What we learned, Friday 2 September
And with that, we are going to put the blog to bed. Thank you for spending Friday with us.
Before we go, let’s recap the big stories.
NSW rail unions refused the state government’s demand to halt industrial action and warned that more could be on the way.
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, announced at the jobs and skills summit that the government will lift the migration cap to 195,000.
The federal government committed $36.1m to clear the visa backlog, with 500 staff to be added over nine months.
Anthony Albanese rejected calls to change the date of Australia Day, saying his priority was constitutional recognition of First Nations people.
The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, released new super transparency rules for superannuation funds.
Rachel Noble, the first woman to head up an Australian intelligence agency, spoke at the Lowy Institute, saying the glass ceiling in Australian intelligence was “actually a concrete block”.
A tram was derailed in Melbourne’s CBD after it collided with a truck.
The NSW transport union sought an immediate hearing in the Fair Work Commission to force the state government to continue bargaining.
Labor announced at the jobs summit that it will adopt Peter Dutton’s plan to relax work tests for pensioners, a policy change the treasurer said would cost $55m.
Terence Darrell Kelly, the man who admitted to abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith in WA, is to be sentenced in December.
The Albanese government outlined key outcomes from the jobs and skills summit, including gender equality and pay gap measures, providing age pensioners with a temporary upfront $4,000 bank credit to enable them to work and earn more before their pension is reduced, and strengthening the Respect@Work council.
Key housing affordability advocates welcomed Anthony Albanese’s $575m commitment to expand the national housing infrastructure facility to social and affordable housing.
We will be back tomorrow to do it all again – until then, stay safe.
Councils in migrant communities concerned about increased immigration
Increasing Australia’s migration intake without improving key services will increase the strain on housing, hospitals and schools as well as inflation, councils in migrant communities have said.
Tasmanian man died after being struck by ute that slid on same patch of black ice that he did
Scott Roderick Glanville, 46, died on the side of a road in Tasmania’s north on the morning of 25 June 2019.
The electrician was on his way to work when his van rolled after hitting a section of black ice – difficult-to-see frozen water on the surface of a road.
Advocates welcome PM’s $575m housing investment
Key housing affordability advocates have welcomed Anthony Albanese’s commitment to expand the national housing infrastructure facility to social and affordable housing.
The policy makes it possible for $575m dollars in the national housing infrastructure facility to invest in affordable housing by attracting financing from super funds and other sources of private capital.
The chief executive of National Shelter, Emma Greenhalgh, said giving people on low and modest incomes greater housing choice was critically important.
Regional Australia is screaming out for workers, yet low vacancy rates and skyrocketing rents prevent people moving to the bush or the coast to work in industries such as aged care and health.
This announcement is a good start in recognising the economic centrality of providing affordable homes.
The national spokesperson for Everybody’s Home, Kate Colvin, said the PM’s announcement was especially welcome in the context of other policy measures.
Expanding skilled migration, training and industry bargaining are important, but without homes to live in, we will continue to see rising rents push real wages backwards.
This is important progress that the government can build upon with a plan to rapidly deliver the affordable rentals needed across Australia.
Number of Australian businesses facing insolvency increases
A growing number of Australian businesses face failure in coming months as the true picture of insolvency emerges from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Data from the year ending 30 June showed an 8% annual increase in the number of businesses that had an administrator appointed, Insolvency Australia revealed on Friday.
Director Gareth Gammon said businesses were facing numerous economic pressures including tax obligations.
“We are likely to see a further increase in corporate and personal insolvencies over coming months and into next year,” he said.
“There will be a domino effect, as the pain threshold will be too much for many to bear – particularly (small and medium businesses) whose cash reserves have been exhausted by factors beyond their control.”
During the height of the Covid pandemic there were numerous state and federal government support measures to help business withstand the pinch of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
Most of those benefits have been exhausted.
Across the nation, there were 6,555 insolvencies in the latest financial year, which is an increase of 483, or 8%, on the previous year.
Critics surprised by claims made by Judith Kelly on racism in Australia
In the 26 August speech to a gathering of women lawyers, Justice Judith Kelly said there was a “cultural component” to the violence inflicted on Aboriginal women by Aboriginal men in the territory.
Universities Australia welcomes changes to work rights for international students
The peak body for the higher education sector has welcomed the government’s decision to increase post-study work rights for international students.
Universities Australia chief executive, Catriona Jackson, said the announcement reinforced the importance of universities to delivering the skilled workforce Australia depends on.
More than half of the 1m jobs expected to be created in the next five years will require a university degree.
Australia’s world-class universities attract thousands of international students each year, yet only 16% stay on after their studies. Australia is worse off for this brain drain.
It’s critical that we develop the skills of Australian students to maintain a homegrown pipeline of talent.
But at the same time, extending post-study work rights sends the right signal to international students who want to use their Australian education in Australia’s regions and cities, when and where there is a clear need for their skills.
Universities Australia also welcomed the government’s funding commitment to fast-track visa processing and the decision to lift the annual migration intake.
A skilled labour market is a productive labour market, and a productive labour market drives economic growth and a higher standard of living for all Australians.
Google launches trial allowing Android apps to offer different payment options
Google has quietly launched a pilot for apps to offer new payment options on Android devices in Australia, Europe, India, Indonesia and Japan, following pressure from regulators.
On Friday, Google opened enrolment to developers of non-gaming apps to allow them to trial user-choice payment options for users in the five locations, with caveats, including that Google will reduce its service fee by 4% for transactions.
NSW investing $45m in five pumped-hydro projects
The New South Wales government says a new $45m investment in five pumped-hydro projects will establish the state’s clean energy future, replacing ageing coal-fired power stations.
Funds have been allocated to hydro projects in the Hunter Valley, Central Tablelands, Southern Highlands and South Coast to cover private investment barriers and upfront costs.
The funding will go towards pre-investment activities including establishing whether the projects are feasible and developing business cases, the NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, said on Friday.
“NSW has the most ambitious renewable energy policy in the nation, which is needed to replace ageing coal-fired power stations and build a clean energy future for NSW,” Kean said.
“If these pumped hydro projects proceed to construction, they are expected to create more than 2,300 jobs and attract $4.4bn of private investment, which will help grow the economy and support the regions.”
Pumped-hydro electricity is key to the government’s ambitions for creating a renewable energy future and infrastructure jobs in the regions, he said.
We are almost at the weekend – and I have something great for you:
Jobs summit did not address barriers to work such as ‘mutual obligations’, Antipoverty centre says
Earlier today unemployed advocates from the Antipoverty Centre and Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union protested outside Parliament House.
In a statement the groups said their planned “mini jobs summit” was banned before it went ahead.
Antipoverty Centre spokesperson and jobseeker recipient Jay Coonan:
We’re in a poverty crisis. The full employment white paper they have in the works won’t put a roof over our heads or put food on our tables. We need decent, secure work for everyone who wants it, but the fixation with full employment needs to end – a liveable social safety net is vital to protect people from being forced into unsuitable, unsafe and underpaid work.
First and foremost, poverty and ‘mutual’ obligations are barriers to work – and they could fix those overnight.
We have many concrete proposals to contribute, but they have refused to include unemployed advocates as participants in the jobs and skills summit. That’s why we were forced to take things into our own hands and come to them. We don’t want tokenistic inclusion, we want to be treated as equals.
We need a genuinely safe safety net and we need it now. Lift all payments above the poverty line, then work with us to do the hard work of addressing the structural barriers to work facing so many of us who have relied on Centrelink payments long-term.
Back to the jobs summit – if you want to read the full list of outcomes, and what the government plans to start doing – Jim Chalmers has tweeted it out:
Victoria updates prevention of animal cruelty laws
Just darting quickly away from the jobs summit to this story from AAP.
Victorians who are intentionally or recklessly cruel to animals would face up to five years jail and fines of almost $228,000 under proposed laws.
