The day that was, Tuesday 7 February 2023
That is where we will wrap up the live blog for Tuesday.
Here’s what made the news today:
The Reserve Bank of Australia increased the cash rate for the ninth consecutive month to 3.35%, and warned that more rate increases are likely in the coming months aimed at bringing inflation under control.
The Labor government has quickly moved to re-authorise offshore processing of asylum seekers on Nauru, after it was discovered that the authorisation had been allowed to lapse in October last year. The move was condemned by the Greens and some members of the crossbench, who have called for an end to the offshore detention regime.
Former asylum seeker Behrouz Boochani has visited parliament for the first time to urge the government to allow the remaining refugees on Nauru and Papua New Guinea to be evacuated.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, announced $10m in funding for humanitarian assistance following the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria that have left thousands dead.
The former prime minister, Tony Abbott, has joined the board of the climate denial group, Global Warming Policy Foundation.
The new prime minister of New Zealand, Chris Hipkins, attended parliament on Tuesday, where Australia and New Zealand celebrated 80 years of relations, while Hipkins continued to raise concerns about Australia’s policy for deporting New Zealand citizens who have lived most of their life in Australia but have failed a character test following a criminal conviction.
Amy will be back with you again tomorrow morning with all the latest. Until then, enjoy your evening.
One of Sydney’s newest ferries will be out of service for several weeks after suffering catastrophic engine failure during a routine safety drill conducted by engineers, AAP reports.
No passengers were aboard the Clontarf on Monday evening when it lost one of its two engines, forcing the vessel to return to Balmain shipyard using the remaining engine.
The engine will need to be replaced which will probably take several weeks.
Transdev, the operator of Sydney Ferries, said it was working closely with Japanese engine manufacturer Yanmar to investigate the cause of the issue.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said no vessel or vehicle was free of technical or mechanical issues from time to time.
“Transport for NSW has liaised with Transdev about the Clontarf engine failure as a matter of urgency,” the spokesperson said.
“Importantly, there will be no impact to commuter services, particularly the F1 Manly-Circular Quay services which are operating as per the regular timetable.”
The Clontarf is one of three new Emerald class ferries, along with the Balmoral and Fairlight, brought in to operate the Circular Quay to Manly route on which vessels can regularly encounter heavy swells coming in through the heads.
The Balmoral ferry that was out of service for electrical maintenance is expected to be back in service by Wednesday.
Regular pump work was done on the Fairlight on Monday and the vessel has already returned to service.
The ferries themselves were built in Australia by local shipbuilder Birdon.
The Transport for NSW spokesperson said there was a robust system to ensure fleet operation, performance, maintenance and safety is of a standard that meets all safety regulations and customer needs.
A Labor government MP has accused Coalition energy spokesperson Ted O’Brien of “bizarre and disrespectful” behaviour after filming videos discussing Australia’s potential for nuclear energy at the site of the Hiroshima atomic blast and the Fukushima power plant in Japan.
The 20-year-old man who targeted Optus customers caught up in the hack last year, and over SMS demanded payment of $2,000, has avoided jail, AAP reports.
Dennis Su, 19 at the time, downloaded personal information from a website that shared breached Optus data, telling police he was having a difficult time being unemployed and wanted to make some “quick money”.
No one transferred the money, however one person responded with an emoji, according to the agreed facts of the case.
Over in the Senate, the government’s instrument designating Nauru as a regional processing country has been approved 39 votes to 12.
In the House of Representatives, teal independents including Kylea Tink are calling for an end to regional processing. But given the Coalition support, it is a foregone conclusion it will pass there too.
Catch up with all the news from today in our Afternoon Update, including:
The number of casualties in the devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Syria could be more than 20,000.
Black Lives Matter protestors in Victoria have their charges withdrawn over a protest organised in 2020 during a Covid lockdown.
RBA lifts the cash rate to 3.35%.
Just a bit more on Paul’s post: the shadow home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, has also put out a media release on the Coalition supporting Labor’s re-authorisation of offshore process in Nauru.
Andrews said the authorisation being allowed to lapse in October last year “raises serious questions about whether Australia has potentially been without the capacity to conduct regional processing for months.”
Was this an oversight, negligence or incompetence? You cannot afford to be any of these things when you are charge of the nation’s security.
Coalition backs Nauru offshore detention move
The shadow home affairs minister, Karen Andrews, told the House of Representatives that Labor’s re-authorisation of offshore processing in Nauru is “unusual and extraordinary” and it was “deeply concerning” it had been allowed to lapse.
Andrews said the Coalition would “in the national interest” support it without amendment.
Andrews said it was a matter of public record the previous instrument would sunset in October.
This happened on her [Clare O’Neil’s] watch and she has nobody to legitimately blame but herself.
The independent MP Andrew Wilkie is opposing offshore detention, arguing it is immoral and illegal under international law. He rejected the idea asylum seekers are not in detention because they can move about the island of Nauru, which he noted was in the middle of the Pacific.
Greens call for crackdown on junk food ads at Victorian stations
The Victorian Greens have called on the state government to clamp down on unhealthy food and drink ads at train stations and tram stops, AAP reports.
Research from Cancer Council Victoria shows children in the state see or hear at least 25 ads promoting unhealthy food and drinks every day, negatively influencing their eating habits.
Greens population health spokesman Tim Read said the public transport network was one of the few areas where the state government has control over advertising.
Processed food companies do not spend millions of dollars on outdoor advertising for fun.
They spend millions of dollars on outdoor advertising so they can teach our kids what to eat and set them up to buy their products. The state can either go along with that or it can take action.
The premier, Daniel Andrews, shot down the suggestion, questioning if banning ads would be effective.
I’m not looking to ban anything today. I don’t know whether that necessarily works. There’s a thing called the internet. People get their information from lots of different sources.
Andrews also expressed concerns about the potential loss of revenue from removing the ads, leaving the government with less cash to reinvest in the network.
Reed conceded there could be some revenue implications, but said the Greens did not expect it to be a “major hit” to the state budget.
When the City of London did this, they found, probably by coincidence, that their revenue actually went up.
A spokesman for VicHealth, the state’s health promotion foundation, said the impacts of limiting junk food advertising on London transport have been more than monetary.
This [the ban] resulted in the average weekly household purchases of energy from chocolate and confectionery dropping 19% following the changes.
It’s time to put the health and wellbeing of our kids first by removing this type of advertising around public transport, its infrastructure, and particularly schools.
Other Australian states and territories, including Western Australia, Queensland and the ACT, are implementing various measures to limit or eliminate junk food advertising from public spaces.
O'Neil defends decision to reauthorise offshore processing in Nauru
The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, is up defending Labor’s decision to renew an instrument designating Nauru as a regional processing country.
It’s a bit embarrassing for the government, that the instrument doing so lapsed in October – and it’s caused concern on the crossbench ahead of its debate in the lower house and Senate.
O’Neil said Labor’s policy was to be “strong on borders without being weak on humanity”, and that “regional processing is integral to both”. She said regional processing “breaks the business model of people smugglers who seek to market an outcome among world’s most vulnerable people” and had “saved the lives of thousands”.
O’Neil said that an expert panel consisting of former chief of defence Angus Houston, academic Michael LeStrange and refugee expert Paris Aristotle had recommended regional processing, including endorsing Nauru.
Labor should support evacuating offshore detainees – Boochani
As we mentioned earlier, former refugee, author and human rights advocate Behrouz Boochani has been at Parliament House today. He was on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing just a moments ago speaking about his campaign to have the remaining people in offshore detention on Nauru and Papua New Guinea brought to Australia.
Boochani said that Labor should support the evacuation, highlighting that Labor supported the medevac legislation in opposition. But he said Labor “always has been supporting the policy against refugees over the past decade”.
They have opened Nauru in 2012 and now, I think, they are close to the Liberal party. These two parties are working together but, I think, Labor in the federal election, they have supporters that if they vote to them, if they get elected, they will give visa to people or have been waiting here… they should do something for refugees. But the problem is that what we see in this government, nothing really changes since the election.
Josh Taylor is going to take you through the rest of the evening so make sure you follow back for updates.
A very big thank you to everyone who came along with me today (I have almost made it through this bug) so here’s hoping tomorrow will bring full health and non-stop coffee.
Until then, please – take care of you.
RBA’s ‘hawkish’ shift has biggest bank lifting its peak rate prediction
CBA, Australia’s biggest bank, had expected today’s RBA rate rise to be the last in this series, with cuts likely later in the year.
The central bank’s statement that “further increases” will be needed meant the CBA has had to amend its forecasts. It now expects 25 basis point increases in both March and April, for a peak RBA cash rate of 3.85%.
If the revision proves prescient, that would mean six quarter-point hikes in a row and a full 11 consecutive increases (extending the current record of nine).
Two further 25bp interest rate hikes means the probability of a soft landing for the economy is lowered significantly. The budgets of many home borrowers will be under considerable strain over the coming year.
The ANZ, which now looks to be closer to the mark with its earlier forecast of a 3.85% peak cash rate, is sticking to that forecast.
However, “[w]e still see the risks to that peak as tilted to the high side given the momentum in inflationary pressure”, senior ANZ economist Felicity Emmett said.
Thorpe says financial rumours are ‘another hit piece’
Lidia Thorpe is asked about rumours of allegations of potential financial misconduct by Thorpe’s office (I have not heard those rumours so can not give you any more detail) and Thorpe laughs and says “OK, that’s hilarious” and makes a joke about her family budget while having a teenager and a “big hungry dog”.
I am not aware of anything else. I have had a good team around me who are across the processes. And we have had, when we work with the Greens, we had that support as well. I don’t know where that is coming from, I find that is another hit piece. Which again is exemplary of the systemic racism and the state violence against black women particularly in this country.
The scrutiny and the attacks, the media rocking up at my doorstep knocking on my door when my elderly mum was very unwell. Scaring my children. I’ve had to endure a lot.
But I have the support of the black sovereignty movement and you saw that on the 26 January.
And I have the support of my people and many many blackademics [black academics] – we call them – who have been researching this for a long time and I have been grateful for the support.
And I have been grateful for the support I had within the Greens at that time. And I’m looking forward to a future of having a black voice that is not constrained by anything. Really. I really want to meet with the King.
Why not? I am a senator. Surely I can do that.
‘Parliament failed to protect me’ – Thorpe
Dana Morse: And, now that you’re an independent, are on your own, how do you feel you will manage the lobbying on everything, not just on Indigenous affairs issues, and how will you manage not been protected by the party any more?
Look, we will have to prioritise what we will be focusing on as a team, and we are going through the process.
I think that, well, I understand I haven’t had a chance to have these meetings, but I understand that amongst the crossbenchers that there is some cohesive arrangement, that there is some supports to assist with constituents and lobbyists and all of what we have to deal with is politicians.
So, it’s not – sorry, as far as protection, I think I’ve copped enough even with whatever protection I’ve had.
Morse: Are you saying that the Greens failed to adequately protect you?
No, I think the parliament failed to protect me. If we go back to January 26 last year, I had the far right threaten me, there’s been subsequent threats publicly by this far right terrorist group. And I think that that’s just the reality of what it’s like for a Blak woman in a public space who’s got some power, the Greens could only - they Greens protected me in the best way that they could.
But it always had to be referred to the Australian Federal Police which need to come back to me and give me some better updates on what’s going on with my safety because, obviously, there is also that uprise and the threat of these white terrorist groups who have power and obviously are there to create fear in people. Which I won’t subscribe to.
Q: The Greens have said that they have guarantees from federal government on sovereignty … Did that happen before or after you decided to leave the party?
Look, I think that’s been happening all throughout. I think the government are quick to say that it doesn’t cede sovereignty and, as I said earlier, the constitutional experts are saying that we don’t because it’s based on the colonial law.
