What we learned – Monday 26 September
And that’s where we’ll leave you today. Here’s a little sample of what we learned:
The prime minister Anthony Albanese said the massive Optus data breach should be “a huge wake-up call for the corporate sector” around data protection.
Home affairs minister Clare O’Neil is expected to propose new legislation allowing big companies to inform banks of data breaches earlier in a bid to better safeguard information and bank accounts. She has also suggested the government may legislate fines over the Optus breach.
Meanwhile, Optus has refused to confirm reports that the company’s data is on sale online, with the person who obtained the data offering to sell it back to the company for $1m. The telco has announced it will provide 12 months of credit monitoring to customers affected by the breach of its data, after O’Neil called in parliament for the company to make the service available.
Law firm Slater and Gordon has announced it is investigating launching a possible class action against Optus on behalf of customers affected by the data breach. Class actions senior associate Ben Zocco said it was “potentially the most serious privacy breach in Australian history”.
The attorney general Mark Dreyfus confirmed the national integrity commission legislation will the power to investigate third parties (contracted to do government work) and to hold public hearings.
Health minister Mark Butler said monkeypox infection numbers were “stabilising significantly” in Australia.
The Paralympian and disability advocate Kurt Fearnley was appointed chairman of the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency.
The federal government has tabled its response to the interim royal commission report into defence and veteran suicide.
And the Australian Council of Social Service launched a new report showing just how impossible it is to live on the jobseeker and youth allowance rates.
Thanks for sticking with us. Amy Remeikis will be back with you first thing in the morning. Goodnight.
Labor MPs warn of ‘vested interests’ and ‘political agendas’ in media diversity debate
Independent MP Zoe Daniel has moved a motion calling for a media diversity judicial inquiry, with the powers of a royal commission.
The idea was backed by Labor and Greens senators in a Senate inquiry in December, but the then Albanese opposition ruled it out ahead of the 2022 election.
Some of the Labor MPs’ contributions to the debate have been interesting though.
Josh Wilson told the parliament’s federation chamber:
We can’t continue to have public broadcasters run down in funding and reputation, when there is a clear political element to those attacks ... We can’t have political journalism drift towards sensationalist or trivially combative style of engagement reporting. We can’t have a narrow set of media companies with outlets running what to any sensible person appears to be a coordinated and self interested political agenda on some issues.
Wilson said he wanted a more balanced, more diverse and more independent media – but a royal commission wasn’t the way to go about it.
Julian Hill said “for now the government is right to focus on practical actions” such as improving measures of media diversity and reforming anti-siphoning laws – but he remains “healthily skeptical” that these will be enough.
It should be uncontroversial to accept in the future that at whatever time a media diversity inquiry is called that it makes sense it be at arm’s length from politicians. The vested interests are too powerful and the incentives all wrong.
Tania Lawrence said Labor had made it clear an inquiry was not part of its agenda and agreed with communications minister Michelle Rowland that there was a “failure to act not a failure to inquire”.
Earlier, Daniel said:
[The Senate inquiry produced a] majority report, supported by Labor Senators, and yet, like the last government, this government refuses to face up to and tackle one of the biggest existential threats to our democracy.
Information is power. Disinformation, unfortunately even more so. We are suffering from a media drought. The contraction of media means that sources of conversations around the country are fewer and less diverse; there is less scrutiny, especially at the local level, with consequences for the quality of governance.
In some parts of the country, there are no local print outlets at all. In others there are several outlets, but they’re all run by the same company.
It’s time for some First Dog on the Moon.
Bit of rain about tomorrow
Here’s the forecast for NSW, and a flood watch has been issued for parts of regional Victoria.
Scooter rider dies after collision with car in ACT
A car collided with an electric scooter on Sunday afternoon, killing the rider, ACT police have said.
Emergency services were called to the corner to a site in the suburb of Kambah just after 3pm on Sunday, according to a statement from the police.
The statement said:
Evidence from the scene suggested a car and an electric scooter had collided. The rider of the scooter had been thrown a substantial distance across the intersection. The scooter rider was not wearing a helmet.
Emergency services transported the 19-year-old female to Canberra hospital with serious head and leg injuries however she has since been pronounced deceased.
The territory’s major collision team are investigating and will prepare a report for the coroner.
It’s the territory’s 12th road fatality this year.
Minister outlines pathway to referendum for Indigenous voice to parliament
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, has told an education conference in Adelaide this afternoon there are three next steps on the road to the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament:
One. Getting First Nations representatives together to work together with government by providing advice and guidance on key issues relating to the referendum.
Two. Continue to build as broad as possible support across the country, particularly at the state level.
Three. Harness the goodwill of the Australian people who want the promise of a better future.
Burney told the World Indigenous peoples’ conference on education that a vote on voice to parliament will be the first referendum to be held “in the digital age”, and the “machinery” (legislation) for holding a referendum was in need of updating.
The youngest Australians to have voted in a successful referendum will be 64 years of age next year.
In 1999 during the Republic referendum, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter did not exist. And just 1.5m Australian households were connected to the internet.
Today, around 23.5m Australians use the internet each day.
The system for holding referendums in Australia is set down in the Referendum Machinery Act (1984), which she said is out of date.
The Act currently relies on voters being sent information in print form. It requires a pamphlet to be mailed in the post to each elector describing the proposed change, and giving them a 2,000 word essay from the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cases - as provided by parliament.
These are issues government is looking at carefully.
The special minister for state, Senator Don Farrell will have more to say on these matters in the months ahead.
Defence minister spokesperson responds to ADF whistleblower’s allegations
Many of you will have seen a disturbing story from my colleague Joey Watson this morning, reporting allegations that a defence training program is causing unnecessary trauma to participants and involving acts of shocking humiliation. The course is designed to prepare soldiers for potential capture and interrogation by enemy forces.
But a whistleblower, Damien De Pyle, alleges he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after being forced to simulate child rape, among other acts, while in a state of extreme sleep deprivation.
We asked the deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles whether he had concerns about the allegations. A spokesperson said:
Conduct after Capture training is designed to protect and prepare ADF members should they be captured while on operations.
The safety and wellbeing of defence personnel in all training activities is paramount.
As defence has stated, it does not tolerate unacceptable behaviour in any form.
Defence has previously said it provides support to those participating in the program and that participation is voluntary.
What should you do to protect yourself after the Optus data breach?
After Optus revealed its massive data security breach on Thursday, customers started receiving emails informing them that their personal information had been accessed.
The telco said that while no financial information or passwords were accessed, the breach has seen customers’ names, dates of birth, email addresses, phone numbers, addresses associated with their account, and details of ID documents such as drivers licence numbers or passport numbers compromised.
Optus has not revealed how many of its nearly 9.7m subscribers in Australia were compromised by the breach, only that the number was “significant”.
If you are among those affected, you are probably wondering about what your next steps should be. Guardian Australia has asked experts for their advice.
Albanese government ‘incredibly angry’ over Optus breach and may legislate fines
The home affairs minister Clare O’Neil has been speaking to ABC Melbourne and laying into Optus. She says the cyber-attack on Optus was “not particularly technologically challenging”:
This is a very significant error on Optus’ part – and they are to blame. The truth is: the nature of the cyber hack that was undertaken here was not particularly technologically challenging, and one of the great disappointments for me as cyber security minister is we had a great telcom company left open to a vulnerability of this size.
The Albanese government is incredibly angry – what they’ve done is left a security risk for Australians that has left a very large share of the Australian population [vulnerable], and we have to do whatever we can to support those Australians to protect themselves. Who is at fault? Optus.
O’Neil said it was a “very costly incident” for Optus, but at this stage the government doesn’t have the power to fine them, unlike in Europe where they would be liable for hundreds of millions in fines.
“We’ll be looking at that in the wake of the incident,” she said, hinting the Albanese government may legislate fines.
New AI luggage scanning tool to detect trafficked wildlife
Scientists have combined artificial intelligence with 3D x-ray scanning in a tool they say can detect trafficked wildlife hidden in luggage or other cargo.
The researchers have used 3D computed tomography (CT) scanning technology and trained an AI to recognise reptiles, birds and fish.
Lead author Dr Vanessa Pirotta, chief scientist at the security screening firm RapiscanSystems, said wildlife trafficking was a global problem and the AI tool would “complement existing detection measures”. She said:
We’ve been scanning a variety of wildlife that we know is usually, unfortunately, implicated in trafficking – such as reptiles and birds as an example. We’re teaching computers to look for these items in mail and luggage pathways.
The AI was trained using several hundred reference images of 13 animal species, including lizards, snakes, turtles and the sulphur-crested cockatoo.
The algorithm had an accurate detection rate of 82% with a false alarm rate of 1.6%.
The wildlife specimens used to train the AI were collected opportunistically from the Taronga Wildlife Hospital in Sydney – either from seized trafficking cases or from sick or injured wildlife brought into the hospital.
The AI was still in development and had not yet been implemented, Pirotta said.
The research – a collaboration between Rapiscan Systems, the Taronga Conservation Society, and the federal department of agriculture, fisheries and forestry – has been published in the journal Frontiers in Conservation Science.
Australia is one of 183 signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an agreement between governments that regulates the global movement of wildlife.
Tech giants have more power than the ‘railroads and oil tycoons of the Gilded Age’, Liberal senator says
Further to that economics references committee inquiry into big tech that we mentioned earlier.
Liberal senator Andrew Bragg, who put forward the terms of the inquiry, has released a statement about it, saying it is “broad-ranging” and “overdue”, and that big tech platforms “have more power than the railroads and oil tycoons of the Gilded Age”.
The major technology platforms have amassed more power than any other corporations in recent history. The “big five” international big tech platforms have more power than the railroads and oil tycoons of the Gilded Age.
Australia’s Parliament must form a stronger view on what the enormous concentration of power through vertical integration and meshing of hardware and software means for our country.
The Inquiry will look closely at the consolidation of platforms as well as the use of algorithms and how this affects the public interest.
With all the benefits of technology, it’s important “that Australians are not being exploited by possibly the strongest corporations in history”, Bragg said.
He pointed to media bargaining and online safety as areas in which risks have been mitigated effectively in the past.
We should not seek to turn back the clock or descend into protectionism. Big tech platforms can and should be our partners in protecting Australians and our interests.
Greens senators call for Pauline Hanson to be censured over tweet
Greens senators Mehreen Faruqi and Larissa Waters have lodged a Senate motion censuring fellow senator Pauline Hanson for saying Faruqi should “piss off back to Pakistan” earlier this month.
Hanson made the comment after Faruqi expressed condolences on the occasion of the Queen’s death “to those who knew the Queen” but said she “cannot mourn the leader of a racist empire built on stolen lives, land and wealth of colonised peoples”.
For more background to the story, see the write-up from Paul Karp here:
The Senate has established an economics references committee inquiry into big tech.
The terms of the inquiry, put forward by Liberal Andrew Bragg, claim big tech exerts “power and influence over markets and public debate, to the detriment of Australian democracy and users”.
It will consider:
a) the market shares of such international digital platforms across the provision of hardware and software services
b) vertical integration, or linking of multiple services, products and/or hardware, within such international digital platforms and resultant outcomes on users’ ability to exercise choice
c) whether algorithms used by such international digital platforms lack transparency, manipulate users and user responses, and contribute to greater concentrations of market power and how regulating this behaviour could lead to better outcomes in the public interest
d) the collection and processing of children’s data, particularly for the purposes of profiling, behavioural advertising, or other uses
e) the adequacy and effectiveness of recent attempts, in Australia and internationally, to regulate the activities of such international digital platforms
f) broader impacts of concentration of market power on consumers, competition and macro-economic performance, and potential solutions; and any other related matters
UN Human Rights climate finding a 'game changer', legal experts say
Legal experts have described as a “game changer” a United Nations Human Rights Committee finding that Australia violated the rights of a group Torres Strait Islanders by failing to adequately protect them from climate change.
The committee handed down the decision on Friday, finding the government had “violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home”.
Fleur Ramsay, from legal firm Environmental Defenders Office, says the case is significant, particularly for legal challenges involving climate change, Indigenous peoples and where human rights are a factor.
