What we learned – Thursday, 17 November
With that, we will wrap up the blog for the night. Thanks for reading, we’ll be back first thing tomorrow to do it all again.
The jobless rate dropped to 3.4% in October, with about 32,000 jobs added.
Guy Sebastian’s former manager Titus Day was sentenced to four years in prison for embezzlement.
Myanmar’s junta will release 700 prisoners, including Australian economist Sean Turnell.
Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been granted bail and banned from using Tinder while he awaits trial over an alleged rape in Sydney.
Police are appealing for public assistance as they search for a third person swept away in flood waters at Eugowra in NSW.
Gina Rinehart was pictured at Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign launch at Mar-a-Lago in the background of a photo posted to Instagram by the former president’s son Eric.
And Victoria’s Civil and Administrative Tribunal has overturned a rejection of independent candidates’ how-to-vote cards by the state’s electoral commission.
The latest on the NSW flooding situation:
Friends and colleagues are welcoming the release of Sean Turnell.
NSW natural disaster authority bill passes upper house with amendments
The NSW upper house has passed a bill to create a new natural disaster authority that environment groups have warned would have unprecedented powers to clear land, including in national parks.
The bill passed late Thursday afternoon, with the government and opposition supporting some amendments moved by the crossbench.
The new “reconstruction authority” would be dedicated to disaster preparedness, recovery and reconstruction and would have powers to respond to unfolding disasters as well as take action to avoid or mitigate future disasters.
It would be a new agency that would report to the minister for planning.
The Greens successfully moved an amendment to require the new authority to assess and consider the impacts of climate change on disasters when it prepared disaster mitigation or adaptation plans.
An amendment by the outgoing independent MLC Justin Field requiring any development approved by the new authority to avoid or minimise clearing of native vegetation was also supported.
But several other proposed amendments, including excluding national parks and other protected areas from the bill and giving the national parks service the power to veto development within the national parks estate, were voted down.
The Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said it was disappointing the government and Labor had rejected “sensible safeguards to the sweeping powers granted to the (planning) minister in this bill”:
The potential for the abuse of these powers by a future government is immense. I fear for the destructive development that could now be pushed through on ecologically sensitive land by an opportunistic government in the future.
The bill will go back to the lower house and is expected to pass this evening.
Want a quick, nifty guide to what was in the headlines today?
The afternoon briefing is live, featuring the mining lobby’s threats to unleash an ad campaign if the Labor government refuses to rule out a windfall tax on super profits and Gina Rinheart, among other news.
Read it here:
Here is more on the release of Australian Sean Turnell in Myanmar – a move welcomed by the federal government.
Woman dies after tree falls on car in Victoria – report
Outlets are reporting a woman has died after a tree fell on to her car in Woodend, about an hour out of Melbourne, this afternoon.
Marles takes question on military aid to Ukraine
Finally, Marles is asked about a consensus emerging that the missiles which landed in Poland were part of the Ukrainian defence shield:
Does that give you pause for thought about the military aid being pumped into this war by Australia?
Marles reiterated there was an investigation underway and he intended to wait for its outcome.
I’m aware of the comments that have been reported by Nato and others in respect of it. I don’t think it fundamentally changes the basis upon which we’re engaging with Ukraine and the fundamentals of this conflict, which are that what we have seen with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a large country seeking to impose itself on a smaller neighbour and not by reference to the rule of law but by reference to power and might and the challenge that represents to the global rules-based order is so significant that it cannot be allowed to stand'.
There are principles at stake in this conflict which engage Australia’s national interests and why we will stand with Ukraine for the duration of this conflict, so that Ukraine is in a position to determine the outcome of this conflict on its terms.
This is a very tragic and unfortunate incident but it doesn’t fundamentally change the circumstances, as I’ve just described them, and for that reason we will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
Question on letters sent to asylum seekers
Bringing it back on home, Marles is asked about letters “accidentally” sent by the Home Affairs department to asylum seekers telling them to leave Australia.
Home affairs minister Clare O’Neil described the letters as inappropriate. How do you reconcile these conflicts between minister and department?
Marles said the minister had made her position really clear.
I think the point to be made here is that whichever way you look at it, we’re talking about a vulnerable group of people, we’re talking about really sensitive matters, and they need to be dealt with with sensitivity and really that is the point that the home affairs minister is making and going forward that’s how the department will operate.
The point that the home affairs minister was making was that these letters sent to this group of people were inappropriate - inappropriate in their tone, and did not … deal with them in a sensitive way.
Richard Marles asked about future of Australia-China relations
Richard Marles is asked to put on his defence cap following the prime minister’s discussions with China’s president, Xi Jinping.
