What we learned today, 9 January 2023
With that, we will wrap up the blog for the night, here’s what happened today:
Prime minister Anthony Albanese and WA premier, Mark McGowan, today visited flood-affected areas of the Kimberley, which is facing an unprecedented emergency, announcing support for that region and for the Victoria Daly region of NT.
A review of Australia’s controversial carbon credit system has recommended significant changes to how it is managed, but dismissed whistleblower claims that the scheme lacks integrity and is not delivering real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change minister Chris Bowen said there was “absolutely” a link between the warming planet and the latest bout of record flooding to hit Australia.
The property market recorded its biggest ever decline, as the Reserve Bank’s aggressive interest rate hiking cycle bites.
Labor announced it would expand an existing government program that offers full or partial rebates on new or existing properties for first home buyers if elected in NSW.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers wrote in the Australian newspaper that “we can batten down the hatches, build buffers against some of this uncertainty” in 2023.
The Nationals called for mandated domestic mobile roaming in 2023.
Former prime minister John Howard has backed NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s cashless gaming card proposal.
NSW recorded two drownings, including a woman at Gordons Bay in Sydney and a man at Jervis Bay.
Downward arrows for housing approvals and energy prices
We noted here last week that Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart in 2022 had their biggest calendar year drop in house prices, according to CoreLogic, whose data goes back to 1980. And today we learned the fall from the price peak is now at a record level too.
There’s other downish news on the property front, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics today giving us their first data for 2023. Housing approvals in November fell 9% in the month alone, and were 15.1% lower than a year earlier.
CBA, which had forecast a 2% drop, said approvals were running at the lowest since 2020 (excluding January 2022 when the Omicron wave was cresting).
“The softening of building approvals through 2022 has mirrored the broader cooling of the housing market and we expect approvals to remain softer than the decade average in 2023,” CBA economists said.
NSW had the biggest drop among the states, with approvals off more than 18%, with WA’s down 17.5%. Trend data suggest Victoria “has more momentum than the other states”, as population growth recovers there after the Covid disruptions, CBA said.
Meanwhile, on the energy front - that other big issue from the end of 2022 that will extend into 2023 - wholesale future prices continue to sink, according to the ASX. (The government intervened in December to cap gas and black coal prices to drive down the cost of wholesale prices that will eventually feed into a slower growth in retail power prices.)
Also helping lower prices will be greater penetration of renewable energy where the cost of fuel is effectively zero - in contrast to sky-high gas and coal prices. At points of today, the share of clean energy was more than 60% in the national electricity market thanks to a particularly sunny day.
That’s a cue to go for a swim, if I don’t say so myself.
Anthony Albanese has addressed events in Brazil, likening them to the 6 January 2021 attack on the US capitol.
Albanese told reporters:
Could I just say one thing about Brazil? Which is, just to [say] there have been events in Brazil with action being taken – after a democratic election was conducted and after President Lula was elected there in Brazil. The Australian government stands for democracies. And people should respect the outcome of elections and the actions of a small number of people are condemned by the Australian government, we will continue to convey our support to the government of Brazil at this difficult time ...
When democracies have elections, it’s important that they be respected and, tragically, we’ve seen here actions that look a bit similar to what happened at the US capitol building on January 6 after the election of President Biden. It’s important that we respect democratic processes.
The PM reflects on the severity of the damage in the Kimberley, saying it is “extraordinary” that there hasn’t been a greater “human cost”:
There’s been an enormous cost to the budget of natural disasters over the seven months in which I’ve had the honour of serving as prime minister now into five states have suffered major natural disasters, and this is a major event, one in 100-year event.
And the people on the ground and here in emergency services as well, who’ve lived in this community for a very long period of time say that this is unprecedented and when you go and look firsthand – at the damage that was done, for example, to the bridges and the roads, you see the power of this, this water and the difference that it’s made. What is extraordinary is that there isn’t a greater human cost.
You can rebuild roads, you can rebuild houses. You can of course rebuild lives, and we need to I think it is quite extraordinary that there has not been a more extreme human outcome as well.
The PM takes questions from reporters, firstly speaking about some of the concerns raised by locals:
Well, the committee members raised the full range of concerns, as you’d expect for some who come from remote communities around Fitzroy Crossing. It’s about how they get back into their home. For others it was about, for example, issues with motor vehicles. How do they get the motor vehicles repaired? So that that can then assist further recovery elements? They keen to make sure that power and access to basic services can be restored so that they can get back into their homes as well.
There are major challenges being faced but I believe this community is incredibly resilient. They’re positive about the future. They want to work together and there was a real sense of community and belonging.
They’re very proud of Fitzroy Crossing and the community that they’ve built. They just wanted to get back to normal as soon as possible.
Next up, WA premier Mark McGowan steps up and thanks the PM for his visit, while noting the extent of the damage in the region:
Obviously, it’s been a very difficult period and many homes are damaged. What was noticeable was the damage to infrastructure, the roads and the bridges were heavily damaged and that’s going to take some time to repair.
That’s going to be difficult over a longer period of time that we would hope, because getting those things fixed will be difficult, but we’ll put every resource we can, and getting them fixed as soon as we can, we can provide a timeframe on that but that’s going to affect travel and our range of things through the Kimberley, for some time to come.
It’s going to take some time. Many people’s homes have been damaged. And obviously there’s assessments going on as we speak, to ensure that we get those homes assessed. And then over time, we can get those homes reoccupied and get people support to get new bedding and new electrical appliances and the like.
PM pledges help for flood-affected areas of WA
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has started a press conference in Western Australia, after visiting communities affected by the flooding emergency in the Kimberley.
Albanese announces that the Australian defence force is stepping in to aid with the recovery effort, supplying 200 ADF personnel and eight aircraft.
