Prime minister Anthony Albanese has indicated a timeframe for the referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament in an address to the working group at Parliament House today.
It looks like we’ll see ballots sometime between July 2023 and the end of June 2024.
We haven’t settled on a date, as you know. I genuinely haven’t. At the end of the day, as the prime minister, that will be a decision that I’ll have to advance. But I will be taking advice, including very strong advice from this group. But we need to be ready. I don’t want to rush into this. We’ve got time to explain it, to win people over. And I think the more that people discuss this the better.
The timeframe will be from sometime in that financial year – that’s where the window is open – from July next year through to the next financial year. You don’t want to get mixed up in in an election period. So we’ve got a little bit of time, but not too much. Not a day to waste. And I just want to very much thank this group for giving me the honour of being part of this process.
What we learned, Thursday 29 September
And that’s where we’ll leave you this evening. Thanks so much for your company. Here’s a wrap of what we learned today:
Aung San Suu Kyi and the Australian academic Sean Turnell who served as her advisor, have been sentenced to three years in prison after a closed trial in Myanmar.
Australia has condemned the sentencing and the closed trial, with foreign minister Penny Wong saying Australia has “consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell during the more than 19 months he had been unjustly detained by the Myanmar military regime”.
The working group to advise the government on a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution released new details on the proposed scheme after its first official meeting with the Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney.
The federal resources minister, Madeleine King, signed an agreement with the three big LNG exporters on the east coast, heading off a potential gas shortfall in 2023.
Almost a third of 92 AFL players who identified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or a person of colour experienced racism while listed as a player, according to a new survey from the players’ union.
The Australian War Memorial will expand its recognition of the frontier wars, which inflicted atrocities and massacres against Indigenous Australians during colonisation.
Median rents have jumped by 7.7% in Melbourne in the past year and 8.9% in regional Victoria, according to new data.
Australia’s medical regulator granted provisional approval for a Pfizer Covid-19 booster for children aged between six months and five years.
The Live News blog will be back tomorrow morning with Natasha May. Have a lovely evening everyone.
Opposition continues to pressure Labor to respond to Optus data breach
While we wait for further substantial updates from the government on its response to the Optus data breach, the Coalition opposition is calling for Labor to get a move on.
We are expecting more information about the data breach potentially as early as tomorrow, while a more detailed government response may be shared over the weekend. That’s all still to be confirmed though, with timelines for announcements changing quickly inside the government as more portfolios (health, treasury, government services, foreign affairs) get dragged into the scandal.
Shadow communications spokesperson Sarah Henderson said on Thursday she welcomed attorney general Mark Dreyfus’ commitments to bring on changes to the Privacy Act in coming months, but said Labor should look at proposals from the former government on strengthening online security.
The Coalition’s proposed Online Privacy Bill, released as an exposure draft in 2021 but not advanced through parliament, had proposed changes including increased fines of up to $10m for breaches of the Privacy Act.
Henderson claimed the government “has no excuse not to act immediately” because “extensive consultation” had already been done by the attorney-general’s department.
Dreyfus said today the government was “looking at what urgent reforms can be made to the Privacy Act”, setting out a timeline of “the next four weeks” to consider if changes could be made by year’s end.
It’s understood government responses may come over a wide timeframe, with some changes to be explored as soon as possible, and others on a longer lead time. The government’s priority is said to be on the immediate response to victims of the breach, and securing their information - other changes, like reforming fines for such large data issues, may come down the track.
The Australian War Memorial’s decision to more fully chronicle the frontier wars between First Nations resistance fighters, colonial troops, police and militias is a welcome progression from an institution that for decades has obstinately defied the bloody truth of Australia’s foundation history.
The noble mandate of the memorial, this country’s most revered and politically protected national institution, is to “assist Australians to remember, interpret and understand the Australian experience of war and its enduring impact on Australian society”.
But under a succession of memorial directors the AWM has resisted meaningfully depicting the wars for this very continent – those of violent dispossession and ongoing oppression of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people upon which the Australian colonies, their wealth and finally the federation were constructed.
The decision, apparently at the behest of the memorial’s notoriously conservative governing council, comes at a time of great change (and controversy) at the institution.
Read more here:
It’s probably going to be a wet spring, but you knew that already.
Companies warned about collecting unnecessary customer data in wake of Optus hack
In the wake of the Optus data issue, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner says companies should only collect personal details that are necessary to its business and destroy such data when it’s no longer needed.
“Collecting and storing unnecessary information breaches privacy and creates risk,” the OAIC said, in some particularly pointed remarks.
In its statement, released on Thursday afternoon, the commissioner appeared to reference the fact Optus may not have initially reported that some 27,000 Medicare numbers were caught up in the data issue.
The OAIC said:
When any organisation experiences a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm, they must be as clear and timely as possible about what kind of personal information is involved.
It said the Optus issue had “highlighted a number of issues that all organisations who hold personal information should consider”.
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has flagged some legislative changes could be coming when parliament sits next in October, with expectations that changes around data retention and security will be proposed. There have been questions over how much personal information companies can (or are obligated by government to) collect, and how long they can keep it for.
The Australian information and privacy commissioner, Angelene Falk, said:
The regulatory framework needs to shift the dial to place more responsibility on organisations who are the custodians of Australians’ data, to prevent and remediate harm to individuals caused through the handling of their personal information.
On the federal government side, it’s still unclear exactly what other changes the Labor administration is considering. Neither Anthony Albanese nor the cybersecurity and home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, have held a local press conference since the data breach was revealed last week.
Optus has not responded publicly to a call by the foreign minister, Penny Wong, for the company to cover the cost of replacing passports affected by the breach. We’re also seeking further clarity from the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, on Treasury’s work to share Optus data with big banks in a bid to stave off potential fraud and theft issues.
Human Rights Watch condemns conviction of Sean Turnell
Human Rights Watch has also condemned as a “cruel injustice” the conviction of the Australian economist Sean Turnell in Myanmar.
The Asia director at the organisation, Elaine Pearson, said in a statement:
The politically motivated conviction of Australian Sean Turnell is a cruel injustice. He was convicted after a trial in closed court without proper access to legal counsel. It’s critical that the Australian government take all necessary steps to pressure Myanmar’s junta to immediately release Turnell and send him home.
More broadly, Pearson said the junta’s “willingness to pile sentences on Aung San Suu Kyi, along with the Australian economist Sean Turnell and three of her ministers show that Myanmar’s military has no qualms about their international pariah status”.
Concerned governments should take this as a clear signal that they need to take concerted action against the junta if they are going to turn the human rights situation around in the country.
NT government urged to be cautious on Beetaloo Basin water allocation plans
The Northern Territory government was warned that increasing water allocations for industry could change the flow to a major Top End river.
Conservationists say a confidential government memorandum, released under freedom of information laws to the Environment Centre NT, should prompt the territory government to be cautious as it drafts water allocation plans for the Beetaloo Basin.
The document, written by the then director of water planning, Tim Bond, in 2020 warned applying water allocation rules used in the southern arid zone to an aquifer farther north, could eventually cause some water flows to the Roper River to move in the opposite direction.
Kirsty Howey, the co-director of the Environment Centre NT, described the memorandum as “shocking”, saying it pointed to potentially “catastrophic impacts on iconic territory waterways” including the Roper River and the Mataranka hot springs.
Read more on the story here:
Victoria to roll out four wheelie bins to every household in new recycling system
My colleague Benita Kolovos is reporting today that all Victorian households will soon have four wheelie bins at home and be able to recycle pizza boxes and soft plastics.
It’s part of the state government’s $515m reform of the recycling system.
Victoria’s environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, was on Thursday joined by her federal counterpart, Tanya Plibersek, to announce the framework for the four-bin system, as well as a joint $14.3m worth of funding for recycling projects in Victoria.
D’Ambrosio told reporters:
We’re the first state in Australia to roll out the same bins to every household, and the first to include soft plastics and pizza boxes in those bins.