And it doesn’t cede sovereignty, according to the lie of terra nullius, so that’s why we have to go back to what sovereignty really is and the fact that First Nations peoples have never ceded sovereignty. And we challenge the crown, the British Crown, who say they are sovereign, who think that they became sovereign when they arrived, you don’t just rock up on someone else’s country and say, by the way, we are sovereign now.
We put this colonial law over the top of the oldest constitution on the planet – First People’s here. So we are the ultimate sovereign power here. And this country needs to come to terms with that.
If Labor is saying it doesn’t cede, then put it into the constitution. Put it into the legislation, the first people, other sovereign people of these lands. If it’s is no problem, then it’s no problem.
I would welcome it going into the constitution or in the legislation but I can tell you now, when I asked these questions in the Victorian parliament through my negotiations of treaty, they would not, they refuse to acknowledge our sovereignty, they refuse. The whole parliament went to a vote on it.
And so I would like to see Labor not just talk about it; put it in action, show us. Otherwise, we will continue to question it.
Following that answer, Dana Morse asks: were you invited?
We’ve never been invited. Well, I’ve never been invited. So I will put that out there to the prime minister and the minister for Indigenous Australians, that the black sovereign grassroots movement want to meet with the two advisory groups that Labor set up, and through a hand-picked process.
Let’s bring the groups together. And it will be a conversation that we need to have. We don’t want to fight each other out in the public, we want to unite, but we have to ensure that we get some wins along the way.
With Labor saying that the royal commission in custody implementation of state and territory responsibility and the Bringing Them Home report, stealing children is a state and territory responsibility – then they can get all the states and territories together to support the voice but they can’t bring them together to say black lives and save black families and children?
I just find that quite difficult to swallow.
When you’re in community, when you are seeing what’s going on, in fact, the day of the Greens retreat – my younger cousin was found dead. With unusual circumstances. On my own country, a young boy, and that’s why people speculate, they will continue to run this campaign on what they think I am, but I have done good work over the communities of the last few years and testament to my matriarch’s, my mother, was part of the Bringing Them Home report, she was a co-commissioner into the Victorian inquiry along with Sir Ron Wilson, and he was incredible elderly man who worked with my mum right up to he passed.
And my mother was involved in the deaths in custody royal commission. Also, my mother was a CEO of the Victorian Aboriginal childcare agency, so yes, we have lived experience and we have a mandate from black grassroots movements around this country to bring some more truth to this place, and not be held back by any party lines or consensus around the party room table, my party room now, the elders and activists out there from the black sovereign movement.
‘Stop demonising me’ – Thorpe
Dana Morse: And so what do you say to critics who say you’ve dudded the public by running on a Greens [ticket] to get in and then leaving the party when you’ve got quite a bit left to go on your term?
I say that as a black woman in the political arena, people need to check themselves. If you’re a true ally and you believe in Aboriginal people having a say in this country, then stop demonising me for the decisions that I’m making based on a grassroots collective of sovereign black people.
I would say, look at January 26, maybe rewind the news to January 26, it seems to be forgotten that tens of thousands of people came out for treaty before voice, but also sovereignty before voice.
So I will be announcing some plans in the coming weeks about what I will be doing to bring more people to the table and allow those sovereign people to have a say.
But I also question the government and the prime minister as to why Peter Dutton was invited to meet with the working groups, and not the grassroots black sovereign movement.
Lidia Thorpe on black sovereignty
Dana Morse: You made a big decision yesterday to quit the Greens party and you said you did that because you wanted to be the voice in the federal parliament for the black sovereignty movement.
People need to know, first and foremost, that black sovereignty has never been ceded in this country.
That the British came here on their boats and their intention was to wipe First Nations people out in this country.
They failed, however, they continue to assert or assume that they had some kind of sovereignty over these lands by taking it - taking the land by force through genocidal acts, dispossession and child removal which we know is still impacts us today.
So, this is about lack of power in this country which we’ve maintained for thousands and thousands of generations.
Our sovereignty is not just what the native title legislation says it is, it’s not like just a spiritual notion although it includes that. It is also about self-governance, self-determination and having the right to set up our own structures which we have been able to do before colonisation.
Black sovereignty is what clans and nations have on their own land and that comes with culture, language, law, soul, dance, and the sovereign power to determine their own destiny.
And that’s all we’re asking here. It’s difficult to have this conversation because the rest of the nation have been lied to for so long. They have been lighter, the whole basis of in this country is based on a lie.
And that’s where truth telling is so, so important and continue to fight for truth telling and fight for a treaty, and give Voice, give agency to the Black Power movement out there that I’ve continued to resist colonisation and make this country better for all.
The ABC’s Dana Morse secured an interview with independent senator Lidia Thorpe following her decision to quit the Greens.
We will bring you some of that here.
Angus Taylor gets stuck on making line stick
Angus Taylor has held his press conference.
He is really stuck on Jim Chalmers writing a 6,000-word essay. Chalmers has a PhD in political science from ANU. You can the essay here.
I only draw reference to it because it is 378 pages. 6,000 words on a topic related to his job (whether you agree with the conclusions or not) is not exactly breaking a sweat.
Anyways, Taylor, a Rhodes scholar, in trying to make the line “the treasurer spent his summer writing a 6,000-word essay” stick, is making it sound like he spent his summer counting the words.
We need that clear plan. We haven’t seen it yet. Australians deserve it and demand it. We have an independent Reserve Bank. But it makes its decision within the context of government policy.
The government needs to act to do whatever it can to take pressure off interest rates. There are things the government can do, as I’ve just said.
First of all, they’ve got to make this their top priority and it clearly isn’t. The treasurer himself didn’t focus on these issues over the summer and focused on writing his 6,000-word essay.
We need to see a government that has a commitment to getting the budget back to balance. We know how important that is.
Every economist knows how important that is. To take the pressure off interest rates and inflation. We need a government that will get its policies right and doesn’t force up prices in the process. We’re not seeing that. That’s what we need.
The number of people now using services like Foodbank is growing. And that’s people who previously could afford groceries. So the pressure on those living on or below the poverty line is crippling.
Labor moves to reauthorise Nauru immigration detention
In case you haven’t seen this yet, from Paul Karp:
The Albanese government will move to reauthorise offshore immigration detention on Nauru and overturn a court decision that forced it to release about 100 people from onshore detention despite character concerns.
The two changes will likely pass with Coalition support but have sparked accusations from the opposition that Labor has mishandled national security, while the independent senator David Pocock described both as a “massive fuck-up”.
The changes will also add to crossbench recriminations about Labor’s failure to dismantle immigration detention and abolish temporary protection visas (TPVs).
Philip Lowe flags lower-than-expected growth this year
The RBA governor Philip Lowe has given us a few hints of what we can expect in Friday’s quarterly statement on monetary policy.
Mostly the numbers are in line with what we saw in the previous statement, released in November, although GDP growth is now expected to slow a bit more this year to “around 1.5%” in 2023 rather than 2%. (Perhaps because the RBA knows it will have to jam those rate rise brakes a bit harder to cull inflation.)
Still, 1.5% GDP growth this year and next is at least not implying a recession (although per capita numbers may not be so pretty once population growth is taken into account).
CPI, meanwhile, will take until mid-2025 to reach around 3%, the upper end of the RBA’s inflation target band.
If those numbers seem gloomy, it’s worth noting the jobless rate isn’t expected to soar. At present, the rate is 3.5%, and is now expected to only edge up to 3.75% by the year’s end and climb to 4.5% by mid-2025.
While higher numbers of unemployment will be keenly felt by those let go by their employers, a number like 4.5% for what might be the bottom of the cycle is not very high by historical standards. (When the cash rate was last at 3.35%, for instance, the jobless rate was about 5.2%.)
If the RBA does expect more rate rises – and assuming they are each 25 basis points at least – the cash rate should climb to at least 3.85%.
Going into today’s result, both ANZ and Westpac were predicting a peak RBA rate of 3.85%. RateCity’s calculations are that those on a typical $500,000 mortgage, today’s increase and the two (perhaps) to come, would be paying an extra $1,058 a month.
That extra impost is compared to those halcyon and distant days before last June when the cash rate was at a record low 0.1%.
The official exchange of gifts has happened:
Chris Bowen has released a media statement and we will break tradition and post it in its entirety.
STATEMENT ON THE ANNOUNCEMENT THAT THE LNP OPPOSITION WILL OPPOSE SAFEGUARD REFORMS THEY PROPOSED IN GOVERNMENT
Question time ends
No one seems happy in the chamber today, and so question time ends.
Bill Shorten then takes a dixer on the royal commission into robodebt.
I will update the house about how the robodebt royal commission has discovered that the previous government expended almost $1 million to commission a report reviewing robodebt in early 2017 by the former minister for human services, and how this report simply disappeared.
Specifically, we’ve learned the following facts:
On February 15 2017, Price Waterhouse was commissioned to do an independent review into robodebt to be completed by the 30th of June.
Secondly, according to Austender, the contract allocated to Price Waterhouse to review robodebt was $939,244.90. It was paid.
Thirdly, we’ve learned that engagements between Price Waterhouse and senior DHS officers occurred more than weekly.
The minutes of one of those meetings on March the 10th quoted senior departmental representatives as saying, and I quote: “Political criticism has lost steam. And the ombudsman report will say all aspects of the system are good forever. The minister is interested in what we have to do now. What can we press accelerator on terms of recovery.” End quote.
We further learn there was a visual presentation this review provided to the former minister in mid-May 2017. It notes that the former minister’s preference was to receive slides as he was a former consultant.
We further learned that a final draft report was prepared at the end of May – it’s about 93 pages long. It was dated June and it was promised to be delivered on June 2nd. Then, nothing, quite literally. I report to the house that nothing happened. This draft report was never sent.
Apparently there was never any written requests for it not to be sent or to be sent. It simply just disappeared. That the trail went cold. A million dollars was paid, but no report.
So what we have. though, is the royal commission has now found what a million dollar report looks like, and I will table it, but no one can actually recall in the royal commission why the final report was never sent. A million dollars of taxpayers money and nothing.
Because of the royal commission, we’ve got the report.
… I’ll turn to the royal commission. They noted the whilst the draft report employee neutral language, it was actually a very damning indictment of DHS, a system of debt recovery. The report said that the promises of the money to be saved were overstated. The said the accuracy of the scheme was disastrous.
It’s a big shame that a million dollars was spent on a report that was never tabled. But it’s a bigger shame that we missed the opportunity to stop robodebt five years ago.
Greens Ryan MP Elizabeth Watson-Brown has the next crossbench question:
My question is to the prime minister. Last year when asked about the proposed giant gas drilling project off the New South Wales coast, you said, quote: absolutely, we will stop Pep 11 going ahead, full stop. Exclamation mark, no question. Not equivocal. No ifs, no buts. Prime minister, can you now guarantee you will stop this vandalism of New South Wales’ beautiful coastline?
I don’t know if the member has actually followed the court case that has just happened. because the court case that just happened has shown that the issue there was the minister who was due to make the decision.
The minister, the now member for Hinkler, was usurped by the appointment by the prime minister as the minister in order to make a decision over the top of the known minister in order to make a different decision.
Because the minister for resources that we all knew about was going to make a different decision from the secret minister for resources – that is what has occurred there.
There has been legal action to ensure that the decision be made in accordance with the law.
This government will make decisions in accordance with the law. And that means that the one minister for resources that this government has, who you all know about, will make a decision – a decision on its merits, as the law requires to do, otherwise to do otherwise is to ensure there will be another court case. So we will follow the law as it is designated, which gives the responsibility to the member, to the minister for resources, to make this decision
Meanwhile, if you missed it on Twitter this morning:
Greens back motion on super fund transparency
The Greens treasury spokesperson, Nick McKim, has confirmed that the Greens will support a disallowance motion striking down Labor’s regulations with softer transparency requirements for industry super funds.
Under the new rules. political donations will need to be itemised in information given ahead of the annual general meeting, but non-political donations will only be disclosed “in aggregate”.