You’ve spoken a lot throughout this year about Chinese military conduct in the South China Sea … harassment and shadowing of Australian ships and planes … do you see the cessation of those activities as essential for any restart in this China-Australia relationship?
Marles says Australia has engaged for decades in “a number of activities” that assert the global rules-based order including UN conventions.
It goes to our trade routes and as a trading island nation, we are very dependent upon those routes and most of our trade actually goes through the South China Sea, and so we engage in activities which assert the rules-based order … now, we understand that in doing this, there are, from time to time, interactions with the Chinese military, and all we’ve ever said there is we want to make sure that that is done in a way which is professional and which is safe.
Pressed whether Australia will demand the cessation of these activities, he says Australia has “obviously advocated very clearly” its right to undertake activities within international law.
We’ve made it really clear actions which are not safe are not acceptable, we’ve made that very clear … interactions need to be done in a professional and a safe way. Now, you know, you’re right, the incident which occurred back in May of this year was not safe and we made our position known to China at the time. I think, looking forward, what we seek to do is to continue our legitimate activities of asserting freedom of navigation … and to make sure that the interactions between our militaries occur in a manner which is professional and which is safe.
Acting PM welcomes release of Sean Turnell in Myanmar
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, is appearing on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing.
Asked if he has information on the release of Sean Turnell, he says the news is obviously welcome.
Look, I don’t have much to add, Greg, and that is for obvious reasons. We obviously welcome the news we’ve heard, it is very good news. We’ve been focused on advocating for Prof Turnell for a long time now and our focus very much is on his welfare. So, with that in mind, I don’t want to add anything to what is currently in the public domain. But this is very much welcome news and, you know, we’re looking forward to a good outcome.
He says Dfat officials have put “a lot of time” into advocating for his release and while it is welcome news, it is important to keep it at that.
I wouldn’t want you to read any of that into it. It’s really about saying that at this moment it’s probably fair to say less is more in terms of what I say, given that our focus is very much on Prof Turnell’s welfare. As I say, we do welcome the news, but I will keep it at that.
How to best help during the floods crisis
This is a useful message for those trying to be helpful amid the floods.
You can also donate money directly, here is a list of official resources.
And if you’re in impacted areas, remember:
Guy Sebastian’s ex-manager Titus Day jailed over embezzlement
Guy Sebastian’s former manager has been sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to repay over $624,000 fraudulently taken from the Australian Idol winner over a period of eight years.
On Thursday, Judge Tim Gartelmann jailed Titus Emanuel Day for a minimum two years and six months before he’ll be eligible for parole.
Day’s conviction comes after a NSW district court jury found him guilty of 34 fraud charges in June.
“All [charges] were committed for financial gain though this is inherent in offences of this kind. The offender used the money other than for Mr Sebastian’s benefit,” the judge said.
Day, after he was sentenced, hugged friends and family members in court before he was handcuffed and escorted away by police officers. The 49-year-old will be eligible for parole in May 2025.
The funds owed to the pop star encompassed royalties, performance and ambassador fees, including for a wedding in Venice, singing at a Taylor Swift tour, and playing at a New Year’s Day Big Bash Cricket event.
In June, Day was found not guilty of a further 13 charges.
He managed the Australian Idol winner via his company 6 Degrees between 2009 and 2017 before the pair’s relationship ended acrimoniously.
- with AAP
NSW unemployment falls to record low as banks eye RBA rate rise
As we noted here, Australia’s labour market is as tight as a drum, with a surprise drop in the jobless rate for October.
The ACT has kept its ranking as the jurisdiction with the lowest unemployment rate – at just 3.1% – for another month.
Perhaps not unexpectedly the sea of NSW that surrounds Canberra is also doing pretty well too. With its rate dropping to 3.2%, the state that accounts for about a third of the country’s economy heads all major states.
Victoria‘s jobless rate, as voters prepare to go to the polls for the state election, held steady last month at 3.5%. That’s marginally above the 3.4% rate nationally.
With NSW winding up parliament ahead of its own elections in March, treasurer Matt Kean has claimed bragging points with the state’s jobless rate now the lowest since records began in 1978.
In fact, NSW added 42,200 full-time positions for the month, compared with 16,800 nationally. While NSW shed a few part-time positions, the state’s net jobs gain of 34,600 eclipsed the 32,200 national total. That helped “keep the nation in positive territory”, Kean said, with reason.
Separately, some of the big banks see the strong October employment figures as putting a pause to the idea that the Reserve Bank might hold off lifting its key interest rate for a (new) record eight meeting in as many months.
As the ANZ says:
A solid labour market result in October combined with the strong Q3 wage data yesterday points to another 25bp hike by the RBA at its December meeting.
