community’s health. I also know that in order to protect our most vulnerable, I’ve got to stay home for now - even if that means I can’t be out campaigning in these crucial last few days. This is the advice that I would give my patients; and this is the advice that I’ll follow.
The seat – which takes in the suburbs of Mount Eliza, Mount Martha, Moorooduc and Mornington – is currently held by the Liberals on a 5% margin but pundits say Lardner is in with a fighting chance.
New Zealand to debate lowering voting age
Over in New Zealand, the parliament will debate 16 and 17 year olds voting after a finding their exclusion breached the bill of rights protection against discrimination.
In Australia academic George Williams has also called for 16 and 17 year olds to be able to vote - but it wasn’t something the special minister of state, Don Farrell, asked the electoral committee to explicitly consider in its 2022 election review.
Asked why on Tuesday, Farrell said:
Look, we have previously discussed that. But we had a range of issues that we in particular wanted to refer to the committee and they were things like trying to improve electoral transparency. And for the moment, we’re focusing on those issues. Particularly lowering the threshold and trying to introduce real-time disclosures of political, and a range of other issues.”
Asked if he’s ruling it out, Farrell said:
No, we’ve never ruled it out. But at the moment, we felt that the transparency issues were the ones that we should focus on immediately in the immediate aftermath of the election.”
Murray-Darling to fall short of planned environmental flows
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan will fall short of its target to return 2750GL to the environment by June 2024, because of the states’ failure to deliver on water saving projects.
The new head of the basin authority, Andrew McConville, revealed the authority now expected the shortfall from alternative water saving measures to return water to the environment will be between 190 to 315GL.
That’s the equivalent of between 76,000 to 126,000 olympic swimming pools not being returned to the environment.
While McConville acknowledged that the failure to meet the 605GL required under the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism left the environment waiting, he did not offer a view on what should happen next.
But he gave a broad hint that he would support giving states more time to keep to their commitments.
He said the plan needed to be complied with by the states “in full,” but did not repeat the other half of the usual commitment that it needed to be done “on time”.
The plan gives the commonwealth power to buy more water from irrigators if there is a shortfall, but this would prove controversial.
McConville also revealed that the return of an additional 450GL promised to South Australia through efficiencies was off target.
He said this was categorically “part of the plan” and needed to be done. Victoria and NSW have previously suggested it is not mandatory.
We are at the pointy end of the plan and its a watershed moment,” McConville said said, referring to shortfalls. “There is no plan B,” he said.
Asked about whether there needed to be changes to the plan to account for climate change in the basin, McConville said: “ we haven’t finished what we have started”.
We’re 2,100 gigalitres into a 3,200-gigalitre commitment. We need to see that through,” he said.
But he said the plan was “an adaptive plan.” He said a review in 2026 would make climate change “a key pillar.”
The CSIRO study of the basin in 2010 concluded rainfall would likely fall by 10% and flows into the river system would reduce by 30% as a result of climate change. However, the reduction in rainfall may have already reached this point, much earlier than expected.
Charity says it foiled attempted cybercrime
The Smith Family has said it stopped an attempt to steal the charity’s funds after unauthorised access was made to a staff member’s email account.
Doug Taylor, CEO of The Smith Family said:
The Smith Family recently experienced a cyber incident where attempts were made to steal The Smith Family funds. We promptly acted and the attempts were unsuccessful.
We immediately took steps to secure our systems. We then commenced an investigation of the incident and engaged specialist cyber security experts to understand what happened. We have also taken steps to further strengthen our systems.
Taylor said that personal information of supporters may have been accessed during the attempt including names, phone number, address or email address, first and last four digits of credit or debit card used to donate, as well as donation amount.
Expiry dates and CVV numbers were not stored by Smith Family so these were not compromised, the CEO said.
The charity is in the process of contacting individuals who may have had their information accessed, but Taylor said there is no current evidence of misuse of this information yet.
We apologise for any concern or stress that this incident may have caused. We’re contacting every single donor and sponsor about the incident, whether their information may have been accessed or not. We’re reaching out to our individual supporters so they can take steps to protect their information and avoid potential scams.
Victorian MP cleared by police
Victoria Police has cleared independent MP Catherine Cumming of inciteful behaviour after she told a crowd of protesters the state’s premier, Daniel Andrews, should be turned into “red mist.”
Cumming, a candidate for the Angry Victorians Party at this weekend’s state election, made the comments at an anti-lockdown rally in Melbourne on Saturday. “Red mist” is a military phrase referring to the spray of blood from a sniper. After the incident, Victoria Police instigated an investigation into the matter.
In a statement on Tuesday, Victoria Police said it had completed its assessment of the comments made by Cumming on Saturday:
It has been determined that no offence has been committed and Victoria Police will not be taking the matter any further.
Cumming later said she was referring to Labor’s so-called red shirts scandal where almost $400,000 of public funds were misused by the party for political purposes.
Question time ends.
And then Anthony Albanese and Peter Dutton wish the Socceroos luck in the World Cup.
Peter Dutton associates the opposition with those comments:
We send our condolences in particular to families in Java who have lost loved ones and those in Solomon Islands that will be panicking about where their loved ones are.
In some circumstances right now. It is a harrowing experience and 2018 in Lombok where there was an earthquake and to see the devastation to the local people to be infrastructure which is not built to the standards we would see here in Australia.
And the loss of life, the loss of livelihood for many of those people in villages and in the city, it is quite devastating and we don’t know the extent of the damage yet but it will require assistance from Australia no doubt and as the prime minister rightly points out, our country will always stand with our new neighbours, with people in our region and those from the Solomon Islands, Indonesia and elsewhere, will always provide them with support in their hour of need.
And to our people on the ground, we have many staff in the Solomon Islands at the moment so we wish them every safe passage and I am sure they will be part of the response and recovery and the support to those within the community. We will lend any support to the government to make sure that we can respond in the appropriate way, as we have done in the past and will always do.
This morning, there was a 5.6 magnitude earthquake in Java. The media have reported at least 162 people have lost their lives.
More than 700 have been injured. It is estimated that some 13,000 people have been displaced.
With more than 2000 homes damaged. I have conveyed through to my friend President Joko Widodo Australia’s condolences at this tragic loss of life and we will stand ready to provide our friends in Indonesia with support as Australia always does. As Australia always does.
In Honiara this morning, there was a 7.3 magnitude earthquake at 10km depth. There are reports of aftershocks, all staff of the Australian high commission are safe. There are no known injuries but the roof of the high commission has collapsed. Which points to likely damage throughout the city.
Staff have been moved to higher ground because there was a tsunami warning that was issued. The high commission is seeking to confirm the safety of all Australians. There are difficulties because phone lines have gone down. So there are communication difficulties there.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has stood up the consular majesty target forced to lead consular response and support. Solomon Islands police are out doing damage assessment. We have placed someone in the national disaster response centre to assist with the initial response.
We have contacted prime minister Sogavare to once again indicate Australia stands ready to assist. We have historically played an important role in the Solomon Islands.
Can I say, Mr Speaker, anyone with concerns for Australians and the Solomons can contact the consular emergency centre on, if they are in Australia, 1300 555 135. ... Or if they are outside Australia, ... +61 262 613 305. We await further news.
Senator Wong will be giving a statement to the Senate in around about an hour as well. I just hope not just all Australians are safe, I think I can speak on behalf of a house that the impact of this devastating earthquake is minimised and we stand ready to provide support.
Anthony Albanese takes what will be the last question slot in question time to give an update on the Solomon Islands and Indonesia after the earthquakes today.
LNP line of questioning on power lines
One of the LNP MPs asks how many properties will be “impacted by construction of transmission lines affecting the power grid in Central and southern Queensland under Labor’s energy policy”.
There is no number, as there is no proposal as yet. There is a policy. There are proposals, (I assume) in the works, but there is no plan, which means there are no houses which have been identified.
(Chris Bowen says much the same thing, but with a lot more words and it has been a long hour)
The Greens MP for Ryan, Elizabeth Watson-Brown has another of the crossbench questions:
Last week in Egypt you said ‘if we are not trying to keep to 1.5 degrees than what are we here for?’ Because the difference between 1.5 and 1.7 degrees in terms of the impact on the planet is enormous.
Why then has your government adopted policies that are not compatible with keeping warming to 1.5 degrees, such as the more than $40bn in the budget for fossil fuel subsidies, including the gas and natural chemical hub in Darwin harbour and the new gas project in Victoria?
The difference between 1.5 and 1.7 degrees is enormous, in terms of the impact on the world and the impact on Australia, that is why we are fighting so hard.
Australia is the country with the most to lose within developed countries from climate change. We are the most exposed in the developed world to natural disasters. If climate change is untracked, the black summer bushfires which we devastatingly experience will be the average by 2040.
That is what is at stake here. The floods that 70 Australian regions are seeing are now will become worse as they already are more common.
That is why we did fight so hard last week to maintain the commitment to 1.5 degrees. And that is why we are working so hard to implement in just 85 months a 2030 target.
Eighty-five months is not long for a task of the size, it would have been better if we started 10 or 12 years ago.
We’re starting in 2022. To meet this 2030 target. That is why this is important.
The honourable member asked about certain projects. The Greens moved yesterday in disallowance of the project in the other place. I tell you why, because this is a point of difference with the Greens party. Because contracts have been signed on the project. This was a decision taken by the previous government. Not a decision I would have taken, not a grant we would have made, but contracts have been signed.
On one thing this side of politics won’t do [is scrap] contracts signed by governments. We will respect that and we will not create sovereign risk, that’s a genuine difference with the Greens party. Yes we will, we will oppose disallowances like that, where they bring into question sovereign risk, because we want Australia to be a renewable energy exporter powerhouse and to do that you need to be reliable partner.
You need to have credibility in the export markets, you need to know that if your government signs a contract it will be honoured. And the other thing we need, if we are going to be a renewable energy powerhouse is the capacity to export green hydrogen. And to do that you need to invest in ports and gas facilities to be able to export those green hydrogen one technology allows. We need to make those investments now.
Or we won’t be a superpower, was that we have high capacity and we do and so it is 20 other countries. We need to be constantly investing to increase our capacity not only to generate green hydrogen but to export it. And that is exactly what we will continue to do. There are some points of differences with the Greens on this, we will not be pub contract and we will protect sovereign risk. Even if our decisions we were not made in office as this one is, we will continue to ensure that that important matter of sovereign risk is protected.
The member for Bowman, Henry Pike pops his head up to ask Anthony Albanese a very long question, with a few dramatic flourishes thrown in for good measure.
On the 4 April this year in Queensland, you looked down the barrel of TV cameras and promised your plan on emissions reduction would result in energy prices coming down by $275 per household. Prime minister, will you look down the barrel of the camera now and admit to the people of Queensland [they won’t get their] promised $275 cut, your budget locks in the price increase of 56% and a gas price increase of 44%?
I think I believe looking down the barrel of the lightweights [over there],” gesturing to the opposition.
