What we learned today, Thursday 2 February
Thanks to everyone who followed along on the blog today – and what a big day it was. Here is what made headlines:
The funeral service for Cardinal George Pell was held at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney today, with heated exchanges between his admirers and those marching outside in protest. During the ceremony former prime minister Tony Abbott said Pell was “one of Australia’s greatest sons”, and Sydney archbishop Anthony Fisher compared him to Richard the Lionheart.
The First Nations referendum working group met with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, as well as the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, to discuss the voice today. Albanese said he is optimistic about an outcome later this year, and Dutton agreed to meet the group a second time later this month.
A report on potential new alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory was handed to territory and federal governments today, who met in Canberra to discuss issues in Alice Springs, but the report may not be publicly released until next week.
Christian Porter appeared before the robodebt royal commission and said someone in one of the two government departments responsible for the failed scheme assured him it was legal, during a long day of evidence.
King Charles III will not feature on Australia’s $5 note after a decision by the Reserve Bank to replace Queen Elizabeth II’s portrait with a design “that honours the culture and history of the First Australians”.
And that’s a wrap on today’s blog. Have a lovely evening and see you back here in the morning.
NSW shark nets may catch more turtles as waters warm
Warming waters may result in shark nets killing more turtles off NSW beaches, including the endangered leatherback, AAP has reported.
The finding comes in a report by the NSW fisheries department into the abnormally high number of leatherback and green turtles caught in shark nets in the 2021-22 season. Of the 36 turtles caught, 17 were released alive.
The combination of higher sea temperatures and record rains causing run-off drew warm-water species towards meshed beaches, particularly the leatherback.
The report said:
It is anticipated that catches of [leatherback turtles] may increase with increasing temperature of nearshore waters and subsequent movement of warm-water species into central NSW waters
Shark nets are installed near 51 NSW metropolitan beaches from September to April each year.
In the past season 51 target sharks were caught, as well as 325 other marine animals including turtles and grey nurse sharks.
The report authors suggest the Department of Primary Industries, which has responsibility for the net program, could reduce turtle catch by considering adding lights to the nets or, immediately after flooding, removing the nets temporarily.
Greens marine spokesperson Cate Faehrmann said the government’s shark deterrence program must switch entirely to non-lethal, evidence-based solutions:
The fact that this report acknowledges that an increasing number of threatened turtles will be at risk of being killed by shark nets and yet recommends we continue with them is grossly irresponsible and will drive these turtles closer to extinction.
It’s time we were honest that shark nets do nothing to keep beachgoers safe. What they do is indiscriminately kill marine animals, including threatened wildlife, while lulling swimmers into a false sense of security.
Video: crowds protest the legacy of George Pell outside his Sydney funeral
Earlier today, hundreds of protesters gathered in Hyde Park outside St Mary’s Cathedral to protest during the funeral of Cardinal George Pell.
The protests, organised by the LGBTQI+ group Community Action for Rainbow Rights, were voicing their opposition to Pell’s legacy which they say is marred by homophobia, misogyny and child sexual abuse scandals.
The protest was almost shut down by NSW police but was allowed to go ahead when organisers negotiated a new route on the far side of College Street next to the cathedral.
While protests were peaceful, they drew heated reactions from a handful of funeral attenders.
Multimedia journalist Bertin Huynh was there to capture all the action, alongside reporter Rafqa Touma:
Former secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Richard Woolcott, has died at age 95.
Woolcott, who was the department’s most senior diplomat between 1988 and 1992, died in Canberra on Thursday morning.
Foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, paid tribute to Woolcott, saying he was a “giant of Australian diplomacy” who made an “enduring contribution” through his lifetime of public service:
In a statement, former prime minister Kevin Rudd said Woolcott saw “the big picture”:
[He] understood the craft of diplomacy and how to move the ball forward internationally, rather than simply delivering pleasant speeches intended to please a domestic audience.
Australia rarely produced a professional diplomat of such calibre. And the nation is poorer as a result of his passing from us.
Catch up on the day’s headlines …
… with this quick roundup by Antoun Issa:
Anthony Albanese has taken to social media to speak of his meeting with the referendum working group earlier today.
By listening to people with real world experience and knowledge of community, we can make sure the Voice to Parliament works to help Close the Gap.
The Voice is about two things: recognition and consultation. And I’m grateful to hear from these experts today about how we can hold a successful referendum this year.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, also shared a photo from today’s meeting:
Investigation under way following death of three-year-old child in Sydney
An investigation is under way following the death of a three-year-old child, who is believed to have been left in a vehicle, in Sydney’s south-west today.
At around 3pm this afternoon, emergency services were called to Railway Parade at Glenfield after reports a child was unresponsive
NSW Ambulance paramedics attended, however the three-year-old died at the scene.
Police officers were told the child had been in the vehicle throughout the day. The vehicle’s owner, a man known to the child, raised the alarm when he returned to the car.
A crime scene has been established and an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident is under way.
The man has been taken to Campbelltown police station where he is assisting police.
Anyone with information about this incident is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or online.
Christian Porter was 'assured' robodebt scheme was legal, royal commission hears
Christian Porter has told a royal commission someone in one of the two government departments responsible for the failed robodebt scheme assured him it was legal.
The former social services minister and attorney general, who was a key minister at the initial height of the scandal in 2017, told the inquiry he could not be sure who provided the assurance, though he believed it was someone from the departments of human services or social services.
I do distinctly recall putting a question … that everyone’s assured about the legal underpinnings. I don’t know the exact language that I used but I’m trying to describe it in the best way I can. I can’t recall who it was that affirmed that assurance, but someone did, and I recall that it was a departmental person.
I couldn’t say if it was [Department of Social Services or Department of Human Services], and it happened quickly, and we moved on because it just wasn’t the focus of what was going on.
The royal commission is investigating why and how the unlawful Centrelink debt recovery scheme was established in 2015 and ran until November 2019, ending in a $1.8bn settlement with hundreds of thousands of victims.
Porter said no one in his department ever shared with him a 2014 internal legal opinion from within social services that suggested the scheme would be unlawful. He was also not made aware that the department had sought new internal advice in late January 2017, that gave a weak legal backing to the program.
He said he should have been made aware of that legal advice.
Porter said he became very “frustrated” with the information being provided to him during the period, including a brief stint where he was acting human services minister in Alan Tudge’s absence.
He said he’d learned from preparing for the commission that talking points provided to him by the Department of Human Services contained several assertions that were “inaccurate or untrue”.
Porter’s evidence, before Catherine Holmes AC SC, continues.
Voice referendum opportunity to strengthen democracy, working group member says
Thomas Mayo, a member of the First Nations referendum working group, also appeared on Afternoon Briefing this afternoon to speak about their meeting with opposition leader Peter Dutton and shadow Indigenous minister Julian Leeser.
Mayo said it was a respectful discussion and “quite comprehensive”:
Professor Megan Davis talked through the Uluru dialogues and the great amount of work that people have done to come to this point.
It was very much a discussion about how the voice came to be the proposal that is in front of all of us now. We talked about how we wanted to continue the dialogue with Peter Dutton and Julian Leeser and the opposition party and our great hope … that they will decide to support this referendum.
Earlier, Leeser said the government hadn’t adopted the “usual orthodox processes” during this process. Mayo said there wasn’t time to pushback on this due to the length of time allocated for discussions.
But I think I would say that Dutton and others should look at the great amount of work that’s been done about this, not just by Indigenous people. There’s multiple reports and processes that have been run. There’s been overwhelming support in thousands of submissions of these processes. Supporting what Indigenous people have called for. It’s a great aspiration to strengthen our democracy and it’s a nation-building thing for us to change our constitution, to recognise Indigenous people with a voice to parliament. I think the process has certainly been, it’s been extensive, it’s been wide. And we’re at the point where we can finally do this.
Dutton agrees to meet again with working group later this month
Shadow attorney general Julian Leeser is speaking following a meeting with opposition leader Peter Dutton and the First Nations working group on the voice.