It’s a game changer.
It is extremely significant and lays the foundations for other low-lying island communities, such as Pacific communities and Pacific island states to pursue claims for loss and damage against high emitting nation-states potentially through international tribunals like the international Court of justice, and fossil fuel or big energy companies in the courts.
Sarah Joseph, a professor of law at Griffith University, says the decision’s “biggest impact could be two-fold”.
She said the case could be referred to in legal action before Australian courts, such as a challenge being made on human rights grounds to Clive Palmer’s proposed Galilee Coal Project in Queensland.
She says it may also inspire other international challenges from Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities and pointed to the community of Lismore, devastated by floods, as a potential example.
The decision by the UN human rights committee came more than three years after eight adults and six children from four low-lying islands off the northern coast of Australia lodged a complaint against the Morrison government, claiming it had failed to take adequate action to cut emissions or pursue proper adaptation measures.
The decision found they should be compensated.
David Barnden, principal lawyer at Equity Generation Lawyers that represented school students who challenged the Vickery coal mine in NSW on climate grounds, says the move towards compensation at UN level was encouraging.
That’s being spoken about more and will be spoken about at the upcoming [climate] Cop.
In my view it’s a really good development in terms of access to justice and starts to go in the right direction.
Optus data breach: AFP working with overseas law enforcement
The Australian Federal Police has said it is “working closely with overseas law enforcement” to identify the hackers behind the attack, with reports of stolen data being sold on the dark web.
In a statement today, the AFP said:
Operation Hurricane has been launched to identify the criminals behind the alleged breach and to help shield Australians from identity fraud.
The AFP is aware of reports of the sale of stolen data and investigations are continuing.
To protect the integrity of the criminal investigation, the AFP will not divulge what information it has obtained in the first few days of Operation Hurricane.
However, the public can be assured that since a report from Optus on 23 September, 2022, the AFP has diverted significant resources to the investigation.
A new partnership between “law enforcement, the private sector and industry to combat the growing threat of cybercrime” is also contributing to the investigation.
Assistant commissioner cyber command Justine Gough said the investigation would be “extremely complex and very lengthy”:
We are aware of reports of stolen data being sold on the dark web and that is why the AFP is monitoring the dark web using a range of specialist capabilities. Criminals, who use pseudonyms and anonymising technology, can’t see us but I can tell you that we can see them.
… Our presence and focus extends outside Australian borders, and AFP specialised cyber investigators are permanently based in the United Kingdom, United States, Europe and Africa.
Gough said the public needed to be “extra vigilant” and “take practical measures to better protect themselves from scams and phishing attempts”, especially from unsolicited text messages, emails and phone calls.
Karen Andrews criticises Clare O'Neil over Optus data breach response
Karen Andrews taking some swings at O’Neil about the Optus breach. She was speaking to the ABC just now:
Her response in Question Time was laying the blame directly at the feet of Optus, saying it is a data breach and they are responsible for that which I thought was interesting in itself, to do that. She also flagged a couple of things I think were interesting, most importantly was the comment that if these breaches had happened in other countries there would have been significant financial penalties, so it may well be that the legislation they are looking at bringing out whenever they bring that out, that’s not clear, may have that kind of things in it.
My thoughts were that it was a very lacklustre, late response, people are so concerned.
Andrews goes on:
This is now a number of days since the data breach was discovered. Optus has been out making some comments, the minister’s response has been silence, virtually. Three tweets and a dixer in Question Time has been her response.
I think there is a role for government to be out there, reassuring people that they are in control of the situation, and they are on top of what needs to happen. What she does have is a number of levers available to her.
She says the first thing she would have done if she were in that role is “fronted the public”.
Clare O’Neil crystallising her statements in Question Time regarding Optus, in tweet form:
Veterans affairs minister Matt Keogh has been speaking to ABC TV about the federal government’s response to the interim royal commission report into defence and veteran suicide, which was tabled today.
Keogh says part of the problem is that the Department of Veterans Affairs “has not been appropriately funded and resourced over time”.
There has been concern from sectors around elements of what the productivity commission recommended. It’s going to necessarily require consultation before we move forward and that’s why we said we will announce in the timeframe a pathway forward to get on with that.
Buying new submarines from the US is a ‘rip-off deal’ for workers, says AMWU
The Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union is concerned by reports that the federal government is considering buying the first of the new fleet of submarines from the United States.
The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that officials in the US, Australia and the UK were looking at ways to fast-track Australia’s purchase of new nuclear-powered boats agreed to under the Aukus deal, with the potential for Australia to help boost the industrial capacity of US shipyards.
Peter Bauer, AMWU’s South Australia state secretary and convenor of the Australian Shipbuilding Federation of Unions, said the move would run the risk of letting thousands of well-paid, secure manufacturing jobs “go to waste”.
The suggestion that Australia pay to expand the United States’s submarine manufacturing capabilities is ridiculous.
Should we subsidise American car manufacturing as well? Governments have a responsibility to invest in local communities. If the federal government keeps faith with South Australian manufacturing workers, they will repay that faith tenfold. Outsourcing work like this to America – and paying for the privilege – would be a rip-off deal for South Australian workers and the taxpayer.
He said that previous decisions to outsource domestic defence requirements had led to off-the-shelf vessels that did not meet Australia’s needs.
Building the next generation of subs here in South Australia will improve Australia’s defence capabilities, and provide thousands of workers and their communities with stable, long-term employment.
The comments echo those of the SA Labor premier Peter Malinauskas, who told Guardian Australia on Sunday that any offshore construction needed to include the skilling up of an Australian workforce for future submarine building.
Here’s the full story on the new chair of the National Disability Insurance Agency, Kurt Fearnley. He said the scheme won’t succeed unless participants trust the organisation and “see themselves” in it. Luke Henriques-Gomes and Paul Karp have the details:
Good afternoon folks. Thanks to Amy for your inimitable work. I’m going to be taking us all through the rest of this afternoon.
I am going to hand over the blog to Stephanie Convery a little earlier than usual as I finish up some other projects.
Thank you to everyone who joined along so far today – I will be back early tomorrow morning. Until then, take care of you.
Peter Dutton has said the Liberals have not made up their mind yet, but his comments to the Minerals Council as reported by Paul Karp weren’t positive.
New Labor MP Jerome Laxale has called on his party in government to go above and beyond the 43% emissions reduction target by 2030, and criticised “unfair” funding of private schools over public ones, in his first speech to parliament.
Laxale, the member for Bennelong, used the speech to praise his predecessor, Liberal MP John Alexander, as “a good man and a great local member”. In a wide-ranging speech, Laxale spoke warmly of the multicultural and diverse nature of his electorate, on Sydney’s north shore, touching on his family arriving in Australia from Mauritius, and speaking French and Mauritian Creole at home.
Laxale, the former mayor of Ryde, said he didn’t speak English when he first started attending school. He recounted how his working-class parents saved to send him to one of Sydney’s most prestigious private schools, and said he wanted “to have a national conversation about how the commonwealth funds schools”.
We now have public schools that are scrambling to fix old toilets where some private schools are scrambling to build new pavilions. I find this to be unfair, unsustainable and not in the national interest,” Laxale said.
Commencing his speech with comments about the local Indigenous people who had lived in Bennelong before European settlement, Laxale said “invasion and dispossession destroyed the Wallemadegul. As we acknowledge them, their tragic history must be known as we continue along the path of reconciliation and truth-telling.”
He also said the government should look to “drive down emissions over and above the 43% that this house legislated”.
Seems that even the MPs are surprised (pleasantly so) that there were answers in QT.
Uncle Jack Charles to receive a state funeral
Aboriginal actor and activist Uncle Jack Charles will be remembered at a state funeral in Melbourne next month.
Charles died earlier this month in a Melbourne hospital. He was 79.
The Victorian government confirmed Charles’s family had accepted the offer for a state memorial that will take place at Hamer Hall on 18 October. To honour Charles’s work in the state’s justice system, the funeral service will be streamed in prisons, remand and youth justice centres across Victoria.
The Boon Wurrung, Dja Dja Wurrung, Woiwurrung and Yorta Yorta man was a survivor of the stolen generations policy of assimilation and experienced sexual abuse as a child while in the care of the state. He went on to become a renowned actor and musician on the global stage.
Earlier this year, Charles became the first Aboriginal elder to provide his testimony to Victoria’s Yoorrook justice commission - the nation’s first Indigenous truth-telling process.
Gender bias in Australian patents
Just looking outside of politics for a moment:
A male-sounding first name on an application increases the odds of being granted a patent in Australia, suggests new research.
An analysis of more than 300,000 patent applications to IP Australia over a 15-year period has found that inventors with female-sounding first names had lower odds of getting their patent application approved than a male-named inventor.
Of the applications, 90% had at least one male inventor, and the odds of success increased as the number of male names on a team grew. Nearly a quarter (24%) had at least one female inventor, typically on a mixed-gender team.
The patterns were observed irrespective of scientific field, year of application or type of filing, the researchers found.
Lead researcher Dr Vicki Huang, a senior lecturer in intellectual property law at Deakin University, said despite millions being invested in encouraging women to study Stem, retention was a problem. She said in a statement:
“While we see more women than men enrolling as undergraduate Stem students, they do not seem to be crossing the bridge into post-graduate Stem roles and inventorship.
We suspect there are larger, systematic, and institutional biases that impact women who endeavour to become inventors. There may also be country and cultural differences at play given IP Australia receives so many international applications.
The first step to fixing the problem is recognising that a problem exists … We hope it starts a conversation that causes people to reflect on their own biases and stimulates change.
The study was published in the UNSW Law Journal.
And for the first time in a long time, we actually learned some things in QT.
Excuse me while I recover from that. Questions were actually answered. Smash me down and call me avocado, because that is not normal.
So, what did we learn?
The national integrity commission legislation will include third parties (contracted to do government work) and public hearings. Both of those things were confirmed by Mark Dreyfus. The legislation will also include the principles Labor included before the election.
So that is a bit more on that ahead of when we get the legislation after the Labor caucus has a look at it.
We also heard the government’s reaction to the Optus data breach. Clare O’Neil said she had been in direct contact with the Optus CEO, asking for affected customers to be given credit monitoring by Optus – and, lo and behold, Optus made that announcement a short time later.
And question time ends.
Optus data breach 'potentially the most serious in Australian history': Slater and Gordon
Law firm Slater and Gordon has announced it is investigating launching a possible class action against Optus on behalf of customers affected by the data breach.
Class actions senior associate Ben Zocco said:
This is potentially the most serious privacy breach in Australian history, both in terms of the number of people affected and the nature of the information disclosed.
We consider that the consequences could be particularly serious for vulnerable members of society, such as domestic violence survivors, victims of stalking and other threatening behaviour, and people who are seeking or have previously sought asylum in Australia.
Zocco said there are very real risks created by the disclosure of personally identifiable information such as addresses and phone numbers and the firm was exploring potential legal avenues for customers.
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, told parliament on Monday that the government would look to reform legislation in the wake of the breach, noting that in other jurisdictions a company such as Optus would face fines of hundreds of millions of dollars for such a breach.
Optus to provide credit monitoring to data breach-affected customers
Optus has announced it will provide 12 months of credit monitoring to customers affected by the breach of its data, after the minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, called for the company to make the service available in parliament.
Optus said in a statement that a 12-month subscription to Equifax Protect will be provided to all customers affected by the breach. Credit monitoring keeps tabs on changes to people’s credit reporting and monitors for suspicious activity.
The most affected customers will be receiving direct communications from Optus over the coming days on how to start their subscription at no cost. Please note that no communications from Optus relating to this incident will include any links as we recognise there are criminals who will be using this incident to conduct phishing scams.
Bridget Archer has a question for Jim Chalmers:
Since the Albanese Labor government has failed to take any practical action to address rising cost of living and over the next few weeks Tasmanian families will see a 25c per litre jump in fuel prices.
Does the treasurer expect to make constituents to wait until he delivers his budget in a month for any sign of additional relief or will this government do its job and produce a plan for addressing this cost-of-living crisis?
I say this respectively to the member for Bass that if those opposite didn’t want the fuel excise relief to end on Wednesday night, why did they legislate that before the government changed hands?
