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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Caitlin Cassidy and Natasha May (earlier)

SES and Resilience NSW ‘failed’ to lead flood response, inquiry finds – as it happened

What we learned: Tuesday, 9 August

With that, we will wrap up the blog for the evening. See you back first thing tomorrow.

Here were the major developments of the day, starting in New South Wales, where the John Barilaro saga is still chugging along full steam ahead.

  • The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has recommended prominent Sydney barrister Bruce McClintock SC lead a review into possible breaches of the ministerial code by Penrith MP Stuart Ayres over the John Barilaro saga. He has also conceded if he had his time again, he “would have asked” Barilaro not to run for the New York trade job had he known about the “flawed” hiring process. Meanwhile, the state treasurer Matt Kean has been elected unopposed as the new deputy leader of the Liberal party in the state.
  • Minister for the environment Tanya Plibersek has listed two Australia animals, the south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo and the mountain skink, as threatened. The species were devastated by the Black Summer bushfires.
  • The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, says Australia will send $10m in further aid to Indonesia to assist in fighting its foot and mouth disease outbreak. It comes as shadow minister David Littleproud lashed out at his counterpart for allegedly “misleading” Australians, claiming the Labor minister is “taking credit” for the work of the former Coalition government on biosecurity.
  • The Greens have publicly backed a referendum on Indigenous voice but want action on treaty and truth-telling as a priority, Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe has confirmed.
  • In Covid news, there were 104 deaths to the virus reported around the country today, including 44 in Victoria, 25 in NSW and 24 in Queensland.
  • And Australia woke to the death of beloved entertainer Olivia Newton-John today, with everyone from the prime minister to Kylie Minogue paying tribute to her incredible legacy.


Plibersek lists glossy black-cockatoo and mountain skink as threatened

The federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek today formally declared that both the south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo and mountain skink are under threat.

The Black Summer bushfires of 2019/20 took a heavy toll on both animals, with an estimated 38% of the cockatoo’s range affected. The concerns are even greater for the mountain skink, which lives in isolated patches of rocky habitat in the mountains and subalpine areas of Victoria, NSW and the ACT that were also hit by the fires. It’s now listed as endangered.

They join the koala, greater glider and gang-gang cockatoo as Australian species recently categorised as under threat of extinction.

Sophie Power, from the Australian Conservation Foundation, says the combined effects of land clearing, logging, invasive species and climate change are taking a devastating toll on Australia’s unique biodiversity.

She says Australia has one of the world’s highest extinction rates and that will only change with stronger environment laws, an independent regulator to enforce them and adequate funding for species recovery.

Plans are now in place to protect both species and Plibersek has promised sweeping reforms of Australia’s environment laws after the recent release of the shocking State of the Environment report.

– with AAP

A pair of glossy black cockatoos on Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
A pair of glossy black cockatoos on Kangaroo Island, South Australia. Photograph: Dave Watts/Alamy


Woman dies after house fire in Queensland

A woman has died as a result of injuries sustained at a house fire in northern Queensland this morning.

The 47-year-old was transported to a Townsville hospital in a critical condition after the blaze. A 65-year-old man remains in hospital with severe burns.

Police investigations are continuing.


Meanwhile, in Canberra, it will be a brisk minimum of -4C tomorrow.


Doctors fear for health of Australian engineer jailed in Iraq

Doctors for an Australian engineer jailed in Iraq have privately warned the Australian government of fears that Australia will be repatriating “a corpse” if his condition continues to rapidly deteriorate.

Robert Pether’s family have repeatedly raised fears about the 47-year-old’s health since he was jailed over a business dispute relating to the construction of a new headquarters for Iraq’s central bank, which Pether’s firm was working on.

Pether’s family say he is innocent and a UN working group has expressed concerns Pether’s detention and trial were potentially compromised.

Now, his family doctor has written to the Australian government – via prime minister Anthony Albanese and the embassy in Iraq – warning of Pether’s rapidly deteriorating health.

Pether’s doctor, based in Italy, who does not want to be named, said:

After stressing that Mr Pether has had all his human rights trampled on, as his doctor, I strongly urge that he be released from this inhumane detention and be subjected to the checks that he needs URGENTLY in a hospital environment.

If he is not afforded this basic human right without delay, I fear that Australia will in short time be repatriated with the corpse of Mr Pether.


Thorpe said the payment of reparations would not be necessary as a precursor to implementing the Voice, rather, truth telling should be the priority “first and foremost”.

We don’t need to create fear in the Australian population which is what that kind of conversation will do. We need to work on things that will unite this country, bring people together for a better understanding on the true history of this country.


‘A lot of work to be done’ before establishing Voice to parliament, Lidia Thorpe says

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe just appeared on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, discussing the promised referendum on establishing a Voice to parliament for First Nations people.

She says “there’s a lot of work to be done” prior to the Voice being implemented, including implementing the remainder of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody and the Bringing them Home report.

To put some meat on the bones and be able to trust Labor in what they say we need to see action now, action that will save lives immediately.

She says there are three elements to the Uluru Statement – “truth, treaty and voice” – necessary for a successful referendum.

We’ve already shown that we can work together. Even though the climate bill was still very weak, there were negotiations and conversations where we did improve the climate bill. There is good faith already shown, we need to see more, and I believe that we can come to some kind of agreement but we need to see action.

Show us what you’re made of Labor, before we can trust you on any Voice to parliament.

Lidia Thorpe raises her arm during her swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chamber at Parliament House.
Lidia Thorpe raises her arm during her swearing-in ceremony in the Senate chamber at Parliament House. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


‘Healthy’ alcoholic drinks may lack accurate nutritional information, study finds

Health-conscious Aussies may want to reconsider their next “low sugar” alcoholic drink as experts warn “healthy” booze marketing campaigns can often be misleading, AAP reports.

More than 75% of adult drinkers believe that beverages with “low carb” and “no added sugar” labels are healthier options, however these products don’t always contain accurate nutritional information, according to Cancer Council Victoria.

A recent study by the organisation found many beers, ciders, pre-mixed drinks and wines, which are touted as being “better for you”, still tend to be classified as full-strength and can be harmful to your health.

The study’s lead author Ashleigh Haynes said the alcohol industry may be trying to capitalise on the health and wellness trend.

Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors contributing to Australia’s disease burden and its consumption is linked to many serious illnesses, including at least seven different types of cancer.

It’s also the largest source of energy in the diet from unhealthy products, making up 13.4% of Australian drinkers’ overall energy intake. Additionally, just over 10% of alcohol products provide any nutritional information.


Also breaking this hour, Papua New Guinea’s prime minister James Marape has been returned as prime minister unopposed following a controversial national election process plagued by violence, chaos, missing ballots, incomplete voter rolls and fraud allegations.

He has led the country since 2019.

This election also made history for the election of female candidate Rufina Peter:


Labor and Liberal parties both support pay increase for aged care workers

Labor MP Sally Sitou and Liberal Melissa McIntosh have just appeared on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing program.