Earlier this afternoon Peter Dutton and I met with the referendum working group. We had a comprehensive presentation on the processes that led to the Uluru dialogues. Peter pointed out in the discussions that the government hadn’t adopted the usual orthodox processes in to this particular referendum of having a constitutional convention or a public committee.
We’ve agreed to meet with the referendum working group again. We accepted the government’s invitation to meet with a referendum working group. We now ask the government to accept our invitation and engage with the questions Peter Dutton put forward in January about the scope and the content of the voice itself.
It’s been reported that Dutton will meet with the group again on 17 February.
A written statement from the opposition leader Peter Dutton’s office was read out on ABC Afternoon Briefing by Greg Jennett, in which Dutton said he was pleased to attend today’s meeting with the First Nations working group on the voice:
The statement said:
Like all Australians, we come to this debate with good will … But, the Prime Minister’s refusal to answer straightforward questions on how this Voice proposal will work is untenable. Australians deserve to be informed before voting at a referendum.
The Liberal Party will continue to be constructive and Mr Dutton has committed to further engagement with the referendum working group.
Barnaby Joyce weighs in on voice debate
Nationals frontbencher Barnaby Joyce is appearing on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, and is weighing in on the voice debate:
I’m here in western New South Wales, central-west New South Wales. And on a philosophical basis, how do we do this and explain that by reason of DNA, one person in one house has a certain access to parliament and another person right next door has a different access to parliament?
Joyce concluded by saying, “We’re now going to differentiate people on DNA and I’m philosophically opposed to that.”
Labor frontbencher Anthony Chisholm, also appearing on the program, responded that the National’s position is “absurd”.
[The National party] said they’re going to oppose it. They don’t want any more detail. They’ve already made their decision. That is really disappointing when you see the tone of the suggestion put forward by Prof Davis and those who put forward the Uluru statement and the National party would take their position without engaging in good faith.
I’ve been on the road this week through Emerald, Rockhampton and down the coast to Brisbane. I’ve been in pubs and clubs and met with traditional owners and there is strong support for the voice. There’s people who ask questions which is legitimate and those answers will be provided as we get closer to the election. I think people are taking it in the good faith offer of which [it] was put.
Voice working group says Dutton committed to ‘further talks’
Members of the First Nations referendum working group are making a statement after discussing the voice to parliament with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the leader of the opposition Peter Dutton.
Megan Davis said that constitutional recognition through a voice is “something that deserves broad support across the community”, and that bipartisanship is something they would welcome:
We welcome Peter Dutton’s commitment to further talks on the Voice referendum.
The Australian people will determine the outcome of this referendum, not politicians. The Constitution is the people’s document. Politicians can’t change it. Parliament can’t change it. Only you, the Australian people, can change it.
The Uluru Statement from the Heart was an invitation to the Australian people … to walk with First Nations people in a movement for a better future. We call on all political parties to support this referendum. Seize this opportunity to move Australia forward for everyone.
Australian rainfall 35% above average in January
In more weather news, the Bureau of Meteorology has released its monthly report for January showing that across Australia last month, rainfall was 35% above average.
Rainfall was above or very much above average for most of Queensland, most of pastoral SA, the southern half of the NT, most of north and north-west WA and some parts of western and southern NSW.
Australia’s national area-average mean temperature was exactly equal to the long-term 1961–1990 average for January.
You can read the full report online.
Wet weather across southern Australia
Rainy, windy weather is expected to hit Melbourne this afternoon.
Showers are also hitting Hobart, and are about to increase in Launceston in Tasmania.
The report into potential new alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory may not be publicly released until next week, despite the territory and federal governments receiving the report and meeting in Canberra today to discuss issues in Alice Springs.
Anthony Albanese said both governments would consider the report in their respective cabinet meetings next week, but that it wouldn’t be released (by the NT government) until after cabinet consideration.
Albanese tweeted after meeting with NT chief minister Natasha Fyles:
Our Governments will listen and respond with the action local communities want us to take.
Dorrelle Anderson was appointed as the Central Australian Regional Controller last week, when Albanese flew into Alice Springs for urgent meetings with community groups. She was asked to lead consultation with communities regarding the reintroduction of alcohol restrictions and an opt-out system for individual communities, with a short-term consultation that wrapped yesterday.
The NT government got the report last night. At a Canberra press conference this morning, Fyles declined to reveal what was in the report or confirm details reported in the media. She also wouldn’t say exactly what assistance she would request from the federal government, only that she wanted “sustainable” changes not “Band-Aid solutions”.
One tangible change Fyles suggested was a call for more government services such as Centrelink offices to be built in regional communities. She suggested such changes could address “urban drift” from remote communities into larger centres, in a bid to further address overcrowding and associated violence in towns.
That can be driven by alcohol but it is not the sole single issue.
Anthony Albanese has taken to social media following his meeting with NT chief minister, Natasha Fyles, this afternoon, discussing the recommendations of a report into surging youth crime and antisocial behaviour in Alice Springs.
Albanese said the report will be considered by respective cabinets next week:
The report will be released by the NT Government after cabinet consideration, confirming the next steps.
Our Governments will listen and respond with the action local communities want us to take.
Christian Porter faces robodebt royal commission
The robodebt royal commission hearing has been continuing throughout the day, with Alan Tudge returning to give evidence this morning after first appearing yesterday. This afternoon, former social services minister Christian Porter also stepped up to give evidence.
Porter was acting Department of Human Services minister in December 2016 when there was criticism of robodebt, and Tudge was on leave.
Guardian social affairs and inequality reporter Luke Henriques-Gomes has been following the hearing and will bring us the latest.
Speaking to the working group on the voice to parliament, Anthony Albanese continued:
When I was growing up not too far from Redfern, where there was a substantial urban Indigenous community, there was no such thing as an acknowledgment of welcome to country, never heard of that.
Now [wherever] you go, in my local church, whether it be a sporting event, any national event, it’s a matter of course. Any childcare centre including the early learning centre downstairs here, it is fantastic [that] the youngest Australians learn some Indigenous language as well.
Most schools in the country, public and private, will have had a smoking ceremony or a … welcome to country. Something that acknowledges the richness of our history. And the opportunity we have to [show] respect for Aboriginal and Torres Strait peoples and also to uplift non-Indigenous Australians to give us a more confident sense of self as who we are as Australians.
Whether we are the newest arrivals who got their citizenship last week, or whether it be Indigenous Australians. And also the way Australia is perceived [across] the world … It is a really important moment for the country and they want to thank all of the referendum working group for the hard work you are doing.
PM hosts voice to parliament working group
Anthony Albanese has this afternoon addressed the working group on the voice to parliament during a meeting in Canberra.
He thanked the group for the “extraordinary work” they are doing and for their “patience with the process”, adding that he is optimistic about an outcome for the voice later this year:
The government is determined to hold a referendum in accordance with the wishes arising from the … statement from the heart.
I have had meetings with church organisations, sporting organisations, businesses, including in WA yesterday … they are strongly supportive of a constitutionally enshrined voice to parliament.
We know that as we get down to the campaign … there are two clear messages of what it is about. Recognition and consultation. Simple as that. Recognising First Nations people in our nation’s birth certificate and enshrining consultation about matters that impact on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
We know that is the way to get better outcomes and to close the gap … my government is very committed to this. We will continue to put everything into this campaign.
I know, increasingly, this will be an opportunity to bring the nation together.
Two fatal collisions in Melbourne, mere hours apart
A cyclist in Melbourne has died after being hit by a truck this afternoon, following a separate fatal collision in the city earlier this morning.
Victorian police said emergency services attended a fatal collision in West Melbourne this afternoon, where it’s believed a cyclist riding on Footscray Road had been struck by a truck just before 12.30pm.
Sadly, the rider died at the scene.
The male driver of the truck stopped at the scene and is assisting police with their inquiries.
Earlier today in a separate incident, a 78-year-old man was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries and later died after a collision in Pascoe Vale.