I find it very concerning, either those opposite are being dishonest about that or they don’t understand that that’s the legislation that they put into this parliament, that the fuel excise relief will stop on Wednesday night of this week.
And we have been very upfront with people before the election, during the election, after the election, that when you inherit a budget which is heaving with $1tn in Liberal Party debt from those opposite spraying money around to their mates, giving money out to everyone who comes through the door, then that necessitates some difficult decisions on this side of the house.
And we could do what those opposite have done and pretend away these fiscal pressures which are damaging the budget, making it harder for us to provide cost-of-living relief to Australians right around the country and we are not prepared to do that.
We have been upfront about the future of the fuel excise relief, it will come off on Wednesday night for all of the reasons we have been saying ever since before the election, it is consistent with the legislation that those opposite proposed and put through this house. So I think when people here, those opposite, playing politics with the federal excise relief they need to understand it is those opposite who legislated it to finish on Wednesday night.
When it comes to the broader costs of living, Mr Speaker, you would think after a decade of deliberate wage stagnation and deliberate wage suppression those opposite would be too ashamed of themselves to come in here and talk about the cost of living.
Now, if it hadn’t been for a government that said that a deliberate design feature of the economic policy was to keep wages low, then Australians would find it easier to deal with these costs of living which are skyrocketing as a consequence of some international factors as well as some domestic factors as well. So what we have said since the election, before the election, during the election campaign itself is that we will provide responsible cost-of-living relief, we will make childcare cheaper, we will make medicines cheaper, we will make take make fees cheaper, and we will get things moving and after that wasted decade of deliberate wage stagnation.
The difference between this side of the house is we will always do what is right for working people in this country you were dealing with these cost-of-living pressures. Those opposite spent a decade making people’s lives harder by going after their wages and working conditions.
The minister for the international development of the Pacific, Pat Conroy, is speaking about the potential for PNG to join the Australian NRL competition, which is a very worthy topic, but he can’t help but stir up the chamber with these opening comments:
Mr Speaker, some people in this house might have thought the most important sporting event of the weekend was in Melbourne on Saturday night, but, sadly, they are wrong. They are wrong!
The most important sporting event was the prime minister’s 13 games in Brisbane last night between Australia and the PNG women’s and men’s teams…
Paul Fletcher to Mark Dreyfus:
Bridgeway, Australia’s largest litigation funding business, is the manager of the broad fund, a fund in which the attorney general has disclosed a holding. Has the attorney general disclosed this underlying holding to the prime minister under clause 3.12 of the ministerial code, which requires immediate disclosure when there is a potential conflict of interest?
Thank you, Mr Speaker. And I thank the member for Bradfield for his question. I have complied with the ministerial code for conduct at all times.
Greens MP Max Chandler-Mather has the third crossbench question.
My question is to the acting prime minister on Labor’s stage 3 tax cuts, can you explain the economic benefit of having a politician or anyone else earning more than $200,000 a year, an extra $9,000 a year off on their tax while someone on the minimum wage gets nothing?
Jim Chalmers takes this one:
I thank the honourable member for his question as well as honourable member knows and appreciates, the government position on the stage three tax cuts hasn’t changed, for all of the reasons we have talked about all the other times we have been asked in this place and elsewhere.
I know the leader of the Greens put out a press release in the last 24 hours saying, if we are willing to go down the path the Greens are proposing there would be an opportunity to provide more funding in important areas like childcare and healthcare.
I’m very pleased to inform the Greens and the parliament as well, there will be in the budget in October, game-changing investment in healthcare and childcare. And we are especially proud of the fact that we have the biggest new investment in the budget I hand down at this dispatch box next month will be the game-changing investment in childcare because cheaper childcare is cost-of-living relief with economic dividends.
An Australian parent deserves to have that option, that the minister was talking about before and other colleagues have talked about on other occasions, to work more and earn more if they want to and we want the childcare system be part of the solution rather than part of the problem in that regard, so it will be game-changing investment in childcare and the investments in healthcare the health minister ran through before – they will be important elements of the Budget –but our position on the tax cuts that the member asked me about has not changed.
Shadow home affairs minister Karen Andrews has responded to Clare O’Neil’s comments on the Optus data breach in the parliament:
Australian businesses need guidance and policy certainty when it comes to national security matters. The home affairs minister hasn’t done the work to ensure there’s adequate protections and deterrents in place since coming into government and that is disappointing. There is no reason Labor can’t support the ransomware private members bill I introduced into the house this morning and actually keep Australians safe. The Coalition did the work here, it’s finished and ready. Delaying implementation by playing political games and finger pointing is not in the best interest of our nation.”
Andrew Hastie has a question for Clare O’Neil:
My question is to the Minister for cyber security. Has the Minister spoken to the Optus CEO on providing customers with credit monitoring and other measures she spoke about with her answer?
The answer is yes.
(Which is also Optus’s motto)
Allegra Spender has another of the crossbench’s questions:
The Labor Party went to the election with a commitment to legislating the national anti-corruption commission. One of the policies was that the Nacc would have the power to hold public hearings. Could the attorney please explain why public hearings are essential requirements for an integrity commission and rule out any deals which remove the power?
I thank the member for Wentworth for her question. And I thank her for the constructive engagement that she has shown with me during the extensive consultation that I have had with the whole of the parliament, including the opposition and the crossbench in both houses come on the formation of this legislation.
I do look forward to introducing the legislation for a national anti-corruption commission this week.
I will say again, the Australian people believe in integrity.
The Australian people voted for a government that will deliver a powerful, transparent and independent national anti-corruption commission.
A commission that will have jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corruption and will deliver a central pillar of the integrity framework in this country.
It will help restore trust and enforce standards of integrity and accountability in our federal parliament.
Some three years ago, Labor released design principles based on the advice of experts which will make sure the commission operates effectively. Legislation which we are bringing to the Parliament will reflect these principles, and going to the specific matter that was raised by the member for Wentworth, that went to the holding of public hearings.
One of the deficiencies of the model that was put forward by the former government, who of course never bought legislation to the parliament, one of the deficiencies, was that public hearings would not be available, in respect of allegations made against ministers, or allegations made against the parliament.
As I said repeatedly during public debate about the model the former government had put forward, that was wrong.
And we have made clear, and how design principles, that not only, we have made clear with our design principles, that public hearing must be available to this commission, because that is something that the experience of the eight existing state and territory commissions has shown us.
In order for an anti-Corruption commission such as we are proposing to be fully effective, there must be the possibility of public hearings and that’s what the parliament will see in the legislation that we’ll bring to the parliament later this week.
The government in their dixers are enjoying using Jane Hume’s statement on Insiders – that the Liberal party “doesn’t have policies” as they are in opposition, not in government – in answers today.
It wasn’t the brightest statement to make.
(Also opposing something is a policy, so….)
Andrew Wilcox (member for Dawson) has a question for Madeleine King
I refer to the government’s changes to insert emissions reduction targets in the criteria for projects in northern Australia. Has the minister received any advice from her department that this will lead to gas supply or coal projects in the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility pipeline being cancelled, restricted or delayed?
What has happened in recent legislation for this country is aligning all parts of government behind a united aim to reach net zero emissions by 2050 and reduce targets to 41% for this is something the Australian people voted for across northern Australia, WA, right across Queensland and Victoria, all states in this nation voted for a net zero position.
That is a fact and [is] what we’re doing.
We are making sure that all policy areas are aligned with this government. This government is very ambitious to get to net zero emissions by 2050 and align with the rest of the world.
That is something we must be enormously proud of and only this government will deliver. Those opposite put their head in the sand the last 10 years and have brought us back to behind everyone else. We need to be able to resist global warming in this country and around the world.
We will work with international partners. We know our international partners such as Japan and Korea who we sell gas to and which will continue to sell gas to for a long time. They will rely on gas as part of their net zero emissions goals. We will keep providing gas supply and will have supplied this country into the future.
What the opposite need to know is that the Climate Change Bill has aligned this country with the rest of the world and I am very proud of that and very proud that northern Australia doing it as well.
In fact, the only interference that has been made in the northern Australian infrastructure fund was from those opposite when they banned a wind farm that would have created hundreds of jobs in Cairns.
So you can talk about that all you like what you other ones, sorry, Speaker, those opposite other ones that have interfered have consistently and always, we are the ones that will support northern Australia and gas into the future.
Dr Anne Webster has the next opposition question:
Due to record energy prices, businesses in my electorate of Mallee are considering closing, potentially leaving hundreds unemployed. One such business, a brick manufacturer, announced it was closing after more than 80 years in business. When will businesses in my electorate receive the promised $275 energy bill relief?
We certainly acknowledge the pressure that is being placed on household budgets, and in this case, on businesses, associated with increases of prices.
As I said, earlier, core business, the number one priority for this government, is about easing the cost of living, and that also goes to the question of reducing energy prices.
One of the real differences now, compared to when I first entered Parliament in 2007, is that cheap energy in this country is renewable energy.
And the way in which we get energy prices down, is improving our energy grid and having policy certainty which allows people to invest in the renewable energy and have that renewable energy be able to be received by the grid.
The problem is we have a lost decade when it comes to energy policy. Those opposite had 22 different energy policies failed to be able to have a situation where there was policy certainty and that is why we did not see the investment ever know what energy that we should.
On this side of the house, we have done more in the last 15 weeks of this government than those opposite did in the last 10 years. Their inaction on energy has been shameful. But the height of their shame is what we saw from the former Treasurer, the shadow Treasurer, former Minister of energy, when he sought to change the law in order to mean he did not have to tell the Australian people about...
Paul Fletcher has his university debater voice on to make a point of order.
There is no point of order.
The height of the shame of the former government was when the former energy minister sought to change the law so he didn’t have to tell the Australian people about an increase in the default retail price for electricity before the election. Can you imagine a more venal, a more pathetic conversation that the former minister must have had with his department when he sought advice about what he needed to do in order to make sure he did not have to tell the Australian people about his failure and the failure of his government. And the shame in that is the very reason why now we have any issues we have at the moment.
Sussan Ley tries to table Labor’s Powering Australia election plan.
The plan says “It will cut power bills for families and businesses by $275 a year for homes by 2025, compared to today”.
But the opposition are just trying to get that $275 figure to stick, so people will start wondering where their savings are. It’s 2014 politics re-imagined for 2022.
Sussan Ley to Richard Marles:
I refer to the government’s decision to scrap the Cashless Debit Card that the Alice Springs mayor says will increase domestic violence. Matt Paterson called it a life saver. They said the biggest difference for the card was for the kids, suddenly they had food, they had clothing. Given the warning from local Indigenous communities, can the acting prime minister guarantee there will be no increase in domestic violence or neglect of children as a result of scrapping the Cashless Debit Card?
Well, I thank the member for her question. And acknowledge that Indigenous communities around this country have had to endure a sad history of broken promises and failed programs.
When it comes to making real difference in areas like domestic violence, areas like housing, areas like keeping children in schools.
But, in seeking to help Indigenous communities in this country, we don’t do that by stripping them of their dignity.
And that’s why the Cashless Debit Card, which seeks to do exactly that, that’s why at the last election, we promised to scrap it. And we will.
Because what it did was to strip people of their dignity. What we need to be doing is working with Indigenous communities... To empower….what we need to be doing is working with Indigenous communities to empower.
(There are interjections from the opposition)
Which is why we have announced over the course of the weekend $50 million to provide additional drug and alcohol services in Cashless Debit Card sites, while we have committed $16 million towards community-led economic development services in CDC sites, because all of these are measures about working with Indigenous communities to empower them.
Since the election, both the Minister for Social Services and the Minister for Indigenous Australians have been visiting Indigenous communities across the breadth of this country. To work with them about the ways in which we can deal with the critical issues which are affecting their communities. The Cashless Debit Card did none of that. But they can be assured in this government, they’ll have a partner to improve their lives.
(It is important to note the Basics Card is not included in this – it remains)
So as Helen Haines said before QT, looks like third parties will be covered by the integrity legislation.