One of the things that I find is that at the worst of times. at the most difficult of issues being confronted. Australians show the best of their character by pitching in, they help their fellow Australians and that is what we are seeing here.
And the Albanese government, the government that I’m proud to lead, will stand with you if you are facing a natural disaster – no matter where you are in Australia. That is something that we have done now in too many places, tragically in New South Wales, in Victoria, in Tasmania, in South Australia and here in the Kimberley in Western Australia – and that’s something that my government will continue to do.
The shadow foreign minister, Simon Birmingham, said there was “no place for violence in the face of democratic outcomes”.
Win or lose, democracy should always be defended and respected,” he tweeted in response to the violence in Brazil.
Those who can influence protesters should use all their influence to have them end such violence and attacks.
Australian government condemns attacks on Brazil’s presidential palace
The Australian government has condemned the attacks on democratic institutions in Brazil, branding the dramatic events as “unacceptable” and calling for a return to stability.
At least 300 people were arrested after extraordinary scenes in which supporters of the far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro invaded the congress, presidential palace and supreme court in the capital, Brasília, on Sunday.
Australia denounced attempts to undermine democracy in the world’s fifth most populous country, adding its voice to criticism levelled by leaders around the globe.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told Guardian Australia:
The Australian government condemns the attack on Brazil’s congress, supreme court and presidential palace.
Such attacks are unacceptable; democratic institutions and processes must be respected.
We join president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s call for a return to normality, peace and stability.
The Australian government urged any citizens who required consular assistance to contact Dfat’s consular emergency centre on 1300 555 135 (within Australia) or +61 2 6261 3305 (from overseas).
The comments follow recent warnings from the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, about risks to democracies around the globe, including in the wake of the storming of the US Capital in 2021.
Last month Albanese told the Woodford Folk Festival that “some of the oldest, most stable democracies have come under attack from whole range of corrosive, insidious forces”.
He said: “I urge anyone who thinks our democracy is unassailable to have a look around the world.”
ACT not prepared for bushfires, report finds
Climate change and a growing urban fringe have left the Australian Capital Territory underprepared to deal with a major bushfire emergency, a report has found.
Canberra is approaching the 20-year anniversary of its deadly 2003 bushfire disaster, which destroyed at least 470 homes, killed four people, and injured 490 others.
The disaster exposed a series of failings in the ACT’s preparation and response, prompting the territory government to establish an independent body to annually review bushfire management and preparedness.
The body’s annual report on Monday warned the territory was underprepared. It said bushfire planning must be strengthened to reflect the added risk brought by climate change and the city’s growing urban fringe. According to the Canberra Times, the ACT Multi-Hazard Advisory Council’s report said:
Increased capability is needed to mitigate and respond to the increased frequency, duration and severity of bushfire.
Agencies and volunteers need to be properly resourced to reach agreed bushfire-risk mitigation, suppression and recovery objectives.
The report recommended increased firefighter numbers near bushland areas, greater location-specific planning, and a mechanism to ensure firefighting resources increased commensurate to the growing rural-urban interface.
Coalition and business welcome the Chubb carbon market review
The federal opposition and business have voiced their support for the Chubb review report into Australia’s carbon markets (see earlier posts).
Ted O’Brien, the shadow climate change and energy spokesperson, said the review found that the scheme was working fundamentally soundly and operating effectively “despite the Albanese Labor government’s unfounded accusations”.
“The outcome of this review should provide the Australian people with supreme confidence that the ACCU program is fit for purpose and will continue to play an important role in supporting Australia to decarbonise its economy,” O’Brien said.
“After all, an effective carbon credit scheme will be integral to Australia’s ambition to achieve net zero emissions by 2050.”
Similarly, Innes Willox, chief executive of the Ai Group, an employer organisation, said [a]ccess to a well-functioning and credible offset market is an important part of a cost-effective safeguard mechanism and industry is reassured both by the findings of the independent review and the government’s acceptance of recommendations for ongoing improvement”.
Business groups know they will be asked to cut emissions as part of the government’s pledge for Australia to make a 43% reduction on 2005-level pollution by 2030, and to reach net zero by 2050. That’s where the safeguard mechanism comes in – and we’ll find out more about that tomorrow.
Surfer dies at Jervis Bay on NSW's south coast
Following on that, NSW police have also confirmed that a surfer has died after being pulled from the water at Jervis Bay.
Emergency services were called to Caves beach after reports a surfer was brought to the shore by surfers and swimmers, and was unresponsive.
Paramedics performed CPR but the 62-year-old could not be revived, police said.
NSW police officers and Australian federal police officers attended.
A report will be prepared for coroner.
Woman dies at Gordons Bay in Sydney
NSW police have confirmed that the woman pulled from the water at Gordons Bay in Sydney has died.
Emergency services were called to the beach in Clovelly in Sydney’s east after reports of an unconscious woman being pulled from the water, police said.
Officers attended and were told a 47-year-old woman had been swimming in the water where she appeared to have suffered a medical episode.
Paramedics attempted to revive the woman, but she died at the scene.
A report will be prepared for coroner.
A Sydney boy is still in critical condition in hospital seven days after a helicopter crash on the Gold Coast as funeral details for the chopper pilot are released, the AAP reports.
Nicholas Tadros, aged 10, is being treated at the Queensland Children’s hospital for injuries he suffered when the helicopter he was in collided with another chopper and plunged onto a sandbar near Sea World on January 2.
He has undergone a number of operations and was transferred to Brisbane over the weekend.
“Nicholas Tadros is in critical condition at the Queensland Children’s hospital,” a Queensland Health spokesperson told AAP on Monday.
