What we learned today, Monday 30 January

That’s where we will leave the blog for today. Thanks to everyone who tuned in. Here’s what made headlines:

Have a great evening, everyone.


Minister moves to fast-track student visas

Student visas could be fast-tracked as Australia responds to a snap decision by the Chinese government to ban citizens from studying at foreign universities online, AAP reports.

China’s education ministry announced the ban on Saturday, telling its citizens to return to overseas campuses for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic started.

The higher education sector estimates the ban would result in about 40,000 international students returning to Australian universities but have warned of logistical challenges in relation to visa processing and accommodation.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said his department would meet representatives from home affairs on Monday afternoon:

The department of education is meeting with the Department of Home Affairs ... to make sure that we’re putting in place all the measures that we can to assist with visa processing.


Radioactive capsule hunt a tough gig

Experts say authorities searching a 1400km route in Western Australia are unlikely to find a dangerous radioactive capsule unless they pass within a few metres of it, AAP reports.

The hunt continues for the tiny 8mm by 6mm capsule after it fell out of a density gauge while being trucked from a Rio Tinto mine in the Pilbara to Perth. Investigators presume it is lying somewhere along the way, and an intensive search has been launched.

Rio Tinto has apologised for any alarm, amid warnings the Caesium-137 in the capsule could cause radiation burns or sickness if handled and potentially dangerous levels of radiation with prolonged exposure.

The company insists the capsule was inside the gauge when the truck left the mine on 11 January and there are instrument readings to support that.

Prof Ivan Kempson, an associate professor in Biophysics at the University of South Australia, said search teams with Geiger counters that measure radioactivity might find the capsule but they will need to get close.

It would be a few metres. And that’s going to be a big challenge across 1,400km.

Kempson said there was no mass risk to public health, but if someone got too close to the capsule for too long it would cause problems.

The worst-case scenario is that someone picks up the capsule, finds it curious and keeps it in a pocket, which has happened overseas before.


Gorman: voice campaign is ‘about the principle’ of acknowledging Indigenous people in the constitution

The assistant minister to the prime minister, Patrick Gorman, has said he rejects the “out of touch ideas” of the no campaign proposal launched today for constitutional recognition of First Nations people.

Warren Mundine, a leading organiser of the no campaign Recognise a Better Way, said on Sunday the campaign would propose symbolic constitutional recognition of Indigenous people and migrants through a new preamble, via another referendum.

Speaking on Sky News, Gorman also said there is significant detail available already on the voice to parliament, but the principle is what’s important right now.

When we change our constitution, we’re talking about the principle, and the principle we’re putting forward to the Australian people is: should we acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders in our founding document, the constitution? And should they be given a voice through that document to advocate and talk about the policy matters that affect them?

I reject the old fashioned, out of touch ideas of those who launched the “No” campaign today.

I embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Since 2017 Australia has been working towards Constitutional Recognition and a Voice.

It’s time. #auspol pic.twitter.com/C6vCn6mqVa

— Patrick Gorman MP (@PatrickGormanMP) January 30, 2023


External advice on legality of robodebt not sought due to ‘stretched resources’

A chief lawyer for the government department involved in the robodebt scheme has admitted external advice on whether the program was legal was not sought due to stretched resources, AAP reports.

Former chief counsel at the Department of Human Services, Annette Musolino, told the royal commission into robodebt a further review of the debt recovery scheme wasn’t acted on because the department was struggling with its workload at the time.

The Centrelink debt recovery scheme used annual tax office data to calculate fortnightly earnings and automatically issue welfare debt notices.

The controversial program recovered more than $750 million from over 380,000 people and led to several people taking their own lives while being pursued for false debts.

While officials within the department discussed whether external advice was needed on whether the income averaging was legal, it decided against it, due to other reviews being conducted.

Musolino said:

It would have been another review under way at the same time as we were, frankly, struggling to manage the ombudsman review, parliamentary inquiries or the media attention and everything else that went with it.

The former chief counsel also told the commission she saw no issues with robodebt following advice she received in 2017 from the Department of Social Services.

It was pretty short advice, but I had no reason to second-guess what was in it - it was coming from the policy agency who owns the legislation.

We’re a service delivery agency. When we’re given a program to deliver or implement, we don’t generally look behind how that decision was made or designed or the legalities.

The department would later get advice from the solicitor general in 2019 saying robodebt was unlawful.


Migrant and refugee groups reject ‘divisive’ no campaign proposal for constitutional recognition

Numerous multicultural groups have pushed back strongly on the proposal from opponents of the voice to parliament referendum for constitutional recognition of migrants to Australia, calling the idea a “red herring” and stressing they support the voice referendum.

The Federation of Ethnic Communities Councils of Australia and the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre told Guardian Australia they were concerned about the timing of the proposal from Recognise a Better Way, led by Warren Mundine, which will be one of the main campaign vehicles for the no side.

Sandra Elhelw Wright, CEO of the Settlement Council of Australia, told Guardian Australia her group backed the referendum too.

The Settlement Council of Australia wholeheartedly supports the Uluru Statement from the Heart and we stand in solidarity with First Nations people for an Indigenous voice to parliament. SCOA acknowledges that when migrants and refugees arrive in Australia, they settle on the lands of First Nations people,” she said.

A First Nations voice to parliament is an essential step toward a fair and inclusive society.

Our approach to settling new migrants and refugees will always fall short until we have established a First Nations voice protected by the constitution.

Read more here:


Severe thunderstorms forecast across parts of NSW

The weather bureau has said flash flooding is possible with thunderstorms over southwest Sydney, including Campbelltown, Camden, Liverpool and Bankstown.

Thunderstorms forecast Tue 31 Jan: Severe thunderstorms possible across the eastern half of NSW. Localised heavy falls/flash flooding is the main concern. Damaging wind gusts and large hail also possible. Warning https://t.co/jgT1uaZc9N when issued. pic.twitter.com/Kd3MWtDaQ1

— Bureau of Meteorology, New South Wales (@BOM_NSW) January 30, 2023


Government ‘should set a 75% target for 2035’: Allegra Spender

The independent member for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, has called for the government to aim for a 75% reduction in emissions by 2035.

Speaking at the Smart Energy Council’s Industry Climate Action Summit, she said the current target to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 was “not enough”.

We know that’s not aligned with the science. The government should act now, set a 75% target for 2035 and give industry certainty and incentive to invest for the future.

Nevertheless, these reforms are a step in the right direction. I’m glad that we are moving closer to the kind of cap-and-trade scheme that we know works elsewhere.

Spender also warned the country can’t continue to burn fossil fuels and “try to offset your way out of the climate crisis”.

A similar warning was made by Greens leader Adam Bandt, who told the summit that new coal and gas mines “will be the biggest sticking point” for the minor party, whose 12 Senate votes will be required to pass legislation for the safeguard mechanism.

Reforming the Safeguard Mechanism is a step in the right direction, but the science makes it clear we need more. We must set a more ambitious target, and give industry certainty to invest. https://t.co/TdnIzDaOrP

— Allegra Spender (@spenderallegra) January 30, 2023


Universities prepare for the return of Chinese students to Australia

It’s crucial that the federal Government and the higher education sector moved quickly to ensure a seamless return for international students this year, says the Australian Technology Network (ATN) of Universities.

ATN universities said it is preparing for the return of thousands of students to university campuses following China’s ban on citizens studying at foreign universities online.

ATN Universities executive director, Luke Sheehy, said:

We must ensure that we are working together to guarantee the system can cope with what is going to be a surge in demand, particularly around visa applications.”

I’m pleased to say that our universities are rapidly preparing to welcome students back to our campuses, providing them with all the information and support needed to expedite their return to Australia.

Before the borders closed in 2020, Chinese students accounted for more than one-third of 67,000 onshore international students enrolled at ATN universities.

