What we learned today, Tuesday 24 January

That’s where we are going to leave the live blog today, but we’ll continue to bring you the latest from Alice Springs through the evening. Here’s what made news today:

Until tomorrow, I hope you have a pleasant evening.


Review of alcohol ban due next week

The newly announced central Australian regional controller, Dorrelle Anderson, has been asked to complete a review on whether a community-wide opt-out bans on alcohol should be reintroduced. At the moment, there is an opt-in ban. That report will be presented to government by the end of the month.

Here’s how the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, explained it:

[Anderson will] report back on the first of February, to myself and to the chief minister, about the implementation of potential changes to alcohol restrictions in central Australia, including potentially moving to an opt-out situation rather than opt-in as applied.

Albanese said Anderson would “consult with communities to make sure we get the right outcome”. The prime minister also said the government would look to address “long-term” issues in Alice Springs, rather than focusing solely on alcohol and crime.

Today, the mayor certainly put forward that it was an issue of youth crime as well as issues related to alcohol. But also there was issues related to employment and opportunity. Issues that were about service delivery and service hubs and about investment in communities.


NT government may take further action on alcohol

The NT chief minister and the prime minister made it clear in that press conference that further limits on alcohol may be introduced in coming weeks if necessary.

Here’s some more of what Natasha Fyles said:

We all have a role to play and [these measures] will significantly reduce the amount of alcohol. We’ll put them in place for three months and whilst that is in place we will work on other measures, as we have done continually since we came to government in 2016.

We will also work with the commonwealth around a package to support kids and families. We will have two facilities that we will stand up, that will allow children to remain with their families, but to have the support and programs. We will look at alternative models to provide that support and care.

Central Australia is a very special place. The prime minister and myself as chief minister, we won’t give up.


New alcohol restrictions for Alice Springs amid law and order crisis

The Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles, has detailed new alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs in response to an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

For a three-month period, takeaway sales of alcohol will be banned on Monday and Tuesday. Further restrictions will apply on other days between 3pm and 7pm. People will only be allowed one purchase per day.

The federal and state governments will also consider reintroducing an opt-out alcohol ban, with a report to be completed by the end of next week.

Here’s what Fyles told a press conference a short time ago:

I do ask the community to understand that we do not take these decisions lightly. These are measures to reduce the amount of alcohol in our community. It is a decision that police fully support and by reducing that amount of alcohol we will reduce the harm.

The minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, said the government was responding to a demand for action to address alcohol-fuelled violence.

The measures that have been announced today are important and the fact that we have an ongoing process for dealing with incredibly complex issues in central Australia should be commended.

The package that we will work on in the medium to long term is significant and the measures announced today are significant.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has also outlined more money to support police operations and surveillance. The number of assaults in Alice Springs has increased by 42% in the last year. Here’s the PM:

We have $14.2m available for high-visibility police operations, including security in public places, as well as well $2m for CCTV safety lighting to make sure that the public spaces and those areas of street lighting can make a difference.

$5.6 million is available for emergency accommodation as well. This is an issue which has a severe shortfall in this in this town of Alice Springs and that will provide support particularly so that people who are victims of domestic violence have somewhere to go in those circumstances as well.

A new body, the central Australian regional controller, has also been announced to better coordinate federal and territory government action. That will initially be led by Dorrelle Anderson.


Anthony Albanese announces measures to deal with crime in Alice Springs

The prime minister has begun his press conference in Alice Springs alongside the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, and the Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles.

Anthony Albanese has outlined a number of new, immediate restrictions that will be implemented in cooperation with NT authorities.

A new body will be created to coordinate partnerships with between the territory and federal government.

Here’s the prime minister:

We have agreed to establish a central Australian regional controller and that person will be Dorrelle Anderson. Dorrelle is the right person for the job, someone who is very experienced and someone who is familiar with this local community. [She] will have the responsibility to make sure that we get federal and state programs coordinated in the best possible way.


‘We cannot arrest our way out of this,’ NT police boss says

As we wait for the prime minister to begin his press conference in Alice Springs, let’s hear from the Northern Territory police commissioner, Jamie Chalker.

Earlier today, Chalker said he would welcome any federal support, including more police, to deal with a surge in crime and anti-social behaviour. But he strongly rejected the deployment of the defence force to impose martial law:

We cannot arrest our way out of this.

Chalker said failed social policies and alcohol were part of the problem, but he stopped short of calling for a reinstatement of mandatory dry areas.

Here’s what he told ABC radio:

My people are continuing to surge to the line, but where is everybody else?

There’s a lot of services that just simply are not available on the ground in these remote communities.

You add alcohol consumption into the mix and family tensions and then we’re dealing with the fallout of that too.


Pressure builds on Victoria to overhaul bail laws

Legal groups, MPs and the partner of Veronica Nelson are urging the Victorian government not to squander the opportunity to overhaul the state’s bail laws following a major coronial inquest into her death.

Coroner Simon McGregor will on Monday hand down his findings into the death of the 37-year-old Indigenous woman, who was found in her cell at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in January 2020 after making repeated calls for help over the intercom system.

McGregor is also widely expected to recommend changes to the state’s bail laws, which Guardian Australia understands will be accepted by the government if they only concern those accused of low-level offences.


Police appeal for footage of alleged violent attack at Perth’s Juicy music festival

Perth’s Juicy music festival last Friday was plagued by a violent attack, a lack of water and a last-minute change of venue, prompting an outcry on social media.

The Guardian has reached out to the organisers of the hip-hop festival, which has scheduled eight events in major cities across Australia and New Zealand over the summer, but they have not responded.

On Monday, Western Australia police appealed to festivalgoers to come forward with video footage of an alleged attack against a 27-year-old female security guard at the Red Hill Amphitheatre, the festival’s venue, on 20 January between 8.30 and 9pm.

Police said the security officer was assaulted during a disturbance in which the officer was involved in an attempt to separate two groups of people involved in an altercation.

Police allege the security guard was pulled to the ground from behind by her hair and kicked in the ribs during the attack. She was treated by paramedics at the scene.

Nine days before the Perth festival was scheduled to open, the event was forced to change venues from Stadium Park to Red Hill Amphitheatre 28km away, with organisers busing ticket holders to the new venue.

Festivalgoers reported on social media the new venue was ill-equipped to handle the 5,000-strong crowd, with water for drinking and in the portable toilet facilities running dry within two hours of the gates opening, as the temperature in North Perth climbed to 38C.

St John WA confirmed it transported four women to St John of God Midland hospital between 3.30pm and 5.30pm for heat-related issues.

Police have appealed to the public to help identify the alleged attackers of the security guard. They are looking for two females, short in height, with medium builds and brown hair, a male, short in height, with solid build, and shirtless, and another male, tall in height, with a slim build, also shirtless.


Police confirm death at Coogee Beach

New South Wales police have confirmed a boy, believed to be 17 years old, died this afternoon after falling from the cliffs at Coogee beach, Sydney.

Here’s the full statement from police:

About 4.10pm (Tuesday 24 January 2023), emergency services were called to the cliffs at Dunningham Reserve, Coogee Beach, following reports a boy had fallen.

On arrival, officers attached to Eastern Beaches Police Area Command were told a boy – believed to be aged 17 – had fallen approximately 15m.

The teen was treated by NSW Ambulance paramedics; however, he could not be revived and died at the scene.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.


Channel Nine is reporting a 20-year-old man has died after reportedly falling from a cliff at Coogee, Sydney, this afternoon.

We’ll bring you more information on this when we have it.

#BREAKING: A 20-year-old man has died after reportedly falling from a cliff at Coogee around 4pm today. #9News pic.twitter.com/gmqtvofHhF

— 9News Sydney (@9NewsSyd) January 24, 2023

PM to speak shortly

As mentioned earlier, the prime minister is in Alice Springs and will be speaking at a press conference shortly. He’s been meeting with community leaders about an increase in crime and anti-social behaviour.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has called for federal action, including possibly sending the Australian federal police, to restore order, while the local mayor has called for assistance that might include the army.