Asked how likely an increase in wages for aged care workers would be, which Labor called for yesterday, Sitou said two things were “crystal clear”.

One is that it is a sector in crisis and part of the challenge is that there are not enough workers who are willing to work in the sector and because they have been under valued and underpaid for so long ... I welcome the Labor government proposal to increase the award wage. That is something is long overdue.

McIntosh said the Coalition also supported a pay increase in principle.

We just want to ensure that it is the Fair Work Commission that is addressing this in a nonpolitical way, as it has always done and there will be questions from us around the pay increase – if the government wants to cover this, how much will that cost? ... the Grattan Institute is estimating that if the government goes with the union’s recommendation of a 25% increase that will cost around $3bn a year to the budget.

Labor member for Reid, Sally Sitou
Increase in aged care award wage is ‘long overdue’, Labor member for Reid, Sally Sitou, says.
Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Unknown remains found buried in school in Gunnedah, NSW

Police are investigating after unknown remains were found buried at a school in regional NSW.

Just after 9am today police attended an excavation site at St Mary’s College in Gunnedah where remains had reportedly been located.

A NSW Police spokesperson confirmed a crime scene had been established.

The remains will be seized to undergo forensic examination to determine if they are human. Inquiries are continuing.


Greens back calls for WA mining industry to institute reforms after sexual harassment review

The Greens have vowed to lobby for the mining sector to undertake systemic reform to prevent violence against women, following an independent review that found sexual assault and harassment was rife in the sector.

Senator Dorinda Cox, the Greens spokesperson for resources, said she was “shocked, disgusted and appalled” to learn today of another report of sexual harassment and predatory behaviour at the Diggers and Dealers conference.

The WA mining sector has been called out in the report and its recommendations are clear. The ignorance and lip service is impalpable and holding those in power to account isn’t even a blip on the radar, which continues to leave me deeply concerned.

The reporting of these acts must be taken seriously so that this culture of violence is stopped, reprimanded and compensated appropriately for women who are overwhelmingly represented as victims. No more glossy commercials, websites and induction videos – real discussions and real action to ensure women’s safety is the priority for this sector.


In weather news, parts of Western Australia have received at least half of their average monthly rainfall total just nine days into August.

New South Wales and Sydney have also broken previous monthly rainfall totals this year, with a predicted wet spring to come.

Landmarks across Melbourne will be lit up in pink this evening in memory of the late Olivia Newton-John, Victoria’s premier has announced.

AAP’s Callum Godde says the landmarks include Flinders Street Station, Old Treasury Building, the Bolte Bridge, the MCG, the Royal Exhibition Building, Melbourne Recital Centre, the NGV, the Arts Centre, Melbourne Federation Square, AAMI Park, Rod Laver Arena, John Cain Arena and the Melbourne Town Hall.


Watt: role for defence force in disaster recovery but they cannot be ‘too stretched’

Dialling back to the Press Club, Murray Watt also said he has had “preliminary discussions” with the defence minister, Richard Marles, about the ongoing role of military troops in disaster response.

Defence Force personnel and equipment are regularly deployed to help in extreme weather events and rescue situations, but there has been long-running debate about whether the ADF is being too stretched with numerous domestic responsibilities.

The former Labor shadow defence minister Brendan O’Connor suggested pre-election that a civilian disaster agency could be established. Watt said his thinking was that the formal establishment of a brand new agency was less likely, but acknowledged increasing demands on military resources and suggested further funding for existing civilian response organisations.


We think that there will always be a role for the defence force, but we do have concerns about how far they are being stretched. We do need to make sure that we’re not stretching them so far, that that can’t remain their core focus. So that’s why we are looking at some non-defence mechanisms for recovery work.

It’s sort of about supplementing that disaster workforce, because unfortunately, we’re probably going to need to do a lot more.


NSW inquiry finds SES and Resilience NSW ‘failed’ to lead and coordinate flood responses

A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry into the devastating 2022 floods has found the State Emergency Service (SES) and Resilience NSW both “failed” to lead and coordinate responses “in the community’s greatest time of need”.

The inquiry’s report, released on Tuesday, made 21 findings and 37 recommendations including the abolishment of Resilience NSW unless it can make serious improvements to deal with future disasters.

The inquiry found that the agencies failed to coordinate between themselves and the government and that those agencies and the Bureau of Meteorology were not prepared for, nor did they comprehend the scale of the floods.

Flood waters inundate Lismore in March this year.
Flood waters inundate Lismore in March this year. Photograph: NEW SOUTH WALES STATE EMERGENCY/AFP/Getty Images

It also found that a drop in the number of SES volunteers ahead of the floods had led to response issues and the inquiry has recommended the state engage in a targeted recruitment drive. While much of the report focused on what went wrong, the inquiry chair, Walt Secord, said it was important to look forward and get help to those who were still struggling:

Our focus is now on the enormous task of clean-up, restoration and reconstruction. Many flood-affected individuals, families and businesses still need assistance. The NSW government must work with much greater urgency to secure temporary housing options as many continue to live in tents and cars near their homes.

The committee also calls on the government to finalise its long-term housing options and ensure that it considers investing in supporting relocations, land swaps, and providing fair compensation for landowners who wish to relocate from severely flood-impacted areas. The committee also made practical recommendations such as providing satellite phones and satellite terminals to community hubs in flood-prone areas.

A separate independent report by Prof Mary O’Kane and Mick Fuller into the flooding disaster was handed to the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, more than a week ago.

That report and the government’s response are expected to be made public within weeks.


In Melbourne, Spring Street in the CBD has been closed off for a procession in honour of Imam Hussain.

Thousands of people have gathered for the event, which forms part of 10 days of religious events.


Greens announces portfolio reshuffle

The Greens have announced their updated portfolios to take into the 47th parliament.

As part of the reshuffle, Max Chandler-Mather will represent the Greens on housing matters, while Libby Watson-Brown will represent infrastructure and transport and Stephen Bates will take on the LGBTIQA+ and youth portfolios.

The former economist Barbara Pocock will represent the Greens on finance and employment, the former teacher Penny Allman-Payne will take on schools, industry, transition and regional development, and David Shoebridge will serve as spokesperson for justice and defence.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt:

With more Greens in parliament than ever before, this talented team combines years of experience with fresh perspectives. This strong team will push the government to deliver on climate, integrity and inequality.

While the Liberals chase after the far-right fringe, this new Greens line-up will offer a progressive economic alternative to a Labor government that’s giving tax cuts to billionaires while opening more coal and gas.


Three people in hospital after house fire in rural Queensland town

Two people have been airlifted to hospital in a critical condition after sustaining burns in a house fire this morning.

Queensland Police are investigating following the fire, which took place in a rural north Queensland town. Around 5.40am, emergency services were called to the blaze where they discovered a man and a man injured at the residence.