The ATN member universities are Curtin University, Deakin University, RMIT University, The University of Newcastle, University of South Australia, and University of Technology Sydney.

Read more on the return of Chinese students to Australia here:


Lachlan Murdoch granted leave to expand his case against Crikey

Lachlan Murdoch has been granted leave to expand his case against Crikey after the federal court agreed to include Private Media executives Eric Beecher and Will Hayward as respondents in the defamation trial.

Justice Michael Wigney in the federal court on Monday allowed the addition of new claims and respondents although it would significantly delay the trial until October and lengthen it from nine days to three weeks.

Counsel for Murdoch argued for the original statement of claim to be amended because the discovery process had revealed a “coordinated scheme to escalate the defamation dispute with the applicant (Lachlan Murdoch) to ensure these proceedings were commenced for the respondents’ commercial benefit”.

Barrister Sue Chrysanthou said Crikey had used the dispute as a subscription driver and had raised a “windfall” of $500,000 for 5000 new subscriptions in the month of August.

Composite image featuring Lachlan Murdoch (left), co-chairman of News Corp and Private Media executive Eric Beecher.
Composite image featuring Lachlan Murdoch (left), co-chairman of News Corp and Private Media executive Eric Beecher. Composite: AAP / Reuters


Two-year-old flown to hospital after snake bite

A Queensland toddler was flown to hospital with a suspected snake bite on Monday morning, 7 News reports.

The two-year-old boy was playing with his dog when he told his mum that he had an injured leg. After checking the marks on the boy, his mother applied first aid for a snake bite.

The boy was then transported to Rockhampton hospital by RACQ CapRescue for further assessment.

A CapRescue spokesperson said the incident was a reminder of the “importance of first aid”.

Especially when in remote areas, where help may be some distance away.

The incident comes after a series of snake bites in recent days.


‘The government has listened’: Australia’s peak bodies praise $300m federal arts policy

Australia’s arts industry has welcomed the federal government’s $300m national cultural policy Revive, which was launched on Monday by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese.

Albanese described it as a comprehensive and inclusive way to enhance the lives of all Australians, “from the gallery, to the mosh pit, to your favourite reading chair”. While most of the major policies were released over the weekend, the official launch, held at Melbourne live-music venue the Esplanade Hotel, revealed a few more details, such as the establishment of a national poet laureate – a position Australia has not had since the convict era – and the commitment to deliver a state of the culture report every three years, similar to the government-issued state of the environment report.

The body representing the rights of Australian songwriters, composers and publishers, APRA AMCOS, said the injection of $70m to establish Music Australia was “a profound vote of confidence” in Australian music.

In a statement, APRA AMCOS chief executive, Dean Ormston, said:

For the first time in the nation’s history, [it will] provide an opportunity for a whole-of-government, cross-portfolio, strategic and long-term relationship with the breadth of the Australian contemporary music industry.

Our Kelly Burke has more on the reactions to the national cultural policy unveiled today by the Albanese government here:


WA Liberals set to announce new leader

Libby Mettam is tipped to become the West Australian Liberal party’s next leader after David Honey confirmed he will not contest a vote for the top job, AAP reports.

Deputy leader Mettam challenged current leader Honey for the role after the state’s Opposition leader, Mia Davies of the Nationals, announced her resignation on Friday.

Mettam said the party had not been as effective as it should have been and that urgent change was required for it to be competitive.

Honey initially said he would fight to keep his job at a special party room meeting scheduled for today, but a spokesman has since told AAP he would be stepping down.

Honey previously said he would remain the member for Cottesloe if he lost the leadership.

Libby Mettam is tipped to become the West Australian Liberal party’s next leader.
Libby Mettam is tipped to become the West Australian Liberal party’s next leader. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP


$8.5m announced for lived experience of mental health

The health minister, Mark Butler, has announced the Albanese government will invest $8.5m to support those with a lived experience of mental health to shape the policies and programs that affect them.

This consists of:

  • $7.5m for two independent national mental health lived experience peak bodies – one representing consumers and the other representing carers, families and kin

  • $900,000 for Lived Experience Australia to continue its research and build the capacity of consumer and carers; and

  • $100,000 for a regular stakeholder forum to increase transparency, accountability and partnership with the sector.

The government has been under fire for its decision to cut the number of Medicare-funded psychologist sessions from 20 to 10.

Butler and the assistant minister, Emma McBride, attended a health access and equity forum in Canberra on Monday which considered how to make services more affordable and accessible to those who need them most, as part of a broader system of care.

Part of Butler’s defence for the cut was that the more generous entitlement of 20 sessions was actually making it harder for those most in need to access help.

So part of the conversation is how to better carve up funding to ensure equitable access. But there’s no concrete decision restoring psychologist sessions today.

Victorian attorney general acknowledges need to reform bail laws

Victoria’s attorney general Jaclyn Symes has acknowledged the state government needs to do “more” on bail reform after a coroner handed down damning findings into the 2020 death in custody of a First Nations woman.

Simon McGregor on Monday handed down his findings and recommendations into the death of Veronica Nelson at a maximum-security women’s prison. Nelson was on remand after being denied bail. McGregor urged the government to conduct an urgent review of the state’s Bail Act and repeal any provision that has a disproportionate adverse effect on Indigenous people.

In a statement, Symes said Nelson’s death was a “tragedy”:

Our bail laws need to protect the community without having a disproportionate or unintended impact on those accused of low-level offending who do not present a risk to community safety.

We know we need to do more in relation to criminal justice reform, including bail reform, and that work is continuing.


Veronica Nelson’s mother: ‘It’s time to save our daughters’

Veronica Nelson’s mother, Aunty Donna Nelson, has urged the state government to urgently overhaul the state’s bail laws, warning it will be “someone else’s daughter tomorrow” who will die in custody.

The coronial inquest findings into the death of the 37-year old First Nations woman at the Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in 2020 were handed down on Monday.

Coroner Simon McGregor found Nelson’s death was preventable and that she had experienced “cruel and degrading” treatment at the prison. He also recommended an overhaul of the state’s bail laws.

Outside the coroner’s court, Donna Nelson remembered Veronica as her “best friend”:

She was kind, caring and compassionate ... she was a proud Aboriginal woman who loved her culture.

Veronica did not deserve to die in such a cruel, heartless and painful way .... It’s time to save our daughters, it’s time to change the law.

Read more on the inquest into Veronica Nelson’s death here:


New national cultural policy ‘underwhelming’, says shadow minister for science and the arts

Shadow minister for science and the arts, Paul Fletcher, has responded to the national cultural policy unveiled today by the Albanese government, calling it “underwhelming” and a “re-announcement of what we all knew was already happening”.

He said:

Certainly some of its policy directions are sensible.

The Coalition welcomes the greater emphasis on contemporary Australian music and the justified focus on indigenous art.

Both of these maintain directions pursued by the Coalition. A substantial share of our $200 million RISE program went towards contemporary Australian music (over $68 million was invested in 170 projects involving contemporary music, including broader festivals containing a significant element of contemporary music.) We released the National Indigenous Visual Arts Action Plan in October 2021, including a commitment to stronger intellectual property protections for Indigenous art.

Fletcher also criticised the policy as not being matched with “serious new money”.

Labor’s media release claims $286 million in additional funding over four years, but according to media reports, $45 million of this comes from cancelling the Temporary Interruption fund, meaning total new money is around $240 million or $60 million a year.

Our Liberal National Government delivered record arts funding of over $1 billion in 2021-22. No other government, Labor or Liberal, has matched this level of funding for the arts, and that remains the case after Labor’s announcement today.