We’ll bring you Anthony Albanese’s comments shortly.

All Australians deserve to live in safe and healthy communities. I’m here in Alice Springs to meet with community groups, council, the NT Government and frontline services, to hear about the urgent challenges they're facing. pic.twitter.com/ed2aa9IOs4

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 24, 2023

Robodebt relied on ‘flawed assumptions’, says senior official

A senior official involved with robodebt admits the unlawful welfare recovery scheme was underpinned by “flawed assumptions”, AAP reports.

Elizabeth Bundy, who ran the Human Services department’s internal reviews for welfare payments in 2017, appeared at the robodebt royal commission in Brisbane on Tuesday.

Bundy agreed using the controversial practice of income averaging to calculate Centrelink debts could result in inaccurate figures.

But within the department, there was a view that tax office data could be relied upon when employers could not be contacted.

Angus Scott, counsel assisting the royal commission, challenged Bundy on the basis for department decisions:

Whether or not it was top of your mind, you surely knew in 2017 … whether or not there is a basis for an administrative decision was lawful was if there was evidence to support it,” he said.

The answer, Ms Bundy, is there was no evidence was there?

Bundy admitted “in hindsight … it was a flawed assumption”.


NSW rail corporation’s design not effective: auditor general

The controversial New South Wales rail corporation’s design and implementation was not effective, cohesive or transparent, according to the auditor general, Margaret Crawford.

A report released on Tuesday into the Transport Asset Holding Entity, or Tahe, also found the corporation to be an unnecessarily complex system designed to meet the government’s short-term budgetary objectives, with “significant uncertainty” around future financial improvements.

Crawford said:

The design and implementation of Tahe was not effective. The process was not cohesive or transparent. It delivered an outcome that is unnecessarily complex in order to meet the NSW government’s short-term budget objectives, while creating an obligation for future governments to sustain Tahe through continuing investment, and funding of the state-owned rail operators. The ineffective process to design Tahe delivered a model that entails significant uncertainty as to whether the anticipated longer-term financial improvements to the budget position can be achieved or sustained.

Tahe was established in 2020 to transfer the state’s $40bn rail assets out of the hands of the transport department and into a state-owned corporation.

McCubbin protester a Greens staffer

Federal Greens senator, Jordon Steele-John, has revealed the activist who defaced an internationally renowned painting by Frederick McCubbin last week is a member of his staff.

The Art Gallery of Western Australia’s most significant painting, Down on his luck, was defaced with a Woodside logo. It was believed the work was not seriously damaged in the protest, with the painting sitting behind a sheet of clear perspex.

The masterpiece, which has been part of the gallery’s collection since 1896 and was valued at $3m a decade ago, was spraypainted with the oil and gas giant’s logo in yellow on Thursday morning.

The filmed incident then showed the two protesters unfurl an Aboriginal flag on the floor of the gallery and make an acknowledgement of Country, before one of the protesters glued her hand to the gallery wall.

Here’s part of the statement Steele-John posted on Twitter:

Our Greens movement has proud roots in protest and activism, and [Joana Partyka] actions are a staunch reminder of who we are and the power of direct action to draw attention to injustice.

Knowing Jo and her profound reverence of art, when I heard she’d done this action I knew she would have agonised over the decision. I knew that her deep commitment to racial and climate justice meant she couldn’t stay quiet in the face of this important issue.

I also knew that Jo would have taken all steps possible to ensure Frederick McCubbin’s ‘Down On His Luck’ – nor any other artwork – was not damaged in the protest. The art gallery has confirmed this is the case, and it speaks to how responsible and considered Jo is as a person.

SOLIDARITY ✊ I’m so proud to throw my full support behind @burruphub, and to @joanapartyka for her protest at AGWA last week. Jo’s a long-time member of my office team and I’m awed by her courageous actions to bring attention to the destruction of Murujuga’s sacred rock art. pic.twitter.com/BnOyjonSbL

— Senator Jordon Steele-John (@SenatorJordon) January 24, 2023

Economy slows as inflation pressures ease

A slight pullback in labour costs and other business expenses suggests inflation is starting to stabilise, AAP reports.

Evidence of elevated but easing purchase and labour costs and final prices in the NAB’s December business survey suggests inflationary pressures are losing steam.

Despite slowing price and cost growth, price pressures are still robust and likely to feed into another strong inflation print on Wednesday.

For the Reserve Bank, which has been hiking interest rates to drag inflation back within its 2% to 3% target range, signs of easing inflation will be welcome.


Australian councils’ use of carbon offsets under renewed scrutiny

Renewed questions are being asked about Australian councils’ use of international projects to offset local carbon emissions, off the back of a Guardian investigation that found 90% of rainforest credits issued by one leading company were likely worthless.

The research into Verra, a world leader in the rapidly growing voluntary offsets market, found that the majority of rainforest offset credits were likely “phantom credits” and do not represent genuine carbon reductions.

The company strongly disputes the studies’ conclusions, has strenuously defended its projects and challenged the methods used to undermine their credibility, saying they cannot capture the true impact of projects on the ground. They say this explains the difference between the credits it approves and the emission reductions estimated by scientists.


‘Howard-era intervention’ not the answer, NT chief minister says

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is now in Alice Springs, where many locals are fed up with violence and antisocial activity.

Albanese will be meeting with community leaders this afternoon alongside Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, with a press conference expected in coming hours.

Earlier today, Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles, said alcohol and dysfunctional communities were the cause of crime in the town, but another Howard-era intervention, with booze bans and welfare controls, was not the answer.

Here’s what she told Sky News:

I don’t believe we need federal intervention from the police or the military.

I’ve met with police here in Alice Springs today and they’re as frustrated as I am but we won’t give up, we will continue to work on solutions [and] I believe those solutions are within the NT, not from the military.

Fyles said the problems in Alice Springs were multifaceted and decades old but they needed to be solved urgently.



Invasion Day ‘a reminder we are still at war’, says Greens senator

Federal Greens senator Lidia Thorpe has called on all Australians to take to the streets on 26 January, declaring First Nations people are “still at war” and will be until there was a treaty process.

Speaking with Guardian Australia at the launch of the NSW Greens treaty policy launch, the Victorian senator said the First Nations voice to parliament was a “joke” that would only deliver “tokenistic power”.

She said:

The war is not over so we have to continue to fight the war. Every Invasion Day is a reminder that we are still at war. Until that war ends, until we have a treaty in this country, we’ll always be at war, so people need to show up on Invasion Day and they need to stand with us in solidarity.

Thorpe said federal Labor was taking a top-down approach that should not be celebrated.

We don’t need any form of constitutional reform until we have a treaty, and treaty can deliver constitutional reform, but it’s got to be done from the grassroots up and not this top-down approach, which is what Labor seems to like to do.

What is an advisory body that has parliamentary power over it? It’s really a joke. We want seats in parliament that deliver real power, not tokenistic power that is subject to the parliament, and that’s what this will be.

The state Greens are calling for treaty and truth-telling processes, as well as seats in parliament.

NSW Greens spokesperson, Sue Higginson, encouraged people to listen to First Nations people on Invasion Day.

She said:

If there are rallies, or whether there are days of survival celebrations, whatever First Nations communities are doing and asking for, as allies, we should be supporting that.

She indicated the state branch of the party would have a formal stance on the voice process later in the year.


More reaction as WA legislates climate target

We’re getting some more reaction to the WA government’s plan to legislate emission targets later this year.

My colleague Graham Readfearn has the latest from Jess Panegyres, the head of clean transitions at Greenpeace Australia Pacific. Panegyres said the state government needed an urgent plan to move away from gas to meet its goals. Major expansions in gas production, particularly at Woodside’s Burrup Hub, was jeopardising the state’s clean energy future, she said:

Gas is a fossil fuel that drives dangerous climate change. The McGowan government has already vowed a transition away from coal by 2030, and now it’s time for Western Australia to move away from dirty gas projects, and make meaningful headway on their new and ambitious clean future targets.