The new category of offence would come under legislation replacing the existing Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, and apply to the most serious types of cruelty, according to the state government.
They could include deliberately burning a dog with a cigarette, or shocking a racehorse with an electronic prodder.
Victorians would also have to abide by minimum care requirements under the new laws.
People who failed to meet specific care and cruelty requirements could face fines of more than $3,600, with examples including using prong collars on dogs, or failing to meet fruit tree-netting requirements.
Key outcomes from jobs and skills summit
Before the PM’s presser, the government released a document outlining the key outcomes of the jobs summit.
We know some of them already, but under the immediate action the government will take to “promote equal opportunities and reducing barriers to employment” there is a little bit more info on the pension change and other outcomes. Here is what is listed:
Provide age pensioners with a temporary upfront $4,000 income bank credit to allow them to work and earn more before their pension is reduced.
Strengthen existing reporting standards to require employers with 500 or more employees to commit to measurable targets to improve gender equality in their workplaces.
Require businesses with 100 employees or more to publicly report their gender pay gap to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency.
Require the Australian Public Service to report to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency and to set targets to improve gender equity in the public service.
Strengthen the Respect@Work council by giving business and unions a permanent seat at the table, along with government and civil.
PM says enterprise bargaining not working to lift wages or productivity
And lastly, the PM is talking about enterprise bargaining:
Enterprise bargaining is not working at the moment to lift wages. Enterprise bargaining is not working to boost productivity. The aim of our industrial relations system has to be about two things. One, boosting the economy by lifting productivity. Secondly, lifting living standards by boosting wages.
PM says Labor will explore pathways for international graduates to stay
The PM has been asked about the plan for foreign graduates and if they will be offered pathways to permanent residency:
This is a standalone measure that is about people who have studied here being able to make a longer contribution.
At the moment, there are various categories, two, three, four years. It is extending that by two years and that is the focus as well. Other pathways, if people wish to, having studied here, go to apply to residency.
Of course, those pathways are considered separate from this measure. But what this is about is essentially giving work rights so that we get greater input as well from people who have had the benefit of studying here and are then able to stay for longer.
Essentially from next year is what it is focused on. We will work through some of the legislative time frames for these measures.
Gallagher says $5bn childcare investment will be in October budget
The $5bn investment that we announced as part of the election campaign will be provided for in the October budget. But with the starting date of 1 July. That is affordable, it’s responsible, it was part of our election plan.
But it’s also about getting in place the systems that are needed to make sure those payments flow appropriately when they need to, and as they need to. I think that’s the commitment we made.
PM acknowledges ‘enormous cooperation’ on industrial relations
Guardian Australia’s Paul Karp asks the PM if the government will consider the Greens’ amendments (such as making the minimum wage a living wage) to the industrial relations legislation:
I’ve been focused on the agreement that has been reached. I think there’s been enormous cooperation. The fact you have had the Council of Small Business standing with the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia standing with the ACTU, gives me great heart about positive measures going forward.
PM wants migrants to have path to security and permanency in Australia
Albanese is asked about the increase in migrants:
I say very unashamedly that my starting point is in favour of giving people the security that comes with a path to permanent migration, a path to being an Australian citizen, I’ve done similar things of course in the discussions that I had with prime minister Ardern of New Zealand as well.
My general approach is – we are with the exception of First Nations people a nation of migrants or descendants of migrants. People have come to this country and put a stake down. They’ve been able to get a mortgage, to have kids, have a family, all of that is impossible if it’s all temporary.
It makes no sense for example to bring in a nurse for two years, three years, and then see them leave, then find – try and find another nurse to take that place, have them train, have them adapt to Australian conditions as well.
Policy changes to pension work test will cost $55m, Chalmers says
Now we’ve got questions. The PM is asked about the pension changes and if the government has modelled how many people will re-enter the workforce:
This is something I raised in one of my vision statements in Brisbane, one of the first ones we did in 2020. Speaking about the ageing of the population. And how we value older Australians and enable them, facilitate them to make a greater contribution.
This is a time limited measure to see how that works. But it’s consistent with what I said then and it’s consistent particularly with what the needs and the economy are right now.
The PM has gone to Chalmers:
One of the 36 concrete outcomes from the jobs and skills summit is to find a way to encourage older workers to work a bit more, if they want to do that. And we’ve been working on this policy, frankly, since before the election.
Chalmers says the policy change will cost around $55m and the government will do further costing.
As it stands right now, you can bank $7,800 a year that you can earn before your pension is affected. And we’re proposing to boost that by another $4,000.
Some sort of income credit, so that people can work a bit more in they want to. Crucially, in addition to that, we want to legislate two other items, one is not being thrown off the pension and having to reply over a period, one of the things that does make older Australian workers a bit reluctant, in the sense they may get thrown off and have to run the gauntlet again to get back on the pension. We want to take that away.
And secondly we want to make legislative changes when it comes to things like the pensioner concession card for the same sort of reasons.
Gallagher says women’s equality will be front and centre for this government
It was no mistake that the panel on gender equality and pay for women was the first thing that we did at this summit.
It then fed into every other session of the summit and, yeah, I think it’s just an amazing – the momentum is there, it’s over to all of you now to keep it going.
But you know, for too long, women’s policy, gender equality, has been in the wilderness. Certainly under the last government. It’s front and centre in this government and I acknowledge the prime minister’s role in this.
Finance minister says women made up 50% of summit participation
The minister for finance, Katy Gallagher, is speaking now:
I would like to make a few comments about the women’s involvement in the summit and in short I reckon women nailed it at this summit.
They were 50% of the participants, they led the panels, they were amazing speakers. And I think for me the most important outcome of this summit was that women’s equal participation, gender equality, is recognised unanimously by everyone who attended the summit as critical to our economic resilience and prosperity.
It’s not an add-on, it’s not something you do after lunch, not something nice, it’s not social policy, it’s economic good, good economic policy, and everyone signed up to that.
And I pay credit again to the prime minister and the treasurer for their inclusive approach and the way that this summit was organised from the get-go.
Chalmers hopes summit is start of a new era
I want the Australian people to know that this effort to find common ground doesn’t end on a Friday afternoon in Canberra. This, I hope, is the beginning of a new era of cooperation and finding consensus, trying to find that common ground in the interests of a common purpose and the common good.
I think we’ve shown here that there’s a better way to govern this country.
Respect, inclusive and humble way, that recognises there’s good ideas that come from every corner of the country, every part of the economy, and that’s the least the people’s national government is to do, to listen and act where there’s sufficient ground to move forward, there’s many more areas where that’s been possible than we even anticipated, than we even hoped and I’m very proud of what’s happened.
Treasurer says he is proud of what jobs summit has achieved
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is up now:
I’m really proud of what this jobs and skills summit has achieved the last couple of days.
This has exceeded even our most optimistic expectations. 36 concrete areas of action that will happen this year, and about the same amount of areas where we’ve identified sufficient common ground to do some more work and to move forward together.
This is how a first rate country should run itself. In a spirit of respect and co-operation, collaboration, I pay tribute to the prime minister whose inclusive, collaborative, consensus-seeking instincts have provided the inspiration for what we’ve been able to achieve here. I’m incredibly proud of the work that’s gone into this jobs and skills summit.
Albanese says he is heartened by ‘the spirit of cooperation’
We brought business, unions, civil society, leaders of various groups, but also we gave voice to people with disabilities, to Indigenous Australians, to people who have been long-term unemployed and locked out of the labour market.
I want to thank all of my ministerial colleagues, in particular, the economic team, Jim and Katy, for the extraordinary amount of work that’s gone into making this a success.
Anthony Albanese is speaking after the jobs summit
The prime minister starts by thanking everyone:
As we work towards organising this two-day event, we couldn’t have hoped for the outcomes that have been achieved over the last two days.
I want to thank everyone for their participation in the spirit they brought to the discussion here in Canberra, yesterday, and today, but also all those who participated in the more than 100 forums, mini-summits, roundtables, held right around the country over the past weeks. It has been truly an exercise in collaboration that has reinforced my government’s approach towards the way that good government should function.