The prime minister then goes on about the problems in Australia’s energy network, the people who have called for more action and change and how it will help cut prices and he ends with:
The good thing is when renewable energy is part of the solution, we have a cost of production that is much lower than energy sources. What we are seeing is a direct result of the policy we have … is more investment, is more investment. More investment which is, as the chief executive of [French renewables company] Neoen had to say, much lower than other energy sources. Something that those opposite don’t seem to understand.
The independent MP for Wentworth, Allegra Spender has a question for Chris Bowen:
Why has [the government] refused to sign a pledge to end new public subsidies for fossil fuels. These subsidies for our planet and are about use of public money. When will the government put an end to fossil-fuel subsidies?
I thank the member for her question and her keen engagement on these issues and engagement with the government on these issues.
The approach the government is taking is to implement the policies we took to the election. In addition, relegating internationally on a range of pledges and agreements of alliances which I signed last week.
In relation to the question of the honourable member, we continue to target the government expenditure very carefully.
[There is more, but the transcription is too garbled, but he essentially says: we have done what we have done, and we won’t be doing what you ask]
Tony Burke takes a dixer just to talk about how much wrong information there is on the IR bill. He does not need notes for this and seems to be very much enjoying himself.
Kevin Hogan, the Nationals MP for Page, then has a question for Anthony Albanese:
My question is to the prime minister. In Lismore on the 28 October when asked whether the flood disaster grants would be taxed, the prime minister said there has been no suggestion that they would be taxed. Does the prime minister stand by this statement?
I thank the member for Page for his question. I am surprised, frankly, that he asked it. I am surprised that he asked in that way, given he travelled with me to Lismore with the premier of New South Wales and also with the member for Richmond.
Effectively, what occurs with the system is that payments are made and once it is expended, it becomes a tax deduction. So it is, in effect, not a … it does not attract real tax. That is the situation. If you made it tax-free upfront, or what-have-you, then what you would do potentially is people could gain money from it. The grant is paid, some of it without proceeds, as you would be aware, as you would be aware of. Then, once it is expended, it becomes a deduction. Just like the grants we have made today which is the same way that it has always operated.
Coalition continues question time attacks on Labor over Cop27 climate damage fund
Alex Hawke then gets the latest dog-whistling question. It’s about why, given energy costs, the Albanese government is considering contributing to the loss and damage fund agreed on at Cop27 to help developing nations – including, Hawke says, China – to cope with the climate crisis. But Pacific nations will be a huge part of any fund, which is why the question from Hawke takes more than a few people aback in the parliament.
Hawke is a former minister for the Pacific.
It is unsurprising to get a question like that from this opposition led by a man who thinks that the impact on the Pacific of climate change is a laughing matter, Mr Speaker. Who think it’s a great joke.
We will work with the Pacific because we know, we know that this is in our interest as a country in a very complicated geopolitical environment. Not only does this opposition engage in the sort of cheap dogwhistle politics. They also don’t even know what was agreed! They don’t know what was agreed and I’m surprised to get a question like that from a man who was the minister for the Pacific. That is the best they can do! He was the man in charge of our elections for the regions.
Hawke has a point of order and says he was asking about China.
Speaker Milton Dick says it was a broad question and Bowen is being relevant.
I guess if you are the minister of the Pacific and you didn’t actually go to the Pacific that is probably a sort of point of what you attack. The other point of order you would take if you would ask a question like that is one of relevance because the opposition appears unaware that in fact, as part of these negotiations, and as part of these discussions, Australia, Australia argued and successfully argued that the donor they should be reviewed so that the countries that were not rich in 1992 that have now become developed and are now … should able to contribute, not receive, to contribute to the fund.
I understand the difference between donor and recipient might be a bit confusing to those opposite but that is exactly what we argued. And that is exactly reflected by the tax which indicates a multiplicity of donors and a revision of the database.
If the opposition will go down this cheap and nasty road they want to at least get that right.
Because previous prime ministers have understood that engagement on these issues is important. John Howard knew that, and in the aftermath of the tsunami, he knew contribute into Indonesia’s recovery was good for Indonesia, good for our region and good for Australia – and that’s because John Howard was a leader, he was a leader who understood our national interest. Currently the leader of the opposition does not understand the national interest and he just understands cheap and pathetic politics.
Julie Collins takes a dixer (it’s turning into the Julie Collins hour).
Collins is also the target of the next question from South Australian MP Tony Pasin
I refer to the minister’s previous answer, can the minister inform the house how many businesses will have to pay between $14000 and $75,000 under the new industry bargaining system?
Thank you. And I think the member for his question. As I said here, more than 2 million businesses are exempt from this stream, this bargaining stream we are talking about. Seriously it is 90% of all Australian businesses will be exempt. Indeed, we expect most small businesses, as the minister has said, will be in the cooperative stream. And most of them, of course, are already members of the organisations so they will have little or no cost for the marking if they choose to opt in. That’s the point, that is what they [the opposition] are missing over there. More than 2 million businesses are exempt from the stream.
Tony Burke, responding to Zoe Daniel:
I thank the member for Goldstein for the question. I acknowledge the member’s interest for different parts of this bill, particularly on the gender equity parts of the bill.
I have been an advocate for those sections of the bill long before she became a member, and since becoming a member this is the first time in Question Time that the member’s raised it with me, it’s been raised both on the floor of the House and privately and I think in writing to me as well.
I respect the fierce advocacy of this issue of the - how the small business carve-out is done. I’ll say a few things in response.
First of all, and it goes to some of the issues that have been raised by the opposition today as well, the expectation with respect to small businesses will be the cooperative stream that’s used.
The cooperative stream. It’s very much an opt-in, there’s no industrial action effectively model, if you like, enterprise agreements are plead available that small businesses and their staff can voluntarily opt into. Involving no fees and no consultants and we respect overwhelmingly the way small business could would engage with the reforms.
With respect to the small business stream, the small business carve-out there is that at the moment is the definition that is elsewhere in the act for small business, a definition which those opposite did not seek to change in their entire time in office.
I respect the argument that the member for Goldstein and other members of the crossbench have made, where they’ve said that particularly for multi-employer bargaining they would like to see this go as a broader exclusion and that’s been raised not only by the member for Goldstein but by a number of members of the crossbench.
This is one of the issues where consultation and negotiation is happening with the Senate crossbench. As I said, when we’re not in detail - as I said we’re not in detail stage...
(Peter Dutton jumps in here, but I miss what he says)
This might be new for those who haven’t been paying attention but not new for those who have. There has always been an expectation that when the bill hit the Senate that this... It was part of those negotiations.
In any broadening of the definition what I want to be mindful of and I have said this before is while the patient, such as early childhood educators who we definitely want to make sure to get the benefit of multi-employer bargaining, that they may start in the supported stream but effectively if you look at businesses like the Victorian childcare centres or early childhood education centres, they are now roughly 16% above the award and they would need a pathway to be able to continue to negotiate.
There is a nice moment of bipartisanship for the winners of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science, some of whom are in the gallery and receive a small round of applause.
Then it moves into the first of the crossbench questions – Independent Zoe Daniel has the first one.
Goldstein has 17,000 small businesses and the government’s industrial relations bill captures businesses with a head count of just 15-plus. That would see thousands of small businesses across the country potentially drawn into multi-employer bargaining. Overall, I support the bill. However, does the government accept that the numbers should be raised to a higher number of full-time equivalent staff to acknowledge the concerns about small businesses?
The answer for this one is quite long, so I will give it its own post.
There is a nice bit of bipartisanship over the floods.
And then it returns into gaffaws with Angus Taylor’s question to Julie Collins:
I refer to the minister’s previous answer.
Can the minister now confirm the government’s regulatory impact statement predicts the cost for small businesses to negotiate in the new multi-employer is [$14,638]?
I thank the member for his question. As the members would be aware more than 2 million businesses are exempt from the single bargaining system – more than 2 million, 90 per cent of all Australian businesses that is. He would also know, as I said earlier, that many businesses already incur costs and that many businesses are already covered by their employer peak organisation. He would also be aware that our expectation is that most small businesses would be in the cooperative stream where they can use off the shelf agreements.
Question time begins
For the first time in a long time, question time begins on time;
Deputy leader of the Liberal Party, Sussan Ley, kicks this one off:
How much will small businesses have to pay to participate in multi-employer bargaining the specific modelling contained in the government’s own regulatory impact statement?
It is directed to minister for housing and small business, Julie Collins, whom the opposition has identified as a target.
I thank the member for her question. I assume that she’s referring to the regulatory impact statement that has been prepared for the bill. As she would know, small businesses already incur costs when they try and enter the bargaining system. She would also know of course that many small businesses are actually represented by an employer organisation and that reduces the...
There are a bunch of point of orders.
A point of order on relevance, Mr Speaker. My question asked how much under the government’s own regulatory impact statement extra would small businesses have to pay.
Tony Burke responds:
On two points. One on the direct relevance point of order that was just taken. The question that was just stated was a different phrasing to the question that was asked. Secondly, the immediate shouting while the minister’s here from the leader of the opposition is just off the charts at the moment.
Collins says she has finished her answer and then Paul Fletcher tries to table a document:
I seek leave to table page 53 of the regulatory impact statements which says that the costs to small businesses is $14,638 if they are dragged into this compulsory...
Burke says leave is not granted, as it is already public.
The Senate has passed the legislation required to bring into effect Australia’s new trade agreements with the UK and India, a day after the bills cleared the lower house. That means the bills will receive royal assent soon, the final step in Australia ratifying the two trade agreements that were inked by the former Coalition government.
OK, we are in the downhill slide to question time.
Greens press government on public hearings for anti-corruption commission
The national anti-corruption commission bill is being debated by the House of Representatives. We’ve got a late sitting tonight (10pm), and debate on Wednesday and Thursday, to get through a list of 55 speakers.
The Greens justice spokesperson, David Shoebridge, has responded to the government amendments.
In a statement to Guardian Australia, Shoebridge said:
These Labor amendments go some way to responding to the evidence presented at the inquiry, notably on journalist rights and support for witnesses.
One bright point is that the amendments to protect journalists facing Nacc warrants goes beyond the committee’s minimal recommendations and closer to where media organisations and the Greens have been pushing. These amendments provide that any search warrant against a journalist must consider the public interest in protecting confidentiality and sources, and that’s a step forward.
The decision to amend the bill to limit what corruption can be considered by the Nacc is deeply concerning. For the Greens this raises the question: exactly what kind of corruption don’t they want covered by the Nacc?
The biggest gap in these amendments is that they fail to deliver on the most pressing issue raised during the inquiry, which is the need for the Nacc to be able to hold public hearings when appropriate. This is a core issue the Greens will continue to press in the Senate over the next two weeks.”
Shoebridge is referring to a government amendment to delete “any conduct of a public official in that capacity that constitutes, involves or is engaged in for the purpose of corruption of any other kind”.
Deletion of that section was recommended by the joint committee report, after recommendations from the Law Society and Australian Human Rights Commission, which warned it could allow the Nacc to expand its own jurisdiction.
For background on this story:
Origin CEO says rising fuel costs could weaken support for transition to renewables
Origin Energy’s chief executive, Frank Calabria, has used his keynote address at Committee for Economic Development of Australia (Ceda) in Sydney to warn that rising energy prices could erode support for any transition away from fossil fuels.