Conservation group Environs Kimberley said while it agreed on the scale of the climate challenge, the new laws must lock-in immediate emissions reductions and not allow further increases. Environs Kimberley director, Martin Pritchard, said:

Let’s be clear about this, unless the new legislation leads to a reduction in emissions in the immediate short term, followed up with continued, accelerating reductions, it will be meaningless.

The bill must not just legislate the point target of net zero by 2050. It must also cap emissions at current levels and require science-based interim targets to be set for our state, with a carbon budget.


Severe thunderstorm warning for Melbourne

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a weather warning for many parts of Melbourne, with severe thunderstorms expected across the city.

Here’s the statement:

The Bureau of Meteorology warns that, at 4:00 pm, severe thunderstorms were detected on the weather radar near Essendon, Melbourne Airport, Wonga Park and Springvale. These thunderstorms are moving towards the east to southeast. They are forecast to affect Coburg, Lilydale and Rowville by 4:30 pm and Footscray, Kew and Melbourne City by 5:00 pm. Heavy rainfall that may lead to flash flooding and damaging winds are likely.

And as this tweet shows, Geelong has also been affected:

Not so long ago in my part of Geelong, 3216. Very intense thunderstorm and rainfall. @VicStormChasers @StormHour @BOM_Vic #thunderstorms #StormHour #storm #Geelong #VicWeather #rain #janesweather pic.twitter.com/cZLFSnMXFU

— Tracey (@aussiestorm65) January 24, 2023


Victorian beach closed to protect seal

There’s been a lot of interest in the enormous elephant seal who caused his fair share of havoc off Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay.

On Friday the seal was seen crossing roads in Port Lonsdale. Conservationists say he appeared to be spooked by his reflection in the windows of a service station, which were subsequently smashed.

The seal is now back at Camerons Bight beach at Blairgowrie. The beach and the car park have been closed by authorities to give him some much needed rest.

Here’s the statement from the conservation regulator:

Elephant seals are known to visit and rest on Victorian beaches and can become defensive if approached by humans or animals.

The public is urged to stay away from the Camerons Bight Beach at Blairgowrie and obey all signage and fenced off areas.

Foreshore Reserve Rangers and Conservation Regulator Authorised Officers will be monitoring and patrolling the area to ensure beachgoers respect the closures.

People must keep a minimum distance of 30 metres away from seals, 50 metres if they have a dog, and further if instructed by authorities.

Just days after causing a commotion in Point Lonsdale, a Southern elephant seal has popped up again on the other side of Port Phillip Bay to explore the beach around Blairgowrie. #9News pic.twitter.com/PU0vjqav0d

— 9News Melbourne (@9NewsMelb) January 23, 2023


Will interest rates increase next month?

Good question. Our economics correspondent Peter Hannam has been looking into it.

Ahead of the December quarter CPI figures due on Wednesday, investors indicated there's about a 60% chance the RBA will lift its cash rate another 25bp on 7 Feb to 3.35%. After that, the rate may peak just below 3.6%, they estimate. pic.twitter.com/qEchYhWN6b

— @phannam@mastodon.green (@p_hannam) January 24, 2023

Bowen to promote clean energy sector in Europe

Hot on the heels of our story that Penny Wong and Richard Marles will head to France next week for the first “2+2” meeting with their counterparts since the Aukus rift, Chris Bowen has announced he is also off to Europe.

Bowen, the climate change and energy minister, said he would use the 10-day visit Europe and the United Arab Emirates “to promote investment in Australia’s clean energy sector, strengthening energy security ties, and furthering bilateral climate and energy partnerships”.

He will meet with counterparts, industry and private sector leaders in Abu Dhabi, Vienna, Berlin, Rotterdam, Brussels and Paris (Both the Australian and French sides have cited climate action as an area in which the two sides can work together, after the new Labor government increased the 2030 emissions reduction target).

The statement from Bowen’s office said:

Discussions will include a focus on energy security with clean sources of energy in response to Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, which has caused the global energy crisis, and cooperation to urgently tackle the climate crisis.

Minister Bowen will also engage with business groups and prospective investors to position Australia as a renewable energy superpower by highlighting the benefits of investing in Australia’s clean energy industries and developing strong, secure clean energy supply chains, as well as partnering on cutting-edge clean energy research and development.

The statement said Bowen would meet in Abu Dhabi with COP28 President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Sultan al-Jaber “to support efforts for this year’s COP and lay the groundwork for an impactful COP31, which Australia is bidding to host in partnership with the Pacific in 2026”.

Bowen said:

I am looking forward to promoting Australia’s clean energy ambition in Europe and the UAE, and meeting with energy leaders to discuss their responses to the global energy crisis.

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is expected to be acting minister for climate change and energy while Bowen is away.

For more on Wong and Marles’ trip to France and the UK, see this story:

Cyclone in the Timor Sea now less likely

Some good news for those nervously watching a tropical low off the coast of Western Australia. The Bureau of Meteorology believes it is now less likely to develop into a cyclone.

The tropical low now sits in the Timor Sea north of #WA. It is expected to continue to move westwards before making a southerly turn later this week. Current model guidance suggests a decreased risk of this developing into a cyclone, though we will continue to monitor it closely. pic.twitter.com/KBxYddD33A

— Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia (@BOM_WA) January 24, 2023


Authorities to discuss dangers of dating apps

Dating apps are being weaponised by criminals, including alarming rates of revenge porn and sexual extortion, with politicians and police joining forces to stamp it out, AAP reports.

More than 3 million Australians use dating apps in the hopes of finding love, but too often discover something much darker.

A roundtable meeting on Wednesday will bring together state and federal ministers, dating app representatives and police.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant warns there are dangers in using the apps, particularly for women and gender-diverse people:

Through our own complaints schemes, we have certainly seen this borne out in how dating sites can be weaponised by offenders.

Today, we are dealing with crippling levels of reports about sexual extortion.

It’s clear online dating apps and websites must do more to make their platforms and services safer and this roundtable is an important next step in finding solutions to these problems.


Western Australia to legislate climate targets

Emissions reduction targets will be legislated in Western Australia later this year in a move the McGowan government says will “establish a framework” to reach net zero by 2050.

The legislation will put into law the government’s 2030 target to reduce emissions by 80% below levels in 2020 and create a statutory requirement to set interim emissions reduction targets and develop strategies to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

In a step that mirrors the federal government’s climate legislation, passed last year, the new law will include a requirement for the climate change minister to report annually to parliament on progress towards the targets.

Climate and environment groups welcomed the move, but said the legislation contrasted with the government’s support for the expansion of offshore gas production.

The climate action minister, Reece Whitby, said in a statement:

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our lifetime. We need to take decisive action this decade. This legislation will help accelerate our transition to net zero emissions in a responsible and achievable way.

A new adaptation strategy will be released this year to help enhance our State’s climate resilience and ensure adaptation is reflected in Government decision-making.


Until tomorrow, I leave you in the excellent hands of Henry Belot!

Monique Ryan calls on government to give ‘definitive’ answer for 2,000 refugees caught in visa limbo

The independent MP for Kooyong, Monique Ryan, has called on the Albanese government to fulfil its election promise of getting rid of temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas for refugees and instead granting permanent visas.

The Albanese government was elected on an undertaking to rid this country of temporary protection and safe haven enterprise visas for refugees.

Eight months later, almost 20000 individuals are still waiting for a definitive answer from our govt.

They deserve better. https://t.co/f2tfUOAgG6

— Dr Monique Ryan MP (@Mon4Kooyong) January 23, 2023

You can read what that means for individuals like Zaki Haidari here:


Traditional owners urge PM to address 'chronic and systemic’ neglect of remote communities leading to Alice Springs crisis

Lhere Artepe, the representative body for the traditional owners of Alice Springs, has released a statement urging the PM to “look deeply” at the issues that plague Central Australia when he arrives this afternoon.