An approach that says we should look for unity, not division. An approach that says we should look for common purpose and what unites us towards our national interest.
An approach that says where you have differences, by all means, feel free to articulate them, but do it in a way that’s respectful, one that always looks at outcomes and looks for solutions rather than looks for arguments.
And that’s what we’ve seen over the last two days.
The PM is now talking in Canberra.
Former Speaker Tony Smith takes politics role at ANU
Good afternoon everyone! Before we get into it – a big thank you to Natasha for taking us through the morning.
We’ve got a big afternoon. First up, I have this announcement from the Australian National University:
Former Democrats leader and UN treaty expert member Natasha Stott Despoja, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Tony Smith have been appointed Professors in the practice of politics. Their ANU roles will be part-time.
Both will be based at the ANU college of arts and social sciences, where they will undertake research, teaching and a range of engagement activities for the next three years.
Prof Stott Despoja said:
I am committed to advancing women’s leadership, empowerment and equality across politics, economics and society.
In politics, business and in wider society, we have seen a powerful movement to make sure that women and girls are given the respect, equality and opportunity they deserve.
I look forward to furthering this work at ANU, as well as sharing what I have learnt with the current and next generation of Australians who are committed to these issues. I am excited to engage with some of the nation’s leading experts in this vital area.
That’s it from me as I pass the blog batton onto the excellent Cait Kelly. Have a good weekend!
NSW transport union and state government at Fair Work Commission
The head of the New South Wales branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union believes he has not lost the support of the traveling public amid the long-running fight with the state government that has caused weeks of disruptions to the network.
Addressing the media shortly after 2pm today, just hours out from the government’s 5pm deadline, the union’s NSW secretary, Alex Claassens, said his focus was on safety, not public relations.
This has never been about public relations for us. This has been a very, very simple fight.
The messages of support that I am getting from the traveling public, the people who actually use the system, have been absolutely unbelievable the last couple of days.
I think people get the reason why we’re doing this.
Claassens would not rule out further actions into September.
We will continue to take this on a day by day basis.
The union and the government are in the Fair Work Commission today after the government said on Thursday that it would seek to terminate the enterprise agreement of thousands of rail workers and bin a deal to modify a multi-billion dollar fleet of trains at the centre of the dispute unless the union agreed to end all industrial action by the end of today.
Anthony Albanese says Labor will relax work tests for pensioners
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has announced the government will provide a “new $4,000 work income bank credit” for pensioners.
They can earn more income before their pension is reduced. We will move so that instead of pensioners having their payments cancelled after 12 weeks if they exceed [the income threshold], they won’t have to reapply for payments for up to two years. And they will retain the pensioner concession card for two years.
Earlier, Albanese announced the release of $575m from the national housing infrastructure facility for social and affordable housing and to attract private capital.
Albanese thanks summit participants for leaving ‘disagreements’ behind
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is praising the public service for its “frank and fearless advice” and the work of his ministers as he concludes the jobs and skills summit.
So I do think this has been an extraordinary success. And all of those people are deserving of our thanks, but most importantly I want to thank all of you, the participants at this summit, for attending in good faith, for leaving old disagreements behind, for contributing and presenting with conviction and depth, for challenging our assumptions, for pushing us to think and engaging with listening with that respect.
Respect for one another, and respect for the people you represent, the people this summit was designed to serve. The everyday Australian whose courage and initiative and hard work help power our national prosperity.
Cleo Smith’s WA abductor to be sentenced in December
The man who has admitted to abducting four-year-old Cleo Smith from her family’s Western Australia campsite is set to learn his fate in December, AAP reports.
Terence Darrell Kelly, 37, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of forcibly taking a child under 16.
The matter returned to the WA district court on Friday with lawyers confirming the case was ready to proceed to sentencing.
Registrar Jacquie Kubacz ordered that Kelly face a two-day sentencing hearing on 13 and 14 December before chief judge Julie Wager.
Kelly, who is in custody, was not required to attend Friday’s hearing.
Cleo was found alive in early-November last year, 18 days after she went missing from the remote Blowholes campsite.
Her disappearance sparked a major police investigation which eventually led detectives to a property in Carnarvon, just minutes from Cleo’s family home.
Police forced entry and found the little girl alone in a room.
The dramatic rescue was captured by an officer’s body-worn camera and subsequently made news headlines around the world.
Labor to adopt Dutton's pensioner plan after jobs summit
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, is wrapping up the jobs and skills summit, which he said had “exceeded even our most optimistic expectations”.
He said the summit had “36 concrete outcomes”, things the government thinks it can achieve this year.
Several of these were announced yesterday by workplace relations minister, Tony Burke. This morning added a 35,000 person boost to migration and $36m for visa processing.
Chalmers said the government will relax work tests for pensioners (an idea proposed by Peter Dutton), with more detail to be announced by Anthony Albanese. Chalmers also announced 1,000 digital apprentices in the public service.
Treasurer announces 36 concrete outcomes from jobs summit
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said there are 36 “concrete steps” the government intends to take as a result of the jobs and skills summit.
He was hoping to read out the outcomes but says there are so many he won’t be doing that.
Jobs summit exceeds expectations, treasurer says
Chalmers thanks the attendees and says the summit has exceeded the governments “most optimistic expectations.”
Treasurer speaking after jobs and skills summit
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has taken to the microphone wrapping up the jobs summit and will announce its outcomes shortly.
NSW transport union wants commuters to talk to their MPs about industrial action
Claassens has finished his address to the media imploring New South Wales commuters to speak to their local members of parliament urging a parliamentary debate.
I want to repeat the ask that I had yesterday – to all politicians in that house in Macquarie Street, on both sides of the political equation, I would like you to look into your hearts and actually do something about this. It can’t be allowed to continue.
You have got family that travel on the trains … they have a right to be safe as we have as workers to make sure they stay safe.
We want a debate in parliament.
We also encourage members of the community that regularly use our service, go and talk to your local MP and encourage your local MP, regardless of which political party he’s in or she’s in, ask them to go and have the debate in government.
NSW transport union seeks immediate hearing in Fair Work Commission
Alex Claassens said that at 6pm last night the transport workers union did receive another document after working on one that wasn’t up to date. He said the union subsequently sought a hearing with the Fair Work Commission to force the state government to continue bargaining.
Last night at 9.00pm we put orders in to try and get an immediate hearing in the Fair Work Commission around good faith bargaining. Because it is quite clear that a politician coming out and making statements by the press is not a way of negotiating in good faith.
So despite all the threats and all the comments they threw out there and attacked railway workers … they have now been caught out. So as I’m standing here right now, we are in the Fair Work Commission, trying to seek and end to some of this nonsense that the government has been perpetrating on the people of New South Wales. I again make the statement that shame on these politicians that want to make it all about themselves.
This is - is and always has been about fixing those unsafe trains. They are now trying to blackmail the good railway workers and the people out here doing their job that they do everyday by saying that if we don’t accept a lesser condition in our EA, they will rip up that deed and they won’t go ahead and fix those trains.
NSW transport union boss says government sent them wrong enterprise agreement
The secretary for the NSW branch of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU), Alex Claassens, is in Sydney giving an update on the negotiations with the state government.
Claassens said the government “is quite clearly now in crisis, a government that’s hell-bent on holding us hostage by saying they’re in the going to fix our unsafe trains unless we agree to an enterprise agreement that up until yesterday we hadn’t even seen.”
I came out at 2.00pm yesterday, we had our press conference and at that point we still hadn’t seen any real document. We worked on a document the last couple of days.
I went upstairs and at 3.00pm while I was upstairs in that non-bargaining meeting as we’re cautioning it because we apparently weren’t bargaining, my phone goes off and I get three documents sent to me. Get a letter of demand from the transport secretary, I get a deed and I get an enterprise agreement.