Shadow minister for science and the arts, Paul Fletcher, has called the Albanese government’s new arts policy ‘underwhelming’.
Shadow minister for science and the arts, Paul Fletcher, has criticised the Albanese government’s new arts policy as ‘underwhelming’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


NSW clubs to introduce gambling code

A NSW club industry code of conduct has been welcomed by Premier Dominic Perrottet, AAP reports. Though Perrottet says it won’t deter him from introducing cashless gaming, in the face of fierce resistance.

ClubsNSW released the code on Monday, promising a raft of reforms, including a ban on suspected criminals.

It includes welfare checks on poker machine players every three hours and measures to ban problem gamblers from venues.

Staff would also be trained to identify key problem gambling indicators, while every club would have a responsible gambling officer.

Political parties have been under pressure to introduce cashless gaming after a NSW Crime Commission report last year found billions of dollars in dirty money was being laundered through machines every year.

ClubsNSW has rejected the push for a cashless card, saying it would not be effective at reducing money laundering overall.

Perrottet said:

I’ve also made it very clear, the destination is cashless gaming in NSW.

This is something you get one chance at solving the problem.

We need to do everything we can in relation to reducing problem gambling in NSW.


I hope your week has gotten off to a good start as the first month of 2023 draws to a close. I am handing the blog over to Jordyn Beazley, see you all tomorrow!

Dutton to attend government’s working group on voice to parliament

Opposition leader, Peter Dutton, will attend a meeting of the government’s expert working group on the voice to parliament referendum on Thursday.

Dutton will attend by teleconference. It’s understood, and has been reported, that he cannot attend the meeting in person in Canberra as he will be in Sydney for the funeral for Cardinal George Pell.

Dutton’s office confirmed he would attend the meeting remotely but did not confirm why he couldn’t go in person.

The working group is one of several internal government groups advising on the referendum. Co-chaired by the minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, and special envoy Patrick Dodson, the government says that group’s role is to “provide advice to the government on how best to ensure a successful referendum and focus on the key questions that need to be considered”.

That includes the timing, refining the proposed constitutional amendment and question, and considering information on the voice necessary for a successful referendum.

Burney in 2022 said the group “will ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander views are front and centre in the decision making leading up to the Referendum” and would “provide us with advice about how to harness the goodwill in the Australian community on this important nation building project.”

Group members include Pat Anderson, Prof Megan Davis, Prof Tom Calma, Prof Marcia Langton, Noel Pearson, Pat Turner, and former Coalition minister Ken Wyatt.


Victoria's coroner refers prison contractor to department of public prosecutions over Veronica Nelson's death

Coroner Simon McGregor has referred prison contractor Correct Care to the Victorian director of public prosecutions to determine if it breached occupational health and safety laws in the death of Veronica Nelson.

McGregor also made several key recommendations in the inquest findings into the death of Veronica Nelson including that the Victorian government urgently review the state’s bail laws and the repeal of provisions that have disproportionate and adverse impacts on First Nations people.

McGregor also recommended that the Victorian government urgently create a plan to adopt all recommendations from the 1991 commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody.


Public housing rent increases in remote NT will put more pressure on Indigenous communities, peak body says

Remote housing for many people living in public housing will increase next week under changes to rental payments by the NT government. On 6 February, the NT government is changing the way it calculates rents in remote communities and town camps through its remote rent framework.

The Aboriginal Housing Northern Territory, the peak body for Aboriginal housing related issues sent out a media release raising concerns that the changes could lead to worsening overcrowding of already overcrowded homes in the Territory.

Alice Springs is the major service town for remote communities in the NT. Aboriginal Housing NT (AHNT) chief executive Skye Thompson said the increase, which will affect 75% of tenants, could lead to overcrowding in the town and exacerbate issues in the community.

Thompson said:

Raising the rents of the most marginalised people in the Northern Territory will only put further pressure on families, especially around central Australia.

The organisation is concerned that in remote communities and town camps, where incomes are some of the lowest in the country, they will become the only public housing tenants in Australia whose rent is not calculated based on income.

They’re also concerned that this could heighten the pressure on people already struggling with some of the highest costs of living in the country and that could lead to worsening anti-social behaviour as the town deals with a surge in crime and violence which led the NT government to bring in alcohol restrictions after federal legislation lapsed last year.

We know that youth crime rates are linked to poverty and substance abuse, and while the announcements last week may reduce access to alcohol, the Framework will put more pressure on people who are already overwhelmingly living below the poverty line.

Guardian Australia has reached out to the NT Government for more information on these changes and the concerns that AHNT are raising.


Residents of Queensland towns advised to leave due to bushfires

Authorities are warning Darling Downs towns of Wieambilla, Montrose and Kogan to prepare to leave due to multiple fast-moving bushfires .

Queensland Fire and Emergency write on their website:

Multiple fast-moving fires are burning along Kogan Condamine Road near Wambo Creek and on Wiembilla Road near Jack Creek.

Conditions could get worse quickly.

Firefighters are working to contain the fire, however you should not expect a firefighter at your door. Firefighting aircraft may assist ground crews.

PREPARE TO LEAVE - Wieambilla, Montrose and Kogan - fire as at 1:07pm Monday, 30 January 2023.
For all current warnings, updates and mapping go to https://t.co/vqyJTUPBhe. pic.twitter.com/UW5TB6kBEK

— Qld Fire & Emergency (@QldFES) January 30, 2023


Victoria’s coroner calls prison's treatment of Veronica Nelson ‘cruel and degrading’

Coroner Simon McGregor has labelled the treatment of Veronica Nelson in prison “cruel and degrading” and a breach of Victoria’s human rights charter.

Coroner McGregor found Nelson’s treatment was influenced by “drug use stigma” which casually contributed to her death.

McGregor concluded Nelson should have been transferred to hospital upon arriving at the prison and the failure to do so contributed to her death:

The assumption that it is normal for patients withdrawing at Dame Phyllis [correction centre] to experience a level of suffering normalised such suffering and results in a desensitisation of corrections care staff.


Video games boost classical music’s street cred, government finds

The government’s arts policy announcement this morning came with the release of the document that outlines their national cultural policy in full, which you can read here.

One of the findings presented in the policy is that classical music is gaining new audiences through digital video games.

As a case study, the review gave the example of independent Melbourne-based game developers House House presenting a projection of their game, Untitled Goose Game, with live accompaniment by musicians from Orchestra Victoria.

Audiences were entertained as the game’s horrible goose created chaos, calamity and hilarity in a small village, accompanied by a new arrangement of Dr Dan Golding’s soundtrack created exclusively for the event, featuring works by classical French composer Claude Debussy.

lol this is familiar (and a total surprise to me ftr) https://t.co/qwjPkr2BxB pic.twitter.com/CO3bxPhG1K

— Dan Golding (@dangolding) January 30, 2023


SMA defends position on link between concussion and neurological decline

The peak body for sports medicine in Australia has defended its current, official position on the long-term effects of head injury in sports, which denies there is a clear causative link between concussion and the debilitating neurodegenerative disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Sports Medicine Australia (SMA) gave evidence this morning at the first public hearing for the Senate inquiry into concussions and repeated head trauma in contact sports.

The inquiry was established in the wake of increasing public concern, including ongoing reportage by Guardian Australia, about sporting organisations’ management of player head injuries and the large and growing body of scientific evidence showing links between repeated exposure to head injury in contact sports and long-term neurological decline.

There has been widespread criticism of major sporting codes’ history on the issue, and questions raised about whether they had taken too long to acknowledge the science and act accordingly.

Representatives from SMA were asked by Greens senator Lidia Thorpe if the organisation still stood by its 2019 position paper on concussion, which says:

[T]here is currently no reliable evidence clearly linking sport-related concussion with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition with unclear clinical diagnostic criteria.

This was not a unanimous position, even from within the SMA’s own representative body. Dr Reidar Lystad, a member of the SMA’s scientific advisory committee who appeared at the hearing, expressed both concern about the official position of the organisation and its origins, which appear to be the widely criticised global Concussion in Sport Group’s consensus statement.