At least the RBA is still planning its traditional January furlough - so we’ll get the rate rise pause then.
Penny Wong welcomes reports of Sean Turnell’s release but won’t say more yet
Foreign minister Penny Wong has noted reports of the release of Australian academic Sean Turnell from prison in Myanmar, but says the government will not be commenting further right now.
“Professor Turnell continues to be our first priority. As such, we will not be commenting further at this stage,” Wong tweeted on Thursday afternoon, following reports of his release.
So far government sources are not giving public statements on reports of the freeing of Turnell. We’ve contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as the prime minister’s office, for comment.
Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka granted bail over alleged rape
Sri Lankan cricketer Danushka Gunathilaka has been granted bail by a Sydney magistrate who banned him from using Tinder and social media accounts while he awaits trial over an alleged rape.
Gunathilaka, 31, was arrested in the early hours of 6 October at Sydney’s Hyatt Regency hotel where he was staying while the Sri Lankan cricket team was in Australia for the T20 World Cup.
He is facing four counts of sexual intercourse without consent and has not yet entered a plea.
Magistrate Janet Wahlquist granted Gunathilaka bail on Thursday in Sydney’s Downing Centre local court where he appeared via video link from Parklea jail.
Flood rescues continue in NSW communities as ADF crews arrive to help
There have been seven flood rescues in the 24 hours to 12pm and 284 requests for assistance as communities grapple with ongoing flooding in central west NSW.
The NSW SES assistant commissioner Sean Kearns acknowledged the difficulty for the Forbes community after being asked to evacuate for the second time in two weeks.
We would like to thank the community for paying attention to emergency warnings.
We know that every flood is different, and if an earlier flood didn’t reach you it doesn’t mean that this one won’t.
There will be 180 ADF personnel deployed in the central west from this afternoon as damage assessment and recovery continues in the town of Eugowra, where 90% of homes have been impacted by flooding.
The NSW SES says:
The NSW SES continues to help the communities in downstream areas of Condoblin and Euabalong with sandbagging, public information, emergency supplies and evacuation assistance. The river heights in these areas continue to rise, with some areas instructed to prepare to evacuate while others prepare to face isolation due to flood waters.
Showers and thunderstorms are predicted again this weekend, with potential for damaging winds and hail. It’s expected that these storms will be less severe than last weekend, but still pose a threat to flood-affected catchments.
Global union leaders back Labor’s workplace bill
Australia “urgently” needs multi-employment bargaining to be legislated, workplace relations minister Tony Burke says, as the government scrambles to secure key Senate votes for new laws.
It’s a call backed by global union leaders, who support the Albanese government’s bill which includes expanded multi-employer bargaining rights.
Speaking after Australia’s jobless rate dropped to 3.4%, Burke said economic conditions were perfect for real wage growth and laws need to be changed to make sure that could happen.
Anyone who questions whether or not the ... bill is urgent just needs to look at these figures. Real wages aren’t going to be in front of the extraordinary inflation figures that we see at the moment, (but) they should be at a figure higher than 3.1% ... that won’t happen unless we change the law.
The key way to get flexibility and productivity outcomes for business while at the same time getting better wage outcomes for workers is to get bargaining moving.
The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) said the proposed legislation would bring Australia’s industrial relations system in line with other advanced economies.
ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow:
Models of multi-employer bargaining are prevalent through Europe, including in Belgium, Germany, Finland, Sweden and Norway. These countries have shown how multi-employer collective bargaining builds strong and more equal economies.
The wage boosting benefit of the bill was supported by a study by the Australia Institute earlier this week, with the lift in bargaining coverage and subsequent wage growth afforded by the bill expected to lift nominal wage growth by 1.6 percentage points each year.
The workplace relations bill has already passed the lower house and is set to be debated in the Senate in the next fortnight, with the government looking to pass the laws by the end of the year.
- from AAP
Someone’s going to have to change!
More on Sean Turnell’s release in Myanmar
Myanmar’s military has released Australian economist Sean Turnell and three other foreigners under an amnesty covering 6,000 prisoners to mark the country’s National Victory Day.
Government spokesman Maj Gen Zaw Min Tun told the Voice of Myanmar and Yangon Media Group on Thursday that Turnell, Japanese filmmaker Toru Kubota and ex-British diplomat Vicky Bowman, as well as an unidentified American, had been released and deported.
Myanmar’s state-run MRTV later confirmed the reports.
Turnell, 58, who holds an honorary position at the department of economics at Sydney’s Macquarie University, was working in Myanmar as an adviser to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi when arrested in 2021 after the military seized power in a coup.