Last year the minister [Stephen Jones] agreed to million dollar fines for dodgy bankers. But after a day of lobbying by the banks, the minister went back on his word...
The minister needs to understand that there are consequences for breaking this agreement.
If the minister expects the Greens to be reasonable, then he needs to demonstrate good faith. We’ve also given the minister six months to institute a meaningful super transparency regime. He hasn’t done so. We have his word that he’ll do so. But, as I’ve just outlined, that is not enough right now.
The independents and other minor parties on the crossbench consistently lobbied against the changes. The disallowance may pass the Senate with Coalition and crossbench support.
Paul Fletcher then has a question which seems to be aimed at the Coalition’s base – and it takes three goes for it to be considered because of the preamble. And ultimately it is ruled out of order.
This is what happens when you write a question just for a soundbite.
My question is for the prime minister. Last week, we learned that the CFMEU donated $4.3 million to Labor. This government has already abolished the Australian Building Construction Commission in exchange. What else are the corrupt CFMEU going to get from this government for their donations?
He is asked to try again and comes up with:
My question is the prime minister. Last week we learned the CFMEU donated $4.3 million to the Labor party. This government has already abolished the Australian Building Construction Commission in exchange. What else are the CFMEU going to get from this government?
And then one last time:
Last week we learned the CFMEU donated $4.3 million to the Labor party. This government has already abolished the Australian Building Construction Commission. What else are the CFMEU going to get from this government?
Tony Burke is very quick to be NOPE and Peter Dutton tries to come to the question’s defence (“I know they are sensitive over there”) but Dick rules it out of order and we move back to the dixers.
Whistleblower announces end to legal battle with ClubsNSW
Whistleblower Troy Stoltz has announced an end to his long-running legal battle with ClubsNSW.
Stoltz, a terminally ill former employee of the lobby group, announced on Tuesday that the litigation between the two parties had been “resolved” after reaching an out-of-court settlement.
It comes less than a week after the former clubs boss Josh Landis was sacked over comments he made about NSW premier Dominic Perottet’s Catholic faith.
Stoltz, who has oesophagus and bone cancer, was being pursued by ClubsNSW for breach of confidentiality and criminal contempt. He was counter-suing the lobby group for defamation and alleged breaches of the Fair Work Act.
On social media Stoltz said he was “relieved it’s over and that I can now concentrate on my health”. He wrote:
I will continue to push 4 [sic] gambling reform in NSW but I am no enemy of ClubsNSW or clubs generally. Clubs are an important part of communities.
Stoltz has become a vocal advocate for gambling reform and a public critic of both the lobby group and the NSW Labor party over its refusal to back a cashless gambling card. He has nominated to run against NSW opposition leader Chris Minns in the seat of Kogarah at the March state election.
Andrew Wilkie, the independent MP for Clark, has the next crossbench question:
Prime minister, the Productivity Commission recommends mandatory poker machine pre-commitment to address gambling addiction. And the New South Wales Crime Commission recommends the system be cashless to reduce money laundering. To that end and to their great credit, the Tasmanian and New South Wales governments have committed to mandatory cashless pre-commitment poker machine cards. Prime minister, this is a watershed moment. Will you seize it? Will you take the lead and drive deep reform nationally?
I thank the member for Clark for his question and recognise his genuine position over a long period of time in public office on these issues.
Everyone in this place knows the damage the problem gambling can cause to families and to communities. Everyone knows also, tragically, that too often it’s those who can least afford it are those who are impacted by it.
And the stats tell the story that on a per capita basis. We have higher gambling losses in any other country in the world.
We know that the amount of people experiencing gaming harm has increased as well over the last decade.
And, as the member knows, so states have, as he said, have responsibility for these issues. So the member raises Tasmania and New South Wales as examples.
… These are decisions for state governments. but the federal government does have a role when it comes to gambling.
My government is working with state governments in a cooperative fashion. The minister for social services convened the first meeting of state and territory ministers with the commonwealth about online wagering that has been convened since 2017…
Together we’re working on strengthening the National Consumer Protection framework for online gaming, which the commonwealth does have responsibility for.
We recognise that there is more work to do. In addition to that, we’ve supported a House of Representatives committee to conduct an inquiry into online game gaming. And we’ll consider the recommendations from this committee after it has reported. And certainly I look forward to working with the member for Clark and other members of the parliament.
RBA's 'further increases' signal catches economists and pundits off guard
The RBA’s 25-basis-point rate rise was expected today but its hawkishness over the expectation of “further increases in interest rates will be needed over the months ahead” will be a surprise for a few economists and pundits.
Clues include the drop in the ASX200 share index of almost half a per cent on the RBA decision, and a rise in the value of the Australian dollar against the greenback. Higher borrowing costs dent corporate earnings while making the Aussie dollar relatively attractive to hold.
Anyway, a peak cash rate of at least 3.85% (which ANZ and Westpac were forecasting before today) seems likely since the RBA tends to prefer 25bp shifts in rates. (CBA at 3.35% now looks to be an outlier.)
We’ll post more context and comments but you can also follow developments here:
Angus Taylor has a question.
Today we’ve seen a ninth consecutive interest rate rise, which will cause further pain for families with a mortgage. Can the prime minister confirm that the last time the cash rate was this high was when Labor was last in government? Why do Australians always pay more under Labor?
Jim Chalmers takes this one and he seems a little cranky:
Well, it’s disappointing, Mr Speaker, but not especially surprising to learn from a rare question from the shadow treasurer that it hasn’t dawned on him that interest rates started going up on their watch.
The first interest rate rise in this cycle was in May of last year when they were government members.
More than that, Mr Speaker … the biggest contribution in quarterly terms was the March quarter when those opposite were in office.
And so, Mr Speaker, when it comes to the cost of living, and the additional pressure placed on Australians and on the Australian economy by higher interest rates, one of the most important things that we can do as a government is to clean up the mess that the member for Hume left of our energy markets. And question after question from those opposite … [about people] who are doing it tough in this community ignores a very basic fact, that when we asked the parliament to help people out and make their electricity bills a bit cheaper, they voted against it.
Taylor has a point of order that is not a point of order.
Sometimes I wonder, Mr Speaker, if the Rhodes committee have asked for their money back.
Milton Dick tells him to stick to the question. The Coalition benches get louder, so Dick tells Chalmers to withdraw. He does.
To explain it to the shadow treasurer – one of the reasons we have higher interest rates, which began before the election, is because we have an inflation challenge in our economy, which we’ve acknowledged and we’ve got a plan to address.
One of the reasons we’ve got that inflation challenge is because the combination of the member for Humes’ incompetence and president Putin. Vladimir Putin’s aggression means that we’ve got high and rising energy prices. And the point that I’m making about that. Mr Speaker, is that when the parliament was given the opportunity to look after Australians facing high energy prices as part of this inflation challenge, which is pushing up interest rates, those opposite were nowhere to be found …
And the difference between this side of the house and that side of the house is we see cost of living pressures impacting on Australians.
Victorian councillor James Conlan quits Greens
A Victorian councillor has quit the Greens in solidarity with senator Lidia Thorpe.
James Conlan, a councillor for the minor party in the local government area of Merri-bek, in Melbourne’s inner north, took to Twitter to announce he has cancelled his membership and will continue his term as an independent:
I’m not interested in being a member and elected representative of a political party that talks big on anti-racism, whilst silencing, undermining and crushing the voices of those who most need the party’s support and leadership.
Thorpe on Monday announced she would quit the Greens and move to the crossbench due to her staunch opposition to an Indigenous voice to parliament, slated for a referendum this year.
Conlan said the “party establishment” had “ostracised, isolated and publicly undermined” Thorpe for advocating for a treaty before voice, which he said was Greens policy.
Angus Taylor says Labor ‘keeps getting the economic calls wrong’
Angus Taylor has called a press conference for just after QT, but his office has put out a statement in response to the RBA decision:
The government’s priorities are not the priorities of the Australian people.
We have a prime minister who’s hands-off when it comes to managing the economy and a treasurer who has wasted his summer penning a 6,000-word ideological essay and talking about what picture should feature on the $5 note. [Ed note: sigggggghhhh]
The government should be working on a solution to the worst outbreak of inflation we’ve seen in three decades.
We’re seeing double-income families right across the country struggling to make ends meet and having to make really tough calls to keep their homes. They’re taking second jobs. They’re working overtime. They’re giving up their holidays.
Australians deserve a government that matches this character. Sadly, we are seeing the opposite.
This Labor government keeps getting the economic calls wrong.
The reality is governments can provide relief from inflation by reining in spending but the treasurer has thrown the goal of budget balance out the window.
Hard-working Australians are paying more and more on their mortgages because this government can’t get its priorities right.
Greens’ Nick McKim says RBA is ‘being belligerent’
The Greens treasury spokesperson, Nick McKim, is not happy with the RBA decision (this is not new territory for him).
In a statement, McKim says:
Consumer sentiment is at the lowest level since the GFC. The volume of retail sales is falling.
Meanwhile, the stock market is at a near record high.
The rich are getting richer while mortgage holders, renters, workers and small businesses are all copping it.
This blast of interest rate increases were never the right response to inflation driven by supply shocks and corporate profiteering.
But with the evidence pointing to inflation having already peaked, the RBA is now just being belligerent.
In the chamber, Jim Chalmers has addressed the interest rate decision and says:
As expected, Mr Speaker, the independent Reserve Bank has just announced its decision to increase interest rates by another 25 basis points.
That brings the cash rate to 3.35%. Now, each of these interest rate rises, which began before the election, have put extra pressure on Australians and put extra pressure on the Australian economy as well.
And I think we understand in this place certainly, the Australian community understands, that the Reserve Bank makes these decisions independently and it’s not our job in this place to interfere or to second-guess their decision-making or pressure them in any way.
It’s our job– it’s our job to focus on the broader pressures that are coming at us from around the world and being felt around the kitchen tables of this country. And our plan to address this high inflation which is causing these rising interest rates has three main parts to it. The first is to deliver responsible cost of living relief in a way that doesn’t add to inflation and which has an economic dividend. Think cheaper early childhood education, cheaper medicines and also taking some of the sting out of these electricity price rises that we expect to see in our economy. The second part of our plan is obviously to deal with the issues in our supply chains and in our workforce.
I commend the minister for industry, the minister for skills and training and other ministers who are dealing with these supply chain issues which have been pushing up inflation in our economy in conjunction with the pressures coming at us from around the world.
And the third part of our plan is to show spending restraint which would be unrecognisable to those opposite, Mr Speaker.
We saw in the October budget, banking 99% of the upward revenue surge over the next two years; you see that in payments falling in real terms other the next two years; you see that in real spending being essentially flat over the forward estimates.
And that approach has been endorsed by the IMF. Just last week, Mr Speaker, they said it’s supportive of our approach, is supportive of the approach being taken by the Reserve Bank.
And in reaffirming Australia’s AAA credit rating recently, agencies such as Standard & Poor’s, Fitch and Morningstar have all pointed to the government’s spending restraint and broadly neutral fiscal stance.
Mr Speaker, inflation is unacceptably high, there’s no use pretending otherwise. It will hang around for longer than we like. But there is growing evidence that inflation is expected to have peaked in our economy and is now beginning to moderate.
Our job, the responsibility that we take, is to do what we can to address these inflationary pressures in our economy.
It is in the last paragraphs of the RBA’s statement, but it means that today’s rate rise will not be the last one:
The board’s priority is to return inflation to target. High inflation makes life difficult for people and damages the functioning of the economy. And if high inflation were to become entrenched in people’s expectations, it would be very costly to reduce later.
The board is seeking to return inflation to the 2–3% range while keeping the economy on an even keel, but the path to achieving a soft landing remains a narrow one.
The board expects that further increases in interest rates will be needed over the months ahead to ensure that inflation returns to target and that this period of high inflation is only temporary.
