What we learned: Thursday, 6 April

With that, we will wrap the blog for the evening. If you have a day off tomorrow, enjoy it to the fullest. If not, commiserations.

Here are today’s major developments:

  • Ken Wyatt has quit the Liberal party over its opposition to the voice to parliament. He told reporters it was a “tough” decision to make. Liberal MPs have expressed their respect for Wyatt while continuing to maintain the party line on a no vote.

  • It comes as Senator Pat Dodson has announced he will take a medical leave of absence from his position. We don’t have the details yet, but minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney said the nation was with him on his recovery.

  • Meanwhile, a coalition of 13 regional Indigenous leaders say Peter Dutton is spreading ‘misinformation and confusion’ on the voice.

  • In other political news, the Albanese government has committed to continuing the construction of the Inland Rail freight megaprojects that an independent review found had suffered governance failures, delays and “astonishing” cost blowouts under the former Coalition government.

  • And the bilby has received $5m in funding and a new recovery plan from government. With the species currently listed as vulnerable, the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, says she wants to make sure it can be a beloved Easter icon for generations. I can’t imagine why they timed the announcement for today.


In Perth, Ken Wyatt has been approached by reporters after an exclusive in the West Australian that revealed he is quitting the Liberal party.

Short and sharp:

The decision was tough, I’ll leave it at that.

“The decision was tough”
Former Minister for Indigenous Affairs Ken Wyatt has quit the Liberal party over its opposition to The Voice referendum @7NewsPerth pic.twitter.com/4FRWOfanDY

— Jessica Page (@JessicaPage7) April 6, 2023


BoM watching for potential cyclone

The Bureau of Meteorology is monitoring the potential development of a tropical cyclone on Monday off the Northern Territory.

A tropical low in the Arafura Sea north off the Northern Territory is expected to move westwards into the Timor Sea over the weekend, strengthening into a tropical cyclone during Monday off the northwest Kimberley coast.

The system is likely to continue moving to the south-west early next week to lie offshore from the Pilbara coast during Tuesday or Wednesday.

If the system does become a tropical cyclone, the next name on the list is “Ilsa”.

Meanwhile, the forecast for Good Friday in New South Wales is reasonably dicey.

#SevereThunderstorms are expected to affect eastern #NSW on #GoodFriday. Damaging winds, large hail and localised flash flooding are all a risk with these #thunderstorms. They will become active during the afternoon and contract northeast in the evening: https://t.co/qgipRyRxtP pic.twitter.com/8OOHLL263v

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) April 6, 2023

Here’s the latest from the BoM:

Showers and thunderstorms across the east and south, more likely about the ranges and adjacent western slopes. Some thunderstorms likely to become severe during the afternoon and evening, with damaging winds, large hail and bursts of heavy rainfall.

Daytime temperatures above average across the northern inland, tending near or slightly below average across the south. Northeast to northwesterly winds, freshening near the coast. Winds shifting cooler, fresh west to southwesterly in the west and south later.


Two more cases of Murray Valley encephalitis detected in NSW

Communities in regional New South Wales have been placed on alert for mosquito bites this Easter holiday after the confirmation of a further two cases of Murray Valley encephalitis infection.

These two latest cases are in addition to cases previously identified in February and March, bringing the total number of cases to four for the season. MVE cases have also recently been identified in border communities in Victoria.

A man in his 20s from Federation LGA, who was infected between mid-February and early March has been diagnosed with the virus and has been hospitalised, as has a 60-year-old man from the Leeton Shire, who was infected in March. He is also in hospital.

Director of NSW Health’s One Health branch, Keira Glasgow, said:

There is no vaccination or specific treatment for Murray Valley encephalitis, so we are urging the community to do everything they can to protect themselves against mosquito bites.

The best way to avoid infection is to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes, which are most active between dusk and dawn. Avoiding mosquito bites will also protect against other mosquito-borne infections including Japanese encephalitis, Kunjin and Barmah Forest viruses.


The minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney has reached out with well wishes for Pat Dodson after his announcement he would take leave from the Senate for medical treatment.

Pat, we’re all with you.

Working hand in hand with the Father of Reconciliation Patrick Dodson is an immense privilege.

His strength has got him so far along on this journey.

I know that his strength will power him in the tough times ahead.

Pat, we're all with you. pic.twitter.com/uIWin8Ia26

— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) April 6, 2023

If you’ve been following the platypus saga in Queensland, a man has been charged. Hopefully the animal is OK.

Update on the platypus saga: Police have charged a 26-year-old man with allegedly removing a platypus from Morayfield.

Police were advised the animal was released into the Caboolture River and has not yet been located by authorities.

— Eden Gillespie (@edengillespie) April 6, 2023


Circling back to ABC’S Afternoon Briefing, and Jennett had a little exchange with Reynolds on Fletcher’s earlier unwillingness to confirm how he would vote on the referendum in the comfort of the ballot box, beyond saying he was supportive of the Liberal party line (“as he is on other issues”).

It did strike me as extremely odd that he’s bound by this shadow cabinet no position in the lead-up to the campaign, yet he stopped short of declaring that he would be voting no with his pencil in the cardboard booth.

Reynolds said this was “not at all surprising”.

It is entirely normal for us to take a position either as a cabinet or a shadow cabinet with which we have solidarity with and then we do have conscience votes as well on occasion in the House of Representatives and the Senate. So there is nothing at all unusual about that.

Asked why she was stopping short of confirming she would campaign against and vote against, she replied:

Actually, Greg, I completely take issue with what you just said then. I very clearly support the party-room position. I think it is the sensible … particularly as a Western Australian senator, Greg, because it is very, very clear here in Western Australia that our local communities right across this state have very strong and very powerful voices which are currently not being heard in Canberra.

The latest Newspoll has 51% in favour of the voice in WA and 41% against.


Two teenage boys arrested after 41-year-old woman fatally stabbed in Melbourne

The woman was found with stab wounds at an address in Abbotsford just after 11pm on Wednesday. She was taken to hospital by ambulance but died shortly after.

A 13-year-old boy was also at the property but was not physically injured. Police said he called emergency services.

A 15-year-old boy and a 14-year-old boy were taken into custody in Learmonth in regional Victoria on Thursday.

The boys will be interviewed by homicide squad investigators.

Police said the pair left the Abbotsford address in the woman’s car, which was found in St Kilda about 7.30am on Thursday morning.

Detective acting superintendent, Dean Thomas, said police were not seeking anyone else in relation to the incident.

Thomas said the two boys taken into “with minimal fuss” and that they were not known to police.

Policeman in front of police tape across a road
Police at the scene in Abbotsford, Melbourne. Photograph: James Ross/AAP


Templeman says Wyatt’s reported quitting of the Liberal party may have greater repercussions for the Coalition.

It might actually trigger similar actions from compassionate forward-thinking Liberals who can see that their party is just simply playing politics here … what we’re seeing is a profoundly disappointing decision and to hear the explanations today, to hear … Paul Fletcher saying he supports the decision, going to advocate it, but he wouldn’t commit to voting the way he’s going to be advocating for. I think that was quite stunning to hear and I think that will lead to questions of every Liberal.


Reynolds is questioned on Wyatt’s public support of the voice to parliament, in the form being proposed by Labor.

But it wasn’t exclusively that, to be fair to Ken Wyatt, Linda. He also has, more recently - and, I think, whilst minister - supported constitutionally enshrining too, has he not, a national voice?

Reynolds says he has but “again, that is something that, at the Liberal party, we don’t agree with”. She says the meeting yesterday “demonstrated why I am a member of the Liberal party”.

I think it’s really important to get rid of some of the colour and movement and some of the more overblown rhetoric today and have a look at what position the Liberal party has taken.

I was incredibly proud to participate in that meeting yesterday and, for me, it demonstrated why I am a member of the Liberal party. Because we had a wide range of very respectful and very considered contributions from colleagues. The whole gamut of issues … when you have a look at what we actually decided yesterday, I think it is very considered, it is very measured, and it is very practical.


Next up on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing is Labor’s Susan Templeman and Liberal senator for WA Linda Reynolds.

Reynolds says she is “very sad” Wyatt has jumped ship and “felt the need” to tear up his Liberal party ticket.

She says he’s been an outstanding MP and was an outstanding minister for Indigenous affairs:

I’m very sad that he felt the need to do that. But I’m also very proud that, while he was minister, he did advocate for the current model that the Liberal party has adopted - that is, having voice, but from local communities and regional communities through to Canberra, unlike the current model which is the other way around*.

*The voice being voted on in the referendum was the first proposal contained in the Uluru Statement from the Heart (a dialogue in Uluru, not Canberra), with the participation of more than 1,000 Indigenous people.


Pat Dodson takes leave for 'medical treatment'

Patrick Dodson is taking a leave of absence from the Senate.