He was sentenced in September to three years in prison for violating the country’s official secrets law and immigration law.
Independent federal MP and former ABC foreign correspondent Zoe Daniel said on Twitter she had received corroborated information about the release.
Daniel has been a consistent advocate for Turnell’s release.
– from AAP
The NSW SES is urging the community to avoid Golgeldrie Weir Campground and southern parts of Narrandera due to predicted widespread flooding of the Murrumbidgee River.
There are still 110 warnings active across the state.
Major flooding along Lachlan River expected to continue into weekend
The Bureau of Meteorology has released an update on the flooding that continues to impact communities in central west New South Wales.
While rain, showers and snow have eased across south-east Australia, major flooding continues along a number of rivers in Victoria and New South Wales
Major flooding is occurring at Forbes. As of 8am AEDT Thursday, the Lachlan River was at 10.68 meters with the possibility of reaching 10.80 meters later today. The river level may remain high into the weekend due to large inflows and releases from Wyangala Dam.
The Lachlan River at Forbes remains steady at 10.68 meters as a prolonged peak passes through, expected to remain around 10.70 metres on Friday and remain at a major level during the weekend.
Major flooding is occurring at Condobolin, Nanami, Euabalong, Warren, Hay, Barham, Boundary Bend, Bourke, Brewarrina, Hillston, Jemalong, Mungindi, Walgett and Wee Waa. Moderate flooding is occurring at Cowra and many other towns along the Murray River.
The next rain bearing system will develop over eastern Western Australia today and will move into central Australia tomorrow, bringing showers and thunderstorms to eastern Western Australia, South Australia and southern Northern Territory.
This will strengthen into a cold front and move into the eastern states on Saturday, with northerly winds increasing ahead of the front across western New South Wales and Victoria.
Thanks to the lovely Natasha May. I’ll be with you for the rest of the afternoon.
Thanks for your attention today, that’s it from me. You’re back with the wonderful Caitlin Cassidy!
More inland NSW communities warned to prepare to isolate
The township of Moulamein, as well as rural areas of Hay and Carathool, have been warned to prepare to isolate due to flooding.
Third person feared missing in Eugowra flood waters
Police are appealing for public assistance as they search for a third person swept away in flood waters at Eugowra in NSW.
NSW police say:
A police officer was assisting an elderly woman trapped in flood waters at the intersection of Loftus and Parkes Streets about 9.40am Monday when she saw the body of a man in flood waters.
The officer was unable to leave the trapped woman and she lost sight of the body in flood waters.
As there have been no further reports of people missing from the area, police are now making a public appeal to identify the person, while they continue to search the surrounding area.
The man sighted was described as being aged in his 20s, of Caucasian appearance, with a slim build and fair hair.
After extensive inquiries with the community and despite a wide-ranging search of the surrounding area there have been no further sightings of the man, and no one matching that description has been reported missing.
The body of a 60-year-old woman was recovered yesterday, while the search continues for Ljubisa ‘Les’ Vugec, aged 85, who was last seen at a home in Evelyn Street, Eugowra, about 9am Monday.
Extreme weather fuels government oppression in island nations, study finds
Guardian Australia’s Pacific project, headed by Kate Lyons, was recognised for its important work at last night’s Lowy Institute Media Awards.
Lyon’s latest article today is another example of just how crucial it is to report on the challenges for the region is facing. She writes:
Island countries are more vulnerable to government oppression after natural disasters – according to new research – and there are concerns that the increased frequency of weather-related events due to the climate crisis, could see the further rise of autocracies around the world.
The research, published this month in the Journal of Development Economics, examined data from 47 small island countries, including in the Pacific, south-east Asia and the Caribbean, from 1950-2020 to estimate the relationship between extreme weather events, such as cyclones and severe storms, and the level of democracy in a country.
Read the full story here:
Flooding in Forbes – in pictures
Guardian Australia’s photographer at large, Mike Bowers, is in Forbes as the community sees major flooding for a third time this month. Here are just a few of his pictures taken today.
Council in Victoria’s north delays flood report to ensure it is comprehensive
A council in northern Victoria will send a flood report back for further drafting as historic floods continue to batter the state.
Campaspe shire council, which serves areas including Echuca and Rochester, moved to return the Echuca-Moama flood study for further drafting to ensure its accuracy.
Councillor Adrian Weston told the meeting:
I hope the other councillors will support that, given where we’re at at the moment and given the recent and ongoing flood event that has happened... that we can put this on hold for the time being.
(To) acknowledge all the learnings and ground truths by way of the flood that’s happened, the mapping arising out of the study and in due course, refine it, tweak it, get it to reflect what actually happened, and then put it back out for consultation in the future.