Police understand that the two vehicles collided at the intersection of Princes Terrace and Reynolds Parade about 9.10am.
The driver of the second vehicle, a 40-year-old Strathmore woman, sustained minor injuries. Investigations into the cause of the collision are ongoing.
Anyone who witnessed the collisions, has dashcam/CCTV footage or information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential report online.
Radioactive capsule site cleared of contamination
No contamination has been detected at the site where a tiny radioactive capsule was discovered in remote Western Australia, AAP has reported.
Search crews found the 8mm by 6mm item on the side of the Great Northern Highway, 74km south of Newman, on Wednesday following days of searching. The capsule fell out of a density gauge while being trucked last month from a Rio Tinto mine in the Pilbara to Perth.
The site had been surveyed and cleared of any residual radiological contamination and there was no need to remediate the area, the department said, with a 20-metre “hot zone” established around the capsule during its recovery.
A government investigation has been launched into the incident.
Rio Tinto has apologised and is also reviewing what went wrong during the haul, which was carried out by a contractor. It said a bolt that secured the capsule within the gauge appeared to have sheared off, creating a hole big enough for the item to fall out.
The maximum fine in WA for failing to safely store or transport radioactive material is just $1,000. Health minister Amber-Jade Sanderson on Wednesday said the government was looking at increasing the outdated and “unacceptably low” penalty.
Rio Tinto iron ore chief executive Simon Trott said the mining giant would fully cooperate with investigations and was willing to reimburse the cost of the search.
You can read more here:
Thanks for leading us through a very busy morning, Natasha! Stick with us this afternoon with lots of news still to come.
Thanks for your attention today. Emily Wind will see you through the rest of today’s news!
Dutton calls for Albanese to ‘own up’ to $5 note decision
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has called on the federal government to “own up” to its role in settling on the new design for the $5 note to replace Queen Elizabeth II.
The Reserve Bank said their decision to feature a design that honours First Nations peoples followed consultation with the federal government, which supported the change.
Speaking to Ray Hadley on 2GB, Dutton said:
In relation to the $5 note, there’s no question that it’s directed by the government. And I think the prime minister should own up to it.
We know the PM’s not across the detail on many of these issues, but in relation to this, he would have been central to the decision-making.
And if it’s a decision they’ve made, own it, just be responsible and put your hand up and say, ‘This is the reason we’ve made it’.
I think it’s another attack on our systems, on our society and our institutions.
Dutton also defended his decision to attend Cardinal George Pell’s funeral, saying:
My decision to go to Cardinal Pell’s funeral this morning reflects the fact that he contributed a lot, particularly to Catholic education.
Australians Monarchist League labels $5 note decision ‘neo-communist’
The Australian Monarchist League have expressed their anger at the central bank’s decision that King Charles III will not be replacing his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, on our $5 note.
In a strongly worded statement penned by the national chair Philip Benwell, the league labelled the move “neo communist” and said it was “typical of the way in which this government is trouncing Australian democracy”.
The reserve bank said their decision to instead feature a design that honours First Nations followed consultation with the Australian government, which supported the change.
Now, before a referendum is held on whether the people want to retain the King as sovereign or opt for a President, this government has arbitrarily moved to discard the King’s head from Australia’s five dollar note.
It is virtually neo-communism in action. President Xi could possibly learn a few tricks from our prime minister. It is certainly not Australian democracy and it is certainly not what the people voted for in May 2022.
In a few months Mr Albanese will be flying to London to attend the King’s Coronation. Yes, the very King he is working assiduously to topple.
The Australian Monarchist League says they presented a petition to the parliament comprising more than 3,000 signatures calling for the government to retain the king’s image on the $5 note.
Victoria to ban ChatGPT at public schools
Victoria has joined a string of state and territories in banning the use of artificial intelligence software ChatGPT.
The department is undertaking further analysis of the implications of these emerging technologies and is preparing advice for schools.
ChatGPT has already been banned by New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania and Western Australian education departments, while South Australia is allowing its use across state schools.
ChatGPT, which generates text on any subject in response to a prompt or query, has caused alarm over potential misuse for its ability to compose human-like responses that evade plagiarism detection, as well as enthusiasm for its potential to help some students.
Some educators, including Sydney girls’ school Loreto Normanhurst, have welcomed the use of AI detection tools as a “positive learning tool”.
The school’s director of learning, Kieryn Bateman, said it was important to strike the right balance and leverage the technology for educational purposes.
AI technologies, such as ChatGPT, are powerful tools that should be harnessed by educators to facilitate learning in the classroom. When faced with any change, society often responds with fear and suspicion, which results in knee-jerk responses in policy and process.
Educators and the associated governing bodies need to explore the power of such tools and develop processes that expose students to the capabilities of these technologies, whilst educating students about the pitfalls and risks of overreliance on AI.
Football player’s union criticises Saudi Arabia’s sponsorship of 2023 Women’s World Cup
The union representing Australian football players, Professional Football Australia, has criticised Fifa after reports the organisation is set to announce Saudi Arabia’s tourism authority will be an official sponsor of the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Australian and New Zealand football’s governing bodies have said they are “shocked and disappointed” by the news and have called on Fifa to “urgently clarify” the situation.
Amnesty International has criticised the sponsorship bid, with a spokesperson saying “women in Saudi Arabia face serious discrimination in marriage, divorce, inheritance and child custody rights, while Saudi women who’ve dared to speak out about the need for reforms in the country have received massive jail sentences”.
Here’s the PFA’s co-chief executive, Kathryn Gill:
Players are the public face of Fifa’s major tournaments. However, their voice remains excluded from a decision-making process that would clearly benefit their involvement.
Fifa is obliged to respect all internationally recognised human rights and to exert its considerable leverage when they are not being respected or protected. However, they have consistently shown that they lack the willingness to uphold their stated human rights commitments.
The players’ objective is to make the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup a genuine force for good, and they will continue to hold Fifa to account when they undermine this.
Pell’s coffin taken to crypt as funeral service ends
The funeral for Cardinal George Pell has ended. The archbishop sprinkled the coffin with holy water, before the coffin was taken to the crypt.
Abbott: Pell was ‘the very best of us’
Abbott ends the speech extolling Cardinal George Pell’s virtues as a “saint for our times”, saying that Pell would be as pleasing to God as Mother Teresa.
Not to succumb to anger, self pity, or despair, when almost any other human would, and instead to have accepted this modern-day crucifixion, walking humbly in the footsteps of our Lord, that’s the heroic virtue that makes him to my mind a saint for our times.
Abbot pauses for applause before achieving laughs with the observation:
As I heard the chant ‘George Pell go to hell’, I thought ‘Aha!’ at least, they now believe in the afterlife. Perhaps this is St George Pell’s first miracle.
The ultimately triumphant life of this soldier for truth, who advanced through smeer and doubt to victory should drive a renewal of confidence throughout the universal church …
George Pell was the greatest man I’ve ever known. And if faith means the ability to endure crushing adversity, no one could be a better advertisement for it.
So I will hold on to him in my heart, from love of a friend and mentor and as a gentle chide for virtues sought but not yet attained. And in these times, when it’s more needful than ever to fight the good fight, to stay the course and to keep the faith, it’s surely now for the Australian church to trumpet the cause of its greatest champion.
There should be Pell study courses, Pell spirituality courses, Pell lectures, Pell high schools, Pell university colleges, just as there are for the other saints.
If we can direct our prayers to Mother Teresa, Thomas A Becket and St Augustine, why not the late cardinal, who has been just as pleasing to God, I’m sure, and has the added virtue of being the very best of us?
The archbishop jokes when he returns to the microphone:
Thank you Mr Abbott for those words of remembrance. I think I can hear emerging from the coffin at the moment:
[in a ghostly voice:] I said no canonisations at funerals.
Pell was made a ‘scapegoat’, Abbott says as he criticises climate advocates
Abbott goes on to say Pell was made a “scapegoat for the church itself” while taking a dig at the climate change movement:
[Pell’s] recent observation that the climate change movement had some of the characteristics of a low-level, not-too-demanding pseudo religion was the kind of comment that enraged, precisely because it was true.