The pair, a 65-year-old man and a 47-year-old woman, were transported to hospital in a critical condition and were later airlifted to Townsville University Hospital.

They remain critical. A man aged in his 20s was also transported to hospital with smoke inhalation.

Earlier, police attended the residence at around 2.15am to conduct a welfare check. Police say the parties involved were all spoken to before officers departed.

A crime scene has been declared and investigations are underway into the cause of the blaze.


Google confirms global outage result of ‘software update issue’

Did you turn to Google this morning, only to find the search engine was down with a mysterious error? And did you then experience the paradox of wanting to Google “what’s wrong with Google” before realising the very platform you intended to seek answers within wasn’t working?

Google has just confirmed the outage was due to a software update issue:

We’re aware of a software update issue that occurred late this afternoon Pacific Time and briefly affected availability of Google Search and Maps, and we apologise for the inconvenience.

We worked to quickly address the issue and our services are now back online.


Discussions ‘ongoing’ as to future of Redfern’s National Centre of Indigenous Excellence

The NSW Aboriginal Land Council (NSWALC) and the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) have issued a joint statement on the future of the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence (NCIE) in Redfern.

It follows a separate release issued by the ILSC on Sunday that a deal had been reached, which was yet to be confirmed publicly by the centre or the land council.

In the joint statement, the two bodies have reiterated the fitness and aquatics centre will continue to be operated by the ILSC until a “sustainable model” is achieved, with “discussions ... ongoing” as to what that model will be.

This will ensure community access to the facilities is continued. Tenants’ use and access of the site also remains unaffected and they can continue their valuable programs.

It was agreed that a resetting of the relationship is needed between the organisations and the community, to ensure the site continues to bring a brighter future for community.

The NSWALC and ILSC are committed to continuing to engage and consult on the future use of the site with the Redfern and broader community. Discussions are ongoing.

NSWALC’s chairperson, Danny Chapman, says the centre should continue to be a community hub, which was what the council hoped to achieve as new owners of the site.

The site is important to all Aboriginal people, and our vision has always been to build on the legacy. NSWALC needed to ensure we had the best interest of all Aboriginal people at every decision, but Council and I are now comfortable this will be achieved with the ILSC.

NSWALC remains committed to facilitating the delivery of community benefits and outcomes from the property, including by ensuring there is community access.

ILSC’s chairperson, Ian Hamm, says the ILSC will “continue to operate these important services while we work together in partnership to find a longer-term solution”.

The minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, on Friday gave the two parties a week to find a sustainable solution before intervening.


Littleproud says Labor 'taking credit' for Coalition work on biosecurity strategy

The shadow agriculture minister, David Littleproud, has pinged his ministerial counterpart, Murray Watt, for allegedly “misleading” Australians, claiming the Labor minister is “taking credit” for the work of the former Coalition government.

Watt, the minister for agriculture and emergency management, today unveiled the nation’s first Biosecurity Strategy, a 40-page document laying out the potential dangers of pest and disease for Australia’s farm sector, and laying out plans to strengthen responses.

But Littleproud, the agriculture minister in the former Morrison government, said the Coalition had begun the strategy in October 2021 and had “effectively completed it” before the May election.

“So this ‘national first’ has been none of the doing of the current government,” Littleproud said.

The complaint came in a media release titled “Labor takes credit again for Coalition’s biosecurity strategy”.

Watt, in a speech at the National Press Club, announced $10m extra funding for Indonesia to combat its foot and mouth disease outbreak. Littleproud, one of the strongest critics of the government’s response to FMD, demanded more.

The minister must consider stronger measures to protect us from FMD otherwise we’ll all pay. Why aren’t we screening all passengers returning from Indonesia? Why haven’t we banned all passengers bringing food products into the country?


Two new Australian animals listed as threatened species

Minister for the environment Tanya Plibersek has listed two Australian animals as threatened species.

The south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo is now listed as vulnerable, and the mountain skink is officially endangered.

Mountain skink.
Mountain skink. Photograph: Nick Clemann

The cockatoo and the skink that I’m listing today are two animals that were really badly affected by the Black Summer bushfires and I think it’s important to know that while the bushfires were a couple of years ago now we’re still dealing with the environmental impacts of that terrible time on our ecological communities.

We know the damage caused by the bushfires is still being felt today – and this decision shows we’re committed to working to protect, restore and manage our precious environment.


National Covid summary: 104 deaths reported

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 104 deaths from Covid-19:


  • Deaths: 4
  • Cases: 498
  • In hospital: 146 (with 4 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 25
  • Cases: 10,043
  • In hospital: 2,265 (with 54 people in ICU)

Northern Territory

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 216
  • In hospital: 34 (with 3 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 24
  • Cases: 4,141
  • In hospital: 710 (with 24 people in ICU)

South Australia

  • Deaths: 4
  • Cases: 1,853
  • In hospital: 341 (with 11 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 3
  • Cases: 650
  • In hospital: 84 (with 2 people in ICU)


  • Deaths: 44
  • Cases: 6,380
  • In hospital: 673 (with 32 people in ICU)

Western Australia

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 2,965
  • In hospital: 358 (with 11 people in ICU)

Tony Abbott meets Japanese MPs after being awarded Japan’s highest honour for foreigners

Meanwhile, former prime minister Tony Abbott is meeting with Japanese MPs following his awarding of Japan’s Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun – the highest Japanese honour available to foreigners.


Tributes flow for Olivia Newton-John

Tributes are still pouring in for Olivia Newton-John from across the globe.

Closer to home, here is Molly Meldrum’s statement, who regularly interviewed Newton-John on former music and entertainment program Countdown.

He pays tribute to “Livvy”, one of “those rare people who had a profound effect on the world and the people in it”.

Tonight, the stars will shine a little brighter and I am heartbroken.


Murray Watt believes Australia will keep growing enough food to go around

Watt’s final question at the National Press Club was on food security and relations with our trading partners: “How important do you think it is for Australia to help feed other nations, and in particular what is your view on the role of food security for our trading partners, especially in the context of our global diplomacy efforts?”

The agriculture minister replied he didn’t see it “as one or the other” and providing agricultural produce to regional neighbours would be “really helpful” for Australia’s diplomatic relationships.

We would want to ensure that we have enough food to feed ourselves ... but we are a trading nation, most of our agricultural produce is exported, depending on the industry. So I think that we can do both.

When I was in Indonesia the agriculture minister raised food security as a very big priority for their government, so it is the same for many other countries in our region, so I do think there is a really big role we can play in assisting neighbours with food security.

Looking at the state of the sector going forward, as long as we can keep growing it then there is enough to go around. I think it is really helpful for our diplomatic relationship in our region ... to try and play that role. I think it wins you points with your neighbours, and you would have already seen our government putting a lot of effort and in that regard.