— Patrick Dodson (@SenatorDodson) April 6, 2023


Cartoonist Bruce Petty has died

One of Australia’s most formidable political cartoonists and satirists Bruce Petty has died at the age of 93.

Petty, who’s career spanned art, filmmaking and cartoons, produced some of the most iconic images of Australian life in the 1960s and 1970s.

He published more than a dozen books and has worked for The New Yorker, Esquire, Punch, The Bulletin, The Australian and The Age. He also won an Oscar for his animated film Leisure in 1976, and is a member of the Melbourne Press Club Hall of Fame.

In a statement, it was confirmed Petty passed away peacefully this morning.

He leaves behind his loving family and will be sadly missed.

Bruce Petty
Bruce Petty with his AFI award for best direction in a documentary, for Global Haywire, in 2007. Photograph: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images


Greg Jennett turns to Fletcher’s seat of Bradfield in New South Wales

Are you entirely certain that the No advocacy you’re about to embark upon - however wholeheartedly or not - is completely in line with the general view or majority view within your own electorate there?

He talks about issues again, this issue, or any other issue:

Well, ultimately on every issue that comes before the parliament, a parliamentarian needs to make a judgement as to the position that he or she arrives at. Obviously you do that in consultation with your electorate in seeking to understand the views of your electorate. And what is undoubtedly the case on any issue - this issue or any other issue - is that whichever position you take of the 110,000 people approximately who are in this electorate - similar numbers in most other electorates - there will be a substantial number of people who will not agree with the position you take.


Fletcher is asked how actively he’ll be campaigning over the next six months

He says as a member of the shadow cabinet, he will be “as with every issue”, making the case for the Liberal party policy.

Spending money attending rallies, calling community meetings?

He replies he will be “making the case for the Liberal party policy on this issue, as I do across all issues”, a very convoluted way of saying “I will be voting no”.

It falls to all of us as Liberal parliamentarians, and certainly members of shadow cabinet, to be making the case for our policies. And I’ll be doing that on this issue, as I do across the whole range of issues that we have policies on …

I’ll be making my judgement based upon all of the considerations and information that becomes available. But clearly I’m a member of shadow cabinet, I support the Liberal party’s position that was arrived at yesterday … I’m a member of shadow cabinet. Shadow cabinet arrived at a position yesterday endorsed by the party room, and I’m supporting that position.

Paul Fletcher
Shadow minister for government services, Paul Fletcher, at a press conference at Parliament House. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Fletcher is pushed on whether Wyatt’s decision

As a respected leader of the Indigenous community, his departure is clearly an adverse judgement from Indigenous Australia?

Fletcher talks about how wonderful art can be as a way for Indigenous culture to be understood by people who are not Indigenous.

Again, I’ll leave it to Ken to comment as to the reasons as to why he’s taken the decision that he has. I’ve seen the news that he has chosen to leave the Liberal Party and I’ve not seen a statement from him as to his reasons why.

Of course, Ken is a very respected Australian, a very distinguished Australian. I worked closely with Ken on a number of matters, particularly when I was minister for the arts. We worked together on Indigenous art and building the market for Indigenous art. Often in remote communities, the Indigenous arts centre is a major area of economic activity, providing meaningful employment, but also a wonderful way in which Indigenous culture can be better understood by people who are not Indigenous.


Fletcher reiterates that the Liberals are very keen for there to be cases made from both sides

That’s one reason why we argue very strongly that there ought to be written pamphlets for the Yes and No case, as has been required by legislation for referendums for many years. The government, for some mysterious reason, sought to remove that normal requirement … this is an important question for the people of Australia, and we want to participate in what is a respectful process.

He reiterates his clear respect for Wyatt, and “more broadly, in the way we ought to approach politics and public policy”.

You can very much maintain friendships with people even when you have a disagreement with them on a substantive matter.*

* You just can’t remain in the same party.


Next up on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing is Paul Fletcher

The Liberal front-bencher is tied in to the no vote.

I’m sure word has reached you about your friend and former colleague Ken Wyatt quitting his membership for reasons that we understand to be either protest or disgust at the opposition to the Voice arrived at yesterday. How is this not to be seen as a broader condemnation from the Liberal party base of that decision?

Fletcher says solemnly that he has “enormous respect” for Ken Wyatt:

I think that’s a respect that is felt right across the Liberal party room. Obviously I respect his decision and I’ll leave it to Ken, obviously, to comment on it. What I would say - it is very important that we have a respectful process across Australia as we go through this referendum in relation to the Voice. We’ve been clear in what we announced yesterday that, while we may well propose amendments through the committee process over the next few weeks, we will support the bill which allows the referendum to go forward so that Australians can have their say.


Dutton was ‘stalling for time’: Dodson

Finally, Dodson says it was known all along Dutton was just “stalling for time” rather than meaningfully considering the proposal.

How does he justify his own existence with the lack of vision, the lack of foresight to help this country go forward in resolving its historical legacies and to give the First Nations peoples a real say over matters that affect them after 120 years?

To think that he has a monopoly on divining the national interest is really sad. It’s really sad. These matters come up through dialogue, discussion and argument. He has no divining role to provide to decide whether this will be a unification process – or this will be a unifying factor when we are recognised for once. We once were terra nullius – worse than flora and fauna. We’re now asking Australian people to recognise us by referendum in the constitution and to allow us to have a say on matters that affect us. Not to tell the parliament what to do or bind it, but just have a say.


Indigenous voice not a vote for a Canberra or Albanese voice: Dodson

Dodson categorically rejects claims made by Peter Dutton today that we are voting for a “Canberra voice” or an “Albanese voice”.

I go to Canberra on a regular basis. I take instructions and information and concerns from the Western Australian constituency that I try to represent as a senator. It’s my workplace. I go there for work. I don’t go there to get all the ideas and the processes and the strategies for how to deal with things.

Now, this is not a voice for prime minister Albanese. The PM has responded positively to the request from the Aboriginal people for a voice to the parliament. He’s responded and been … most constructive in working closely with Aboriginal people to settle on words, settle on the question, and to come away with a really sound proposition which constitutional lawyers have looked at and given their tick to.

This is not an Albanese voice. This is not a bubble that you’re going into. This will be a strategic, national entity that will have a relationship with regional, local people, and make sure that they’re listening to what their concerns are. And in fact, leveraging up their opportunities where they can get more effective outcomes to the miserable conditions that many of our people are living.


Liberals have ‘a lot of capacity to give mistruths to the public’ on the voice: Dodson

Asked if the Liberals’ opposition to the voice could be damaging for the yes vote, Dodson says they have a lot of capacity to muddy the waters.

I think they have a lot of capacity to dispense misinformation, to give mistruths to the public, to confuse what the real issue is here. And the real issue is to insert a principle, supported by the Australian voters, that recognises the Aboriginal people in our constitution and gives them a say on matters that affect them to the parliament and to the executive. That’s the real issue.

They have a great capacity now to … confuse people over litigation, over the scope, over how much parliamentary process will be encumbered by the fact that we’re recognising Aboriginal people and recognising that they ought to have a say on matters that affect them.

It doesn’t take away the supremacy of the parliament. It doesn’t take away or detract from its processes. It simply gives people an opportunity to put their position to the executive and to the government. Now, to muckrake around that after 150 years or 120 years since Federation is damnable. We have struggled in this country to get equity between ourselves. There’s been enlightened policies. But currently, the Coalition parties seem to be bedded in the old assimilationist approach and the old colonial approach – they know best what Aboriginal people can have.


Liberals’ opposition to the voice a ‘sad state of affairs’, Dodson says

Dodson says it is a “sad state of affairs” for a major party to be acting as if Indigenous people are “rag dolls” in the process of national reconciliation.

He says the Coalition today is not what is was back in the 1960s.

Back in the days when Whitlam and Fraser grappled with the ‘67 referendum outcomes and land rights for the Northern Territory, bipartisanship was a possibility on very important issues of social policy and land policy.

There’s absolutely very little capacity now, it seems, for the Coalition people to find their way through the weeds that they’ve constructed for themselves to see the bigger picture for the betterment of the nation …

I mean, this is not a small matter. And I’m saddened by the fact that the Coalition members of parliament have elected to play politics about this rather than respond in a more constructive way, as Bridget Archer has some and of the others have responded – and I congratulate Bridget on her stand. But this is a sad state of affairs for a major party in our national politics to be playing as if we are rag dolls in the process of national reconciliation … it’s a sound proposition and it has great merit, as we’ve seen.


Pat Dodson remarks on Ken Wyatt quitting the Liberal party over the voice

Senator Pat Dodson is appearing on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing now from Broome following reports Ken Wyatt has quit the Liberal party over its opposition to the Indigenous voice.

Dodson says Wyatt has dedicated himself to the Liberal party over a long period of time and tried in his ministry to push for the voice.