And throughout history, that’s what people have been martyred for. For telling the unpopular, unpalatable truth.
And it’s not possible to honour the cardinal without some reference to his persecution. He was made a scapegoat for the church itself. He should never have been investigated in the absence of a complaint. He should never have been charged in the absence of corroborating evidence, and he should never have been convicted in the absence of a plausible case, as the high court so resoundingly made plain.
Abbott again has to pause as the audience again breaks into applause.
'One of our country's greatest sons': Tony Abbott on George Pell
The former prime minister Tony Abbott followed David Pell at the funeral for Cardinal George Pell.
Abbott’s speech continued the glowing tone of the statement he released on the day of Pell’s death. He said:
This funeral is less a sad farewell to a great friend and more a joyous tribute to a great hero. It’s the celebration of a wonderful life. A once-in-a-generation gathering of the people of faith to rededicate ourselves to the ideals George Pell lived for and to draw strength from each other for the struggles ahead.
He was a priest, a bishop, and the prefect of the Vatican Secretariat. But he was never a mere functionary. In each of these roles, a thinker, a leader, a Christian warrior, and a proud Australian who wanted our country and our civilisation to succeed.
… In short, he is the greatest Catholic Australia has produced and one of our country’s greatest sons.
Abbott has to pause for large applause from the audience, before continuing:
No one else has been both archbishop of Melbourne and archbishop of Sydney. No other Australian has been as senior in the leadership of the Roman church, or as influential in its conclaves.
'We stamped our mark today': protesters proud of march outside Pell's funeral
As anti-Pell protests draw to a close on Oxford St in Sydney this afternoon, child sexual abuse survivor Vivienne Moore reflects back with pride.
When protestors turned out of Hyde Park to continue their march along College St, they faced a crowd of mourners watching the funeral service outside of St Mary’s Cathedral.
Among them, a group of men stood facing protesters holding religious books with fists raised.
I saw that those guys, kissing their crucifixes, holding their hands in the air, were being held back by the police. I mean, it showed us what we’re up against. Right there in front of us. That level of hatred. What, where does that come from?
People don’t know what they’re doing unless we start to tell our stories. People can’t begin to empathise with each other. So I think it was an incredibly successful march ... because we stamped our mark today.
Today I was really glad I got to express some of my anger. That was powerful and palpable for all of us. We have a right to be angry.
Anger is part of the grieving process and propels us forward ... Used in the right way, with the right voice, we can care about each other through it … like you’re not alone.
Pell's brother says family sympathises with victims of clergy abuse
David Pell goes on to extend his sympathy to the victims of child sexual abuse, saying his family had “no idea” of what was occurring in their home town of Ballarat.
We sympathise with the legitimate victims and are in complete abhorrence of the criminals.
Our own family has not been immune to this evil. As a Catholic family brought up in Ballarat we, along with many other Catholic families, had no idea of the evil curse that was perpetrated on the innocent children, of unaware parents, by secretive, deviant and manipulative criminals.
We as a society will continue to spend the rest of our days healing people.
David Pell goes on to say what a loving family member his brother was and that they are “devastated” by his death.
Pell says his brother wrote to the family while in prison saying the situation was “unjust, like Lindy Chamberlain”.
Pell’s brother calls cardinal ‘prince of the church’, says ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie!’
Cardinal George Pell’s brother David Pell has stepped up to speak at his brother’s funeral, opening with the words:
Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!
Pell’s brother describes the day in 2003 his brother was announced as the next Cardinal.
Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi! rang out across St Peter’s square when [he] was announced as the next candidate to be made Cardinal. Your grace, it was reported that there was a scallywag in in the crowd. This was 2003.
George Pell was my brother. He was a prince of the church. A good and holy man and a proud Australian.
He also had a punt on the Melbourne Cup and was a passionate Aussie rules fan.
He believed in the rule of law. A fair go to all. And in Aussie rules parlance he played the ball, not the man. He may have disagreed with your opinion. But he didn’t disagree with you as a person.
He was falsely accused, tried, convicted and spent 404 days in solitary confinement. The outcome from which was three magnificent prison diaries, one of which was meditated by his good friend, Pope Emeritus Benedict in his dying days.
He was also described as Pope Francis’s best theological adviser for cardinal Muller, a former member of the nine member council.
Student mental health package unveiled by Albanese government
The Albanese government will invest $203.7m in 2023 in mental health funding in schools as part of the national “student wellbeing program”.
The commitment will offer an average of $20,000 per school for the year depending on need and size. It also includes $10.8 million for a “voluntary mental health check tool”.
States and territories will manage the program, which includes “student wellbeing officers” or chaplains being placed at schools to help students through pastoral care and other services such as excursions, volunteering activities and workshops.
All state and federal education ministers have in addition signed a five-year $307.18m funding agreement to fund the program into the future.
The education minister, Jason Clare, said Covid lockdowns had a “massive impact” on the mental health of students.
Good mental health and wellbeing have a significant impact on young people’s engagement with education and their learning outcomes.
This is particularly important as students return to regular face-to-face classroom learning after two years of disruption due to Covid-19.
In January, the Australian Psychological Society (APS) urged the federal government to commit to urgently funding more mental health and psychological response services in the next budget after a Climate Council survey found climate disasters had a bleak impact on the mental health of Australians.
Conducted in December 2022, the Climate Council survey of 2,032 Australians found since 2019, 80% of those surveyed reported they had experienced an extreme weather event such as heatwaves, flooding, and bushfires and half said their mental health had been detrimentally affected by the extreme weather event they experienced.
APS president Dr Catriona Davis-McCabe said young Australians were “deeply concerned, and at times overwhelmed” by uncertainty associated with the climate crisis.
Tudge tells robodebt inquiry of meeting with Turnbull in early 2017
Alan Tudge has revealed details of a key meeting he held with the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull at the initial height of the robodebt scandal in early 2017.
The former human services minister told a royal commission on Wednesday he’d kept Turnbull informed about problems with the scheme after the former PM sent him a news article that raised the prospect the scheme was unlawful.
Senior counsel assisting the commissioner, Justin Greggery KC, asked Tudge if he presented a “rosy picture” of the scheme, which had exploded in public controversy, in the short meeting with Turnbull. Others present included then social services minister Christian Porter and then secretary of the human services department Kathryn Campbell.
Tudge confirmed he didn’t provide Turnbull with any briefing on the legality of the scheme, an issue he said had not crossed his mind until years after he left the portfolio. He said Turnbull was presented with “materials” that “outlined some of the issues and what we’d done”.
I don’t think we went through in detail how the overall system works. My recollection is we very much went into what went wrong with the implementation.... It was, ‘What went wrong. OK, I get that. Now you appear to have got many of the things fixed, here’s what you should be doing in the future. You should have more testing.
I recall him suggesting that the [digital transformation office] needs to be more engaged. He may also have suggested that [Data 61] be commissioned to help with identifying the highest likelihood of [identifying debts].
Tudge said he was only relying of his memory of the meeting, which occurred many years ago. He said Turnbull had been “guiding the questions” and said there needed to be more “testing”.
Greggery said it appeared that Tudge had been providing a “level of assurance” that the scheme was working well.
Tudge, who was not in cabinet, said he would have told Turnbull that the issues with the scheme were “under control”.
He has repeatedly said that only Porter and Turnbull had the authority to stop the robodebt scheme because it was authorised by cabinet.
Turnbull has not been called to appear at the royal commission.
The inquiry, before commissioner Catherine Holmes, continues.
Gale-force winds, burst of rain expected for Melbourne
Melbourne is expected to be hit by gale-force winds later this afternoon, with a burst of rain by 5pm and temperatures dropping to around 13C by 6pm.
Cold conditions are expected further south in Victoria, as well:
Scathing report into NSW’s fast-tracked black summer recovery grants
Fast-tracked recovery grants handed out by the New South Wales government following the devastating black Summer bushfires were ineffectively administered and the process lacked integrity, the auditor general has found.