Mark Dreyfus reveals more details of federal integrity commission legislation
Zoe Daniel has one of the crossbench questions today:
There’s reports the government has cut a deal with the opposition to weaken national corruption commission legislation to get it passed. Can you reassure the public third parties including unions, business and lobbyists seeking to corrupt government they could be investigated, and the commission could investigate serious pork barrelling as Labor proposed during the election campaign?
I thank the member for Goldstein for her question and I thank her for her constructive engagement during my extensive consultation on the national anti-corruption commission.
I have consulted across the Parliament, including the opposition, and the crossbench, in both houses, on the formation of the legislation.
I look forward to introducing legislation for a national anti-corruption commission this week. The Australian people believe in integrity.
The Australian people voted for a government which will deliver a powerful transparent and independent national anti-corruption commission.
The commission will have jurisdiction to investigate serious or systemic corruption, and will form a central pillar in the integrity framework of our country.
It will help restore trust and enforce standards of integrity and accountability in our federal government system. The government publicly released design principles based on the advice of experts...
(there are interjections from the Coalition)
…that will ensure the commission operates effectively.
…In relation to third parties, the commission will have broad powers to investigate allegations of serious or systemic corruption of or by a public official. The commission will be able to investigate a corruption issue that could involve serious or systemic conduct by any person that could adversely affect the honesty or impartiality of a public official’s conduct.
In relation to pork barrelling, decisions about the allocation of public funds should be made of course in the public interest. The government won’t be instructing the commission on what particular matters it can or cannot investigate. It will be up to the commission.
If the commission considers the administration of a particular discretionary grants program gives rise to a serious or systemic corruption issue, then the commissioner will have the ability to investigate that issue. I hope all members of this Parliament can recognise the importance of this significant reform and support the
The Greens have reiterated their calls for the government to protect the funding independence of the national anti-corruption commission and include external stakeholders in its remit, not just those that contract with government.
Asked if these are red lines for the Greens, and about the potential for a Labor Coalition deal, David Shoebridge said:
It would be a disaster for the country and it would be a disaster for Labor’s reputation if they went and cut a side deal with a Dutton [opposition] knowing just how toxic the previous Coalition government was and and the public rejected them on integrity ...It would not only be damaging for the integrity commission, it would deal aserious blow to the integrity of the Albanese government,
We have said to the government ... we’re open to working with you on this, but we do need movement on third parties, we need to ensure the jurisdiction is sufficient to do the job.
I have come from New South Wales politics and I have seen just how essential and empowered ICAC is to go into the nooks and crannies of the way government deals with corporate Australia. For us it’s a principle that we won’t give away for a timeline.”
Shoebridge clarified that he’d “never said that there are absolute red lines on but these are the two issues of principle that are going to be make or break for this integrity commission”.
Asked why whistleblowers laws weren’t in its top list of demands, Shoebridge said the Greens were “very hopeful” of a solution by the time the commission opens its doors, but it is not possible to achieve “in full detail in the next few weeks and months”.
Responsibility for security breach rests with Optus: Clare O'Neil
Minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, takes a dixer on the Optus data breach. It’s the first major statement the minister has made on the subject, so here is what she said:
Optus have advised us this breach has revealed some personal data of 9.8 million Australians.
Of those 9.8 million Australians, significant amounts of personal data have been taken.
Responsibility for the security breach rests with Optus and I want to note that the breach is of a nature that we should not expect to see in a large telecommunications provider in this country.
Very substantial support has been provided by the Australian government and I want to credit the work of the Australian Signals Directorate, the Australian Cyber Security Centre and the Australian Federal Police in that support.
For the Australian government more broadly come focus now is doing whatever we can to help protect Australians who are affected by this breach.
This is a very large multiagency effort which has seen many hundreds of public servants work through recent public holidays, through the night and straight through the weekends and the Albanese government thanks them for their effort.
The Australian government and the ACCC and APRA are working with the banking sector to see what additional steps can be taken to protect accounts.
It is legally and technically complex but they are working on a solution and providing additional protections on government platforms.
We expect Optus to continue to do everything they can to support their customers and former customers.
One way they can do this is providing free credit monitoring to impacted customers. This will help protect those customers from identity theft and I call on Optus to make that commitment today.
Put yourself into the shoes of an Optus customer. You might be one of the member of Gilmore ‘s constituents living in Batemans Bay, you might be a pensioner whose information has been stolen. This is a time of intense anxiety and a safety Optus, you can do it something about this problem today and we ask you to do that.
A very substantial reform task will emerge from a breach of the scale and size and there is a number of policy issues that I think the public will soon become quite aware of.
One significant question is whether the cyber security requirements we place a large telecommunications providers in this country are fit for purpose. I also noted that in other jurisdictions, a data breach of this size will result in fines amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
I really hope this reform task is something we can work on collaboratively across the parliament and I will speak in coming days about how we work through those issues in conjunction with other members of parliament.
Angus Taylor is up.
(The chamber always seems to hold its breath each time Taylor steps up)
My question is for the treasurer. Last week in an interview on Sky News, the minister for finance refused to rule out changes to writing credits, changes to negative gearing and refused to rule out scrapping stage three tax cuts. Will the treasurer rule out changes to franking credits, negative gearing and stage three tax cuts.
…The very idea, as the acting prime minister said before, that these characters opposite would have the nerve to ask us about tax and the cost of living after the wasted decade they have just presided over. We made our position on tax very clear. What we have said is our priority to tax reform is multinational taxes and took to the election and will implement in the October budget to ensure multinationals pay a fairer share of tax where they make their profits so we can find the services that we desperately need to fund. That is our position, Mr Speaker. As the acting prime minister rightly pointed out, you would think the dregs of the former government would know better than to come up to this dispatch box having spent a decade taxing more, borrowing more, spending more and delivering much less than its two predecessors to actually have the nerve to come up here and ask us about tax and the cost of living. As the acting prime minister mentioned a moment ago, those opposite have absolutely no idea, absolutely no credibility and – as the shadow finance minister said – no alternatives to the proposal we will have.
On relevance. The question was will be treasurer rule out changes to franking credits, superannuation, negative gearing and stage three tax cuts? He has gone no way to answering that question.
Milton Dick rules that Chalmers is in order.
I have made the government’s priorities clear when it comes to tax reform and that is multinational taxes. As people would have read it today, there is a measure before the house which was a measure on franking credits proposed by the former treasurer, a fellow called Scott Morrison in 2016, there is a proposal before the parliament to finish the job he announced in 2016.
Mr Speaker, as the shadow minister for finance had come at those opposite have absolutely no alternative to what we’re proposing in the budget. The member for humour is already a laughing stock in this place. The shadow minister for finance is determined to outdo him.
The leader of the Nationals is no better. Talking about the little brother they left the Australian people when the government changed hands. The present those opposite left the Australian people when government changed hands was skyrocketing inflation, falling real wages, $1 trillion in debt which is becoming more and more costly for the Australian people.
The NDIS minister, Bill Shorten, has responded publicly for the first time to a proposed class action which challenges the exclusion of applicants aged 65 and over from the NDIS.
The case, proposed by Mitry lawyers, could see the commonwealth on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars a year for denying support to seriously and permanently disabled people based on their age.
“We haven’t seen the details of the class action, so I can’t comment specifically on that. But in terms of the issue: you have the NDIS for people up to 65 and then a different scheme - aged care - for those over 65. There are people in the community who say that the quality of disability care after the age of 65 is inferior to the quality of disability care before 65. I think they have a point. The NDIS was originally set up between 2010 and 2013 to fill what was a gap at that time ... We saw aspects of aged care that were superior to disability care ...
The problem is there’s been nine years of Coalition government since then. Almost, despite the challenges of the NDIS, the tables have turned a bit. And aged care has sort of in parts of its operations fallen in a rut. And NDIS, despite all of its challenges, is still a scheme that looks better for people in aged care than what they have.
The Act was very clear - it was designed for [people] up to 65. There is a challenge for disability care for over 65, whether or not the solution’s an NDIS - which is very expensive - or an improvement in the quality of disability care and aged care, that will be a matter for the whole of the government.”
These comments are significant because even if older Australians are not allowed on the NDIS, Shorten is foreshadowing that improvements to the current aged care system may be needed.
Richard Marles is taking a dixer on what Labor is doing to lower the cost of living and I am including it because of this furphy:
Last week, we saw the biggest increase in the pension in more than a decade.
Once again, for the people up the back – the indexation adjustment comes twice a year, it has nothing to do with the government (it is automatic, although the government can pause it if it wishes) and the indexation adjustment was bigger this year than it has been because inflation is so high.
Question time begins
The acting prime minister Richard Marles is in the big chair today.
Acting prime minister, Australians are suffering under your government in relation to rising costs of living pressures at the supermarket, electricity and their gas bills, the gas station, when they renovate their homes and in relation to increasing mortgage payments that they have to make under your government. With these increasing pressures on Australian households, will the government rule out tax increases that will further increase cost of living pressures in the upcoming budget?
I thank the leader of the Opposition for his question. Our position on tax as we took it to the election is and there are no changes to that position since the election. It is ironic that we get this question from the Opposition because one of the great myths of Australian politics is that the Liberals will always tax less when in fact the truth of the matter is that the highest-taxing government in Australia’s history is the Howard government and the second-highest taxing government in Australia’s history is the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government.
Those opposite are the ones who go for higher taxes.
In fact, when you think about it, over the last 10 years, if you were a Liberal and imagined that you were going to support a party which was about low taxes and small government and small spending and you look at this lot, it says everything about why Kooyong is no longer in their pile. We are committed...
Peter Dutton has a point of order.
It is on relevance. The acting prime minister is saying nothing to the households across the country in this arrogant contribution that he is making based on fiction, not fact.
However, they are facts – as FactCheck have already ruled – because that is what the data shows.
Marles continues his answer, but there is not a lot new in there.
Integrity commission legislation moves forward
The national integrity commission legislation will go to the Labor caucus tomorrow and then be introduced to the parliament on Wednesday (then it is straight off to committee)
Independent MP Helen Haines (who will most likely be on that committee) says she has found her discussions with attorney-general Mark Dreyfus on the legislation to have been constructive – she also wants third parties who have contracts with the government to be part of the bill, and thinks it may be included.
She told the ABC:
I believe it will. What I want to see under this principle of broad jurisdiction is that any person who seeks to adversely influence impartial exercise of government should be under the jurisdiction of this commission. It’s important that this commission can look for corruption in dark places. And if we just confine it to public officials or to contractors, we are missing those other organisations or persons who seek to adversely affect our governments.
So the Coalition probably wouldn’t be in support of that? Does Haines have any details?
I don’t know, I’ve had initial conversations but not on details. It’s important, this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to get the legislation right and we have the experience of other anticorruption commissions across states and territories. They have most of them. The key thing is, for safeguards should be built into this legislation, the kind of things I will be looking for the commission will not be wasting its time on frivolous or vexatious referrals. Needs to see evidence of systemic corruption but that would apply to anybody who seeks to have an adverse impact on the impartiality of government.
The royal commission would not have happened without the tireless advocacy of families, particularly like Julie Ann Finney and Karen Bird.
And for the last ones:
Recommendations 9 to 13 all relate to improving the release by Defence and DVA of information to family about a deceased family member.
The government agrees to these recommendations.
There is no doubt that the communication between Defence, DVA and impacted families has left a lot to be desired.
This has been raised by many families in their evidence to the royal commission.
This has also been acknowledged by the agencies. We must improve how Defence and DVA communicate with veterans and families, including in facilitating access to information about their loved ones.
Work on this has already begun.
Recommendation 6 calls for increased protections for people who engage with the royal commission.
The government will take forward suggested legislative reforms to the Royal Commissions Act 1902, widely consulting on the drafting of those amendments.
The government will also work with the royal commission to ensure serving and ex-serving ADF members have protections to communicate information to the inquiry without breaching general secrecy offences in the criminal code. To achieve this, the government welcomes continued engagement with the royal commission.
We note recommendation 7, recognising the importance of royal commissions being able to thoroughly investigate and provide recommendations in relation to their terms of reference, while protecting freedom of speech in the parliament.
Parliamentary privilege is a well-established concept that many royal commissions have engaged with in the past without coming into conflict with the Parliamentary Privileges Act.