In assessing how much further interest rates need to increase, the board will be paying close attention to developments in the global economy, trends in household spending and the outlook for inflation and the labour market.
The board remains resolute in its determination to return inflation to target and will do what is necessary to achieve that.
And it is not going to be the last one. In its decision statement, the RBA has said that it expects “further increases in interest rates will be needed over the months ahead to ensure that inflation returns to target and this period of high inflation is only temporary”.
RBA raises cash rate by 0.25%
As suspected, the cash rate has now increased to 3.35% following the latest decision from the Reserve Bank of Australia.
Bob Katter has the first of the crossbench questions and it seems to be about a cheek swab and bone marrow transplants and leukaemia. The transcription service is struggling a little today and Katter is always a challenge for it, even on a good day.
Mark Butler answers:
I thank the member for Kennedy for his question on this very important health challenge that is pressing to so many Australians. I also want to thank the member for bringing this issue to my attention yesterday but also arranging a meeting we had together with William and Josephine as Liam faces a difficult battle against leukaemia.
They are not just in the fight of his life, for his life, he and Josephine [have spent] enormous energy and time and resources fundraising, making media appearances, to draw attention to an area of healthcare that has moved too slowly.
I also want to acknowledge the member for Ford and I had a discussion about the issue in the chamber just yesterday afternoon.
As the member knows and many others well, bone marrow donations provide stem cells that are required for stem cell transplants; life-saving treatments today for people who are fighting leukaemia, and a range of other blood cancers.
It is clear to me that Australia has not moved fast enough to enable more effective matching of bone marrow donors with patients and so many others that the member mentioned in his question.
It is also clear to me that the bone marrow donation system in Australia is too small – there are not enough people on the registry – too slow, and it has not kept up with international standards, including on things like cheek swabs and age limits on donors.
We know cheek swabs are effective and a very economical way of bringing additional donors to the registry, and giving people – and so many others – a better chance of life … This is not a system that has yet been introduced in Australia. What is not clear to me is why Australia moved so slowly over the past decade in particular .
It seems unfortunately, as is so often the case in health policy, that part of the problem is no single government between the commonwealth and the states and territories has sole responsibility or sole authority to make sure that Australia keeps pace with the rest of the world and makes advances in technology. And frankly, as the member knows … in cases like this that is just not good enough.
After my meeting with the member for Kennedy yesterday, and Liam and Josephine, I am writing to the chair of health minister’s [group] to seek their agreement to cut through some of this jurisdictional bureaucratic red tape to do everything we can – that is, to clear the way that is currently denying patients in Australia the best chance to access this life-saving technology.
Ed Husic takes a dixer and then we get to Sussan Ley asking:
Before the election, they promised they would deliver a $275 cut to power prices, cheaper mortgages, cheaper groceries and government by renewal, not revolution. Instead, power prices are rising, mortgages are more expensive, inflation continues to climb and the treasurer’s only answer is to remake capitalism. Why do Australian families always pay more under Labor?
I think the member for his question – for her questionanies, we’re on the side of consumers and business, I dare say that.
When it comes to energy prices, not only do I say that, that’s a direct quote from the New South Wales Treasurer, when standing up, supporting action to reduce the impact, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the inflation, when the New South Wales government along with every other state and territorial government in the country joined with the Federal Government last year when we both recalled our respective parliaments to take action and then you had to decide who side you are on, we unashamedly, were on the side of consumers.
Whether it would be small business, large business for that matter, manufacturing or whether it be consumers as well.
Those opposite, those opposite voted against that legislation, voted against the legislation but I -- when asked about energy policy and of course, the energy Shadow Minister is in here, isn’t here.
He’s off in Japan, he’s off in Japan doing work and I was wondering, I thought I might get a question from him on why he was in yesterday but he has gone to Japan and you can pick that out because he’s got, he goes to Japan today and he’s been researching his solution and on a YouTube video that is put up on his site, I am not verbaling him at all, it’s got it’s time to talk nuclear, what can we learn from Japan? What can we learn from the Russians?
The house gets very energised over all of this and Milton Dick has to used his headmaster voice to calm them all down.
Then Paul Fletcher has a point of order:
Why is it OK for the Prime Minister to fly around the world and not the Shadow Minister?
The chamber doesn’t really settle down and we move on.
Dutton kicks off with cost-of-living swipe
Now remember when I said that the opposition’s tactic would be to blame the cost of living increases on Labor and to try and make everyone link the increases with the Labor government?
Here is Peter Dutton’s first question:
Today, another interest rate rise is widely expected. Three months out of the election, the prime minister committed to reducing cost for families and promised, in his words, Australians will be better off under a Labor government. But a rate increase today would mean the typical family is paying $1,400 more each month on their mortgage, without taking into account increases in grocery and power bills. So I ask the prime minister, why do Australian families always pay more under Labor?
Now, it is worth noting for context that the opposition opposed the IR changes which were designed to make wage bargaining easier for workers. And they are also not happy with the new suite of IR changes coming in, which Labor is introducing to deal with labour hire and work towards same job, same pay.
In that same vein, wages – in real terms – went backwards over the last decade, which is when the Coalition held power. Just something to keep in mind because we are going to be hearing this a lot over the next few months.
Indeed, Australians, when they went to their chemist from any time from January 1, were better off.
Were better off because the reduction from $42.50 down to $30, the first reduction in 75 years.
Australians will also benefit, who want to get the skills that Australia needs, when they enrol in a Tafe course because 100 courses will be fee free as a result of the measures that we have put in place. Australians are thrilled. Australians as well will be better off and will have children in childcare as a result of the measures that will benefit some 1 million Australian families in July.
The fact is we are acting responsibly to take pressure off. Cheaper medicine, energy price relief, pay parental leave, all of these measures are there, and of course interest rate started to increase under the former government, under the former government.
They acknowledge that this was as a consequence of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, placing pressure on supply chains and placing pressure on inflation globally.
But when it comes to supply chains and courses and other measures that’s before this parliament … now [the Coalition] oppose the reconstruction fund … that the Australian industry are crying out for, to make us more competitive, to grow our national economy …
The leader of the opposition this morning spoke about bad luck, well it wasn’t bad luck to leave Australia with $1 trillion of debt, it was a bad government, and it wasn’t bad luck that we didn’t go to that. It was bad policy, a deliberate policy from those opposite to undermine wages and to drive wages down as a key feature of the economic policy.
Time is then up.
Question time begins
And Chris Hipkins, Anthony Albanese’s new bestie (sorry Toto), is in the chamber and getting a warm welcome.
It is allegedly an honour being given a seat on the edge of the chamber, but I really question just how much of an honour being that close to QT actually is.
Peter Dutton also welcomes Hipkins.
Everyone is united, lots of love, thanks for the memories.
Trade surplus narrows but will still give GDP a nudge
While we await the RBA’s rate decision at 2.30pm (AEDT), it’s worth taking a look at the wider state of the economy.
Trade numbers from the ABS for December showed the surplus narrowed a bit in December but remained at $12.2bn, a healthy resort by historical measures.
Exports sank 1.4%, mostly as commodity prices eased back a bit more from their recent (Russian-fueled) highs, and imports rose 1%.
With the December numbers in, we can crunch data for the quarter as a whole. The trade surplus was up about a third from the December quarter 2021 period, to $38.3bn in the final three months of last year.
Belinda Allen, a senior CBA economist, reckons that fatter surplus will deliver about 1 percentage point of growth to GDP for the quarter. Trade contributed a small cut to September quarter GDP growth, by contrast.
Looking into 2023, we expect the trade surplus to remain healthy [supported] by the earlier reopening of China’s economy and still high commodity prices, albeit off the peak.
When RBA governor Philip Lowe releases the bank’s rate decision shortly, we’ll be looking for a few changes in his commentary. He’s repeatedly stated that “the path to achieving the needed decline in inflation and achieving a soft landing for the economy remains a narrow one”, but it fair to say trade is helping to widen that path.
Question time and rates announcement approach
OK, we are in the downhill slide into question time.
Expect cost of living and also some questions on Nauru – it seems like the government has dropped the ball on a regulation which named Nauru as a centre for offshore processing (it lapsed and it was one of the issues the government was trying to rush through with that suspension motion Paul was reporting on).
And also the RBA rate will land in the middle of QT. Jim Chalmers usually addresses the rate rise as it happens, so we will get an immediate response.
Dutton addresses Coalition MPs
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, addressed the Coalition party room, making clear it will wait for detail on the voice before finalising its position.
Dutton also spoke about the importance of Australia Day, saying that Coalition members should “speak openly about our pride” in Indigenous and British heritage and a multicultural future.
Dutton also paid tribute to the late Liberal senator Jim Molan.
On government bills:
National reconstruction fund – the Coalition will oppose the bill, citing concerns that government borrowing and investment will add to inflation
The whistleblower changes in the Public Interest Disclosure Act amendment – the Coalition will not oppose
The referendum machinery bill - the Coalition will push for amendments to restore pamphlets and funding for the yes and no case; and will oppose the bill if these aren’t agreed to
The safeguards bill – the Coalition will oppose
The Coalition will also support moves to list Iran’s revolutionary guard as a terrorist organisation.
Penny Allman-Payne decries education reform delays
Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne has gone through the latest Report on government services and has a few things to say about the Gonski education reforms, which she says has been abandoned by Australian governments.
Allman-Payne says the report shows “total per student funding from federal, state and territory governments to the public school sector rose 17% from 2012 to 2021. During that same span governments increased total funding to private schools by 27%.”
This report proves what a disastrous decision it was for Labor to postpone the next national school reform agreement by a year.
There is currently no pathway to full public funding for the vast majority of public schools in Australia. The decades-long failure by both old parties to invest properly in our public schools is seeing educational outcomes continue to fall for our poorest and most remote students.
Eleven years ago David Gonski said that there was growing inequality in the school system, identified funding inequality as the root cause, and provided a model to fix that.
But instead of embracing the Gonski recommendations, successive governments have shied away from directing funding away from the private sector towards the schools that desperately need it. It’s gutless and morally indefensible.
OK, during that press conference, Paul Karp went to the Coalition party room meeting briefing and reports:
So huzzah. Everyone is friends.
You can tell they are friends because there is the double-hand handshake. The handshake hug, if you will.
Albanese on deportations: I believe we have got the response right
The next question is from the travelling media (and looks like the last one).
You have recently made commissions about deportees – do you acknowledge that policy, how unfair that policy has been, and would you consider any policy to retrospectively undo the hurt that has been caused by those already deported to New Zealand?
No on the first. We will put in place our policy, which is, I believe, a commonsense policy. We will retain section 501 of deportations and a capacity to cancel visas and remove people who pose a risk to the community. That has not changed – we will have a commonsense approach.
Bear in mind, what a person’s ties are to Australia when assessing these cases, that is common sense. There is a big distinction between someone who comes to Australia as a teen or an adult and commits offences and someone who has zero connections back in New Zealand and might have come here as an infant. And friends, as Australia and New Zealand are, should have commonsense approaches to these.
I outlined with Jacinda Arden, after our first meeting, our position. Our position has not changed, and I confirm that with Chris Hipkins today. We had a discussion of these issues, and I believe that we have got the response right.
I will echo the prime minister’s comments. Our position has not changed that was articulated by Jacinda Arden, but we will acknowledge the changes that Australia has recently made, and we welcome those. They are commonsense changes.
“We continue to voice our disagreements with China”
Second question from the Canberra gallery:
Jacinda Arden was reluctant to take a firm stance on bad behaviour by China. Are you concerned about Chinese coercion in the South Pacific and undue influence over the region’s leaders? Secondly, New Zealand defence budget is just over 1% of GDP – is Zealand relying too much on Australia for its defence?