Lystad said:

In my view, the evidence for a causal relationship between repetitive head trauma and neurodegenerative diseases such as CTE is imperfect but it is undeniable at this stage.

On the organisation’s position, Lystad said:

I think the current Australian position statement was based on the most recently published international consensus statement that was published in 2017. I do have reservations with certain aspects of that statement, in terms of its methodology, as well as its conclusion on the long-term impacts.

SMA chief executive, Jamie Crain, said the statement was currently undergoing review:

So that’s not to say that necessarily we’re swaying one way or the other. But that 2019 position statement is currently going through a new refresh.

The hearing continues.


Debate heats up around Australian poet laureate

When the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, unveiled the government’s plan to reinvigorate the arts sector, one of the most exciting announcements is that we will soon have our very own poet laureate. The UK have had one for centuries and it’s a salaried position to write poems in an official capacity.

Oh my god - the PM just announced the National Cultural Policy is going to establish a “Writers Australia” to support writers… and an Australian Poet Laureate.

Pinch me - is this happening?!!#auspol @AusGovArts

— @vanbadham@mastodon.social (@vanbadham) January 29, 2023

A few names have already been kicked about online, including Jimmy Barnes.

i'm going to be Australia's poet laureate, because my bachelor recaps are rebranded as poetry https://t.co/g66eSo5VJm

— Patrick Lenton (@PatrickLenton) January 30, 2023

Australian Poet Laureate Sir James Barnes AM

— referendum? I barely (@yeetintolerance) January 30, 2023

Anti-China activist Drew Pavlou has put his hat in the ring but as the position is an official one that is supposed to speak on behalf of the nation, Penny Wong might have a few words to say about that suggestion.

Can we make this bloke Australia’s national poet laureate please. I have contributions to make to Australian literature once I successfully defeat the CCP https://t.co/LzBVSZJz6q

— Drew Pavlou (@DrewPavlou) January 30, 2023

Debate has also been heating up online as to how the selection process will work. Maxine Beneba Clarke, poet in residence at the University of Melbourne, has a suggestion that could also boost the Australian content the government would like to see more of on streaming services:

The Australian Poet Laureate will be decided by putting poets in a nationally televised house Big Brother-style, and making them compete various literary challenges of increasing complexity, to be gradually voted out by viewers. I will host.

— Vaxine Beneba Clarke (@slamup) January 30, 2023


Robodebt royal commission hearings continue in Brisbane

A former top lawyer at the Department of Human Services has blamed another department for her incorrect belief that the failed robodebt scheme was legal.

A royal commission is investigating why and how the unlawful Centrelink debt recovery scheme was established in 2015 and ran until November 2019, ending in a $1.8bn settlement with hundreds of thousands of victims.

Under questioning from counsel assisting the commission, Angus Scott KC, on Monday, Annette Musolino said she was “entitled” to accept the view she says was held by another department, the Department of Social Services.

Between 2016 and January 2019, Musolino was chief counsel at the Department of Human Services, which administered the robodebt program.

I believe I was entitled to accept the assurances from the Department of Social Services lawyers, who owned the legislation and knew the legislation.
I was entitled to accept the representations they made to me that this was a lawful program.

The commission has heard Social Services held damning legal advice from 2014 suggesting the robodebt scheme was unlawful, and a second piece 2017 advice from the same lawyers, suggesting it may be lawful with caveats.

Asked by the commissioner, Catherine Holmes AC SC, if she had read those advices and applied her own critical thinking as a lawyer to the advice, Musolino said her department was a “service delivery agency”.

There was nothing in my reading of that material when it came to me that alarmed me.

The government finally received advice from the solicitor-general in September 2019 that said the scheme was unlawful.

Musolino is currently chief operating officer at the Department of Human Services’ successor agency, Services Australia.

Her evidence continues.


‘Not a crime to be Catholic,’ Perrottet says

The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has declared it is “not a crime to be Catholic” after announcing a number of schools linked with Opus Dei would be investigated by the department of education.

According to the ABC, students at Catholic schools Tangara and Redfield College – which are linked with the Catholic group – were allegedly told not to watch pornography, discouraged from getting the HVP vaccine and had pages of the curriculum ripped out or redacted.

The ABC quoted a statement from Tangara saying it wrote to parents about the vaccine “prior to 2020”, when it claims the inoculation was “relatively new”.

Perrottet said the investigation was standard practice when claims were made.

He said:

Broad complaints were made in an email to my office and we did what we would always do in a circumstance and refer them to the authorities.

Education minister, Sarah Mitchell, said she believed the schools ran successful vaccination programs.

She said:

If they weren’t teaching to the curriculum, which I believe is one of the allegations, then the normal practice is that NESA [The New South Wales Education Standards Authority] would investigate.

Asked if he believed the timing of the ABC investigation - two months out from the state election - was politically motivated, Perrottet said that was a matter for the broadcaster.

He said:

It’s not a crime to be Catholic … I am a strong believer in parental choice when it comes to education. Now in relation to the question, that’s really a matter for the ABC.


AG named as creditor for failed cryptocurrency platform

The Australian attorney-general’s department and minister, Mark Dreyfus, have been listed as creditors for failed cryptocurrency platform FTX among a list of several other Australian entities.

In a 116-page list of creditors published last week in the bankruptcy case against FTX, the department and Dreyfus appeared on the list alongside several Australian companies including Atlassian, National Australia Bank, Blockchain Australia, and Clayton Utz.

It’s not clear why the department is on the list, and the department said in a statement it could not comment on “specific legal matters” but it is understood the department is not certain why it is on the list.

It is believed it could possibly be to do with the Hague Convention of 15 November 1965 on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.

This means that for requests for service in Australia for civil or commercial matters like bankruptcy, the department may act as the central authority to receive and review requests for service in Australia for the companies included in a list like the creditors list for FTX.

However, it is understood that so far, the department has not received service on behalf of these companies.

Guardian Australia reported on Monday that documents reveal the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) had been investigating FTX’s local activities for months before the company’s collapse in November last year.


Australia’s new cultural policy ‘not just window-dressing’

Now let’s turn to reaction to the new cultural police unveiled by the Albanese government today.

Chair of the Australian Society of Authors, Sophie Cunningham, has told ABC the payment of digital lending rights will be a game changer for many writers, likely resulting in thousands more in income for some.

It was such an impressive announce: It was substantive and it will really make a difference. You know, it’s certainly not just window-dressing.

There is so little money in writing, which means that people drop out. And so, it inevitably means that the people that can sustain longer careers either have other forms of income or have partners who have an income. But it’s impossible to really earn a living wage for most people, which has so many implications - not just emotional, but if you want a greater diversity in the kind of content that writers produce.

The average [salary] figure is about $18,000 a year. More successful writers might earn $50,000 a year. That’s very rare. And it’s still, I think, well below the average wage. A lot of writers earn $5,000 to $10,000. So advances are going down. Book sales are going down. That’s another reason why digital lending rights are so important.

Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins (second right) was among the performers at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda today for the announcement of the Albanese government’s new arts policy.
Australian singer-songwriter Missy Higgins (second right) was among the performers at the Esplanade Hotel in St Kilda today for the announcement of the Albanese government’s new arts policy. Photograph: James Ross/AAP


Queensland to deploy hundreds of junior doctors

The largest intake of junior doctors in Queensland’s history will form the base of an increase in frontline health workers across the state, the premier says.

AAP reports that more than 830 junior doctors will be deployed across 20 health facilities with the aim of improving access to care in rural, regional and metropolitan hospitals.

Another 200 paramedics and emergency medical dispatchers will also be added to the workforce.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said:

This is the largest intake ever, so this is fantastic news.

We’re such a decentralised state and we know how important it is to be able to send these doctors out across Queensland.