Within five minutes we realise the enterprise agreement they sent us was not the one that we’d been working on the last couple of days. It was a document and it was interesting in that they gave us a Microsoft Word document so we were able to look at the metadata and we knew who creates that and it went back as far as 2014.
So you can imagine our shock. We immediately said to them, ‘This is not the right document. There’s no way in the world you can take this document out to the troops in the condition that it’s in.’
Claassens was interrupted by the loudspeaker announcement at the transport terminal where he is giving this update.
Metro post offices face closure due to pandemic and weather
Australia Post offices could close in metropolitan areas as the service deals with the fallout from the pandemic and record rain, AAP reports.
About 30 offices of the 4,000 branches could be closed but Australia Post has not made any final decisions and said staff whose branches close will be moved to nearby corporate offices. A spokesperson said:
The pandemic and the rapid growth in the use of online services has resulted in a significant decline in customer visits to most post offices.
There are a small number of primarily metropolitan post offices with very low and declining foot traffic, expiring leases or building damage that are currently under review.
The shift to working from home has led to visits at some branches dropping to as low as 100 a day.
This year’s record rainfall, which has caused widespread damage across the country, has also damaged post offices in metropolitan areas.
No regional or rural branches are understood to be facing closure.
Australia Post was committed to providing a “sustainable postal service” for decades to come, the spokesperson said.
The government-owned business reported a boost in revenue in the first half of 2021/22 on the back of growth in its parcel delivery services.
The organisation has been grappling with the switch to online shopping and the reduction in traditional services such as delivering letters.
Authorities report tip fire near Lismore
A fire is burning in a pile of old car parts and a large column of black smoke is visible at a tip near Lismore, New South Wales.
Authorities are at the scene where they said the fire is contained with no threat to properties currently.
Tram derailment in Melbourne
A tram has been derailed in Melbourne’s CBD after it collided with a truck.
Stephen Jolly, a councillor for the city of Yarra said that the cement truck didn’t use the hook turn and got hit by the tram which became derailed.
Jolly said ambulances took some passengers away from the scene and warned Melburnians to avoid Elizabeth Street.
Agriculture minister announces body to tackle industry’s workforce woes
My colleague Josh Butler brought you the news earlier that a group has been set up to bring the agriculture sector, unions and government together in a bid to tackle the labour shortage crisis – in addition to the row between the farmers federation and nationals leader.
AAP has more on that announcement from the agriculture minister, Murray Watt, of the partnership, which will begin progressing some of the agreements to come out of the jobs and skills summit to ensure the sector gets its “fair share.”
National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) president, Fiona Simson, praised the government for the collaborative approach, but said an additional 9,000 regional places included in the lifting of the permanent skilled migration cap wouldn’t meet the needs of the sector. She said:
It’s not [enough], but we need to keep focusing on the outcomes.
It was important for agriculture to be an industry of choice for workers, she added.
Simson said it wasn’t often her sector got together with the unions.
We have way more in common than we thought, and how much better for us to be standing here together.
It’s supporting an industry that we all feel so strongly about, rather than sledging each other from the other side of the microphone.
Severe thunderstorms possible for central and northern Queensland
Small Business council supports multi-employer bargaining at jobs summit
Cosboa, the Council of Small Business Organisation Australia (Cosboa), gained more of a public profile in the run-up to and during the jobs submit in no small part to its chief executive, Alexi Boyd.
Unlike other business groups, such as the AiGroup, Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Cosboa indicated it could support multi-employer bargaining.
Boyd said such pay deals “can be customised to our circumstances”, helping small businesses that “do not have resources that are available to big business with lawyers and HR departments” to bargain together (as my colleague Paul Karp reported here on Monday).
Boyd said the summit had basically agreed to “a memorandum of understanding”, or a “starting position” on the key workplace relations issues. (Details in the upcoming legislation will test that understanding, it seems.)
“That’s all it is, to now,” she said on the sidelines of the conference. “The hard work begins now.”
Still, the summit had brought “lots of people to the table” to talk about issues from skills to migration. Boyd said:
If anything, it’s given all of us a bit of a deadline to really speak and negotiate and talk about these things before, during and after. So I think it’s beneficial in that way.
Expect more such sentiments as the event winds down towards speeches and media conferences by the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, the PM, Anthony Albanese, and others.
Queensland attorney general backs extension to domestic violence inquiry
Queensland’s attorney general has backed an inquiry into police responses to domestic violence to make “strong” recommendations after it extended its reporting deadline by more than a month.
Judge Deborah Richards has asked for more time to hand down her findings and recommendations from the commission of inquiry into Queensland Police Services’ responses to domestic violence.
The inquiry was scheduled to report on 4 October, but the commissioner said so much evidence on cultural issues in the force had been received that the final report will be handed down on 14 November.
The attorney general, Shannon Fentiman, said she understands the need for the extension.
“I have every confidence that judge Richards will make some very strong recommendations about how we can ensure that women, no matter where they are in Queensland, get the support that they need,” she told reporters on Friday.
The inquiry was due to complete its gathering of evidence after the QPS commissioner, Katarina Carroll, took the stand at a public hearing on August 18.
However, a number of police force members contacted the probe to provide unsolicited evidence about cultural issues after Carroll admitted the force had significant problems involving sexism, misogyny and racism.
Four days later, the commission reopened for submissions on QPS culture and has since received more than 130 written responses.
The Weekly Beast on the podcast and newspaper at the centre of Chris Dawson trial
The Australian made the most of being at the centre of the murder conviction of Chris Dawson for killing his wife, Lynette, publishing no fewer than six broadsheet pages after the verdict, writes Amanda Meade in this week’s Weekly Beast.
It’s good – give it a read:
No child abuse material in Sydney private school chat group, police say
The emergence of a private chat amongst Knox Grammar students in Sydney, which contained inappropriate images and offensive commentary, led the school this week to expel some students, suspend others and take the issue to police – but of the various images that had been posted there, “none … is classified as child abuse material”, according to NSW police.
First woman to head up an Australian intelligence agency speaks at Lowy Institute
“I don’t think there is a glass ceiling,” one of Australia’s top spy chiefs has said. “It’s actually a concrete block.”
The director general of the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD), Rachel Noble, is the first woman to head up an Australian intelligence agency. ASD is an electronic intelligence agency, tasked with collecting intelligence about foreign adversaries, cybersecurity, protecting Australians from cyber warfare, and carrying out its own offensive cyber operations.
According to the advance copy of the speech, Noble said even today, that “glass ceiling” concrete block is “coated in advanced cloaking technology”.
“I couldn’t see it until I got senior enough to reach out and touch it,” she said, in a speech where she describes the “micro-humiliations” she experienced “in a world dominated by men”.
Noble, a former codebreaker who only recently became a feminist, gave an address to the Lowy Institute today. She said she was trying not to sound “shrill, or even worse, bitter” as she traced through the history of women in Australian intelligence to today, when women are still unintentionally belittled, called a “witch”, or “bossy”, or “scary”.
She called for men to get equal access to parental leave. She said:
For so long as the woman has more, the family economics of who take that leave becomes pretty simple. But as importantly, we need to work to change our organisation values and expectations to allow him to take it.
Taking time off work after having children contributes to the 13.8% pay gap and “a whopping 24.4% pay gap in professional, scientific and technical services”, Noble noted, as she quoted women including pop star Madonna, ABC writer and commentator Annabel Crabb and former prime minister Julia Gillard.
She said almost half ASD’s executive are women. The agency has its regular morning meeting at 9.30am, to allow for school dropoffs, and they don’t schedule meetings outside business hours unless urgent.
Noble finished with a quote from Frankenstein author Mary Shelley:
I do not wish women to have power over men; but over themselves.
Farmers Federation calls on Nationals to be more collaborative following summit row
The National Farmers Federation has accused the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, of “deliberately distorting facts” and being “seriously misinformed” in a stinging response after he was critical of the group for recent proposals.