The federal minister for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and emergency management, Murray Watt, at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday.
The federal minister for agriculture, fisheries, forestry and emergency management, Murray Watt, at the National Press Club in Canberra on Tuesday. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Floot-hit regions of NSW and Queensland to be prioritised by new disaster fund

Emergency management minister Murray Watt says the federal government will prioritise disaster mitigation projects in northern NSW and southern Queensland areas recently devastated by floods as its first spending under a new natural disaster fund.

Labor committed to spend $200m annually on its disaster ready fund, a revamp of the former government’s emergency response fund, which came under criticism for spending only a small portion of its yearly budget on mitigation and recovery efforts. In the dying days of the Morrison government, the Coalition committed funding toward flood areas.

Watt, speaking at the National Press Club, said the new government was still finalising legislation to establish its new fund, but said it would honour spending of the former government.

“The former government had finally dedicated some of that fund towards post disaster resilience work, particularly in the northern rivers region, and we intend to honour that,” he said, adding that northern NSW and southern Queensland would benefit.

So we’re working with those states to identify how that money could be spent.

Lismore residents walk through flood water on 31 March.
Lismore residents walk through flood water on 31 March. Photograph: Dan Peled/Getty Images


Greens will back Indigenous voice referendum but want action on treaty and truth-telling

The Albanese government is trying to shore up support for a referendum on an Indigenous voice to parliament as early as next year.

One of the sticking points is whether it would be backed by the Greens and outspoken Victorian senator Lidia Thorpe.

Thorpe has long campaigned for a treaty between the commonwealth and First Nations people – something Australia is one of the only countries with a colonised history not to have.

Now there is a bit more clarity on the Greens position: they will back it but want concrete action on treaty and a process of truth-telling – the two other, less talked about parts of the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe.
Greens senator Lidia Thorpe. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

In a statement, Thorpe said the Greens are keen to negotiate on those steps as well as implementing all of the recommendations from the 1991 royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody. She said:

We’ve made it clear that the Greens want to see progress on all elements of the Statement.

We support legislation that improves the lives of First Nations people, and I look forward to talking with minister Burney about how we achieve that together in this Parliament.

The Coalition’s official position is they are waiting for more details as to whether they will back it or not, but NT senator Jacinta Price is an outspoken opponent of the voice, believing more is needed on improving the quality of lives of First Nations people.


NSW premier orders review into Stuart Ayres's role in Barilaro saga

The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has recommended prominent Sydney barrister Bruce McClintock SC lead a review into possible breaches of the ministerial code by Penrith MP Stuart Ayres over the John Barilaro saga.

In a statement, Perrottet said:

I will recommend that the Governor appoint Mr Bruce McClintock SC to conduct a legal review into whether the Member for Penrith, Stuart Ayres, has complied with the Ministerial Code of Conduct in relation to the appointment of the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas.

The review will be conducted under Letters Patent issued by the Governor. The findings of Mr McClintock’s review will be made public once it is completed.

Stuart Ayres has denied any wrongdoing and said he stood down to allow the matter to be further investigated.
Stuart Ayres has denied any wrongdoing and said he stood down to allow the matter to be further investigated. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Ayres was asked to stand down from the Liberal party deputy leadership and cabinet by Perrottet last week after a draft of an independent report into the appointment of former deputy premier Barilaro to a lucrative New York trade job raised questions about Ayres involvement. Last week Perrottet said:

Information that has come to light in the review clearly demonstrates that the process was not at arm’s length. Mr Ayres denies that. And he has the right for the inquiry to take place.


We need to look beyond ADF during disaster recovery, Watt says

Watt says he has spoken with defence minister Richard Marles about the role the ADF play in disaster recovery, with concerns about how much the defence forces are being stretched.

We are in no way downplaying the importance of the role the ADF play in disaster recovery. They do incredible work. They have incredible skills and equipment that aren’t necessarily around elsewhere. And having been in disaster zones when this troops roll through, you can’t underestimate the morale boost that gives to a community.

So, we think that there will always be a role for the defence. But we do have concerns about how far they are being stretched and their core job is the defence of the nation.

That’s why we are looking at some non-defence mechanisms for recovery work ... it’s sort of about supplementing that disaster workforce because unfortunately we’ll probably need to do it a lot more.

Asked if there could be a separate national emergency service specifically for natural disasters, Watt says he doesn’t envisage anything as such.

We do need to recognise that the prime responsibility for disaster management rests with the states and territories supplemented by local government but we are certainly open to funding organisations that can help particularly with that clean-up and reconstruction work.

Former Labor shadow defence minister Brendan O’Connor suggested pre-election that a civilian disaster agency could be established.

Watt said his thinking was that the formal establishment of a brand new agency was less likely, but suggested further funding for existing civilian response organisations.

Australian army aircrewman Sergeant Rick Scott surveys flood waters over Lismore in February.
Australian army aircrewman Sgt Rick Scott surveys flood waters over Lismore in February. Photograph: Bradley Richardson/Australian Defence Force/AFP/Getty Images


Murray Watt says investing in disaster mitigation crucial amid climate change

Back to the National Press Club and Guardian Australia’s Josh Butler has asked the agriculture minister Murray Watt to pop his emergency management hat on and comment on how the effects of climate change on agriculture are feeding into the government’s thinking on disaster planning.

Watt says the new government has discussed how to be prepared for the natural disasters “that we know are coming and going to be coming in more frequency and severity”.

Investing properly in disaster mitigation is a really key part of that ... there’s too many ERFs, emergency response funds, as opposed to the emissions reduction fund, and how that has done nothing in three years. That’s why we decided to give ... new disaster ready funding.

It will require a small number of amendments to begin with and I hope to be able to ready to produce them soon.

We have started talking with states and territories about the types of projects they think might be needed and local government is very interested as well.


Queensland premier promises overhaul as inquiry into CCC delivers report

Queensland’s premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has addressed the media after receiving the final report of a review of the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission.

Palaszczuk says she’s had initial discussions with the report’s authors, corruption buster Tony Fitzgerald and former supreme court judge Alan Wilson.

Can I say for the start that there are 32 recommendations and on the face of them there is nothing here that I cannot see our government implementing.

Palaszczuk says there are “two key findings”.

The CCC should be funded to create a new corruption strategy and prevention unit as part of an overarching restructure which introduces greater civilianisation … and less reliance upon seconded police officers in its corruption investigations and strengthens the organisation’s oversight of these investigations.

And secondly, while seconded police should retain the power to charge, other than in exceptional circumstances charges should only be brought after the DPP has considered the evidence and considered it proper to do so.

Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk. Photograph: Jono Searle/AAP


Agriculture minister announces $10m in funding for Indonesia to help stop FMD

The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, says Australia will send $10m in further aid to Indonesia to assist in combating its foot and mouth disease outbreak.

Watt, in a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, claimed the former Coalition government had left “cracks in the wall” of Australia’s biosecurity response, and that his job was to “repair” those issues.

Indonesia is battling a foot and mouth outbreak, and local farmers fear the devastating disease making its way to Australia, where a FMD incursion could cost our agriculture industry some $80bn.