His mother, Vanessa Tadros, 36, Britons Ron and Diane Hughes, 65 and 57, and 40-year-old pilot Ashley Jenkinson died in the accident.
West Geelong woman Winnie De Silva, 33, and her son Leon, nine, who were also in that helicopter, are stable and recovering in hospital.
The pilot of the second chopper, Michael James, managed to land his aircraft safely, but he and four passengers were injured by flying glass when its windshield shattered.
Two of the injured were New Zealand women Elmarie Steenberg and Marle Swart, who had been on holiday with their husbands Riaan Steenberg and Edward Swart.
Meanwhile, preparations are underway for friends and family to farewell pilot Ashley Jenkinson on Friday in Southport.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is probing the crash and expects to complete the investigation between July and September 2024.
Disasters like the Kimberley floods ‘becoming less natural’, Bowen says
Climate change minister Chris Bowen says there was “absolutely” a link between the warming planet and the latest bout of record flooding to hit Australia, this time in the Kimberley in Western Australia.
“Natural disasters are increasingly frequent [and] more intense,” Bowen said at the Taronga Zoo media event we noted earlier today, “and natural disasters are increasingly less natural.
“They’re less natural because they’re caused by human-induced climate change. This is a statement of scientific fact.”
He noted that he wasn’t saying individual floods or bushfires were caused by global heating. Still, events such as floods in NSW that were once considered one-in-a-100-year-events were happening every 10 years, or more often.
“That is not a coincidence. Climate change increases the amount of precipitation and increases the amount of flooding,” he said. “Unless we’re going to engage in continuing 10 years of denial, we have to acknowledge that,” – a reference to the near-decade of Coalition government before Labor took office.
Climate scientists would likely back the minister on the science. For each degree of warming, the atmosphere can hold about 7% more moisture. That’s more rainfall to dump when conditions are right.
The Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, identified some of that massive rain event over north-western WA as a threat before it fell. Ex-tropical cyclone Ellie weakened in terms of wind speeds, but forecasters could see it posed a risk – in this case churning over the Fitzroy River catchment.
We’ll get the full wrap of 2022 from the Bureau soon, but last year was a neat 0.5C above the 1961-90 average for mean temperatures. That made it the equal 22nd year on record (with the data going back to 1910), and one of the warmest La Niña years.
Nationally-averaged rainfall was 25% above that 1961-90 average at 582.2mm, which made 2022 the ninth-wettest year on record for the country, the BoM said.
Unconscious woman pulled from water in Sydney’s east
AAP is reporting that a woman in her 50s has been pulled from the water unconscious at Gordons Bay, in Sydney’s east.
Emergency services were administering CPR and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter was circling the area about 2pm on Monday.
A spokeswoman for NSW Ambulance said resources were being diverted to the incident.
The bay is unattended by surf life savers, but is listed among the least hazardous beaches in Sydney by the BeachSafe website.
Novak Djokovic is back in Australia
And the former Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic has touched down in Melbourne today, after having been deported a year ago due to his vaccination status:
Adelaide bus drivers strike for better security and pay
Drivers began action at 3am today in the South Australian capital, with the strike impacting up to 80% of services across the city. The Transport Workers’ Union says it has been in negotiation with Torrens Transit, the company that operates a majority of the network, since October.
The union wants full screens to protect drivers, after a recent survey showed half of respondents had been assaulted on the job, and wanted more security on the network.
Transport Workers’ Union official Sam McIntosh was on ABC Radio Adelaide, where he apologised for any inconvenience caused, but said a “line in the sand” needed to be drawn:
We absolutely apologise for [the] inconvenience today and please know this decision to take industrial action ... we never take lightly, and it’s a last resort – we need to draw a line in the sand for the future of the industry.
A fair deal for this industry is making sure, first off, that when drivers go to work, they know that at the end of the day they’re going to be able to go home to their family’s safely. Drivers are getting punched or attacked with a weapon around the screens.
Clearly it is not adequate and what it leads to is a job that is fundamentally unsafe, and no-one is allowed to be surprised that drivers are leaving in droves.
We also need conditions that mean the drivers actually want to do this job. This used to be a sought-after job, it used to be a really valued job and career.
Tennis Australia dismisses calls to move Australian Open to cooler months
The head of Tennis Australia has dismissed calls to move the Australian Open to cooler months, amid concerns at the impact the heat could have on players.
Craig Tiley said reports the competition should be moved to October to avoid the heat were “absolutely ridiculous”:
It was a bizarre claim. This is the season. It starts in January. It starts here in Australia.
Australia is the summer, Australia is January. This event is, from the player’s perspective, one of their favourite places to play.
They are coming here earlier. We are now seeing players here for six [to] seven weeks. The preparation for the Australian summer is very normalised, they know what they need to do.
Carbon question marks don’t undermine market’s integrity, Bowen says
As set out in earlier posts, the government has released its review into the carbon credit system, and tomorrow will release details of an upgrade to the safeguard mechanism upgrade that will rely, to a degree, on the success of the carbon credit market.
In short, if the carbon credits being issued by current and future projects – whether for avoided carbon emissions or activities that suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere – are not doing what the packet says, then the market itself is suspect.
The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, told reporters the “entire review was set up to restore confidence in” the carbon credit system, and the panel “not only got the balance right, but they applied a rigorous process, based on all the evidence”.
He said the panel recommended “real and material improvements” on two of the four main methods used to create carbon credit projects. These were the devilishly complex “human-induced regeneration” projects – mostly involving mulga growth in arid outback settings – and ventures to capture emissions that leak from landfill gas.
A third method, known as avoided deforestation, would be discontinued as a credit generator after this review. The fourth method is carbon capture and storage.