The motion was universally backed by the other councillors.
A controversial levee was built in Echuca last month to protect the main part of town, leading to the inundation of dozens of properties on the wrong side of it.
Campaspe shire council said at the time the decision was made by Emergency Management Victoria and it was not consulted on the levee’s location or design.
– from AAP
Treaties committee recommends ratification of the Australia-UK free trade deal
Myanmar junta releases jailed Australian Sean Turnell
Myanmar’s junta has said it will release 700 prisoners, including a former British ambassador, a Japanese journalist and an Australian adviser to Aung San Suu Kyi’s ousted government.
Former British envoy Vicky Bowman, Australian economics adviser Sean Turnell and Japanese journalist Toru Kubota “will be released to mark National Day”, a senior officer told the AFP newswire.
Bowman, who served as ambassador from 2002 to 2006, was detained with her husband in August for failing to declare she was living at an address different from the one listed on her foreigner’s registration certificate.
They were later jailed for one year. Her husband, prominent artist Htein Lin, will also be released, the official said.
Sean Turnell was working as an adviser to Myanmar’s civilian leader Suu Kyi when he was detained shortly after the coup in February last year.
In September, he and Suu Kyi were convicted by a closed junta court of breaching the official secrets act and jailed for three years each.
Kubota, 26, was detained in July near an anti-government rally in Yangon along with two Myanmar citizens and jailed for 10 years.
Families gathered outside Insein prison in Yangon ahead of the expected announcement, an AFP reporter said.
– from AFP
Economic figures show urgency of IR bill and need for wages to rise: Burke
Hello! It’s Natasha May back with you again.
National Press Club has wrapped up and the employment minister Tony Burke has spoken in response to the latest unemployment figures.
The unemployment rate fell back to 3.4%, near a half-century low.
The ABS says around 32,000 jobs were added to the economy last month.
Burke says the favourable jobs market is encouraging for boosting wages.
Across the nation we find we now have what was meant to be the key in getting wages moving: sustained low unemployment. And still we’re in a position where Australian workers’ wages are going backwards and real wages today are lower than what they were a decade ago.
Anyone who questions whether or not the secure jobs better pay bill is urgent, just needs to look at these figures. All the macroeconomic conditions that you should have for real wages to be going forward in terms of what’s happening with unemployment, what has been happening with productivity, they are all there.
The drivers for real wage growth should be there, and certainly while real wages are not going to be in front of the extraordinary inflation figures we see at the moment, they should be at a figure higher than 3.1%.
The key way to get flexibility and productivity outcomes from business while at the same time getting better wage outcomes for workers is to get bargaining moving. That means simplifying the situation the single enterprise bargaining and opening pathways for multi-enterprise bargaining.
Back to the lovely Natasha May. Thanks for having me.
Russia ‘may well just let it happen’ if favourable: US expert on cyber crime and Medibank
At the press club, former US army major John Davis is asked about the recent Medibank hacks, revealed to be Russian in origin.
Q: There’s a lot of commentary about links to REvil (a Russian ransomware gang) … I want to ask how likely you think that it might be?
The groups name is said to be a combination of the words “ransom” and “evil”.
Davis says there’s a “strong possibility of a connection there”.
Any time a country like Russia, even if it may just have turned a blind eye towards what’s happening, if it sees what is happening from a criminal entity in the best interest of pursuing objectives that are favourable to that country, then they may well just let it happen. And you know, refuse to do anything about it because it’s a criminal entity and they … can deny it. There’s a whole bunch of anonymity and denial capabilities associated with it.
‘The lines have moved’: Davis says traditional between major powers now less likely
John Davis says traditional conflict is “still a concern” but less likely now in the modern world.
I’m not saying that traditional conflict is a thing of the past and is not going to happen any more. Obviously, it is still a concern. But traditional conflict between the major powers is probably a lot less likely if our adversaries can see effective use of these capabilities short of that old line and can undermine and weaken us and gain an advantage over us by using these capabilities without triggering what we view as traditional armed conflict. I think that we should recognise that.
We tend to, rightfully so … be very judicious in the use of this and calculating because we know the impacts of unintended consequences and we know that the risk of making mistakes is very high. And that’s why I believe these operational rules of the road that I mentioned are so important, and to get even countries like China to understand that it can be in their own best interest to put a little more care and oversight and restraint into these things in order to prevent something.
If we’re going to go to war with an adversary nation, this should be an intentional decision, not a mistake. And that’s what I worry about.
Cyber warfare hasn’t been as effective for Russia since day of Ukraine invasion, Davis says
John Davis turns to the war in Ukraine.
