What we learned today – Sunday, 11 June

That’s where we’ll leave the blog for today. Thanks so much for joining us. Here is a wrap of the day’s biggest stories:

  • Authorities have praised Sydney residents for a quick evacuation as fire raged;

  • Two divers reported missing in Tasmania have been found drifting 3.5km off shore;

  • Linda Burney has invoked Bob Hawke in giving a speech in support of the voice to parliament while in the NT for the Barunga festival;

  • Michaelia Cash has accused Labor of “weaponising” Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations;

  • Aged care minister, Anika Wells, says policy in the area has been “allowed to drift” for decades;

  • Wells has also thrown her support behind Katy Gallagher who has been attacked by the Coalition over claims she misled parliament;

  • The country’s property market is in a lull with auction clearance rates recording their lowest result in six weeks.


Labor accused of weaponising Higgins’ rape claim

The shadow attorney general, Michaelia Cash, has accused Labor of “weaponising” Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation, insisting finance minister Katy Gallagher still has questions to answer about her knowledge of the claim before it was aired publicly.

You can read more on that story here:

Three teenagers charged over man’s death in west Sydney

Two young men and a teenage girl are due in court after a 32-year-old man died after an alleged altercation in a western Sydney home.

Emergency services were called to a home in Tregear about 10.30pm on Saturday where they found the 32-year-old unresponsive in a bedroom.

He was unable to be revived by paramedics, and local police established a crime scene at the home.

The man was injured during an altercation at the home, police say.

Residents of the home, two men aged 18 and 19, and 16-year-old girl were arrested and taken to Mount Druitt police station.

The 18-year-old has been charged with murder, and the 19-year-old and 16-year-old have been charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

The two males are due in Parramatta bail court and the girl is due in a children’s court on Sunday.

Strike Force Armine has been formed to investigate the man’s death, with detectives assisted by detectives from the State Crime Command’s homicide squad.

The man’s cause of death will be determined through a postmortem examination.



Jennifer Coolidge at Sydney’s Vivid festival

This piece is a lot of fun:


Jobs data expected to show cooling economy

A fresh batch of jobs data will be pored over this week for confirmation the extremely tight labour market is starting to unwind.

The latest labour force data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics comes after the jobless rate lifted to 3.7 per cent in April from 3.5 per cent against expectations it would hold firm.

About 4,300 jobs were lost from the economy over the four-week period in a sign the labour market was starting to respond to higher interest rates and global uncertainty.

But unemployment starting with a “three” is still indicative of a very tight jobs market, and there’s reason to believe it will take time for it to materially weaken.

The jobs figures will be released on Thursday.

Before then, Commonwealth Bank will release its household spending intentions indicator for the month of May on Tuesday.

NAB’s business survey for May is also due on Tuesday, as is the monthly consumer sentiment survey from Westpac and Melbourne Institute.

On Wednesday, ANZ and Roy Morgan will release their weekly consumer confidence index – delayed a day due to the King’s birthday public holiday and Monday – and the ABS will release overseas arrivals and departures data.



You know it is winter in #Tasmania when the days are so short that you can see the @Dark_Mofo spectra in the morning when you start work and in the evening when you log off! pic.twitter.com/50YrdR1t63

— Bureau of Meteorology, Tasmania (@BOM_Tas) June 10, 2023

The devils and the detail of the $715m AFL stadium dividing Tasmania

Hobart’s Macquarie Point has been a freight railyard, a gas works and a rubbish dump, but for years its aesthetic has been abandoned industrial. Squeezed between a port and an elevated regatta ground, it is noteworthy mainly for its location – just a 10-minute promenade along the waterfront from the restaurants and bars of Salamanca Place, the city’s centrepiece.

It is unlikely many Tasmanians gave Mac Point much thought until it was earmarked for a new purpose – hosting big league football matches.

The AFL demanded a new stadium in return for the state being granted a licence for a long-sought-after team in the national competition. Since then public discussion in Tasmania has struggled to focus on anything else.