And apartment dwellers throughout the state wonder if this will change the way their neighbours sort their rubbish!
Read more on the story from Benita, here:
Penny Wong condemns court ruling against Sean Turnell in Myanmar
The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, has condemned the sentencing of Australian academic Sean Turnell to three years in prison in Myanmar – and the secrecy around the case.
Turnell, who had been charged with violating Myanmar’s official secrets act, served as an economic adviser to the deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
In a statement issued this afternoon, Wong said:
The Australian government rejects today’s court ruling in Myanmar against Australian Professor Sean Turnell and calls for his immediate release.
Professor Turnell was tried in a closed court. Australia’s Chargé d’Affaires and consular officials in Myanmar made every effort to attend the verdict but were denied access to the court.
The Australian government has consistently rejected the charges against Professor Turnell during the more than 19 months he had been unjustly detained by the Myanmar military regime.
We will continue to take every opportunity to advocate strongly for Professor Turnell until he has returned to his family in Australia. We acknowledge the strong international support shown for him, including from our region.
Professor Turnell is internationally respected for his work to support the people of Myanmar and their economic development.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade will continue to provide consular assistance to Professor Turnell and his family for as long as required.
We ask that his family’s request for privacy continue to be respected.
The full story on Turnell’s sentencing is here:
Annastacia Palaszczuk says she has had preliminary talks with PM on funding for pumped hydro project
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, says she has had preliminary conversations with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, seeking federal backing for plans to build the world’s largest pumped hydroelectricity project in the state’s north.
Palaszczuk was in Mackay on Thursday to unveil details about the proposed Pioneer-Burdekin project, which will take about a decade to plan and build.
She said the 5GW project was the “centrepiece” of the Queensland energy plan announced on Wednesday, which envisages large-scale construction of renewables and the early closure of coal-fired generators. Under the plan, reliance on burning coal would cease by about 2035.
However, the Pioneer-Burdekin project remains in the very early stages and still requires significant planning and funding. The government says while it is confident the proposal is viable, it will continue to assess potential backup options.
The estimated cost for the project is $12bn. The Queensland government is yet to commit any money, though the project would probably not begin construction until 2025 at the earliest.
All the details here:
Gas agreement will ensure Australians do not pay more than the international price, minister says
The federal resources minister, Madeleine King, has been speaking to ABC TV just now about the gas export deal she announced today. She’s asked if the gas companies signed the agreement “through gritted teeth”, and says:
No. We’ve been speaking very collaboratively and cooperatively and there is a lot at stake. These are significant operations, they’re complex, the natural gas export industry is a complex industry – it is based on tens of billions of dollars of international investments – so they have to rightly consider their international partners and long-term foundation contracts. I respect that. Equally, I respect the needs of the Australian people to be able to have a gas supply.
She says “a significant buffer” has been built into the deal, so there is more supply than will likely be needed:
They have to abide by a very significant principle that they would not charge domestic gas users more than the international price for uncontracted gas. For international companies to have any kind of price limit, that’s very challenging in an open trading market, so they’ve committed to that and so they should, quite frankly, because it does make sense to every ordinary, everyday Australian that you would not pay more for gas that’s going overseas.
You can read Peter Hannam’s story on the deal here:
Are Optus subsidiaries caught up in data breach?
My colleague Josh Taylor is on Twitter clearing up some apparent confusion about why Gomo, Virgin and customers of other companies may have been caught up in the Optus data breach, per this story. (It’s also something that’s explained in the fourth paragraph of his article, but we know some people only read the headlines!)
Falcon drama leaves female in the lurch atop Melbourne skyscraper
ABC Melbourne has this very important update on the 367 Collins St peregrine falcons.
The mother falcon has laid eggs but the natural father has been chased off or killed by by another male falcon that swooped in to take over the perch before leaving the poor mum in the lurch.
Labor gives in-principle support to federal judicial commission
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has given in-principle support to the establishment of a judicial commission to address concerns about the conduct of judges.
This was a recommendation of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s (ALRC) report on judicial impartiality, Without Fear or Favour.
The ALRC found that, in general, the Australian public has a high level of confidence in Australian judges and courts, that the Australian judiciary is highly respected internationally, and that the substantive law on actual or apprehended bias does not require amendment.
The report asked the government to:
Establish a federal judicial commission;
Develop a more transparent process for appointing federal judicial officers on merit; and
Collect, and report annually on, statistics regarding the diversity of the federal judiciary.
I am a longstanding supporter of a federal judicial commission to deal with complaints against judges. The government will now consult closely with the federal courts and other key stakeholders on the recommended establishment of a federal judicial commission.
The government is already acting to restore integrity in the judicial appointments process by establishing a more transparent, merit-based approach.
The Albanese government is also committed to improving diversity in the federal judiciary and will engage with the federal courts to consider the best approaches to data collection and reporting on characteristics of the judiciary.
One third of AFL players of colour experienced racism, survey finds
Almost a third of 92 AFL players who identified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or a person of colour experienced racism while listed as a player, according to a new survey from the players’ union.
The survey also found less than one-fifth of AFL players who have experienced racism in the game felt their matter was sufficiently dealt with and showed “concerning” incidences of vilification from people in the industry.
The AFL Players’ Association’s first Insights and Impact Report, released on Thursday amid the disturbing allegations of the Hawthorn racism review, found that of the 92 players surveyed who identified as Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or a person of colour, 29 had experienced racism while listed as an AFL player.
Of those, only 17% felt the incidents were dealt with entirely to their satisfaction while 21% felt they were “somewhat or partially” dealt with and 62% felt they were not dealt with at all. The report said:
This disappointing response highlights an area of future focus for the industry.
Fifteen of the 29 said they had experienced racism within the last 12 months.
Read the full story here:
Further to AGL’s announcement about its transition away from coal:
Thanks so much for your work this morning, Natasha! I’ll be with you all until early this evening.
Thanks for your attention today. The fabulous Stephanie Convery will be taking over. See you back here tomorrow!
“Australia is being held to ransom by gas companies”: Allegra Spender
The resources minister Madeleine King today announced the government has signed a new heads of agreement with east coast LNG exporters, avoiding a gas supply shortfall without the need to pull the trigger on the domestic gas supply mechanism.
Independent MP Allegra Spender says the situation is reflective of the nation being “held to ransom by gas companies making record profits and refusing to supply the domestic market at a fair price.”
Australian economist Sean Turnell sentenced to three years in Myanmar jail
Aung San Suu Kyi and the Australian academic Sean Turnell who served as her advisor have been sentenced to three years in prison after a closed trial in Myanmar, according to reports.
Turnell, an economist at Sydney’s Macquarie University, was first detained last year on 6 February, a few days after the military ousted Myanmar’s elected government, plunging the country into chaos.
Rex Patrick to appeal FOI decision on Morrison secret ministry information
Former independent senator Rex Patrick requested information related to former prime minister Scott Morrison’s multiple ministry appointments, under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
However, the government has responded to the request saying they would defer the release if the information on the basis it “is likely to attract considerable media interest and public commentary,” Patrick says.
Patrick will appeal the decision, saying the purpose of the FOI act is to promote democracy by facilitating informed media and public commentary.
Liquor stores in parts of WA must scan IDs in crackdown on problem drinkers
Anyone buying takeaway alcohol in much of regional Western Australia will have their identification scanned under a crackdown on problem drinkers, AAP reports.
The state government has flagged a tightening of the banned drinkers register being trialled in the Pilbara, Kimberley and Goldfields regions.
It comes after an assessment showed just 60 people had been blacklisted in the Pilbara since the trial began there in December 2020.
A further 85 have been banned in the Kimberley since last July, including 29 who signed up voluntarily, and 29 in the Goldfields since March.
Customers must provide identification to be scanned, notifying the seller if the purchaser is a banned drinker.
Participation has been voluntary for liquor retailers but it will become mandatory under proposals that are open to consultation until October 27.