He says cyber operations haven’t been as “important or effective” an option for Russia since the day of the Ukraine invasion.
Most of my colleagues … expected to see a very robust Russian information warfare campaign, including cyber operations, waged against Ukrainian and NATO targets to set the stage for traditional combat operations.
I think many people assume that there would be more cyber activity than we have apparently witnessed once the armed aggression began … cyber hasn’t been as important or effective as an option for Russia after February 24. I believe that while cyber operations provide our adversaries with a broad range of operations in that grey zone short of war, short of traditional conflict, they provide a much narrower range once that threshold has been crossed.
There’s also quite likely a bit more going on in the cyber realm than we might realise. It simply hasn’t risen to levels at least publicly that many had expected.
He says Ukraine has also quickly become a “much tougher cyber target” by becoming less vulnerable and more resilient to cyber attacks.
Retired US army major says cyber adversaries will take advantage of a lack of regulation
Back at the National Press Club, retired US army major John Davis says “adversaries” of the US including China, Russia, North Korea and Iran studied what America was doing in the information warfare and cyber space in the late 1990s and took notes.
Our adversaries have invested significantly in the development of and implementation of information warfare. And cyber has emerged as one of the most prolific tools in the information warfare kit bag.
I believe that we’re going to continue to see each of other adversaries operate in what has become known as the grey zone. Below the traditional threshold for the use of force or armed aggression that would trigger a traditional physical response from the countries that they target.
The absence of effective, regulating global norms of responsible state behaviour in cyberspace, I believe, is going to continue to provide our adversaries with significant opportunities and even encouragement for offensive as part of the information warfare efforts. This is in part because of the absence of negative consequences from the countries they target, as has usually been the case thus far.
Victorian teals’ how-to-vote cards ‘good to go’ after tribunal decision
Victoria’s civil and administrative tribunal has overturned a rejection of independent candidate’s how-to-vote cards by the state’s electoral commission.
A group of independent candidates launched legal action this week over the decision by the Victorian electoral commission. A number of independent “teal” candidates in Victoria’s state election submitted the how-to-vote cards which featured the number “1” beside their names and had blank preference boxes next to other candidates.
Independent candidate for the Liberal-held seat of Mornington Kate Lardner has told Guardian Australia it’s a “great outcome.”
Independents shouldn’t be pressured to put either party above the other... It’s about a community model of governing and we should be able to do that authentically.
It’s a step in the direction.
Melissa Lowe, an independent candidate in the marginal electorate of Hawthorn and Sophie Torney in Kew had flagged the challenge to Guardian Australia on Tuesday. The duo, as well as independent candidates Felicity Frederico in Brighton, Nomi Kaltmann in Caulfield and Kate Lardner submitted the how-to-vote cards on Monday.
The VEC had said how-to-vote cards cannot include “any visuals of blank boxes, ticks or crosses next to candidate names”. The VEC told the candidates their how-to-vote cards were likely to “mislead or deceive” voters casting their ballot.
Data breach proof and penalties on agenda at Senate hearing
One of the big issues that Liberal senator Paul Scarr and Greens senator David Shoebridge have been asking about during this hearing is the issue that a ‘benefit’ for a company needs to be proved, in order for penalties to apply. Because in a lot of cases, the ‘benefit’ is not to the company, but to the criminal who takes the data. And how do they quantify that what the ‘benefit’ is, in that case.
That is going to be another issue that the committee has to examine, as it works on its report to the government about the legislation.
The other big issue has been whether the penalties will lead to more non-reporting of hacks - some of the experts here thought not – and whether paying a ransom is something which should be illegal.
The committee hearing has now finished. The government wants this legislation passed by the end of the year, given *gestures* everything, so there is going to be a pretty tight turn around on this report.
Greens senator’s question on worst kind of data breach met with silence
The legal affairs Senate committee examining the government’s data breach privacy legislation is starting to wrap up.
Greens senator David Shoebridge has asked representatives from the attorney general’s department what sort of breach would lead to the biggest penalties being applied and asks for an example.
There is silence and then the officials ask to take it on notice.
Greens back Labor’s ocean pledge but call for integrity in protections
The Greens have backed the federal government’s endorsement of the ocean conservation pledge to protect at least 30% of the ocean by 2030, with a caveat.
The party’s spokesperson for healthy oceans, Senator Peter Whish-Wilson, said the protections needed integrity, including improving Australia’s current marine protection network.
While 45% of Australia’s marine territory sits within marine protected areas (MPAs), just 17% of this territory is fully protected from oil, gas and fishing activities.