But the report did not explain why the market was sound or address specific issues raised by critics such as ANU’s Prof Andrew Macintosh, who was formerly on the committee set up to review the credits. The CSIRO and the Australian Academy of Science both echoed some of Macintosh’s concerns.
The head of the review panel, the former chief scientist Prof Ian Chubb, said credits had to “be seen to be of high integrity”.
A basic test will be whether the price of credits rises or falls after the review. If it weeds out bad projects (or prevents more of them) then the price should rise, all other things being equal.
Asked about whether a more robust market would lead to the price of abatement rising, Bowen said he “didn’t speculate” on where carbon credit prices would go.
John Howard backs Perrottet’s ‘cashless gaming card’ proposal
The former prime minster John Howard has called the NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s cashless gaming card proposal “courageous and wise”. Howard threw his support behind the premier’s idea, and said there was “documented evidence that poker machines leave much wreckage in society”.
He was quoted in the Nine newspapers, adding that the Perrottet’s proposal was a “very measured reform”:
It takes courage to take on a difficult issue with high-profile concentrated opposition, but it is also wise because it is measured. He is not saying he is going to ban poker machines.
This is a very measured reform, and one where I think the silent majority will say ‘thank heavens someone had the courage to do this’. It shows both courage and wisdom because there are always exaggerated fears and suggestions about job losses, but Unions NSW, are absolutely correct in their assessment.
Some earlier reporting on that below:
Albanese: government to announce ‘significant’ support for those affected by floods in WA
Anthony Albanese spoke to 6PR Radio about the floods in Fitzroy Crossing (WA), noting the “devastating impacts”, including on the couple of hundred people who had to stay at emergency accommodation.
Albanese said the federal government will announce “significant support” for emergency assistance, temporary living assistance, and $10,000 for housing repairs, and up to $10,000 for replacement of essential household items.
Albanese said the bill will be “substantial” but the government is committed to “make sure that the rebuilding occurs as quickly as possible”.
Asked if this would include compensation for farmers, Albanese said “one can expect there will be quite considerable losses” of cattle in the area. He said the government would look at what is required for primary producers, but noted existing programs included interest rate subsidies.
We’re seeing far too much of it. I’m afraid, I’ve now been to Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and now WA in the relatively short time I’ve been prime minister looking at these events, talking about a 1-in-100 year event over and over again. Well, they’re happening more regularly.
Former chief scientist Ian Chubb delivers review on carbon market
The climate change and energy minister, Chris Bowen, and the former chief scientist, Ian Chubb, have just wrapped up a lengthy media conference in – it turns out – the mobile phone reception blackspot of Taronga Zoo in inner North Sydney.
Chubb, who led the six-month review of the carbon market, dismissed the criticisms that a large part of the multibillion dollar market was based on suspect carbon credits, and was therefore lacking integrity (as my colleague Adam Morton has noted earlier on this blog).
“It’s not as broken as has been suggested,” Chubb told reporters, as budgies and other desert birds chirped away in the background. “Our finding was (the market) was basically sound, with all the safeguards, the checks, the reviews and all of the things going on.”
“You’ve got a human-designed process, implemented by human beings, and it will be a bit frayed at the edges,” he said. As for how frayed the edges were, Chubb said “I don’t know, but not so large you would toss it out and stop doing all the good things that are happening because of that.
“You try to fix them up, so that they can’t occur, or occur with much more difficulty, because at the core, there are people doing good things.”
This seems to be the nub of the matter: did the review sufficiently identify the scale of the those “edges”, and do the recommendations address them in a meaningful manner? “Incandescent” was the response earlier from one critic.
As it was the Zoo, there were the odd animal encounters, such as this cute one with Billy the bilby:
(Billy, it seems, was formerly a breeder, now put out to pasture. Apropos of nothing.)
Good afternoon, Mostafa Rachwani with you once again, this time to take you through the afternoon’s news, and beginning with a quick thanks to Natasha May for her stellar job as always.
That’s it from me today. I am handing you over to the wonderful Mostafa Rachwani!
Finding Afghanistan in the Australian outback
If you’re looking to spice up your lunch break, would definitely recommend today’s Full Story summer series episode. Our producer Joey Watson has followed the journey of Hazara refugee and photographer Muzafar Ali. In his quest to find belonging in Australia, Ali goes back in time to the Afghan cameleers, who migrated to Australia 160 years ago and whose camel trains became the foundation of the rural economy. Have a listen!
Week of showers and thunderstorms ahead for Queensland
Narramore says the remnant circulation from ex-tropical cyclone Ellie is still being felt across much of northern Australia:
We’re going to see that the remnant circulation is still going across southern NT and it is finally weakening out today and into tomorrow and should wash out completely as we get to midweek.
But that moisture is still lingering through central and then into eastern Australia particularly Queensland. So we can see showers and thunderstorms continuing through western Queensland and southern Northern Territory today. We are seeing those big falls near 100mm around the Alice area that is bringing a bit of water into the Todd river and also dirt roads are becoming impassible through there.
Then the focus shifts to Queensland where we are looking at a week of widespread shower and thunderstorm activity – not south-east Queensland but pretty very much everywhere else in the state. Kind of north of Fraser and all the inland areas, the North Coast, Central Coast and central inland are all looking at multiple days of shower and thunderstorm activity becoming widespread later this week. A wet week on the way for Queensland.
Broome floodplains ‘like an ocean right now’: BoM
Narramore is giving more details about the rainfall in the Kimberley which has brought record flooding at the Fitzroy Crossing and up to 600mm around Broome. He says the floodplains inland from Broome “look like an ocean right now”.
He says the peaks moving down the lower region of the Fitzroy River are very big:
There’s a very big river and some parts [are anything] from 25 to 50km wide, so it is an incredible amount of water in the system at the moment.