There are alternative approaches available to the royal commission to engaging with materials to which parliamentary privilege might apply.
We also note recommendation 8, recognising the need for royal commissions to have access to information they need to ensure their work is effective and efficient. The government will improve policies and practices to streamline and introduce additional rigour around the use of public interest immunity claims in royal commissions.
The government’s response to the recommendations, continued:
The fourth recommendation is that the Department of Veterans’ Affairs provide, on a regular basis, advice to government on funding needs.
The government agrees to this recommendation.
Recommendation 5 suggests removing the Department of Veterans’ Affairs average staffing level cap.
As a Labor government, we know the importance of secure work.
That’s why at the recent election we committed to abolishing the artificial staffing cap across the public service.
The work that DVA undertakes is complex. We need the best trained individuals to work on processing claims and supporting veterans, yet the cap resulted in a counter-productive reliance on labour-hire arrangements, with higher staff turnover and higher costs.
The cap is now removed.
This means staff have job security. It will also mean that staff are processing claims more efficiently, as they build their own knowledge-base in a complex system.
There are 13 recommendations. Here is the government response:
The government agrees to recommendation 1. We will develop a pathway for simplification and harmonisation of veteran compensation and rehabilitation legislation. Funding will be considered in the context of budget processes and fiscal constraints. The timing of implementation will be informed by what is required for necessary consultation and the passage of legislation.
Recommendation 2 goes to eliminating the claims backlog.
The government agrees to this recommendation.
Far too many veterans and personnel are waiting far too long for their claims to be processed.
The current backlog is unacceptable and that is why at the last election, we committed to employing 500 additional staff for DVA [Department of Veterans’ Affairs].
This recruitment process is already underway.
We are already seeing positive results. It is the aim of this government to have the claims backlog cleared before the end of 2023.
Recommendation 3 seeks to improve the administration of the claims system.
The government agrees to this recommendation.
There’s no doubt some veterans and families have not had a good experience; and have not been able to access the support they deserve.
For that, we are sorry.
We are looking to improve the veterans’ experience of the claims system, remove complexity, and enhance efficiency in supporting veterans and families as they navigate the current system.
Work is already underway, with the employment of additional staff to support claims processing, as well as internal systems changes and upgrades – but there is more to be done.
This may be one of the most important lines in Matt Keogh’s statement:
It is clear that things are not right.
On behalf of the Australian government, I say sorry.
The government has tabled its response to the interim royal commission report into defence and veteran suicide.
Matt Keogh gave a ministerial statement as he tabled it:
When a person enlists in the ADF, they are signing up to be something more than themselves – they are signing up to serve their country, to serve the people of Australia.
The rate of veteran suicide in Australia is a national tragedy; it is a rate that is significantly higher than across the general Australian population.
It is devastating that Australia has lost more serving and former serving personnel to suicide over the last 20 years than through operations over the same period in Afghanistan and Iraq.
It is a great tragedy that the Australian government - successive Australian governments - have failed those who have served our nation.
Governments have also failed the families of those people, families who have carried a heavy burden of their own through the pain and suffering they have experienced.
It is almost question time – so now is a great time to get some lunch or whatever it is that can help you get through
What about adding ADHD to the NDIS?
I have asked the agency to give me more advice about diagnosis with ADHD in terms of eligibility for NDIS. There are tens of thousands of people who are on the scheme who are diagnosed with autism as their primary condition. Neurodivergence is an area where the eligibility requirements are not always clear and they depend on individual circumstances.
Bill Shorten says those who say quality of disability care drops after 65 ‘have a point’
There is a proposed class action against the NDIS excluding people over 65.
Bill Shorten has responded to that for the first time in this press conference:
We haven’t seen the details of the proposed class action so I cannot comment specifically on that.
In terms of the issue that we have, the NDIS for people up to 65, and then a different scheme, aged care, for those over 65. There’s people in the community who say that the quality of disability care after the age of 65 is [inferior] to the quality of disability care before 65.
I think they have a point.
The NDIS was originally set up between 2010 and 2013 to fill what was a gap at that time. As we were campaigning to create the NDIS from 2007 onwards, we saw aspects of the aged care system back then superior to disability care.
Problem is there’s been nine years of coalition government since then, and despite the challenges of the NDIS, the tables have turned a bit.
Aged care and parts of its operation have fallen into a rut and NDIS, despite all the challenges, is still a scheme which looks better for people in aged care than what they have. The scheme was designed [for under] 65. I think there’s a challenge for disability care for people over 65. Whether or not the solution is an NDIS, which would be very expensive, or an improvement to the quality of disability care in aged care, that will be a matter for the whole of the government to talk through.
Does the new chair of the NDIA have a comment on how it was previously run?
I won’t make comment on the previous administration. I will make comment that ... trust is critical for the scheme to succeed.
Trust allows people to take risks. Risks is where there’s opportunity. But also this is – the relationship between a participant and a scheme is something that is so important and so – it is allowing them to be them.
I will do everything within my power to engage with the people who I have fought alongside, who I have engaged with, for the last decade, when it came to the advocacy of the scheme.
We’re also bringing not just my voice, but we’re also bringing Maryanne [Diamond] and Graeme [Innes], who bring a depth of experience to the organisation in the board level, whether it be their advocacy role, or Marianne’s experience of working within the NDIS itself.
Look … I always wanted to hear one thing and that is hearing people from this position talk to people with disabilities and say you’re worth it. That everything this - all the bumps and bruises and all the fights and all the hard yards that they are doing, as advocates for themselves and their families, but also - this organisation can be what we believe - can be what we believe it to be. For now, I just need to take a breath.
Get to know the organisation. And to, I guess, with the guys behind me and also Rebecca [Falkingham], sit down and really understand where we’re at and bring with us our hopes of where it can go to.
Is Kurt Fearnley a participant of the NDIS and what has been his experience with the scheme?
It’s a complicated answer. I am not a participant myself. I remember having conversations with the late Stella Young and we went back and forth about the life I live is a great life.
And the need for services that the NDIS provided, I wanted to be able to advocate for it from the other side of the scheme. Actually I regret that choice. I wish I was a member of the scheme. I do have family within the scheme that I won’t elaborate on too much because that’s their story.
But, as of today, no, I’m not a member – personally I’m not a member of the scheme. That’s the thing about disability – there’s so many, so many stories around disability that will not be members of the scheme, will not be participants of the scheme.
We don’t – we aren’t a cover-all for disability, disability is complex and disability is varied and disability has many, many stories to tell. I have worked in the organisation on the independent advisory council and I have worked on the governing board of a service provider for the last two years as well. But not a participant.
Kurt Fearnley is speaking on his appointment to the chair of the NDIA:
I’m really excited to take on this role. I think it’s important that the participants of the NDIS get to see themselves in this organisation and trust with the organisation itself is a visceral thing.
The scheme cannot be a success without trust and that is build over a period of time. It’s been eight years since I was an independent advisor throughout the rollout. And being a part of the conversation of lobbying to get the NDIA, the hope within the community of what it would mean to people with disabilities is still there.
It’s filled – that’s one thing I do know about the community of people with disabilities, they are filled with hope.
The scheme itself – I can’t wait to get to know the people within the organisation, to get to know those that are building the NDIA. It’s an honour the minister would see me fit to take on this role. And I can’t wait to join the board with, well, with two other voices behind me, of people with disabilities, who have another fresh take on what this organisation can be.
Health minister says government preparing for possible new Covid variants
The health minister, Mark Butler, says the government is preparing now to avoid a repeat of last summer’s Covid chaos, with his department taking a number of steps in anticipation of potential new virus variants growing in the northern hemisphere winter,
Butler said the former Coalition government had not prepared enough on rapid tests or vaccination, and was forced into “playing catch-up” as Omicron cases exploded late last year and early this year. He noted the Labor government had expanded eligibility for vaccination booster doses and anti-viral treatments. Butler told a Parliament House press conference this morning:
I’m very committed to making sure we don’t have to play catch-up, in the event there is another wave.
The minister said his department was “working very hard”, outlining extended Covid measures announced last week on support for aged care, vaccines, rapid tests and medical care.
I’m sitting down with my department to make sure we have all the measures in place that are ready to respond to another wave, if and when that occurs.
The minister again urged eligible Australians to get their third or fourth doses of Covid vaccine. He said he expected the Omicron-specific vaccines to be available to Australians in the next few weeks, subject to further testing from health authorities.
The real challenge is for people to take their third dose. There are still well over five million Australians who have gone well over six months since receiving their second dose who have not yet received their third dose.
He added that the Atagi immunisation advisory group would continue to consider expanding access for fourth doses to those under 30.
Bill Shorten announces new appointments to NDIA board with Kurt Fearnley appointed chair
The minister for the NDIS, Bill Shorten, is making his announcements on the NDIA:
Australian Paralympic legend and disability advocate Kurt Fearnley has been appointed chairman of the board of the National Disability Insurance Agency.
The NDIA board will also welcome new members Dr Graeme Innes AM and Maryanne Diamond.
There are now five people with disability on the NDIA board, including current board members Leah van Poppel and Meredith Allan, the largest number in its history.
Dr Denis Napthine, formerly chair, will return as a board member.
After an extensive recruitment process, the National Disability Scheme (NDIS) will also have a new chief executive, with Rebecca Falkingham accepting the role.
Falkingham has extensive experience leading departments and major projects in NSW and Victoria. She joins the NDIS after spending several years as the Secretary of the Victorian Department of Justice and Community Safety in Victoria.
Falkingham will be the first permanent female chief executive of the NDIA.
Luke Henriques-Gomes has more on the “impossible choices” people receiving jobseeker and youth allowance are forced to make every day.
The government has no plans to change the rate in this budget.
While Australia is pretty close to “full employment”, not everyone is able to work full time jobs because of disability, chronic health issues, carer responsibilities, or other things life throws up at you. It is not as black and white as “just get a job”. Many are working while receiving social security benefits – but the work may be contract, or insecure.
And raising the rate to above the poverty line is not a disincentive to finding work. It gives people space to be able to find jobs which work for them – and means they can free up their minds from intense financial stress.
Bill Shorten’s office has announced a press conference for 1pm:
The Minister for the National Disability Insurance Scheme, Bill Shorten, will be making an announcement regarding National Disability Insurance Agency leadership.
Optus still refusing to confirm reports of customers’ information being sold online after massive data breach
In a trainwreck of an interview on 2GB radio this morning, Optus has continued to refuse to confirm reports that the company’s data is on sale online, with the person who obtained the data offering to sell it back to the company for $1m.
Optus’s director of corporate affairs, Sally Oelerich told Chris Smith she too was a victim of the attack.
Chris, I’m on here and I’m really trying to be informative and transparent for your listeners ... however, big however, this is under investigation by the Australian federal police. There’s a criminal behind all of this who has attacked Australians, including me. My driver’s licence has been compromised.
Oelerich explained how she had contacted her bank to put lower transfer limits on to stop the transfer of large sums of money from her account, and said she was taking the initiative as a victim to prevent further harm.
When asked specifically about reports from cyber security journalist Jeremy Kirk that a user on a data breach forum is giving Optus the option to buy back the data from $1m, Oelerich would not confirm it.
That’s what Jeremy is reporting.... We have not been approached... obviously that’s on the internet but no one has picked up the phone and called us, so to speak. I cannot actually validate if that’s legitimate. Part of that is ... it is under investigation.
Smith: Does it seem to you that this hacker is legitimate?
Oelerich: To me? Personally? Or me at Optus?
Smith: Well, you’ve seen what he posted on the forum ... And Jeremy Kirk has gone out and double checked one of the email addresses and it has led to a former Optus customer.
Oelerich: Yes, that’s what Jeremy has been reporting. So, Chris, as someone who’s actually been compromised as well, I’m actually trying to do everything I’ve been advised to protect customers and that includes following advice from the Australian federal police.
Queensland wants to build Australia’s biggest wind farm.
As AAP reports:
Australia’s largest publicly-owned wind farm will be built in Queensland, with the premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, pouring $766m into the project as she seeks to reboot the state’s energy policy.