The Greens call on Labor to restore its original 2012 MPA program that would implement significant upgrades to ‘no-take’ or ‘green’ zones in ecologically significant areas of the marine environment. This is Labor’s legacy, and was a policy it took to the 2016 and 2019 elections. It is concerning that Labor took no policy to restore this network to the last election, and have again today been silent on their legacy.
Our marine wildlife will continue to decline and face risks without genuine levels of protection. That is because the current ‘green’ or ‘no-take’ zones are concentrated in the deeper waters near the edge of Australia’s marine jurisdiction, barely touching the continental shelf where threats to biodiversity are concentrated. Their placement has been deliberately adjusted by the previous government to not impact fishing or oil and gas interests.
Retired US army major general gives National Press Club address on cybersecurity
Over at the National Press Club, John Davis, a retired US army major general who is vice president for Palo Alto Networks, is speaking about cybersecurity, a topic he considers “very important in the modern era”.
I intend to discuss what our adversaries have been doing in the information realm over the past several years and the associated implications. I’m then going to talk about some of the work that I’ve been doing internationally to encourage responsible nations to follow several operational rules of the road for the employment of cyber deployments and why these rules are important. And then finally, I’d like to talk about what we’ve been seeing and perhaps not seeing from Russia when it comes to the use of cyber capabilities in Ukraine.
I’m handing you over to the very capable hands of Caitlin Cassidy but I’ll see you back here in an hour.
‘I believe that [Labor] have not engaged his services’: Daniel Andrews on ‘preference whisperer’ Glenn Druery
In Melbourne, Daniel Andrews was also asked about a report today by the Herald Sun, that so-called “preference whisperer” Glenn Druery was recorded on video explaining how to game the state’s upper house voting system.
Druery reportedly said his work has benefited Labor.
Asked if the Labor party has worked with Druery, Andrews responds:
These are matters for the party. But I believe that they have not engaged his services. He works for many other parties, many of whom are not big fans of me. So the notion that a bloke I’ve never met, who is from time to time, no great friend of mine, or the things I fight for, and passionate about every day is somehow a matter for me. Let’s have the review and then let’s have a discussion about it in more concrete terms about what we might do about some of the challenges we face.
In 2020, Victorian parliament’s Electoral Matters Committee considered upper house and group voting in its review of the 2018 election.
The Labor-chaired committee said proposed changes “involve serious and complex issues” that could “potentially have significant consequences for the makeup of Victoria’s parliament” and recommended a separate inquiry be held.
I asked the premier if he knows why an inquiry wasn’t held in 2020 and he replied, “no”.
Jobs data shows annual leave and sick leave falling in October
By a lot of measures the labour market remains very buoyant, with the combined rates of unemployed and underemployment (those who’d like to work more) falling 0.2 percentage points last month to 9.3%, or the lowest since March 1982.
Bjorn Jarvis of the ABS said there are now 236,000 fewer unemployed people and 365,000 fewer underemployed people than in March 2020. (Correctly avoiding “less”.)
Unemployment and underemployment are both now around two-thirds of what they were.
One reason, curiously, why the number of hours increased was that those taking annual leave was down 10% compared with typical levels for October.
You may think it’s because employers were coaxing staff to stay on, or perhaps people saw the prices of airfares and put off travel. But Jarvis reckons it’s the 30% increase in people taking sick leave (rather than holidays).
By a lot of measures the labour remains very buoyant, with the combined rates of unemployed and underemployment (those who’d like to work more) falling 0.2 percentage points last month to 9.3%, or the lowest since March 1982. (Cue, references to ‘top of the pops’.)
Bjorn Jarvis of the ABS said there were now 236,000 fewer unemployed people and 365,000 fewer underemployed people than in March 2020. (Correctly avoiding “less”.)
Unemployment and underemployment are both now around two-thirds of what they were.
One reason, curiously, why the number of hours increased was that those taking annual leave was down 10% compared with typical levels for October.
Also, October was the first month this year that the number of people cutting back on work for illness fell below half a million, with 467,000 fitting this category. (The amount of sick leave taken in the month was still 30% higher than in last October).
With such demand for staff, you also have to think the 3.1% pace of wage increases recorded for the September quarter will likely pick up more this month - possibly a lot more.
Here’s more on that result, in case you missed it:
And to give a political take on the numbers, Tony Burke, the minister for employment and workplace relations, will hold a media conference at 12.45pm (AEDT).
Wonder if he’ll mention his industrial relations bill.
Lachlan River at Forbes peaks below 1952 flood level
Major flooding at Forbes was expected to reach the 10.8 metre mark seen during the town’s 1952 disaster but looks to have peaked for now at 10.68 metres.
Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows the river reached that level this morning before falling slightly with a 1cm drop to 10.67 metres at 10am.