China is an important part of New Zealand [relations], and an important trading partner, and a partner in other areas as well, so that doesn’t mean they will not be areas where we disagree from time to time. We continue to voice our disagreements with China, when that happens, we will always continue to strive to strengthen that ongoing relationship.
In terms of defence, the New Zealand government is currently going to a significant transformation of the defence area, and some significant investments in the defence portfolio.
Our position on China is clear – we disagree where we must and we will engage in our national interests.
I am pleased that yesterday the trade minister had a very productive meeting with his counterpart from China. The Chinese are an important trading partner for Australia. The trade to China is more than the trade-figures value than the next three highest-trading partners combined.
It is in Australia’s national interest to have good economic relations and to trade with China, and it’s in China’s interest to receive the goods that we have. Our wine and our meat and our barley and other products which are, in my view, at least equal or first in the world. [Chris Hipkins disagrees.]
New Zealand’s defence policy, that is a matter for New Zealand. I will comment on Australia’s defence policy.
What can Australia learn about NZ on Indigenous representation?
The next question is from one of the travelling journalists:
Prime Minister Albanese, on the issue of the voice to parliament, you are going on a journey with that at the moment.
What can you learn about what New Zealand did and what we did right and what we did not do right?
This is a separate issue, and it did not come up in our discussions. What a voice to parliament is about firstly, is about recognition. We don’t currently recognise in a positive way Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution.
Many nations that have histories of colonisation do do that: recognise the Indigenous people. The referendum that the draft questions are out there on later this year that Australians will get to vote on, the draft wedding is it begins in recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is as Australia’s First Peoples.
That is something that I spoke about last February, and then it goes through the points of the voice to make it clear that the voice is about consultation.
It is about two things. Recognition, firstly, and consultation secondly with matters that affect Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders peoples. Our history is very different.
The New Zealand system, I know it has seats reserved and has a range of things in place that are not contemplated by what will be before the Australian people later this year.
NZ to remain nuclear-free, despite Aukus
To the questions.
And the first one is on Aukus.
Our foreign policy provision has not changed just because we have changed prime minister. The government foreign policy is the same as it was under my predecessor. Australia and the US and the UK are incredibly important security partners for New Zealand, but our nuclear-free policy has not changed.
It is important to remember what Aukus is and what it isn’t. Defence relationships ... It is a part of that, but it is not all that is. Our relationship with New Zealand, including defence cooperation, is very strong, and will continue to be strong, just as our relationship with the United Kingdom as our historic relationship should be no surprise that we are cooperating with them, and of course the US has been our most important defence alliance through the arrangements that are in place.
I am confident with our Aukus agreement proceeding … and the discussions are reaching the point whereby announcements as the defence minister has said, further announcements were made soon.
It is not just about nuclear submarines it is about a whole range issues, including the interoperability of our forces and also its cooperation on technology and other issues.
“Our countries are more than friends. We are family”
And the opening remarks from Chris Hipkins:
It is great to be here in Australia, New Zealand has no close friend or partner than Australia, and it is great to be here on my first international travel as Prime Minister of New Zealand. As you have mentioned, our countries are more than friends. We are family. The great trans-Tasman tradition, I am looking forward to working with you across a broad spectrum of issues that are important to both of our countries … I was happy to provide my government’s commitment to continuing to work together and to continuing to strengthen the very strong trans-Tasman relationship.
We had a wide-ranging discussion across economic and security and foreign policy issues.
In particular, we discussed how global economic conditions post Covid are affecting New Zealand and Australia. Our high interest rates and cost-of-living pressures affect families here and in New Zealand, and we share a lot of issues in common in that regard ... Many other countries do not have the same closeness as New Zealand and Australia, and it is something that we will never take for granted in New Zealand. We are able to tackle issues together in ways that other issues cannot. We are able to talk about the opportunities to continue to strengthen our relationship.
We did talk about the 40th anniversary of our close economic relationship agreement that underpins a transit Tasman trade and is important to both countries – I echo the words of my predecessor in matters around deportations, and we discussed the ongoing work that we have around addressing some of the issues regarding New Zealanders who live and work permanently in Australia.
They are complex issues, but I want to acknowledge and applaud the positive progress that has been made in that regard over the past year, and we will look forward to continuing to work on those. I am looking forward to welcoming the prime minister to New Zealand later on in the year for the next annual leaders’ meeting, which we are expecting to have in the middle of the year.
Albanese celebrates “80 years of diplomatic relations”
The opening remarks in the press conference from Anthony Albanese:
It was fantastic to welcome you as prime minister here to our Parliament House. New Zealand and Australia are family.
We had a very warm lunch today, renewing our acquaintance. I first met Chris Hipkins in the parliament in Wellington some years ago.
It means a lot to us as Australians that your first destination as prime minister is here to Australia.
This reflects the priority that Australia and New Zealand place on our relationship and the deep friendship between our countries.
A friendship that has been reaffirmed during our meeting stopping our discussion was naturally wide-ranging, reflecting the depth of our relationship, which is about our economy, climate, security issues, and how we will work together to continue the plan that was established at last year’s leaders meeting with former prime minister Jacinda Arden, including working through a range of issues relating to citizenship for Australians in New Zealand in which we intend to include before Anzac Day this year.
Prime Minister Hipkins and I also discussed the great value we place on our role as members of the Pacific family.
The Pacific Islands Forum is an important institution. It is one that brings together the countries in our region, and it is one in which we have a very positive meeting last year. There have been positive developments since then. With the announcement that Kiribati would be returning to participation in the Pacific Islands Forum. 2023 is a milestone here for the trans-Tasman relationship.
We will celebrate 40 years of our closer economic relations trade agreement, which is a gold standard, did a Free Trade Agreement which has led to less red tape and tariff free trade across the Tasman, one of the most comprehensive agreements in the world, 50 years of the travel arrangement which allows for Australians in New Zealand to freely visit and live and work on both sides of the Tasman.
Eighty years of diplomatic relations, and of course, our cohosting of the Fifa Women’s World Cup, with the opening match on 20 July.
I look forward to further developing our relationship with our friends in New Zealand to ensure that the trans-Tasman relationship continues to grow and adapt to the challenges of the future. I thank Chris Hipkins very much for his visit here today, and I look forward to welcoming Prime Minister Hipkins on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon.
Can I also say that for Australians who have family in the region, this will be a difficult time. Australians in need of emergency consular assistance could contact the Australian government 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 135 135.
I will repeat number 1300 135 135 in Australia or if they are outside of Australia, + 61 262 613 305.
I think all of the world’s thoughts and condolences with the people in this region who are suffering at this time.
Chris Hipkins adds his condolences and says New Zealand will also be contributing to international efforts.
Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins media conference
Anthony Albanese opens his press conference with Chris Hipkins by extending the nation’s condolences to Turkey* and Syrian families following the earthquakes.
I can announce that the Australian government will provide an initial $10m in humanitarian assistance to those affected through our Red Cross partners and through humanitarian agencies. Australia’s assistance will target those in greatest need.
*Although several governments, including Australia, have changed the name they use for Turkey, the Guardian style is under review and so we continue to use the original name for now.
Suspension motion delayed
And the result?
A division having been called for, in accordance with standing order 133 the division was deferred until after the discussion of a matter of public importance.
So the division will be held a little later.
Crossbenchers not happy about suspension motion
“I am very disappointed to be truthful, that we are in this position again,” Helen Haines says of the Labor government’s move to gag debate on the instrument designating the Republic of Nauru as a regional processing country, which the Greens flagged earlier they would attempt to disallow in both the house and Senate.
Kooyong independent MP Monique Ryan says that giving MPs bills with less than 24 hours before a vote is not governing in an open and transparent manner.
“I don’t think I could find anyway that I could support this motion and I suspect that many of my colleagues feel the same way,” she says.
Curtin independent MP Kate Chaney is in lockstep with her crossbench colleagues.
“It is clear that neither of these issues is actually urgent,” she says, adding that putting the two issues together flies in the face of the goodwill the crossbench has given the government.
Nauru motion an “excruciating” irony, says Helen Haines
Zoe Daniel and what looks like most of the crossbench, including Helen Haines, are voting against the government’s motion, with concerns it limits debate and it has been “sprung” on the chamber.
Haines points out that the chamber is being asked to limit debate on offshore detention on the same day that Behrouz Boochani is in the house and says it is an “excruciating” irony.
Behrouz Boochani speech in pictures
Mike Bowers was also at Behrouz Boochani’s address to parliamentarians and the media this morning:
Labor party room urged to push yes vote for voice
Prime minister Anthony Albanese has warned colleagues that the government will not have the money to do all the things they want to do in the upcoming federal budget, essentially issuing a warning that colleagues shouldn’t make major spending requests.
Linda Burney also told Labor’s party room meeting that voters who would decide the result of the voice to parliament referendum “still didn’t know about it”, imploring colleagues to do their own campaigning like community barbecues and social media posts.
The government party room met earlier today, with the economy and the referendum being major discussion points. Albanese told his members that “there are many more things we’d like to do than it will be possible to do” in the scope of the budget in May.
Albanese told his colleagues to keep campaigning on the cost of living, saying there were “difficult challenges ahead” and reminded them of the importance of Labor being a “safe pair of hands” in the eyes of the public on the economy and national security.
Burney pointed out that the yes campaign for the voice referendum was running a “week of action” in mid-February, suggesting colleagues could start their own campaigning to help. Some Labor MPs have begun holding community town halls and other forums.
Staying around the voice, Albanese also noted Lidia Thorpe’s defection from the Greens, and how it had changed the voting calculus in the upper house. He noted that the government would have to negotiate more to get things through the Senate (potentially alluding to the idea that Jacqui Lambie Network’s two senators suddenly got a bit more powerful, as they can join with the 11 remaining Greens senators to get Labor over the majority line).
Labor MP Sharon Claydon will also this week bring forward the behaviour standards and codes for members of parliament. The government endorsed those codes at the meeting, and when other parties in parliament agree to the codes, it will be put to parliament.
That code will have to be voted on by the parliament in the form of House and Senate resolutions. We’ll try to track down more info on that for you.
That suspension motion is still going on – but the government will win, as it has the numbers.
Government pushes Nauru regional processing and superannuation transparency
The leader of the house, Tony Burke, has moved to suspend the standing orders so that two urgent matters can be dealt with after the matter of public importance.
The first is for the government to present an instrument designating the Republic of Nauru as a regional processing country, which the Greens flagged earlier they would attempt to disallow in both the house and Senate.
The second is disallowance of superannuation transparency rules.
Manager of opposition business, Paul Fletcher, agrees there is urgency on the first matter “because this government has absolutely and totally dropped the ball on a matter of national security”.
But Fletcher said Burke had sought to “bundle up” the second matter which is “completely unrelated”. The Coalition are trying to amend the suspension to separate the two.
Now that there has been the tweet, the press conference will follow – expect Anthony Albanese and Chris Hipkins to hold that just before 1pm.
Press conferences with other leaders aren’t the usual free-for-all of a normal press conference. The press gallery has a chat and nominates a couple of journalists to ask (usually whoever has a specialty in that area) and then workshops the questions.
Pro-voice groups request meeting with Dutton
Representatives of Empowered communities, an alliance of Aboriginal organisations from North East Arnhem Land, Cape York, Inner Sydney, Goulburn Murray, East and West Kimberley, Central Coasts NSW, Far West Coast of SA, and Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Lands are in Canberra today to talk up the benefits of the voice for their peoples.
We have come here to try and make sure politicians of all persuasions understand the vital importance of constitutional recognition through Voice for our futures and the futures of families and loved ones, and for the future of the nation.
They’ve requested a meeting with Peter Dutton and say they “remain hopeful” he’ll accept.
In a statement ahead of their meetings, they said:
We work hard on the frontline to respond to the serious issues of joblessness, violence, addiction, incarceration, child protection, health, and education from which our families and communities suffer.
We want the Coalition’s support on this so that we have all minds working together to ensure this important reform achieves the on the ground results we need.