Tony Buti, the racing and gaming minister, said additional locations could also be added to the trial. He said:
Minimising the harmful impacts of alcohol consumption to individuals, families and whole communities is an ongoing priority for the McGowan government.
How we do that, taking into consideration the state’s vastness and diversity, presents us with unique policy development challenges, and this makes consultation vital.
A proposal to ban the sale of anything but light beer in bottleshops in the Kimberley and Pilbara has been under review by the state liquor licensing director since 2020. A decision is not expected until next year after a deadline for industry submissions was extended.
WA Governor Chris Dawson had pushed for the ban while serving as police commissioner, saying the “astronomical” consumption of alcohol in the far north needed to be curbed.
His successor Col Blanch has indicated he is open to the proposal, which is opposed by the hospitality sector.
New details on Indigenous voice to parliament emerge from working group
The working group to advise the government on a referendum to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution has released a statement after its first official meeting with the Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney.
The group gives a bit more detail about what a voice would look like, and what it would do:
The working group discussed common principles for the Voice drawn from the work already done. Those principles identify the Voice as a body that:
provides independent advice to the Parliament and Government
is chosen by First Nations people based on the wishes of local communities
is representative of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities
is empowering, community led, inclusive, respectful, culturally informed and gender balanced, and includes youth
is accountable and transparent
works alongside existing organisations and traditional structures.
The Voice would:
not have a program delivery function
not have a veto power.
At the meeting, the group discussed the referendum question and how to ensure information about the referendum is accessible for all voters.
They supported plans for the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, to set up a constitutional experts group, to advise on the mechanics of the vote and changes to the constitution in a successful referendum.
The group said it was important to listen to First Nations people on matters that affect their lives, and emphasised the importance of continuing to work with First Nations peoples in the lead-up to referendum.
Retail job vacancies surge to nearly 50,000, threatening Christmas trading
Job vacancies in the retail sector have grown to 46,100, an increase of 5,800 or 14.4% compared to May, according to new figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The Australian Retailers Association’s CEO Paul Zahra says the increase is a significant concern for businesses looking to ramp up their workforces for the festive trading season:
Labour shortages are the number one concern for retail currently with many businesses forced to reduce trading hours in response to worsening staff availability. Unfortunately, this situation is exacerbating during the most critical time of year on the retail calendar – the Christmas trading period.
In advance of the holiday shopping surge, retailers have already begun their recruitment drives for tens of thousands of additional Christmas casuals to cope with demand. However with the scale of the labour crisis getting worse for retail, it’s unlikely that businesses will be able to fill all the roles they have available to trade at their full potential.
The job vacancy figures released today align with the experiences of our ARA members, with over 90% saying labour shortages have stayed the same or gotten worse for their businesses over the past three months.
Zahra said the sector had achieved “some quick wins” out of the jobs and skills summit, including the increase to Australia’s skilled migration cap, funding to speed up visa processing times, and the ability for pensioners to work more shifts without their entitlements being affected.
However, he said the sector wouldn’t be seeing the benefits of those outcomes in time to meet the demand ahead of the holiday period.
State memorial for boxing champion Johnny Famechon set for October
A state memorial service for former featherweight world champion Johnny Famechon will take place in Melbourne next month, AAP reports.
Famechon, who died in August aged 77, had a huge international boxing career and was also known for his community work in Melbourne’s southeastern suburbs.
Over more than two decades, Famechon recorded 56 wins, six draws and only five losses.
His world title win at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969 is widely regarded as one of Australia’s great sporting moments.
Famechon, who was an Australian National Boxing Hall of Fame legend, also supported young people in Frankston through his Blue Light Boxing Club.
Family, friends and members of the public will be able to attend the state memorial service at Melbourne’s Festival Hall on October 11.
Doors will open at 5pm with the service starting from 6pm. The service will also be live streamed.
In lieu of flowers, Famechon’s family has asked for any tributes to be made in the form of contributions to the Ronald McDonald House and Beyond Blue.
Nationals say renewables can’t meet energy needs without fossil support. But do the claims firm up?
Our environment reporter Graham Readfearn’s weekly Temperature Check column is out.
Readfearn writes how David Littleproud and Matt Canavan are turning the scare rhetoric up to 11, saying renewable can’t meet the country’s energy needs. But the energy market operator has already accounted for much of their criticisms.
Average rent jumps to $430 a week in Melbourne, pushing more into homelessness
Median rents have jumped by 7.7% in Melbourne in the past year and 8.9% in regional Victoria, new data released by the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing shows.
It comes as vacancy rates fall to 3.6% in Melbourne and 2.1% in regional Victoria.
In the past quarter alone, median rents increased by $20 per week in both metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria – the largest quarterly increase since June 2008.
Costs are now in excess of pre-Covid prices, sitting at $430 a week in Melbourne and $395 in the regions.
Bayside is the most expensive region to rent, averaging $580 per week, followed by the Mornington Peninsula and the Surf Coast ($520) and Manningham ($488).
Just 0.3% of rentals are considered affordable in Bayside, while 0.8% are affordable on the peninsula.
Jenny Smith, CEO of the Council to Homeless Persons, is calling on the state government to commit to funding 6,000 new social housing dwellings a year for a decade, to ease pressure on the rental market and homelessness services.
In mid-2017, fewer than 7,000 people came to Victorian homelessness services each month over housing affordability stress. The figure now sits at 10,000 a month according to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare estimates.
Renters are on the front line of Victoria’s cost of living crisis. More renters are being pushed into homelessness because they can’t find a rental they can afford.
Homelessness services are overwhelmed with people desperate for a home, and too many Victorians in urgent need of homelessness support are missing out.
‘A reflection of the times’: King on AGL power station’s early closure
King was also asked by reporters about today’s news that the Loy Yang A coal fire power plant will be closing 10 years earlier than anticipated:
The closure announced today is what we are seeing all over the country, with different states are moving to move away from coal-fired power generation, every coal-fired power station has announced a closure date, now, that is somewhat a reflection of the times and that transition.
What we need to make sure as those closures are properly managed, and as they move out of the power generation system, we make sure there is supply of other power sources.
As you know this government is very committed to taking action on climate change. We have enacted the two acts that commit us to that aim of net zero emissions by 2050.
Increased supply should lower gas prices, minister says
When will consumers start to see lower prices flow through their gas bills?
There is no doubt gas prices are very unlikely to fall to the low points of $6 or $8 or even $10.
I do expect with increased supply there will be downward pressure on prices. That is consistently the advice we have been provided with and I expect to see that and LNG exporters to make sure that that happens.
King confirms government will not pull trigger on domestic gas supply mechanism
King continues to explain what the heads of agreement means for gas supply:
This new level of transparency, as well as increased supply, will put downward pressure on prices. The new heads of agreement also increases producers’ accountability. They will report to me quarterly on their actions to supply the domestic market and provide the ACCC whatever information it requests.
With this new heads of agreement and the commitments made in writing to me, including plans to prevent the shortfall of gas in 2023, I do not need to pull the trigger on the Australian domestic gas supply mechanism.
This agreement will not impact supplies to overseas customers, and does not impact existing contracts. I want to state very firmly and clearly that Australia will always be a trusted and reliable trading partner, and a safe place to invest.
The Albanese government is committed to ensuring affordable, reliable and secure energy for Australian households and businesses. Under the Albanese government Australia has a stable energy policy.
Resources minister promises Australians ‘will not pay more for their gas than international customers’
Madeleine King spoke in Canberra about what this revised heads of agreement will mean:
The key principle is that Australian gas customers will not pay more for their gas than international customers pay for uncontracted gas – they will not pay more.
The heads of agreement also commits LNG exporters to offer gas to the domestic market in accordance with the code of conduct.
For the first time, this code is tied to the heads of agreement and sets behavioural expectations of how gas is to be offered to buyers.
Gas must be offered with sufficient notice in that can actually be taken by customers and with clear pricing structures.