On the impact on Fitzroy Crossing in the Diamond Gorge area, Narramore says widespread rain of up to 500mm, as well as huge isolated falls, possibly up to 850mm, has triggered flooding.
… when you get a very large area experiencing these huge falls, that’s what leads to so much water making its way into the river systems. Like we are seeing in the Murray and Darling a few weeks ago and now we’re seeing the Fitzroy River as well.
He goes on to acknowledge the impact of Derby’s bridge being washed out will have on getting supplies to the region, saying it will be a “big issue in the coming weeks, and possibly longer than that”.
BoM says ex-cyclone Ellie hung around for ‘unusually’ long period
Dean Narramore, a senior meteorologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, has told ABC News that ex-tropical cyclone Ellie has been unusual in how long the weather system has been producing rain in northern Australia.
It’s definitely taken an impressive and very long duration path. We saw it cross over the 23 December and that it moved through central part of the Northern Territory, almost making it down to the southern parts of the NT.
Then it returned back north into the Kimberley where it sat for almost a week, and then hovered over Broome for a few days, and then it has gone back eastwards to sit over Alice Springs last night where we saw 80mm … now [it’s] back in the Todd River, through southern parts [of] the NT. That’s well over two weeks now.
Sometimes we do have these ex-cyclones, they can hang around [the] northern parts or western parts of the country for about a week or so but once you get to that two or three week period – and to maintain that circulation as long as it has - that’s definitely getting into more unusual territory.
Police seize drugs and $1.5m in Sydney raids
Police have charged four men and seized $1.5m in cash and more than five kilograms of cocaine and meth in Sydney’s inner west. The bust is the product of a NSW police money laundering investigation that saw raids and arrests across the city.
Police pulled over a sedan on Sunday afternoon and found 2.3 kilograms of cocaine and $24,000 in cash. A search of a nearby hatchback uncovered 550g of cocaine and 140g of MDMA.
The two men in the sedan, one aged 23 and another 28, were arrested and taken to Burwood police station. Later, search warrants were executed at two properties on Hunter Street in Strathfield where they arrested two men, an 18-year-old and another aged 35.
Between the two raided homes, police found $1.5m in cash, two kilograms of methylamphetamine and two litres of methylamphetamine oil. Two hydraulic press machines, two ballistic vests and multiple driver’s licences were also found.
All four men were charged with large commercial drug supply.
The men arrested at the Strathfield properties were also charged with participating in a criminal group and knowingly dealing with crime proceeds. They were refused bail to appear at Burwood local court on Monday.
Nationals call for mandated domestic mobile roaming in 2023
Anyone who’s travelled around rural parts of the country will know how easy it is to find yourself without any phone reception if your telco provider is different to the only one that’s operating in a small town.
The idea of domestic mobile roaming would allow your phone to get reception from a tower no matter which provider you’re with. The consumer watchdog recently ruled that Telstra and TPG’s infrastructure sharing would be anti-competitive.
The leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, says he supports that decision but for regional areas it’s a different story. He wants to see it mandated specifically for regional Australia this year.
You can read Littleproud’s full statement here and our rural network’s latest coverage on this issue at the bottom:
Car stolen as child slept in back seat
A thief is on the run after stealing a car while a toddler was asleep in the back seat in Melbourne’s south-east.
The child was left alone with the engine running outside a grocery store on Nepean Highway in Chelsea at 4pm on Sunday while his father went to do some shopping.
A person snuck into the front seat of the grey Volkswagen SUV and took off with the car, but stopped nearby to drop off the child.
A passerby then found him wandering around the area unharmed.
The car was last seen driving erratically south along the Nepean Highway.
Victoria police said the father left his son alone for just a few minutes with the air conditioning on because he didn’t want to wake the sleeping toddler.
Victoria police said in a social media post:
Never leave young children unattended in a car. A lot can happen in the space of a minute or two.
Kidsafe NSW executive officer Christine Erskine it was very lucky the child was not hurt. Erskine said:
Nothing is worth the risk of leaving your child unattended anywhere, particularly a younger child, they should be within reach.
It’s very scary to think that these incidents, as rare as they are, do happen because a risk has been taken.
Review of carbon credit system rejects claims scheme lacks integrity
A review of Australia’s controversial carbon credit system has recommended significant changes to how it is managed, but dismissed whistleblower claims that the scheme lacks integrity and is not delivering real cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
The review panel, led by the former national chief scientist Prof Ian Chubb, found the Clean Energy Regulator, a government agency, should be stripped of some of its roles running and overseeing the system to “enhance confidence and transparency”.
It also recommended the abolition of the emissions reduction assurance committee, the integrity body responsible for approving the methods used to create carbon credits. The panel said it should be replaced with a new body – a carbon abatement integrity committee – that would have increased responsibility and independence.
But the report rejected detailed allegations by a team of academics led by Prof Andrew Macintosh, a former head of the emissions reduction assurance committee, that failures in the system mean up to 80% of carbon credits approved might not represent new or real cuts in emissions.
The panel said it did not share the view that the integrity of the scheme was in doubt, that the level of emissions reduction had been overstated and that the carbon credits policy was not effective.
Carbon credits are issued for projects that use government-approved methods to store or avoid greenhouse gas emissions. One carbon credit is meant to represent one tonne of carbon dioxide. Credits can then be sold to the government or polluting businesses, which use them to offset their onsite emissions.
The extent to which credits should be made available to help meet government and corporate emissions reduction targets is contested. A UN group set up to crack down on the greenwashing of net zero pledges last year argued commitments must prioritise deep cuts in absolute emissions by 2030, with carbon offsets to be used only for further reductions above and beyond that.
Chubb and the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, are due to hold a press conference at 11am.