Watt said “the best way to stop FMD reaching Australia is to stop its spread through Indonesia”, in announcing a new package of help for our northern neighbour.

I’m pleased to announce today that the Albanese government will provide an additional $10m in biosecurity funding to Indonesia. This package will provide more urgently needed vaccines and technical support.

We’ve asked Watt’s office for more detail.

Watt accused the Coalition opposition of “irresponsible fear mongering” around the FMD outbreak, including calls to close borders to Indonesia, which he said was hurting farmers and exporters.

The minister said he had recently met a northern New South Wales farmer who claimed the “politically driven alarmism” from critics of the government’s biosecurity response had cost him $250,000 due to reduced cattle prices.

Agriculture minister Murray Watt at the National Press Club in Canberra today.
Agriculture minister Murray Watt at the National Press Club in Canberra today. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP


Many thanks to the always lovely Natasha May for keeping us on top of the news this morning. I’ll be with you for the rest of this fine Tuesday.

I am handing over to the intrepid Caitlin Cassidy who will bringing you plenty more updates on the stories we’ve been following this morning and more.

John Sidoti suspended from NSW parliament

Former New South Wales Liberal minister John Sidoti has been suspended from parliament after last month being found by the Independent Commission Against Corruption to have engaged in “serious corrupt conduct” to benefit his family’s property interests.

The motion to suspend Sidoti until November 25, 2022 “or until it is further ordered” was moved by NSW government leader of the house Aliser Henskens who said it was being done to “protect and uphold the dignity” of the government.

In response to the motion, Sidoti, the independent Drummoyne MP, said he was still “incredibly proud” of his time serving his community and would not let the Icac findings “detract” from that.

He accused Icac of “gagging” the ability of politicians to do their job and said the agency has created an atmosphere of “fear” for politicians.

Sidoti told the parliament:

I write the way I speak. I am no scholar and definitely no bully. I’m actually gobsmacked that telling councillors to lift their game is considered an attempt to improperly influence.

A few emails, a handful of texts and casual meetings mean that it was claimed to be a sustained attempt to improperly influence. What a ridiculous assertion and completely ignorant of multi-level political relationships.

He said he would launch an appeal against the findings in the supreme court this week and conceded he could not stand at the next state election as a Liberal candidate.

During his 25-minute address to the parliament, Sidoti cried when he recounted the impact of the saga on his parents.

John Sidoti has been suspended from NSW parliament.
John Sidoti has been suspended from NSW parliament. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Sidoti defended his actions and lashed out at the “hack” media for the way it reported on the story:

I have never knowingly or deliberately omitted to disclose pecuniary interests ... They alleged that any errors of disclosure indicated attempts to hide wealth acquired through illegal means ... a complete fantasy. There is no extraordinary wealth.

Disclosure guidelines are confusing and I found them complex. Unfortunately my accountant has got it wrong and I replied on that. End of story.

The anti-corruption watchdog recommended that the Director of Public Prosecutions consider whether the independent Drummoyne MP should be charged with misconduct in public office.

Last month, the NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, called on Sidoti to resign from parliament over the findings, saying there was “no place for corruption in the NSW parliament”.

The commission found Sidoti had used his official role as a member of parliament to try to “improperly influence” Liberal City of Canada Bay councillors in relation to properties in Five Dock between late 2013 and early 2017. Sidoti has denied the allegations against him, and the re-zoning he had allegedly sought did not go ahead.

You can read more here:


Business conditions improving, NAB report shows

Last month, we heard from treasurer Jim Chalmers about the headwinds facing the Australian economy, which prompted a cut in the nation’s GDP growth rate and forecasts of higher inflation.

Today, though, we learned from National Australia Bank with its monthly survey of business confidence and conditions that the economy has fairly strong tailwinds too.

NAB said:

After a steady decline over recent months, confidence rose to +7 index points - a marked rally in the face of headwinds from inflation and rising interest rates, as well as a deteriorating global economic outlook.

Business conditions remain well above average after rising 6pts in the month, with trading conditions, profitability and employment all higher.

NAB said capacity utilisation rose to a record 86.7%, “well above the long-run average of 81.1%, suggesting the economy could be running up against capacity constraints”.

Typically, capacity limits have inflationary consequences, so watch this space, which of course the RBA is doing. “Cost indicators” are also at record highs, as they were in June, NAB said.

“The survey suggests that despite global and domestic economic headwinds, demand has remained strong – and inflationary pressure continues to build suggesting that inflation is yet to peak, it said.


Watt says biosecurity plan the ‘strongest response in our nation’s history’

The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, has outlined the government’s three-pronged response to the threat Australia faces from foot and mouth disease.

Watt announced an additional $10m in biosecurity funding to Indonesia.

Firstly, we got to work instantly to provide help to our neighbours in Indonesia. Already, Australia has provided expert vet assistance to Indonesia, along with over 430,000 vaccines for Lumpy Skin, to be followed soon by one million vaccines for Foot and Mouth Disease. Because the best way to stop FMD reaching Australia is to stop its spread through Indonesia. That’s why I’m pleased to announce today that the Albanese government will provide an additional $10 million in biosecurity funding to Indonesia. And I thank my colleague, Senator Wong, for her assistance in this important announcement as well. This package will provide more urgently needed vaccines and technical support.

Beyond our support for Indonesia, we’ve also ramped up our own protection measures at the borders with more biosecurity officers, detector dog, sanitisation foot mats at airports. 100% screening of mail from Indonesia and China, and 100% risk profiling of passengers returning from Indonesia.

As I’ve said, this is the strongest biosecurity response in our nation’s history. More than any government has ever done before.

Thirdly, we are also improving our readiness should an outbreak occur here. Last week, we created a new exotic animals diseases preparedness taskforce to ensure that Australia is better prepared in the event of a foot and mouth disease or lumpy skin disease outbreak. The task force brings together our experts in biosecurity and animal health, along with our experts in disaster management.


Agriculture minister Murray Watt speaks at National Press Club

The minister for agriculture Murray Watt has begun his speech at the National Press Club where he is unveiling the government’s new national biosecurity strategy.

He has reflected on his family connections with the industry, but says he’s not going to pretend to be a farmer himself:

I’m not a farmer and I’m not going to pretend to be one. I think Australians have had enough of politicians faking it. But I do think that my family’s farming history has helped me appreciate the highs and lows of farm life and why it means so much to have a government that stands with the industry, in good times and in bad.

He speaks about the importance of strengthening ties between city and country, and that it is a time “to turn the page for agriculture”:

This government and I, as minister, are determined to take these opportunities and challenges by the scruff of the neck. To work with all stakeholders for the betterment of our country. It really is time to turn the page for agriculture. We need to have relationships that are built on honesty and respect. We need a government that charts a path for industry success - not one that sets up road blocks to avoid.


'If I had my time again, I would have asked him not to' apply: Perrottet on Barilaro job

The New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet has conceded he “would have asked” John Barilaro not to run for a New York trade job had he known about what he called a “flawed” hiring process.