Madeleine King strikes agreement with gas providers to avert winter shortfall
The federal resources minister, Madeleine King, has signed an agreement with the three big LNG exporters on the east coast, a result that should head off a potential shortfall in 2023.
As we noted yesterday, King was running out of time to sign a new “heads of agreement” before the option of using a “gas trigger” to limit exports ran out by 1 October.
King says she expects the agreement will help bring stability to the market and bring down prices for users.
The deal involves the big three gas exporters – Santos’s GLNG plant, the ConocoPhillips-led APLNG group and Shell’s QGC operations.
In August, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission identified a shortfall next year of 56 petajoules of gas, or about 10% of domestic demand. The competition watchdog “strongly” urged the big three LNG exporters, which control more than 90% of reserves in eastern states, to increase supply.
That market intervention no longer appears needed. As you were.
Pfizer’s Covid vaccine booster provisionally approved for young children
Australia’s medical regulator has granted provisional approval for a Pfizer Covid-19 booster for children aged between six months and five years, AAP reports.
The pharmaceutical company says while children are less likely to develop serious illness from Covid-19, they are still at risk of complications including long Covid.
Pfizer’s Australia and New Zealand medical director said children remain at a higher risk of catching a disease that overlaps with Covid-19, including pneumonia and other upper respiratory tract infections.
Dr Krishan Thiru said:
Today’s provisional approval is an important reminder for parents to speak to their healthcare professional about Covid-19 vaccination.
The approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration comes a week after the regulator granted provisional approval to Pfizer’s booster for children aged between five and 11.
The take-up of the boosters in Australia will be informed by advice from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.
ATAGI provides immunisation advice to national cabinet, which is due to meet on Friday.
Resources minister to speak shortly
We’re expecting the minister for resources, Madeleine King, to step up for a press conference at any moment now.
'Real concerns' about high bar for public anti-corruption hearings: David Pocock
Crossbench senators are continuing to voice disquiet at the high bar for public hearings of the proposed national anti-corruption commission. The commission can only hold public hearings if it believes there are “exceptional circumstances” and it is in the public interest to do so.
Senator David Pocock told Sky News there is “already a high bar” for what sort of corruption the commission will investigate (serious or systemic).
If we’re going to set up the commissioner to investigate corruption, we should trust them to determine in public interest if a hearing should be public.
Pocock argued there are benefits to public hearings, including encouraging others to come forward and rebuilding trust in politics.
Asked how he’d vote, Pocock said the bill won’t reach the Senate for a while but he has “real concerns around having such a high bar for public hearings”.
Asked if he is leaning to vote against, he replied that an integrity commission is “something that everyone wants” but there’s a lot of time to deal with the bill in the committee inquiry.
The bill has Peter Dutton’s support and Anthony Albanese said this morning he is “confident” the government has got the model right. It sounds like the crossbench will try to toughen it up, but just about everyone will vote for it anyway if those efforts fail.
Victorian parliament deemed safe after bomb threat
Victoria’s parliament house was locked down this morning after a bomb threat. Police have just stated publicly that the safety check has been completed and the building is “deemed safe”.
Jagot appointed to Australia’s high court, creating first majority-female bench
We brought you the news a little while ago of Jayne Jagot’s appointment to the high court, replacing Patrick Keane once he reaches mandatory retirement age.
If you want to know more, my colleague Paul Karp has the full story:
Staff shortages hit NSW childcare centres
A staff shortage means more than half of NSW childcare centres are likely to cut available places, heaping pressure on parents in the lead-up to Christmas, AAP reports.
Nearly 60% of childcare centres are likely to reduce the number of placements offered from September to December as labour shortages bite, according to a recent survey from the Australian Childcare Alliance NSW (ACA).
Nearly one-third of centres will have to close for a day or more in coming months because of a lack of staff, leaving some 34,000 children/families without early education for the final three months of the year.
The ACA has written to premier Dominic Perrottet and opposition leader Chris Minns about the looming crisis. The letter read:
ACA NSW is urgently asking for your personal direct intervention to prevent predicted partial closures and reduction of ECEC services across NSW, especially with 13 weeks before Christmas 2022.
The alliance has proposed a series of reforms that would see red tape cut over the next two years to help address the staff shortage.
Proposals include accepting alternative qualifications for workers, allowing some university students to teach in childcare centres, and converting spot checks and compliance visits to support visits for a finite period.
Early learning minister Sarah Mitchell says the government is committed to building the early childhood workforce, making a $15.9 billion commitment to the sector in the budget.
I cannot support any recommendations that lower the standards of early childhood and care services in NSW.
We must grow the workforce without forsaking children’s safety.
The ACA NSW survey found:
There would be at least a 10.89% reduction in childcare placements
Reductions would vary between 3.85% and 50%
31.5% of centres are likely to very likely to close for one or more days
58.4% are likely to very likely to reduce the number of places offered
79.6% are likely to lose more educators
94.4% are unlikely to be able to recruit quality educators
Australian wealth takes a hit for the first time since start of pandemic
It’s not quite “we’ll all be rooned” territory, but tumbling stocks and property prices in many places have combined to shrink Australia’s household wealth.
All up, household treasure at the end of the June quarter was worth $14.4 trillion, or down by $484bn in those three months, the ABS said. That meant we’re 3.3% poorer and now have wealth of $552,954 per person, the ABS said.
Katherine Keenan, head of finance and wealth at the ABS, said:
This is the first quarterly fall in household wealth since the beginning of the pandemic, and coincides with increased cost of living pressures and rising interest rates.
Falling superannuation balances contributed 1.7 percentage points to the 3.3% decline in household wealth.
Sagging residential prices lopped 1.1 percentage points from our fortunes.
On the plus side, our super contributions swelled $38bn and household deposits rose 0.5%, or $7.4bn.
And to add to the context, households have still accumulated $311.9bn in currency and deposits since the start of the pandemic – so there is some buffer to cope with higher borrowing rates and prices of, well, almost everything.
Across-the-board measure to protect Australians from fraud not feasible, minister says
Reporters ask the financial services minister why there aren’t firm measures in place to protect consumers from being defrauded.
Stephen Jones said banks are setting up measures but that a single across-the-board measure is not feasible:
If you have an across the board measure, [it] puts a brake on every single financial transaction. If we say flagged out of character large financial transfers between one bank account and another, we automatically put a slowdown on that, that could impact every single property transaction that is about to occur over the next week, or two. Because that’s exactly what happens in a property transaction, a large out of character transfer of money goes from one account to another.
It’s why we need to ensure whatever we do to fix one problem doesn’t create an even bigger problem. The banks, I believe, are operating in good faith in an attempt to deal with this on behalf of their customers. We’ve got to get the telecommunications companies working with the banks as well.
Government, telcos and banks working together on Optus breach
Stephen Jones said the Australian Financial Crimes Exchange was involved in the meeting held today, and that consumers should know that all the relevant agencies of government, together with the state jurisdictions, are working together.
He says that there is “no lack of goodwill to cooperate from the banks, the commonwealth, and the telecommunications companies”.
From a government point of view, we are working hard to ensure that we can facilitate co-operation between the banks and the telecommunications companies. I want to ensure we can do everything within our power to minimise the risk to customers.
Overwhelmingly, this is Optus’s mistake, this is Optus’s stuff up and it’s up to Optus to rectify the customers and it’s up to Optus to ensure any cost arising out of this is compensated by Optus and not the government.
Optus data breach will have ‘long tail of impact’ and scammers already 'on to it': Stephen Jones
The financial services minister Stephen Jones is speaking in Sydney about the Optus hack.
Jones says he has just returned from a meeting hosted by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) with consumers, the banks, the key regulators and the ACCC to talk about the consumer impacts of the Optus data breach.
It really is hard to overestimate the impact and the extent to which this is affecting Australians and Australian households. Over 40% of Australians impacted by the Optus breach, either directly or indirectly.