Margaret Crawford’s scathing report into the grants program co-funded by the then federal government also stated that, following a request from then the deputy premier John Barilaro‘s office, a $1m threshold was applied, below which projects were not approved.
The auditor general said that meant projects in highly impacted areas were then excluded, including all shortlisted projects in Labor-held electorates.
The report read:
The administration process lacked integrity, given it did not have sufficiently detailed guidelines and the assessment process for projects lacked transparency and consistency.
At the request of the deputy premier’s office, a $1 million threshold was applied, below which projects were not approved for funding. The department advises that some of the projects excluded were subsequently funded from other programs.
This threshold resulted in a number of shortlisted projects in areas highly impacted by the bushfires being excluded, including all shortlisted projects located in Labor party-held electorates.
Crawford also found that while other grants in the $540m scheme had a detailed and transparent assessment process, conflicts of interest were not properly managed.
She recommended Department of Regional NSW should ensure that for all future grant programs create and follow guidelines in line with good practice and ensure all staff members declare conflicts of interest before grant schemes begin.
The opposition leader, Chris Minns, will hold a press conference this afternoon to discuss the findings.
Archbishop praises Pell’s ‘boldness’ in establishing Rome guest house
Earlier in his speech, Sydney archbishop Rev Anthony Fisher praised Pell’s creation of Domus Australia, a guest house in Rome established by the Australian Catholic church:
It took more than a bit of Christian shamelessness for the son of a Ballarat publican to take a Roman monastery with church, renovate it to Australian comfort standards, radically redecorate and so establish an Aussie watering hole, or pilgrim house, in the heart of the Eternal City.
It took boldness to get the bishops of Australia and the St Mary’s Cathedral Choir there for the opening. And it took sheer importunity to bang on the door of the pope asking him to bless and open the place. Surely, the only hotel ever opened by a pope. Yet an idea was on-brand for Pell and it enabled him to bring us not only Domus Australia, but three good seminaries, four new Catholic tertiary institutions, the Benedict the 16th retreat centre, the John Paul Centre at Sydney University, several new institutes of consecrated women, a vastly expanded tertiary and youth apostolate and World Youth Day – like Domus Australia, stuffed full of pope, bishops and musicians, but with half a million idealistic young adults to boot.
Sydney archbishop compares Pell to Richard the Lionheart in funeral speech
Sydney Archbishop Reverend Anthony Fisher is speaking at Cardinal George Pell’s funeral service comparing Pell to Richard Lionheart, the 12th century King of England.
Describing Lionheart, Fisher said:
Six feet five inches tall, striking and athletic, Richard dominated every room he entered. He was a far from perfect prince: the calumnies of his enemies were baseless, and his imprisonment wrongful, and he is remembered by history as Richard Coeur de Lion, the Lion Heart, because of his courage.
George Pell was also a giant of a man with a big vision, who looms large in the history of the church in Australia, and amongst churchmen, internationally.
He had a big heart too, strong enough to fight for the faith and endure persecution, but soft enough to care for priests, youth, the homeless, prisoners and imperfect Christians.
Ultimately, that heart gave out , but only after more than 80 years of being gradually conformed to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Twenty-three days ago, the lion’s roar was unexpectedly silenced. But George, the Lionheart, was dressed with the cross on his chest and ready, awaiting his master’s return.
His influence has been far reaching and we can be confident will long continue. He may even be more effective from his new address.
Date announced for Olivia Newton-John’s state memorial service
A state memorial service to honour singer, actor and philanthropist Olivia Newton-John will be held at 4pm on Sunday, 26 February at Hamer Hall at the Arts Centre in Melbourne.
Announced by the Victorian government today, the free, ticketed service is being planned in close consultation with representatives of her family, with special tributes from family and friends, including a performance by Delta Goodrem.
Members of the public must register to attend with ticket registrations opening at 12pm on Friday 10 February.
Premier Daniel Andrews said Newton-John was an “inspiration to many around the world”:
... her work in cancer research and treatment saved lives and changed lives and her music was the soundtrack to a generation.
We know Victorians are eager to celebrate the life of a driving force in medical research and an icon of film and music, with a service befitting her international acclaim.
Pell protesters enter College Street
Protest organisers agreed with police yesterday not to march on College Street directly next to the cathedral, but were allowed to gather on the other side of the road.
Pope sends condolences at Pell’s funeral
The message from the pope has been read out at the funeral of Cardinal George Pell:
I have learned with sorrow, the news of the death of Cardinal George Pell, prefect emeritus of the secretariat for the economy.
I wish to express my closeness to you and to the College of Cardinals, especially to his dear brother David, the other members of his family I offer my sincere condolences.
Remembering with heartfelt gratitude his consistent and committed witness, his dedication to the gospel and to the church, and especially his diligent collaboration with the Holy See in its recent economic reform, for which he laid the foundations with determination and wisdom.
I raise prayers for the repose of his faithful servant, who unwaveringly followed his Lord, with perseverance, even in the hour of trial.
‘Our policy has not changed on the stage-three tax cuts,’ says treasurer in wake of IMF report
Speaking in response to the announcement from the IMF that interest rate increases are warranted, Chalmers was asked about the government’s plan for stage-three tax cuts:
The point that the IMF is making is that when we’ve got these pressures the budget, whether it is the cost of servicing the debt we inherited, whether it is the NDIS, defence, aged care or health, we need to make sure that we’ve got the tax system that can sustain the funding that we want to see in our areas of national priority, and that is the government’s view is welcome and that’s why we began in the October budget with multinational tax reform.
We’ve seen that as the best place to start, in addition to some measures on compliance. We recognise when the budget is under as much pressure as it is now there is a role for spending restraint, which the IMF endorsed, there is a role for savings, and we made billions of dollars of savings in October, and if there are avenues for responsible tax reform into the future, like what we are doing in multinationals, then obviously those opportunities and avenues should be explored.
Our policy has not changed on the stage-three tax cuts. Obviously I’m aware and follow closely the constituency are calling for those tax cuts to be rewritten or junked. Those calls have been around for some time, and the IMF has made a contribution to that as well.
New $5 note design will ‘strike a good balance’, treasurer says
The treasurer Jim Chalmers says the central bank’s announcement about the new design for the $5 note honouring First Nations culture will “strike a good balance”.
Speaking in Melbourne he said:
It is an opportunity to strike a good balance here. The monarch will still be on the coins, but the $5 note will say more about our history and our heritage and our country, and I see that as a good thing.
Tensions rise outside Pell funeral in Sydney
As protesters begin their March along College St, tensions are rising with attendees at Pell’s funeral across the road.
One Pell supporter has told protesters:
George Pell is with Jesus!
Abuse survivor heckled near George Pell’s funeral
As child sexual abuse survivor Vivienne Moore shares her story with protesters in Sydney’s Hyde Park, people walking towards St Mary’s Cathedral started shouting hate.
“It’s been an incredibly difficult journey,” Moore started before two men began heckling.
“Ignore him,” someone said as protestors clapped in support of Moore.
Love will always win.
NT chief minister responds to snap report on Alice Springs unrest
The Northern Territory chief minister, Natasha Fyles, just held a media conference in Canberra ahead of her meeting with the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to discuss the findings of the snap review.
There has been action, that action will be continuing. I am looking forward to meeting with the prime minister and getting that message back out to the residents of central Australia because we have heard loud and clear from them they want these issues addressed for the future, not just a Band-Aid measure that makes us all feel good and we can walk away from this for a few months or a few years. We need to address these issues for the sustainable future.
What are you going to specifically ask the PM?
With respect, we said we would get the report done, we have done that, provided it to the PM’s office, and we will now work through that this afternoon, and any actions it requires so that we can deliver that collaborative response that will better the lives of not only Indigenous people but all Territorians.
You can read more about the findings of the snap review here:
George Pell funeral begins in Sydney
The funeral mass for Cardinal George Pell has begun at St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney.