The project in South Burnett, north-west of Brisbane, will include up to 150 turbines and potentially generate enough electricity to power 230,000 homes.
“It will also create around 200 jobs during construction and 15 ongoing jobs when operational,” Palaszczuk said.
“It’s investments like this that will ensure we deliver on our net-zero ambitions and our promise to Queenslanders to become a global renewable energy superpower.”
The project is about 30 kilometres southwest of Kingaroy, in the state’s Southern Queensland Renewable Energy Zone.
Palaszczuk has signalled a major climate and energy announcement at her State of the State address on Wednesday.
The energy minister, Mick de Brenni, said the project would increase the state’s renewable energy fleet by 7%.
“It will eliminate a million tonnes of CO2 emissions each year from our energy system,” he said on Monday.
“That’s the equivalent of taking 320,000 cars off the road.”
The treasurer, Cameron Dick, said the Tarong West wind farm project would be funded through the Queensland Renewable Energy and Hydrogen Jobs fund.
Building the wind farm through the publicly owned Stanwell Corporation means the state will have dispatch control of significant renewable generation capacity, he said.
Final approvals are expected in 2024.
In case you missed it, this happened on Friday evening (from Adam Morton and Paul Karp):
A United Nations committee has found the Australian government has failed to adequately protect Torres Strait islanders, and violated their right to enjoy their culture and lives, by failing to act on the climate crisis.
The landmark decision found they should be compensated.
The decision by the UN human rights committee comes more than three years after eight adults and six children from four low-lying islands off the northern coast of Australia lodged a complaint against the Morrison government, claiming it had failed to take adequate action to cut emissions or pursue proper adaptation measures.
In what the committee described as a groundbreaking decision, it found the government had “violated their rights to enjoy their culture and be free from arbitrary interferences with their private life, family and home”.
There has been a bit of chatter about this – but just because the parliament potentially could, doesn’t meant the parliament actually will.
Health minister says monkeypox infection numbers ‘stabilising significantly’
Mark Butler is holding a press conference urging non-government members to vote for the government bill to cut the maximum cost of medications on the PBS by 30%, as well as outlining the new medications being added to the scheme (you can see a list a little further down in the blog).
He was also asked about the monkeypox outbreak and said:
It does appear that new infection numbers are stabilising significantly in the area of monkeypox. The latest data is there’s been 135 infections in total since monkeypox first appeared in Australia.
As people would know, monkeypox is not a virus known to Australia before. There’s about 65,000 new cases that the US Centers for Disease Control – which is monitoring the spread of this virus in non-endemic countries, essentially countries outside of parts of central Africa – about 65,000 cases through North America, South America, UK, Europe and elsewhere; 135 of those are in Australia.
Only about three new cases have been reported over the last seven to 10 days. And the reporting period before that, only five new cases. We can take some confidence those numbers of new infections are stabilising substantially.
As you recall, we were one of the very few countries to be able to negotiate access to the third generation vaccine for monkeypox; 22,000 doses of that vaccine have already been delivered. That’s been now administered in a very productive way in particularly the two major states, but elsewhere as well. And we are due to receive an additional 78,000 doses very shortly. Once those time frames are a little clearer, I’ll provide further advice about second doses.
Parliamentary committee to scrutinise reviews of government grants
Have a story about some previous government grants?
There is a parliamentary committee who want to hear from you.
Four auditor general’s reports relating to grants administration (Building Better Regions; Grants Hubs; Safer Communities; and Commuter Car Parks) will be considered by the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit in this inquiry.
The administration of three other grant programs (the Urban Congestion Fund; Regional Growth Fund; and Modern Manufacturing Initiative) as well as the implementation of recommendations in the Committee’s previous report on grants will also be reviewed.
The committee chair, MP Julian Hill, said that parliamentary scrutiny of these programs was important to ensure that future grants programs are administered consistent with the intent of the Commonwealth Grant Rules and guidelines and in line with community expectations.
“The committee will amplify the auditor general’s work, and also examine additional programs of interest administered by the previous government to learn lessons and to try to improve grants administration in the future,” Hill said.
The committee invites submissions to the inquiry addressing the terms of reference to be received by Friday, 28 October 2022. Details of public hearings will be made available on the inquiry website.
Mostafa Rachwani has looked at what reinstating the fuel excise will mean:
New listings on PBS to cut costs of prescription medicines
From October 1, new medications are being listed on the PBS.
From the government statement:
Medicines treating common conditions that will be cheaper for general (non-concessional) patients include:
Up to half a million patients with stomach ulcers or gastroesophageal reflux disease will pay lower prices for their scripts. Patients can now expect to pay $26.74 per script for esomeprazole 40 mg tablets, a saving of up to $6.84 per script.
For over 60,000 patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, scripts for quetiapine 200 mg tablets will cost $28.42, a saving of up to $6.22 per script.
More than 20,000 migraine sufferers and people with epilepsy can now expect to pay $34.90 per script for topiramate 200 mg tablets, a saving of up to $6.63. Similarly, scripts for the antiepileptic drug lamotrigine 200 mg tablets will cost $33.45 which represents a saving of up to $4.66.
Around 15,000 patients suffering from severe psoriatic arthritis and prescribed leflunomide 20 mg tablets can expect to pay $37.19 per script, a saving of up to $5.31 per script.
Women using anastrozole to inhibit the progression of breast cancer can now save up to $2.36 per script. Around 13,000 patients per year can now expect to pay $22.07 per script for a 1 mg tablet.
The PBS listing of pembrolizumab (Keytruda®) will be expanded to treat patients with squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck. Pembrolizumab is an immunotherapy which works by helping the immune system fight certain cancers.
Without subsidy patients can pay more than $135,000 per course of treatment with pembrolizumab. An average of 500 patients per year could benefit from this expanded listing.
Avelumab (Bavencio®) will also be expanded as maintenance treatment for locally advanced (Stage III) or metastatic (Stage IV) urothelial carcinoma, a cancer that affects the bladder or urinary tract.
This expanded listing is expected to benefit 400 patients who would pay more than $106,000 per course of treatment without subsidised access to avelumab.
Decitabine with cedazuridine (Inqovi®) will list for the first time on the PBS to treat myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) and chronic myelomonocytic leukaemia (CMML).
Without subsidy, Australians would pay more than $43,500 per course of treatment.
The government will also list mecasermin (Increlex®) for the first time to treat children with primary insulin-like growth factor 1 deficiency (Primary IGFD). Children with Primary IGFD are very short for their age because their bodies do not make enough insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
Without subsidy, families might pay more than $40,500 per year for mecasermin.
Through the PBS, these treatments will cost just $42.50 per script, or $6.80 with a concession card.
NSW government will not provide information to Queensland for land tax purposes, state’s premier says
The NSW government is stepping in to stop the Queensland government from claiming land tax on properties outside of Queensland.
Under the Queensland government’s somewhat complicated proposal, Queensland investors will have to pay land tax on their investment portfolio of properties – so not just what they own in Queensland. So if they own an investment property in Queensland and then a property they live in in NSW, they would have to pay the Qld government tax based on what those two properties are worth together (pushing them into a higher tax break)
As our Queensland correspondent Ben Smee explains it:
Land tax rates are calculated based on an investor’s entire property portfolio, and some people will be pushed into a higher bracket / rate than they were currently because of what they own interstate. But tax is still only payable on Queensland investment properties.
It is a little bit of a mess though – the legislation is based on people owning up to their other properties, although there are penalties if the Qld government finds out you have not been telling the truth.
But the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, is not a fan of the Qld legislation and won’t be providing Queensland with any data that would help them work out a property portfolio’s worth.
This is a tax implemented by a state that impacts the residents of NSW … It is wrong and we are not going to comply with it, so we are not going to provide that information.
For more on the stage three tax cuts and how politicians will benefit (because of how much they earn) Sarah Martin has this report for you:
The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has responded to a news story in which fund manager Geoff Wilson claims that Labor is “at it again” over franking credits because of a law to retrospectively stop companies paying shareholders fully franked dividends that are funded by capital raisings.
The AFR story says the change would be worth “a relatively modest $10 million a year, but investors fear the cost to them will be larger”.
For comparison, Labor’s proposed changes to franking credits at the 2019 election, preventing people getting cash refunds for franking credits when they pay no tax, would have raked in $11bn to the budget over two years, or $59bn four.
Chalmers told reporters in Canberra:
This is a Liberal party policy announced by treasurer Scott Morrison in the 2016 mid-year update. And this is a very minor change proposed by the Liberals who couldn’t get their act together on legislation, another mess that we’ve been asked to clean up which wasn’t done by our predecessors.
It’s a very minor measure. It’s about capital raising and franking credits. It’s nothing like the proposal that we took to the 2019 election and have since abandoned – the Liberals know this because they proposed it in the first place. Proposed by the Liberals in 2016, left for us to legislate and implement, nothing like what’s been proposed in earlier years and since abandoned.
Downturn in overseas markets leads to 1.7% drop in early trade on ASX200
Treasurer Jim Chalmers might have stated the obvious this morning that Australia was “not immune” to a global downturn, but it’s still worth taking a lot how the “market mania” is playing out this morning.
After overseas stock markets’ extended falls at the end of last week, it was a given that the ASX200 index of top 200 companies would follow suit this morning.
And so, we’re down about 1.7% in early trade – and not a lot of local economic information out this week to lure investors back.
Currency markets, too, are in a bit of tizz, with pretty much everything falling against the US dollar (although that’s the rate you’re more likely to hear on the news, etc).
In other words, if you’re heading to Japan or the UK, say, the conversion rates might even look appealing if you’re starting with Australian dollars.
Still, big policy shifts, such as the UK’s deep tax cuts to arrest the slowdown in that economy, don’t usually calm most investors. Capital flight, mostly back to the “haven” of the US dollar, is posing issues from Beijing to Tokyo, and Australia is exposed too.
Investors, meanwhile, have been lifting their bets that the Reserve Bank will hike its cash rate to 2.85% (another 50bp rise, or the fifth in a row) when its board next meets on 4 October.
As of Friday, those investors were also predicting the cash rate would reach 4% by next April – but frankly, who knows? If the global economy tanks, we’ll probably see the RBA cutting rates by then.
‘Women and young people deserted the Nationals and the Liberals,’ at last election, David Littleproud says
Is David Littleproud, leader of the Nationals, which is the party of rural and regional Australia, trying to prove he is different to Barnaby Joyce with his “listening tour” to find out the issues impacting regional and rural Australians?
He told Sky News:
Oh look, we all have different leadership styles, but one of the one of the things that we should be proud of as Nationals is that we held on to all our seats at the last election. But there are some emerging threats that we have to be aware of, and we can’t sugarcoat it. Women and young people deserted the Nationals and the Liberals, and you can’t rebuild that trust unless you listen. You learn, you understand, and you get out there and do that at a grassroots level.
And I want to understand the issues. This isn’t about quotas. So Nationals believe in the primacy of its membership, determining who represents them. This is about making sure that women and young people are given a voice and that they know that the National party is there listening to them around real issues like childcare, around even superannuation caps for families who have one of their breadwinners, staying home to give them the opportunity to catch up in terms of some of that superannuation that they miss out on.
Or whether it’s young people, whether it’s around regional university centres being out there where they don’t have to leave their country town to get a university degree and even to some of the substance abuse issues that we have out there where we don’t have the support.
That is just sort of the themes I’m hearing already, but I don’t want to pre-empt anything. We want to get out there at a grassroots level as a National party and listen, understand, learn and rebuild that trust. And I want to do that in a genuine way, a genuine way where people can rebuild that trust in the Nationals.
Paul Fletcher says opposition will support federal integrity commission but bill needs to be ‘investigated and scrutinised’
Paul Fletcher dropped by doors to make a statement.
The manager of opposition business linked the integrity commission to Labor’s “urgent” bill standing order change (a bill which is declared urgent can have the debate gagged and brought to a vote), which the opposition opposed. The standing order formalises what the Coalition was doing in government anyway – which was guillotining debates (which Labor complained about), so make of that what you will. (To be clear – ‘urgent’ bills still get debate time, it just means that there will be a vote called on the bill – so it puts an end to fillibustering if you will)
The opposition, of course, has been clear that we support an anti-corruption commission, but we need to see the detail and work through the detail. There’s a lot of issues of detail to work through.