I was talking to one of the consumer ID repair organisations today – they’ve received 11,500 calls from Optus customers over the last three days. To put that into context, that’s about a month’s worth of complaints in a three-day period. People are concerned. And they’re right to be concerned.
There will be a long tail of impact of this data breach. We know that fraudsters, we know that scammers are already on to it. Whether they’ve got the Optus data or not, they’re attempting to impersonate Optus, they’re attempting to impersonate licence providers, they’re attempting to impersonate government and government agencies.
Inflation accelerated in July and eased slightly in August
The new monthly consumer price index figures are out this morning from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
So in the June quarter, CPI was up 6.1%. In July alone, the inflation pace accelerated to an annual rate of 7% and slowed a bit in August to 6.8%.
The ABS says we should only take these numbers as an indication of how the more comprehensive September quarter figures will show. They are due out on 26 October – one day after treasurer Jim Chalmers releases the government’s new budget.
The ABS’s Australian statistician David Gruen said:
The largest contributors, in the 12 months to August, were new dwelling construction, up 20.7% and automotive fuel, up 15%.
The slight fall in the annual inflation rate from July to August was mainly due to a decrease in prices for automotive fuel.
This saw the annual movement for automotive fuel fall from 43.3% in June to 15% in August.
That’s an important point (which we noted here yesterday) that the high base from last year meant the return of the full fuel index might only have a moderate impact on inflation (at least on a year-on-year basis).
Food and non-alcoholic beverages, meanwhile, rose 9.3% in the year to August, while fruit and vegetables were 18.6% higher.
Excluding the more volatile items – such as fruit and veg and fuel – the monthly CPI indicator was up 5.5% in June before accelerating to 6.2% in August, Gruen said.
All up, the numbers will probably reinforce expectations that the Reserve Bank will hike the cash rate again next Tuesday. Prior to the data release, investors at least were pretty confident the RBA’s cash rate will climb 50 basis points for the fifth time in as many meetings.
Coolio, US rapper and producer, dies at 59
The Grammy-award winner was best known for his 1995 hit Gangsta’s Paradise, which was written for the soundtrack of the Michelle Pfeiffer film Dangerous Minds.
Australians have taken to social media to share their memories of Coolio, including numerous visits to Australia.
Guardian reporter Helen Davidson reminded Australians of the instance Coolio gave a “pep talk” at a meeting of four Northern Territory land councils.
Electoral office responds to Optus breach
Australians replacing their passports or driver’s licences following the Optus data breach won’t need to update their details on the federal electoral roll, AAP reports.
Affected customers will also still be enrolled for state, territory and council elections.
Australian electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, said there was no need for electoral enrolment to be “front of mind”. He said:
The AEC regularly receives licence and passport information from our partners in federal, state and territory governments, which means a change to your licence or passport number will not affect your enrolment.
Eligible voters not yet enrolled who obtain an updated driver’s licence or passport might receive a letter from the commission telling them to enrol.
Almost 10 million Australians had their data stolen in the hack.
In response, the federal government is considering tougher penalties for companies that fail to adequately protect customer data. It has also flagged new privacy laws to be introduced by the end of this year.
This week, Anthony Albanese demanded Optus cover the cost of replacing passports.
The foreign minister, Penny Wong, wrote to Optus chief executive, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, on Wednesday, saying there was “no justification” for customers or taxpayers to foot the bill for replacing official documents.
Cannon-Brookes ‘even more optimistic’ about AGL after plant closure speeds up
Billionaire and climate activist, Mike Cannon-Brookes, has welcomed AGL’s plans to exit all coal by 2035, as we’ve been reporting about here.
A statement from a spokesperson for his family company, Grok Ventures, said the firm “welcomes” AGL’s strategic review and was “pleased with the Board’s commitment to accelerate AGL’s coal plant closures and pivot to capture the major opportunity presented by the renewable energy transition”.
MCB, as he’s known, is the biggest single shareholder in AGL with 11.3%, and so there will be some relief among the shell-shocked AGL board members with the apparent Grok tick.
The spokesperson said:
While this is a positive step in the right direction, as the largest emitter and the leading energy company in Australia, AGL needs to assume a leadership position to achieve a Paris goal of below 1.5C.
However, to make sure the board does the right thing, Grok will continue to press for its four nominations to the board of five being confirmed when AGL holds its annual general meeting on 15 November. We reported on this issue here yesterday evening.
“There is a monumental amount of work ahead to become a leading green gentailer,” the spokesperson said, referring to a generator and retailer.
To achieve this, the board must go further with its renewal – looking to fresh faces to provide a broader mix of skills, experience and capabilities around the table.
In summary, though, “today we are even more optimistic about the future of this great company in leading Australia’s energy transition”, the spokesperson said.
Rinehart backs Diamonds netball
Netball Australia’s precarious financial position has eased with billionaire Gina Rinehart backing the Diamonds in a lucrative sponsorship deal, AAP reports.
Rinehart’s company, Hancock Prospecting, will support the Diamonds until the end of 2025, with the money to go towards the team’s high performance program.
It comes at a key time for the national team as they prepare for the 2023 Netball World Cup in Cape Town and the Victoria 2026 Commonwealth Games.
Earlier this year the sport’s cash crisis was revealed, with the Covid-19 pandemic contributing to losses of more than $7 million over the past two years.
Netball Australia chief executive, Kelly Ryan, said the code was “incredibly grateful” for Rinehart’s support. Ryan said in a statement on Thursday:
This is a major investment for our sport, and is a huge contribution towards the ongoing success of the Diamonds.
We are incredibly grateful to this leading Australian private company, Hancock Prospecting, for its significant support and partnership.
The Hancock Prospecting logo will feature on the Diamonds’ uniforms when they take on New Zealand in the Constellation Cup next month.
Mining magnate Rinehart, who is Australia’s richest person, has also invested in the elite level of swimming, synchronised swimming, rowing and women’s volleyball as well as a multimillion-dollar commitment with the AOC.
Weather warnings for north-west WA and Queensland’s Peninsula Coast
Severe thunder and heavy rainfall is heading for the Gascoyne region of Western Australia.
On the other side of the country, Queenslanders on the Peninsula Coast have been warned of strong winds.
NSW on alert after more than a dozen cane toads found an hour north of Sydney
New South Wales is on alert after more than a dozen cane toads were found on a private property an hour’s drive north of Sydney.
The state’s Department of Primary Industries biosecurity helpline confirmed a report had been made by a member of the public on 19 September after a “number” of cane toads were found at a property in the rural town of Mandalong, west of Lake Macquarie.
Albanese: we’re confident we’ve got anti-corruption model right
Anthony Albanese also told FiveAA Radio the government will “listen to sensible suggestions” about its national anti-corruption commission but he is “confident we’ve got the model right”.
It doesn’t sound like the government is likely to lower the “exceptional circumstances” bar for public hearings, with Albanese labelling complaints about that a bit of “product differentiation” from crossbench MPs, senators and parties.
Albanese said he is “hopeful” the NACC bill will pass this year, and it delivers on the promise of “a strong, independent anti-corruption commission, which will help to restore faith in our political system”
Asked about closed hearings, he said:
There will be transparency, it will be up to the NACC commissioner as to whether hearings are held in public or privately. There are private hearings across all the state bodies, including in NSW ... What we need to make sure is there is a public interest test and the NACC is able to undertake its work to weed out corruption. What we don’t want is for people to be – because they appear before a NACC – there should be a smear out there when they’re actually assisting.
On the budget, Albanese brushed off Coalition complaints the government is softening taxpayers up for tax increases, noting they had left $1bn of debt, despite saying they would be in surplus in their first year of government (2013) and every year after. They have “no economic plan going forward for Australia”, he said.
Albanese warned petrol retailers:
We’re getting the ACCC to monitor all of the costs of fuel to ensure there isn’t a ripping off of consumers. We’ve ramped that up. Any operators considering seeking a windfall gain, the ACCC will be cracking down on you.
Minister urges action on corporate tax
Global economies should not give up on corporate tax despite the challenges of collecting taxes from large multinationals skilled at exploiting tax havens, Andrew Leigh has told a forum today.