Pell will be farewelled by 275 priests and 75 seminarians at the cathedral with the forecourt also being opened to mourners who will be able to watch the service on JumboTron.
For those wanting to watch the ceremony it is being live-streamed on St Mary’s Youtube page:
Brian Schmidt to step down as ANU vice-chancellor, calls for more investment in research
Vice-chancellor of the Australian National University Brian Schmidt will step down at the end of 2023 after eight years in the position.
Speaking this morning at the State of the University Address, Schmidt said his love for ANU was “undimmed” but he was ready to return to a research and training position and a more balanced life.
This year will be my last as vice-chancellor, and I have notified the chancellor and the council of my intention to step down at the end of December. After eight years, I will be ready to get back to my research and teaching, and a somewhat more balanced life.
My love for ANU is undimmed. My zest to see it improved hasn’t changed. And I always said that when I stepped down as vice-chancellor I wanted to hand on a university I would be happy to continue to work in.
Schmidt also used his speech to call for greater federal government in foundational research amid a highly competitive grants environment.
We have been working in a financially constrained environment. The Australian government has slowly shrunk its support of foundational research. It has never been harder for a researcher to win a competitive grant.
Australia’s future is in peril unless it ramps up its investment in research. I have and will continue to advocate on this front. I hope the government will listen, and help engage business and philanthropy in the cause. Research is like the nation’s superannuation – if you save money now by not investing, you have a much poorer future.
LGBTQ+ protests kick off as procession into Pell’s funeral begins
As church bells sound at St Mary’s cathedral across the road, protest organiser Eddie Stephenson gives a “eulogy” to Pell in Hyde Park.
We are gathered here to give him the send of we know he deserves … A send off that says Pell, rot in hell.
We reject Pell and the rotten politics he stood for.
Protesters respond together, shouting “shame”, “monster” and “scum.”
Tensions rising outside church ahead of George Pell’s funeral
Our reporter on the ground Rafqa Touma says tensions are high between attendees of George Pell’s funeral and protesters outside St Mary’s Cathedral.
Rafqa has heard funeral attendees want the protest signs removed and one attendee has told protesters to:
Stop attacking our Church.
Police close off College St from Pell protesters
There is a heavy police presence outside St Mary’s Cathedral as mourners arrive for Cardinal George Pell’s funeral service.
Timeline set for Lachlan Murdoch v Crikey defamation trial
The federal court has laid out the timetable for the defamation trial between Lachlan Murdoch and Crikey – it will begin on 9 October and run for three weeks.
Justice Michael Wigney heard from the two parties this morning and made orders about the dates by which new documents had to be produced, after the addition of two more respondents to the suit: Private Media chairman Eric Beecher and its chief executive Will Hayward.
Wigney asked again if mediation was possible and was told no, the two parties understand each other’s position, by Private Media barrister Michael Hodge KC.
On Monday Wigney ruled in Murdoch’s favour to add new respondents and evidence, although he warned it would significantly delay the trial and lengthen it from nine days to three weeks.
Murdoch, the CEO of the Fox Corporation, launched defamation proceedings against the independent news site last year over an article published in June that named the Murdoch family as an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the US Capitol attack. After a concerns notice from Murdoch, Crikey took the article down but it was reinstated on 15 August.
Design honouring First Nations people to replace Queen on $5 note
The Reserve Bank has announced this morning that a new design that honours the culture and history of Australia’s First Nations people will replace Queen Elizabeth II on the $5 note – not her successor King Charles III.
In a statement, the central bank said:
The Reserve Bank has decided to update the $5 banknote to feature a new design that honours the culture and history of the First Australians. This new design will replace the portrait of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. The other side of the $5 banknote will continue to feature the Australian Parliament.
This decision by the Reserve Bank Board follows consultation with the Australian Government, which supports this change.
The Bank will consult with First Australians in designing the $5 banknote. The new banknote will take a number of years to be designed and printed. In the meantime, the current $5 banknote will continue to be issued. It will be able to be used even after the new banknote is issued.
More than 1,000 mourners gather outside cathedral for George Pell
There is support for the former Cardinal of Sydney George Pell on display outside St Mary’s Cathedral with more than 1,000 mourners outside the church, the ABC estimates.
One attendee told the national broadcaster:
We are acknowledging George Pell as a hero of the Catholic Church.
I think it is a great privilege for us to give our appreciation for the extraordinary work the Cardinal did. I think people have the right to protest but I hope they will be respectful.
Attempts to remove signs from protesters outside Pell funeral
Group removes ribbons from St Mary’s Cathedral fence overnight
Ribbons tied to the fence at St Mary’s Cathedral ahead of George Pell’s funeral were removed overnight.
The fence has been stripped bare of thousands of ribbons, tied to the fence in a silent and peaceful protest designed to give voice to survivors.
Protest organisers told the Guardian that a group of unknown men and women arrived on Wednesday night, removing the ribbons and verbally attacking clergy abuse survivors and their supporters. Footage circulating on social media shows a group of men in a verbal confrontation police outside St Mary’s.
Simon Hunt, a satirist who has been helping organise the ribbon-tying, said the incident was traumatic for survivors.
The antagonisers appear to have conflated the two protests – ribbon-tying by abuse survivors and the LGBTQ+ protest – despite them not being linked, Hunt said.
But he said protesters should be proud that they were able to convince the archdiocese of Sydney and St Mary’s staff to allow some of the ribbons to remain on Wednesday, regardless of what happened on Wednesday night.
However painful this removal [of ribbons] last night will be for survivors and their supporters who made up the bulk of the people who were there yesterday, they should really understand that this group is a very diminishing minority of people who essentially are putting the church above the safety of children. This really does not make a difference to that.
Our multimedia journalist Bertin Huynh is also in Sydney’s CBD where a large crowd has gathered at the entrance to St Mary’s Cathedral to see Cardinal George Pell’s body lie in the state before his funeral commences at 11am this morning,
Industrial action looms as ABC staff reject wage offer
ABC staff could take industrial action after rejecting a wage offer from management.
The Community and Public Sector Union and the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance have lodged an application to run a protected action ballot.
Last year staff voted overwhelmingly to reject the offer of a 9% pay rise over three years and a one-off payment of $750.
The Fair Work Commission will now decide if unionised ABC staff can vote on taking work restrictions, bans and strike action as a final resort.
CPSU ABC secretary Sinddy Ealy said the offer from the ABC was below inflation and had been rejected.
Staff at the ABC are sick and tired of management crying poor and expecting staff to make financial sacrifices to benefit the growth of the ABC, just because it’s the ABC.
If the ABC cannot pay staff wages that keep up with the cost of living, then that is a problem they should be raising with the federal government. The solution to that issue is not to turn around and ask staff to continuously accept sub-inflation pay rises that leaves them and their families struggling to keep up with the cost of living.
Protest bubbles ahead of Pell funeral
Our reporter Rafqa Touma is on the ground at the protests taking place outside St Mary’s Cathedral where the funeral for Cardinal George Pell will be held at 11am this morning.
Signs are already going up in Sydney’s Hyde Park opposite the church. If you see or hear anything you don’t want us to miss from the protests, tweet her @At_Raf_
Voice working group’s ‘most important’ meeting is with Dutton, member says
The referendum working group member Marcus Stewart said today’s meeting with Peter Dutton is potentially “the most important” meeting the group has held, imploring the opposition leader to constructively contribute to the voice to parliament process.
Stewart, co-chair of Victoria’s First Peoples’ Assembly and husband of Labor senator Jana Stewart, told Guardian Australia that the group would seek a commitment from Dutton to help collaborate on and advance the voice proposal.
We want to work with Peter Dutton and the opposition. We’ll be seeking a commitment that he will work with us, and he will continue to meet with us, as we move toward a moment in history that’s a once-in-a-generation opportunity.
Stewart noted that if the voice referendum was successful, a future Coalition government - whether led by Dutton or others - would be obliged to work with the constitutionally-enshrined voice. He said that should be an incentive for the Liberal Party to engage with the process.