He noted that the scale of the change ‘over this decade is truly staggering’.
Some $76bn will needed to be invested by 2030, with the required pace of new renewables and storage much faster than is currently happening.
[G]iven the scale of the investment required,[it] will undoubtedly create upwards pressure on energy bills’, he said.
I fear rising energy prices could erode community support for the transition.
About 3 gigawatts of large solar and wind plants are slated to come online in the national electricity market. This is good but we’ll need much more - an expected 28GW by 2030.
Calabria says more sources of gas are needed … but notably hasn’t appealed against a windfall tax.
Foreign minister calls for recognition of legitimacy on both sides of Israel-Palestine conflict
Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has expressed frustration and sadness about the state of debate in Australia about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
In an interview with Plus61J media, published today, Wong said the government’s guiding principle was advancing the cause of a just and enduring peace negotiated between Israelis and Palestinians. She expressed concerns about how the debate was polarised in Australia:
One of my frustrations and sadnesses is that this issue is so vexed for so many people that we don’t even have a dialogue in Australia between supporters of both halves. I often think on the one hand we call for peace in the Middle East and negotiations within the parties, but we seem to not even be able to have reasonable [discussion] in the content and style here in Australia.
What people say and how people feel and what they wish to do is obviously a choice for them. [But] my observation would be that in any process of seeking peace, at some point one has to move out of the binary – which is that one side has a monopoly on virtue and a monopoly on what is right, on truth – and recognise that there are different experiences, that there is legitimacy and suffering on both sides.
That perspective has been, if you look at history, a prerequisite for moving from conflict to peace – and it’s not a philosophical frame that I think has been adopted by many here in Australia.
According to Plus61J, Wong indicated that Australia’s position as a friend of Israel would not be affected by the potential inclusion of far-right parties in Benjamin Netanyahu’s prospective coalition government, saying Australia would deal with whatever ministers were appointed “as appropriate”.
She also argued that the Australian government had embarked on “a sensible, pragmatic, centrist rebalancing of our voting position” at the United Nations, including recent votes in which Australia supported aid to Palestinians, supported Palestinian refugees’ property rights and condemned settlements. However, Australia voted against referring the matter of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem to the International Court of Justice, Plus61J reported. On the latter point, Wong said:
I think there are legitimate concerns about the conduct of all parties in this conflict but the resolution itself we regarded as one-sided, so we retained a ‘no’ vote.
You can read the full interview here.
‘More work to do’ in Murray-Darling Basin plan, CEO says
ABC rural reporter Kath Sullivan is hosting the national press club address today. The guest is the chief executive of the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), Andrew McConville.
Sullivan (who is one of the best in the business) asks:
This time last year, you were the head of the oil and gas lobby in this country. Today, you’re talking about considering the impacts of climate change. You also touched on, I think, more than 70 reports across the Basin, and this commitment to deliver water … that we know the constraints work hasn’t been done so we can’t even deliver the water at this stage. Why should anyone who lives in the Basin or has been advocating on behalf of the environment or has been following these 70 different reports trust you? Why should it be any different now?
I’m delivering the message very, very clearly that there’s more work to do. We have made significant progress, absolutely, and I think we need to recognise and applaud the work that irrigation communities have done.
Our job as the MDBA and my job as the chief executive leading this organisation, is to make sure that we bring transparency to that progress.
I’ve spent a career dealing in difficult and contested spaces. It’s difficult when you have a situation where you have competing needs of irrigation, environment and communities.
I think that’s something that I understand and it’s about how you get parties to the table together.
We talk about the scrutiny of the Murray-Darling Basin plan - I’d like to flip that around the other way. Seventy individual reports. A number of parliamentary inquiries. Ten by the commonwealth parliament.
Other independent reports. And still the Basin plan is here. And no one is saying we should do away with it.
So I think to me, that’s testament that the plan is working. The reality is we have more work to do and we’ve still got more water that we need to deliver to deliver the plan in full.
But we are seeing the benefits from that water to the environment. And that’s very significant. We are seeing adjustments in communities.
What I’ve got to try and do in my role is bring transparency to that. And we are working hard on climate change in the context of the Basin plan and a whole raft of other things. I think it’s important that we bring people along on that journey. That’s what I’ve had a career in, and that’s what I’m focused on.
Advocates call for greater transparency in proposed anti-corruption commission
There is a last ditch effort from the nation’s transparency advocate bodies to remove the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test for public hearings in the proposed national anti-corruption commission.
The Centre for Public Integrity, Transparency International Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Accountability Roundtable, the Ethics Centre, the Governance Institute and the Institute for Ethics, Governance and Law have come together to call for the government to remove the clause, and allow the commission to operate publicly.
From the joint statement:
Public hearings are crucial to corruption investigations. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.
We welcome the introduction of the Nacc bill. It provides for a strong and independent integrity commission. However, in its current form the bill restrains the Commission’s ability to hold public hearings. Public hearings expose corruption and are a crucial tool in investigations.
We call for the exceptional circumstances test in cl 73(2)(a) to be removed.
The Victorian Ibac is the only state or territory commission to have the exceptional circumstances test.
They say it “has had the effect of placing an artificial limit on Ibac’s ability to conduct examinations in public. Ibac does not consider that the existence of exceptional circumstances ought to be a decisive factor in determining whether a public hearing should proceed.”
The exceptional circumstances test will cause delays, court challenges, and limit the public’s knowledge of corruption investigations. It should be removed from the Nacc bill.
Albanese government ‘all over the place on energy prices’, Opposition leader says
The Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, told his Coalition party room that as he travels around Australia he hears that concerns about cost of living, energy prices, energy security and the industrial relations bill are the “real issues” Australians are talking about.
Dutton said Australians “expected their government to deliver on the promises they made in the election but after six months in the priority seem to be the issues on which they were silent in the election”.
Dutton said the government is “all over the place on energy prices” and argued that “whatever they come up with would be a short-term fix and the only long-term solution is to address the supply”.
Dutton said that the last two weeks of the parliamentary term are “inevitably chaotic and more so under this government” but the Coalition should be very proud of the fact that they are holding the government to account.
The Coalition resolved to support government bills lifting the cost of penalty units, making small changes to the jobs-ready graduate fees, and allowing emergency services broader access to telco data. The latter will be sent to a Senate committee.
One Coalition member warned AGL has put in an application to “blow up” Liddell power plant, which they argued should be kept in “care and maintenance” mode instead.
The nuclear industry will also present at a forum in parliament on Thursday, hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of Nuclear Industries.
Joel Fitzgibbon, the former Labor member for the Hunter has a new (interim) role.
Australian Forest Products Association has sent out this release:
The chair of the Board of Directors of the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) regretfully announces the coming departure of long-standing chief executive officer, Ross Hampton. The chair also announces the appointment of Hon Joel Fitzgibbon as interim chief executive officer who will guide AFPA whilst a search is conducted for a new chief executive officer.
Please enjoy meeting the My First Speech winners, but also Speaker, Milton Dick, attempting to act natural in front of a camera.
Greenpeace urge government to go further on EVs
Greenpeace has also welcomed the changes to the EV legislation, but think the government can go further.
Lindsay Soutar, senior campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific said:
The agreement today is a step in the right direction to bring down the cost of electric vehicles, but we must do more to fast-track the shift to cleaner transport,” she said
Now the federal government must keep their foot on the accelerator and deliver strong fuel efficiency standards.
While the world is racing ahead in the adoption of electric vehicles, in Australia this year only 3.39 percent of new vehicle sales were fully electric.
International research has shown that plug-in hybrid vehicles deliver only a 25% reduction in carbon emissions when compared to internal combustion engines, while battery electric delivers a 70% reduction. This makes plug-in hybrids much closer to polluting conventional petrol cars than to electric vehicles.
In Europe plug-in hybrids have been called ‘fake electrics’ for failing to deliver promised emissions reduction and cost-saving benefits.
Australians deserve better, cleaner transport. We can have cleaner, quieter cities with affordable all-electric cars and today’s agreement is a step toward this destination.
This is what Paul Fletcher moved:
That this house notes that:
The government introduced the 249 page fair work legislation amendment (Secure Jobs, Better Pay) bill on 27 October and rushed it through the house forcing its passage on 10 November through the use of a gag motion which greatly curtailed debate;
The process was so rushed and chaotic that on 9 November the government moved a further 34 pages of amendments;
The bill would make radical changes to Australia’s industrial relations system including:
abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the Registered Organisations Commission;
introducing compulsory multi-employer bargaining;
expanding the supported bargaining stream enabling businesses to be covered without their actual agreement;
giving unions new powers including
i. forcing an employer to bargain for a replacement agreement, even if the employer and the majority of its employees do not wish to bargain,
ii. vetoing an agreement reached by an employer and a majority of its employees to remove themselves from coverage by an agreement;
The measures in the bill, and the chaotic and rushed process, have been criticised by a wide range of stakeholders including the Australian Industry Group, Business Council of Australia, Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Council of Small Business Organisations of Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation, Australian Retailers Association, Civil Contractors Federation, Australian Hotels Association, Housing Industry Association, Master Builders Australia, Franchise Council of Australia, Manufacturing and Clubs Australia
This bill puts the narrow sectional interests of union bosses ahead of the interests of all Australians in a prosperous and harmonious society in which businesses of all sizes can grow and prosper, working in alignment with their employees, their suppliers, their shareholders and the broader community
And this house therefore calls on the government to lay aside this damaging and ill-considered bill.
AG puts forth amendments to Nacc legislation
Australia’s attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has announced amendments to the national anti-corruption commission legislation in response to the recommendations from the joint parliamentary committee which examined the bill:
These amendments include:
broaden safeguards for the protection of journalists in relation to search warrants and extend protections for their sources;
improve safeguards for the wellbeing of persons who may require assistance to comply with the summons or notice to produce and expressly permit people to disclose information to a medical professional;
require the Commissioner to advise a person whose conduct has been investigated of the outcome of the investigation;
amend the definition of corrupt conduct and clarify that the Commissioner may deal with a corruption issue on their own initiative;
require surveillance and interception warrants to be issued by eligible judges of federal superior courts;
enhance the power of the National Anti-Corruption Commission inspector regarding witness summons and arrest warrants;
narrow the grounds for bringing contempt proceedings; and
amending the requirement that all evidence which discloses legal advice be given in private.
For background on how the proposed legislation:
The coalition’s motion in the house will fail – because they don’t have the numbers, but it is about making a point, and getting attention – the same reasons Labor used to deploy them while in opposition.
Labor’s IR bill ‘chaotic and rushed’, says opposition
The leader of opposition business, Paul Fletcher, is moving to suspend standing orders to debate a motion accusing Labor of ramming the industrial relations bill through the lower house.
Fletcher said the process has been “chaotic and rushed” with 34 pages of amendments, and accused Tony Burke of not fronting a press conference to explain them. (Burke did a few interviews, but didn’t do a presser until the bill passed the lower house).