A full story will follow at Guardian Australia shortly.
Property downturn biggest on record
The Reserve Bank’s aggressive interest rate hiking cycle has triggered the largest housing market decline on record.
The 8.4% drop between May 7 2022 and January 2023 is the deepest peak-to-trough decline on CoreLogic’s records, surpassing the previous record-breaking fall between 2017 and 2019.
Sydney home values have led the downturn, falling 13% from their highest point.
Brisbane prices have plummeted 10% and Melbourne dwelling values have tanked 8.6% from peak to trough.
The 300 basis points in rate hikes have shrunk the amount buyers can borrow and generally cooled buyer confidence.
High household indebtedness may have also increased the housing market’s sensitivity to interest rates, CoreLogic analysis found.
The market is unlikely to have bottomed out, with further cash rate increases in 2023 likely to keep driving prices lower.
Carbon credit review to be released in a half hour
We’re expecting the Chubb report to be released at 11am AEST. That’s the report that the climate change minister, Chris Bowen, announced six months ago to review of Australia’s carbon credit scheme after a respected whistleblower described it as a fraud and waste of taxpayer money.
The former Australian chief scientist and senior academic Prof Ian Chubb was appointed to head the review. Bowen will be making the announcement at Taronga Zoo, so we’ll be brining you what he has to say and lots of pictures of the animals in attendance.
‘We can batten down the hatches, build buffers against some of this uncertainty’: Chalmers’ economic plans for 2023
Wondering what the treasurer Jim Chalmers’ economic resolutions are for this new year? He’s given us a bit of an idea this morning in a piece he’s penned for The Australian titled “Our policy platform for challenging future”.
In it, he says “inflation remains our dominant concern even on the other side of its peak” but he remains optimistic the government can “grow our economy out of another global downturn”.
In the midst of all this, in a global economy defined by uncertainty and vulnerability, we are focused on security and resilience as we take steps to grow our economy out of another global downturn. We are in a stronger position than most countries but still more vulnerable than we’d like to be to international shocks.
Chalmers outlined his government’s economic achievements in the last eight months and says in “the next budget I will build on these foundations”.
The Expenditure Review Committee has been working with cabinet colleagues over summer on its shape and strategy. There will be cost-of-living relief in the form of help with electricity bills, higher wages for aged-care workers, and cheaper childcare from July.
If there are additional measures we can afford to put in place, of course we’ll consider them. We will focus on the inflation challenge and growing the economy the right way out of the downturn, bringing together our efforts on energy, skills and training, co-investment, industry policy, supply chains, data, digital and technology, workforce participation, migration and more.
We will continue to put the budget on a more sustainable footing, recognising the pressures from higher borrowing costs, health and ageing, the NDIS, defence spending and the costs of responding to natural disasters. We will maintain an emphasis on health and Medicare and ageing and aged care; on women and wellbeing; and with a particular focus on tackling disadvantage.
Our optimism is built on a degree of confidence that we can batten down the hatches, build buffers against some of this uncertainty and build a stronger economy and a better future in 2023 and beyond, all at the same time.
The global economic environment is complex and uncertain, but Australians and their government are up for the challenge.
Search for missing swimmer continues
The search for a swimmer who went missing in waters off Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula has entered a fourth day.
The 20-year-old North Melbourne man and his 16-year-old brother got into trouble in rough surf off Gunnamatta beach on Friday night.
Their father jumped in to save the pair.
Rescuers managed to pull him and the teenager from the water but the older son couldn’t be found.
The man, aged in his forties, left hospital on Sunday, one day after his younger son was discharged.
Specialists from Victoria police, the State Emergency Service and Life Saving Victoria spent the weekend searching for the missing man.
He was wearing navy blue shorts and black, grey and green goggles when he disappeared.
- from AAP
Government commits up to 13 weeks of income support for WA flood victims
In addition to the just-announced funding for individuals and councils to clean up after flooding in WA and the NT, the federal government is also extending up to 13 weeks of income support to people in those areas who aren’t able to work due to the natural disaster.
The emergency management minister, Murray Watt, and government services minister, Bill Shorten, have just announced that people left out of work due to ex-tropical cyclone Ellie are eligible for the Disaster Recovery Allowance. That payment, a taxable fortnightly payment with up to 13 weeks of assistance, has now been activated for the local government areas of Victoria Daly in the Northern Territory and Broome, Derby West Kimberley, Halls Creek and Wyndham East Kimberley in Western Australia.
Watt and Shorten said in a release:
The easiest way for eligible people to claim is online through myGov, available 24 hours a day. For information on eligibility and how to apply, visit servicesaustralia.gov.au/disasterevents.
Shorten said Services Australia staff are already on the ground in the affected areas, and more are on the way when it’s safe to do so. Remote teams can provide in-language support for remote communities, or link people with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island language services.
There is in-person support available at the Fitzroy Crossing evacuation centre but people with internet access are being told that the easiest way to claim is online. People without internet who can access a phone should call 180 22 66 between 8am and 5pm local time, Monday to Friday.
PM heading to Fitzroy Crossing
The leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton, has taken to social media to say his thoughts are with those affected by the floods in WA as the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, heads out to Fitzroy Crossing to begin his tour of the region.
Disaster recovery funding for Kimberley communities hit by 'once-in-a-century event'
Flood-affected communities in Western Australia’s Kimberley region will be aided in their recovery by the state and federal governments’ jointly funded Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
Residents in the shires of Derby West Kimberley, Broome, Wyndham East Kimberley and Halls Creek will be eligible for assistance measures. The funds will be able to go towards emergency assistance, temporary living expenses, replacement of essential household goods, housing repairs, personal and financial counselling assistance.