Which failed. He was disbarred from allowing them to consider the constitutional question … Ken wouldn’t have taken this decision lightly … and I’m sure he would be very disappointed his party has shown absolutely no regard for the Aboriginal people, their leadership and their efforts.

I think Ken will be very disappointed that a party which he thought would be able to achieve these things has turned its back on this and made a definite ‘no’ that they will not support recognition and a capacity for Aboriginal people to have a say to the parliament and the executive on matters that affect them.


Australia condemns ‘reprehensible’ violence at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque

Back in the world of international politics, the foreign minister has labelled recent violence against Palestinian worshippers at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque as “reprehensible” while also condemning rocket attacks on Israel.

At least 14 Palestinians were injured and hundreds arrested during two Israeli police raids at the mosque, triggering clashes in the West Bank, cross-border strikes in the Gaza Strip and fears of wider escalation over the holiday period.

Penny Wong:

Australia calls on all parties to end the violence, maintain restraint, and restore calm.

Violence against Palestinian worshippers at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount is reprehensible.

Indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza militants must also cease.

Australia calls on all parties to end the violence, maintain restraint, and restore calm.

— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) April 6, 2023


Malcolm Turnbull praises Ken Wyatt as a ‘history making leader’

The former prime minister is sending a virtual “big hug” to Ken Wyatt after he reportedly quit the Liberal party over its opposition to an Indigenous voice.

Back in 2017, Malcom Turnbull also opposed the voice, saying it was neither “desirable or capable of winning acceptance at referendum” but he has changed his tune in recent times.

And a big hug for Ken from me too. He is a wise history making leader and now with a referendum to win. We will be voting YES with millions of Australians. https://t.co/HAavx3T6kn

— Malcolm Turnbull (@TurnbullMalcolm) April 6, 2023


Unfortunately, blue skies may not be shining down on eastern Australia tomorrow.

See the latest from the BoM here:

Severe Weather Update: Severe thunderstorm outbreak for Eastern Australia on Good Friday.

Video current: 1:30pm AEST 6 April 2023.

Know your weather. Know your risk. For the latest forecasts and warnings go to our website https://t.co/4W35o8iFmh or the Bureau's weather app. pic.twitter.com/A2BHosNSKq

— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@BOM_au) April 6, 2023

Keep Easter chocolates away from your dogs, Queensland government warns

The Queensland government has issued an important release for the much forgotten party in Easter celebrations – dogs.

If you, like me, have a labrador, or any dog-like animal, remember to keep them firmly away from Easter eggs and chocolate bilbies this holiday.

Minister for agricultural industry development and fisheries Mark Furner has warned chocolate can be deadly for dogs as it contains theobromine.

Smaller breeds are at a greater risk, but all breeds can experience restlessness, hyperactivity, trembling, vomiting, diarrhoea, increased heart rate and seizures after consuming chocolate.

Dark chocolate contains more theobromine than milk or white chocolate, but even very small amounts of any type of chocolate can make dogs critically ill.

Carob is fine, though, for crafty canines. I know this only too well, as my brother’s dog once ate an entire block of my vegan chocolate overnight and spent the following day in remarkably high spirits.


Chocolate is delicious for humans but downright dangerous for dogs. Just before Easter is the perfect time for parents to remind young kids that it’s great to share chocolates with siblings – but not the family dog.

Also make sure chocolate isn’t left somewhere your dog might be able to snatch it. If you think your dog has eaten chocolate you should seek immediate veterinary advice, it could save your pet’s life.


We are working to confirm the West Australian’s scoop that former Indigenous affairs minister Ken Wyatt has quit the Liberal Party after the federal party room’s decision to oppose the Indigenous voice referendum.

Wyatt is on the government’s referendum working group which has been advancing the voice proposal. He also unsuccessfully tried to get his party to advance the referendum prospect during his time in office, which ended at the 2022 election.

We’ve reached out to Wyatt for comment, as well as the Western Australian Liberal party.

Peter Dutton was asked about Wyatt’s advocacy for the voice in his press conference yesterday. Dutton said “I have the greatest respect for Ken Wyatt. I’ve listened to his voice”:

I’ve listened to Kerrynne Liddle, I’ve listened to many Indigenous leaders for whom I have a great deal of respect, otherwise. They have a contrary view to Ken’s view, and we live in a democracy where we can consider the views of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

The news comes hours after Liberal MP Bridget Archer said she had considered quitting the party, and while she had decided to stay in the tent, she admitted her party was at a “crossroads”. She too disagreed with the Liberal position decided yesterday.


Thanks as ever to the nifty Natasha May. I’ll be with you for the rest of the afternoon.

Thanks for your attention today. Caitlin Cassidy has the blog!

Just in case you haven’t got your fill of cute animals on the blog today, here is another one from the environment minister’s announcement of the new recovery plan for the bilby.

We brought you some of the solo shots of Plibersek with the vulnerable marsupial earlier, but here’s the prime minister Anthony Albanese and NSW environment minister Penny Sharpe also looking on adoringly at Taronga Zoo this morning.

Best way to start the day: took the boss and the new NSW Environment Minister to hang out with Australia’s answer to the Easter bunny.

Even better: we’ve launched a new Recovery Plan to protect the Greater Bilby. pic.twitter.com/bqLL9TBvka

— Tanya Plibersek (@tanya_plibersek) April 6, 2023

Plibersek said:

With its pink ears, soft grey coat, and little bouncy feet, the greater bilby is an iconic Australian animal.

We want to make sure it can be a beloved Easter icon for generations.

That means tackling threats like rabbits, an invasive animal whose eating and digging threatens over 300 native species.


It’s going to be a big Easter weekend for Sumatran tiger cubs Ketambe, Susu and Marni who will be making their debut at Adelaide zoo tomorrow.

Meet Ketambe, Susu and Marni! 🐯🐯🐯
The playful cubs will make their debut at Adelaide Zoo tomorrow, and something tells me they're going to be a hit! @9NewsAdel @ZoosSA pic.twitter.com/AvqGsKMLqK

— Keziah Sullivan (@9keziahsullivan) April 6, 2023

Unfortunately populations in the wild are critically endangered, with numbers dwindling below 400. The decline has been accelerated by their habitat in Sumatra being cleared to make way for palm oil plantations – which is then used in household items from soap to biscuits.

Australians can help protect the cubs’ relatives in Indonesia by looking out for whether products contain palm oil and only buying those with the RSPO label which certifies it’s made with sustainable palm oil.

Adelaide Zoo’s adorable Sumatran tiger cub trio has been named just in time for their Good Friday public debut. The two female cubs have been given Indonesian names, Susu and Marni, while the male cub will be known as Ketambe. More in 7NEWS Adelaide at 4pm and 6pm. #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/LflpdVHCMo

— 7NEWS Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) April 6, 2023


Reports Ken Wyatt has quit Liberal party following voice decision

The former minister for Indigenous affairs in the Morrison government, Ken Wyatt, has reportedly quit the Liberal party after its federal politicians decided to campaign against the Indigenous voice to parliament.

The West Australian is reporting that the Liberal party today accepted Wyatt’s resignation.

Wyatt, who was the nation’s first Aboriginal person to hold the Indigenous Australians portfolio, told the paper:

I still believe in the Liberal party values but I don’t believe in what the Liberals have become.

Aboriginal people are reaching out to be heard but the Liberals have rejected their invitation.

The day after the Albanese government revealed the wording of the referendum question, Wyatt publicly urged Dutton to back the creation of the voice, warning not doing so could add to the perceptions the Liberals were a “racist party”.


Australia seeking ‘pathways for peace’, Marles says

The defence minister, Richard Marles, said he and his New Zealand counterpart, Andrew Little, had discussed “the strategic landscape that both of our countries face”.

Marles told reporters in Wellington that in terms of the strategic circumstances “there is obviously a greater alignment between Australia and New Zealand than Australia has with any other country on the planet”. He added:

We are kind of in whatever we’re in, together. And so in that sense, I think we both felt that this is a time where it’s really important that we are working as closely together as possible. The whole is actually much greater than the sum of our parts when we are working together. And we looked at ways in which we can expand that relationship.

When asked whether he agreed with recent commentary in Australia that conflict with China was imminent or becoming closer, Marles said the government had, since its election last May, been working “very carefully to try and stabilise our relationship with China”.

Marles noted that China was Australia’s largest trading partner and it was also New Zealand’s largest trading partner. Marles said he had “conducted the first ministerial level meeting with my Chinese counterpart last June, within weeks of us coming into power, and we see that the frontline of our engagement with the world is our diplomacy – and through our diplomacy, we seek to create pathways for peace.”

Marles was pressed on whether the risk of conflict had increased. He said it was a complex “strategic environment of greater threat than we’ve had in a very long period of time”. But he said that was why it was so important to focus on diplomacy. He praised the foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, for being at the forefront of that effort.