The man responsible for the deal with the AFL, the premier, Jeremy Rockliff, started a fight that he apparently didn’t foresee and that quickly spiralled beyond his control.

For more on the story behind the controversial new stadium development, read the full feature by Guardian Australia’s Adam Morton.

Pool entry prices in Brisbane slashed ahead of summer

Swimming pool entry pries will be slashed to $2 across the Brisbane city council area to help tackle rising living costs.

The price will apply all day every day, including public holidays, without a limit on entries.

The fee slashing means an adult visiting Wynnum pool will save $4.90 per entry while a child under 15 years will save $2.80.

The council will refund pool lessees the difference between their regular entry prices, Brisbane city council said on Sunday.



Canadian chef accused of selling ‘suicide kits’ investigated

A Canadian chef accused of selling “suicide kits” to vulnerable people online has reportedly been linked to the deaths of several Australians who took their own lives.

Kenneth Law, 57, is accused of selling “suicide kits” to at risk people online over a two year period, and is at the centre of a multi-agency probe. Investigators from Australia, Britain, the US, Italy, New Zealand and Canada joined forces to uncover his alleged crimes, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force and state police know of at least 10 packages containing the lethal substance having been sent to Australians, resulting in deaths, federal government security sources told the SMH.

Law was arrested and charged with two counts of counselling or aiding suicide after two deaths in the Regional Municipality of Peel in Ontario, in central Canada, on 2 May.

Local police say their investigation has uncovered evidence of Law sending 1,200 packages to 40 different countries.

Several police forces in Canada have since announced they will review deaths in their area, the Toronto Sun reports.

The Ontario chef has been linked with up to 20 people’s deaths internationally, including 13 UK residents, and one US teenager.

The chef’s prosecution came after he told a reporter from The Times, who posed as a buyer, that “many, many, many, many” of his customers were dead.

If you are struggling and need support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.



Kathleen Folbigg’s ‘fierce women’ on the need to challenge misogyny in criminal cases

In the week since Kathleen Folbigg was pardoned and released from prison, she has been unravelling the learned behaviours from 20 years spent in prison: no longer eating dinner at 3.30pm, or having to wait for a guard before opening a door. Realising she has free choice.

But Tracy Chapman, Folbigg’s longtime friend and advocate, says they have also started turning their minds to what might be learned from Folbigg’s experience. First and foremost by proving the impetus to establish a Criminal Cases Review Commission, as exists in the UK and New Zealand, to examine miscarriages of justice.

Chapman says the reason Folbigg is no longer in prison is not because the system works but because of a groundswell of support from people who ploughed through it, many of whom were women.

For more on this story, read the full feature by Guardian Australia’s Jordyn Beazley:

Woman killed and two injured after car veers off cliff

A driver is dead and two passengers are injured after their car veered off a cliff and into a creek in eastern Victoria.

The trio were travelling along Donnellys Creek Rd in Toombon when their car left the road about 10.20am on Saturday.

Footage from Nine News showed the vehicle on its roof surrounded by water.

A man and a woman who survived the crash were taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The driver died at the scene and she has not yet been formally identified.

Police are working to establish the circumstances surrounding the crash.



Auction market quiet ahead of King’s Birthday long weekend

The Australian housing market has recorded the “quietest auction week since Easter” according to the latest CoreLogic summary of clearance rates from the capital cities.

This week saw 1,040 homes auctioned across Australian capitals, down 42.7% from the 1,815 held last week and 24.6% less than at the same time last year.

Of the 825 results collected, the clearance rate remained above 72.4% – though this was still the lowest result in six weeks.

This week’s preliminary clearance is the lowest in six weeks, suggesting the June rate hike may have tempered buyer and vendor confidence.

Sydney had the highest clearance rate of 75.9%, followed by Melbourne with 73.7%, and Adelaide with 83.7%. The next highest were Brisbane (58.8%) and Canberra (52.3%).