My advice to Peter, take a step back and think about that you may lead a government one day that, upon a successful referendum on the voice, that you need to work with.
There will be a conservative government at a point in time that will work with the voice... think about what that looks like and how it can be most effective to any government of the day, because the voice’s relationship won’t be with political parties, it will be with the government and the parliament.
Politics aside, we’d think about how we get maximum collaboration.
Speaking later to the ABC, Stewart said the group would discuss with Dutton how best to explain the voice to the Australian people.
As reported this morning, Dutton and shadow Indigenous Australians minister Julian Leeser will join the meeting for around an hour. Stewart said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese would also join the meeting today. Following the meeting, which runs for most of the day, it’s expected the group will issue a communique that may decide on some more concrete details about the voice.
The Chaser pulls stunt at George Pell’s funeral
Comedians from the Chaser have attempted to enter George Pell’s memorial in Sydney holding a fake coffin. The Herald Sun is reporting the pair were turned away from St Mary’s Cathedral where the funeral will take place at 11am this morning.
Bandt defends Thorpe’s stance on voice to parliament
Adam Bandt is also questioned by the ABC on potential division within the Greens. He defends Lidia Thorpe’s calls for assurances the voice to parliament will not compromise Indigenous sovereignty, denying they are muddying the water of the voice debate.
Are you comfortable with where you’ve landed about how you’re going to handle the fact that Lidia Thorpe has a different opinion to the rest of the party and you could end up with a rare split in the Greens going into this crucial debate?
Look, we’ve put to the government a number of areas of concern, including on that issue that we and of course Lidia Thorpe has also raised around this question of sovereignty.
With respect, they’ve been pretty clear verbally saying it’s not an impact on sovereignty, and Anne Twomey the constitutional lawyer just yesterday said this is really muddying the waters, bringing in this idea of sovereignty versus the voice. Are you not sort of starting to get yourself muddled up a bit with that?
Look, with respect, no. This is something that has been raised as an issue by a number of First Nations groups for some time and this goes back a number of years, this question about what does it mean to have First Nations sovereignty properly recognised in this country.
Because that is, of course, the forerunner to having a treaty in this country. And that is something that has been raised for some time and has been in the public arena or some time well before the election of this government. And I think it’s a legitimate question that can be answered now.
If the government is able to answer it – and Lidia Thorpe herself made this point publicly – that this is about the government now being in a position and are potentially the parliament being in a position to provide those kind of assurances that would satisfy people. Those are the good-faith discussions and the serious discussions that we’re having with the government … and I think we’re doing the right thing working them through seriously with the government.
If you want an explainer on what constitutional experts say on sovereignty, Paul Karp has you covered:
Greens gather for party retreat to discuss voice to parliament
The federal Greens have gathered together for a party retreat at Mount Macedon in Victoria to discuss the Indigenous voice to parliament.
Their leader, Adam Bandt, says the Greens regularly get together before parliament to talk about the party strategy to tackle the big upcoming issues like climate and cost of living.
Our position on the voice is we want to see progress on all of the elements of the Statement from the Heart which includes truth, treaty and voice.
We’ve got, we think, the best opportunity for more than a decade but potentially for a generation, of getting progress on First Nations justice. How can we ensure we get good progress on all of those elements?
Now, there’s a number of issues of concern to us. For example, what does this mean about how we progress treaty? This is a good opportunity to be progressing treaty, which I think would also have the support of the Australian population. What does it mean about sovereignty? Which is a critical issue for many First Nations peoples. Those are the kind of issues that we’re talking about and we are discussing.
And we’re doing that in a very much in a respectful way, understanding that people will bring different experiences to this discussion. But not only as a party, but as a country, we’ve got to have that kind of discussion to move forward and get First Nations justice.
Total fire ban in place for parts of southern NSW
Usman Khawaja cleared to fly after Indian visa sorted
Australian batter Usman Khawaja has been cleared to join his teammates in India after his visa issues were sorted, AAP reports.
Pakistan-born Khawaja will fly out of Melbourne today, more than a day later than planned, after an anxious wait for his visa to be approved.
Approval for arrival into India can often be complex and time-consuming, but every other member of Australia’s 18-man squad was granted entry in time to take flights on Tuesday and Wednesday to their training camp in Bangalore.
The visa process for entry to India asks applicants whether they or their parents are of Pakistani origin.
It is not the first time Khawaja, who was born in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, has faced visa challenges when trying to enter India.
Yesterday Australia’s opener posted a popular meme on Instagram along with the hashtags “stranded”, “dontleaveme”, “standard” and “anytimenow”.
PM sends Dutton letter encouraging him to engage with voice working group
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, yesterday sent opposition leader Peter Dutton a letter encouraging him and shadow attorney general Julian Leeser to engage with the voice to parliament referendum working group.
In a typed letter, in which the formal address to “Mr Dutton” is crossed out to be replaced with a hand written “Peter” in the blue ink of the PM’s signature, Albanese highlights the work Dutton’s own party has contributed to the process:
Significant work has already been undertaken over the past decade to reach this point, including by the previous Government in which you were a Cabinet Minister. This has included considerable public discussion and work on the Voice model, including the 2018 Joint Select Committee on Constitutional Recognition Relating to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples, co-chaired by your Shadow Attorney-General and Shadow Minister for Indigenous Australians, Mr Julian Lesser MP, and the Indigenous Voice Co-Design Process: Final Report to the Australian Government led by Professor Marcia Langton AO and Professor Tom Calma AO.
Albanese also appeals to the work that has been undertaken by the most recent Liberal minister for Indigenous Australians:
This proposal is the culmination of years of discussion, consultation and hard work by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and so many others, including former Minister for Indigenous Australians, the Hon Ken Wyatt AM. It is an extraordinary opportunity for every Australian to be counted and heard – to own this change and be proud of it.
The prime minister’s letter also provides the draft wording for the constitution and invites Dutton to make any suggestions he wishes:
As I have said to you in our meetings, if you have any practical suggestions or amendments on the wording I would welcome your contribution.
Snap review calls for alcohol bans in NT communities until they can develop own plans
The Northern Territory government must urgently amend its Liquor Act to impose alcohol bans in central Australian communities, including the town camps in Alice Springs, according to a snap review.
The bans would remain until communities have developed their own alcohol management plans. Once those plans are in place, communities may then opt out of the legislative restrictions.
Those are the key recommendations of the highly anticipated first report of Dorrelle Anderson, who was appointed the regional controller for central Australia in the wake of rising social unrest and street violence in Alice Springs.
The report has not been made public, but details have begun to emerge since it was handed to the NT government yesterday and the federal government late last night.
The prime minister Anthony Albanese will meet with the NT chief minister Natasha Fyles this afternoon to discuss the report and a way forward. Those discussion will likely involve a pitch by the NT for increased federal funding.
Protesters to rally outside Cardinal Pell funeral mass
More details from AAP on Cardinal George Pell’s funeral in Sydney:
Police will maintain a “buffer zone” between protesters and mourners outside a funeral service for the late Cardinal George Pell at St Mary’s Cathedral.
The former Catholic archbishop of Melbourne and Sydney will be laid to rest at a mass at 11am following his death in Rome earlier this month at age 81.
Police initially attempted to block a planned action outside the event by LGBTQ+ group Community Action for Rainbow Rights before an agreement was reached late on Wednesday.
Protest organisers agreed not to march on College Street directly next to the cathedral but will be allowed to gather on the other side of the road within earshot of mourners.
NSW police acting assistant commissioner Martin Fileman said the “buffer zone” would help mitigate the potential for clashes between protesters and mourners.
We ask that people attending on both sides, that they’re respectful of each other and that they comply with police directions.
Cardinal Pell’s controversial stance on issues including gay marriage and abortion rights has been the subject of staunch criticism since his death, as well as allegations he committed and covered up child abuse while in a position of power within the Church.
Protest organiser Kim Stern told media yesterday he expected police and media attention directed at the rally would add to the number of people who attended.