Littleproud yesterday accused the NFF of being “cowards” with the new Labor government, claiming they had “gone into a corner and hid”. He was talking about negotiations for a special agricultural visa to get overseas workers for farms, a pet idea for the Nationals but one that hasn’t been advanced.
Today, the agriculture minister, Murray Watt, announced a new agreement for a roundtable group of government, farmers, meat processors and unions to deal with workforce issues. At a press conference, the NFF’s president, Fiona Simpson, hit back at Littleproud’s comments.
Those comments are obviously incredibly disappointing by David Littleproud. Either he’s seriously misinformed and not across his brief about our submission, or else he’s perhaps deliberately distorting the facts to get a bit of media attention and clickbait.
Either way it’s not the collaborative, bipartisan nature that we need when we’re resolving some of these issues.
Simpson went on to say farmers had become “sick of waiting” for changes under the previous Coalition government, and praised the agreement struck by Watt and the other groups.
“I would call on David Littleproud to be more collaborative. We don’t call people names, we don’t play political games, we actually need to focus on what’s important to our members,” she said.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, met with the National Farmers Federation this morning.
Victorian Labor MP Jane Garrett honoured in state memorial
The Victorian Labor MP Jane Garrett has been remembered as a doting mother of three, a courageous and principled politician and one of the state’s “most respected daughters” at a memorial service in Melbourne.
Family, friends and state and federal parliamentarians from across the political divide gathered at the state funeral service in Brunswick Town Hall – in the MP’s former electorate – on Friday morning to pay tribute to Garrett. The former Victorian emergency services minister died in July from breast cancer. She was 49.
The former Victorian Labor premier Steve Bracks, who Garrett worked as an advisor for between 2000 and 2004, said there was an “inevitability” about his former colleague’s quick career progression from political advisor to cabinet minister. Garrett became a rising star in the Labor party and was viewed as a potential future premier.
The upper house Victorian MP Mark Gepp – a close friend of Garrett’s – led the service and described her as principled, compassionate and courageous and one of “Victoria’s most respected daughters”.
He told mourners:
She knew how to live and she knew every moment mattered.
You can reheat food more than once, researchers say
Meal preppers (and lazy cooks) have no need to fear. In this article from the Conversation, Australian researchers bust the myths on microwaving food and give tips on how to enjoy leftovers safely.
Queensland records one Covid death and 285 people in hospital
There were 1,794 new cases in the last reporting period, and 12 people are in intensive care.
Government moves on super transparency
The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, has released new disclosure rules for superannuation funds, responding to some of the crossbench concerns about transparency.
Under the new rules:
Political donations will need to be itemised in information given ahead of the annual general meeting; but
Non-political donations will only be disclosed “in aggregate”
In the last sitting, crossbench MPs (including MP Monique Ryan and senators Jacqui Lambie, David Pocock and Ralph Babet) warned against watering down disclosure by moving to donations being disclosed in aggregate.
It’s unclear if this halfway house will satisfy them, but the Greens would be needed for any disallowance motion to be successful.
The Albanese government is committed to a well-governed, high-performing and accountable superannuation system.
The government believes the updated regulations approved today strike the right balance between reducing the regulatory burden on funds and public expectations of transparency.
Williams sisters out of US Open doubles
Serena and Venus Williams have just lost in the US Open doubles tournament to Czeck pair Linda Nosková and Lucie Hradecká.
But the younger Williams isn’t out of the tournament completely, as she now prepares to face Australian tennis player Ajla Tomljanovic in the singles tournament on Friday night in the US (9am Saturday AEST).
French President planning visit to Australia
French president Emmanuel Macron is set to visit Australia, the ABC reports.
Australia is repairing its relationship with France in the wake of the shock cancellation of the submarine contract in favour of the Aukus deal. The visit, according to the ABC, will happen after both Macron and the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, attend the G20 summit in Bali.
The defence minister, Richard Marles, has visited France, after already visiting Germany and the UK. According to the notification of his visit sent out before he went over:
The visit to France will build on the Albanese government’s commitment to restore and renew the defence relationship with one of Australia’s oldest and most capable partners.
Ajla Tomljanovic prepares for US Open clash with Serena Williams
Australian tennis player Ajla Tomljanovic will go toe-to-toe with Serena Williams in the US Open third round on Friday night in the US (9am Saturday AEST) when, once again, all eyes will be fixed on whether the match will be the retiring American great’s last.
Tomljanovic knows the home crowd will be cheering for Williams but says she has a plan, thanks to advice from Novak Djokovic:
When the crowd gets involved, that’s when it can get to you. I remember Novak saying one time when they asked him a lot about this, when the crowd was against him, he just pretends it’s for him.
When they chant, I don’t know, Rafa, Roger, whoever, he hears Novak, Novak. I kind of liked that response. I might use that on Friday night.
But I think if I just stay within my little bubble, have my corner that I go to when I need help just for support, block it out as much as I can.
Williams is currently playing doubles with her sister Venus. You can follow that match live here:
- with AAP
Large rain-bearing cloudbands affecting Australia
In more weather news, meteorologist Ben Domensino says that two large rain-bearing cloudbands are currently affecting Australia, as a result of the La Niña pattern in the Pacific ocean as well as other “wet-phase climate drivers.”
Showers for northern NSW coast and Tasmania
Workers needed to avert food security crisis: Littleproud
The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, has spoken at the jobs and skills summit, explaining that he came “genuinely ... to be constructive” (for context, the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has snubbed the summit).
Littleproud noted contributions from the National Farmers Federation and the Council of Small Business Organisations that 172,000 more workers are needed to get food from farm to plate. Littleproud welcomed the government’s support for Pacific work visas, but said they “can’t do it all”.
I saw the human toll. In Carnarvon, [one farmer] walked away from his property because he didn’t have the confidence to be able to plant a crop and harvest it. Some farms are planning to run at only 50-60% capacity. That causes not just a cost of living crisis, it’s a food security crisis ...
I’ve got pubs in my own electorate in Barcaldine, the home of the Labor party, where pubs are not open for a feed because they can’t get cooks.
Littleproud said there seemed to be a “unity ticket” for a pathway to permanency for people who take agricultural or regional skills visa. “We’ve had enough of them coming picking crops and passing through; we want them to live in regional Australia,” he said.
The Nationals leader called on the government to consider student debt waivers or discounts for medical professionals who work in regional areas, and said the principle should be extended to medicos working in aged care.
Government also bringing wait time down for student visas, immigration minister says
The immigration minister Andrew Giles’ speech also spoke to the effects border closures and visa backlogs had on the higher education sector:
The border closure also wreaked havoc for Australia’s higher education sector and many of our regions. Again, our repair work is well under way.
In May, students outside of Australia had to wait on average 40 days for their visa. Today, that figure is down to 31. Importantly, over half of all working holiday visas for young people overseas are now finalised in less than a day.
The actions we are taking are making a difference – but we recognise there is more to do. And we will do more to clear this backlog and set up our visa system to meet the challenges of the future.
Immigration minister vows visa ‘backlog will be cleared’ at jobs summit
We earlier brought you the announcement at the jobs summit by the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, that the government will spend $36.1m to clear the visa backlog by increasing department staff by 500 over the next nine months.
Here’s a bit more on what Giles had to say in his speech:
This government is getting on with the job of ending this crisis.
Since the election, an additional 180 staff are working on visa processing. Right now, 190 staff are being onboarded and up to 200 staff are working regular overtime.
Because visa processing is critical to an effective migration system, for individuals, including workers and for businesses. The point of a temporary skilled visa is to facilitate workers into high-wage jobs quickly. This has been frustrated by delay.
Now, the median number of days it takes for a person coming to Australia on a temporary skilled visa is down, from 53 days in May to 42 days in July. And the median time taken to approve new businesses for sponsorship has halved from 37 days to 18.
Giles said that $36.1m would be invested in visa processing to surge staff capacity by 500 people for the next nine months.