Fletcher accused the government of pushing an agenda to insert unions into Australian workplaces, citing the bill’s “veto” before a proposed enterprise agreement can be put to staff for a vote.
For background, read Paul Karp’s story on the bill passing the lower house last week:
The Nationals seafood bbq is meant to be underway, but looks like it will be missing some key Nationals – the coalition is trying to suspend standing orders in the house to disrupt the IR bill.
Paul Karp will bring you more.
Pocock welcomes electric vehicle bill changes
David Pocock is also quite happy with the changes to the EV bill.
More Australians should enjoy the benefits of owning an electric vehicle, including much lower fuel costs, lower maintenance costs and a better driving experience.
Bold and decisive action is needed to address high EV prices, a lack of supply and insufficient charging infrastructure.
We shouldn’t be using taxpayers’ money to fund legacy fossil fuel technologies. The opportunity is to broaden access to clean, efficient technology of the future.
My position is that plug-in-hybrids are a fossil fuel technology that should not be subsidised by taxpayers in this Bill. This Bill provides tax incentives to mostly wealthier Australians through fleet vehicles, which will create a much-needed second hand EV market in a few years time.
I welcome the government’s constructive approach to meeting me in the middle and excluding plug-in-hybrids after 1 April 2025. This provides fleet companies certainly and allows the government to deliver on their promises around delivering charging infrastructure over the next three years.
Michaelia Cash committee grills Fair Work Commission
The Senate employment committee has held a hearing into Labor’s IR bill this morning, hearing from the Fair Work Commission.
The committee heard that $7.9m over four years has been set aside to help small businesses transition to the new workplace relations system; and the commission will add one deputy president and seven commissioners.
The Coalition’s shadow workplace relations minister, Michaelia Cash, has been grilling officials about the regulatory impact statement which estimated a cost of $14,638 for a small business to take part in multi-employer bargaining.
Cash labelled this a “small business bargaining tax”.
Of course, it’s not a tax, because the government isn’t collecting it. It’s an estimate of a possible business cost. But officials from the attorney general’s department also noted costs can vary, businesses can bargain together through a peak body and that multi-employer bargaining could save them costs they are currently incurring on bargaining.
Cash has also picked on the estimate of $175 an hour for a consultant, which she said appears to be based on a blog from a consultant whose website states:
A cross between business strategist, modern day spiritual healer, and self-development expert, Benjamin J Harvey is as comfortable working with Shamans to Strategists, Psychics to Sales Reps, Healers to Home Makers, Buddhists to Businessmen and Meditators to Mediators.”
Officials replied that the figure was an estimate based on averages of consultants’ fees.
Hancock Prospecting wants mining companies excluded from multi-employer bargaining
Gina Rinehart‘s company Hancock Prospecting has made a submission to the Senate employment committee’s inquiry into Labor’s industrial relations bill.
As it stands, this bill puts at risk not only the interests of mining workers, but the broader economic benefits and tax and royalty revenues the mining industry makes possible. At a minimum, the mining sector must be excluded from multi-employer bargaining.
The mining industry does not fit the profile of an industry where employees are poorly paid, where real wages are falling and where there is a lack of job security, which as we understand it are key issues which the proposed government legislation is attempting to address.
On the contrary, if the legislation is applied to the mining industry it will have significant negative impacts on a high-performing industry (including with respect to real wages), it will reduce future investment and growth, negatively impact productivity, our export competitiveness and most importantly damage our employees’ interests including future jobs and wages.”
The workplace relations minister, Tony Burke, has repeatedly refused to exempt the mining industry from multi-employer bargaining.
Burke has noted miners on the east coast already have enterprise agreements, meaning they would not be drawn in to multi-employer bargaining; and that miners on the west coast are unlikely to be drawn in because the same majority support processes apply to multi-employer bargaining as enterprise bargaining.
Basically, if everyone on individual contracts on the west coast are well paid and vote against an EA, they won’t vote to join a multi-employer pay deal either.
Guys, I think an avatar has escaped Zuck’s metaverse and is now wandering around trying to fit in with humans.
Or Scott Morrison has been spotted in the wild. Hard to say.
ABC bill for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral coverage
The ABC spent $373,417 on flights and accommodation for 27 staff to cover the Queen’s funeral, according to freedom of information documents posted on the ABC disclosure log.
The ABC had 30 people in London, including correspondents already there covering other European news, 17 staff from Australia and 10 from international bureaus in Washington and Jerusalem.
Nine Entertainment flew in 100 staff, including outgoing A Current Affair host, Tracy Grimshaw.
The ABC has a charter which demands it cover events of national significance and it has to service digital, radio, TV, and on-demand programs and channels 24 hours a day.
The total figure included business class flights costing $129,944 and economy flights costing $122,683, as well as London hotels for staff between 6 and 19 September.
India trade deal fails climate, says Monique Ryan
Kooyong independent MP Dr Monique Ryan had some things to say on the Australia-India free trade bill in. parliament yesterday. Ryan welcomed large parts of it, but pointed out:
I have to say, though, that one area of concern is how this legislation will affect our fossil fuel exports. Australia’s fossil fuel energy exports in 2021 included $63bn worth of coal, $10bn worth of oil and $50bn worth of gas, with India accounting for $14bn of our coal exports.
This represents 11% of Australia’s total fossil energy exports and 22% of Australia’s coal exports. Under this new legislation, liquid-gas tariffs will stay at 0% upon entry into force.
The 25% tariff on coal will also drop to zero. Under this free trade agreement, the prospect of zero tariffs on coal and gas, and no tariffs for five years on oil, will likely increase our exports of coal and gas from Australia to meet increased energy demand in India.
In recent years, we’ve seen that the effects of climate change in India have included extreme events such as heatwaves and floods.
These have caused several Indian states to experience power outages in recent years. Depending on the weather and on the availability of alternative energy sources, demand for imported thermal coal may well rise too.
We have a responsibility here. Emissions from coal mined in Australia but exported and burnt overseas were almost double our domestic greenhouse gas footprint in 2020. While that might work for the purposes of dodgy accounting, we all end up breathing the same atmosphere. We need to take responsibility for the climate impact of our exports.
The only reference to climate in the 111-page explanatory memorandum of this bill said: Both countries committed to continue to collaborate on climate change. There are no references to climate impact in the bill itself. This is grossly inadequate. The details of trade agreements like this one have to be examined with a climate filter – a climate trigger – in the same way that we look at their compatibility with human rights.
Tell us about trade deals, say Greens
The Greens are sick and tired of free trade agreements being kept so secret.
The Greens trade spokesperson, Dorinda Cox, said trade agreements should “benefit all of society and not just big business”
Australia’s agreements are determined behind closed doors and without public consultation.
The social, environmental and economic impacts of these deals must be independently examined.
The government must implement the recommendations of the JSCOT ‘Report 193: Strengthening the Trade Agreement and Treaty Making Process in Australia’, especially in relation to greater consultation and transparency, and providing independent modelling and analysis.
First Nations businesses should be elevated with the inclusion of First Nations trade chapters. This will also allow intellectual property to be protected by including geographical indicators. The appetite from our partners is there, the UK has agreed to such a deal with New Zealand, the only thing lacking is the political will from Labor.
“Protecting human rights and the environment should be at the heart of how we engage with our partners. We must include provisions that deal with the climate crisis and decarbonise our supply chains.
At COP27 India called for the phasing out of coal and gas, we should be factoring this into our negotiations.
The Australia-UK deal removes the requirement for migrant workers to work regionally which will negatively impact our rural communities who rely on the workforce and economic benefits. The agreement also removes the market testing requirements which ensure workers are filling genuine labour market shortages.”
Senate to sit longer than scheduled to get through legislation
The Senate is set to work extended hours, and to sit on Fridays in a rare move, to slog through a backlog of pending government legislation.
The Greens say they’ll back the government’s plans to keep the upper house sitting longer than originally scheduled, with the final two weeks of parliament to consider the national anti-corruption commission, the industrial relations legislation, childcare, Respect@Work and the territory rights euthanasia legislation.
A Greens spokesperson said their partyroom meeting had agreed to back the government’s push to keep the Senate sitting this Friday and next (the parliament usually only runs Monday to Thursday), and sit until 9.30pm tonight and 7.30pm on Thursday.
It could also mean next Friday, now the final scheduled day of sitting for 2022, could go very late. Several government sources said there had been some talk of calling the Senate back to sit on Saturday – but the Greens said this wasn’t in the agreement they had decided to back.
The amendments to the sitting schedule also include rules that mandate only the consideration of government bills at certain points, guaranteeing more time for those bills to be debated.
The manager of government business in the Senate, Katy Gallagher, had proposed a motion where the Senate would sit midday until 9.30pm today, then 9am to 7.30pm on Thursday; and 9am until adjournment on Friday.
The Greens spokesperson said negotiations continued on the IR legislation, but that they were “confident” it would reach a resolution where the party would support the government. They want to avoid “unintentional consequences” but said they didn’t necessarily support splitting the bill up, as has been advocated by some other crossbenchers like David Pocock.
The Greens said they’re having “good discussions” with the government on IR, but had concerns they wanted resolved.
Daniel Andrews says Labor will not strike deal with Greens if hung parliament
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has refused to be drawn on the prospect of a minority Labor government, as polls point to a tightening race ahead of the weekend’s state election.
The Age published a Resolve Strategic poll on Tuesday which showed a tightening gap, with Labor and the Coalition’s primary vote both at 36%. Despite Labor’s primary vote dropping, Andrews on Tuesday reiterated that he would not strike a deal with the Greens if there was a hung parliament:
For 12 years now, I’ve made it very clear that no deal will be offered and no deal will be done … it’s a strong stable majority government that I think our state needs.
The Victorian Greens believe the party could hold the balance of power after Saturday’s election.
The Greens have released a list of key policy demands it would demand in exchange for support in the event of a hung parliament. The priorities include a cap on rent increases and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 10 to 14.
Penny Wong lauds Labor’s achievements at caucus meeting
The Labor Senate leader, Penny Wong, gave the leader’s report at Tuesday’s caucus meeting as both Anthony Albanese and Richard Marles were absent.
Wong thanked MPs and senators for their efforts, and acknowledged the prime minister’s work responding to natural disasters.
Wong said the government already had a “sense of achievement”, listing: the abolition of the cashless debit card; the robodebt royal commission; a national plan against violence to women and children; NBN improvements; the regional first home buyers guarantee; clearing the visa and passport backlogs; progressing the voice referendum; and the October budget.
After a question about prosecco, the trade minister, Don Farrell, said no concessions had been made on geo-indicators in EU trade talks, and he noted there is also a battle over the term “feta”.
The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, spoke about the Cop summit in terms of: the “bad”, attempts to walk back the Glasgow consensus; the “good”, that the walkback didn’t happen; and the “better”, in terms of measures for development banks getting on board fighting climate change.
The arts minister, Tony Burke, said no decision had been taken on quotas for Australian content on streaming services, although it was an election commitment.
As leader of the house, Burke also noted that if extra Senate sitting days are required, the house will also sit (to deal with any amendments to bills in the Senate).