The native title holders say the situation is “truly out of control“, with people coming into town from remote communities “where they live in Third World conditions with no future and little hope.”

If [Albanese] looks properly he will see that the current crisis in Alice Springs arises from the chronic and systemic neglect of our remote communities over many decades. He will see things that should shame our nation, the Parliament and its elected representatives.

As Territory Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker said today: ‘there is something inherently broken at the front end’ and that you cannot ‘police away’ the problems. What Commissioner Chalker knows is that it is the long term failure of government policy in remote Australia which is seeing the destruction of remote communities by under-investment, lack of government attention and a non-existent economic base all of which has led to the flight of individuals on to the streets of Alice Springs.

Lhere Artepe says alcohol is a big problem and a crackdown is needed on supply.

With alcohol available from 10am in pubs and from 2pm in bottle shops in the centre of town and with town camps now free-grogging zones, the situation is truly out of control, and has been for many years.

The Arrernte people are pained that we do not have the capacity to help our brothers and sisters, many of whom are related to us by kin and ceremony.

We are hurt by the negative images and stereotyping of all Aboriginal people.

We are harmed by the violence and alcohol abuse in our midst.

These problems cannot be talked away. They are real and require a massive undertaking from all stakeholders.

We urge the Prime Minister and Chief Minister to work with us as the traditional owners of Alice Springs and help us turn the tide with serious action.


Severe thunderstorms heading for greater Geelong

The bureau of meteorology has updated its severe thunderstorm warning for Victoria, now including the greater Geelong area.

Greater Melbourne, parts of the Mallee, Wimmera, South West and Central districts were all included in the initial warning half an hour ago.

The Severe Thunderstorm Warning has been updated for greater Geelong with new storm cells pushing closer to Geelong.
Warning at: https://t.co/HLs2UYFQyQ pic.twitter.com/j53iszWcMb

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) January 24, 2023


Jelena Dokic calls for better patrolling of online bullying

Former world No 4 tennis player, now commentator, Jelena Dokic, has opened up about the online abuse she has woken up to each morning for the past two weeks of working at the Australian Open, largely centred around her weight.

She writes in an op-ed for the Nine newspapers:

No matter how hard I try to work on my commentary, my interviews, my reporting on the tennis, for many trolls my weight disqualifies me from having an opinion – I should simply stop eating and be a free target for their dark and evil abuse.

Not a chance. That’s not who I am. I’m stronger than all of that. I’m a survivor.

… No matter how often you read their abuse it makes you sad. Even when you have as thick a skin as I do, when someone tells you that you should kill yourself you wonder how humanity can conceive of such thoughts and how society allows platforms where such thoughts can be shared, unpoliced and unpatrolled.

Dokic says she wants to be part of the education about how the next generation can cope with online bullying and finding ways to make people accountable for their online behaviour.


Severe thunderstorm warning for greater Melbourne and regional Victoria

Sever thunderstorms could be on the way for Victoria as well as NSW and Queensland.

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued warnings for severe thunderstorms for parts of the Mallee, Wimmera, South West and Central districts, as well as for parts of greater Melbourne. Heavy rainfall and damaging winds are also risks, the bureau says.

For people in parts of Central, Mallee, South West and Wimmera Forecast Districts.
Stay informed: https://t.co/T05ONtwAm3
Severe thunderstorms have developed this afternoon. pic.twitter.com/R3uaKmUAe8

— VicEmergency (@vicemergency) January 24, 2023

⚠️Update: Severe Thunderstorm Warning for heavy rainfall. Stay up to date at https://t.co/HLs2UYFQyQ⚠️ pic.twitter.com/ltxw62D852

— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@BOM_Vic) January 22, 2023


Ampol to install chargers for electric trucks

Electric delivery trucks may clear another speed bump to adoption after Ampol revealed plans to install commercial chargers for larger vehicles at its Australian service stations, AAP reports.

The petrol giant announced a partnership with local mobility firm SEA Electric on Tuesday, revealing the companies would also work together to build destination chargers and commercial depots to support the technology.

The deal is one of several announced by Ampol in Australia to boost its electric vehicle-charging network, which is due to reach 120 locations by the end of the year.

Ampol energy general manager, James Myatt, said the new AmpCharge announcement was designed to encourage Australian businesses to adopt zero-emission vehicles.

We know our business customers are looking for lower emissions solutions and want to ensure their investment in commercial electric vehicles can be supported with efficient and reliable charging technologies.

Charging stations developed under the deal will be located across Ampol’s 1,900 Australian service stations.

The company has only rolled out five AmpCharge charging stations on its properties so far – in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia – but has committed to installing chargers at 120 sites by December 2023 in a program partly funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.


Elephant seal that caused havoc in Victorian seaside town reappears at another beach

Why did a 500kg elephant seal break the glass of a Victorian service station on Friday? And why has the seal come ashore again today?

Is it the same seal known as Henry who used to frequent the same Mornington Peninsula area in the early 2000s?

Photo of the 500kg elephant seal seen on the weekend at Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia after breaking windows in Port Lonsdale last Friday.
Photo of the 500kg elephant seal seen on the weekend at Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia after breaking windows in Port Lonsdale last Friday. Photograph: Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action

For the answers, Rafqa Touma has the full story:


Thunderstorm warnings for NSW and Queensland

The Bureau of Meteorology is warning that severe thunderstorms are possible for New South wales and Queensland’s southern and south-eastern interior.

#Thunderstorms may affect much of #NSW today. #SevereThunderstorms are possible for some locations, producing heavy #rainfall, damaging #wind gusts and large #hail. A Severe Thunderstorm #Warning may need to be issued. Current NSW warning list: https://t.co/OMpMWaTLbQ pic.twitter.com/k2B7RUvlb9

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) January 24, 2023

Thunderstorms forecast #QLD 24 Jan: Severe Thunderstorms possible in the southern and southeastern interior incl #Toowomba #Warwick #Dalby #Roma #Charleville and inland #SEQLD. Heavy rainfall, damaging winds & large hail are possible. Warnings when issued https://t.co/5lziPnXn5P pic.twitter.com/F8MN7slJPO

— Bureau of Meteorology, Queensland (@BOM_Qld) January 23, 2023


Search suspended for missing NT woman as criminal investigation continues

A two-week search for a Northern Territory woman missing in central Australia has been suspended, AAP reports.

Grave fears are held for the welfare of Angie Fuller who was last seen in Alice Springs on January 9 driving a red Toyota Corolla.

The car was found abandoned the following day on the Tanami Road, north-west of the town.

Police used drones, a helicopter, all-terrain vehicles and foot patrols to scour almost 400 sq kms but found no trace of the 30-year-old mother of two.

NT’s assistant police commissioner Michael White said a criminal investigation running in parallel to the search would continue.

No charges have been laid.

White said today:

The search and rescue component has been suspended this morning however, police will continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, which is being treated as suspicious.

Police have spoken to all persons who are known to have last had contact with Angie.

A number of corflute signs are being placed around the Alice Springs region, appealing to any members of the public who may have information relating to the matter.

Police said previously that Fuller had not accessed her bank accounts since going missing and had not engaged with social media of any kind.

They also spoke with a man who claimed to be her boyfriend in a video posted on social media in the days after she went missing. The man is not accused of any wrongdoing.

In the video, the man said the pair were run off the road and then shot at by a gang before fleeing into the bush.

The search area was unusually green because of heavier rain over recent months and while that had thrown up additional challenges it gave police hope that Ms Fuller could have water available.


Penny Wong meets with Uyghur community groups to discuss human rights

Foreign minister Penny Wong has sat down to discuss Uyghur human rights last week with Uyghur-Australian human rights activists and community groups.