The assistant minister for competition says nations should remain focused on multinational tax avoidance despite some calls to abolish corporate tax entirely, AAP reports.
Leigh told an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development forum Australia leans more heavily on corporate tax than many other developed nations and it’s essential multinationals pay their fair share.
Since company taxes comprise 19% of Australia’s revenue base, to accept the accounting tricks and dodgy behaviour that multinational firms engage in would have a massive impact on Australia.
He said nations were losing as much as $600bn a year to tax havens, which are jurisdictions that charge little or no corporate tax.
Dr Leigh challenged the notion floated by some US-based academics that corporate tax should be scrapped entirely because avoidance tactics had become so widespread:
It threatens to disturb the economic equilibrium of our society when our wealthiest companies refuse to pay their share.
Ahead of the election, Labor backed the OECD’s plan to install a 15% minimum tax on multinationals and a handful of other measures to tackle multinational tax avoidance.
The measures are expected to raise $1.89bn over the next four years.
The treasurer has called for a “national conversation” about how the government’s finances are managed but says multinational tax avoidance is the only tax reform on the agenda at present.
Market reacts to AGL closure announcement
Guardian Australia’s economics correspondent Peter Hannam has charted the initial market reaction to the AGL closure of Victoria’s coal-fired power station Loy Yang A a decade early.
AGL’s shares are up for another day, adding 2.4%, but as the overall market is up 1.8%, the bounce is relatively not that big.
Companies must be held to account: Albanese on Optus breach
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has spoken to FiveAA Radio, explaining the government has written to Optus making clear “taxpayers shouldn’t pick up the bill here” for new passports, describing it as “rather extraordinary” that the Coalition would call for that given Optus’s “clear failure” to keep personal information secure. Albanese said the leak of Medicare numbers is also a cause of concern.
Albanese said upping the fines was one area the government will look at, “but also, we need to look at privacy laws”. Albanese said there is a cyberattack in Australia once every eight minutes, whether by state actors or by criminals.
Asked about telcos lobbying to be excluded from critical infrastructure laws, Albanese said:
The former government dropped the ball on so many things, and this is just one of them. After this occurred I found it inexplicable that they would put out a press release saying ‘Labor must fix the passport cost issue for customers’ – what that means is taxpayers doing it. Companies need to be held to account here, and that’s something my government is determined to do.
Frontier wars to be better acknowledged at nation’s war memorial
The Australian War Memorial will expand its recognition of the frontier wars, which inflicted atrocities and massacres against Indigenous Australians during colonisation.
The memorial has long faced criticism, including by Indigenous leaders, for a failure to fully recognise the frontier wars.
Speaking at the announcement of a new renewable geothermal heating system for the AWM this morning, veterans’ affairs minister, Matt Keogh, said the current expansion of the memorial would allow for a greater recognition of the frontier wars.
He stressed there was already some recognition of the conflicts at the memorial.
I think it’s important to recognise that the war memorial already has some recognition of frontier conflict, and I’m aware that as part of the expansion program there will be some greater reflection on that. I think that the recognition and reflection on frontier conflict is a responsibility for all of our cultural institutions, not just here at the war memorial.
Current AWM chair, Brendan Nelson, defended the memorial’s current recognition of the frontier wars, saying it was reflected throughout the memorial, including in 63 separate artworks.
But he confirmed the AWM council had recommended an expanded recognition of the frontier wars. He said there would be further announcements to make on the topic in future.
The council has made a decision that we will have a much broader, a much deeper depiction and presentation of the violence committed against Indigenous people, initially by British, then by pastoralists, then by police, and then by Aboriginal militia. We will have more to say about that in due course.
The pair were speaking at an event to announced a new underground geothermal heat exchange, which will heat the expanded war memorial, reducing emissions and saving $1m per year in energy costs.
Emergency warning lifted in South Australia as dam level reduced by 2 metres
Pumping has reduced the risk of a dam collapse in the Adelaide Hills, allowing residents of a nearby town to return to their homes, AAP reports.
South Australia’s State Emergency Service says water levels in the 10 megalitre structure at Echunga have dropped by more than two metres, relieving pressure on the dam walls.
Concerns were raised on Tuesday afternoon after signs of “slippage” along the main dam wall.
Fears of a major collapse grew that night with an emergency warning issued early on Wednesday.
The SES said up to 40 houses would be flooded with at least ankle-deep water if the dam gave way.
Pumps were brought in to reduce water levels and a spillway was cut to allow water to drain away safely.
Some roads at Echunga remain closed but residents were advised early on Thursday the risk of a collapse had reduced and they could return to their homes.
The SES said engineers and swift water rescue officers remained at the scene.
The dam was last considered full in 2016 after heavy storms.
Recent rains across the Adelaide Hills caused major runoff, raising water levels.
AGL closure happening because renewable energy is cheaper: Plibersek
The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is now speaking on the closure:
The reason that this transition is happening is because the cheapest form of energy in Australia and globally now is renewable energy. And the problem with what we’ve inherited as a federal government is we’ve had nine years of a Coalition government that was in complete denial about the fact that this transition was happening in Australia and around the world. So we’re left with a poorly planned transition.
The transition that Australia will be making will require extraordinary investment in things like transmission lines, storage, as we move to cleaner, cheaper premium, but we’re up for that as the federal government.
Chris Bowen, as the climate change and energy minister, has met with his counterparts around the country and is working cooperatively with them on this transition. We’re not going to go into details today, because minister D’Ambrosio is quite right in saying that this has come as a shock to many people.
She says there will be a decade to prepare for the closure:
We need to use the coming years to invest in transmission storage upgrades.
Victorian government committed to supporting AGL workforce following closure of Loy Yang A
Back in Melbourne, Victoria’s energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, is now being asked about the closure of Loy Yang A, which has been brought forward from 2045 to 2035. Asked how it will affect energy prices, she says:
I think what’s really important first is to acknowledge that today will be a difficult day for the AGL workforce, the families and the local communities. Our commitment as a state government is to work with every worker to plan for the future. And we’ll be working alongside of them every step of the way …
We will work with AGL to work on plans around transition, around retraining, reskilling and looking at finding opportunities for people to be able to find jobs close to where they live … The Victorian government has got a very, very clear, ambitious plan that will continue. Today’s not the day for me to make comments about what more is to come. There will be other days that it’s more appropriate for us to be able to provide details.
NSW preparing for La Niña storm season
Flooding is predicted to continue around NSW for months as the storm season approaches, with La Niña increasing the chance of above average rainfall for northern and eastern Australia during spring and summer, AAP reports.
Weatherzone says substantial rain is likely over part of Australia during the next week, with the spring soaking increasing the risk of further inundation towards October.
The Bureau of Meteorology has warned flooding around the state could continue for months as dams are full, grounds are saturated and snow is melting.
NSW government ministers and emergency agencies met for the first time on Wednesday as part of a new crisis committee to prepare for disasters and as storms hit multiple areas of the state.
Emergency services and flood recovery minister, Steph Cooke, said today that essential food and medicines and other supplies were being flown into western communities cut off by floodwaters. She told Sydney radio 2GB:
And that will continue until the community isn’t isolated any longer.
Lessons had been learned from the catastrophic flooding that devastated many communities earlier this year.
There were more emergency vehicles, more aircraft and rescue boats available in high risk areas, while the number of people in emergency call centres had doubled.
We’re really working hard to continue to do better after every event.
I think the biggest achievement is we’ve onboarded over 1,300 volunteers into the SES – and 300 in the Northern Rivers.
We are seeing the community step and respond.
We also have the capability to use those (rescue) aircraft to resupply isolated communities ... to supply fodder to stock that might find themselves stranded on little island on properties.
Major flooding continues on the Namoi River at Wee Waa and is expected to last at least until Friday.
The Namoi could also deliver major flooding at Goangra next week as water heads downstream towards Walgett.