They said the current system is broken.
All the data and evidence show it cannot deliver the outcomes we need. As an extreme minority of only around 3% of the nation’s population, Indigenous people struggle to have our local voices heard. On the ground we remain excluded and disempowered, yet this is exactly where real change must occur.
We want to play an active role in solving the serious problems our families and communities face, and constitutional recognition through voice will provide the structural change needed.
It is now social media official.
Who were the MPs who hear Behrouz Boochani speak today?
Chris Hipkins meets Anthony Albanese
The meeting between Anthony Albanese and his Aotearoa New Zealand counterpart, Chris Hipkins, is happening as you read this.
This is Hipkins first overseas trip since becoming prime minister. He and Albanese have met before though in other incarnations of their roles.
Yes, the couches and furniture are dated in both the government and opposition rooms – it is still pretty much as it was in the late 80s when the parliament opened and no government wants to be the one to update any of it and be accused of wasting money.
Walking into some of the rooms in the parliament is like walking into a 1988 time capsule.
Party rooms in pictures
Mike Bowers was at both major party party room meetings this morning.
From his lens to your eyeballs:
Behrouz Boochani speech: 'We've shaken this country sharing stories'
Paul is still at the press conference, but here are some updates as it happens:
‘My faith has provided a strong sense of social justice’, says Perrottet
The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has walked back comments he made last week about not being guided by his Catholic faith.
Speaking about poker machine reform in Sydney today, he said he had reflected on those comments and wanted to clarify that they were not accurate.
We’re shaped and moulded by our backgrounds and that has an impact on the way we look at life. That should be a good thing.
My faith has provided a strong sense of social justice – looking after the vulnerable. That’s something that inspired me to run for public life. That’s not something I’m ashamed of.
The admission comes after the chief executive if ClubsNSW, Josh Landis, was fired after publicly stating the premier was being led into poker machine reform by his “conservative Catholic gut”.
Landis apologised for the comment before being fired by the board just hours later.
Greens party room briefing
The Greens will oppose a parliamentary instrument needed to reconfirm Nauru’s status as a regional processing centre for Australian asylum seekers, and will push their own bill to evacuate all asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
It’s Tuesday so that means party room meetings day for politicians in Canberra. The Greens were first cab off the rank for media briefings, with a spokesperson telling journalists that they would this week push for the government to reconfirm its earlier vocal opposition to the PEP-11 gas exploration project off the NSW coast, and pursue further limits on native forest logging.
The Greens say they reached a consensus decision last night to back the voice to parliament, but are still in negotiations with the government over specific support for the referendum machinery bill (which will set the rules for the vote, such as abolishing the written information pamphlet and scrapping public funding for the yes and no case).
Tuesday’s party room didn’t discuss the defection of Lidia Thorpe to the crossbench, but Greens members spoke of how the decision left them “sad”.
But on Nauru, the Greens will stand against a vote needed to reconfirm Nauru as an RPC for Australia. Behrouz Boochani, the Iranian journalist and activist who was detained on Manus Island and helped expose the conditions inside Australia’s shadowy offshore detention network, is in Parliament House today to give a public talk.
We’ll hear more about the Nauru vote later today (probably after question time in both chambers). Greens senator Nick McKim has his own bill, introduced this week, called the “Evacuation to Safety” legislation. This would “compel the government to offer immediate evacuation to Australia to all remaining refugees and people seeking asylum still stranded offshore in Nauru and Papua New Guinea”, the Greens said in a statement yesterday.
So not entirely sure what Sussan Ley wants the government to do there. Lower the cost of living, yes. But how? And what would the opposition do differently?
“Leave no Australian behind”, says Ley
Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley was asked if Jim Chalmers could deliver cost-of-living relief without increasing inflation this morning and said;
Well, certainly not if we see Dr Chalmers’ confused bewildered change to the approach that western liberal democracies have been successful with over generations. So if this government is starting to look at the treasurer’s approach to managing the economy, then that’s a serious concern. What we need is the prime minister to back in the promises he made. What we need is a prime minister to show the leadership that every prime minister should, to do what he said he would do, and that is to leave no Australian behind.
Paul Karp is at the Behrouz Boochani press conference and will bring you an update very soon.
Birmingham speaks about earthquakes
Simon Birmingham used the opening of his doorstop to draw attention to the devastating impact of the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria:
Can I firstly touch on the deeply distressing events we are seeing unfolding in Turkey and Syria. Multiple earthquakes are causing enormous loss of life, destruction of property, devastation to critical infrastructure and essential services. The humanitarian toll from these earthquakes is going to be devastating and ongoing for days, weeks and months into the future. It’s essential that international aid agencies and disaster relief agencies work together quickly and comprehensively to ensure as unified an international response as possible to provide Turkey and Syria and the people affected by these earthquakes with the support and assistance they need.
The loss of life we see from the earthquakes may not be the end, with the disruption to the flow of clean water services, available food and medicines, critical infrastructures in sewage, electricity and elsewhere. And so to prevent and to minimise further humanitarian catastrophe, further loss of life does require critical, essential, comprehensive response from the international community. And Australia should play our part as part of that coordinated international effort.
NSW and Victoria could work on pokie reform, premier says
The New South Wales premier, Domonic Perrottet, wants to work with Victoria on poker machine reform.
Asked about comments from the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, about a possible interest in the policy area, Perrottet said the country was better off when the states worked together.
With Victoria and NSW combined, we take action … working together to affect change.
When you work together, you share information that sharpens the policy direction where you can make a real difference to people. The relationship that we have across the political divide is important. I welcome those comments from Dan today. I’m very, very happy to work with him on doing the same in Victoria as well.
Party rooms are afoot
We will be hearing from the Greens following its party room meeting very shortly.
The Coalition and Labor meeting briefings will also be held ahead of question time.
For those unaware of the practice, the party room meetings are held behind closed doors, but following the meeting it is tradition for a nominated MP to hold a briefing of the meeting with the media. It is a recount of the minutes and no one is named – it is always just ‘one MP spoke on XX’ and then journalists can ask questions about whether anything else was raised – and there are yes or no answers (mostly).
But it all done on background. It is up to the journalists to then hit the phones and work out who said what and what other issues may have been canvassed.
Among the visitors to parliament house today –
Victorian Greens leader says Thorpe should keep her seat
The Victorian Greens leader, Samantha Ratnam, says she’s sad to see Lidia Thorpe leave the party but does not believe she should vacate her Senate seat.
Thorpe on Monday announced she would quit the Greens and move to the crossbench due to her staunch opposition to an Indigenous voice to parliament, slated for a referendum this year.
Ratnam told reporters outside parliament this morning:
A number of us here had the privilege of working with Senator Thorpe when she was a Victorian parliamentarian and witnessing her incredible work firsthand. We have no doubt that she will continue her formidable work and advocacy at the federal level. And on behalf of my colleagues, the Greens and I, we wish her all the best in the future.
She said she understood there would be a “range of feelings and thoughts” about Thorpe’s defection among Greens members but said she should remain in the Senate for the remainder of her six-year term.
We’re really sad that Senator Thorpe has decided to leave the Greens, but what our federal parliament needs more of is more First Nations people. We have a moment in this country, when we’re talking about advancing the Uluru statement, to get all elements done through treaty and voice. My federal colleagues have been fighting from day one to get that done. Senator Thorpe has been fighting to advance all elements of that. We need more First Nations voices at all levels of government.
Ratnam said the Victorian Greens would publicly campaign for yes.
Jewish groups urge universities not to adopt new definition of antisemitism
A coalition of five Jewish groups have sent an open letter to vice chancellors urging Australian universities against adopting a controversial definition of antisemitism.
There has been lobbying by the Parliamentary Friends of IHRA – headed by MPs Josh Burns, Allegra Spender and Julian Leeser – for universities to adopt working definition of antisemitisim, issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The Australian Jewish Democratic Society, Independent Australian Jewish Voices, Jews Against the Occupation, Loud Jews Collective and the Tzedek Collective said in the letter they was concerned by the current promotion of the IHRA definition.
It has faced global backlash among Palestinian and Arab scholars who argue the definition of antisemitism, which includes “targeting the state of Israel”, could be used to shut down legitimate criticism of Israel and stifle freedom of expression.
While antisemitism has its specific history and roots in Christian Europe, we are not in favour of addressing antisemitism in isolation from other forms of racism. If it is felt that a definition of antisemitism is needed, there are other more effective ones which do not restrict free speech.
Please do not adopt or promote this controversial definition which both fails to address antisemitism effectively and denies Palestinians and their advocates the right to freedom of speech in relation to their history and experience.”
On 8 January, more than 60 academics and graduates at Australian tertiary institutions signed an open letter to vice chancellor staff in opposition to the adoption of the definition, calling the Parliamentary Friends Group’s campaign “regrettable”.
The IHRA definition, if adopted by universities, as demanded by the Parliamentary Friends group in their letter to you of 30 November last, will have far-reaching implications for academic teaching, research and publications, and will interfere in student politics.
Dutton says Liberals will make announcement after party room meeting
On the voice, Peter Dutton was asked at a doorstop whether or not the Liberal party would support the machinery bills.
The answer? Hard to say:
Q: I know you won’t say your position on how you think you’ll vote, yes or no, but given how complicated this could get in the Senate to actually get the machinery bill through, would the opposition at least support allowing the Australian people to have a say?
Well, there are two bills. In relation to the machinery bill, there’s again a simple request by us that the Australian public be given a booklet, as has happened in referendums past, stating the yes and no case and allow Australians to make up their own minds up.
Q: But you won’t stand in the way of this going to a referendum?
Well, in relation to the machinery bill, which is before us at the moment, I believe very strongly that Australians are entitled to have the information that they need to make up their own minds. If the prime minister is saying that you don’t deserve to know one side of the case or the other, I just don’t understand how that is a genuine approach to allowing Australians to make an informed judgement about changing our constitution.
This is not a simple plebiscite. It is not a law change that can be amended or abolished or added to later on. This is a change to our constitution and if the prime minister is saying that a booklet shouldn’t go out or that people shouldn’t receive information, well why not? I think the prime minister needs to talk less tricky and more informative so Australians can make their mind up.
Q: So as it stands, you won’t support the machinery legislation?
Well, there are two bills, as you know. The bill before us at the moment is in relation to a number of important issues, and that’s the one that we’re concentrating on at the moment and we’ll have a discussion at our party room and we’ll make an announcement after that.
Greens on the “right side of history”, says Hanson-Young
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young says Lydia Thorpe’s defection from the party is “disappointing”.
But the Greens – who have now declared they will vote yes for the voice to parliament – will “be on the right side of history”, Hanson-Young told ABC radio this morning.
It’s disappointing that we have lost a member of the party. But Lydia Thorpe, Senator Thorpe, has made her decision and the parliamentary rules [are] that once you’re elected, the individual senator can decide which party they sit with.
So that’s her decision. I know there’ll be many members right across the country, but of course in Victoria, who will be feeling pretty upset about this today, but we are still in a very strong position as the Greens. We are a strong voice and more importantly, and this is what I’m incredibly happy about, is that we can get out there and campaign for yes to the voice and be on the right side of history.
RBA set to extend record run of interest rate hikes
As has been well-flagged, the Reserve Bank is widely expected to lift its key interest rate later today, making it a record nine increases in a row.
As of yesterday, investors were rating as a four-in-five chance the RBA will hike by another 25 basis points to 3.35%. (They also expect a peak rate of almost 3.75%).
Here’s how much extra such a rate rise will cost holders of typical mortgages each month, according to RateCity.
Since there seems to be more chance of a 40 basis point rate rise rather than no change, we asked RateCity to crunch the extra repayment numbers for such an increase, and they look like this:
The RBA cash rate sits at 3.1%. If the board lifts it to 3.35%, the rate will be its highest since the start of October 2012.