We’re now able to march up, right opposite the church and have our voices heard - have a loud, visible, angry rally.
Survivors of abuse and campaigners who fought to achieve same-sex marriage in Australia are among those expected to address the crowd of protesters within metres of the cathedral doors.
If Dutton is ‘serious’ about understanding voice he needs to attend meetings, Pat Anderson says
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, will today be attending the Indigenous voice to parliament working group meeting.
Pat Anderson says if Dutton is “serious” about understanding the voice he’ll need to attend multiple meetings.
Maybe this will be the beginning of several conversations before he actually makes up his mind. I know the government, the Albanese government is keen to go to referendum with a bipartisanship happening.
So this is an important meeting today for how the nation proceeds but hopefully it won’t be one meeting because he can’t pick everything in one meeting. But it’s the beginning of a conversation of people with goodwill and good heart.
If he’s serious, he needs to have more than one conversation I would think.
‘It just didn’t happen overnight’: Pat Anderson criticises governments over Alice Springs crisis
The ABC is reporting the newly appointed central Australian commissioner Dorrelle Anderson’s report suggests alcohol bans should be urgently re-introduced in Alice Springs and the Northern Territory.
RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas asks Aboriginal health and rights advocate Pat Anderson:
This idea of the Northern Territory legislating alcohol restrictions for a longer period while individual communities can make their decisions. What do you make of that sort of idea?
It’s a tragedy that’s happening, but this is a long time in the making it just didn’t happen overnight.
There has been hardly any investment in remote Indigenous communities for decades.
There’s no quick fix. The alcohol restrictions they are doing now – well they have to do something. It’s a tragedy but it’s a long time in the making and successive governments of all political persuasions have known about this.
Under the recommendation that I’ve been briefed on communities would only be able to opt out of the scheme if they have an alcohol management plan, and they actually have a broad plan. Do you think that’s a good plan to try and transition communities in the longer term to designing their own futures?
I think the question should be put, always, to the First Nations people who live in Alice Springs and across the NT.
Police to hold ‘buffer zone’ at George Pell’s funeral in Sydney
Good morning! Natasha May on deck with you, taking over from Martin.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will meet with the Northern Territory’s chief minister Natasha Fyles today where they will discuss the recommendations of a report into surging youth crime and anti-social behaviour in Alice Springs.
It comes ahead of Albanese meeting with all state and territory leaders at National Cabinet tomorrow following an informal meeting occurring tonight. Albanese is expected to face calls from premiers and chief ministers for the federal government to increase its financial contribution to healthcare services.
In Sydney, the funeral service for the late Cardinal George Pell will take place at St Mary’s Cathedral on Thursday with a mass to be led at 11am by the Archbishop of Sydney, Reverend Anthony Fisher.
Police will maintain a “buffer zone” between mourners and protesters from LGBTQ+ group Community Action for Rainbow Rights.
Police had initially attempted to block a planned action but an agreement was reached yesterday. Protest organisers agreed not to march on College Street directly next to the cathedral but will be allowed to gather on the other side of the road within earshot of mourners.
In Brisbane, former social services Christian Porter, will give evidence at robodebt royal commission hearings today. He follows Alan Tudge yesterday, who denied he was responsible for his department’s failure to check the legality of the scheme, telling the commission the issue didn’t cross his mind “until I read about it in the newspaper” years later.
Let’s get into it!
GPs warn of over-prescription and medicine shortages over NSW plan
GPs have hit back at New South Wales premier Dominic Perrottet’s plan to allow pharmacists to prescribe some medicines, warning it could result in over-prescription and worsen medicine shortages.
President of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, Nicole Higgins, warned the “biggest risk to general practice” is states applying payroll tax on GPs which would “kill off bulk-billing in NSW” and add $10-15 to the cost of a visit to the doctor.
The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, wants a NSW trial for pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for urinary tract infections, treatments for skin conditions and infections and birth control to be extended nationwide, ending doctors’ effective monopoly on prescriptions.
Higgins said that “often what seems straightforward is quite complex” and “the skill of general practice is actually knowing when not to prescribe”.
Higgins noted “the current antibiotic shortage” and said that research overseas showed that “pharmacists are more likely to prescribe antibiotics”. “At a time when we have a shortage of medications, increasing the prescribers is a bit of an oxymoron.”
Higgins said that a trial of pharmacists prescribing antibiotics for UTIs in north Queensland had increased the rate of prescriptions, despite the fact only 50% of people who presented with symptoms had a UTI.
“GPs have spent more than 10 years training – they know how to diagnose and manage conditions and prescribe medicine.”
Higgins said that “pulling other professions” in to “plug holes” in general practice would do nothing to deal with “significant” workforce shortages among pharmacists and nurses.
Australian Medical Association president, Steve Robson, said the debate is “not about exclusivity, it’s about patient safety”.
Robson said Queensland’s trial had resulted in “serious conditions going undiagnosed and patients suffering as a result”.
“Pharmacists are experts in medications and medication management and we respect that. They are not a substitute for a GP.”
More than 35,000 workers in Australia under Pacific labour scheme, Albanese says
More than 35,000 workers are now in Australia under the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (Palm) scheme, according to new figures released by the federal government.
The government says that when it came to office in May the total number of Palm workers in Australia was just over 24,400 – but by the end December this had risen to 35,100.
This means the government reached its budget commitment to reaching 35,000 workers by June 2023 six months ahead of schedule. The program, which includes participants from nine Pacific island countries and Timor-Leste, is demand-driven so the 35,000 figure is not a limit.
In a statement issued on Thursday, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said:
My government is delivering on its commitment to reform and expand PALM and is already six months ahead of schedule.
I was pleased to meet with PALM workers when I visited Fiji in July of last year, seeing firsthand the people who will make significant contributions to Australia’s workforce.
This scheme is a practical measure that shows our respect for the Pacific and will build a stronger Pacific family.
The government says the scheme helps fill workforce shortages across 28 industries, including agriculture, food processing, accommodation and hospitality and aged care - but also lifting families out of poverty across the region:
In a region where more than one third of people live on less than $1,000 per year, long term PALM workers send home an average of $15,000 each.
The minister for international development and the Pacific, Pat Conroy, said the scheme was highly valued by the leaders he had met across the region:
With the money they’re earning in Australia these workers are building new homes, putting children through school and kick-starting businesses in their home countries. It’s been heartening to see the impact on the ground – from Solomon Islands to Vanuatu.
Good morning and welcome to our live news coverage. I’m Martin Farrer bringing you the best of the overnight yarns before my colleague Natasha May takes over.
With foreign minister Penny Wong and defence minister Richard Marles busy on the European diplomatic/defence circuit with a big meeting in the UK later today, Anthony Albanese has given us an interview in which he suggests he would always have signed up to the Aukus pact, and discusses how Labor intends to deal with “an insecure world”. The prime minister’s comments set him against an illustrious Labor predecessor, Paul Keating, who has argued that the pact diminishes Australia’s strategic sovereignty. But Albanese says Aukus has to be part of the country’s new defence capability both with partnerships and new weapons systems.
A bill to allow for the voice to parliament will be introduced into parliament next month with referendum campaigning expected to accelerate quickly from next week. Albanese called on Peter Dutton to bring “an open heart” on the voice when he meets an expert Indigenous referendum group today, with the opposition leader challenged to make a “constructive contribution” on the matter.
It’s also a big moment on the economic front as we report today that renters and families already struggling with energy bills have been hit by another disproportionately hefty gas price hike in four states. The IMF gives its latest assessment of how the economy is travelling today, and there are figures from the ABS about how many new houses are being built to give a snapshot of the property market.
And Gautam Adani – the Indian billionaire behind the controversial Adani colamine project in Queensland – has been forced to scrap a US$2.5bn share sale in his flagship company overnight thanks to a rout sparked by a US short-seller’s criticisms of alleged stock manipulation. Adani has strongly denied the accusations but the withdrawal of the Adani Enterprises share offering marks a stunning setback for the man who until recently was pushing to become the world’s richest man.