Health minister, Yvette D’Ath, said Queensland’s intern numbers for this year are a five per cent increase on the previous year.

However, she said the state is not immune to health staff shortages:

It’s not just doctors, it’s nurses and allied health workers, there is a shortage of health workers across the nation and across the globe.

In my area alone, there is no longer a GP bulk billing.

That really concerns me … we know for a fact not everyone out there can pay $80 up front to do a telehealth appointment to get a script filled.

If they stop going to GPs, if they stop getting their scripts filled, they will end with chronic illnesses in our hospital beds.

Queensland health minister, Yvette D’Ath, (left) with premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital today.
Queensland health minister, Yvette D’Ath, (left) with premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s hospital today. Photograph: Darren England/AAP


What we know so far from the inquest into Veronica Nelson’s death

Coroner Simon McGregor has made a number of findings in the inquest into the death of Veronica Nelson:

  • The use of handcuffs in Nelson’s arrest was “unjustified” and a “disproportionate restriction” of her human rights.

  • The police bail decision maker failed to properly consider discretion to give bail under the state’s bail laws and consider Nelson’s vulnerability in custody as an Aboriginal woman.

  • Nelson received no “culturally specific support” at the Melbourne magistrates’ court. McGregor said:

Her journey through the criminal justice system occurred without her speaking to a single Aboriginal person employed in these roles.

  • The legal services provided to Nelson were “inadequate”.

  • Victoria’s strict bail laws - tightened after the 2017 Bourke Street massacre - have a “discriminatory impact” on First Nations people and result in “grossly disproportionate rates” of Indigenous people remanded in custody.

  • Nelson’s physical examination by the prison doctor was not comprehensive and the medical records were inadequate. McGregor said:

Veronica should have been transferred to hospital at the time of her reception at [correction centre] Dame Phyllis .


Trade minister to meet with Chinese counterpart in ‘near future’

The trade minister, Don Farrell, says he is looking forward to a meeting with his Chinese counterpart “in the very near future”.

There is no confirmation of a date yet for the long-mooted virtual meeting with China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao, but Farrell said today that the indications from the Chinese government about arranging the talks have been “very, very positive”.

Speaking to Sky News, Farrell said:

The first item on the agenda will be seeking the removal of those $20bn worth of trade bans on some of our important products, like wine, like barley, like meat, like crayfish. We’re trying to lock in a date at the moment - and all of the indications from the Chinese government have been very, very positive.

So, I’m looking forward to a meeting in the very near future and trying to resolve these outstanding issues with the Chinese government.

For some background to this story:


Victoria’s bail laws have a 'discriminatory impact' on First Nations people, coroner finds

Coroner Simon McGregor has found Victoria’s strict bail laws have a “discriminatory impact” on First Nations people.

McGregor has called for an urgent reform of the state’s bail laws, saying sections of the act are incompatible with the Victorian human rights charter. He said the state’s bail laws resulted in “grossly disproportionate rates” of First Nations people being remanded in custody.

Veronica Nelson was denied bail after representing herself at a Melbourne Magistrates’ Court hearing in January 2020.

Victoria’s bail laws were tightened following the 2017 Bourke Street massacre, in an attempt to ensure violent offenders were not released into the community.


Finance minister says Angus Taylor has ‘zero credibility’ on policies

The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, defended Jim Chalmers in her response to the shadow treasurer’s criticisms in her interview on ABC Radio:

I read Angus Taylor’s piece. I mean, this guy has absolutely zero credibility when we look at the issues and even today dealing with the arts policy, dealing with the energy crisis dealing with the fact that Medicare is needing significant reform, the housing failures of former government.

To wander in and start spouting that they had a superior plan, measuring it against a government now that’s actually dealing with all of their failures, you know – zero credibility, I think from Angus Taylor and considering the six months we’ve spent in government fixing all the failures of large areas of government that he was responsible for.

I think the treasurer should be commended for penning out his thinking on how we can deal with some of the challenges and we’re dealing with them even in this budget, but we need to get serious and be honest with people about the fact that we need to deal with them for the long term and opportunities to work together, not divide, like the previous government did.


Angus Taylor takes aim at Chalmers essay in the Australian newspaper

We mentioned on the blog earlier that the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has penned an essay in the Monthly out today. The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, has his own op-ed out today in The Australian taking a few swings at the Treasurer’s essay – both for its length and “left-wing populist economics.”

Taylor says that the essay demonstrates that Jim Chalmers has distanced himself from policies like reducing budget deficits:

The Treasurer believes his proposal for activist governments – running the economy from the top with him at the centre – is a solution to the challenges Australia faces today. Further, it is a damning statement of Labor’s priorities that the Treasurer spent his summer writing a manifesto on capitalism rather than working on real solutions to the economic challenges making life tough going for hardworking Australians. But as we approach the first anniversary of this Labor government, its economic agenda is becoming clearer by the day and it is entirely consistent with what the Treasurer has advocated for at length in his essay.

In recent times, some have argued there aren’t enough differences between the Coalition and Labor. Chalmers’s diatribe tells us where the real differences are. The Treasurer has abandoned the Hawke/Keating legacy and returned to Whitlam-like objectives, distancing himself from supply-side economic reform and signalling his intention to put government at the centre of the economy. He ignores the fact that Australia’s relative economic success in recent years came from an era of lower taxes, less government intervention, free markets, strong budget management and aspiration for a better life.

By dismissing the Washington Consensus as a “negative form of supply-side economics” and “a race to the bottom”, Chalmers has distanced himself from policies such as reducing budget deficits, securing property rights, independent interest rates, boosting competition and spending taxpayers’ money productively. Further, he ignores a substantial body of recent economic research that has shown the sustained pursuit of these policies has led to higher real GDP per capita and higher standards of living. Countries pursuing more protection, more fiscal deficit spending and greater state control over industry have experienced falling real GDP per capita over a 15-year period.

Australians want less government telling them what to do, not more.

Their vision for their own lives should be the government’s vision for Australia. It is clear they will not get that from this Labor Government.

Read my oped in today’s @australian. https://t.co/y8c9mvcEpv

— Angus Taylor MP (@AngusTaylorMP) January 29, 2023


Full Story has a new theme song

This week our daily news podcast Full Story is rolling out a theme song.

Since the first episodes of Full Story went out, we’ve used different opening music each day – music written by someone else. Our new theme is created by us. It reflects what Full Story is – curious, insightful, reflective.

I’ve been working on Full Story as an audio producer and sound designer since its launch in 2019. My main aim when composing our new theme was to reflect who we are as a show, the kind of stories we tell, and the way we tell them.

We can’t wait for you to hear it – listen now to our latest episode “Who gets to immigrate to Australia?” today.


Coroner hands down first findings from Nelson inquiry

Coroner Simon McGregor has handed down the first of his findings into the 2020 death in custody of First Nations Victorian woman Veronica Nelson.

McGregor told the court that the use of handcuffs in Nelson’s arrest was “unjustified” and a “disproportionate restriction” of her human rights. He said the police bail decision maker failed to give proper discretion under the state’s bail laws and consider her vulnerability in custody as an Aboriginal woman.

The court heard Nelson received no “culturally specific support” at the Melbourne magistrates court.


‘My privilege’ to continue Labor tradition of funding arts, PM says

The final point Albanese makes is that he is proud to be part of a Labor tradition of funding the arts in Australia, and that the policy itself has not come from the nation’s capital but from consultation with the nation’s creatives.

I’m very proud to lead a government that follows in the footsteps of Labor governments that recognised and respected the centrality of culture and the arts.

It’s my privilege to continue this Labor tradition and I like to express my deep gratitude to every organisation and every artist who has contributed to Revive. Like other best policy practice, this hasn’t come from people sitting around a room in Canberra. This has come from people in this room and people from around the country who have made a contribution.