Meanwhile, the weekly check on consumer sentiment by ANZ and Roy Morgan has detected the largest decline in half a year:
“Confidence about current and future finances fell sharply, perhaps sparked by concerns about the extent of cash rate rises after the Q4 inflation print,” said Adelaide Timbrell, a senior economist with ANZ. (December quarter CPI at 7.8% was the highest in almost 33 years.)
Inflation expectations also ticked higher - something the RBA board members will probably note as they nibble on their morning tea bikkies around about now.
By 2.30pm (AEDT), we’ll know their verdict.
AEC data shows additional 21,000 Indigenous Australians have enrolled to vote
According to the AEC, an additional 21,000 Aboriginal and Islander people have enrolled to vote between the end of June 2022 to the end December 2022, bringing the national estimated Indigenous enrolment rate up to 84.5%, a rise of 2.8%.
The electoral commissioner, Tom Rogers, said that the rapid rise easily represents the largest increase since estimates were first calculated in this manner by the AEC in 2017.
“It’s brilliant - more people are enrolled and ready to vote, which is an unvarnished good news story for electoral participation in Australia and closing the enrolment gap, but we know more needs to be done.”
The AEC was allocated $16.1m at the last federal budget to increase First Nations enrolment, which has been very low particularly in remote areas.
The AEC has previously estimated around 101,000 Indigenous Australians are not enrolled to vote.
Amy’s analysis: the major party’s opening speeches
So what can we take from that?
Well, both those messages are aimed at the audience not in the room – you. The real chats happen when the cameras are out, so those speeches are always aimed at the media and their audience.
Anthony Albanese’s message was clear: the government has a wide ranging agenda and it will be working through it while consulting with the community and business groups.
Peter Dutton’s was more targeted: the opposition is hoping to brand every rate rise as Labor’s fault, and will drill down all its attacks now to cost of living. Essentially, Dutton is hoping that people will draw the conclusion that the cost of living increases has coincided with Labor’s government. So every rate rise, every single time the cost of lettuce goes up, the Coalition will blame it on Labor.
It is a very, very old trick and one the Coalition has used since Menzies. Probably before. It’s the reason so many people assume the Coalition are better economic managers.
It’s also not factual – when you look at the data, the highest taxing governments were the Howard government, followed by the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government. The last Coalition government had increased the debt (if that is your thing) before the pandemic. And the interest rate increases started under the Morrison government and the Morrison government knew the power price increases were coming.
Turns out, 10 years with no climate policy might have brought home some roosters.
The Morrison government also knew the global economy was seeing a downturn – the language Dutton and other senior Coalition figures (like Angus Taylor) have used to describe what has happened has changed, coinciding with the move from government to opposition.
This downturn, the inflation, would have happened regardless of who was in power. It is now about the reaction. But blaming interest rate increases on Labor, is purely a political tactic. It is up to you whether it works or not.
Peter Dutton finishes with:
It means they will pay more for their gas bills. It will mean that they pay for more their electricity bills. And as the prime minister pointed out yesterday or at least acknowledged yesterday, 800,000 households are going to come off a fixed interest rate and go onto Labor’s higher variable interest rate over the course of this calendar year.
Now, in isolation that’s bad enough for [families] but the prime minister also promised that he would reduce their power bills, he mentioned it 97 times and never once since he was elected. Since he was elected, since people relied on him that they were going to take his word that he would reduce those prices, all that’s happened under Labor is your power prices have gone up and up and up and that’s the difficulty.
We’ll continue to put pressure on the Government because we are the party of families. We are the party of small business. And we are the parties of the Australian working class.
We are the parties – I wanted to say party – we are the parties, we are the Coalition that will inevitably have to clean up Labor’s mess when we come back into government and we will provide every support to family, to small businesses and most importantly to working families across the country.
We’ll have the policies to do so and Labor at the moment in every decision they make is putting extra pressure on families. So colleagues, thank you all very much and we’ll head to the next part of our agenda. Thank you very much.
Peter Dutton addresses Liberal party room
Peter Dutton also invited the cameras in for a much shorter rah-rah to the joint party room:
Welcome back. I hope you’ve all had a good and well deserved break. I want to thank everyone for the effort you put in over the break. The government has clearly clearly forgotten about families across the country who are doing it tough and likely today there’ll be yet another interest rate increase under Labor.
The difficulty is that Labor is always in bad luck, you know? Whatever happens, when Labor is in government, the economy always turns slower.
It’s never their fault, never a policy decision they take. When we faced different occasions through the Howard years to make decisions on economic policy, when we made the decisions through the years of government since then, we took tough decisions and we took decisions that kept interest rates lower than they otherwise would have been.
We took decisions that helped families, not hindered them. We took decisions that helped small businesses, not drove them out of business.
What we’ve seen from Anthony Albanese and the Labor party in the last eight months is that every economic decision they have taken has contributed to an upward pressure on interest rates, so it means people always pay more for their mortgages under Labor.
Anthony Albanese finishes with:
Can I thank everyone for the hard work that they did over the Christmas-New Year break? I, myself, am planning to have some time off in April. But we continued to work to create the better future that we promised. We are seven months in now, or a bit more than that, into ... Eight months in to our term. There’s a lot more to do.
This is a government with a sense of purpose. And last week when I was in the west, in Tangney and Pearce and Cowan and Perth and other seats where I’ve been – Bendigo, in Braddon, right around the country – what I get back is that people do appreciate the fact that this government is governing based upon what we said we would do.
There are big challenges ahead this year. We have a big agenda, but I’m very confident that the ministry as well as the entire caucus, the people in this room. We will be able to deliver that better future that we committed to last May.
Anthony Albanese continues:
Last week I met for the third time with the referendum working group on the constitutional change that we will put to the Australian people in the second half of this year.
A constitutional change that is about two things. It’s about recognition, recognising Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution and it’s about consultation, that they should be consulted on matters that affect them. That’s what it’s about.
That’s what it’s about and all of the misinformation that we’re seeing out there won’t distract from that great task, and yesterday morning at the ecumenical service we received a reminder – with that magnificent sermon – of why this was something that was so important for Australia, as well as being important for showing respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. So we will continue to engage in a respectful way and encourage people to come on board with this journey to reconciliation that is so critical going forward.
We continue to engage as well with business, with unions, with civil society, because we want to be a consultative government that continues to engage, and we engage where people are as well.
Albanese delivers opening speech to Labor party room
It is party room meeting time, and being the first one for the year, the PM has invited in the cameras to hear his rah-rah opening speech to the Labor caucus.
It’s a press release with clapping.
Anthony Albanese goes through his laundry list of Labor achievements and then gets to the Coalition:
And you’ve seen as well the alternative down the road … that have taken the message of the 2022 election to be ‘we’re not right-wing enough, we’re not conservative enough, we’re not divisive enough’ and last night, they have made a decision that I did ask to check and see a direct quote this morning when I was told about it. But they are going to oppose the national reconstruction fund.
Now, the national reconstruction fund is about making more things here. It’s that simple. It’s about revitalising Australian manufacturing and Australian jobs. It’s about stopping our vulnerability to global supply chain issues which were shown and highlighted by the pandemic.
Now, they can’t say we didn’t have a mandate for it. This was included in my budget reply speech when budget reply speeches had policy announcements, which ours, of course, all did.
And we spoke about it, day in, day out, during the election campaign. And we’ve spoken about it ever since. But in this, they show how out of touch they are.
Shorten: ‘mortgage holders aren’t the people driving inflation’
Over on Sky News this morning, Bill Shorten was asked whether the RBA’s interest rate increases were “a sign your policies aren’t working”.
No, it’s a sign that the Reserve Bank is trying to do what it thinks should be [done to] dealt with inflation.
The reality is if the Reserve Bank, which is independent, makes this decision, that is going to be incredibly painful for millions of Australians who are paying their mortgages off.
I understand the Reserve Bank’s motivated to try and reduce inflation, but … I see a lot of commentators sort of [calling] for more and more increases to the cash rate. I think some of the people who are calling for more and more increases to the cash rate, some of the commentators really don’t understand the harm they’re causing. The mortgage holders aren’t the people driving inflation.
And anyway, I’m just I can see life’s getting tougher. In terms of our economic policies, we can’t affect, we can’t drive, we can’t make the decision on the mortgage rate, but we can attempt to relieve pressure on cost of living.
That’s why wages, the wages reform is what we’ve been in the business of, and that’s seeing modest increases in wages; childcare support, so easing the cost of childcare; some energy relief to try and dampen some of the inflationary pressures there. Labor is doing what it can.
Of course, some of the problems that we’re trying to tackle didn’t start yesterday. They’ve been ten years in the making.
In case you missed it in the lead up to Christmas, Australia is working toward making it easier for New Zealanders to become permanent residents of Australia.
Paul Karp had this story in late December:
Daniel Andrews reveals expert panel aimed at reviving State Electricity Commission
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, is holding a press conference at parliament to unveil an expert advisory panel tasked with reviving the State Electricity Commission (SEC).
The panel includes several energy experts and business leaders including the former Telstra chief executive Andy Penn, the former chief scientist Alan Finkel and Audrey Zibelman, the former managing director of the Australian Energy Market Operator.
The revival of the commission, which was privatised in the 1990s, was a key promise at the November state election. It involves an initial investment of $1bn to deliver 4.5GW of power through renewable energy projects, which is the equivalent to the capacity of coal-fired plant Loy Yang A.
The panel’s first meeting will be next week, Andrews said, with plans to begin sounding out the market for its first investment in the first half of the year:
We made commitments to the Victorian community that we would waste no time, and that we would bring back the SEC for people, not for profit. That’s exactly what we’re doing, because we do what we say. This is very, very exciting.
Andrews also announced a renewable energy skills and workforce forum will be held later this year to ensure the state has the workforce and skills for the new roles that will be created as part of the revived SEC.
Daniel Hurst has reminded me of this story – New Zealand is happier than it was:
One of the lovely things of seeing a more diverse parliament (still a lot of work to do in terms of representation, but it is more diverse than it was – at least on one side of the chamber) is seeing a little more human with the politician.
Kurdish refugee Behrouz Boochani visiting Canberra today
It is a busy day in the parliament – Behrouz Boochani is also visiting.
He is calling for “the urgent evacuation of refugees held offshore to Australia”.
Greens senator Nick McKim introduced a bill into the Senate yesterday which if passed, would facilitate the evacuation of refugees on Manus and Nauru to Australia, for settlement in third countries.
The government has not indicated if it will support it as yet.
Dutton says Liberals will soon make a decision on voice to parliament
Over on ABC radio AM with Sabra Lane, opposition leader Peter Dutton said the Liberal party would make its decision on an enshrined voice to parliament “in the not-too-distant future”. (The Nationals have already said no.)
He still wants more detail.
But Lane wants to know why Dutton was happy to support the voice while in the Morrison cabinet, but not now.
Dutton talks about bipartisan positions and spending on Indigenous communities.
Lane then asks again if it the Liberal party does end up supporting the voice, is Dutton worried the approach he has taken so far would undermine it.
Again, Dutton talks about detail.
Asked about whether the issue is there are groups in the Liberal party who will never agree on this, and that Dutton can’t unite those without putting his leadership into question, Dutton again talks about the detail.
Well, I don’t think people should speculate about what the party might or might not do until we make an announcement. We have the discussions. I’ve spoken with many of my colleagues over Christmas [about this] and other issues – cost of living is a huge issue across the community at the moment and growing as a particular problem for for small businesses and families, including in Indigenous communities, of course. So there are many issues to grapple with.
Would the cabinet Dutton was a part of have released the sort of detail that Dutton is demanding?
He won’t go into ERC discussions.
NZ prime minister visiting Canberra
Aotearoa New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins is in Canberra today – for a few short hours.