Grateful to discuss Uyghur human rights with @SenatorWong along with other Uyghur community groups. This is the first high level meeting between the Uyghur community and a Foreign Minister, and we thank the Minister for hearing our concerns and sharing her insights. pic.twitter.com/0AvOnMsTrx

— Inty Elham (@Intyforsturt) January 22, 2023

This comes almost two months after Uyghur community members urged the Albanese government not to sideline human rights, or forget the persecution of minorities in China, in Australia’s diplomatic reset with the country – and expressed disappointment at not securing a meeting with Penny Wong at the time.


Sophie Scamps sponsoring men sentenced to death in Iran

The independent MP Sophie Scamps has publicly announced her political sponsorship of three Iranian citizens sentenced to death in their country.

My letter to the Iranian Ambassador. The three men I am sponsoring #saeedyaghoubi, #EbrahimNarouei & #KambizKharot have been sentenced to death following sham trials, abduction & torture. I call for each to receive legal counsel & the ability to correspond with them #auspol #Iran pic.twitter.com/LFV1ygjROv

— Dr Sophie Scamps MP (@SophieScamps) January 23, 2023


Thanks for your attention on the blog this Tuesday morning. Rafqa Touma will be with you for a little bit.


Queensland youth reoffending rate highest in nation

More than half of young offenders subject to sentence supervision in Queensland were back in contact with the criminal justice system within 12 months, new data shows.

The Productivity Commission numbers come as the state government pledges new laws designed to drive down youth crime will be a priority when parliament returns next month.

Close to 57% of Queenslanders aged 10 to 16 at the time of release returned to some form of sentence supervision within a year in 2019-20, the figures released today show.

The rate is the highest among all jurisdictions , but continued a downward trend over the previous two years that peaked at 65% in 2017-18.

The figures also show Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were vastly over represented in Queensland youth detention centres in 2021-22.

For 10 to 13 year olds, the rate was almost 42 children per 10,000, compared to 1.1 for non indigenous children.

In the 14 to 17-year-old age group, the figure was almost 267 per 10,000, compared to 14.2.

The rates are calculated from the number of young people on an average day against the estimated population as of the end of the year.

Deputy premier Steven Miles today said youth detention was an opportunity to intervene in the cycle of reoffending and “help those young people turn their lives around”.

However, because of delays in the court system, Miles said many offenders were spending so much time on remand, they had already served their penalty by the time they were sentenced.

He said:

That’s one of the reasons we want to see sentences occur faster, so that our staff in those youth detention centres can deliver those programs. When those programs get completed, they are effective, they do help young people change their lives.

Proposed changes to the system will make it more effective, he said.

- via AAP


New bridge to be built at flood ravaged Fitzroy Crossing

When floods devastated the Kimberley region in Western Australia, the collapse of the bridge at Fitzroy Crossing essentially cut off the region’s only transport route.

Visiting the site, the emergency management minister, Murray Watt, said “it looks like one of those bridges that has had a big bomb dropped on it.”

Since the state’s record breaking flood, emergency measures have been put in place to keep the Kimberley supplied, including road trains taking detours up the middle of Australia.

The Western Australian government yesterday confirmed the bridge will be rebuilt bigger and better, AAP reports.

In the meantime, a barge system will be implemented to allow traffic through while a low-level floodway crossing is built over the next four months.

The state government also announced it would make additional subsidised flights available between Broome and Derby, which has been left with no alternative public transport.

Commonwealth rent assistance drops, report shows

Federal government spending on rental assistance has dropped markedly since the height of pandemic restrictions, a new report has shown.

The Productivity Commission today released some of the first tranches of its annual report on government services for 2021-2022, including its report on housing and homelessness.

It showed the government spent $4.9bn on commonwealth rent assistance (CRA), its largest private rental assistance program, in the year, down from a five-year high of $5.5bn in the previous year.

But rental stress is still a huge problem, particularly among people on low incomes: 52.5% of lower income households renting in the private sector were putting more than 30% of their household income towards housing.

It’s a figure all the more shocking for the fact that it’s been largely unchanged, if not slightly increasing, for more than a decade.

Of the low-income households receiving CRA at the end of the last financial year, 71.9% would have experienced rental stress without it, and 43.9% were still under rental stress despite getting the payment.

Homeless people who sought help finding accommodation from services but did not receive it increased nationally by 1.6 percentage points to 33.9% – another bump on what my colleague Chris Knaus reported were near-record highs back in 2021.

This year’s report didn’t clearly break that down by state, but last year it showed the problem was particularly acute in New South Wales and Queensland.

Few service providers have responded to the report so far, but Mission Australia came out early this morning with a statement from one of its executives, Marion Bennett, who called for the federal government to be bold on the housing issue:

Recently, the Prime Minister said, ‘extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures’ when announcing intervention in the domestic coal and gas markets to tackle soaring cost-of-living with energy bills.

I call on our Prime Minister to maintain that sense of urgency and boldness with the cost-of-living pressures around housing when developing the National Housing and Homelessness Plan and negotiating the next housing and homelessness funding agreement with the States and Territories.


Albanese to land in Alice Springs later today

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is expected to arrive in Alice Springs later today to meet with local community groups amid concerns about worsening crime and delinquency in the Northern Territory town.

Albanese is going to Alice Springs this afternoon, Guardian Australia understands, expected after 2pm local time.

He’ll meet with groups including the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress – a leading health service in the territory. There’s also likely to be a press conference later in the day. We’ll bring you more as it happens.

Members of Labor’s First Nations caucus are expected to join Albanese; including Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney, special envoy for reconciliation Pat Dodson, assistant minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy, and Lingiari MP Marion Scrymgour.


How roo-d: boxing kangaroos crash family’s tent

Two boxing kangaroos have crashed into the tent of some unsuspecting campers on NSW’s mid north coast.

Nine News have shared the video from Trial Bay Gaol Campground:

IN-TENTS FIGHT: Two boxing kangaroos have crashed into a sleeping family's tent at Trial Bay Gaol Campground on NSW's Mid North Coast. It's believed the pair were fighting over a female #straya@nbnnews @9NewsSyd @9NewsAUS pic.twitter.com/SmKaXMcRs2

— Olivia Grace-Curran (@livgracecurran) January 23, 2023


NSW records its biggest intake of junior doctors

The medical graduates starting work in New South Wales hospitals this week are the biggest cohort on record, according to the state department of health.

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard said the almost 1,100 interns will be a “tremendous” boost to their colleagues already in the hospitals who have worked through the last three years of the pandemic.

The new interns will also help the bush health crisis, with almost one third (396) of the positions in regional Australia.

The minister for regional health, Bronnie Taylor, said the 176 positions available through the rural preferential recruitment pathway was an increase of 13 from last year.


Albanese discloses helicopter flight to Lindsay Fox lunch

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has updated his register of interests.

Albanese disclosed that on 7 January he received a “helicopter flight from Avalon to Portsea return to attend private lunch courtesy of Lindsay Fox“.

The Coalition went on the attack about the flight earlier in January accusing him of “prioritising billionaires over flood victims” by not travelling to the Kimberley until two days after.

Earlier this month, when asked by reporters what had been discussed at the event, Albanese said: “I have private meetings all the time. And I have private meetings which are private meetings.”

Albanese had attended Fox’s house with Daniel Andrews, who said said it was a “social event” and rejected any suggestions “there was anything inappropriate” as “simply wrong”.

Albanese has also declared on 18 January he received tickets to see Elton John in concert in Sydney from Allianz Australia Insurance Ltd.

Anthony Albanese (right) speaks to businessman Lindsay Fox in Paris in July 2022.
Anthony Albanese (right) speaks to businessman Lindsay Fox in Paris in July 2022. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


US could seize ex-marine’s Australian properties if convicted of training Chinese pilots

The US government is seeking to seize two country properties in Australia from former fighter pilot Daniel Duggan if he is convicted, as it argues in court for his extradition on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering.

The US alleges Duggan, a former US citizen now naturalised Australian, trained Chinese fighter pilots to land fighter jets on aircraft carriers, in defiance of arms trafficking laws, and engaged in a conspiracy to launder money.

Duggan, who maintains his innocence and is fighting his extradition, is in custody. His case returns to court next month.