Only three bills were dealt with: two Treasury bills, and some government amendments to the national anti-corruption commission bill.
National floral emblem has its DNA sequenced
Australia’s national floral emblem, the golden wattle, has had its DNA entirely sequenced for the first time.
Scientists at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) have sequenced the genome of the golden wattle, Acacia pycnantha.
Todd McLay, a postdoctoral fellow at RBGV, said the process took just over three years. He said in a statement:
The golden wattle DNA was sequenced into millions of fragments that were then assembled like a giant jigsaw puzzle using high-performance computing housed in the National Herbarium of Victoria …
With advancements in technology, it is getting faster to do this type of work.
The plant’s genome consists of 814m DNA bases, with nearly 48,000 genes. The human genome has around 3bn base pairs.
The researchers hope their genomic decoding could aid future research into golden wattle conservation, breeding and plant disease research.
Other Australian plants that have had their genomes sequenced include the blue gum, macadamia and waratah.
The research was published in the journal Plos One.
Trade minister and head of WTO make joint announcement
The director general of the World Trade Organization, Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is visiting Australia and meeting with the trade minister, Don Farrell.
Which has led to this announcement:
In recognition of the importance of the WTO to Australia’s economic resilience, we will commit $5m over four years for targeted capacity building to assist developing countries and least developed countries implement the outcomes of MC12 and access the benefits of WTO membership.
This includes $2m to help developing countries implement the landmark WTO agreement on fisheries subsidies. This is the first global set of rules that curb subsidies for illegal and unsustainable fishing, and an important step towards promoting the sustainability and economic viability of fisheries globally, including in the Pacific.
This commitment also includes $3m over three years to support legal advice and training on WTO law for developing and least developed countries through the advisory centre on WTO law. This will help these countries understand and comply with WTO obligations, and participate more fully and effectively in the WTO.
These investments will help our regional partners better integrate into the global and regional rules-based trading system, implement domestic reform, and improve the lives of their citizens.
Rod Heinzel and Greg Agustin were standing in front of the wrecked Eugowra mechanics when Anthony Albanese came into town, media circus in tow.
Agustin’s workshop is a mess. Part of the roof has collapsed. The timber beams supporting it have splintered and broke from the sheer force of the water. The steel sheeting used for its walls has been ripped apart.
It was like a tidal wave,” Agustin says.
The pair are standing on the side of the street, watching as Albanese visits local businesses. He is followed by a crowd of security, staffers, photographers and cameras.
Heinzel says it’s a good thing that he’s come.
It shows the town that there’s support there and makes everyone take notice.
Agustin says he’ll be cleaning up the ruined workshop until at least Christmas. He hopes to salvage at least half of the structure. Any prospect of reopening will depend largely on the support he receives from government.
There’s no insurance to cover the damage, he says. The cost of flood protection is simply prohibitive.
You can insure it for floods but one lady up the road got quoted $25,000 per year.
Sophie Scamps says look to Norway on fossil fuel reform
The independent MP for Mackellar, Dr Sophie Scamps, wants the government to look further afield for inspiration on how to fix the petrol resources rent tax (PRRT) – to Norway.
Scamps wants Australia to explore long term oil and gas reform:
If we look internationally for inspiration, the Norwegian ministry of finance estimates that revenue from Norway’s oil and gas export profits tax will reach $209bn in 2023 alone. The fund, which is built on the back of fossil fuel tax revenue, is now worth $1.8tn, or the equivalent of $1.4m per Norwegian family of four.
Norway’s approach to resource taxation is based on the premise that natural resources in the ground belong to all Norwegians, not just the companies that are extracting them. In the 1990s Norway implemented a 56% petroleum tax, in addition to the country’s flat corporate tax rate. This was met with strong resistance from fossil fuel companies who ran a scare campaign claiming jobs would be lost and investment would head overseas.
However the Norwegian government held their nerve and stared down the fossil fuel industry’s lobbyists. Despite the scare campaign, the industry continues to invest in Norway.
While Norwegians are now set up for the future, the story of how Australia has managed our vast natural resources is different. Australia’s PRRT was as high as 19% of total oil and gas sector revenue in 1992. But this had declined to just 1% in 2020. Similarly, the amount of corporate tax paid by the sector declined from 15% in the mid-1990s to 2% in 2020.
Greens secure win on electric vehicles bill
The Greens and the government have agreed on amendments to the Treasury laws amendment (electric car discount) bill 2022 that prioritises electric vehicles over plug-in hybrids that rely on petrol. The agreement also includes shifting the commonwealth fleet to electric vehicles.
The Greens leader and climate change spokesperson, Adam Bandt, has been negotiating with the government in recent weeks to limit funding to petrol-powered hybrids and to increase support for electric vehicles. Without the Greens’ votes in the Senate, the government was unable to pass the bill.
The government has agreed to support changes to the bill that will limit the support for plug-in hybrids and prioritise full electric vehicles, including:
Sunsetting support for petrol-based plug-in hybrids on 1 April 2025.
Prioritising zero-emission electric vehicles in the Australian government fleet procurement policy, by removing plug-in hybrid vehicles except in exceptional circumstances.
The ATO will issue guidance on when household charging technology is able to be included within FBT-exempt vehicle packages.
With the amendments sought by Bandt secured, Greens senators will support the EV bill being passed by the Senate this week.
Victorian Labor would return electricity commission to public ownership
The Andrews government has pledged to enshrine public ownership of electricity in the state’s constitution, if it wins this weekend’s state election.
In October, the Victorian government announced it would revive the State Electricity Commission (SEC) in an effort to create downward pressure on household power bills, if re-elected. The SEC was privatised by the Liberal Kennett government in the 1990s.
On Tuesday, Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, said a re-elected Labor government would introduce legislation to enshrine public ownership of the SEC in the state’s constitution to protect it from being privatised again:
Imagine how much further along the transition, the reform … we would be, if these assets had not been sold.
Labor has pledged a revitalised SEC would be responsible for building new renewable energy projects. Andrews said the legislation would specify that removing the public ownership of the SEC in the constitution would require a special majority. This is the same benchmark as constitutional amendments relating to the state’s governor.
Wedding dress survives Eugowra flooding unscathed
In the newly re-opened Eugowra post office, you can still see the level the flood waters reached. About halfway up the window pane, a dirty streak is evidence of the levels the creek swelled to, with barely any warning.
The Eugowral Transaction Centre had only been open a day before prime minister Anthony Albanese visited on Tuesday morning. Committee member Brendan Mansbridge said there were some stories out of the devastation.
One woman had arrived looking for her wedding dress, which had been mailed to her just before the floods hit.
She spotted it instantly in a parcel in the flood-hit store.
It was, miraculously, undamaged.
Apparently the dress had come out, it was all right, but it was too big,” Mansbridge said.
Albanese’s short tour of the disaster zone is now over. He has announced small business grants of $50,000, $25,000 of which will be immediately available to businesses.
The prime minister faced questioning about whether enough commonwealth support was available, particularly to everyday residents, who couldn’t access business or agricultural grants.
Consumer confidence perks up even as another rate rise looms
Consumer sentiment rose for a second week in a row, according to the latest weekly survey by ANZ and Roy Morgan.
That’s despite the Reserve Bank’s record run of seven consecutive interest rate rises in as many months.
As ANZ’s chief Australian economist, David Plank, notes, there’s a contrast between sentiment remaining at levels last seen during the early weeks of Covid pandemic but the bank’s own data suggest shoppers’ spending “has remained strong”.
There was even a jump in whether “it is a good time to buy a major household item” may signal sentiment regarding purchases on Black Friday this week. (It’s linked to the timing of Thanksgiving in the US, in case you’re wondering.)
Inflation expectations continue to hover if not decline – which is a good thing since a spiral higher is what the RBA would most not want to see.
The recent high fuel prices eased back a bit last week and that might have helped douse inflation worries.
Average retail prices were 193.7 cents a litre, down 5.2 cents on the previous week. The wholesale price was little changed at 178.7 cents – implying the servos took a smaller margin, the Australian Institute of Petroleum data showed.
As for what investors think the RBA will do when its board next meets on 6 December, the odds seem stacked (two in three) in favour of an eighth rate rise in a row.
So far, though, the economy seems on that narrow path of maintaining confidence, absorbing higher debt repayments without shedding jobs. (In fact the jobless rate fell in October to 3.4%, matching 48-year lows.)
Official grant announcement for people in flood zones
Small businesses and not-for-profit organisations affected by ongoing flooding in New South Wales can now apply for recovery grants of up to $50,000, as part of the jointly funded commonwealth-state disaster recovery funding arrangements.
The NSW government has identified a significant number of businesses affected by multiple flooding events since August, who are likely to face extensive clean-up and repair work.
In addition, local government recovery grants of $1m will be extended to a further 46 councils in the local government areas that have been disaster-declared from the most recent storm and flood event to ensure streamlined, flexible and immediate funding to support local economic and social recovery.
To learn more or apply, businesses and not-for-profits can visit the Service NSW website or call 13 77 88.
Shorten defends Labor’s industrial relations bill
On the Nine network this morning, Bill Shorten put his unionist hat firmly back on his head to defend the government’s proposed IR bills.
Here is the exchange:
Host: “Let’s move on to a political showdown brewing as the government tries to pass its controversial reforms aiming to give workers a pay rise. Bill, here we go. Get your- dust off your old AWU hat. Can you name a single business in your electorate that supports the IR bill?
Yeah. I rang up the coffee shop guy this morning and he said he’s not losing any sleep. His name’s Heesh, at he’s at phatMilk – he’s a very, very good barista too … But you know, let’s go through this gotcha game. Peter Dutton [is] a man looking desperately for relevance.
Host: “Well, it worked yesterday. Now you guys have gone and done your research and got it in front of it all.”
Let’s put it as plainly as this. Have you ever met a worker who doesn’t want a pay rise? Name one of them. You know, these gotcha games insult intelligence. The fact of the matter is that there’s a lot of people out there, a lot of businesses who are happy to pay good rates of pay, but they’re undercut by scallywags and the fly-by-nighters and the cowboys in the cleaning industry, in the transport industry, in the construction industry, in the care economy. There is nothing wrong with workers getting a modest pay rise.
I think the Liberals are desperately searching for relevance, they’re clutching their pearls … they’re stroking their chin. The fact of the matter is … If you want to see a good Christmas this year with retail expenditure, people have got to have money to spend. The fact of the matter is this is not going to make it compulsory for Karl Stefanovic and Neil Breen to join the CFMEU. The chickens will still lay eggs tomorrow.
Host: “Yeah. But what about all the industrial action? I mean, there is a fear out there, even at the very least maybe it’s in the way that you’ve sold it?”
Come on. If you look at the history of Australia from 1900, whenever the workers lined up for a pay rise there was someone moaning and groaning. I’m not surprised there is not a conga line of employers doing the cha cha cha, saying: we’re happy to give workers a modest pay rise.
But, let’s all just take a Bex and a lie down here. It’s not going to lead to the rebirth of the age of Aquarius of trade unions. Companies are still going to make a dollar, you know …
Host: Gee whiz.