In addition to clearing the backlog, this will help deliver the permanent migration program that minister O’Neil just spoke to.
The backlog will be cleared. Waiting times will continue to come down.
ACT records one Covid death and 91 people in hospital
There were 163 new cases in the last reporting period, and no people are in intensive care.
No tsunami threat from Darwin earthquake, according to Bureau of Meteorology
PM rejects call to change the date of Australia Day
Anthony Albanese has rejected calls to change Australia Day, saying the government has no plans to shift it to another date, AAP reports.
Instead, the prime minster’s priority is to bring the nation together and to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the constitution, he told Seven’s Sunrise today. He said:
No, we have no plans to change Australia Day.
The City of Melbourne flagged it will consider advocating to the federal government to change Australia Day at a council meeting next week.
A survey of more than 1,600 local residents and businesses found nearly 60% of respondents wanted to see Australia Day celebrated on a different date, the council said. The five traditional owner-organisations that make up the Eastern Kulin nation also unanimously supported changing the date.
If the council endorses the vote, it would commit to still issuing permits for Australia Day activities by the state government and other organisations. It would also support activities that acknowledged the First Nations perspectives of 26 January and citizenship ceremonies would continue to be held.
Albanese urged the Melbourne council to shift its focus. He said:
I know the lord mayor [Sally Capp] there, she is a terrific person.
I’d say let’s focus on recognising the fact that our nation’s birth certificate should proudly recognise that we did not begin in 1788, which is what the 26th of January commemorates; it began at least 60,000 years ago with the oldest continuous civilisation on earth.
That should be a source of pride.
Australians abandon buying first homes as loan costs outweigh property price drops
We noted here yesterday that housing finance is sinking pretty much across the board, with loans rates for first-home buyers looking at being owner-occupiers (rather than property investors) dropping.
Here we look at the tug-of-war between falling housing prices and rising borrowing costs – guess which is winning:
Sally Tindall, the head of research for RateCity, says the average person’s maximum borrowing capacity has dropped by about 16% as a result of the last four interest rate rises.
“This is significantly more than the property price drops recorded across the country,” Tindall said, noting prices in Sydney – where the fall has been the sharpest – is off 7.4%.
One caveat is that only 8.7% of new borrowers are seeking to borrow at the max - probably a wise move, since interest rates are likely to rise a bit more yet. (Investors rate an 83% chance that the RBA will lift its cash rate by 50 basis points next Tuesday).
In a segue to the jobs summit, the extra 35,000 skilled migrants a year just announced at the event (raising the total to 195,000 – why not go for a big round 200,000?) raises an issue about housing too.
“We should not lift the migration cap in isolation from all of these other important considerations, whether it be housing, [or] services,” the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said in answer to a Guardian Australian mumble.
Dutton says industry-wide bargaining will be ‘disaster’ for Australian economy
Reporters press Dutton on describing it as a union summit, when “it would seem that there’s a fair amount of consensus there, [and it] seems Labor is getting through reforms the former government couldn’t get through in nine years”.
Dutton responds that reforms like industry-wide bargaining are “a disaster for our economy.”
It’s a disaster for small business and the government will dress this up as a win and a consensus and as a great outcome but what it means when you unpack it all … you get the thugs from [the] CFMEU and other union bosses who are going to be storming across the country wanting businesses and workers to strike and close down.
We haven’t seen it in our lifetime, but a return to the 1970s and economy-wide industrial action is not good for workers and not good for employers and [is] certainly not good for the broader economy.
The fundamentals of our economy are incredibly strong. We got unemployment at a 50-year low. We made decisions in government over the course of the last nine years, which meant that the economy that Labor had inherited is incredibly strong. Not the case in the US, not the case in the UK where those two economies, I think, with certainty will go into recession … I don’t want that for our country.
… Labor would have to make a lot of bad decisions and make a number of wrong calls to send us into recession and I want to fight against that… what the government’s packaging here at the union summit as a win is actually a win for the union bosses. When Labor says this is a win, they’re talking about the union bosses, not the workers.
Dutton feeling ‘vindicated’ not attending jobs summit he says is only ‘big win’ for unions
Opposition leader Peter Dutton was asked by a reporter:
Are you feeling any sense of regret for not attending the summit after seeing how the first day went?
I feel completely vindicated, [I’ve] got to say. Sitting there with some CFMEU thug is not my idea of a fun day out … the unions are being revitalised, this is exactly what they want, you have seen it in the union leaders’ contributions at the union summit already.
… the unions are empowered. They’re emboldened and it’s going to be a dangerous period for the Australian economy if we have got economy-wide bargaining where we can have economy-wide strikes and they have no regard, as we’re seeing in New South Wales at the moment, for the impact on everyday Australians where people can’t get to work, where they can’t make business decisions to invest because they don’t know whether they’ll be closed down by the unions.
The prime minister has promised a lot out of this summit but the only thing he’s delivered is a big win for the union movement.
Dutton criticises Labor for waiting for jobs summit to lift migration cap
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, is speaking from the Gold Coast (not Canberra, since he turned down the government’s invitation to attend the jobs summit).
Dutton is responding to the government’s announcement that they are increasing the migration cap to 195,000:
A decision should have been made 100 days ago when the government was elected but they didn’t do that.
They waited for this union summit, and we do need an increase in the migration numbers, but we’ll see what the government actually delivers because this can be many, many months, if not a couple of years, in the pipeline.
So these are all grand announcements, I want to see the rubber hit the road. I want to see the actual numbers, not the projected numbers and see what Labor can deliver instead of what thinkthanks talk about, because businesses and workplaces need that certainty now, and under this government we got a situation that is bad [and] that has been made worse by their prevarication and their inability to make decisions in a timely way for the benefit of the economy.
RSPCA give their big (tomcat) boys a push ahead of Father’s Day
The RSPCA in South Australia is urging people to celebrate Father’s Day by adopting a “handsome, softly round tomcat”.
The largest cat they have on offer is seven-year-old Mickey, who weighs 9kg but should, with a bit of rationing, reach 7.5kg.
Jenny Sherring, the cat administration manager, said the tomcats would all have fathered kittens before coming to the RSPCA. She said:
By the time these big boys come to us, they usually have a bit of history, a few war wounds and plenty of offspring.
All they’re looking for is time on the couch, regular meals and occasional ear scratches, and in return they’ll give you the kind of joyful company you only get from a rescued animal who know he’s lucked out.
There are currently 60 cats in shelters in South Australia, a change from the height of lockdown, where animal shelters were cleared out by people seeking companionship.
Unfortunately for the animals, some of that companionship was temporary – as Emily Wind and Adeshola Ore reported, there was a 20-30% increase in animal surrenders to RSPCA NSW after lockdown ended. In Victoria, the RSPCA has also reported an influx of animals and recently offered dogs for adoption for $100 to clear out the shelters.
Jobs summit an occasion to ‘stop kidding ourselves’ about how well economy is performing, keynote speaker says
One element of the jobs summit that deserves more attention than it probably has got is the wide-ranging speech to the delegates’ dinner last night from the prominent economist Ross Garnaut.
Garnaut, as you may recall, was a senior economist in the Hawke Labor government, echoes of which have lingered this week given the summit’s faint resemblance to the prices and incomes accord meeting way back in 1983.
Now a professorial fellow at the University of Melbourne, Garnaut has been a prolific author including on public policy (Dog Days), and the decarbonisation efforts to tackle climate change (Superpower). (He has interests in several clean energy firms too.)
Anyway, Garnaut’s wide-ranging speech picked over a lot of Australia’s challenges, and how governments might pay for them. Garnaut said:
This summit isn’t the place and time in which we agree on a comprehensive approach to our problems and opportunities. But it can be the occasion when we stop kidding ourselves about the extent of the problems and share new thoughts about the best way forward.
We are kidding ourselves about how well our economy is performing
absolutely, and relative to other developed countries.