This is a framework that empowers our arts, entertainment and cultural sectors wherever you encounter them, from the gallery, to the mosh pit, to your favourite reading chair or, indeed, as many of you will, here at the Espy.

So thank you very much and it’s my great honour to particularly to single out as well the work that Tony Burke has done … Burky was the person who was so passionate about the arts portfolio, and he’s brought that passion into a realisation with this policy and I congratulate him on the work.

Particularly, as well, I acknowledge the work that Michelle Rowland is playing as the comms minister in the art sector as well which is so vital, including properly funding the ABC and the SBS.


Properly funding the arts crucial for nation’s soul and identity, PM says

Albanese ends his speech on a more philosophical note about the role the arts play for the nation, uniting Australians, and says he hopes the spirit is something his government too is fostering.

It is an important part of our economy. That’s important to recognise that. But it’s also important, I think, to lift ourself above the usual economic debate.

This is about our soul. This is about our identity. It is so important, because it’s about who we are and being able to express ourselves, and about our quality of life.

Albanese goes on to reflect on how many of us were left to appreciate the performing arts all the more when the pandemic restrictions denied us the ability to get out and go to live music performances and the theatre, but Australians also turned to books and streaming services in greater numbers.

It was a real reminder, though, of the important role that the arts play just in our human interaction, in bringing our society together … It is literally through the arts that we build our identity as a nation and a people.

As our nation evolves, it is vital that our cultural policies evolve too. Doors must be opened so we can hear the great diversity of voices that have struggled to find an outlet.

The arts tell us stories, the arts asks questions, sometimes uncomfortable for those of us in public life. But it’s a good thing. In the arts, we feel joy and celebration, we deal with pain, and we reflect on truths that aren’t always easily told.

What the arts give us is a never-ending journey of discovery. That’s how the arts can bring us together. It’s how they create shared understanding and common purpose. Without ever seeking to iron out the differences that make our nation so vibrant, strong and attractive, we will always seek out the common ground between us, because that will always be the most fertile place to plant our dreams.

That is the spirit that guides me. It’s the nature of the change in, dare I say it, the culture of government that my government is trying to bring, … bringing people together, not looking for division.


Government to mandate minimum remuneration for professional artists

Albanese also says there will be a Centre for Arts and Entertainment Workplaces, which will work towards creatives being paid fairly. He says it will oversee mandating minimum remuneration for professional artists.

[The centre will] provide advice on issues of pay, safety and welfare in the arts and culture sector.

And we will walk the talk, mandating minimum remuneration for professional artists contracted by government entities to perform at Australian government events and functions.

Because as important as talent and inspiration are to creation and performance, so are the hundreds and thousands of hours that go into it. The arts cannot be left simply to those who can afford to do it.

Arts jobs are real jobs.


Government to establish poet laureate for Australia

Albanese elaborates what the functions of the new body, Creative Australia, will be including the creation of a poet laureate in Australia – an honorary salaried position like the UK have had named since the 17th Century including the likes of William Wordsworth and Carol Ann Duffy.

Then there’s the establishment of Creative Australia – a reimagined and properly funded Australia Council that will encompass new functions, including Music Australia, to support the Australian music industry, Writers Australia, which will provide direct support to the literature sector from 2025, and the establishment of a poet laureate for Australia.

A dedicated First Nations governance body within Creative Australia [will] invest in, create and produce First Nations works and with priorities and funding decisions determined by First Nations leaders.


Revive policy made up of five pillars, PM says

Albanese outlines the five “interconnected” pillars of the Revive overhaul.

First Nations first because we recognise and respect the crucial place of First Nations stories at the centre of Australia’s arts and culture.

A place for every story which reflects the breadth of our stories and the contribution of Australians as the creators of culture.

Centrality of the artist, which supports the artist as worker and celeb rays artists as our creators.

Strong cultural infrastructure which provides support across the spectrum of institutions that sustain our arts, our culture and our heritage.

And the fifth pillar, engaging the audience, to ensure that our stories reach people both at home and abroad.


‘Calculated neglect’ threw away past arts opportunities, says PM

Albanese says the investment is an overdue one:

Today is a bright moment for that sector, but it’s also an overdue one. You have endured a decade in which opportunity wasn’t so much missed as thrown away. Capped by the years of the pandemic. In which the loss of opportunity was exacerbated by what was a calculated neglect.

Fittingly, our cultural policy for the next five years has called Revive. Drawing on the pillars of creative Australia, the work of the Gillard government which understood the power and value of culture, and I acknowledge my friend, Simon Crean, who launched that policy, who is here with us today. Revive puts the arts back where they are meant to be - at the heart of our national life.


First Nations people at heart of cultural roadmap, PM says

Anthony Albanese opens his speech affirming the government’s commitment to the Indigenous voice to parliament, saying it is appropriate to do so because First Nations people are “at the heart of the cultural roadmap”.

I recommit, on behalf of the government that I’m proud to lead, the implementation of the Uluru statement from the heart. This year, Australians will have the choice of voting yes in a referendum that will advance reconciliation that is about two things. Two things. Recognition and consultation. Nothing more, but absolutely nothing less than showing respect for the fact that we share this continent with the oldest continuous culture on earth and that that should be a source of great pride for all of us.

… And it is appropriate to talk about those issues at the beginning of the launch of Australia’s new cultural policy for the next five years – Revive. Because, for tens of thousands of years, this land has been alive with stories, with song, with dance, with art. Through the great immensity of time, First Nations people have mapped this landscape with songlines.

They are at the heart of this cultural roadmap. This document stands as a powerful reaffirmation of the government’s commitment to our culture and the arts through which it finds its great expression.


The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has stepped up to make the announcement about the government’s investment in the arts sector from the Espy, one of Melbourne’s best loved live music venues.

He opens with a joke, at the expense of his own creative capability:

Let’s just hope that I’m a better PM than I was a DJ!

Coronial inquest findings into death of Veronica Nelson to be handed down today

The coronial inquest findings into the 2020 death in custody of a First Nations Victorian woman will be handed down this morning.

Veronica Nelson, a Gunditjmara, Dja Dja Wurrung, Wiradjuri and Yorta Yorta woman, was on remand when she was found dead in her cell at the maximum security Dame Phyllis Frost Centre in Melbourne’s west on 2 January 2020. She was 37.

Nelson was arrested on suspicion of shoplifting and had been denied bail under the state’s strict legislation.

Our Victorian state reporter, Adeshola Ore, will be covering the findings today.


Treasurer’s essay on ‘new, values-based capitalism’ references Greek philosophy

Australia’s Greek community might still be mourning Stefanos Tsitsipas’ loss in the Open last night but they can take comfort in the fact the wisdom of their ancient philosophers is still shaping the democratic trajectory of our nation.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has penned an essay in The Monthly today which opens musing on Heraclitus’s idea that “no man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

Heraclitus’s words are especially salient and resonant for these times, and for that budget. As we put [the October budget] together, the global economy was beginning a third crisis in 15 years, one which will play out more substantially in 2023. Now, once again, the world is entering a stream full of perilous white water. But each crisis is different, and each time, the people and country are different as well.

Chalmers goes on to make the case in the essay for a “new, values-based capitalism” which he says is about lining up values with the economy and the budget.

How do we build this more inclusive and resilient economy, increasingly powered by cleaner and cheaper energy? By strengthening our institutions and our capacity, with a focus on the intersection of prosperity and wellbeing, on evidence, on place and community, on collaboration and cooperation. By reimagining and redesigning markets – seeking value and impact, strengthening safeguards and guardrails in areas of unchecked risk. And with coordination and co-investment – recognising that government, business, philanthropic and investor interests and objectives are increasingly aligned and intertwined.