Barilaro told an upper house inquiry on Monday that Perrottet told him to “go for it” when he raised his plan to apply for the job last year.

Addressing the media on Tuesday, the premier described that as a “passing comment”, saying he wasn’t aware of the “problematic” hiring process which has haunted the government over the last seven weeks.

But the premier conceded on Tuesday that it was a mistake not to discourage Barilaro from applying for the job.

“If I had my time again, I would’ve asked him not to,” Perrottet said.

Conceding the “process was flawed”, Perrottet said that if he had the chance again he “would have asked him not to” apply.

“Clearly there were problems [in the process],” he said.

Dominic Perrottet and NSW treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Matt Kean speak to the media today.
Dominic Perrottet and NSW treasurer and deputy Liberal leader Matt Kean speak to the media today. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

Perrottet addressed media on Tuesday after the election of Matt Kean as the deputy Liberal Party leader.

The position was spilled following the resignation of former deputy Stuart Ayres over the trade job saga.

Kean was elected unopposed after the transport minister, David Elliott, pulled out on Monday, saying he had been forced to “eat humble pie” by the premier.

Perrottet denied he asked Elliott not to stand, saying he asked both him and Kean to “focus on party unity” during a phone call on Monday.


Perrottet says he will only act on Barilaro inquiry once it is finalised

Perrottet continues to come under fire. He urges:

Allow an independent review to be finalised

That is the appropriate approach to take.

He is speaking about the importance of the state trade commissioner roles in contributing to the economy and says.

I have complete confidence [in trade roles].


Perrottet on Barilaro inquiry: ‘The whole situation is incredibly disappointing’

Perrottet is responding to questions about the ongoing inquiry into John Barilaro’s appointment to a plum New York trade role.

He says:

The whole situation is incredibly disappointing for everybody involved.


Kean speaks after election as NSW Liberal deputy leader

Perrottet, with Kean standing behind him, touted Kean’s credentials as his new deputy. He praises the reforms Kean pursued as a treasurer as well as his understanding of economic pressures, as the father of a young family.

Kean then speaks, saying he is humbled to be endorsed by colleagues in his new position as deputy NSW Liberal leader.

Kean affirms his belief in Liberal values. Of polices such as reforming stamp duty to make home ownership more accessible to all Australians, he says: “These are our values in action.”


Premier Dominic Perrottet is now speaking after Matt Kean was elected deputy leader of the NSW Liberals.


Man charged with murder over deaths of woman and her son in Stretton in Brisbane

A Queensland man has had a court hearing from his hospital bed after the alleged stabbing murders of a woman and a man – her son – at a home in southern Brisbane, AAP reports.

Police believe 49-year-old Weifeng Huang, who was charged with murder overnight, was in a relationship “for some months” with the female alleged victim, Liu Jifeng, 47, and all three lived at the Stretton residence where the bodies were found.

The other alleged victim was 20-year-old Wenhao Du.

Huang was unable to apply for bail during the brief phone hook-up with Brisbane magistrates court on Tuesday, where the matter was adjourned until 19 September.

The alleged offender underwent surgery at a Brisbane hospital overnight after suffering cuts to his arms in legs, which police believe happened during the attack early on Monday morning.


Google search outages around the world

Google search is experiencing global problems with internet outage tracker Thousand Eyes reporting 1,056 Google servers down.


Aged care wage rise could be spread out over time, minister says

Pay rises given to aged care workers could be “stepped out” over a period of time, the aged care minister Anika Wells says.

Wells was speaking from Brisbane, where she said there was modelling on how much a wage increase would cost, but it was “hypothetical” until the fair work umpire handed down its decision on aged care workers’ pay.

She pointed to the community workers who were awarded a significant pay rise under the Rudd-Gillard government, which was “stepped out across nine years”.

Wells told reporters:

So the sequencing around that – there’s lots more work to do.

We’re preparing for all eventualities.

It follows the federal government making a submission to the Fair Work Commission advocating for a significant wage increase for workers.

The government has pledged to fund the pay increase based on the commission’s determination.

– via AAP


Australian leaders, stars and cancer survivors remember Olivia Newton-John

Kylie Minogue, Hugh Jackman, prime minister Anthony Albanese and cancer survivors have taken to social media to pay tribute to Olivia Newton-John, describing her as an inspirational and generous person.

The Tasmanian senator Catryna Bilyk reflected on Newton-John’s death as a fellow cancer survivor and shared a handwritten note the singer gave her.


Queensland records 24 Covid deaths

Queensland has recorded 24 more Covid deaths and 4,141 new cases in the last reporting period. There are 710 people with the virus in hospital in the state, with 24 of them in intensive care.


Meningococcal disease case reported in South Australia

A teenage boy is in a stable condition after being admitted to hospital with a case of meningococcal disease.

South Australian Health said there have been nine cases of the disease reported in the state this year, compared with six cases at the same time last year.

Instances of the disease have been seen throughout the country, including two cases confirmed in people who attended the Byron Bay music festival.


Daniel Andrews reflects on Newton-John’s legacy through cancer centre

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, said he was saddened to hear of the death of Olivia Newton-John, describing the Melbourne cancer centre she helped fund as her lasting legacy.

He told reporters at parliament this morning:

I was honoured to meet Olivia Newton-John on many different occasions in connection with the delivery of the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre. [She was] an absolutely supreme talent, a person with such energy, vitality. She took her cancer journey and used that to save lives and change lives. And that’s just a deeply impressive thing.

As a lasting testament to her character and her generous spirit and just the person she was, we have the Olivia Newton-John Cancer and Wellness Centre at the Austin hospital … The love and support that is central to that place is a lasting legacy to the person that she was. We are all very saddened, I think to see her pass. And as for celebrating her life, and her music, film and all the other amazing contributions she made we would, of course, want to speak to the family and be as respectful as we can. We’ve only just learned the sad news.

The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Victoria treats cancer patients and carries out research and clinical trials.
The Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Victoria treats cancer patients and carries out research and clinical trials. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images


Follow the latest news on Trump, live

You can follow the latest updates in the breaking story of the FBI raid of Donald Trump’s Florida home on Guardian’s dedicated live blog:


Search of Trump’s home comes amid new details in book excerpt

As Donald Trump says the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago home, here are the humble words of the reporter who broke the story:

News of the raid comes as photos suggest Trump blocked toilets with ripped-up White House documents, and an excerpt of a new book published in the New Yorker claims Trump wanted the Pentagon’s generals to be like Nazi Germany’s generals.

Edward Helmore brings you these stories:


Government to unveil national biosecurity plan

The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, will launch a new national biosecurity strategy today, warning that climate change, Covid and online shopping have contributed to a biosecurity environment that is “more threatening than ever before”.

Watt, who will launch the plan in an address to the National Press Club, says it is the first ever federal plan of its kind and will involve authorities undertaking more regular national exercises to prepare for pest and disease outbreaks.