The federal minister for emergency management, Murray Watt, has seen a lot of flooding this year but even he admitted the volumes seen in the Kimberley have been extraordinary.
The sheer amount of water that is flowing through the region is just staggering and the impact this is having on these communities is immense.
We have responded quickly by making assistance available to help with the cost of repairs to damaged infrastructure that is vital to supply chains and access for local communities.
We have also deployed two C-27J Spartan and one C-130J Hercules transport aircraft to evacuate residents and transport supplies to cut-off communities following requests for support from the Western Australian government.
Anthony Albanese said the commonwealth would provide any support requested by the Western Australian government and will continue to provide support “long after the water recedes”.
The state’s premier, Mark McGowan, said the flooding was unprecedented for the Kimberley region:
This is a once-in-a-century event so the State and Federal Governments will work for as long as it takes to ensure communities recover and rebuild.
This funding arrangement is the same that’s also been announced this morning for the Northern Territory affected by the damage from ex-tropical cyclone Ellie, which my colleague, Josh Butler, brought you the news about a little while ago.
Voice leaders ‘tired of political games’
A leading Indigenous voice to parliament advocate has lashed the “tired political games” marring discussion around the proposed advisory body, AAP reports.
Responding to the opposition leader Peter Dutton’s renewed call for more detail before a referendum, one of the Uluru statement’s principal authors, Prof Megan Davis, insisted Australians wouldn’t head to the ballot box without knowing what they were voting for.
Davis, a constitutional lawyer, said the process the government was following was standard practice. She said in a statement:
Constitutions are for principle. The machinery is for parliament. The High Court of Australia was recognised in 1901 and set up via legislation several years later … it’s a normal constitutional approach.
Davis spoke to the frustration surrounding the debate, saying the Uluru Dialogue “knew politicians could not lead this discussion”.
The Uluru Statement was issued to the Australian people because as Australians we are tired of political games. This isn’t about politicians and politicking, this is about the Australian people and our future.
Dutton said the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was treating the public “like mugs” for not releasing more detail before a potential constitutional change. He said his major queries were how the advisory body would be composed, how it would function on a regional basis and how it would tackle issues in the most remote areas.
He told reporters on Sunday:
You can’t just say to the Australian public as the prime minister, ‘you vote at an election … on a Saturday and we’ll give you the detail on the Monday’. It’s a very serious decision to change our constitution.
Davis said three different referendum working groups were finalising the appropriate amount of detail required for an informed vote. She said the Uluru dialogue would keep working with Liberal MPs “who want to work constructively as community leaders”.
Dutton’s call came as the Liberal party seeks to determine its position on the voice, after Coalition partners the Nationals formally opposed the referendum.
Read more including Davis’s comments in my colleague Josh Butler’s story from yesterday:
Broome surrounded by ‘phenomenal amount of water’: Watt
We’ve brought you a lot of images of flooded landscapes in the last twelve months but these saturated aerial views never cease to amaze me. Here are a few the emergency management minister Murray Watt shared from his flight into the Kimberley late last night. Watt will be with the PM touring the region later today.
Government promises emergency assistance for damage from ex-tropical cyclone Ellie
The federal and Northern Territory governments have announced emergency assistance for people affected by the damage from ex-tropical cyclone Ellie in the Victoria Daly region of the NT.
The assistance, announced by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, this morning, includes help for people whose homes or belongings have been damaged, personal hardship and distress payments, and support for local councils and residents to help with the costs of cleaning up and restoring damaged essential public assets.
Albanese, as Natasha reported earlier, is in Western Australia today surveying damage in flood-affected communities in the Kimberley. We’re expecting him to make some public appearances across WA through the day – we’ll bring you more later on.
The assistance for the NT comes in response to what Albanese described as a “one-in-50-year flood in Timber Creek”.
Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt said:
The federal and Northern Territory governments have made this financial assistance available to support impacted residents with their immediate needs to help them get back on their feet and into their homes.
This funding will also assist councils to cover the costs of clean-up, repairing flood-damaged infrastructure back to a usable condition, and undertaking counter disaster operations.
Information on disaster assistance can be found on the Australian government’s Disaster Assist website, and the Northern Territory government’s emergency information and response Secure NT website.
Labor to expand NSW stamp duty waivers
More first home buyers in NSW will have their stamp duty costs waived under a Labor proposal.
The scheme is an expansion of an existing government program that offers full or partial rebates on new or existing properties for first home buyers.
The opposition leader, Chris Minns, said he wanted more singles, couples and families realising their dream of home ownership.
I understand the stress of trying to purchase your first home.
The existing government program waives stamp duty on new homes valued up to $800,000 and existing homes of up to $650,000.
Labor wants to raise the value cap so any property bought – new or existing – worth up to $800,000 will have stamp duty waived.
Stamp duty will be partly waived on homes worth up to $1m – up from the current limit of $800,000.
Parliamentary Budget Office modelling estimates more than 46,000 people – or 95% of all first home buyers – would be able to access full or partial waivers under the expanded scheme.
The policy would cost $733m over the first four years.
An estimated 30,000 to 46,000 people get relief under the existing program.
Home ownership has become an election issue ahead of NSW heading to the polls in March.
The premier, Dominic Perrottet, has been chasing ambitious reform to make first homes more affordable. In 2020, as treasurer, he proposed to completely phase out stamp duty and replace it with an annual land tax.
Under laws passed in November, first home buyers purchasing a property for up to $1.5m can choose to pay stamp duty or an annual land tax to help save immediate costs on purchases. The tax due on land worth $500,000 would be $3,000 a year.
Labor calls it a “land tax on the family home” and has pledged to repeal it if it is elected in March.
- from AAP
No tsunami threat from Vanuatu earthquake
The Bureau of Meteorology says there is no tsunami threat from the earthquake near Vanuatu.