A journalist asked whether Australia would expect New Zealand to join if a conflict broke out with China, Marles said:

Look, I really don’t think it helps to speculate on hypotheticals. I think what matters here is that we are focused on providing for the collective security of our region, for the maintenance of the global rules-based order, that we are doing everything we can to provide for pathways to peace, and that we’re building the best relationships we can with countries around the world, including China.


Aukus deal contributes to ‘collective security’ of region, Marles says

Marles was asked whether he thought Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-propelled submarines benefits collective security in the region, and whether he understood New Zealand’s concerns about it. Marles replied:

We definitely think that acquisition of this capability contributes to regional security. That’s really at the heart of why we’ve taken the step that we have.

I mean, the point we’ve made a lot is that the defence of Australia doesn’t really mean that much unless we have the collective security of our region. And that’s because any country who wants to do Australia harm can do a whole lot of harm to us before ever setting foot upon the Australian continent. Our national security lies in a strong regional security, on the maintenance of the global rules-based order, and what we’re doing is our contribution to that.

Marles again pushed back at China’s concerns, saying Australia had been “working very closely with the International Atomic Energy Agency to make sure that we are establishing the bar at its highest in terms of one country providing this technology to another”:

We are making it completely clear that a precondition for us walking down this path as a government is that we meet every one of our obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and we are very confident that we’re doing that.


No discussions about Aukus ‘pillar two’ initiatives between Australia and NZ

There was some speculation ahead of the meeting of the New Zealand and Australian defence ministers that they could advance plans to collaborate on the non-nuclear submarine aspects of Aukus (the collaboration on advanced tech, which Australia, the US and the UK have always said could also involve other close partners).

But the NZ minister, Andrew Little, suggested that the pair did not have specific discussions about Aukus “pillar 2” initiatives:

No, obviously Aukus is a commitment and decision that Australia has made with the US and the UK. We didn’t talk specifically about that. It is a backdrop to the relationship at the moment. But as we await our defence policy review, and the early reports that come out of that, then we have to be thinking about the implications of that for our decisions about the future.

The Australian deputy prime minister and defence minister, Richard Marles, added:

Aukus is fundamentally a capability, technology-sharing arrangement. I mean, it’s important to understand it’s not an alliance relationship. We have an alliance with the United States, obviously, we have a long history with Great Britain, but Aukus is about the sharing of technology. We are open to expanding that in the future.

I think in terms of Aukus ‘pillar two’, which is, you know, those technologies beyond submarines, we need to get runs on the board, really, so that this is an arrangement that is attractive to others.


Australian and NZ defence ministers discussed ‘full breadth’ of security issues

Let’s bring you a few quick updates on the meeting between the Australian and New Zealand defence ministers in Wellington.

In response to the first question (“What did you guys have a chat about?”), the NZ defence minister Andrew Little said the pair had talked about “the full breadth of our defence relationship and our defence issues”.

Both Little and his visiting Australian counterpart, Richard Marles, pointed out that the pair had known each other since 1989. Little said they had “a long catch up about what we have got done since then” including both going into law school, working as lawyers, being involved in the union movement and entering parliament.

Marles quipped:

It worries both of our bureaucracies deeply that we actually know each other much more than the people who are advising us. So we’re scaring everyone half to death.


Charles Darwin University enterprise agreement certified by Fair Work

Charles Darwin University’s (CDU) latest enterprise agreement will come into effect in a week’s time after receiving certification from the nation’s employment watchdog.

It followed the successful appeal last month of an earlier Fair Work Commission (FWC) decision made in January which rejected the university’s non-union enterprise agreement, citing voting irregularities.

Commissioner Christopher Platt’s rejection of the proposal came after the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) raised concerns about ineligible casual staff who took part in the vote, raising an issue as to whether it had been genuinely agreed.

The agreement, which offered a 4% pay rise and $500 sign on bonus to staff, received backing from staff last year with 62% voting in favour. But Platt found the ballot included around 150 votes cast by casuals who weren’t working during the voting period.

The NTEU was calling for an 8% pay rise, paid gender affirmation leave, menstruation or menopause leave and greater working from home entitlements.

Acting vice-chancellor professor Hilary Winchester said the news gave certainty to staff ahead of the Easter break.

This is fantastic news for university staff. Almost two-thirds of our staff voted in favour of this agreement so today’s decision by the Fair Work Commission is welcomed.

CDU has so far honoured the 4% pay rise and some other benefits offered to staff since the vote last year. It will have seven days to implement the agreement in full.


Measles alert for western Sydney

Western Sydney residents need to be on alert for signs and symptoms of measles, health authorities are warning following an infant spending time at numerous locations while infectious.

The full list of locations where people may have been exposed to the case, as well as the symptoms to look out for, can be found here.

NSW Health says:

The infant is too young to be vaccinated against measles and had not been abroad. An investigation is under way to identify where the infant was exposed to measles.

At this early stage of the investigation, there are no known links to a recent measles case in western Sydney in an infant who acquired the infection while in India before returning to Sydney.


Queensland police appeal for safe return of platypus on Brisbane train

If you’ve been following the story of the little platypus seen boarding a Brisbane train, the appeal from police to return the animal has gone to the very top of the organisation.

The state’s top officer, police commissioner Katarina Carroll, has issued a personal appeal to the alleged assailants seen taking the monotreme aboard the train Tuesday:

We do have pretty good footage as to who we believe has taken the platypus, as you can appreciate for the health and wellbeing of the animal, he really needs to be back in his environment.

If you’re watching this and you know who you are, can you please come to us because we will be out there looking for you.

The police minister Mark Ryan, who has given “the little fella” the name Peter, said:

Peter the platypus needs to come home. The police see, every single day, a whole number of people do stupid things. Well, this is a whole other level of stupid.

To the people who have taken Peter the platypus, take it to the nearest police station, take it to the nearest vet. Peter needs to get home and you’ve done something very, very stupid. It is an offence.


My colleague Rafqa Touma wants to see your best, worst and weirdest Easter hats! You can get in touch with your pictures and stories by tweeting her @At_Raf_, or emailing australia@theguardian.com.

Rip Curl Pro gets underway at Winkipop

The opening round of the men’s Rip Curl Pro is underway in clean, two-to-three-foot waves at Winkipop, AAP reports.

World Surf League chief of sport Jessi Miley-Dyer said the decision was made to start the men’s and women’s competitions today, with conditions predicted to tail off from Friday.

The start comes after a two-day delay in the event waiting period and organisers have moved to Winkipop from the neighbouring Bells beach.

Miley-Dyer said:

We are going to call competition on at Winkipop today. There isn’t quite enough swell at the moment on the Bells side, but Winki is offering up some really fun waves.

We have called both the men’s and women’s opening rounds on and hope to complete both by day’s end.

This swell is a short one for just today and maybe tomorrow morning, so we want to make the most of the opportunity before we face some challenging conditions over the next couple of days.

The first heat of the event is Australian Ethan Ewing taking on American Nat Young and Costa Rican Carlos Munoz.

The last non-elimination heat of the day will be eight-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore up against veteran American Courtney Conlogue and Costa Rica’s Brisa Hennessy.

Australians Jack Robinson and Molly Picklum are the No 1 seeds after three rounds of the world tour, while compatriot Tyler Wright is the defending women’s Rip Curl Pro champion.


As more reactions come in to the news of the Inland Rail’s cost blowouts exceeding $30bn, independent MP Allegra Spender says she wants to push for amendments to improve Infrastructure Australia’s decision making process.

Today we’ve learned the cost Inland Rail has blown out from $8bn to $16bn and now to $31bn. Why does this keep happening? The problem starts with politicians making decisions without looking at the evidence. We must spend public money more effectively. 🧵 1/2 pic.twitter.com/OPyyMb9vnc

— Allegra Spender (@spenderallegra) April 6, 2023

Infrastructure Australia has huge potential to improve infra decisions – but it’s not delivering yet. I have amendments that would help IA reach its potential.
Will this govt back sensible changes to improve spending integrity?
Stay Tuned! 🧵 2/2https://t.co/xt9XSaHaWF

— Allegra Spender (@spenderallegra) April 6, 2023


Australasian Railway Association urges swift action after damning Inland Rail review

The Australasian Railway Association has urged the government to swiftly implement the recommendations made following the damning review of the Inland Rail project, and has called for clarity on whether it will commit to delivering the full project all the way to Brisbane.

In the hours after the release of Dr Kerry Schott’s review which found the project’s price tag had ballooned from $16.4bn to $31.4bn in the space of two years, and is now four years behind schedule, the government announced it will accept all 19 of Schott’s recommendations “in full or in-principle” as it sought “to rescue Inland Rail from the shameful state it was left in by the Coalition”.

A key recommendation made by Schott is to prioritise the delivery of the Melbourne to Parkes stretch of the 1,700km project that aims to create an inland freight corridor between Melbourne and Brisbane capable of running double stacked trains between the two cities in 24 hours.