However, the overall number of homes going to auction were down compared to this time last year. In Sydney, 468 homes went to auction compared to 541 last year, with 315 homes in Melbourne going under the hammer compared to 450 last year.

In Brisbane, 198 homes went up for sale, lower than the 162 from the same time last year while Adelaide had just 85, down from 141. The lowest, however, was were Perth where 12 homes went up for auction (down from 19) and Canberra which counted 52 homes (down from 66).

Tasmania recorded no new auctions.


Home affairs asked Labor to extend support for asylum seekers as housing market worsens

The home affairs department asked the Albanese government to consider extending supports for asylum seekers and people on bridging visas to respond to a worsening housing market and the complex needs of more people exiting immigration detention.

That revelation is contained in freedom of information documents, which also include a direction from the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, to the department to streamline reviews to increase releases from immigration detention.

Cohorts up for review include detainees assessed as a low risk to the community, to who Australia owes a protection obligation, who are stateless, have complex health or care needs, or have been in immigration detention for five or more years.

For more on this story, read the full report by Guardian Australia’s chief political correspondent Paul Karp:

Labor rolls out new ‘microcredential courses’ as part of targeted skills push

The Labor government will provide $18.5m to support the introduction of up to 28 “microcredential courses” from 18 universities as part of a program to help address skills shortages in priority industries.

“Microcredentials” are short, focused courses in a specific area of study, designed to teach and upskill participants with targeted, job-relevant skills.

Over 90 applications were made in the first round of the “Microcredentials Pilot in Higher Education Program”. They include courses in priority areas including IT, engineering, science, health, and education.

Minister for education Jason Clare said the program “can help Australians upskill and reskill to prepare for the jobs of the future.”

This pilot means more Australians can get the skills in areas we need, such as teaching, nursing, and engineering.

The program also includes an online platform, “MicroCred Seeker”, which allows applications to search a catalogue of 425 courses from 56 registered providers.

A second round of funding is planned within the next 12 months, which will allow for more higher education providers to apply to participate in the pilot.


Divers found in Tasmania after search

Two divers who went missing in waters off Tasmania’s east coast have been found safe by a volunteer rescuer.

The 24-year-old woman and 25-year-old man from Hobart were diving near Alligator Rock on Saturday morning but failed to return by 11am as planned.

That sparked a large rescue mission across the area involving the Westpac rescue helicopter, police and recreational boats.

Tasmania police inspector Colin Riley said the pair drifted for four hours and were only able to stay underwater for five minutes due to what he described as a technical reason.

He commended the way the divers handled the ordeal before being found by a civilian vessel about 3.6km offshore.

It’s fair to say they did what they had to do to survive, they didn’t panic.

They stayed together and they kept their spirits up and they just focused on remaining above water.



Allegations of abuse at centre accused of ‘extreme religious practices’

Health authorities in Western Australia heard allegations of abuse at the Esther Foundation in 2018 – well before the Morrison government awarded the foundation a $4m grant.

The grant to the religious rehabilitation centre, which has been accused of exorcisms and gay conversion practices, was part of the $2bn Community Health and Hospitals Program (CHHP). The national audit office this week accused the former government of deliberately breaching the CHHP guidelines, giving out grants likely to be unlawful, and falling short of “ethical requirements”.

The health minister, Mark Butler, described the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) review as “a scathing report describing the full extent of the Morrison government’s waste, rorts and captain’s picks in a billion-dollar health slush fund”.

For more on this story, read the full report by Guardian Australia senior reporter Tory Shepherd:

Wells backs Gallagher amid Coalition claims Labor senator misled parliament

Wells has backed Katy Gallagher over claims by the Coalition that she misled parliament by claiming she had no knowledge of rape allegations by Brittany Higgins.

Wells said she has been “horrified” by some of the “political conjecture” that has gone on this week calling it “totally beyond the pale”.

The political conjecture that has gone on this week about this issue I find pretty horrifying and failing to see a really awful forest for the trees.

These people who are at this point fairly craven political operators running around having never concerned themselves with answering public interest questions.