Read more:


WA flood victims targeted by online scammers

Flood victims in Western Australia’s Kimberley region are being targeted by a social media scam promising thousands of dollars in relief funding, AAP reports.

The scam uses an image of a Serbian politician and contains a link to a phoney Facebook page promising victims $20,000 but actually intended to steal personal information.

Eventually, the scammers request fees be paid up-front to receive the funds.

WA commerce minister Sue Ellery says the messages, in order to look genuine, appear to come from a friend who is encouraging the target to contact an agent because they and others have already received the payment.

She said:

We strongly advise people in flood-affected areas to be extremely careful and not click on links or give out personal information such as bank details in response to random messages received via text or social media.

It is unbelievable that criminals have sought to exploit vulnerable people at a time when many of them have lost everything.

Ellery said there had also been reports of social media commentary about relief funding from the “Australian Flooding Agency”, when no such agency exists.

People were also being targeted by fake charities set up to steal money from would-be donors.

In one instance, an Instagram account posing as a legitimate registered charity in Fitzroy Crossing was asking donors to buy Amazon e-gift cards.

WA commerce minister Sue Ellery.
WA commerce minister Sue Ellery. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP


‘I’m not a seat warmer for anyone’: Dutton

Mitchell also put to Dutton comments floating in Victoria that he is “just warming the seat for Josh Frydenberg”.

Dutton says he wants Frydenberg to win back the seat of Kooyong, but quashes the idea of his own leadership being a stop-gap measure.

I want Josh to come back into parliament. I think he’s our best chance of winning Kooyong at the next election because I don’t think the member that’s been elected there has a great affinity with her electorate at all.

And I intend to spend a lot more time in Victoria. Speaking to potential candidates, including Josh, who is a great loss to our party.

I’m not a seat warmer for anyone. I’ve been in parliament for 21 years. John Howard identified me after my first term and I’ve been on the front bench since 2004. I’ve had a number of portfolios, I don’t give up, I stand up for what I believe in. And in this game, you can sit on the fence and be popular. I take the path to stand up and fight for what I believe in.

Is your seat warm? Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton in 2021.
Is your seat warm? Josh Frydenberg and Peter Dutton in 2021. Photograph: Sam Mooy/Getty Images


Dutton denies being ‘toxic’ in Victoria after state election loss

Peter Dutton has spoken to Melbourne’s 3AW radio as part of his visit to Victoria. Host Neil Mitchell doesn’t shy away from asking about the opposition leader’s reputation in the state.

Dutton defends himself, saying people often express their surprise at meeting him and denies he was personally responsible for the Coalition’s loss in the November state election.


Even your own Liberal people say ‘Peter Dutton is a bit toxic’. What do you do to overcome that?


I think a lot of hype goes around politics and the reality is when you meet people for most people they say, ‘Geez, you’re nothing like we thought you were’. I think people will see more of me and they can make their own judgements instead of listening to social media and people forming their judgments based on something Anthony Albanese or Mark Dreyfus says about me.


Except your own mates are saying in the Liberal party here. I mean, in the previous election they just about blamed you for losing over accusing Victoria of having African gangs.


I’m not sure that’s quite the case … I don’t think we (the federal Liberals) featured in that result, not in the slightest bit.

Dutton says now Victoria is a “huge opportunity to pick up seats, it’s a low watermark”, joking he is a “glass half full” person.


Free RATs now available from Victorian local councils

The Victorian health department says most local councils are participating in a scheme that allows people to collect free Covid rapid tests, as many times as they need.

From today, all Victorians can collect free rapid antigen tests from participating local councils to help with early detection and treatment of COVID.

Everyone can collect up to 2 packs of 5 RATs per person, and 2 packs per household member. You do not need a Medicare card. pic.twitter.com/DfYWMzJ2XH

— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) January 23, 2023

You can collect RATs as many times as you need. If you run out of RATs, you are welcome to collect more to make sure you are prepared.

— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) January 23, 2023


Peak body welcomes ratification of UN higher education treaty

The peak body representing independent education providers has welcomed the Australian government’s acceptance of the first global treaty in higher education.

The Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia (ITECA) said the Unesco Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education, accepted by the education minister today, would ensure students who studied with Australian institutions had their qualifications recognised internationally.

The ITECA’s chief executive Troy Williams said:

We can be proud of the quality offered by independent tertiary education providers. This new treaty provides a platform for the qualifications awarded by them to be recognised ... in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner worldwide.

With provisions on non-traditional learning modes, the Global Convention also facilitates the recognition of qualifications, prior learning and study periods earned remotely.

The Convention provides a clear framework for recognition of qualifications delivered online and backs Australia’s robust recognition of prior learning framework. In many respects, the Convention plays to the strengths of Australia’s tertiary education system.

The new treaty will be considered at the ITEC23 International Education Symposium convened on 8 June.


Man drowns at Sydney’s Curl Curl beach

A man has died after being pulled unconscious from the water in Sydney’s northern beaches, AAP reports.

Emergency services rushed to Curl Curl beach after a man was pulled from the water just after 7.30am on Tuesday.

Paramedics attempted to revive the man, however he died at the scene, NSW Police said.

The man is believed to be in his 60s, however he has not been formally identified.

Northern Beaches police are investigating the circumstances of the man’s drowning.

A report will be prepared for the coroner.

The entrance to Curl Curl beach.
The entrance to Curl Curl beach. Photograph: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


NT police commissioner ‘completely’ rejects calls for military intervention in Alice Springs

The Northern Territory police commissioner, Jamie Chalker, has also been speaking to ABC Radio Darwin and says the commonwealth “have to be” at the table for what he says are crime problems which go beyond Alice Springs.

Townsville is suffering significant social order issues as well. The Kimberley are going through these challenges as well. So I don’t think it’s as simple as being a Northern Territory point of failing. There is something acutely underlying here.

I think we need to see the key agency leaders of the commonwealth agencies at the table with the CEOs of Northern Territory government agencies so that we can truly review all of the data, all of the service delivery models in place, and see how we turn the tide and take Aboriginal people with us, not continue to see policies that have been imposed upon them right back to the 2007 Northern Territory leadership response.

Chalker says the commonwealth must be at the table because “they’re an inherent part of the Northern Territory” being a territory, not a state.

But Chalker says he “completely” rejects the calls that have come from leaders for the ADF to be called in – last week Alice Springs mayor Matt Paterson told ABC News they needed immediate help “whether that is the AFP [Australian Federal Police], whether that is the army, or whether that is just resources from another jurisdiction”.

Chalker says:

We welcome the contribution of all services. But when there’s a mention that the ADF should be deployed with a suggestion that it’s martial law, I reject that completely. Again, we’re not going to arrest our way out of that. I’m not sure that the imagery of Australian soldiers, who are here to serve their country, dealing with First Nations people in a way that sees them having to effect arrests of them and place them in police vehicles and the like is the imagery that we really want for Australia.


Man critically injured in Melbourne fire

A man is in hospital under police guard after a house fire in Melbourne’s north, AAP reports.

Emergency services were called to the Rhodes Parade unit in Pascoe Vale about 4.50am on Tuesday, following reports a man had smashed a window.

Police then received reports there was a fire at the property and a man was seriously injured.

The man was taken to hospital with critical injuries. He is under police guard.

A woman, believed to be known to the man, escaped injury.

Detectives are investigating the fire, which they believe was suspicious.


Australia ratifies UN’s higher education treaty

Australia has joined the first international treaty on higher education in a bid to improve global mobility for students after pandemic disruptions.

Signatories of the new Unesco Global Convention on the Recognition of Qualifications concerning Higher Education will have their qualifications recognised in a “fair, transparent and non-discriminatory” manner worldwide.

The treaty entered into force in December last year when Iceland and Andorra became the 19th and 20th member states to ratify the Convention.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said Australia’s participation in the convention would encourage greater collaboration with other countries and advance Australia’s global competitiveness in higher education.