… But let’s give low paid workers a fair go. How long do they wait? How long do they wait for, Karl, before they get a pay rise?
The press conference ends. Anthony Albanese will be on his way back to Canberra for the parliament sitting which begins at midday, soon.
Premier says crews working to restore flood-damaged roads
Q: “What infrastructure have you put in place to prevent further disasters like this from happening in the future?”
We’ll work through that and I’ll make this point finally on the road infrastructure, because I think that’s been lost here. Today we have 200 crews going out across the central west, deployed to make sure that our roads are rebuilt as quickly as possible.
We know after these events, infrastructure needs to be built back in a more resilient way. We’re committed to that. It was a key finding of the Fuller report.
Premier says national cabinet will discuss building on flood plains
Q: “When you say you’re going to build this town in a more resilient way, what do you mean by that? Are you going to move the town to higher ground?”
We’ll work through those issues. I make the point about flooding – almost every place across New South Wales right now, every community across NSW right now is at risk of flood.
Our rivers are full, the dams are full, catchments are full and over summer as well, there are difficult times that lie ahead but what we’re committed it is not making the same mistakes of the past.
We can’t, in many circumstances unwind the past but we cannot make those mistakes going forward.
The prime minister through national cabinet and I will be doing some work in legalisation on that on a national level – how we can build back in a way and develop in a way that doesn’t put life and property at risk.
Dominic Perrottet is asked about his reception the last time he was in town and says:
Go and speak to the people of Eugowra during this period of time and what I’ve sensed on the ground last week and this week is that people are very appreciative of state and commonwealth government members being on the ground.
It gives hope and confidence that we’re going to rebuild.
Now, obviously, last week, Mr [Peter] Jones was upset and why wouldn’t he be? It’s been a very horrendous time. I spoke to him this morning and he’s going well.
And he also raised with me that the clean-up is going incredibly well also.
So I you know, when towns and communities go through such tragic events, there’s obviously emotion and people are upset.
But our commitment from the commonwealth and state level, the prime minister, the premier, all the ministers, local members and council is that we’ll rebuild and be with this community every step of the way.
NSW premier says insurance companies should put people before profits
Dominic Perrottet jumps in at that:
Can I just add to that? It’s not just those one-off payments for individuals and households. There is a range of financial support packages available.
So for primary producers up to $75,000, which is commonwealth and state funded there are a range of initiatives in place and we will do everything we can to ensure that everyone gets back on their feet.
In relation to insurance companies, I’ll just make the point that I’ve spoken last week to the Insurance Council of Australia and insurances companies should put people before profits. And we’ll work very closely with them, the commonwealth and state, to make sure that that support and if we need to look at innovative products for insurance companies and the Insurance Council of Australia, to get it done.
PM questioned on size of one-off recovery payments
Q: “People here, everyday Joes, not land-holders and primary producers, can only access a one-off $1,000 relief payment with $400 in addition for children. Is that enough? People here say that will barely scrape the barrel.”
Look, I understand people would regard whatever support is given that it is really tough and people are doing it tough. We’re providing whatever support that we can. We’re providing support for individuals. We’re providing support for small business, for not-for-profits and providing support for local government. This is an extensive support that we’re providing here in New South Wales, in Victoria, and in Tasmania.
Q: “A lot of people can’t rebuild because they can’t get insurance cover. How are you dealing with that?”
Look, this is a challenge, the issue of insurance. I know that Murray Watt, our emergency services minister, is talking to insurance companies about these issues. This is an ongoing challenge that we have to deal with. It’s one of the things that we heard again today about, that so many people have not been able to get insurances because of the high premiums which are there. It’s something that the government is attempting to deal with over a period of time. We’ll continue to engage with the insurance industry.
Q: “How do you expect this community to rebuild if you don’t provide more than $1,000 payments?”
We’re providing what support we can to them at this time. These grants are available for people and we’re providing that support.
‘We should be building appropriately’ on floodplains – PM
Q: “Prime minister, you’re on the record when announcing the buyback scheme in other parts of New South Wales saying we should not be building or rebuilding on flood plains, but here today you’re saying this community will rebuild. Which one is it? Should we be building or not rebuilding?”
We should be building appropriately. What we shouldn’t do in Lismore – the premier and I joined together to support some buybacks in communities that were impacted regularly and consistently.
We need to make sure we get planning right. There’s no inconsistency here. In addition to the announcement about small business grants and not-for-profits, we’ve extended support to small businesses in local government areas, to provide support for them for the recovery.
‘We’re going to rebuild in a more resilient way’: Perrottet in Eugowra
I want to thank the Prime Minister for the Commonwealth support. Being on the ground today together, we have seen a very great town. And you see the best of people. And the people of Eugowra have gone through a very difficult time. But the best thing about what we’ve seen is people have locked beyond themselves and looked after each other. As the Prime Minister has said, 159 flood rescues, 14 aircrafts in the air, but to see the progress, to see the clean-up, to see the community come together with such strength and unity is such a wonderful thing. And I think it shows the best of our people.
Eugowra does represent the best of Australia. And we’ve seen that on display over the last week. I echo the Prime Minister’s comments in relation to the spirit of service we have seen from people from all over the state. We’ve met people who have left their own towns to come here to help, to go to businesses to help clean them out, to go and help pick up debris. That’s, I think, the spirit that makes our country the best place anywhere in the world. And we’ve seen it after disaster after disaster, from droughts, to floods, to bushfires, to floods again. We see Australians come together to help.
I want to thank our volunteers, not just the uniform volunteers who have done an amazing job, the ADF personnel, and I want to thank the Prime Minister for the ADF personnel who have done a great job, day one, on the ground, looking after people. That is what we have seen during this period. I want to thank Kevin, the Mayor, as well. It is councils, state governments, Commonwealth governments all working together to help our people get through.
We’ve said to the people today that Eugowra is going to come back. The progress has been strong in five days. We’re going to rebuild in a more resilient way. And that will ensure Eugowra has a very strong future, and everybody here, and that’s our commitment to the people today.
Albanese announces flood recovery support grants for small business
Anthony Albanese is holding his press conference with Dominic Perrottet in the central west New South Wales town of Eugowra.
He opens with:
I have been with the Premier, Dominic Perrottet, today, and the local MPs and local council representatives here in Eugowra, a town that has been devastated. A town where two lives were lost and one in three of this town, some 159 people, were rescued, either by a chopper or by boat, a town that’s been devastated and we’ve seen that today. But it’s a town that’s resilient. It’s a town where people want to rebuild this town and this community. And it’s quite inspirational seeing the courage and resilience of the people in this fantastic local community.
I want to thank all the people who’ve come in, whether they be ADF personnel on the ground straightaway, SES, the resilience people from the New South Wales Government, Federal Government representatives and volunteers from all around New South Wales who have come into this local community to hose out a home, help out locals, and remove debris. It’s been quite extraordinary, the effort that we are seeing here.
This morning, we’re announcing a joint Commonwealth-State further support for disaster recovery. Grants of up to $50,000, the first $25,000 of which can be paid very quickly, and a further $25,000 upon receipts being shown. That is eligible for all small businesses here in this community, but also for not-for-profit organisations.
This is Commonwealth and State jointly working together. That’s what people want to see. And I want to thank Dominic. We had conversations and text messages over the last week about these issues. I pay tribute to the cooperation that’s there between the Commonwealth and the State Government. This is about working together. And the local mayor showing us around has done an extraordinary job representing his local community as well.
Pocock wants more time to consider IR bill
Senator David Pocock has done a press conference with community housing groups about the estimated 600,000 low income households that are not in “suitable” housing.
Predictably, he was mainly asked about the government’s industrial relations bill, for which he is the swing vote.
Asked how many sitting days he’ll need to consider the bill, Pocock said:
I’ll continue to have discussions with the government … It’s not just the IR omnibus bill there’s a whole host of other things. I think there’s 33 bills … just for this week. So you know, two extra Fridays is a start. Back in September I was calling for more sitting days.
We’ll continue to have those discussions. I’m heading down after this to another Senate committee hearing on the bill. So we’ll continue to engage with small business, where there is a lot of anxiety, a lot of uncertainty, and I think a lot of that stems from not having the time to get across this, you know, this is an massive omnibus bill with 23 different measures in it and for small businesses to try and understand grapple with what that may mean for them has been almost impossible.
Pocock said he was “not sure” whether he needed just an extra week or time over the Christmas break. He said he has a commitment from the government to deal with Territory rights this year – but he doesn’t “want it caught up” in the industrial relations debate, he wants it dealt with separately through a conscience vote before the final vote on the secure jobs, better pay bill.
Asked about the size of small business that should be exempted from single-interest multi-employer bargaining, Pocock said he’d heard everything from nobody exempted, from unions, up to businesses with 200 employees, from some business groups.
Pocock wants to “get that right” with a threshold somewhere in between, so that “cafes and hair salons” will be excluded but not childcare centres.
Pocock also has “real concerns” about a union veto before a proposed pay deal is put to workers, particularly what happens when there are two unions in the same workplace and one likes the deal and the other doesn’t.
Politicians throw shrimp on the barbie
It is the annual Nationals’ seafood barbecue day in parliament, where Nationals MPs bring members from the seafood industry, and their catches, to the parliament.
You’ll usually find Barnaby Joyce or Matt Canavan behind one of the BBQs (obviously the women are making the salads) pretending they regularly grill up farmed crocodile.
Albanese and Perrottet speak to people in flood-affected NSW
The “no warning” is very familiar to anyone in Queensland who remembers the 2011 Queensland floods.
Adam Bandt test positive for Covid
The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, tested positive for Covid on Monday.
Given the number of people in the building, and the close quarters, Bandt won’t be the only one testing positive after this week.
And yet, there are very few people wearing masks in the parliament, or the chamber at the moment. A lot of the support staff – like cleaners are. But otherwise, it’s not many people at all.
In case you missed this yesterday, Patrick Gorman was serving lewks in the chamber last night.
It’s giving murder mystery, captain’s table, caught in a division while at a function.
Richard Marles to visit Cambodia and Vietnam
Now that Anthony Albanese is back in Australia – it’s his deputy’s time to hit up summit season:
The deputy prime minister and minister for defence, the Hon Richard Marles MP, will travel to Cambodia and Vietnam from 22-25 November 2022.
On the back of successful Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summits attended by prime minister Albanese two weeks ago, the Deputy prime minister will participate in the ninth Asean defence minister’s meeting-plus (ADMM-Plus) on 23 November.
The ADMM-Plus is the region’s premier defence dialogue, providing a forum to discuss the key challenges facing the Indo-Pacific.
While in Cambodia, the deputy prime minister will meet a number of his counterparts, including Cambodia’s deputy prime minister and minister for national defence, General Tea Banh.
The deputy prime minister will also visit Vietnam on 24-25 November for the inaugural high level meeting of defence ministers with minister of national defence, General Phan Van Giang.
He will also meet with other senior leaders in the Vietnamese government.