A key goal of the project is to shift the freight from hundreds of thousands of trucks off roads and onto rail as a way to reduce emissions, however the project has attracted controversy over potential flooding risk and environmental concerns.

The government has been less certain about plans to build from Parkes to Brisbane, and on Thursday, Australasian Railway Association CEO Caroline Wilkie called for certainty as to whether the full track would be built.

It is critical that there is certainty around the route beyond Parkes and we look forward to seeing approvals and more detailed costings being determined as soon as possible.

We must move more freight on rail to meet growing demand and respond to the climate crisis. It is absolutely critical that Inland Rail is delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible. Failure to do so would see more trucks on the road and undermine the rail industry’s efforts to support a more sustainable national freight network.

Other recommendations include the immediate appointment of a CEO of the project, other governance changes, and appointing independent cost estimators.

Read more:


Australia condemns Taliban’s ban on female Afghan UN workers

The foreign minister has taken to Twitter in condemnation of the Taliban’s plan to ban all female Afghan employees of the UN from working.

The UN said the ban would lead to even less humanitarian aid reaching Afghanistan.

Penny Wong says Australia “stands with the people of Afghanistan”.

Australia condemns the Taliban’s decision to ban women Afghan UN staff delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan.

We support the @UN in its tireless advocacy for the rights of women and girls.

Australia stands with the people of Afghanistan.

— Senator Penny Wong (@SenatorWong) April 6, 2023


Australian police join multinational raid on cybercrime marketplace

Australian police have participated in a multinational raid on an online cybercrime marketplace, arresting 10 suspects and seizing computers, drugs and cash, AAP reports.

A coalition of law enforcement agencies – including in the US, UK, the Netherlands and Australia – shut down the cybercrime website Genesis Market and executed over 100 arrests around the world on Tuesday.

The invite-only marketplace is used by criminals to buy and sell sensitive data such as login credentials, browsing history and autofill form data, for as little as one Australian dollar.

Australian Federal Police assistant commissioner Scott Lee said the investigation identified 36,000 Australian devices for sale on Genesis Market, which had the potential to cause $46m worth of financial harm to the community.

Cybercrime is increasing in scale and frequency. For a small cost, individuals with nefarious intentions could purchase a packaged dataset that would allow them to gain access to a victim’s government services and online banking.

Investigations are ongoing but police say they have already arrested their highest value targets, including a 31-year-old man at Box Hill in Victoria, who allegedly spent over $50,000 buying information from the marketplace.

Lee urged anyone who believes they may have been affected to take action to protect themselves, advising them to change their passwords and run antivirus software on their devices.


The vice-chancellor at the Australian National University says he is “deeply saddened” by the Liberal party’s decision to campaign against the voice.

I am deeply saddened by the decision of the Liberal Party to actively campaign against the Voice referendum. I see the Voice as a chance for modern Australia to recognize it First Nations people and their 65000+ year past. want to know more? here is a FAQ https://t.co/X4S0J5Udxu

— Brian P Schmidt (@cosmicpinot) April 6, 2023

ANU is among a string of universities including UNSW, the University of Wollongong, the University of Swinburne and Curtin University that have pledged public support of the voice.


Regional Indigenous leaders say Dutton is spreading 'misinformation and confusion' on the voice

Politicians of the Australian parliament can have their opinions, but they will count for only 227 votes at the referendum. It is the opinions of the nearly 18 million other Australian voters that will really count in deciding “yes” or “no”, a coalition of 13 regional Indigenous leaders say.

Peter Dutton has chosen to spread misinformation, confusion and ignore the support of the vast majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

It is simply wrong to label the proposal the “Prime Minister’s Canberra Voice” and “divisive”.

We hoped for better from our politicians.

In saying “no” the Liberals and Nationals are seeking to take us backwards as a nation.

We called for bipartisan support for the referendum, but political games are being played with our lives and futures, and the future of the entire nation.

Mr Dutton and the Liberals have very little understanding of our lives and experience and present no solutions despite 21 of 26 years in government.

They continue to focus on attacking the government and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and wish to maintain the top-down system of ‘Canberra knows best’ that continues to fail.

Mr Dutton supports legislated local and regional voices as though that is some brilliant, original idea of the Liberal Party. But we have operated at the local and regional level for nearly 10 years now, mostly under a Coalition Government.

We have experienced firsthand that our current system is broken, because decisions are made by politicians without our on the ground input.

Mr Dutton knows as well as we do, local and regional voices must be linked to the national level to provide an effective and empowering approach to close the gap. This is exactly what will be provided though Voice.

Mr Dutton did not respond to our request to meet in Canberra, or to our invitation to visit our regions so we could show him why constitutional recognition through Voice is the change we need – linking from local and regional to national.

The 13 empowered communities leaders are from across Australia from Cape York, to Redfern, the Ngarrindjeri lands in SA, North East Arnhem Land, NT, East and West Kimberley, and the NPY (Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands, NT).


Liberals ‘going low’ with dismissive language towards Indigenous academics, Noel Pearson says

Picking up on Dutton’s dismissive language towards “city-based academics” being the voice. In his powerful interview on ABC Radio this morning, Noel Pearson said Dutton’s comments taking aim at Indigenous academics is part of what he means about the Liberal’s campaign “going low”.

This rhetoric we’re going to see a lot of it over the next six months, when he talks about academics in that sneering way, as if Aboriginal people getting educated…

Well, that’s what I mean about going low.

His the voice of Canberra, seeking to tell the Australian people from Canberra what what should happen. Whereas we want to voice to Canberra. We want to voice from the grassroots speaking to Canberra, and that’s what the voice will be about.

It’ll be a very good thing for the future of our communities, that we have a say in what Canberra does, and that the bureaucrats and politicians at least are required to listen to those voices. It is exactly the opposite of the kind of voice that professional politicians like Dutton have.

Dutton and his colleagues think that telling the Australian people what should happen on an issue like this is the only way these things should happen. And unfortunately for him, the Australian constitution actually puts the power in the people to decide this question. And thank God, we have the Australian people deciding this question rather than the Liberal party.


Dutton reiterates opposition to Indigenous voice

The Coalition leader, Peter Dutton, was on the Today Show largely reiterating the same lines he came out with yesterday when he announced that the Liberals would be formally opposing the voice to parliament.

Asked about whether he is willing to negotiate still or whether it’s a fait accompli at this point, Dutton said:

Well, we’ve said yesterday we want to sit down with the government and the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians is very important but the voice goes a step beyond what I think is realistic and what’s in our country’s best interests. So happy to sit down.

The report recommended a local and regional body before a national body and as people in Indigenous communities have said to us, they just don’t want city-based academics pretend to represent their views.

They want practical outcomes on the ground and we want money spent in a wise way to help with housing and maternal services and birthing units and rehabilitation units etc, jobs. All of that is important but I don’t think the prime minister’s Canberra-based voice is going to deliver that.


Focus of Indigenous voice should not be on politicians in Canberra: Malarndirri McCarthy

The assistant minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy has told ABC News that the focus of the voice to parliament was never meant to be on politicians in Canberra.

It is difficult to win a referendum. We know that only eight out of 44 have been won in our country. Of course we’ve tried to seek bipartisanship from the get go. Naturally, it is very disappointing that Peter Dutton has made the announcement that he has.

… Of course there is a tremendous amount of work and it certainly doesn’t happen when the emphasis is always on Canberra and the politicians in Canberra.

And this is why we have even in the parliament now a friendship group for the Uluru Statement where politicians have been invited to that, to try and get people to realise that this is a difficult journey, but let’s not forget how it all began.

It actually has been one that both sides of parliament have walked for some time since even prime minister John Howard. This is not just about a voice of the minister, as Peter Dutton has wanted to play here. This is about the First Nations people who gathered at Uluru after much dialogue across the country.


Liberal opposition to the voice still offers potential for bipartisanship: Birmingham

The leader of the opposition in the Senate, Simon Birmingham, told ABC News Breakfast that they are opposing the voice to parliament because it’s what regional and rural representatives say their constituents want.

ABC News Breakfast’s Madeleine Morris asked Birmingham:

I will run you through who supports the voice. According to Newspoll yesterday, 54% of Australians, a majority of states, millennials, wealthy Australians, NAB, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, Rio Tinto, Wesfarmers, Woolworths, Jeremy Rockliff, the premier of Tasmania, the Nationals in WA, your Liberal opposition counterparts in the states aren’t opposed. In opposing this, exactly who are the federal Liberals representing?


Yesterday was a meeting that brought together Liberals from all around the country and rural and regional members of parliament in particular who often represent communities that have large numbers of Indigenous communities within them.

We heard from all those members of parliament yesterday, bringing their perspectives and many expressing concerns about the views on the ground from their Indigenous communities and perspectives where they were suggesting that those communities would rather see stronger local voices built up that were able to reflect the local concern.

Birmingham insists the Liberal position does still offer the potential for bipartisanship.