It follows Covid-19 disruptions to education access, highlighting the need for innovation in the sector beyond traditional in-person and in-country models of learning.


Australia’s ratification of the Global Convention is a significant education milestone.

The 1.4 million students who study at our universities each year can now have even greater confidence that their Australian qualification, whether undertaken onshore, offshore or online, will be recognised in other countries, helping them to access higher education abroad, as well as pursue greater employment opportunities.

Students at the University of Sydney.
Students at the University of Sydney. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP


NT police commissioner urges leaders to make ‘solid plan’ for Alice Springs

Here’s what the Northern Territory police commissioner, Jamie Chalker, told ABC Radio this morning:

I understand that the prime minister is travelling there. I know the chief minister is heading down there this morning as well. I think it’s a positive that both are going down there to see what is occurring on the ground and doing a lot of listening.

But of course, what I would urge is that I really need to be able to have the opportunity to meet with leaders of Australian government agencies, as well as CEOs of prominent territory government agencies, to put in place a really solid plan working with traditional owners and Aboriginal leaders across the Northern Territory.


Eyes on Alice Springs ahead of Albanese’s visit

A few sources are reporting that Anthony Albanese will visit Alice Springs today, including the Northern Territory police, but for now the prime minister’s office hasn’t confirmed that.

We’ve asked Albanese’s team this morning if he will be visiting the town, but there’s no official update available at this time.

Often, public appearances are only confirmed by a politician’s office a few hours before they are scheduled to occur, so that’s not entirely unusual. But we’ll give you more info when it arrives.

As reported earlier, Bill Shorten said Albanese would be visiting Alice in the near future, while the NT police commissioner earlier told Radio National he understood it would occur today.

The NT Police Commissioner Jamie Chalker tells @PatsKarvelas that he believes Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be heading to Alice Springs today @RNBreakfast #auspol

— Julia Holman (@JulesHolman) January 23, 2023


Echidna rescued on wakeboard at Lake Eildon

A wakeboarder, Brendan Paterson, has rescued an echidna he found stranded in Lake Eildon in Victoria.

Paterson told Melbourne’s 3AW radio station he first thought it was a struggling upside down turtle but as he approached on his wakeboard he realised it was an echidna.

I slowly approached with the board and let it climb aboard. As it climbed on, it took a big breath of air and jumped on, cruised around a little bit, made sure it had a rest.

You can watch the video of the rescue, as the echidna makes its safe passage from board to land here.


System to protect Australia’s threatened species from development ‘more or less worthless’, study finds

Decisions by environment ministers spanning 15 years to either wave through projects or impose stricter conditions to protect threatened species made no actual difference to the amount of habitat destroyed, according to a new study.

More than half of habitat cleared to build infrastructure, mines, urban developments and for agriculture came after a minister had decided projects would have a “non-significant” impact on species and habitat, the study says.

When I was chair of the Biological Diversity Advisory Committee (c2001) I was very worried that the EPBC Act was not doing what we had hoped - protecting the habitat of threatened species - I asked for a review which I was denied. Over 20 years later … https://t.co/5c2UwTBL9d

— Hugh Possingham 💉💉💉 💉 (@HugePossum) January 23, 2023

Full story here:

Support for Indigenous voice is falling, poll shows

Public support for an Indigenous voice to parliament is falling as the federal opposition continues to call for more detail on the referendum proposal, AAP reports.

A Resolve Political Monitor survey, published in the Nine newspapers today, showed 47% of voters backed a plan to enshrine an Indigenous voice in the constitution.

The figure, based on more than 3,000 responses during a month from late December, was down from the 53% who supported the move in August and September.

Some 30% said they didn’t back the constitutional change, up from 29% in the previous survey.

A growing number of people were undecided, with the cohort swelling from 19% to 23%.

The survey comes as the opposition ramps up its attacks on the government over a claimed lack of detail on the proposed body.

Indigenous leader and leading “yes” campaigner Noel Pearson yesterday dismissed the call for more detail as a diversion, adding that a referendum failure would permanently harm reconciliation efforts.

Our Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam, has more on this issue:


Morning Mail

Our Morning Mail is covering all the headlines here at home as well as what’s happening overseas as news continues to come in from the mass shooting in California, with the dance hall worker who disarmed the shooter speaking to media and describing the harrowing encounter.

Andrew Bragg wants to support voice, but says it needs to be ‘safe’

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg has spoken to ABC radio this morning about the Indigenous voice to parliament. Yesterday he penned an op-ed for the Australian newspaper saying it was a “good and fair idea”.

Bragg tells the ABC this morning:

I want to be able to recommend a yes. But we need to do that on the basis that it’s a safe change to the constitution. Now the various legal issues that have been raised in relation to how the high court could undermine parliamentary supremacy need to be addressed.

So what we want to have is an inquiry where you can bring in all the various legal experts, cross examine these propositions, separate the red herrings from the legitimate legal issues and then consider amendments to the proposed wording to go into the constitution.

RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas clarifies that no legal expert has suggested that the language so far put forward would undermine the supremacy of parliament.

Karvelas asks Bragg about the point made by campaigners including Noel Pearson that the legislation is an issue for the parliament, after a yes vote. Bragg responds:

You don’t go to a referendum to seek a new power in the constitution without a plan to use it. In my view you should at least put forward an exposure draft bill.

I think the most urgent task right now, frankly, is making sure that the amendment that people will be asked to vote on is a safe amendment. And I think we need to address those red herrings – or dismiss them – and we need to address the legitimate legal issues that people have raised, particularly in relation to the role of the high court.


Peter Dutton pressures PM to visit Alice Springs

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, is heaping pressure on Anthony Albanese over law and order issues in Alice Springs.

Dutton told Nine’s Today Show:

I was really shocked when I went up there in October. I spoke to a number of ... public servants who are at breaking point from what they’re seeing and experiencing. I said to the PM we would support whatever measure the government would take, whether it needed legislation, additional resources, additional money going into the Northern Territory. It was clear speaking with Indigenous elders and women on the ground and business owners this issue was completely beyond the capacity and resources of the Northern Territory government.

The prime minister, you know, was very critical of Scott Morrison at the time for not standing up [during natural disasters] ... I was hoping that the prime minister would take up the offer [to visit Alice Springs together] because it does require both sides to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and that’s what we’re offering to do.

While not explicitly linking the issue to the referendum debate, Dutton co-opted the language of “voice” to argue Australia is not doing enough for Indigenous Australians:

If there is a strong Indigenous voice coming out of the Northern Territory at the moment that they wanted prime minister to lead, to act and to help them out, but the prime minister is not listening to that voice, then I think most Australians would say: why not?

The government services minister, Bill Shorten, said “in terms of the prime minister he visits everywhere. I’m sure he will visit in the near future”.

Shorten also acknowledged:

It’s got to be a partnership between the feds and the state. No one is saying it should just be the Northern Territory government left to deal with it.


NSW police commander says car rolled and ‘burst into flames’ in fatal crash

NSW police commander Adam Whyte has given a press conference about the police pursuit in Sydney’s west overnight that ended in a fiery crash in which two people died.

The highway patrol vehicle followed and in an attempt to pull that vehicle over. At the time the vehicle did not stop. And the police activated all their warning devices and a pursuit was commenced.

The vehicle travelled for approximately 2km north along Centenary Drive, at which point it continued at high speed, and when taking the corner into the on-ramp for the westbound M4, collided with the railing. And as a result of the collision, the vehicle travelling at high speed landed upside down after travelling through the bush onto the M4 upside down and burst into flames.

I like to congratulate the police and a number of passersby who stopped to assist. Their efforts were brave and admirable. However, to no avail. And unfortunately both occupants of the vehicles died as a result of their injuries.

Taking questions, Whyte said because the matter involved a police pursuit, “a critical incident has been declared.”

The entry to the M4 in Homebush is still closed and heavy traffic is expected to continue.


NSW Labor promises to double funding for women’s health centres

The New South Wales opposition has pledged to double the funding for women’s health centres to $100m over five years if elected in March.