Unlike western Europe and north-east Asia, Australia as a geographic entity has higher terms of trade when gas and coal prices rise … But under current policies, average Australians are poorer.
The appropriate public policy response is mineral rent taxation and not pressures for higher wages.
Resource taxing was just one of many ways that Australia could raise additional revenue while “enhancing equity and improving, or at least not damaging, economic efficiency”, he said.
We recently looked at mounting calls to tap that mountain of money (mostly unearned, it should be said, since the Russian war on Ukraine is the primary source of the recent profit bonanza):
Treasurer Jim Chalmers, though, isn’t budging on chasing a windfall tax on resources.
“[Garnaut] made a lot of good points in that speech but I don’t propose to go down that path,” Chalmers told journalists outside the summit conference hall on Friday morning.
Still, the budget is not due until 25 October, so Chalmers is likely to be asked about that windfall tax (and the stage three tax cuts) a bit more between then and now.
Government commits $36m to clear visa backlog
The immigration minister Andrew Giles has said the government will spend $36.1m to clear the visa backlog by increasing department staff by 500 over the next nine months.
Migration cap raised to 195,000
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, has revealed at the jobs and skills summit that the government will lift the migration cap to 195,000.
Over the last few weeks, the size of the migration program has been a huge focus. We have run more than 100 roundtables and spoken to so many stakeholders in this room.
There is nothing in this room with universal support, but an area where almost everyone agrees is that we need to lift the permanent migration numbers for this year. I want to emphasise that one of Labor’s priorities is to move away from the focus on short-term migrants, toward permanency, citizenship and nation building.
The permanent migration rate for 2022/23 had been set at 160,000 places; the government will now increase that number to 195,000 this financial year.
What does it mean? It means thousands more nurses settling in the country this year, thousands more engineers. I note David Littleproud is here – David, this will mean 34,000 places in the regions for this year, 9,000 more than would have occurred otherwise.
To our state and territory premiers – we are building in a big lift under the state and territory allocations, from 11,000 last year to 31,000.
We’ve made that decision based on the discussions we have had and the urging of the people in this room. That is your voice being reflected in government decision-making.
Victoria records 17 Covid deaths and 295 people in hospital
There were 2,393 new cases in the last reporting period, and 13 people are in intensive care.
NSW records 21 Covid deaths and 1,726 people in hospital
There were 4,169 new cases in the last reporting period, and 36 people are in intensive care.
Let senior nurses work without hitting pensions: Palaszczuk
The Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has just floated a very interesting idea at the jobs and skills summit.
Palaszczuk suggested that if healthcare professionals such as nurses were able to work for one to two years without it impacting their pensions, it could draw thousands of seniors back into the workforce.
It’s an interesting observation, because the Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, has been complaining that Labor didn’t take up his idea from June to let pensioners work more.
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has said the government is open to it. Let’s see if it features in the list of concrete measures he’ll deliver this afternoon.
Insurance and financial services group fined $1.55m for sending its customers spam
Latitude Financial, the insurance and financial services group run by former Australia Post boss Ahmed Fahour, has been fined $1.55m after sending its customers more than 3m spam emails and texts.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority said Latitude mischaracterised the spam messages as information about products the customers already held.
However, they instead promoted products including credit cards, mobile apps and reward programs, and did not have any way to opt out, the regulator said.
It said that the messages were sent to customers - including ones who had already attempted to unsubscribe - between June last year and March this year.
Acma’s chair, Nerida O’Loughlin, said:
Companies cannot promote their products and services to customers under the guise of simply providing them with factual information.
It said companies also needed to provide recipients with a way to opt out, and act on it within five days of being told to stop sending spam.
Latitude failed on both these counts.
It also did not make changes to its practices even after we alerted it several times that it may have compliance problems.
Latitude has also agreed to appoint an independent expert to overhaul its compliance with spam laws.
A Latitude spokesperson said the company accepted the findings of the Acma investigation and apologised to customers. The spokesperson said.
While the Acma finding relates to communications which caused no financial harm to customers, Latitude acknowledges that the fine and enforceable undertaking reflect the volume and seriousness of the breach.
Alan Joyce and other summit attendees flew into Canberra on government jet, PM confirms
Albanese confirmed it is true that one of the attendees at the summit – Qantas’s chief executive, Alan Joyce – hitched a ride on the government jet to Canberra.
He did, as well as a whole lot of other people. We had the Business Council of Australia dinner on Wednesday night, so myself and other ministers who were there – we offered lifts to anyone who wanted to come down ...
ABC News Breakfast asked Albanese if the RAAF didn’t lose his bags?
The RAAF will be paid a fare not just from Alan Joyce, but from the head of the BCA, Jennifer Westacott, from Tim Reid and a bunch of others who were on the plane with us all together. It was a good thing that got everyone to Canberra in time so he that we could start the summit on Thursday, and I can confirm that the Royal Australian Air Force have never lost anyone’s bag ever.
Albanese defends cutting down Covid-19 isolation time after concerns raised by top medical body
Circling back to Anthony Albanese’s interview with ABC Breakfast News: the prime minister was asked about concerns the Australian Medical Association has expressed following national cabinet’s decision to reduce the Covid-19 isolation period from seven to five days.
Asked whether he understands why not everybody agrees with the decision, Albanese said:
If you’re sick, if you’ve got symptoms, you should not be going to work. It is as simple as that. But if people aren’t contagious, they are not sick, they don’t have any symptoms after five days and they want to be at work and they want to be at work [and] their employers want them to be at work as well, then … on the balance of where we are at [it is] a necessary change to take place and one that was supported by all states and territories, and to which the national cabinet has come to a uniform position on.
Albanese said it was a “good thing that the national cabinet is now operating with one voice” which had not happened previously and proved confusing for Australians.
NSW rail unions refuse government’s demand to halt industrial action
The New South Wales rail unions have refused to give in to the government’s demand to halt industrial action by 5pm today, warning more could be on the way.
The NSW government said on Thursday that it would seek to terminate the enterprise agreement of thousands of rail workers and scrap a deal to modify a multi-billion dollar fleet of trains unless the union agrees to end all industrial action by 5pm Friday.
But the head of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, Alex Claassens, has vowed the union will not back down, saying there was “no intention” to stop current actions and warning more could be on the way.
I’ve never seen anything like it before. On Wednesday night, and then again on Thursday afternoon, we were sitting across from the most senior managers on our railway, and they were blindsided by political brinkmanship by the NSW government. It’s like the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.
For the last few days, we have been working towards a positive outcome but the documents they’re trying to force us to sign are not in the best interests of members or commuters. This government does not care about the people of NSW, all they care about is their own jobs.
We have no intention of stopping our protected industrial action and the premier shouldn’t be surprised if more industrial action is called next week.
The government has threatened to take the unions to the Fair Work Commission seeking to terminate the agreement, but on Thursday night the combined rail unions decided to take the first step themselves, lodging an urgent application seeking to force the government back to the bargaining table.
The application, which will likely be heard today, accuses the government of failing to bargain in good faith.
Tackling housing shortage ‘absolutely critical’ at the same time as migration, Albanese says
The prime minister is asked about what upping skilled migration numbers will mean for the housing shortage. Albanese says “it is absolutely critical”:
You need to have reforms that all work together. So you need to do something about immediate skills shortages through the migration system. You need to look at the nature of that migration system so that it is permanent rather than temporary. You need to train Australians for the jobs and skills that are needed so that they can benefit, whether it’s young people going into a trade or whether it is people retraining as the economy changes.
But you also need to look at housing affordability … we are looking at how you increase housing supply, how you free up private capital to go into housing, through the superannuation industry in particular … [that’s] one example of an area where you can get real improvement.
We are also looking at what the federal government can do in partnership with the states, including planning and land use issues … We need to deal with the challenges which are there, but we need to do it in a way that doesn’t create additional challenges somewhere else, and that’s where housing supply is so critical.