Yesterday’s decision is one that does offer the potential for bipartisanship. There was a strong commitment out of yesterday for bipartisan support for constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australian.

There is a journey to go and still and on that journey I hope there is scope to find a means for a positive outcome in relation to something that can be achieved in a unifying way and constitutional recognition can achieve that.


The bilby photos you need

If Plibersek’s love for the bilby wasn’t evident with her words of admiration for its “pink ears, soft grey coat, and little bouncy feet,” here are some pictures of the minister lovingly gazing at the endangered marsupial at Taronga Zoo, where the announcement was made.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek with an endangered Greater Bilby.
The minister for the environment and water, Tanya Plibersek, with an endangered greater bilby. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP
Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek with an endangered Greater Bilby.
The endangered Greater Bilby at Taronga Zoo during the release Australia’s Threatened Species Action Plan.
The endangered greater bilby at Taronga Zoo during the release of Australia’s threatened species action plan. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Plibersek said at the announcement of the bilby’s new recovery plan would see practical steps taken to help the species:

We would like to see bilbies roaming in the wild again. That means we need to take greater care of the wild populations that still exist.

It means we need to invest in fenced areas where we remove cats and foxes, the greatest threats to the bilbies.

We need to invest in the science that would support the recovery efforts for the bilby.

And it means, very particularly, we need to work with First Nations custodians, Indigenous rangers and Indigenous land holders because most of the surviving bilby populations are in Indigenous protected areas and other land managed by First Nations Australians.


Bilby receives $5m and new recovery plan from government

Australia’s answer to the Easter bunny, the bilby, is being gifted a new recovery plan by the government this Easter.

With the species currently listed as vulnerable, the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, says she wants to make sure it can be a beloved Easter icon for generations.

The species which once inhabited two-thirds of Australia has been reduced to 15% largely due to habitat loss, introduced predators like cats and foxes, and fire.

The new Recovery Plan will draw on First Nations knowledge and the latest research in an effort to boost population numbers.

The government will also invest more than $5m in programs to protect the Greater Bilby. This includes almost $1.6m to manage threats to bilbies in Central Australia, especially fire and feral predators.

State environment ministers from Western Australia, South Australia, Northern Territory, Queensland, South Australia and New South Wales have all signed on to cooperate in the recovery plan.

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, says:

With its pink ears, soft grey coat, and little bouncy feet, the Greater Bilby is an iconic Australian animal.

We want to make sure it can be a beloved Easter icon for generations. That means tackling threats like rabbits, an invasive animal whose eating and digging threatens over 300 native species.

We know that feral cats and foxes, fires, and habitat clearing all threaten the Greater Bilby. We need to lift our game to meet our target of zero new extinctions, and this Recovery Plan is another step to make that a reality.

If you want to understand where the push came for the bilby to be Australia’s easter mascot, this video explains it:

Easter bunny? Australia introduces Easter bilby


Australia and New Zealand to discuss Aukus participation

Australian and New Zealand defence ministers are set to hold security talks as interest builds in broadening the Aukus partnership, AAP reports.

Deputy prime minister Richard Marles will visit Wellington on Thursday where he will meet with New Zealand’s deputy leader Carmel Sepuloni, defence minister Andrew Little and finance minister Grant Robertson.

While the Aukus agreement will deliver Australia nuclear-powered submarines using American and British technology, there are other non-nuclear aspects to the deal.

A second pillar to the tripartite deal, which is of interest to the NZ government, covers the sharing of advanced military technologies, including quantum computing and artificial intelligence.

Marles said the ministers would discuss opportunities to enhance the strategic focus of the relationship and working closely to improve outcomes for the region.

Little has said New Zealand is interested in exploring participation in the second pillar, which could include such things as surveillance and radio technology.

NZ is concerned Aukus may jeopardise the Treaty of Rarotonga which designates large swathes of the Pacific free of nuclear weapons.

Government responds to inland rail review

The Albanese government has committed to continuing the delivery of the Inland Rail freight megaprojects that an independent review found had suffered governance failures, delays and “astonishing” cost blowouts under the former Coalition government.

In the hours after the release of Dr Kerry Schott’s review, which found the project’s price tag had ballooned from $16.4bn to $31.4bn in the space of two years, and was four years behind schedule, the government announced it would accept all 19 of Schott’s recommendations “in full or in principle” as it sought “to rescue Inland Rail from the shameful state it was left in by the Coalition”.

The government will move ahead with a staged approach to Inland Rail, prioritising the stretch from outside Melbourne to Parkes in central west NSW. However, Catherine King, the minister for infrastructure, transport and regional development, said progress beyond that, for the section linking up to Brisbane, would depend on further planning progress.

When this government can have faith that adequate environmental planning approvals are in place and there is sufficient certainty as to the scope and cost to build more of Inland Rail, we will do just that.

King also said Inland Rail “requires a fundamental reset”. “Given the abysmal state the former government left the project in, we must take immediate action to get it back on track.”

Other recommendations the government will be implementing include the appointment of an independent cost estimator, after Schott’s review concluded there was little confidence in the project’s current estimates.

Four key intermodal terminals will also be built, as well as a raft of changes to the governance structure of the project that will see the formation of a separate subsidiary entity under the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) to oversee the project’s delivery.

Envisioned as a freight rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane through an inland corridor that is capable of running double-stacked freight trains between the two cities in 24 hours, the Inland Rail project has attracted criticism from experts and regional communities over the planned track alignment in light of flood risk and other environmental concerns.

Read more:


Daniel Andrews condemns Liberal voice stance

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has lashed the federal Liberal party for opposing the Indigenous voice to parliament, describing it as an “appalling” decision.

The Victorian Liberal party has appeared to distance itself from its federal colleagues, saying it had an “open mind” to the proposal.

Speaking this morning, Andrews said the Liberal party “stood condemned”:

They are a mean, nasty outfit with hearts about as big as their dwindling primary vote. We need to do this. This is our moment. We need to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a voice and deliver, in full, on the Uluru statement from the heart.


What is the Indigenous voice to parliament and how might it work?

We’ve been covering off a lot of the reactions in the aftermath of the Liberal party’s decision to oppose the Indigenous voice to parliament referendum.

If you or anyone you know is still seeking an explanation of the what the voice is and how it would work, this video has your answers!

Guardian’s Indigenous affairs reporter Sarah Collard explains what we know so far about how the Albanese government hopes to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution and what it means for all Australians:


Infrastructure minister blasts Coalition’s “1,700km of incompetence”

An independent review of the inland rail has this morning been handed down showing the predicted price tag of the megaproject has almost doubled in two years to more than $30bn.

The infrastructure minister, Catherine King, has called the report a “damning indictment” of Coalition handling of Inland Rail, labelling it “1,700km of incompetence”.

Catherine King says Schott report is "damning indictment" of Coalition handling of Inland Rail, "1,700km of incompetence", cost blown out from $9.3bn to $31bn, and can't put a date on it.

— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) April 5, 2023

The inland rail was the subject of a major investigation by Guardian Australia’s rural network last year. In addition to those cost blowouts, if you want to see how the infrastructure project is affecting the people living along the track you can follow along the route with our interactive here:


PM says he is taking a break

At the end of that press conference, the prime minister also flags that he’ll be on leave for a week from this Saturday.

I have not had any leave this year, so I will be on leave for one week.

Richard Marles and Penny Wong will be acting during that period and I look forward to having some time off …

I will be in Australia but I’d ask that my privacy be respected.


Many Liberal and National MPs and voters support the voice, PM says

Albanese is saying that Dutton has “turned his back to the future” with yesterday’s decision, but he pays tribute to the Liberal leaders who have supported the voice.

The problem with Peter Dutton is that he is scared of the present Australia, but he is terrified of the future. And with this decision yesterday, Peter Dutton has turned his back to the future …

I hoped for bipartisanship, but there are many people of goodwill in the Liberal party and the National party, whether they be caucus members but certainly members of the party – I know they’ve been speaking to me about it and I note this.

I note the NSW Coalition here, Liberals and Nationals, support constitutional recognition, and Dominic Perrottet, I pay tribute to him and his leadership, for his support for constitutional recognition.

I pay tribute to Jeremy Rockliff, the premier of Tasmania.

In a couple of weeks time, Pat Farmer, a former Liberal member of parliament, member for Macarthur, will be beginning his run for the yes in the referendum, in Hobart, in Tasmania. Pat Farmer is going to run 80km a day, every day, for months. He is a strong advocate of the voice as are so many people who vote Liberal or vote National.


“They didn’t consult with anyone,” Albanese says

Albanese is pointing out that unlike his own government who stood with Indigenous leaders when they made their announcement, the Liberals yesterday did not name anyone who supported the no position.

I note that Peter Dutton yesterday, when asked at the press conference who is supporting your proposition, didn’t name anyone.