Victorians to be offered free face masks

More than 3m free face masks will be handed out to Victorians at testing sites, community health services and on public transport in an effort to reduce transmission of Covid-19 and other respiratory illnesses.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, and the health minister, Mary-Anne Thomas, announced the initiative at Victoria’s parliament this morning.

Andrews says the N95 and KN95 masks will be handed out over the next four to six weeks.

Anyone who presents at a state-run testing site will receive one box of 10 masks along with instructions on how to best wear them. Masks will also be distributed at multicultural, multi-faith events and Aboriginal gatherings, as well as train stations and through a number of disability service providers.

Andrews told reporters:

We know that the advice and the evidence is really clear. If you can wear a mask please wear one, particularly when you’re indoors, particularly where you can’t social distance from other other people. This all about trying to further limit and drive down even further those case numbers the hospitalisation numbers, taking pressure off our nurses, taking pressure off our ambulance workers and doctors and the whole health system. This just makes common sense.

‘If you can wear a mask, please wear one’: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews
‘If you can wear a mask, please wear one’: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP


Matt Kean elected as NSW deputy Liberal leader

The New South Wales treasurer, Matt Kean, has been elected unopposed as the new deputy leader of the Liberal party in the state.

The party whip, Nathaniel Smith, announced the result of the partyroom meeting on Tuesday, which was forced following the resignation of former deputy Stuart Ayres in the wake of the New York trade commissioner controversy.

Kean, a moderate, had been expected to face a contested ballot after his centre-right rival, the transport minister, David Elliott, announced he would run.

But Elliott pulled out on Monday afternoon, saying he had been forced to eat “humble pie” after the right and moderate factions backed Kean for the position.


Consumer confidence drops, latest report shows

On the economic stats front, the latest consumer sentiment report from ANZ and Roy-Morgan shows confidence dropped 4.5% in the past week to its lowest level since April 2020.

The retreat reversed the modest gains over the previous three weeks, and came during a week that the Reserve Bank of Australia extended its series of rate rises to four meetings in a row.

As the reserve bank noted last week in its quarterly statement on monetary policy (which we wrote about here) it’s watching how people respond to the rise in prices like the proverbial wedge-tailed eagle.

For now, those expectations are pretty much steady, at least according to ANZ/Roy-Morgan update.

One reason why we might see some further easing back of those inflation worries is that petrol and diesel prices are generally in retreat along with global oil prices (which are roughly back to where they were at the time of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine).

According to the Australian Institute of Petroleum the price of unleaded petrol was down about 8% alone last week to 160.9 cents a litre.

If that keeps up, the end of the excise “holiday” on 29 September (when you’ll see the price change at the “bowser”) and its 22.1 cents a litre increase might be a lot more manageable.

One reason why the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has been unwavering in his comments about letting the halving of the tax expire at the end of its six-month stint (costing the budget $3bn).


Dutton pays tribute to Newton-John

The opposition leader Peter Dutton has released a statement in tribute to the late Olivia Newton-John, concluding:

Olivia Newton-John sang “Let Me Be There”. Whilst her star has sadly gone out, for so many of us, she will continue to be there.


Greens to enter negotiations on Indigenous voice calling for action on treaty and truth

Circling back to the ABC Radio interview with acting prime minister Richard Marles where the issue of the constitutionally enshrined First Nations voice to parliament was discussed: Marles said the government remained committed to delivering on its election pledge to take a voice to a referendum in its first term.

He told ABC Radio:

We’re focusing on the voice and that that was the commitment that the prime minister made ... and that is the path that we’re walking down.

We believe we can do that in terms of a referendum ... achieving the voice is our focus and that’s what we will be doing.”

Marles’ comments come as the Nine papers are reporting the Greens are willing to support the voice to parliament in exchange for a treaty with Indigenous people and a truth-telling commission.

Greens Leader Adam Bandt and Senate deputy leader Lidia Thorpe will negotiate with Indigenous Australians minister Linda Burney, according to Nine.

Thorpe told the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age:

Treaty will provide that mechanism for us to negotiate equal terms on how we can live together in the same country and celebrate us as well.

– with AAP


RBA to explore digital currency in Australia

The Reserve Bank has announced this morning it’s kicking off a year-long joint effort to learn more about digital currencies.

Specifically, it’s collaborating with the Digital Finance Cooperative Research Centre on a research project “to explore use cases for a central bank digital currency in Australia”.

The RBA notes “considerable research” has been done here and abroad into “the feasibility and possible technical design of CBDC”:

A question that has received less attention to date, especially in countries like Australia that already have relatively modern and well-functioning payment and settlement systems, is the use cases for a CBDC and the potential economic benefits of introducing one.

The project, which includes the federal Treasury, is expected to take about a year to complete and involve the development of “a limited-scale CBDC pilot that will operate in a ring-fenced environment for a period of time and is intended to involve a pilot CBDC that is a real claim on the Reserve Bank”.

Interested parties are encouraged to participate in the project, with the work aiming to understand “the desirability and feasibility” of a central bank-linked digital currency. (Cryptocurrencies, of course, already have a wide circulation.)

We can hardly mention the RBA without saying something about interest rates, so here’s the obligatory note about what’s expected at the bank’s next board meeting in September:


Victoria reports 44 Covid deaths

Victoria has recorded 44 more Covid deaths, with 673 people in hospital.


NSW records 25 Covid deaths

NSW has lost 25 more people to Covid, and 2,265 people are being treated for the virus in hospital.


Mar-a-Lago safe contents seized

Federal investigators seized the contents of Donald Trump’s safe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, the former president said in the latest indication of an intensifying criminal investigation by the justice department into his affairs.

The FBI executed a search warrant about 6pm at Trump’s post-presidency residence, according to a source familiar with the matter. The full extent of the raid was not clear, and whether it came as part of an investigation connected to the January 6 Capitol attack.


Reactions to the raid of Trump’s home

Donald Trump has released a statement revealing his home is being raided by FBI:

These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.

Eric Columbus, part of the Senate judiciary counsel to Joe Biden, shared this message on social media:

Joyce Vance, the former US attorney for the northern district of Alabama, said:


Breaking news: Trump says his home is 'under siege' by FBI agents

In a statement, former US President Donald Trump says the FBI is raiding his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.


Australian leaders remember Newton-John’s cancer advocacy

As Australia learns of the death of one its biggest stars, Olivia Newton-John, Victorian premier Dan Andrews highlighted her generosity when it came to helping the state’s cancer patients.

Newton-John supported Melbourne’s Austin hospital in building the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre, and promoted the LIV-KIT device for breast cancer detection, AAP reports.

Newton-John was born on September 26, 1948, in Cambridge, England, where her father Bryn had been working on the Enigma project at Bletchley Park during WWII.

When she was six years old her family emigrated to Melbourne, where she attended Christ Church Grammar School and University High School.