More permanent migration needed to combat ‘over-reliance on temporary labour’, PM says
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking to ABC News Breakfast from Canberra on day two of the jobs summit where skilled migration is on the agenda.
He is asked if a consensus emerged from taking the migration intake from 160,000 a year to 200,000:
There is a consensus that there is a need for an increase, and also a consensus that it is not just about the numbers but about the make-up of our migration system: that we need to move towards more permanent migration rather than a reliance on temporary labour.
What [a focus on temporary labour] did was set us up and make us more vulnerable so that when the borders shut, all of a sudden there was an overreliance on temporary labour, which meant that we could not fill the skills that were needed in this country.
Tasmanian Tafe needs to be fit for purpose before additional places can make a difference, Lambie says
The government yesterday kicked off the jobs and skills summit with the announcement of 180,000 more free Tafe places.
Senator Jacqui Lambie appeared on ABC Radio this morning and said while she supported free Tafe places, she said in Tasmania there were more pressing issues beyond creating the places themselves.
Lambie said Tasmanian Tafe facilities were “not fit for purpose”, with some machinery from the 1950s.
She also said staffing problems at Tafe also meant courses had needed to be cancelled.
Government considering extending parental leave but not mining tax, PM says
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, says extending paid parental leave to 26 weeks is “worthy of consideration” but that his government isn’t thinking about a mining tax.
Speaking on Channel Nine’s Today show ahead of day two of the jobs summit, Albanese said his government was “going to have a look at paid parental leave” after some business groups and unions called for expansion of the system.
We certainly would like to do more, but some of these issues, of course, are within the budget constraints, which are there … we have inherited $1tn of debt. Yes, it is a worthy idea and worthy of consideration.
A Parliament House dinner after day one of the jobs summit last night heard from the respected economist Ross Garnaut, who suggested the government should consider a tax on mining profits. The PM shot that down.
No, that’s not on the agenda. But it is a good thing that people are able to put forward ideas.
Asked directly whether the government would entertain a mining tax, Albanese responded with a flat “no”.
Day two of jobs summit kicks off with focus on migration
The minister for skills and training, Brendan O’Connor, joins the other members of his government who are saying the jobs summit will deliver on developing skilled migration pathways.
Treasurer ‘proud’ of childcare policy despite ruling out bringing subsidies forward
Women’s participation in the workforce was front and centre of the jobs summit yesterday. The minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, told ABC Radio this morning that this was the first time women were genuinely “equal partners” at a summit of this kind.
The host of RN Breakfast, Patricia Karvelas, has continued to press members of government on if they would bring forward their policies to increase childcare subsidies, given their position that access to affordable early education was key to unlocking women’s participation in the workforce.
When Karvelas asked Jim Chalmers if bringing this subsidy increase forward to January is “definitely off the table,” he maintained his stance that “the cost was going to be prohibitive”.
Asked, “isn’t the cost worth it if it pays dividends, as you say?”, Chalmers responded:
That’s not how the budget works ... again, I welcome a conversation about our childcare policy as I’m really proud of it.
But if and when the circumstances permit and the budget makes it possible there are some of these ideas I would love to pick up and run with.
Asked about how it sits with him that stage 3 tax cuts disproportionately go to men when the government is talking about helping women, Chalmers said: “I think we need to do more to invest in Australian women.”
We want to place women at the centre of our economic plan and our economic efforts.
Karvelas had yesterday also pressed Katy Gallagher, the minister for finance and women, on the issue of stage three tax cuts could fund the subsidies, but Gallagher she said Labor would not break an election promise.
Senator Jacquie Lambie this morning reinforced her support for scrapping the stage three tax cuts and said it was reasonable for a government to reassess their position, after gaining election and finding their books in a worse-than-expected state.
Government ‘cautiously prepared’ to lift migration cap, treasurer says
RN Breakfast’s host, Patricia Karvelas, tried to get a number out of Jim Chalmers on migration, asking if the cap will be lifted to 200,000. He replied:
That will be a matter for the discussions today … we are prepared to lift that cap, but cautiously and not in isolation from all the other things we need to get right at the same time.
Treasurer asked about proposal to reintroduce mining tax
Jim Chalmers is asked about the proposition that was put forward by the keynote speaker at the summit last night, Ross Garnaut, to reintroduce the mining tax to spread high-resource profits to workers:
We don’t have a policy for a mining tax.
Asked if it is worth revisiting, he replies:
We do have a tax reform agenda. It is about company taxes in the multinational realm.
Purpose of bargaining reform is to create agreement, not conflict, Chalmers says
The treasurer is now speaking with ABC Radio about reforming enterprise bargaining, and is asked whether the government will ensure laws don’t allow industry-wide strikes. Jim Chalmers responds:
Our purpose is not more conflict, it’s more agreement and that objective is broadly shared across unions and businesses. Obviously enterprise bargaining isn’t delivering … so something has got to change.
The final design of the laws [around multi-employer bargaining] is a matter for Tony Burke working closely with all of the stakeholders – that will happen almost immediately.
Asked if he will build into the bargaining system the right to strike across workplaces, Chalmers said:
All industrial relations systems in the free world have some level of industrial action in them … there is a right balance to be struck there.
And Tony’s job … is to make sure we strike that right balance.
Bargaining reform will help get wages moving, treasurer says
Treasurer Jim Chalmers says stagnant wages is a key economic challenge and the government will push forward with legislation to make it easier for workers to push for pay rises.
Chalmers said on 7.30 last night that one way to get wages moving was to modernise bargaining “in the interest, not just to workers, but also of employers as well the economy”:
There’ll be a lot of consultation which Tony Burke flagged today including with some of the employer groups who have raised their concerns. We listened respectfully to those concerns when they are raised but we intend to proceed down this path because we can’t have more of the same wage stagnation which has been a feature of the economy for the best part of a decade. That has been a recipe for Australian working families to fall further and further behind and that is a key economic challenge that we can’t ignore.
Migration should bring in those who are going to ‘set down roots’, minister says
Prime minister Anthony Albanese told ABC yesterday evening that he was “very confident” that a positive announcement would come out of the jobs and skills summit on migration.
The minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, spoke to ABC Radio this morning ahead of opening the summit’s discussion on the topic. This is what she had to say about permanent migration:
We can build a better program if we think more carefully about bringing people into this country who are going to set down roots and support their local school and, you know, do all these amazing things that our that our forebears did that built this great country. So we can do that again. But the migration system we have today isn’t getting us there.
Migration and training is on the agenda for the second and final day of the government’s jobs and skills summit, with movement expected on the cap on skilled migration. The government has promised it will produce a document with summit’s immediate outcomes by the day’s end.
Clare O’Neil is opening the migration debate at the summit and appeared on ABC Radio this morning. The home affairs ministers said there was “broad consensus” about the skills shortage, with the problem not just affecting business but all sectors from health to hospitality and agriculture:
One of the things about our migration system at the moment is there’s a big reform opportunity. I don’t think the system’s delivering for the country.
And one of the big problems with this system is that we’ve created one where it’s actually very easy to come to Australia as a temporary worker, probably in a pretty low-skilled job, but virtually impossible to come here permanently as a high-skilled worker.
But O’Neil said the government would only get the social licence from Australians on lifting migration caps if it could fix housing, committing to couple discussion about housing with migration.
She said there was a need to stop thinking about migrations as “turning a tap on and off” and to start discussions about the other appropriate policy settings needed to support it.
In state news, premiers including Mark McGowan and Dominic Perrottet have defended the national cabinet’s decision to reduce the Covid-19 isolation period after criticism from the Australian Medical Association, which called on authorities to release the health advice underpinning the decision.
Meanwhile, 5pm today is the deadline the NSW government has given unions to accept its ultimatum. It will seek to terminate the enterprise agreement of thousands of rail workers and scrap a deal to modify a multibillion-dollar fleet of trains unless the union agrees to end all industrial action before the weekend.
Let’s get going!