It was Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley who went from a position last week, prior to the Aston byelection of saying that they would make a decision after the committee that’s been established – the joint parliamentary committee to examine the legislation in six weeks time.

In between then and Monday they declared an emergency meeting of the caucus to deal with this issue … They didn’t consult with anyone

When I stood up with Linda Burney and Patrick Dodson and Mark Dreyfus, we also stood with Marcia Langton and Thomas Mayor and a host of Indigenous leaders who we have worked with in the referendum working group – who all expressed their view, after Peter Dutton went and spoke to them on two occasions, that they were going to arrive at this position. Peter Dutton was always going to say no.

He is defined by what he is against, not what he is for. He has not learned or heard any of the messages that were given in May last year or in Aston on Saturday. He is determined to just be negative.


Liberals saying “we are up for discussion” is a pretence, Albanese says

Albanese is calling the Liberal’s claim they are open to discussion about the voice a “pretence” because the decision to oppose the voice was driven by internal party politics.

They’ve made their position clear. The National party made their position clear last year, straightaway without bothering to even pretend to look at the detail.

You’ve had this pretence from Peter Dutton and then a preemptive announcement yesterday, because of the Aston byelection outcome, driven by the internal politics of the Liberal party.

… The question was, will you be flexible? And then Peter Dutton has said actively that he is going to campaign no. That shows exactly what he is about.

This pretence of ‘we are up for discussion’. Whereas everyone knows that from day one, Peter Dutton, the person who walked out on the apology to stolen generations, who threatened to resign from the front bench because Brendan Nelson was showing leadership and supporting the apology to the stolen generations is now walking away from his responsibilities.


Albanese: “Peter Dutton will have one vote … but so will every Australian”

Albanese says he is still optimistic that the referendum will be a success, despite the Liberal’s “opportunistic” position taking away the opportunity for bipartisan support:

I’m still very optimistic that the Australian people who we will give the opportunity to vote between October and December this year, this is about them.

Peter Dutton will have one vote. I will have one vote but so will every Australian.

And this is about whether we as a country can be optimistic, can be enlarged, can come to terms with the fullness and richness of our history, can express our pride in sharing this continent with the oldest continuous culture on Earth, or whether we shrink in on ourselves.

This is a divisive position that Peter Dutton has taken. This is opportunistic. They have opposed just about every piece of legislation that has been before the parliament and now they are shrinking further into negativity with their opposition to what is a gracious and generous offer.


“This is an abrogation of leadership,” Albanese says of Dutton

Albanese says Dutton’s position on the voice is an “abrogation of leadership”:

This isn’t leadership. This is an abrogation of leadership.

Peter Dutton was part of the government for almost a decade. Almost a decade that could have, at any of those points in time, responded, legislated issues that they are now talking about.

Yesterday’s position was confused. It said we support constitutional recognition but not now. We support voices, but not a national voice. We are going to have these local voices but they are not going to have any possibility of bringing it together.

And the disingenuous nature of this response is summed up by talking about a Canberra voice. This is anything but. This is an opportunity for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to have a voice to Canberra. This is about doing things with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander People, not to them and not for them, because we know that hasn’t worked for 120 years.


Liberals have chosen 'low road' in opposing voice, PM says

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking in Sydney responding to the opposition’s decision to oppose the voice to parliament:

They have chosen this particular road and I think it is a low road that they have chosen.

In the language that was used by Peter Dutton yesterday, it’s consistent with the undermining of constitutional recognition that he has undertaken since the day that he became leader of the Liberal Party.

And I think it was a sad day yesterday, because this is an issue that should be above politics, but as Noel Pearson said, Peter Dutton is acting like the undertaker preparing the grave to bury Uluru.

Uluru is a generous statement, it is an invitation to all Australians to walk with first Australians to advance reconciliation. It is a generous and gracious offer and in a week in which we have mourned the passing of the great Indigenous leader, Yunupingu it is unfortunate that the legacy that he wanted.

Liberal premier to 'vigorously' campaign for a yes vote in voice referendum

Australia’s only Liberal premier, Tasmania’s Jeremy Rockliff, has told the Australian he would “vigorously” campaign for yes vote.

The highest ranking Liberal in office said:

My views are clear: this is a pivotal moment in our nation’s history.

I fully support the voice being enshrined in the Australian constitution. I welcome discussion around the wording.

I recognise and respect there are differing opinions [but] I will campaign vigorously for a yes vote as I passionately believe it is an important opportunity for all Australians to move forward in unity and understanding.


Paul Fletcher responds to Pearson criticism

Paul Fletcher, the manager of opposition business, appeared on ABC Radio immediately after Noel Pearson.

Asked for his response to Pearson’s very strong words, calling Peter Dutton an undertaker prepared to bury the Uluru statement, Fletcher appears unmoved:

We’ve taken a decision that we believe is in the national interest and in the interests of Indigenous Australians. We’re very clear that we support the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians. And we support a legislated establishment of regional and local voices.

Patricia Karvelas:

Indigenous people have said they don’t want just recognition. So you want to offer something that the very people you seek to reconcile with are saying they don’t want.


Again, we support the constitutional recognition of Indigenous Australians and we support the legislative establishment of regional and local voices. The regional local voices that were recommended in the Calma Langton report, and it’s been a consistent part of our position in our work on this over many years now.

Fletcher stays tight-lipped as to why the Liberal frontbench has been forced to fall into line on a binding position on the voice referendum when that was not the case with the Republic or same-sex marriage debates.

We’ve taken a decision, shadow cabinet decision. And that’s the position that we’ve arrived at. Of course, members of the Liberal party other than those who have particular frontbench responsibilities are always free to exercise a conscience vote. Can I make the point though, that we’ve said we will support the bill to authorise the referendum to proceed.


NSW premier rules out China trip

Chris Minns, the premier of NSW, has ruled out a trip to China.

It follows his announcement this morning that the state government would follow its federal counterpart banning Chinese-owned TikTok over concerns around the security risk it poses.

Minns told 2GB radio this morning:

I’m not going to China. There’s enough on my plate right here in New South Wales.

Ben Fordham:

You’ve got a bit of competition though, because Dan Andrews has just returned from Beijing, Mark McGowan in Western Australia is going to be going we believe later this month. Annastacia Palaszczuk says she’s going as well, I think in November of this year.

In this term, would you would you consider a trip to China or are you just putting a line through it?


I’m putting a line through it. I wasn’t elected to do those trips, my responsibilities are right here, we have an enormous amount of domestic issues we are facing, that’s my priority.


Archer says Noel Pearon has given a “devastating assessment” of her party

Liberal MP Bridget Archer has called Noel Pearson’s response to her party’s rejection of the referendum a “devastating assessment” and said she was very moved by his thoughts – adding that she was sorry.

She said:

I think we need to elevate this issue above divisive, nasty politics and walk together into the future with unity, with purpose, for a united Australia.

Archer, a supporter of the referendum who said she will campaign for a yes vote, said she had sometimes considered leaving the party (she has crossed the floor several times on conscience issues, courting controversy among her colleagues) but said she had decided to stay in hopes of changing the Liberal culture.

I stay because I know I’m not the only person who thinks that way. I stay because I think the Liberal party is at a crossroads and for people like me, that means there’s a decision between either walking away and leaving them to it, or fighting for what I believe the Liberal party used to be and should be into the future – a credible alternative government.

Asked if she thought the current Liberal party was a credible alternative government, Archer replied:

No I don’t think so. There is all evidence to the contrary.

I don’t think we’ve learned the lessons from the 2022 election or the Aston byelection.

This decision in relation to the voice is another example of that.


Former Tasmanian Liberal premier condemns party’s opposition to voice

Tasmania is the last Liberal state government left in the country and its former premier has taken to social media this morning to speak out against the federal party’s decision to oppose the voice to parliament.

Former premier Peter Gutwein says he agrees with Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer, who says there is a moral imperative to support the campaign.

Gutwein this morning tweeted:

Should the Liberal party maintain its opposition to the voice it will simply accelerate its increasing irrelevance.

I agree with Bridget.
And should the Liberal party maintain its opposition to the voice it will simply accelerate its increasing irrelevance! https://t.co/4KNbmWhxkQ

— Peter Gutwein (@GutweinP) April 5, 2023


NSW to ban TikTok on government-issued devices

New South Wales will follow the federal government’s move in banning TikTok on government-issued devices.

The premier, Chris Minns, will also stop using the app and delete it.

He said:

I have asked for Cyber Security NSW to issue advice to NSW government employees, to implement this change as soon as possible.

I will no longer be using TikTok.

While the new government rules will seek to prevent government workers from downloading and using the app on government phones, exceptions will be made for some community communication including for public health or safety messages.

Minns said in those cases the government would implement “a number of mitigations to ensure that the security risk of this use is managed appropriately”.

Cyber Security NSW will lead the ban and work to keep the state policies in line with advice from federal agencies.