Reflecting on legacy of Olivia Newton-John

Thank you so much those of you who have been sharing your tributes to Olivia Newton-John, who has died at the age of 73.

We are closing comments on this blog but please continue to share your memories of the star on this page:


New threatened species listings include south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo

Two Australian species that were badly affected by the 2019-20 black summer bushfires have been officially listed as threatened.

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said the south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo had been listed as vulnerable and the mountain skink as endangered after recommendations by the threatened species scientific committee.

Plibersek said a national recovery plan would be developed for the vulnerable cockatoo and legislatively required comprehensive conservation advice was in place for both species.

The damage caused by the black summer bushfires is still being felt today and can be seen reflected in these listings today.

The fires had an immense impact on our environment, from a small reptile found in the mountains to a bird that is at home on the coast. There is still a lot of work to do.

The minister said the federal government was investing $1m in projects that benefited the south-eastern glossy black-cockatoo, including citizen science surveys, nest box installation and revegetation and protection of the black she‑oak, its main source of food and habitat.

She said $800,000 was being invested in supporting the recovery and conservation of alpine reptiles, including the mountain skink, which is found in isolated patches of rocky habitat in mountain and subalpine areas in Victoria, NSW and the ACT.


Idea Barilaro was appointed independently ‘stretches credibility’, Minns says

Chris Minns, the NSW opposition leader, went on to say:

It seems as though these positions are being offered around almost like lolly bags to senior members of the New South Wales government rather than what they’re intended to be, which is senior positions funded by the taxpayer. We shouldn’t operate like that in New South Wales. We’re slowly but surely finding out the contours of what is an absolute scandal.

There’s many questions to be asked. At the end of the day we’re expected to believe of the 8 million people who live in New South Wales, John Barilaro was independently chosen to represent our interests. I think that ... stretches credibility.

In terms of public administration in New South Wales it need to be very clear to everyone at the end of the day these are taxpayer-funded positions, if they’re supposed to be an independent public service appointment process, that needs to be respected. When questions are asked, answers need to be provided by the government. For the last eight weeks we’ve had stonewalling from senior ministers in the New South Wales government.

If there weren’t questions asked, Mr Barilaro would be serving in New York city and no one would be the wiser as to his appointment.


NSW government reluctant to answer ‘serious questions’, opposition leader says

Chris Minns, the NSW Labor leader, also appeared on ABC Breakfast News this morning to discuss the state of the NSW Liberal party amid the ongoing revelations from the inquiry into the former deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment to a lucrative New York trade role.

Asked what he thinks of Barilaro claiming he was the victim not the perpetrator in this, Minns said:

I mean, it’s a bit ridiculous. At this point, this is taxpayer money. We need to know how it’s been spent. Circumstances around this appointment have been completely un-transparent from the very beginning. The government has worked very hard at obscuring from the public exactly what happened in relation to the Barilaro appointment.

And in the last two weeks we’ve had a situation where the deputy leader of the Liberal party has resigned, we’ve got someone from the panel, the public service commissioner, who believes that she was misled. And most of the information has reluctantly been released from the New South Wales government. So there’s serious questions to be answered and the government seems reluctant to do so.

Chris Minns
NSW Labor leader Chris Minns. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP


Marles commits to plugging capability gap with submarines built in Australia

Asked if military will now a top priority of the budget, Richard Marles tells ABC Radio:

Making sure we have the most potent defence force we can have is absolutely a top priority of the government.

We are very focused on making sure we have an evolving capability for our defence force, that it’s as potent as it can be.

We need to be open-minded about how we plug the capability gap, but we must plug it.

It is going to be essential for us in terms of that future submarine capability to build the submarines in Australia.

Richard Marles
Deputy prime minister Richard Marles. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP


‘What we want to see is calm,’ defence minister says of China military build-up

Richard Marles, the acting prime minister and defence minister, appeared on ABC Radio this morning as China steps up military exercises in the Taiwan Strait.

Australia’s foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, is calling for a cooling of tensions. Marles joins her in calling for “calm”.

Marles had this to say on the significance of the escalation:

What underpins all of this is that China has engaged in the biggest military build-up we’ve seen since the end of the second world war and that’s the fundamental fact that shapes the strategic circumstances of the region.

Asked if he is concerned about a looming capability gap, he said:

We’re completely aware of the military build-up China has engaged in ... and it’s of enormous concern ... it’s certainly one of the key facts in shaping Australia’s strategic circumstances.

He adds:

What we want to see is calm and what underpins our position is a view that we don’t want to see any unilateral changes to the status quo on either side of the Taiwan Strait.


NSW Liberals expected to elect Matt Kean as deputy leader

While the nation and international community mourns Olivia Newton-John, the cogs in the wheels of politics continue to turn.

The New South Wales Liberal party will today elect its deputy leader after Stuart Ayres resigned last week.

Treasurer Matt Kean is the only candidate running, after transport minister David Elliott pulled out yesterday.

As my colleague Michael McGowan reported yesterday:

The meeting is likely to be a coronation for Kean, but not before a nasty public fight prompted by the transport minister David Elliott’s determination to block him from winning the job.

After insisting he would run for the role, Elliott went on Sydney radio station 2GB on Monday to announce he would withdraw.

“Yes, I’m disappointed,” Elliott said. “Yes, I’ve had to eat humble pie. Yes, I’ve had to say to the premier, ‘Yep, you’re the boss.’”

Matt Kean
NSW treasurer Matt Kean. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP


Daughter remembers Newton-John as ‘best friend’

Olivia Newton-John’s daughter Chloe Lattanzi shared this beautiful childhood image with her late mother, with no words.

Only three days before Lattanzi had shared a recent image with her mother captioned: “I worship this woman. My mother. My best friend.”


Radiohead guitarist remembers Newton-John for being more than his first crush

Ed O’Brien, the guitarist for Radiohead, remembers Newton-John for being his first crush, as well as for helping him through the “really rough time”.

“My imaginary friendship with you, which lasted from 1978 until 1980 helped me to deal with the fallout of my parent’s divorce,” O’Brien wrote on Instagram.


'Your Danny, your John': Travolta pays tribute

Grease co-star John Travolta shared a message to Newton-John on social media signed “Your Danny, your John”:

My dearest Olivia, you made all of our lives so much better. Your impact was incredible. I love you so much. We will see you down the road and we will all be together again. Yours from the first moment I saw you and forever! Your Danny, your John!

Fellow entertainers and leaders the world over have paid tribute to the beloved star.


Good morning

Australia is waking up to the news that one of its biggest stars, Olivia Newton-John, has died aged 73.

Beyond Sandy and a career as a bestselling singer, Newton-John was known for her advocacy for cancer research after her own diagnosis.

In a statement posted on social media, Olivia Newton-John’s husband John Easterling said:

Dame Olivia Newton-John (73) passed away peacefully at her Ranch in Southern California this morning, surrounded by family and friends.

Guardian Australia would love to receive your tributes in the comments.


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