With a new, values-based capitalism for Australia, we can understand something the old thinking neglected: that the problems of government – of whole societies – don’t and shouldn’t permit one simple solution set. Single frameworks tend to close thinking down when what we need is to open our thinking up – to new approaches and new participants. That’s how Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has led since taking office: deliberate, open, drawing in not only all the talents of government but also those of our society as a whole.

If you didn’t catch Katharine Murphy’s conversation with Chalmers about the objectives of a “values-based capitalism” in her Saturday Australian politics podcast ahead of the essay’s release, have a listen here or you can also read her article:


‘Arts scrum’ at the Espy for cultural policy annoucement

As we’ve already mentioned earlier, the government today is unveiling its new cultural policy. The official announcement will be made by the arts minister, Tony Burke, imminently at 10.30am AEST at the Espy, one of Australia’s most iconic live music venues.

The CEO of the Wheeler Centre, Caro Llewellyn, says the venue is packed with an “arts scrum” forming ahead of the minister revealing his plans for how the government’s $300m investment will lift up the nation’s storytellers, music makers and creatives.

It’s an arts scrum at the Espy this morning for the announcement of the new Cultural policy and guess who got front row seats… there’s got to be some perks to MS! Very exciting! ⁦@AusGovArtspic.twitter.com/J4YKtQl7tL

— Caro Llewellyn (@CaroLlewellyn) January 29, 2023

You can read Kelly Burke’s preview here:


Car crash kills four horses and sends five people to hospital

Four horses have died and five people have been sent to hospital after a ute towing a horse float crashed into a tree stump in northern Tasmania.

Emergency services were called to the highway at Rowella in the early hours of this morning when a car carrying five people and towing a horse float with four horses left the road.

All five people in the car, aged from 14 to 20, were initially taken to the Launceston general hospital before two were flown via air for further treatment.

An 18-year-old passenger found to have serious injuries was then transported by air ambulance to Melbourne, while a 17-year-old passenger was transported to the Royal Hobart hospital.

Tasmanian police said all four horses died:

Unfortunately, two of the horses died immediately following the crash. Another two horses were euthanised.

Police say investigations into the cause of the crash are ongoing and have appealed to the public to come forward if they have any information.


Bus driver shortage hits Sydney services

A chronic shortage of bus drivers across Sydney has left commuters with reduced services across the city’s bus network.

In the week students return to school, Transport for NSW has cut services, saying it is dealing with “an unprecedented bus driver shortage” and timetables have been reduced “rather than cancelling services ad hoc”.

A spokesperson said today:

We will continue to work with operators and scheduling experts to ensure timetable adjustments are as efficient as possible and are working towards reinstating suspended services as soon as possible.

The cancellations cover regions north, north-west and south of downtown Sydney, including the northern beaches and eastern suburbs.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union is blaming the privatisation of the state network and poor industry conditions for the struggle to entice and retain drivers.

The premier, Dominic Perrottet, on Sunday blamed frequent union actions for the driver shortage.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union NSW spokesperson Peter Grech said the comments were “blatantly untrue”.

Since they privatised the buses they’re struggling to attract and retain enough drivers to do the job. As a result hundreds of trips are being cancelled on an ad hoc basis every day.

The decision they’ve made to just cut thousands of trips permanently reflects the fact they simply can’t keep up with the quality service commuters deserve.



Adam Bandt accuses Albanese government of greenwashing

Adam Bandt has accused Labor of “gaslighting” and “greenwashing” for allowing new coal and gas mines to offset emissions in its upgraded safeguards mechanism.

The Greens leader will tell the Smart Energy Council today that new coal and gas mines “will be the biggest sticking point” for the minor party, whose 12 Senate votes will be required to pass legislation for the scheme.

Read the full story here:

Perth to reach 39C today

Perth is waking up to what is set to be a scorcher, with a maximum temperature of 39C predicted today before temperatures drop to the mid-30s for the rest of the week.

🌡️ Getting ready for a hot day in #Perth - 39°C the forecast max today 🥵. Dropping to 36°C tomorrow, with temperatures staying in the mid-30s for the rest of the week. Check the forecast: https://t.co/yZgtTkcGKb pic.twitter.com/J4cybIqoUO

— Bureau of Meteorology, Western Australia (@BOM_WA) January 29, 2023


Firefighters rush to Brisbane unit blaze

Emergency crews have found one man dead and evacuated a dozen people from a Brisbane unit complex after a fire erupted at day break, AAP reports.

Paramedics were on scene to treat a number of people rescued when the Clayfield unit block caught fire at about 5am on Monday.

Queensland ambulance service medical director, Stephen Rashford, said:

One person was deceased at the scene and a small number of patients were transferred to hospital in a stable condition.

We were greatly assisted by the residents of the building, who despite being elderly were incredibly resilient and worked well with our teams.

The 55-year-old man’s death was not caused by the fire, police believe.

Fifteen Queensland firefighter crews rushed to the blaze and had it under control just over an hour after it broke out.

The fire was reported in the lift and on level five of the building, a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services spokesperson said.

Firefighters are conducting a secondary search of the building.


Finance minister backs construction union’s ‘effective bargaining’

Circling back to the finance minister’s interview with ABC Radio, Gallagher says she backs effective bargaining for the construction union CFMEU, who are pushing for “significant” wage increases.

It’s very unsurprising that a union would be arguing for better wages for its workers.

I back effective bargaining – that is, the employer and the unions and the employees sit down and they negotiate what’s possible.


Rio Tinto investigating lost capsule

Rio Tinto says it is taking the loss of a radioactive piece of equipment smaller than a 10 cent piece between its Western Australia mine site and Perth “very seriously”.

The company has launched an internal investigation into how the item went missing over a 1,400-kilometre stretch of road. It comes as authorities also launched their own probe and began to comb parts of the roads for the capsule.

The capsule is understood to have fallen from a truck of a contractor hired to transport the device after leaving the site in Newman, in the Pilbara, on 10 January. The truck arrived at a Perth depot in Malaga on 16 January.

Rio Tinto’s iron ore chief executive, Simon Trott, said on Sunday:

We recognise this is clearly very concerning and are sorry for the alarm it has caused in the Western Australian community.

As well as fully supporting the relevant authorities, we have launched our own investigation to understand how the capsule was lost in transit.

WA emergency services have called on other states and the federal government for support finding the capsule as they lack the equipment to search for the device.

The search has involved people scanning for radiation levels from the device along roads used by the trucks, with authorities flagging the entire 1,400km route might have to be searched.



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A fifth of mortgage holders coming off fixed rates this year, finance minister says

The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, also spoke to ABC Radio this morning about how the government is balancing the budget with record high inflation, and all signs pointing to another rate hike from the RBA next week.

Gallagher says there will be mortgage pain for over a fifth of mortgage holders:

We’re expecting about 20% of mortgage holders to come off fixed rate loans this year.

We always said 2023 was going to be challenging year … Dealing with the inflation challenge is a key economic priority for the government.

When it comes to budget preparation, Gallagher says the government will be fiscally responsible, and “work hand in hand with the RBA … not against them”.

As for what the government will prioritise in that budget spending:

What you’ll see is a continued focus on cost-of-living relief, funding those priority areas like health and aged care and making sure we’re getting the balance right in terms of spending restraint, banking upgrades and looking for sensible savings where we can.


Mundine says recognition of migrants in constitution would not minimise First Nations people

Warren Mundine, a leading organiser of the formal committee advancing the “no” campaign for the Indigenous voice to parliament, is speaking with ABC Radio. The campaign will propose symbolic constitutional recognition of both Indigenous people and migrants, instead of an Indigenous voice to parliament.

RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas asks Mundine why his group are putting migrants on the same platform as First Nations people. He emphasises how migrants have contributed to improving Australia’s food culture and shaping modern Australia:

There’s no doubt that migrants have been key to the formation of modern Australia.

Karvelas pushes Mundine on why he is conflating the two groups when no one is calling for this recognition of migrants. Mundine insists it would not minimise First Nations.