Last month Guardian Australia revealed the state government was considering banning the app and creating an overarching policy for the app’s download and use on department devices.

Cystic fibrosis medicine to be subsidised for 6 to 11 year olds

The Albanese government is announcing that Trikafta, the cystic fibrosis medicine labelled a wonder drug by Married at First Sight contestant Lyndall Grace, will be made available to children on the pharmaceutical benefit scheme.

From 1 May 2023, children aged 6 to 11 with cystic fibrosis will have access to the medicine, paying a maximum of $30 per script, or just $7.30 with a concession card. Trikafta was first listed on the PBS for those 12 years and over on 1 April 2022.

The listing is expected to benefit more than 500 children each year. Without subsidy, Trikafta could cost families more than $250,000 per year.

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disease which causes mucus in the lungs (and other organs) to become thick and sticky. Over time, this results in persistent lung infections, limited ability to breathe and often, irreversible lung damage.

There is no known cure and the median survival age is 47, although treatments like Trikafta are likely to extend life expectancy.

The health minister, Mark Butler, said:

Extending Trikafta’s PBS listing to include children from 6 years is another landmark moment in the battle against cystic fibrosis.

This treatment was far too expensive for most families to contemplate.

Now, thanks to our world-leading PBS system, families with a diagnosis of CF can literally breathe easier.

We know Trikafta changes lives and that’s why the government moved as quickly as possible to make this treatment available for young Australians.

Children will be able to live and play, and plan for long, happy lives, just like their friends who weren’t born with a faulty gene.


Liberal backbencher Bridget Archer to campaign for yes vote

Liberal MP Bridget Archer, as a backbencher is not required to oppose the vote and yesterday said she would actively campaign for a yes vote.

Speaking to RN the morning after the decision was made, Archer admits sometimes she does consider resigning. She says she stays because:

I think the Liberal party is at a crossroads.

… I think there needs to be a commitment from the party, a decision to learn the lessons from the last election and quickly, and to move forward purposely into the future.

Otherwise I don’t think it’s going to matter who the leadership is.


“If we do this for anybody”, it will be Yunupingu, says Pearson

Pearson says his work to make the referendum succeed will be, above all, for the memory of Yunupingu:

We’ve got to summon up the heart and spirit and determination of our great sporting and cultural figures because we can win this.

And most of all, for me, my brother’s Yunupingu’s passing this week of all of all weeks.

His memory and his legacy is going to be a power to our arm, in the campaign going forward.

And if I do this for anybody, if we do this for anybody, we will do it for his memory and his work. We cannot contemplate failure.


“Dutton sees his own political future tied up with getting this referendum to fail,” says Pearson

Pearson has accused Dutton of throwing Indigenous Australians under the bus for the sake of his own political career:

This is late in the day for the Liberal party to to execute such a betrayal. Kind of symbolic … on the day of the Passover, leading into Easter, that we should be betrayed like this and the country should be betrayed like this.

But you know that Dutton sees his own political future tied up with getting this referendum to fail. This is more about his calculations about Liberal versus Labor, rather than what’s good for the country.

And he doesn’t mind chucking Indigenous Australians and the future of the country under the bus so he can preserve his miserable political hide.


Pearson says referendum will still succeed

Pearson says while it is a “very sad day for Australia” that the referendum won’t have bipartisanship, he is confident it will still be successful because Australians will rise to the historic opportunity.

I am certain that every attempt to try and kill and bury will not succeed. The Australian people will rise to the historic opportunity we have to achieve reconciliation at last.

Pearson says despite Dutton vowing to actively campaign against the voice, he believes campaigners will also rise above it:

When they go low, we’re going to go high.

We’re going to meet hate with love, fear with understanding. We’re going to face the prejudice of the community ticket between Dutton and Hanson with friendship.

Now we have to face the negativity with hope, because we’ve got to believe in the Australian people.

However, I believe that the Liberal party is greatly out of step with the sentiment of the Australian people on this issue, and we will succeed notwithstanding the very disappointing stats.


Liberal decision to oppose voice a 'Judas betrayal of our country', Noel Pearson says

Noel Pearson, a Cape York Indigenous leader and one of the architects of the Uluru statement, has compared the opposition leader Peter Dutton to an “undertaker” burying the Uluru statement after his party decided to formally oppose the Indigenous voice to parliament.

Asked how he felt when he heard that the Liberal Party would campaign “no,” Pearson told ABC Radio:

I couldn’t sleep last night. I was troubled by dreams and the spectre of the Dutton Liberal party’s Judas betrayal of our country.

They’ve had 11 years of power to work on a proper proposal for recognition and the decision they’ve taken yesterday is a very poor outcome of 11 years of power.

I see the leader of the Liberal party, Mr Dutton, as an undertaker preparing the grave to bury Uluru.


Greens release public consultation for legalising cannabis bill

Australia could be one step closer to legalising cannabis after the Greens released legislation for public consultation before introducing it into the parliament.

The legislation borrows from Canada where cannabis was legalised in 2018, and would allow for the sale by both government and licensed private retailers, with a national regulator overseeing the industry.

Greens senator David Shoebridge said:

What we have created with this bill is a core set of principles for an ethical cannabis market that is controlled by individuals and small businesses rather than big pharma, big tobacco or big alcohol.

We are proposing a national regulator that will be empowered to set labelling requirements, to check on quality and concentration, to set the standard for cannabis licences and to protect the public interest.

Shoebridge says if the legislation was passed, it would sit above state law, allowing for the legalisation of the drug across the nation. Shoebridge said legalising cannabis would not only raise tens of billions in tax revenue, it would also save law enforcement millions and allow it to refocus attention elsewhere.


Good morning!

The Greens have released their legalising cannabis bill for public consultation before introducing it into the parliament.

Greens senator David Shoebridge said the bill was a significant step towards acceptance, and offered the possibility to create an “ethical cannabis market.”

The bill sets out how cannabis would be regulated across the nation, the registration of legal strains and how it could be sold and consumed.

Staying in Canberra, the Liberal party is continuing to defend the decision made in its party room meeting yesterday to formally oppose the Indigenous voice to parliament, which leader Peter Dutton characterised as a “Canberra voice.”

The decision has prompted anger and disappointment from Indigenous campaigners. Pat Anderson, one of the architects of the Uluru statement, said the decision “ignores the majority of First Nations peoples at the grassroots across the country, ignores the months of work done by three referendum working groups to ensure the wording is sound, and ignores the majority view of their own constituents.”

In New South Wales, the state government will follow the federal government’s move in banning TikTok on government-issued devices. The premier, Chris Minns, will also stop using the app and delete it.

Overseas in New Zealand, Australian and New Zealand defence ministers are holding security talks as interest builds in broadening the Aukus partnership.

Deputy prime minister and defence minister Richard Marles will visit Wellington to meet with NZ deputy leader Carmel Sepuloni, defence minister Andrew Little and finance minister Grant Robertson.

Let’s get going!


Caitlin Cassidy and Natasha May (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
PM reportedly issued invitation to visit Beijing – as it happened
This blog is now closed.

Emily Wind and Natasha May (earlier)

04, Apr, 2023 @8:40 AM

Article image
Greens claim opposition leader ‘trying to ignite a culture war’ – as it happened
This blog is now closed.

Caitlin Cassidy and Mostafa Rachwani (earlier)

05, Apr, 2023 @8:57 AM

Article image
Penny Wong warns against ‘miscalculation’ as China-Taiwan tensions escalate – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Cait Kelly and Amy Remeikis

04, Aug, 2022 @9:14 AM

Article image
Senator takes aim at ‘bullies’ as voice row escalates – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Mostafa Rachwani and Amy Remeikis (earlier)

29, Nov, 2022 @7:58 AM

Article image
Albanese says former PM owes apology to Australian people – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Mostafa Rachwani and Natasha May

18, Aug, 2022 @9:08 AM

Article image
Labor targets PM over sports rorts emails and robodebt – as it happened
Anthony Albanese accuses Scott Morrison of misleading parliament over his involvement in the grants scheme. This blog is now closed

Amy Remeikis

26, Feb, 2020 @6:38 AM

Article image
National cabinet announces housing plan – as it happened
This blog is now closed.

Henry Belot and Tory Shepherd and Emily Wind (earlier)

16, Aug, 2023 @8:15 AM

Article image
Man shot dead by police in Brisbane – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Josh Taylor (now), Natasha May and Mostafa Rachwani (earlier)

11, Oct, 2022 @7:54 AM

Article image
Former NSW deputy Liberal leader says party has ‘moved too far to the right’ – as it happened
This blog is now closed.

Emily Wind and Natasha May (earlier)

03, Apr, 2023 @8:47 AM

Article image
Public service shake-up continues with four new secretaries for government departments – as it happened
This blog is now closed

Cait Kelly, Ben Doherty and Mostafa Rachwani (earlier)

22, Jun, 2022 @9:15 AM