One thing I am very concerned about as manager of opposition business is ensuring that we don’t see the Labor government using new gag procedures that they’ve given themselves. The new gag powers to rush this bill through the House without it being properly debated.
This is an important issue that needs to be properly debated, there are a lot of issues to work through as leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton, and shadow attorney general, Julian Leeser, have made clear, so its very important that we don’t see the Labor government using their gag powers – which they gave themselves in changes of standing orders shortly after the new parliament convened – that they don’t use those gag powers to rush through this legislation, rush it through the House of Representatives.
In relation to the national anti-corruption commission, there’s a lot of matters that need to be thoroughly and carefully debated and investigated and scrutinised; parliament needs to be allowed to do its work.
Coalition accuses Labor of ‘rank hypocrisy’ over cashless debit card
Shadow health minister Anne Ruston has accused the Labor government of “rank hypocrisy” in seeking to abolish the cashless debit card while keeping the Basics card for the Northern Territory and Cape York.
Coalition senator Jacinta Price went further, claiming the government was “racist” in abolishing the income management tool in some areas of the country but not in the Northern Territory.
Social services minister Amanda Rishworth will this week unveil new amendments to Labor’s own bill to abolish the cashless debit card, including setting up $67m in social services including alcohol and drug programs for communities where the card has been operating.
The card will be abolished by year’s end, and participants will be able to opt out from as soon as early October. But the Basics card, a different income management tool, will remain in place, and CDC participants in the NT and Cape York will be transitioned into a different program instead of getting off the program entirely.
Ruston and shadow social services minister Michael Sukkar gave a Parliament House press conference with numerous other Coalition members representing regions where the CDC has been operating.
The government is trying to pretend to the Australian community they’re getting rid of income management ... So on one side they’re saying ‘you don’t need to have income management’ but for some reason people in the Northern Territory and a number of other places do have to have income management,” Ruston said.
I think the government has some very serious questions to answer as to why they have discriminated against one group of people as opposed to another.”
Price claimed Labor’s commitment to abolish the CDC was to “secure woke votes” at the election. The NT senator said she was concerned at the impact the change would have on Indigenous communities, voicing worries about alcohol abuse, as well as noting how the Territory was being treated differently to other income management areas.
First [Labor] say it’s racist to introduce income management. Now they’re allowing just for those in the NT, who we know are predominantly Indigenous Australians, to be kept on the Basics card,” Price said.
It’s these actions I would call racist, because the former Coalition government made plans to ensure that the cashless debit card would be available to all welfare recipients eventually across the nation.”
Labor, in their hypocritical actions, has effectively demonstrated what racism actually looks like.”
Rishworth and assistant social services minister Justine Elliot said they had visited every CDC community and undertaken consultation about their plans to abolish the program. The Coalition members claimed the ministers had not visited those sites before making the election promise, and accused the government of only listening to a select group of people in those communities.
Franking credits change ‘very minor’, treasurer says
There is a bit of drama around franking credits (2016 – is that you?).
The AFR published an article a few days ago about a review into franking credits, which has caused the usual players to get very upset (again, 2016? Hello)
It’s complicated, but essentially the Australian Taxation Office wants to make sure that franking credits are being paid on actual profits, as they are supposed to be, and not just if extra capital is raised.
But the kicker? It was actually first proposed by the Coalition government in 2016 who also wanted to close that loophole, but nothing came of it.
Jim Chalmers says it is a minor change which will see the loophole taken care of:
This is a Liberal party policy announced by treasurer Scott Morrison in the 2016 mid-year update. And this is a very minor change proposed by the Liberals who couldn’t get their act together on legislation, another mess that we’ve been asked to clean up which wasn’t done by our predecessors. It’s a very minor measure. It’s about capital raising and franking credits. It’s nothing like the proposal that we took to the 2019 election and have since abandoned – the Liberals know this because they proposed it in the first place. Proposed by the Liberals in 2016, left for us to legislate and implement, nothing like what’s been proposed in earlier years and since abandoned.
Treasurer says October budget will address multinational tax reform
Jim Chalmers was everywhere this morning.
Here is part of his ABC radio RN Breakfast interview with Hamish Macdonald, when he was asked about the stage-three tax cuts:
The conversation begins, we think, in areas like multinational taxes, I think that is the area which is most ripe for reform. I’ve been saying that for some time. And so the October budget will take some of the initial steps towards making sure that multinational corporations pay a fairer share of tax when they make their profits so that we can fund services in this country. I’ve said for some time I’m up for tax reform in that area, it comes hand in hand with trimming spending where spending has shown to be wasteful over the course of the best part of a decade. And it also means growing the economy the right way. All three of those elements have a role to play, as we’ve said for some time. And that’s the conversation I want to have with Australians.
Seems like the ACCC might have some checking to do
Jim Chalmers grilled on cost-of-living relief plans
Why won’t Jim Chalmers and the government bring some of the cost-of-living relief plans – such as the childcare subsidy – forward?
He told Sky News:
We’ve just come into office and I think most people would agree that if there was some easy switch that you could flick to make all of these cost-of-living pressures disappear then somebody would have flicked it already. Our job is to provide responsible cost-of-living relief in a way that doesn’t put upward pressure on inflation and make the job of the independent Reserve Bank even harder when it comes to dealing with this inflation that we have in the economy right now. And so what we’re doing, whether it’s childcare, whether it’s cheaper Tafe fees, cheaper and cleaner energy, cheaper medicines, a responsible increase to the minimum wage – all of these things together are about providing cost-of-living relief in a responsible way, in a measured way, which makes life a bit easier for people without being counterproductive and forcing the Reserve Bank’s hand.
For those wondering about that question at the end of Josh’s update there, the answer is yes. The Queen’s casket is lined with lead to keep the moisture and Superman’s vision out.
It’s an old tradition, and one of the reasons it is so heavy.
The more you know, huh.
Albanese hints at government response to Optus data breach
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has given a little more information on what the government might do in response to the massive Optus data breach, saying it should be “a huge wake-up call for the corporate sector” around data protection.
It’s expected home affairs minister Clare O’Neil will propose new legislation allowing big companies to inform banks of data breaches earlier, in a bid to better safeguard information and bank accounts. Coalition senator James Paterson earlier claimed this was “shutting the gate after the horse has bolted” but we’re still waiting to see detail of the government proposal - and we may hear more from O’Neil later today.
On 4BC Brisbane radio, Albanese was asked about the Optus issue.
We want to make sure, as well, that we change some of the privacy provisions there so that if people are caught up like this, the banks can be let know, so that they can protect their customers as well,” the PM said.
But this is a massive breach that has occurred. We know that in today’s world, there are actors, some state actors, but also some criminal organisations who want to get access to people’s data.”
Elsewhere in the chat, Albanese said he was “waiting to have consultation” on the date of a referendum to enshrine the Indigenous voice to parliament. It comes as new polling shows Australians would support such a change, but still want more information on what exactly it entails – details the government hasn’t shared around or confirmed yet.
I want to make sure that the voice to parliament isn’t my proposal, it’s our proposal. It’s Australia’s proposal. I want to embrace people as much support as possible,” he said.
Albanese is off to Tokyo today for the funeral of former Japanese leader Shinzo Abe. He’s obviously just returned from London for the Queen’s funeral.
In a separate Triple M Brisbane interview this morning, Albanese was asked whether the Queen was really in her funeral casket for the entire time she was lying in state. He diplomatically side-stepped the question. We’ll leave you with that.
Plibersek and Joyce asked to give NRL finals tip
On the Seven network, Tanya Plibersek was pushed for a NRL finals tip, which apparently all politicians have to give. Barnaby Joyce couldn’t wait to give his.
Yep, all right. You got a budget update later this week as well. Grand final week in the NRL. Just quickly, who’s your tempt, Tanya? A battle of Sydney’s west.
For me, I’ll be going with Penrith.
DK: Penrith; yep, Tanya?
Well, I’m still recovering from the disappointment of the weekend when both my teams lost, so I don’t know. I mean, you know, Penrith/Parramatta, I don’t have any strong feelings.
Plibersek: I’m still recovering.
Joyce: Come on!
I tell you what I’ll be watching on the weekend though ...
Joyce: You’ve got to pick a winner.
Plibersek: … the women’s basketball.
DK: Come on!
Joyce: They can’t stand each other. How can you go for both of them?
(He was talking about Penrith and Parramatta, not the Coalition in case you were wondering.)
I tell you what I’ll be watching on the weekend, I’ll be watching women’s basketball because the women’s basketball has been absolutely fantastic.
DK: Tanya, you’re a politician. You’ve got to have –
That’s avoiding the issue. Mate, what Penrith have got to do, Penrith have got to shut down the offloads from Parramatta, but I’m sure that Isaah Yeo and people like that. Dylan Edwards had a cracker the other day. I mean, that’s the best game he’s played since the Bellingen Magpies, I can see that a mile away. And, you know, to be quite frank, to be quite frank, there was a couple of other tries that should have gone Penrith’s way. I don’t support Penrith but they’re going to win.
Labor remains noncommittal on stage-three tax cuts
Labor’s line on the stage three tax cuts is ‘no changes … for now’.
One, because they don’t come in for another financial year – there will be two budgets before then (October and May). So they don’t have to think of them just yet.
And two, because the more public discomfort at them grows, the easier it will be to scrap them.
It’s another “watch this space”.
‘Politicians and billionaires don’t need a tax cut,’ Adam Bandt says
A parliamentary budget office analysis of the benefit of the legislated stage-three tax cuts (due to come into effect in July 2024) for politicians.
The Greens commissioned the analysis which found the cost to the budget over the decade of stage-three tax cuts for federal MPs and senators to be $18.6m (over the decade).
That is based on the base salary of $211,250 a year for backbenchers.
Adam Bandt said its yet another reason the cuts should be scrapped:
Labor shouldn’t give politicians and billionaires a $9,000 a year tax cut, especially while everyday people are suffering through a cost of living crisis.
Politicians and billionaires don’t need a tax cut.
We are four weeks from the budget and the calls for the repeal of Labor’s stage three tax cuts are growing stronger and louder.
Instead of giving politicians and billionaires a massive handout, Labor should make childcare free and put dental into Medicare to give people real cost of living relief.
Labor’s stage three tax cuts for billionaires, politicians and the wealthy will cost the budget $244bn. If money’s as tight as the treasurer says it is, Labor should repeal the stage-three tax cuts.”
Melissa Caddick's Dover Heights mansion hits the market
The luxurious home of conwoman Melissa Caddick has been listed for sale, with the proceeds to go to the victims of her Ponzi scheme.
Caddick stole as much as $30m, mostly from family and friends, by claiming to be a financial advisor offering enormous returns on share portfolios. Her suspected death is currently the subject of an inquest, which is expected to resume in Sydney today.
The Dover Heights home has five bedrooms, a pool and expansive views of Sydney Harbour and could fetch more than $10m.
But it will reportedly only be available for inspection to those who pay a $10,000 refundable deposit, in part to deter voyeurs captivated by Caddick’s bizarre story.
Bruce Gleeson, from Jones Partners, the firm charged with clawing back money from Caddick and her company Maliver to return to her investors, said in a statement:
Since obtaining vacant possession in late May 2022 and receiving orders enabling us to proceed with a sale, we have undertaken certain maintenance and minor improvements to amplify the property’s luxurious appeal.
The home is positioned in an elevated part of one of Dover Heights’ most sought-after streets and we are extremely pleased to be able to offer this prestigious property for sale during spring.
We are also well advanced and close to finalising an application to the federal court which will seek sale orders regarding the designer jewellery, clothing and artworks.
Crossbench make demands for federal integrity commission
Sarah Martin has reported on this a little earlier this morning, but here are the crossbench (the ones focused on integrity) demands for the federal integrity commission (from the joint statement):
We want to ensure the commission is properly set up to do the job it needs to do, and is given the supporting infrastructure necessary to ensure its success in the future. This means:
● Strong whistleblower protection, including through a whistleblower protection commissioner.