Inability to operate nuclear submarines without US navy supervision ‘completely overlooked’, Turnbull says
In international affairs, the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull has weighed in on the nuclear submarine drama which flared up over the weekend. As my colleague Paul Karp reported Friday:
Two top US senators urged president Joe Biden not to sell nuclear-powered submarines to Australia, warning it would diminish US national security given the vessels are ‘scarce’.
The intervention confirms the US is under pressure not to sell its submarines before Australia is able to build its own as part of the Aukus alliance – meaning it could be decades before Australia gains nuclear submarines.
The government has played down the leak, with a spokesperson for the Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, saying “the optimal pathway for Australia to acquire nuclear-powered submarines is taking shape, and an announcement remains on track to be made in the first part of this year”.
This morning, Turnbull has taken to Twitter to give his own two cents that any nuclear powered submarines acquired from the US will not be able to be operated or maintained without the supervision of the US Navy. He says it’s a fact that’s been “almost completely overlooked”.
He goes on:
It is surely remarkable that this abdication of Australian sovereignty was effected by the Morrison government and now, apparently, endorsed and adopted by the Albanese government.
Aukus is a worthwhile and natural enhancement of already intimate security and intelligence relationships but the submarine element of the agreement delays vital capabilities and diminishes Australian sovereignty.
It’s an issue Turnbull has written about in his response last year to Hugh White’s Quarterly Essay titled Sleepwalk to War. For more detail on the weekend’s immediate news on subs, read Karp’s full article here:
First time the whole of the West Kimberley has been isolated, authorities say
Haerewa says the Kimberley town of Derby at the centre of the West Kimberley region has become isolated. It comes after the Australian newspaper this morning reported the town risked being cut off from the rest of the country with the only bridge connecting it to the outside world battered.
ABC Radio asked Haerewa what was functioning when it comes to roads and bridges:
There’s nothing functioning at the moment.
We’ve got roads that are cut off between Broome and Derby, which makes Derby – the centre of the West Kimberley – isolated as well.
And we’ve also got the roads between Derby and Fitzroy … trying to get equipment, trying to get medical supplies and food – it just makes it a huge challenge.
Haerewa confirmed trucks are being sent via South Australia and the Northern Territory, with about 18 trailer loads going across as well as the barges coming in to Derby and Broome this week.
This is the first time, I suppose, that the whole of the West Kimberley has been isolated.
The Fitzroy Crossing in particular has been split in half, with several communities on the east side of the river that have to be serviced from the east, and then we can’t even get in with trucks from the west.
So it is a logistical challenge. But with resilience and the innovation that our people have got, we’re going to do the best we can to get as much gear to these people as possible.
Overcrowding in Kimberley evacuation centres
Geoff Haerewa is the president of the Derby and West Kimberley Shire, which has been hit by the worst flooding on record in WA. He’s been speaking to ABC Radio this morning about the situation the community is facing, including overcrowding in evacuation centres:
These evacuation centres are just recreational halls. They don’t have the facilities in there to handle anything up to 200 or 300 people.
It is overcrowding. It is hot, there’s no air conditioning. We don’t have the toilet facilities and the kitchen facilities to deal with a crisis of this size and magnitude.
Haewara says the residents of the region are resilient, dealing with cyclones and flooding every year. However, he says “this one just seems to be a lot worse than normal”.
WA flood victims wait to return home
Ahead of his visit to the flood-affected regions of the Kimberley today, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the WA premier, Mark McGowan, are expected to announce a joint arrangement for disaster recovery funding for flood-hit communities.
More on the situation in the Kimberley from AAP:
Recovery efforts have begun in the desert town of Fitzroy Crossing which has borne the brunt of flood waters now heading west.
Hundreds of residents who fled the region are still waiting to return home.
Food and supplies are being flown in to the cut-off town by the plane load as damage assessment teams look to quickly give people the green light to come home.
The prime minister’s office announced late on Sunday that he was in WA to visit the flood-affected communities alongside the premier, Mark McGowan, the agriculture minister, Murray Watt and WA senator Pat Dodson.
Several other Kimberley communities are expecting flood peaks by the end of today from conditions that have caused the Fitzroy River, which cuts across the region, to swell as wide as 50 kilometres in some parts.
Emergency services have evacuated or relocated 233 people from the area and responded to 54 calls for help.
And a belated happy new year. Natasha May reporting for my first day back on the blog for 2023. If it’s also your first day back at work after a break, I hope it’s a smooth transition back.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will be visiting the communities in the Kimberley devastated by Western Australia’s worst flooding on record. Food and supplies are being flown into cut-off towns as major roads and bridges in the region remain cut off.
Albanese arrived in WA overnight and today will see the damage for himself alongside the premier, Mark McGowan, the federal agriculture minister, Murray Watt, and WA senator Pat Dodson.
In NSW, Labor has promised to abolish stamp duty for some first home buyers. It’s their plan to tackle the housing crisis three months out from the state election, and comes in response to the government’s stamp-duty reform that was introduced and passed through parliament last year.
If you missed it over the weekend, the leader of the opposition, Peter Dutton, penned an open letter, calling on the federal government to provide more concrete information on the Indigenous voice to parliament so voters can make an informed decision.
The search will resume for missing swimmers in Queensland and Victoria both of whom went missing Friday. A 20-year-old still hasn’t been found since he got into trouble swimming at Gunnamatta beach in the Mornington Peninsula. In far-north Queensland the search is ongoing for a 54-year-old tourist who went missing in Mossman Gorge north of Cairns.
Following the warmup tennis tournaments ahead of the Australian Open next week, Novak Djokovic has saved a match point before going on to winning the Adelaide Open.
Let’s get into it!