The Macquarie River fell below the major flood level at Warren on Tuesday afternoon.
Major flood warnings are in place on the Namoi, Bogan, Lachlan, Culgoa, Birrie, Bokhara and Narran rivers.
Australia supports Iran inquiry into death of Mahsa Amini, foreign minister says
The foreign minister, Penny Wong, says Australia will support a “prompt, independent investigation” into the death of a young Kurdish woman in custody.
The death of 22-year old Mahsa Amini, who refused to wear a hijab on a visit to Tehran, initially sparked protests from the Kurdish minority but have spread across the country.
Senator Wong supported the call by UN secretary general, Antonio Guterres, for an impartial investigation by an independent authority.
Closure of Loy Yang A will avoid about 200m tonnes of emissions
More on that AGL plan to bring forward the closure of its Loy Yang A coal-fired power station by a decade to 2035, as you can read about here.
Interim CEO Damien Nicks says the plan would amount to avoided emissions of about 200m tonnes of carbon dioxide-equivalent. Not a small amount, given annual emissions for Australia amount to a bit over 500m tonnes of CO2-equivalent.
It would mark “a major step forward in Australia’s decarbonisation journey”, AGL’s statement to the ASX quotes him as saying. It would also “support” the achievement of the Paris Climate goals of keeping global heating to 1.5C-2C.
To get there, the company’s existing pipeline of 3.2 gigawatts of new renewables and firming (eg batteries and pumped hydro) will be expanded to 5GW by 2030.
We’ll see how the stock market responds shortly when trading resumes after 10am. It’s notable that AGL rose almost 3% yesterday when the overall market fell about 0.5% - perhaps somebody got wind (or sun) of the plans?
We’ll also hear later today from Grok Ventures, the family company of billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, that owns about 11.3% of AGL and is its biggest shareholder.
We’re guessing MCB will be reasonably pleased as the coal plant closure dates are in line with what the Atlassian co-founder and climate activist has been looking for at a minimum.
New recycling projects in Victoria
Victoria’s energy and environment minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, and the federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, are holding a press conference in Melbourne’s south-east this morning, after AGL announced it would be bringing forward the closure date of the Loy Yang A power station from 2045 to 2035.
But before we get to that – they’ve announced a joint $14.26m in funding for new recycling projects in the Victoria.
This includes $1m in funding for a new facility that will turn hard-to-recycle materials like beverage cartons and coffee cups into sustainable building products.
D’Ambrosio says soft plastics and pizza boxes will also be recyclable in the coming years thanks to the state’s new four-bin system, which will be rolled out across the state by 2030:
We’re the first state in Australia to roll out the same bins to every household, and the first to include soft plastics and pizza boxes in those bins – leading the way as we divert 80% of waste from landfill by 2030.
Several local councils have already introduced the four bins: purple for glass, green for food and garden organics, yellow for mixed recyclables and red for household rubbish.
New high court appointment marks first female majority bench
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, just announced in Canberra the appointment of justice Jayne Jagot to the high court.
The news means it’s the first time since federation that a majority of justices on the high court will be women.
This was an appointment of the best possible person to the High Court of Australia.
The government’s very proud of the appointment that we are making today and announcing today and I am certain that she is going to serve with distinction.
Her excellent service to the federal court of Australia since 2008 shows us – anybody can examine her record, and indeed, her record before that, serving on the land and environment court in New South Wales.
Justice Jagot is an eminent jurist and brings tremendous experience, and was nominated by very, very many people that I consulted with.
Jagot will take up the new role on October 17, following the retirement of Justice Patrick Keane.
Habitat boost for NSW Northern Rivers Koalas
Two hundred hectares of koala habitat in the Northern Rivers could be restored by private landholders planting 250,000 tree seedlings, in a new initiative backed by the NSW Koala Strategy.
The program aims to restore koala habitat on private land, increase biodiversity and provide an additional revenue stream for landholders through carbon farming.
Landholders can apply for a property assessment to determine if there are koalas close by and if their land is suitable.
The state minister for environment, James Griffin, said:
We know that more than 50% of koala habitat is on private land in NSW, which is why private landholders are a big part of the solution when it comes to conserving and protecting koalas.
Through the Koala Friendly Carbon Farming Project, we’re helping landholders plant hundreds of thousands of koala food and shelter trees to restore koala habitat and create corridors for them to move safely through areas.
This is part of our NSW Koala Strategy, which delivers the biggest commitment by any government to a single species in Australia, and it will help us reach our target of doubling the number of koalas in NSW by 2050.
The NSW government is working to deliver the project in partnership with the World Wide Fund for Nature Australia and Climate Friendly.
WWF-Australia landscape restoration project manager Tanya Pritchard said the project is addressing some of the major threats facing koalas.
We can’t turn around the decline of east coast koalas without bold actions to tackle habitat loss and fragmentation.
Climate Friendly co-chief executive Skye Glenday said the initiative demonstrates how rural land managers can sustainably manage their environment while benefiting native species.
Our partnership with landowners, WWF-Australia and the NSW government will replenish important feeding and safe living areas for koalas and potentially attract other wildlife such as greater gliders, while building biodiversity and flood impact mitigation.
Flood warning for Snowy River
Fatal collision outside Ballarat
A truck driver has died at the scene of a fatal crash in regional Victoria this morning.
Police are investigating the circumstances surrounding a fatal crash in the rural-urban fringe of the city of Ballarat.
Victoria police said in a statement:
Emergency services were called to the Western Highway, near the Midland Highway overpass, following reports a B-double truck had lost control and crashed about 3.45am.
It appears the truck has run off the road and into a ditch and onto the Ballarat Maryborough railway line.
Sadly the driver of the truck, who is yet to be identified, died at the scene.
Investigations into the cause of the collision are ongoing.
The Midland Highway is currently closed in both directions and will be for some time while emergency services work to clear the scene.
Police will prepare a report for the Coroner.
As noted in an earlier post and this article, AGL Energy, Australia’s biggest electricity generator, has unveiled plans to close the country’s largest carbon polluting power station about one decade earlier.
The plans were outlined a short time ago to the ASX.
The company will now exit coal generation by 2035, with Victoria’s Loy Yang A closing that year rather than 2045. Notably for NSW, AGL’s Bayswater plant will shut between 2030 and 2033, as previously stated by the company.
To get there, the company is going to invest about $20bn so the company will be able to supply 12 gigawatts of renewable energy and storage by 2030.
The Victorian government will shortly hold a media conference in Melbourne when we can expect them to detail how they ensure there are new jobs and new generation capacity to cater for the coming closure of Loy Yang A.
More to come soon.
Labor has a ‘sequential’ plan to reach voters undecided on Indigenous voice, Linda Burney says
Two meetings are taking place today which will determine the shape of the referendum on the Indigenous voice to parliament.
The first is of a reference group advising on the question and the mechanics of the vote, and the second larger meeting will advise on how best to engage the public.
It comes as some Australians are still undecided, Guardian Australia’s Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam writes:
One in five Australians are still undecided on whether to support a referendum to establish an Indigenous voice to parliament, and Linda Burney says the government has a “very sequential” plan to reach those people before they are asked to vote in late 2023.
Person dies in Victorian house fire
A person has died in a house fire in Victoria’s northwest, AAP reports.
Emergency services were called to a rural property in Red Cliffs, near Mildura, about 2am on Thursday.
After extinguishing the blaze, fire crews found a body inside the burnt-out property.
The home’s occupant remains unaccounted for, police say.
Crime scene detectives and an arson chemist will attend the property on Thursday morning to investigate.
Queensland seeking partnerships from the federal government in renewable plan
The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, was asked to clarify how long the state will keep exporting coal for:
There’s still going to be countries that need our coal and, of course, the metallurgical coal [that] is needed for steel production. Let’s be clear about that. Until there’s alternative to manufacturing steel, the world will still need metallurgical coal.
However, Palaszczuk said there is increasing international demand for renewable energy, as other countries aim to meet their own national targets.