PM arrives in flood-affected Eugowra
Anthony Albanese has arrived in flood-hit Eugowra. The prime minister touched down in an army helicopter at the Eugowra showgrounds about 8.30am. The showgrounds are acting as an evacuation and support centre for locals. He met with the New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, and spoke with locals, before starting a tour of the disaster zone.
Locals complained to him that they simply had no time to prepare for what was to come.
There was no warning,” one man told him.
The prime minister is now inspecting homes in the devastated town. Some of them were picked up and carried hundreds of metres by the flood waters, dumped at random when the water receded.
Reading some of those kids speeches (and I encourage you to go through the hansard this week and read more) makes what some MPs use their platform to speak about seem even more naff.
Young Australians share their thoughts on climate and road safety
Marion Scrymgour shared this speech from Taylah Mills, a young woman in Lingiari:
Taylah writes: Australia – the beautiful oceans, the friendly people and the large unique set of animals that make you stop and stare. She’s beautiful, isn’t she? So why if she’s so perfect are we letting the ugly of climate change destroy her? Australia is among the Top 20 emitters and one of the world’s biggest per capita emitters of the greenhouse gases responsible for the climate crises. The third largest exporter of fossil fuels globally. The next generation is coming into a place where bushfires are killing our people financially, mentally and in some cases literally. It’s not fair. I would like for the new government to help us by trying to be minimalist with fossil fuel companies and switch to solar. I understand the difficulty of switching so fast but it’s hard to understand completely when fossil fuels are supported by our government.
And the LNP’s Andrew Wilcox who represents Dawson, shared this speech:
My name is Georgia and I am 11 years old. My electorate is Dawson and I am passionate about road safety. I think Australia’s new parliament should definitely consider adding new lanes to make a double highway in rural and regional areas such as the Whitsundays to accommodate for the safety of others while overtaking slower vehicles like caravans. If you are thinking this is a major change to road rules, you are wrong. Because it’s just like an overtaking lane the whole way up the highway. I think this issue is important and needs to be addressed urgently, and it also will reduce travelling time for users. I think parliament can help achieve this goal by organising this with council or state government builders. So, in summary, I absolutely believe that this issue should be resolved to better rural and regional communities
The independent MP for Fowler, Dai Le, read this speech out in the house:
My name is Olivia Nguyen, I am 12 years old and live in the electorate of Fowler. I strongly believe that something needs to be done about the cost of living. Everyone deserves to have what they need to live, but with the rising cost of living, it is becoming harder for people to earn enough to afford those things. If the problem continues, it will be harder for kids like me, to grow up, and make enough money to live a good quality life.
My family came to Australia for more opportunities and many people have too. However, the increasing prices of houses make it hard for people like us to be able to buy, build or rent one. Everyone should have a place to call home and have a roof over their head.
I know that things get more expensive when the resources needed are hard to get, and a lot of effort is required to make it. This is why I hope Australia’s new parliament will help people, such as farmers and myself and our families, and help decrease the prices of everything. I hope to live in a world where my family, my friends and everyone else around me are living a good life, and Australia’s new parliament can make this happen.
Senators read letters from young Australians
Labor senator Louise Pratt shared this story:
My name is Alyssa. I’m from the Moore electorate in Western Australia, and, like many other young Australians, I suffer from mental illness. In my 17 years, I’ve been in some of the toughest of situations, finding myself fighting to want to survive, hundreds of times hearing the saying, ‘If you feel unsafe, go to emergency.’ But what can emergency truly do? Sitting in the hospital waiting room for six hours, pleading for them to save me from myself. Even with the overwhelming amounts of privilege and top health insurance money can buy, not that it should even matter, we were turned away.
With a lack of beds, staff and supplies, their hands were tied. Had my parents been unable to take time off work to be with me for the week before I was admitted, I wouldn’t have made it there.
The scariest part is that this was a notably short amount of time.
Alternatively, people are waitlisted for months, begging for anyone who could help them survive their crisis.
The parliament of Australia has supposedly highlighted mental health and suicide prevention as one of its highest priorities. But, if it truly is that important to them, there has to be more they can do.
By encouraging the studies of psychology and psychiatry, implementing non-negotiable mental health support systems in schools and introducing youth funding towards those who miss work when in crisis, the government has the potential to change the game for youth mental health in Australia.
Suicide is the leading cause of death in Australia for those aged 15 to 24. Make it known.
It’s youth week in parliament
This week is also youth parliament week, where young people’s speeches are read out in the parliament, as part of the Raise Our Voice campaign. Here is a taste:
Nithurshi Selvarasa, an 11-year-old refugee, has this to say:
My name is Nithurshi, a proud Tamil refugee. I am 11 years old, my electorate is Greenway. The term “refugee” is used to refer to a person who fled from their country, risking everything and crossing borders to escape persecution. As a refugee myself, I know that a refugee is more than a word, instead a person with resilience. My own mother fled from Tamil Eelam, her homeland, with a child many in her hands on a tiny boat to Australia with many dire conditions and was still hopeful.
However, it’s hard for refugees to stay hopeful because of the harsh system in Australia. Refugees don’t have many opportunities in comparison to citizens. For instance, last year, I did the Opportunity Class test and my result was high enough to go to an Opportunity Class school. I wasn’t able to go because I’m a refugee. Refugees escape to countries for protection and to turn over a new life. However, refugees face more problems such as being deported months later when arriving in Australia. The Australian parliament must take action. All refugees deserve freedom as they are human and faced hardships. We deserve permanent visas and no more detention centres. Thank you.
Maximus Pondal, a 16-year-old from Blacktown wrote this:
I’ve always considered myself Australian. For 13 years I had never known a place unlike the sparse but vibrant country I was born in. My mother tongue is English, and Tim-Tams are my favourite snack, followed closely by Lamingtons. There is no place like home. But something had always felt a bit off – that sometimes in infrequent but certainly odd occasions I wouldn’t get the same treatment compared with the rest of the flock. It was made obvious throughout the years that I had looked apart – that I was somehow different, distinct or even – at times – foreign. In supermarkets, on the bus, or even on the streets at times, voices of discontent were applied without apparent reason. It would be better to always give the benefit of the doubt – but most of the time it was what you had expected it to be.
In the diverse and multicultural country of ours, a relic of the past still lingers on with many of our citizens today. This shouldn’t be happening. Discrimination of all forms, although relatively unnoticed at times, shamefully is treated like business as usual. Parliament should endeavour in acknowledging the diversity of this country – especially with its traditional custodians and new settlers who to live better than before. It should make steps to eradicate the relics of the past and live up to its anthem that we truly do have boundless plains to share.
Mehreen Faruqi read those stories out in the Senate.
Josh Burns offers condolences to Colorado shooting victims’ families and friends
Labor MP Josh Burns used members’ statements in the parliament late yesterday afternoon to speak on the shooting in Colorado Springs:
I rise to extend my heartfelt condolences to the loved ones of the victims of the horrific shooting in Colorado Springs. The news overnight was truly distressing. For many members of the LGBTIQA+ community, so many places around the world already are not safe. Even venues that have historically been safe places for LGBTIQA+ people to come together and celebrate who they are feel increasingly unsafe. That this mass shooting took place on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance, a day when we honour the memory of trans people who have been murdered, only deepens the trauma and tragedy.
Hate crimes and hate speech cannot be downplayed, because to do so, including defending egregious homophobic and transphobic remarks on the ground of free speech, is to amplify the platforms of those are spread hate. Where is the freedom for the members of the LGBTIQA+ community to live their lives without fear of violence and discrimination? Surely, as a society, that is what we should be advancing. LGBTIQA+ people exist, belong and want to live in peace and safety, and as political leaders, we have a responsibility to protect and defend their rights. So we send our condolences to the family members of those who were murdered, and we wish those who are injured the speediest of recoveries.
RBA boss to speak on supply issues tonight
The Reserve Bank of Australia governor, Philip Lowe, is speaking at a dinner tonight, giving a speech titled: Price Stability, the Supply Side and Prosperity.
You may notice one of his topics is “the supply side” – supply chains, world oil prices and things – which has been a big contributing factor to the inflation increases we are seeing – and which the RBA has NO control over.
So I think quite a few economists are going to be interested in what the governor has to say tonight.
Kevin Rudd has some thoughts on the Australia-China relationship:
Coalition believes the whole IR bill ‘is terrible’, Sussan Ley says
Sussan Ley held a press conference a little earlier this morning:
Q: “Businesses with up to 200 employees can hardly be considered small businesses. Why should they be exempt from these changes?”
We think the entire bill is terrible. The entire bill is a problem, and in trying to make an awful bill slightly less awful we’ve proposed an amendment that businesses with less than 200 employees should not be affected at all. But in fact, this bill is negative in every corner of this country, for every business, in every way. We know this because look at the line up of people that are coming out to say no to this bill. The Council of Small Businesses, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council of Australia, and their language is very strong. The Minerals Council, the Farmers, everybody. You’ve got independent people in this parliament. When you see the line other people saying no to this bill, you realise how awful it really is.
I come back to my other point, there is no way this bill would have survived the test of an election, so Anthony Albanese is ramming it through the parliament in these final sitting weeks as a Christmas present to the unions.
Q: “When you say that 56,000 businesses will be impacted. What do you mean by that, what kind of impact?”
These businesses will be forced to the table under multi-employer bargaining. These are businesses that for example, may pay above the award, may be on enterprise agreements, may have really strong and positive relationships between employer and employee, but the unions will insert themselves into that workplace, knocking down the door to demand a seat at the table. This is why this legislation is so bad, it is a giant step backwards.
The only way a business will be ‘forced’ to join multi-employer bargaining, is if a majority of its workforces votes to take part in it. So a majority in each workforce, not a majority across the sector. That means if there is a “strong and positive relationship” between employees and employer, the employees would most likely vote against taking part. Businesses in enterprise agreements do not have to take part.
Report calls for banks to make it harder to commit financial abuse
Banks should do more to disrupt financial abuse by redesigning products like transaction accounts and loans, the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety has recommended in a new report on domestic violence.
The report, “Designed To Disrupt”, calls for “simple but transformational changes” to make it harder for perpetrators to commit financial abuse, which can include leaving a victim to deal with sole liability for a joint debt, or creating challenges with repairing credit ratings.
An estimated 90% of those who seek support for domestic and family violence are affected by economic abuse,” the report said.
The report notes methods of “weaponisation” of banking products, including perpetrators opening credit cards in their names of their victim/survivors, withdrawing all cash from joint accounts, the use of receipts or transaction notifications to track or stalk, and the use of payment descriptions to send unwanted or abusive messages.
The report said more than 500,000 abusive transactions have been intercepted in real-time since 2020, with 3,000 customers being sent warning letters, having their banking suspended, or being exited from their bank. Conversely, 90% of customers stopped sending abuse through payment descriptions after a warning letter.
The chief executive of the Centre for Women’s Economic Safety, Rebecca Glenn, said:
Currently, banking products are designed in a way that assumes all relationships are healthy and equal.
But the reality is that financial abuse is rife in Australia – and there’s more banks can do to protect victim-survivors. Banking products can and should be re-designed so that couples who set up joint accounts have protections in place from the very beginning.
The social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, backed calls for banks to examine their products.