I think [migrants] should be recognised for their contribution to this country. And I think that’s fair enough, but that’s not minimising the Indigenous.


NSW clubs to introduce gambling code

With gambling shaping up as a contentious issue in the NSW election, the industry has released a code of conduct promising to ban suspected criminals, AAP reports.

ClubsNSW is resisting the push for mandatory cashless gaming cards, saying there is no evidence they will address problem gambling.

Its gaming code of practice released on Monday includes welfare checks on poker machine players at least every three hours and measures to ban problem gamblers from venues.

Under the code, to take effect from July, club staff would be trained to identify key problem gambling indicators, while every club would have a responsible gambling officer.

The industry body said in a statement:

In the event that a player shows any level of distress or hardship, they will need to take a break from gambling for at least 24 hours.

ClubsNSW says under its code patrons seeking credit for gambling, borrowing money from other patrons or who admitting to stealing money to gamble would be offered counselling and automatically barred from gaming rooms.

The code will allow family members to request an exclusion for loved-ones who they believe are experiencing gambling harm, with an expert gambling counsellor to determine whether a ban is appropriate.

ClubsNSW chief executive, Josh Landis, said the code was the most effective way to protect problem gamblers while also keeping criminal activity out of clubs.

The code includes lifetime bans for suspected money-launderers.


Arts industry insiders weigh in on cultural sector changes

Wesley Enoch, Rachel Griffiths and Jaguar Jonze are speaking to ABC Radio as a panel to get an industry perspective on the changes the government is introducing to the cultural sector.

A separate body is being created to oversee working conditions for creative workers, which Jonze says is needed:

Ongoing and abusive behaviour has been allowed and almost encouraged through the industry.

Jonze says there are also issues with financial abuse and an artist loss mentality, which need to be addressed.


Hanson-Young wants to see progress on treaty and question of sovereignty as well as voice

ABC Radio also asked Hanson-Young about her party’s position on the Indigenous voice to parliament following the Greens spokesperson for Indigenous affairs, Lidia Thorpe, last week vowing not to support the voice unless she is “satisfied that First Nations sovereignty is not ceded”.

Thorpe also has called for treaty before voice.

Hanson-Young said: “I want to see progress on all those elements. It would be devastating if we didn’t get progress on all three.”

There’s different views across the broad community across First Nations communities. But we are all committed to making sure we have progress on the question of sovereignty.

She says she welcomes the government clarifying the issue and says based on her readings on the issue, she understands it is an issue that can be “very easily dealt with”.


Greens want investment in education of arts and culture

Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens spokesperson for the arts, was speaking to ABC Radio earlier following the government outlining its proposed overhaul to the arts sector.

Hanson-Young said the arts in Australia have been “sidelined at best, attacked and undermined at worst”.

She welcomes the greater investment the government will introduce but says she wants to see the arts integrated into a whole of government response, including investment in the education of arts and culture.

Every child should have the opportunity to learn art, music … at the moment it’s done as an add-on.

Hanson-Young also supports a 20% local production quota for all of the streaming services.

Senator Sarah Hanson-Young speaks to media during a press conference in Sydney
Greens spokesperson for the arts Sarah Hanson-Young. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP


Equal shared parental responsibility to be removed under draft family law changes

The draft changes to the family law system follow an inquiry carried out by the Australian Law Reform Commission in 2019, as well as parliamentary probe into the issue in 2021.

The proposed changes will also remove the presumption of “equal shared parental responsibility”, due to inquiries concluding that the measure was misunderstood.

The presumption meant parents were required to consult with each other when making long-term decisions, but was often misinterpreted as creating a right to an equal amount of shared time with children.

The laws will also introduce a requirement for independent children’s lawyers to meet with children to make sure their view points were considered when the court makes it decision.

Under the current laws, the independent lawyers may only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Courts will also be provided with greater powers to protect affected parties and children from protracted and adversarial litigation

The changes also propose a definition of what is a member of the family, that would be inclusive of Indigenous concepts of family and kinship.

Public submissions on the draft bill are open until 27 February.



Changes to family law system on the cards

Australia’s family law system is set to be simplified as part of a wide-ranging overhaul, AAP reports.

The federal government released draft legislation of the family law changes today, which will aim to address large court delays and access to support services.

Under the proposed changes, custody arrangements will be determined by six “best-interest factors” for the child, including child safety, a child’s development needs as well as the preferences of the child themself.

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said the factors for best interests would be streamlined in order to make the system easier for the courts and for parents.

Dreyfus said in a statement:

Currently, custody arrangements require the court to consider two primary factor and 13 additional factors and be guided by four objects, five principles and one presumption.

These long overdue proposed reforms replace the often confusing law around parenting arrangement with a simpler child-focused framework that will guide parents who can agree on their own post-separation parenting arrangements.

Australian Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House in Canberra
Australian attorney general Mark Dreyfus. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


International domination of Australian streaming platforms ‘needs to change’, arts minister says

As part of the overhaul to the arts sector, Labor has committed to a timeline for the introduction of quotas to force streaming companies such as Netflix, Disney, Amazon and Apple TV to spend a minimum percentage on specifically Australian content.

The industry has been pushing for streaming platforms to be forced to spend 20% of their Australian revenue on locally made content, but the government has yet to reveal a figure.

The arts minister, Tony Burke, has spoken to ABC News Breakfast this morning. Michael Rowland puts it to the minister that the profit of Disney’s local operation quadrupling last financial year must make a strong case for at least a 20% local production quota for all of the streaming services.


There’s no doubt a lot more can be done – a lot more. In terms of the exact number and how you cut it – that’s something we’ll be working through in the first six months of this year. Legislation in the second half of the year, and then, as of July 1 next year, streaming quotas will exist in Australia. There will be Australian content obligations.

The days have to end, where you’re sitting there with a remote control, going through show after show and everything appears to be from either the United States or the UK.

If you’re watching the TV, and it’s free-to-air, you’re getting Australian content. But if you’re watching through the Internet, you’re not guaranteed getting anything at all. And that just needs to change.


Good morning!

And welcome to the blog this last Monday of January. It’s a big day for policy overhauls with the Albanese government making announcements about reform to both the country’s family law and cultural sector.

The federal government has today released draft legislation of changes to family law to simplify it and reduce conflict for families.

The overhaul will see changes to custody arrangements, which will be determined by six “best-interest factors” for the child, including child safety, a child’s development needs as well as the preferences of the child.

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said the changes would put the best interests of children first, as well as address long court delays and access to support services.

You can read more from Paul Karp:

Australia’s arts scene is set for a revival with the government wanting to see Australians enjoying more music, books and TV produced by Australians.

The government will today be outlining its new national cultural policy, known as Revive, which commits $286m for the arts industry over the next five years.

The policy will set up a new arts investment and advisory body known as Creative Australia which will be in charge of funding artistic projects across a range of mediums. You can read more about the overhaul from Kelly Burke:

Rio Tinto is launching an investigation into how a radioactive piece of equipment smaller than a 10 cent piece was lost somewhere between its Western Australia mine site and Perth.

A formal committee advancing the “no” campaign for the Indigenous voice to parliament will be launched today when its first meeting is convened today, the Australian is reporting.

Warren Mundine, a leading organiser of the no campaign, says it will run on a slogan of “recognise a better way”, and will propose symbolic constitutional recognition of both Indigenous people and migrants, instead of an Indigenous voice to parliament.

You can read more about the no campaign from Paul Karp:

In sporting news, the Australian Open came to an end last night as Novak Djokovic clinched his tenth victory at Rod Laver Arena with a win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. Aryna Sabalenka had victory in the women’s singles over Elena Rybakina Saturday night to claim her maiden grand slam crown.

Let’s get into it!



Jordyn Beazley and Natasha May (earlier)

The GuardianTramp

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