She said a delegation from some of the largest companies in South Korea is requiring 20% of hydrogen into their coal-fired power stations, and is now making agreements with the Queensland government to supply that hydrogen.
As for where the money from the state’s transformation will come from, the premier said she was already in talks with the prime minister interested in the hydro dam.
The plan is $62bn. We have a $6bn down payment on that … we’ve already got $11bn worth of private investment coming in.
But there will be even more coming in as well. So roughly, it will be around, over $30bn, between $30bn and $40bn we’re providing, but we’re seeking partnerships from the federal government.
Palaszczuk defends renewable energy plan, saying climate effects are already happening in Queensland
Queensland’s premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, spoke to ABC News Breakfast this morning following her government’s pledge to end its reliance on coal by 2035.
Responding to concerns raised by the Queensland Resources Council around blackouts and the energy prices in Europe, Palaszczuk said:
Well, in Europe, of course, there’s a lot of reliance on gas coming in from the Ukraine and parts of Russia, is my understanding.
But what we’re doing here very clearly is [ensuring] that the hydro dams get built. And then, as the hydro dams come online, that’s when you start phasing down the reliance on coal-fired power stations.
The premier reflected on the importance of the plan in light of her recent visit to the Torres Strait Islands who are facing more immediate threats from rising sea levels:
We’re building sea walls as we speak. People are having to build their houses on 7-to-12-foot stilts above the ground because of the water coming underneath. Ancestral graves that the ABC has reported on are being washed away. This is happening in Queensland. It’s not just an island on the Pacific ocean. It is happening to Queenslanders. To Australians. And we all have a duty to look after one another.
AGL expected to bring closure of Loy Yang A power station forward a decade
Australia’s biggest electricity generator, AGL Energy, will shortly release its strategy update to the market.
The highlight, we’re expecting, is the confirmation that the company will accelerate the closure of its Loy Yang A coal-fired power station in Victoria by a decade to 2035.
Here’s what we know so far:
The news comes after Victoria earlier this week announced plans to add much more storage by 2035 – no coincidence.
And Queensland also unveiled yesterday a $62bn plan by 2035 to speed up the decarbonisation of its power sector.
As Bruce Mountain, head of the Victoria Energy Policy Centre, puts it:
What a week for energy policy, it does not get bigger than this.
More to come soon on AGL.
Almost a third of children exposed to domestic violence live with a disability, research shows
About 30% of children exposed to domestic violence live with a disability, new research has estimated.
A report by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (Anrows), to be released today, analysed administrative data covering a period of about two decades to make the finding.
Hospital records showed that of the children whose mothers were hospitalised for assault, 29% had a disability.
The report said children with disability were also far more likely than children without disability to have contact with the child protection system and to enter out-of-home care.
And they were twice as likely to have a mother hospitalised due to a domestic/family violence assault (8% compared to 4%), according to the data from Western Australia.
Researchers also interviewed dozens of children and young people, parents and service providers, with participants telling of being on support service waitlists for up to a year, having trouble getting support from government agencies, and fearing they would be harmed during a violent parent’s access visits.
Lead researcher Sally Robinson, of Flinders University, said:
In our study, children and their families had unmet needs for support [and] experienced unresponsive service systems and intersecting disadvantage relating to violence, poverty, housing crisis and discrimination. Their complex, compounding circumstances often included disability, but disability did not drive domestic and family violence.
The Anrows chief executive, Padma Raman, said:
Children’s access to disability and domestic and family violence support must not rely on their family and practitioners’ ability to continually negotiate barriers on their behalf.
A study from the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research last week found people living with disability were more than twice as likely to be the victims of violent crimes compared to the total population.
The Albanese government is expected to release the National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children next month.
Government seeking immediate ‘urgent reforms’ to cybersecurity
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said the massive Optus breach has also meant the government will be looking to make “more urgent reforms straight away”.
He said parliament is considering strengthening the laws, particularly the Privacy Act, to possibly increase the penalties and possibly increase the precautions that have to be taken by any company storing data.
National integrity commission could get off the ground mid-next year
Dreyfus says he hopes to have the legislation passed by the end of the year and the commission set up by the middle of 2023.
Attorney general probed on national integrity commission’s inquiry process
This morning Mark Dreyfus is the government minister doing the media rounds after introducing the national anti-corruption commission legislation into the lower house yesterday. He’s now speaking to ABC Radio.
The details of the highly anticipated laws are now available, which raises more questions around what might constitute the “exceptional circumstances” for the national anti-corruption commission to hold public hearings.
Dreyfus says it will be a matter for the independent commissioner to decide whether it’s right to hold a public hearing, such as in instances of “serious or systemic corruption that needs to be exposed”.
I’d be pointing to the experience of the anti-corruption commissions of which we have one in every state and territory. Mostly they have held their hearings in private, sometimes they hold hearings in public – our model provides for those hearings to be in public when the commission determines it.
Optus shouldn’t have left out Medicare in initial notification of breach, attorney general says
Of course, when Optus’s massive data breach was revealed, the telco mentioned that identity documents like driver’s licences and passports had been compromised, but left out the pretty important detail of Medicare cards being on that list too.
Last night Optus revealed 37,000 Medicare details were compromised – 22,000 of those expired, almost 15,000 active.
Is Mark Dreyfus concerned there could still be more information about what has been hacked?
Any company that has had a data breach like this is obliged, where there’s serious harm, to notify the Privacy Commissioner and notify their customers. Regrettably, Optus left out of the notification initially that some Medicare numbers, in addition to passport numbers and driver’s licence numbers, were included in the data breach. That shouldn’t have happened.
It’s really important that there be notification because it’s only if there’s notification that you can start to take the appropriate steps to guard against the consequences of a data breach like this.
Again, one of the things we’ll be looking at is whether or not the Privacy Act provisions that include that data breach notification requirement need to be toughened.
Attorney general says toughening cybersecurity laws a possibility
Is a cybersecurity overhaul from the federal government on the cards?
The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, told ABC News Breakfast what that could look like with details of the government’s response to the Optus data breach:
We’ve been working very hard for a week [after] the shocking details of this massive data breach were revealed. Rightly millions and millions of Australians, past and former Optus customers, are very worried about what’s happened.
We’ve had the treasurer working with banks and financial institutions, we’ve got the minister for communications, the minister for home affairs, and me, because I’m responsible for the Privacy Act, we’ve all been working with Optus and we’ve been working with each other. The Australian federal police has been working with the FBI to try and track down the perpetrators.
What we can do straight away is to try and put arrangements in place that Optus can share the data with banks and financial institutions so that the banks and financial institutions can take precautions to protect those Optus customers whose data has been stolen.
What we can also do, and this what is the prime minister was talking about yesterday in the parliament, is look at toughening the laws, particularly the Privacy Act, to possibly increase the penalties and possibly increase the precautions that have to be taken by any company that’s storing the data of Australians in the way that was.
Last night’s stroke of midnight brought an end to the former Morrison government’s halving of the fuel excise.
But you shouldn’t expect to see fuel prices jump immediately, with the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, saying it would take a few days for higher prices to flow through as retailers would first need to get through their supplies of discounted fuel.
The consumer watchdog has warned service stations that it will be watching for outlets that pass on the increase to customers before running down supplies of fuel that was not fully taxed.
Optus customers continue to brace for news of whether their data has been compromised, with the telco contacting customers to tell them whether they are among the 37,000 people whose Medicare numbers were stolen.
While 22,000 of those Medicare numbers are expired, almost 15,000 are active.
Optus says it will contact those with active card details compromised within 24 hours and those whose had expired cards will be contacted in the coming days.
The minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, has told Channel Nine the massive Optus breach is a “wake-up call for everybody” when it comes to increasing the country’s cybersecurity.
In weather news, hail and heavy rain have hit Sydney’s west and NSW’s mid-north coast. The ABC reports that the wild weather has caused leaking roofs and flash flooding.
Let’s kick off!