Asked about her views on the claims, Wells said that Gallagher “wasn’t answering questions as a minister” during the Senate estimates hearing in question, but was asking questions. After her “interaction” with Linda Reynolds, Wells said “they’ve taken it offline” where they had a conversation about the version of events.

Linda Reynolds accepted that at the time and two years on, I accept that now.


Asked why she won’t put a date on when the promise will be kept, Wells says she won’t rush to a conclusion and compromise people’s ability to “accept a more feeble standard of care”.

I’m sure people are watching us in nursing homes at the moment, David. We made that promise. I don’t regret making that promise because come 1 July, even where we fall short, there will still be many, many more nurses providing many, many more care in nursing homes than ever.

Wells says the government is also making arrangements to get more migrant workers qualified to work in the aged care system to alleviate workforce shortages.


Asked about the government’s election pledge to ensure every nursing home had a registered nurse on hand from 1 July, the minister is asked about how that is going given some providers are struggling.

The government has gone so far as to make it a legal requirement by 1 July ext year.

When will this promise be fulfilled?

As soon as I can possibly muster it, David.

But when?

Workforce issues are the number one issue in aged care. That’s not just now, that was the number one issue for mum in the early 2000s. The ageing population is an issue being faced by every single rich country across the globe.

What about the deadline?

It speaks to the seismic pressure at the moment. Yes, we want it. It was legislated because we wanted people to understand that we are going to go about aged care differently, and, yes, for some months I’ve admitted we will fall short.

What about July 1 next year?

Well, come 1 July when the legislation kicks in and people are required to provide nursing 24/7 and where you say, where people aren’t able to do so, they will have to tell our regulator that they have alternative care arrangements in place.


Wells says Australian taxpayers are already paying $36bn for aged care, but as chair of the taskforce, introducing a Medicare-style levy is “not my guiding principle”.

But Wells says the jury is still out on whether the government will require those with wealth to use their wealth to pay for their retirement.

I think it’s too soon to say what the aged care taskforce will recommend to government, but I think what people have told me - my test here is not just what do people come and meet with me in parliament about aged care proposals, it is also about what people tell me outside the IGA on a Saturday morning and they have made very clear to me that they want more options, that they are prepared to pay for higher quality care, but they can’t find it, so my job is to create the policy settings to allow those things to be built so people can find it.


Aged care policy allowed to drift 'for decades': Wells

Wells says reforming the aged care system is “really personal” as she and her mother both previously worked in the sector. Wells says she saw the problems once again when “walking back into facilities after becoming aged care minister”.

“This has been a policy that has been allowed to drift, as being too hard for decades and decade.”

Wells says there are different models from different countries that need to be considered but more work needs to be done by the aged care taskforce. The key, she says, is for people “to genuinely feel like they have a choice, whether that’s a choice to stay home for as long as possible, whether that’s a choice to enter a particular model of aged care”.

On whether the government will introduce a Medicare-style levy to help fund the overhaul, Wells says “we have a genuine duty to deliberate” the recommendations of the aged care royal commission.


The aged care minister Anika Wells says the Albanese government has to “deliberate on the recommendations to aged care funding” that were handed down by the royal commission.

Wells is speaking about moves by the government to introduce an aged care levy to help fund an overhaul of Australia’s aged care system.

However, Wells said the government has not yet made any formal decision.

I would say we’re still not advocating any particular proposal. What we are saying is that we are opening up a taskforce, like you said, short, sharp, to deliberate for six months on how to move forward.


Cash accuses Labor of ‘weaponising’ Higgins rape allegations

The shadow attorney general, Michaelia Cash, has accused Labor of weaponising Brittany Higgins’ rape allegation.

Higgins alleged she was raped by fellow Liberal staffer, Bruce Lehrmann, in Linda Reynolds’ ministerial office. Lehrmann has consistently denied the allegation. He was prosecuted, but the trial was aborted due to jury misconduct and prosecutors dropped the charges against Lehrmann earlier this year amid concerns about the impact a second trial could have on Higgins’ mental health.