The state’s Labor leader, Chris Minns, said the money would ensure sustainable operations of the 20 centres across NSW and provide important care for women in need.

He said:

Core funding has not kept up with the ever-increasing demand and this is placing more pressure on our already struggling hospital system.

This funding will make sure women have access to key health services and relieve pressure on NSW hospitals.

The NSW Labor leader Chris Minns.
The NSW Labor leader Chris Minns. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


Albanese to visit Alice Springs amid law and order crisis

Yesterday, Northern Territory senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price called for the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to visit Alice Springs to see the situation on the ground for himself.

Price is the former deputy mayor of the town, which has been experiencing soaring crime rates in recent months.

The NDIS minister, Bill Shorten, has told Channel Nine this morning the prime minister will be visiting Alice Springs in the “near future” but did not say precisely when the visit would take place. Sky News reports that Albanese’s visit will be today.

Shorten told Channel Nine the federal government will address the situation in partnership with the territory government:

Let’s just acknowledge there are big problems in the Alice. This has been a problem brewing. In terms of the Prime Minister he visits everywhere – I am sure he will visit in the near future. I know that our Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney was there last year.

You can read more on the issue from our Indigenous affairs reporter, Sarah Collard:


Good morning!

Thanks so much to Martin for kicking the blog off for us.

Let’s start with Alice Springs. Malarndirri McCarthy, the assistant minister for Indigenous Australians, has criticised the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, who yesterday called for the Australian federal police to be deployed into Alice Spring to manage crime rates.

McCarthy told the ABC:

It’s totally rich for Peter Dutton to come out having a say now, when he was completely silent in his time in the Scott Morrison government.

If you empower local communities to step up and stand up, they will find the solutions.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has affirmed that he believes solutions should come from local communities themselves, and that he will not be deploying the AFP.

In Sydney, as mentioned, two people have died after a car rolled and caught fire during a high speed police pursuit at Strathfield in the city’s inner west about 12.30am this morning.

Hobart City Council has voted to stop holding citizenship ceremonies on 26 January from next year. It comes after Labor reversed the Coalition ban on councils holding citizenship ceremonies outside Australia Day late last year.

As school kids start heading back to classrooms after the summer holidays, Albanese has wished them well, sharing a picture of himself in his early school years.

Sending best wishes to every student across the country as they start heading back to school from this week. pic.twitter.com/MymDoz093Z

— Anthony Albanese (@AlboMP) January 23, 2023

In tennis news, the last Australian left in the singles, Alex de Minaur, was defeated pretty convincingly in straight sets by Novak Djokovic at Melbourne Park last night. Despite the Serbian’s dominance, de Minaur says the defeat will “add fuel to the fire.”

I want to do better than fourth round at a slam. It’s great, I’m happy, but I’m not content. I want more.

Let’s get into it!


Outspoken critic to front robodebt royal commission

A key player in scrapping the unlawful robodebt scheme is preparing to give evidence at a royal commission.

Terry Carney worked at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, which appeals decisions made under commonwealth law, for almost 40 years.

Long before the former coalition government dismantled the program, he knew something was wrong.

Carney repeatedly found debts calculated under the scheme lacked enough evidence and could not be legally enforced.

In 2017 he found against the program five times. Months later, his contract with the tribunal was not renewed.

Robodebt used a controversial data-matching technique to calculate debts on welfare recipients, comparing the income they declared to Centrelink with tax office records.

Carney ruled it was not the responsibility of welfare recipients to provide pay-slip data or risk being hit with a debt, adding that using an income average to calculate debts was illegal.

He found the practice of averaging income lacked “sufficient strength of evidence” and “simple mathematics”.

The commission will also hear from Barbara Martin, a pseudonym given to a Services Australia employee.

She will give evidence about how her organisation handled robodebt complaints.

Former department director Anthony Barford will also appear. Former ministers Christian Porter and Alan Tudge are due to give evidence next week.

– via AAP


Two dead after late-night police chase ends in crash in Sydney

Two people have been killed when a car rolled and caught fire during a police chase in Sydney.

NSW police have launched a critical incident investigation into the crash, which happened just before 12.30am on Tuesday at Strathfield, in the city’s inner west.

Highway patrol officers were patrolling Centenary Drive when they attempted to stop a silver Audi.

Police said the driver failed to stop the car as directed and they started a pursuit, but a short time later the car crashed on the entry ramp to the M4 motorway.

The car rolled on its roof and caught on fire, and the occupants couldn’t be freed despite attempts by police and bystanders. The two people are yet to be formally identified.

Police said their investigation into the incident would be subject to independent review.

One lane remained closed on the motorway at 6am, causing heavy traffic to build up in the area.

– via AAP


Men still dominate leadership roles but treasurer wants to crack glass ceiling

Treasurer Jim Chalmers says women interested in careers in economics had not been afforded the same opportunities as men amid more evidence that women are under-represented in top jobs in economic and financial institutions.

“Just as our parliament now looks more representative of our country, our economic institutions should too,” he told Australian Associated Press, pointing to the fact that 29 of the 47 high-level appointments made under the Albanese government have been women.

“We aren’t interested in empty preaching about women’s workforce participation, we’re putting it into practice and leading by example.”

Australia’s top economic institutions employ close to 50% women, growing from about 35% cent in 2013.

But fewer young girls are studying economics.

An RBA report released in 2020 found girls made up only 35% of high school economics enrolments and these numbers had been steadily declining.

And while there’s been progress to dismantle the glass ceiling, men still dominate top leadership positions.

The Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s 2022 scorecard found just 22% of chief executive officers were women.

A woman walks down the street with a briefcase.


Bill Gates's nuclear hopes

Bill Gates, the Microsoft billionaire, has said that nuclear technology could help avert climate disaster but Australia’s ban means it will have to wait to see if new developments in technology succeed in making it more viable.

The government’s approach to wait 15 years for proof that the technology of small modular reactors was safe and cheap and the waste can be handled “was a very good attitude”.

Anthony Albanese with Bill Gates in Sydney on Saturday.
Anthony Albanese with Bill Gates in Sydney on Saturday. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

“I don’t know whether it will succeed,” he told an audience in Sydney. “I’ve put billions of dollars into [nuclear technology], so I must think there’s some chance.

“Even if nuclear succeeds, we’re still going to need 60-70% renewables,” Gates said. “I think the world is underinvested in those [nuclear] innovations because they could make a huge difference.”

Read our full story:


NT chief minister flies into Alice Springs amid crisis

Good morning and welcome to our rolling news coverage. I’m Martin Farrer with the main overnight updates before my colleague Natasha May takes over.

There’s a strong political flavour to our top two stories this morning. According to our latest Essential poll, Anthony Albanese’s approval rating has dropped five points over the summer from 60% to 55% as the Labor government battles high inflation, rising interest rates and high energy prices. The prime minister is also entering a high-stakes effort to secure a referendum win over the voice to parliament, writes our Indigenous affairs editor, amid spoiling tactics from the opposition leader, Peter Dutton.

Our other big story out of Canberra is an exclusive interview with defence minister Richard Marles in which he says government does not have “limitless” resources and faces tough choices on military spending. He explains that while he will increase spending as per Labor’s election pledge, he could rule out that the first of the new nuclear submarines could be built overseas. And he signalled that Australia’s defence priority would be driven by “how we hold any potential adversary at risk at greater distance from our shores”.

Pressure is mounting on the Northern Territory government this morning to ban alcohol sales in Alice Springs in an attempt to restore law and order to the troubled town. Alcohol-related problems have been on the rise since intervention-era bans on alcohol in remote Aboriginal communities came to an end in July, when liquor became legal in some communities for the first time in 15 years and others were able to purchase takeaway alcohol without restriction. The chief minister, Natasha Fyles, is flying to Alice today to listen to concerns but has told the Australian that she will not back any “race-based” intervention.



Henry Belot and Natasha May and Martin Farrer (earlier)

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