Hipkins is in and out in for this first visit since becoming prime minister. He will meet with Anthony Albanese, and there will be a joint press conference just after. Time will tell whether it will be as awkward as some of the Scott Morrison and Jacinda Ardern press conferences, where Ardern pushed back very hard against Australia’s policy of sending Aotearoa New Zealand-born people home if they had spent time in prison, even if they had spent their entire lives in Australia.
It’s still a policy which makes New Zealanders very, very angry.
Treasurer speaks ahead of RBA’s interest rate decision
Jim Chalmers is once again getting the “what is the government going to do about the rising cost of living” given today’s interest rate decision.
The answer is the same:
We know that Australians are doing it tough right now. Inflation will be higher than we’d like for longer than we’d like. We know that there are pressures coming at us from around the world and felt around the kitchen table. We got a lot coming at us but we got a lot going for us as well. We’re optimistic about the future of our country and the future of our economy but we’re realistic about the impact of global conditions and the impact of these rate rises on households, on people, but also on the broader Australian economy.
The earthquake in Turkey and Syria is beyond devastating.
If you want more information, you can follow the live blog here, which is being updated as soon as more information comes to hand.
South Australia to lead nation in voice to parliament, premier says
South Australian premier (and fellow member of the Lithuanian diaspora) Peter Malinauskas said his state had begun working on a voice to parliament model in 2019 and believe that the time is right:
We’re excited about this proposition. I really believe that it presents a moment in time for ... and forgive me for my degree of bias here, but a moment in time where, again, South Australians can show the rest of the nation around what thoughtful, progressive, democratic reform can look like.
We were the first place anywhere in the world here in South Australia to give women both the right to vote and run for parliament. And we’re going to be the first place in the nation, all being well, to provide a voice to the parliament for Indigenous Australians and that’s a good thing to do.
If you haven’t seen it already, the latest Essential poll shows the majority of Australians still support the voice.
As Murph reports:
The latest fortnightly survey of 1,000 respondents suggests a soft no campaign by the Liberal leader, Peter Dutton, unleashed over the summer break has, thus far, failed to shift voter sentiment, with 65% of respondents supporting the change, a two-point increase from the percentage recorded last December.
That positive movement falls inside the poll’s margin of error and the February percentage is consistent with a result recorded last August, before Dutton intensified his public campaign of asking questions about the proposal.
‘The Greens are still necessary to get legislation through [parliament]’
So is Adam Bandt concerned Lidia Thorpe’s departure will make things harder for the government to pass legislation through the Senate?
I’ll say two things. One is, for the Greens, the Greens are still centrally in balance of power in the Senate. Anything that’s opposed by the Liberals will need the Greens’ support if the government wants to get it through. Of course the government may in some instances now have to get additional votes but they have to do that at the moment already.
Of course, I was very grateful that Senator Thorpe made a commitment yesterday when she spoke publicly that she will still be voting with the Greens on climate.
The Greens are still necessary to get legislation through. There will need to be others but that’s the case at the moment.
(Also, it is not the Greens’ responsibility to make things easy for the government.)
Greens will continue to fight for treaty and truth-telling, Bandt says
Greens leader Adam Bandt has been out and about this morning, following the resignation of Victorian senator, Lidia Thorpe from the party.
Thorpe had been the First Nations spokesperson for the party. In resigning, she said she wants to be the voice for the Blak sovereignty movement and she feels she can do that more effectively as an independent.
Asked on ABC News Breakfast if he believed he would lose some supporters with Thorpe’s departure, Bandt said:
Look, no, I’m not. The Greens have got a very clear position that sovereignty was never ceded in this country. We are going to continue to pursue treaty and truth-telling in this country. That’s our policy that we took to the election and that’s what we’re going to continue to campaign for, including during the term of this parliament and I think our supporters know that we haven’t changed our position on that and we’re still going to continue to fight hard for those things. Senator Thorpe has made her decision and I’ll leave her to speak for herself from here on in, but I think there are – the overwhelming feeling within the Greens is sadness.
‘Nation-leading opportunity’: South Australia to introduce voice to parliament legislation
Voice to parliament legislation will be introduced on Thursday – in South Australia.
Premier Peter Malinauskas said he had committed to delivering the Uluru statement from the heart:
This is a nation-leading opportunity for SA to demonstrate to the rest of the country the benefits of giving our First Nations people greater say in the development of laws and policies that affect their lives.
The SA voice will be able to address either house on any legislation of interest, will establish specific committees for young people, elders, native title holders and members of the stolen generation, and ensure the voice does not impact on native title agreements or other First Nations organisations.
Attorney general and Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher, said it was a long-overdue and defining moment, and that the bill had been developed “hand in hand” with the state’s Aboriginal communities.
First Nations voice commissioner, Dale Agius, said there was overwhelming support for the voice:
This is about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people having a platform to share knowledge, wisdom, and aspirations for the future, and to be included in the decision-making process.
We spoke with many communities during the second round with enthusiasm and excitement for what a voice can do.
Tony Abbott joins UK climate denial group
Former prime minister Tony Abbott continues to show he has his finger on the pulse of the nation by joining a UK climate denial group.
Entirely on brand, Abbott has joined the board of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which is known for undermining net zero policies and generally trying to drag the climate debate back a few decades.
Abbott says “all of us want to save the only planet” but he has some issues with the “how” that happens.
We need more genuine science and less groupthink in this debate – that’s where the GWPF has been a commendably consistent if lonely voice,” he said in a statement.
The “genuine” science says climate change is happening and if the world wants to limit warming to 1.5C it HAS to cut reach net zero emissions by 2050. So far, we are not on track to reach that target.
A very good Politics Morning to you
Thank you to Martin for starting off this morning with all the news you need to know to get your day started.
You have Amy Remeikis now, as we switch to politics and take you through the parliamentary day.
The RBA is expected to hand down its ninth interest rate increase in a row. Economists think the RBA will raise the overnight cash rate by another 0.25%, which would take it to 3.35%. Although there are some who think the increase could be as high as 0.4% We will find out very soon.
What it boils down to is more pressure for people who hold mortgages, which is also hitting renters, as landlords pass on the costs.
What the government is planning to do to ease the rising cost of living will once again be one of the issues dominating question time, along with the Indigenous voice to parliament.
As Paul Karp reported last week, the South Australian parliament planned on introducing legislation for a voice to its own parliament this week. And that will be happening very soon.
We will cover all of the day’s events as they happen, with Katharine Murphy, Paul Karp, Daniel Hurst and Josh Butler leading the way.
Mike Bowers has already been roaming the corridors, cameras in hand, so we will bring you some of what he has been seeing.
It will be at least a three coffee morning.
Let’s get into it.
Aviation white paper out today
Our transport correspondent, Elias Visontay, has news of an upcoming white paper to shape government aviation policy in coming decades, looking at managing noise over suburbs near airports and regenerating Australia’s aviation workforce.
On Tuesday the Albanese government set out the terms of reference for its much-anticipated aviation white paper, as it invites the industry to provide submissions ahead of releasing its blueprint to grow and innovate the sector.
The white paper will consider industry trends including airports and surrounding communities, ground staff, flight crews, freight and domestic and international airlines, at a time when the aviation sector is yet to return to pre-Covid capacities and staff shortages continue to plague workforces that were decimated by pandemic restrictions.
This will include “how to support and regenerate Australia’s general aviation sector”, considering future skills and training requirements for the workforce.
The document will set out policy and economic reforms necessary to improve safety, sustainability and competitiveness of Australia’s aviation sector to 2050.
In releasing the terms of reference, the government will consider aviation’s role in regional as well as broader economic development, trade and the visitor economy; how to maximise the aviation sector’s contribution to achieving net-zero carbon emissions; and changing aviation technologies and ways to encourage their uptake and manufacturing.
Ensuring consumers have adequate protections in the aviation sector is another topic earmarked in the terms of reference.
Additionally, the white paper will examine “airport development planning processes and consultation mechanisms”, including “the impact and changing nature of aircraft noise and related expectations on the role of noise sharing and noise mitigation”.
Noise from aviation has increasingly become a point of tension between the aviation sector and communities surrounding airports, including concerns about Melbourne airport’s proposed third runway, while Sydney airport’s movement slots and curfew are measures controlled to mitigate noise for surrounding suburbs.
Noise sharing is a mitigation strategy in which different runways have separate flight paths to share the noise burden above various neighbouring suburbs.
In announcing the terms of reference, the transport minister, Catherine King, criticised the previous Coalition government’s aviation policy.
“After the uncertainty of the pandemic, and a lack of planning for the future under the previous government, the aviation white paper will provide a new chance to chart the opportunities for the future.”
“Aviation connects Australians with the world and communities to each other. It brings essential imports to our country and connects high-value exports with markets overseas. It allows us to visit family and friends interstate and it provides a vital link to regions and remote Australia,” King said.
Initial submissions can be made before 10 March.
The white paper will be released in the first half of 2024, and will set out principles and directions including “concrete actions” to be taken over the next five years.
A green paper will be released first, in the middle of this year, to generate discussion on early submission themes.
Labor announced plans for the white paper before the 2022 election, and has committed $7m to its development.
Chris Hipkins to make first visit to Australia as New Zealand PM
New Zealand prime minister Chris Hipkins will visit Australia for the first time since landing the top job.
Hipkins will travel to Canberra today, where he will meet with his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese at Parliament House, Australian Associated Press reports.
The visit is a show of prioritising his nation’s relationship with Australia.
Regional security will be high on the agenda, with Beijing’s expansion in the Indo-Pacific reaching Wellington through alleged political interference.
Albanese said he looked forward to “discussing ways to build on trans-Tasman cooperation”.
“Australia and New Zealand have an extremely close relationship, underpinned by our shared history and generations of personal, business and government links,” he said.
Speaking ahead of his one-day trip, Hipkins said his relationship with the Australian prime minister began with a “very warm” phone call and texts late last month.
“We’ve had a good conversation on the phone. I think we’re going to get along pretty well actually,” he said.
“Primarily [the trip] is just about prime minister Albanese and I having the opportunity to meet each other and get to know each other a little bit.”
Hipkins replaced Jacinda Ardern as New Zealand’s leader last month after the former prime minister announced her shock resignation.
This year will be an important milestone for Australia and New Zealand, marking the 40-year anniversary of the signing of the Closer Economic Relations Free Trade Agreement.
The visit also coincides with 50 years of the Trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement.
Electric car sales soar
The number of electric vehicles on the roads has almost doubled over the past year, growing from 44,000 at the beginning of 2022 to more than 83,000, according to new sales data.
Of those cars, 79% are pure battery and 21% plug-in hybrids. The best uptake is in the ACT where 10% of new sales were EVs.
Electric vehicle market share was 4% in New South Wales and Victoria and slightly more than 3% in Queensland in 2022, but just 1% in the Northern Territory.
And as an Australian startup Recharge buys the bankrupt battery maker BritishVolt, sales of EVs in Britain have fuelled the strongest start to the year for the car market since before the pandemic.
Hello and thanks for joining us for rolling coverage of the day in Australian news and politics with parliament back for another day. My colleague Amy Remeikis will be along shortly to take you through the day but in the meantime here are the main stories making headlines overnight.
The devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria is the big story overnight with at least 2,600 people killed and many thousands more feared dead. The huge quake hit a region of millions of people and where the population has been swollen by people escaping the civil war in Syria. We have full coverage here.
The big political story at home overnight is the fallout from Lidia Thorpe’s decision to stand down from her post as Greens party Indigenous affairs spokesperson and fight for Black sovereignty. That paved the way for a party room vote last night in favour of supporting a yes vote in the voice to parliament referendum – a position that Thorpe had opposed.
Households will be on edge today with the Reserve Bank forecast to raise the cash rate again in a move that will mean more financial pain for people with mortgages. It’s good news for savers of course but most of the reaction to the expected decision – due as ever at 2.30pm – is likely to focus on the increased strain on borrowers’ budgets.