Women should not have to choose between their financial security or their safety. Perpetrators should not be enabled by systems that exacerbate their abuse.
The report makes recommendations including making adverse credit reports for perpetrators of financial abuse that would impact on their ability to get credit, and amendments to the Privacy Act that would allow banks to better respond to financial abuse.
Coalition continues to call for halt to IR bill
Sussan Ley and the Coalition are stepping up their opposition to the IR bill (which is not a surprise, it is one of the historic issues the major parties have been on very different sides on).
Under Labor’s legislation, the hit to the small to medium sized businesses will be seismic with at least 6,000 manufacturers, 5,400 construction companies, 6,000 professional services businesses, 7,500 accommodation and food services providers and at least 400 mining companies compelled to participate in multi-employer bargaining. This only reflects the 20-199 headcount alone and does not include the thousands more businesses across the country that have between 15 and 20 employees.
The prime minister continues to ignore concerns from small business groups, big businesses and peak bodies, manufacturers and logistics companies, alongside unanimous calls from the opposition and the crossbench in the house and the Senate to halt the bill.
Meanwhile, on ABC RN, Jacqui Lambie expressed concerns over the “exceptional circumstances” for public hearings clause in the national anti-corruption bill.
That doesn’t mean she isn’t in support. Her tone suggested she is very onboard with passing it, praising both “Dr Helen” [Haines] while talking about what a “momentous occasion” it was for the parliament and nation.
Pocock says he can’t vote for IR bill as it stands
David Pocock was asked how he would vote on the IR bill, if he was made to vote for it today while on ABC radio RN.
He said he couldn’t “in good conscience” vote for the bill, if it came to the crunch today (which it won’t, it was a hypothetical).
So, however those negotiations are going (and both sides say negotiations are constructive and being done in good faith) they aren’t there yet.
Anthony Albanese will start the day with a tour of Eugowra to see the flood damage with the NSW premier.
Dominic Perrottet didn’t exactly receive the warmest of receptions the last time he was in a flood zone. Both governments have upped assistance, but people are traumatised and still grieving.
The head of the World Trade Organization, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, is in Canberra and is due to meet with the Australian trade minister, Don Farrell, this morning.
Australia has pursued complaints via the WTO regarding China’s trade actions against Australian wine and barley exports, but such disputes can take years to resolve and the Australian government has been urging Beijing to drop the measures.
While these disputes could be part of the discussions, Farrell and Okonjo-Iweala are also likely to talk about broader reform of the WTO and international rules for digital trade.
The WTO director general is due to address the Lowy Institute in Sydney this evening.
We don’t want to see industries 'hollowed out': Jim Chalmers
Politics watchers will know the Albanese government has been telegraphing a regulatory intervention in the energy market since just before the October budget, which contained a new forecast that power prices will increase by more than 50% by the end of next year. At Senate estimates recently, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission confirmed it was working on policy options including potential price caps, bargaining provisions for smaller energy users, and a legally binding code of conduct for the gas sector.
The government wants to resolve a concrete way forward before Christmas, but for now the work remains in train.
Yesterday the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, met more than 70 business leaders, including manufacturers, at an event organised by the Ai Group. Chalmers told the group the regulatory intervention was commanding most of his focus at present.
We know that high energy prices brought about by the war in Ukraine, and by a decade where we haven’t had the investment in energy that we’ve needed to see, we know that this has the capacity to strangle local industries, and our local employers, and we care about that deeply.
The treasurer said the government did not want to see industries and Australia’s industrial base “hollowed out by a war on the other side of the world”.
I think it would be fair to say that none of us are enthusiastic intervenors in markets like this one, you know, in normal times, we don’t sit around contemplating some of the interventions that we are currently contemplating. But we think these are extraordinary times, and they require some different thinking about the best kind of intervention that we might be able to make. Any intervention that we make in energy markets will be temporary, it will be meaningful and worth the effort, and it will be sensible and responsible. We want to find a way if we can, to make a meaningful difference in this market, without messing with our international obligations, and our preference is on the regulatory side rather than on the tax side. And so that gives you a bit of a sense of where we’re up to, and where we’re headed and why. Now, as you can imagine, this involves a lot of complexity. There are different parts of the economy with strong views about how this is best done, and whether this is best done. So we are acting as urgently as we can, but subject to some of those complexities.
Chalmers said the government recognised “we need to consult on something as meaningful and potentially consequential as what we’re contemplating.”
Independent senator David Pocock has said that more small businesses should be exempted from the single interest multi employer bargaining stream.
One of the biggest concerns raised with the proposed industrial relations reforms is the impact on small business. I appreciate the argument put forward by the ACTU and others that your rights at work should not be determined by the size of your employer.
The balance of evidence provided to me suggests that multi-employer bargaining will be too big an impost on smaller businesses and therefore the threshold for inclusion in the non-voluntary streams needs to be higher.
Of course smaller businesses can opt-in to bargain for their own single-enterprise or multi-enterprise cooperative agreements instead.”
Labor to close loophole in IR bill
The Albanese government will move to close a “loophole” its industrial relations bill would introduce into the Better Off Overall Test that might allow employers to hire workers on worse conditions than the award.
Labor’s bill seeks to simplify the Boot by directing the Fair Work Commission to consider only whether those employed at the time the pay deal was made are better off.
The breakaway Retail and Fast Food Workers Union and industrial relations academic, Adelaide law school’s Prof Andrew Stewart, have warned that could allow employers to hire workers after the deal was struck on lower conditions.
Earlier in November, Stewart told the Senate inquiry – due to report on Tuesday - that this was “a drafting mistake” that “needs to be corrected”.
The workplace relations minister, Tony Burke, has confirmed that the loophole will be closed.
On Wednesday evening Burke told a town hall meeting organised by senator David Pocock:
The update of the better off overall test is meant to work this way: effectively the test itself remains as it is. But if you find, somebody has fallen outside of it, you find either at the time or later that they’re actually were some workers who were going to be worse off instead of blowing up the whole agreement and saying, ‘OK now there’s no agreement at all’ the commission will have the power to fix it for those workers.
Now there’s some further amendments that probably will need to be made following the Senate inquiry, because there’s an argument that’s been made that we’re now working through, that some people might still slip through the cracks on this …The principle we’re determined to have is that no person should be worse off.
Now, some people … think they’ve found a way, potentially, that it could be gamed. And there could be a pathway where an agreement designed along specific lines, some workers could still be worse off in the future.
So we’re working through that in the department to work out what amendments are required so that’s not true.”
The Senate committee is chaired by Labor’s Tony Sheldon. With three Labor senators and one Green on the committee, the majority report is expected to recommend the bill be passed.
The Coalition will dissent – and has already proposed a suite of amendments to the IR bill in the lower house, including removing sections abolishing the Australian Building and Construction Commission, and expanding the carve-out for small businesses from the single-interest multi-employer bargaining system.
Pocock, the swing vote in the Senate and a participating member in the inquiry, is expected to deliver additional comments.
Pocock has proposed splitting the bill to deal with single-interest multi-employer bargaining next year. He has also expressed concerns about “unions having a veto” before pay deals are put to a vote and the small business threshold, which is currently a headcount of 15.
High winds leave thousands without power in south-east
Thousands of people in New South Wales and Victoria have been hit with electricity outages as damaging winds toppled trees and put power lines out of action.
A late spring cold burst moving over Australia’s south-east has been to blame for cold temperatures, low snow, and damaging winds in multiple states, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
A severe weather warning area covered parts of South Australia, Victoria, and the NSW and ACT on Monday, with meteorologists warning of gusts up to 100kmh.
Thousands of customers in NSW lost power as a result, with Endeavour Energy saying they were dealing with nearly 25,000 people whose supply was affected as of Monday afternoon.
The energy company pointed to wind gusts of 90kmh as the cause of the outages. By Monday evening the number of people affected on their network had dropped to fewer than 4,000.
Queensland destroys threatened species habitat without environmental assessment
The equivalent of 200,000 football fields of threatened species habitat was destroyed in Queensland in a single year without being assessed under national environmental laws, according to new analysis from the Australian Conservation Foundation.
Among the 100 animal species affected was the endangered koala, which had 75,547 hectares of likely forest habitat destroyed in 2018-19 – triple the amount formally approved under national laws between 2011 and 2021 – the authors of the research say.
The report says almost all of the threatened species habitat (96%) was cleared for livestock pasture expansion and there were thousands of instances of clearing that were potential breaches of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act because they had not been referred to the federal environment department for assessment despite meeting the required thresholds.
ACF’s national nature campaigner Jess Abrahams said: “While mining companies and property developers sought and received approval to clear 25,000 hectares of habitat in the last decade, this research shows in a single year pastoralists destroyed three times that amount in Queensland alone without even seeking approval.”
The ACF and the conservation biologist Martin Taylor collated the data through geospatial analysis and an examination of the environment department’s own decisions under national laws during 2018-19.
It’s Tuesday, which means it is party room meeting day – the second last for the parliamentary year.
The house is going to be focused on the national anti-corruption commission bill for much of this week – it has to be, because there are so many amendments, the house needs as many days as possible to get through them.
Negotiations are on-going when it comes to the IR bill, with the senate committee looking into the bill due to report back today. Which means it is ON. The negotiations will be coming to the pointy end very soon – David Pocock will decide how much of this bill passes the senate and when, and both sides are taking the negotiations very seriously.
That is going to take up much of the week.
So we are all in a watch and wait situation, while the senate also waits to see if it needs to sit for longer to get as many bills as possible through it. The thing there is, if the senate amends any of those bills then the house has to approve it, so there is no point getting the senate to sit, if negotiations are on-going on the bills.
What a week, huh?
Katharine Murphy, Daniel Hurst, Josh Butler and Paul Karp will bring you all of the days news. Mike Bowers is still covering the floods (we miss you Mikey!) but you have Amy Remeikis with you on the blog for most of the day.
It will be a six coffee day. I can just feel it.
Let’s get into it.
Good morning everyone and welcome to the live blog. My colleague Amy Remeikis will be here shortly to cover the day’s politics – but in the meantime let’s have a look at the top news stories this morning.
Our top story this morning is that Simon Holmes à Court’s fundraising group, Climate 200, is considering backing up to 10 teal challengers in the New South Wales election in March. After the political storm set off by independents in this year’s federal election, the Climate 200 move is set to inspire another set of tough tests for sitting MPs in the state.
As towns begin a slow recovery from flooding, more wild weather has hit New South Wales and Victoria this morning in the shape of strong winds that have left thousands of homes without electricity. A severe weather warning area covered parts of South Australia, Victoria, and the NSW and ACT on Monday, with meteorologists warning of gusts up to 100kmh.
Overseas this morning, an earthquake in Java has killed at least 160 people. The US Geological Survey said the quake, which struck late in the afternoon on Monday, was centred in the Cianjur region of West Java province at a depth of 10km.
And Iran’s footballers refused to sing their country’s national anthem at the start of their World Cup match with England in apparent support for the anti-government protests sweeping the country. Iranian supporters in the stadium in Doha booed the anthem before the game, which England won 6-2.