On Saturday finance minister, Katy Gallagher, denied misleading the Senate by saying that “no-one had any knowledge” before the complaint was made.

Cash said there were “very, very serious questions to answer and based on the evidence that is now coming out, it does appear that there was a potential misleading” of the Senate.

Cash told Sky News:

This is what happens when you weaponise a rape allegation, there are consequences for that. This matter always should have been left to the criminal justice system to deal with and yet what you have now ... is that there appears to have been collusion with senior members of the Labor party with the media.

Gallagher and Penny Wong deny this.

On Saturday Gallagher said she was “aware of some allegations in the days leading up to the choice of Ms Brittany Higgins to make those allegations public” but “did not mislead the parliament”.

“I was responding to an assertion that was being made by minister Reynolds at the time that we had known about this for weeks and had made a decision to weaponise it,” she said.

That is not true, it was never true.

Mr Sharaz provided me with information … I did nothing with that information. And I was clear about that at the time. So some two years ago, when I spoke with senator Linda Reynolds about it, I said to her exactly that. That I had been made aware. I wasn’t aware of the full allegations that were made public when the interviews went to air.

Wong said she “did not know the full details of the allegations before the story became public”.


Minister hints housing program expansion on the table

The housing minister, Julie Collins, has appeared on Sky News to discuss Labor’s $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund, which invests in order to pay out up to $500m a year of its earnings to build social and affordable housing.

Collins was asked if the government could increase annual payouts beyond the current maximum of $500m, and did not rule it out. She said Labor was “happy to have discussions right across the parliament” - which sounds like this is on the table in negotiations with the Greens.

Asked about limiting the size of rent increases, as the ACT does, she said:

The federal government doesn’t have the power here, the states and territories do – as you point out the states and territories, some of them have already ruled this out. What we have done is put renters’ rights on the national cabinet agenda. We’re working with states and territories to have more consistency across the country around what rights renters actually have ...

What we have said, very clearly is that we want to work with states and territories to get more homes on the ground more quickly. We ultimately have a supply issue, which is why we need our bill, the Housing Australia Future Fund bill, passed by the Senate this coming week.


The aged care minister Anika Wells will be appearing on ABC’s Insiders program this morning, two years since the aged care royal commission.

Meanwhile, Labor’s minister for homelessness and small business, Julie Collins, and the shadow minister for employment and workplace relations, Michaelia Cash, have been on Sky News this morning.

We’ll bring you the latest as it comes.


Hawke 'deeply regretted' failure to deliver treaty: Burney

Linda Burney has invoked Bob Hawke during a speech at Barunga in the remote Northern Territory on Saturday.

Burney was attending a major cultural festival where she read a statement from Blanche d’Alpuget, Hawke’s wife, which said the former Labor prime minister regretted his inability to deliver a treaty for Indigenous Australians during his term in government.

She said that were he alive today, he would want the voice to parliament to succeed.

Bob would want Australia to grab this with both hands. So, I say, “Standing on the shoulders of giants, let’s grab that opportunity with both hands and vote ‘yes’.


Good morning

And welcome to another Sunday Guardian live blog.

The Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, has told a cultural festival in Barunga that Bob Hawke would have been a supporter of the voice to parliament, 35 years after the former prime minister first called for treaty and formal constitutional recognition for First Nations peoples. Burney said that were Hawke alive today he would have “liked to see the voice to parliament succeed”.

Two missing divers thought lost off the coast of Tasmania have been found unharmed on Saturday. The 24- and 25-year-old divers were found drifting unharmed 3.6hm off the coast several hours after police declared them missing when they were swept off course during a dive at Alligator Rock near Bicheno.

I’m Royce Kurmelovs, taking the blog through the day. With so much going on out there, it’s easy to miss stuff, so if you spot something happening in Australia and think it should be on the blog, you can find me on Twitter at @RoyceRk2 where my DMs are open.

With that, let’s get started ...


Royce Kurmelovs (earlier)

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