● Statutory oversight mechanisms that protect the independence of the commission.
● Budgetary protection, independence and funding transparency.
● Ability for own-motion investigations into so-called “grey corruption”.
● Funding for pro-integrity measures including prevention and education.
● Jurisdiction over third parties who seek to improperly influence government decisions and funding.
Jim Chalmers hints at austere budget
Now that it is business as usual, the government is back to laying the groundwork for what sounds like a fairly austere budget next month.
Jim Chalmers says he has found “a further $6.1bn in unfunded spending”.
He says money promised by the past government was not delivered, rolling into the next funding years, which improved the budget for what was the Coalition’s last year, but kicked the problem down the road.
It’s things like PPE funding and things like that.
So why are we hearing about it now?
It’s all part of Chalmers’ working to get everyone in the headspace for what will be a fairly austere budget. If everyone is thinking about the debt, they won’t expect too much spending.
Anthony Albanese is doing a Brisbane radio tour this morning. First 4BC (Brisbane’s 2GB) where they played the Holy Grail for about four minutes and now Triple M Brisbane.
Optus owes customers ‘full explanation and a genuine apology’, says Liberal senator
Coalition shadow minister for cybersecurity, James Paterson, says Optus needs to “front up” and give customers a more detailed explanation of the massive cyberattack that has potentially compromised more than nine million people’s data.
Paterson, the senator for Victoria, says the telecom giant owes their customers a “full explanation and a genuine apology”, with many stories already emerging of people struggling to safeguard their personal details or change passwords after last week’s cyber issue.
It’s appropriate that when there’s an investigation going on, that they follow the AFP’s advice, but that should not be used as an excuse not to be completely upfront with the public about how this happened and who’s responsible for it, when those facts are known,” he said.
Paterson was holding a Parliament House press conference with shadow home affairs minister Karen Andrews to discuss the private member’s bill (which Amy has detailed for you earlier) about raising penalties on hackers.
Andrews, who was the home affairs minister until the May election, claimed Labor had been “asleep at the wheel” on cybersecurity. She said the bill she was introducing was “exactly the same” as a bill she had introduced as the minister in February, but wasn’t advanced in parliament before the election.
Paterson was critical that current home affairs and cybersecurity minister Clare O’Neil hadn’t made more substantial comments since the Optus breach last week. He claimed she waited until the three-quarter-time break in Saturday’s AFL grand final to “send out three tweets”.
In one of those tweets, O’Neil said she “will have much more to say in coming days”. Yesterday my colleagues Royce Kurmelovs and Donna Lu reported she was expected to announce reforms that would enable Optus to inform financial institutions about the data compromised in its recent cyber-attack.
Paterson said the Coalition had requested a briefing from the government on the Optus issue. Andrews said the opposition would “proactively look at any legislation” the government may propose, but Paterson claimed the government proposal would be “trying to close the gate after the horse has bolted”.
Nationals launch ‘regional listening tour’
The Nationals want to get back to their roots – the regions.
The country party are launching a “regional listening tour” to find out what is affecting people in the country.
Which they represent. And in many cases, also live.
Here is David Littleproud:
Migration is not the only solution to the challenges our regions are up against,” Littleproud said.
We need to look at what can be done now to help those Australians that are already in town.
We want to understand their challenges, what are the incentives they need to either get back to work or to stay in town.”
Littleproud said he expects “to hear about a variety of issues such as access to childcare, superannuation caps and the need for greater access to health services”.
We know distance is one of the greatest barriers to opportunity. So we’re coming to your town to create this opportunity to share your concerns and help us come up with the solutions.
For example, would a Regional University Centre stop our children from leaving town? Or could paying their HELP debts be the incentive they need to stay where we need them?
The Nationals are the only Party that represents regional Australia.
We do not have to compromise because we have Members in the cities, this is the purity of our purpose.”
The rebrand of Peter Dutton, opposition leader, continues.
The Liberal leader is doing his best to not only smile more (a throwback to when he last tried to become prime minister) but also to be “funny”.
But political animals are going to political animal. This time though, the game has new players.
Four Corners turns spotlight on Peter Dutton
The opposition leader Peter Dutton is the topic of tonight’s Four Corners.
The Australian has tried to get ahead of the ABC with a story on “the mates the real Peter keeps close”.
Here is some of the motley crew – including former Liberals who lost blue-ribbon Liberal seats.
Rod Sims named chair of Opera Australia
There will be some changes at the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
As AAP reports:
After more than a decade of fighting for consumers, Rod Sims is to focus his considerable experience on encouraging more Australians to give opera a go.
The former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair is taking on the role of chair of Opera Australia.
Sims wants to change perceptions opera is elitist, stage more full performances in Melbourne and nurture Australian talent over the term of his appointment.
He wasn’t born into an opera-loving family but became hooked the moment he heard a recording of the famous duet from The Pearl Fishers more than 40 years ago.
I was just blown away.
Trying to have more people have that experience would be a fantastic thing to do and does take a lot of creative thinking.
Sims will work closely with Opera Australia chief executive Fiona Allen to “move the dial” by collaborating with other arts organisations and developing ways to draw in new audiences.
Sims is taking on the role amid criticism Opera Australia, founded in 1956, is too Sydney-centric. No full operas will be staged in Melbourne in 2023, while seven full performances will take place in Sydney over a period of five months.
Obviously our Melbourne season next year is thin. It’s extremely high quality, by the way, but thin.
We’ve got to do more in Melbourne but I’m also interested to see whether we can do more in other places as well.
Acoss want welfare payments lifted to at least $73 a day
The Australian Council of Social Service has a new report it will be launching showing just how impossible it is to live on the jobseeker and youth allowance rates (in case you needed a reminder).
The JobSeeker Payment is just $48 a day and Youth Allowance is just $38 a day. To put these rates of payment in perspective, it costs approximately $80 to fill a small car with unleaded fuel. Median rents for a unit are around $460 per week, or $65 a day.
Among the report key findings:
62% have had difficulty getting medication or medical care due to the increased cost of living. Almost all (96%) said that the inability to cover the cost of living harmed their physical and mental health.
62% are eating less or skipping meals while 71% are cutting back on meat, fresh fruit, and vegetables.
96% of people renting privately are in rental stress, paying more than 30% of their income on rent, while 48% have received a rent increase in the past 6 months, with a third reporting a rise of $30 or more a week.
70% of people who regularly use a car said they had difficulty travelling to work, medical appointments, or other commitments as a result of increased fuel costs.
More than half (57%) of respondents are shortening or taking fewer showers because of increased energy costs. 7 in 10 are cutting their use of heating. 28% currently have energy bill debt and a further 22% expect to go into debt when they receive their next bill. 46% of respondents are going to bed early to keep warm.
Acoss acting CEO Edwina MacDonald said people were being made to make “impossible choices”:
No one should have to choose between food and medicine, but these are exactly the choices being forced on people in Australia, one of the world’s wealthiest nations.”
Acoss wants the rate lifted to at least $73 a day. To raise it above the Henderson poverty line, the rate would need to be at least $88 a day.
The government has said it won’t be making changes to the rates in this budget.
Whale trapped in shark nets off Gold Coast
Dipping out of politics for a moment to bring you some marine news:
Coalition to reintroduce bill targeting cybercriminals
Karen Andrews and James Paterson are reintroducing a Coalition bill which the former government didn’t get around to passing as a private members’ bill.
The Optus data breach is the inspiration. The bill (which was first called the crimes legislation amendment (ransomware action plan) bill 2022) introduces a standalone offence for “all forms of cyber extortion” (up to 10 years in prison) and a new offence for cybercriminals who target critical infrastructure – like phone networks (up to 25 years in prison).
The bill also wants to make “buying and selling malware for the purpose of committing a computer offence and dealing with stolen data, to halt the effectiveness of the ransomware business model”.
That will be introduced today. Without the government’s support, that won’t pass.
Albanese to miss first two days of parliament to attend Shinzo Abe’s funeral
The prime minister Anthony Albanese is on his way to Japan for Shinzo Abe’s funeral.
He is leading a delegation which includes former prime ministers Kevin Rudd, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull.
Albanese will miss the first two days of parliament because of the funeral. He should be back in time for the Wednesday sitting.
Crossbench MPs say they will not be rushed into supporting proposed anti-corruption body
Crossbench MPs and senators say they will not be rushed into supporting the government’s proposed new anti-corruption body, saying they will continue to push for a model that “is the best it can be”, and which will improve integrity within government.
Outlining six key areas that it says will form the necessary “supporting infrastructure” for a successful anti-corruption body, the statement from 13 independents and the Greens says the group will continue to work constructively with the government to deliver an anti-corruption commission “with teeth”.
“We have been raising our detailed concerns with the Government for many months now in a good faith attempt to have them addressed in a timely way,” the statement says.
“We won’t delay the process for political games or point scoring, but won’t be rushed to vote in favour of a Bill that doesn’t make the grade.”
The six areas being pushed by the group are strong whistleblower protections, including through a whistleblower protection commissioner; statutory oversight mechanisms that protect the independence of the commission; budgetary protection, independence and funding transparency; ability for own-motion investigations into so-called “grey corruption”; funding for pro-integrity measures including prevention and education; and jurisdiction over third parties who seek to improperly influence government decisions and funding.
“They are not minor issues, but based on the lessons from integrity bodies in other states and territories, and from experts who have worked on these issues for many years,” the group said.
“It is now up to the Government to deliver an anti-corruption commission that is independent, strong, and trusted by the Australian people.”
The government’s proposed national anti corruption commission bill is expected to go to caucus on Tuesday before being introduced to parliament by attorney general Mark Dreyfus shortly thereafter. The government has said it remains committed to an election promise to introduce the legislation for the new commission this year, and has said any delays would be the result of resistance from the crossbench or the opposition.
On Sunday, the Coalition’s shadow finance minister Jane Hume said the opposition would consider supporting the bill, but had concerns about allowing public hearings that could deter people from entering public life.
Welcome to another week of parliament!
It is a short week – just three days at this stage, with the government scheduling it to catch up for the week which was missed following the Queen’s death.
This week it is all about the integrity commission – and getting ahead of the budget.
Mark Dreyfus will take the government’s integrity legislation through caucus and then once it has passed there, take it to the parliament. Once introduced, it will head straight to a committee, which independent MP Helen Haines is likely to be on. From there, the bill will be reviewed and potential gaps highlighted. Once the committee reports is when things will start getting interesting – but that won’t be for a little bit yet.
The Coalition hasn’t decided what it is doing on integrity just yet. Labor had said it wants a retrospective inclusion to the legislation, which is not something the Coalition wants, so we’ll see. But there will be a whole heap of “will they or won’t they” until the decision is announced.
Karen Andrews says the opposition wants to look over the bill very closely:
I accept that the Australian people are looking for greater integrity and the issues of corruption, should they exist, be dealt with. That’s not an issue with me. That’s not an issue with my party, either. We will work proactively to look at the legislation that Labor puts in place. We will continue to work with Labor for a good outcome. That’s not a case of just waving through any legislation. As with anything, you would expect that there would be a high level of scrutiny. We’re committed to doing that.
Meanwhile, the Optus data breach is still a huge issue. Andrews plans to introduce a private members bill for a ransomeware action plan, proposing new offences for cybercriminals, while attacks on critical infrastructure such as phone and electricity networks would attract a maximum penalty of 25 years in jail.
The government is also due to respond to the interim report of the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide. It had recommended 13 urgent changes to address the major issues already highlighted, including the 42,000 or so backlog in veterans’ compensation claims.
And the cashless debit card will once again be a focus. The government is not getting rid of income management– the Northern Territory is not part of this and the Basics card remains. The cashless welfare card will be voluntary under the government legislation in the trial sites – Ceduna, East Kimberley, the Goldfields and Bundaberg-Hervey Bay.
And it is also the week for media diversity. Zoe Daniel and Monique Ryan want to set up a judicial inquiry looking at the concentration of media ownership in Australia. Ryan also wants to speed up approvals for NDIS housing.
So it’s all happening.
We’ll keep you all up to date with what is happening as it does. It’s going to take a lot of coffee. Perhaps more than I have.