NSW town of Condobolin warned to prepare to be cut off by flood waters
The central west town of Condobolin has been warned by the SES to prepare to be isolated by flood waters as the Lachlan River floods.
Economy adds 32,000 jobs, nudging jobless rate back down
The resilience of the Australian economy to RBA rate rises is again on display, with another jobs report that underscores the tightness of the market.
In seasonally adjusted terms, the jobless rate dropped to 3.4% in October, with about 32,000 jobs added. Of those, about 16,800 were full-timers. CommBank had expected the unemployment rate to rise 3.6%, with 15,000 jobs (part- and full-time) added.
The participation rate that tracks the share of working-age people looking for work eased back slightly to 66.5% (in seasonally adjusted terms, from 66.6%), which partly explains why the headline jobless rate fell.
The unemployment rate matches the low in July, and remains at about the lowest in 50 years.
Bjorn Jarvis, a senior ABS official, said:
The participation rate was 0.2 percentage points below the record high of 66.7 per cent in June 2022, but 0.7 percentage points higher than before the pandemic.
The number of hours worked increased 2.3% to 1,864m, another sign that the overall economy is still chugging along – notwithstanding the seven rate rises from the RBA in as many months and the devastating floods in many parts of inland eastern Australia.
Flood events across NSW, Victoria and Tasmania saw more people working reduced hours due to bad weather, increasing from 66,000 people in September to 100,000 in October 2022, the ABS said.
Albanese meets with Italian PM and flags stronger trade relations
Anthony Albanese is no longer the new kid on the block at the G20 meeting of global leaders. He’s now met with Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni and UK leader Rishi Sunak both of whom only assumed office last month.
Albanese said he’s congratulated Meloni on her win as well as discussing strengthening trade relations between the two countries.
October unemployment rate drops from 3.5% to 3.4%
The economy’s unemployment rate fell in October to 3.4%, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has just announced.
Economists had been predicting the jobless rate would creep up from 3.5% in September to 3.6%, with CommBank expecting 15,000 new jobs had been added.
More details soonest.
Jobs data to reveal more about economy’s path
Ahead of the labour market numbers for October that are due out at the bottom of this hour from the ABS, here’s a quick primer.
We’re sitting on 3.5% jobless rate as of September, with some economists predicting a nudge higher to 3.6% when the data lands.
The headline figure, though, can be a bit misleading because it hinges a lot on whether many people started or stopped looking for work last month. So, watch out for the “participation rate”.
Also, not all jobs are equal. A net gain or loss may mask a big change in full-time work (which most of us would prefer to have).
So, prepare for a little nuance.
If the labour market looks like remaining very tight and spinning off lots of jobs, the RBA will probably be more inclined to lift its key interest rate again next month. (And the reverse, if the numbers look weak).
Anyway, after we saw the September quarter wage price index come in a bit higher than forecast, there was some muttering about the RBA chomping at the bit to lift rates.
Investors, though, were pretty relaxed, by the looks of it:
We’ll see whether that relaxed mood continues very shortly.
Human rights coalition calls on government to overhaul its modern slavery laws
The federal government’s Modern Slavery Act 2018 is currently under a three-year statutory review led by Prof John McMillan. The review is due to report in March next year.
A coalition of human rights organisations and academics have called on the federal government to overhaul its modern slavery laws, by:
requiring companies to undertake due diligence to prevent and address modern slavery in their operations and supply chains;
introducing penalties for companies that fail to comply with the Act;
ensuring appropriate oversight and enforcement of the Act by appointing an independent anti-slavery commissioner.
Freya Dinshaw, senior lawyer with the Human Rights Law Centre, said Australia’s Modern Slavery Act in its current form was “failing workers”.
While the Act has generated a lot of corporate reporting, when you drill down, many of the statements still lack basic required information or make vague commitments which are never fulfilled.
There is little evidence the law is driving meaningful action by companies to lift conditions for supply chain workers at high risk of exploitation.
Prof Justine Nolan, the director of the Australian Human Rights Institute at UNSW in Sydney, argued Australian companies needed to move from a “paper-driven” response to the act, to effective action to combat modern slavery.
Too many companies are still failing to identify obvious risks or are simply making vague promises that are not being fulfilled.
While the Modern Slavery Act has generated increased business awareness of the risks of modern slavery, this has not yet translated into effective practices to remediate and eliminate it.
Amy Sinclair, regional representative for the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, said:
The Modern Slavery Act has failed to instigate a ‘race to the top’ by companies wanting to confront modern slavery, more of a slow crawl.
These results should be viewed against a backdrop of growing inequality and exploitation of workers as the cost of living crisis bites ever harder.
Our research has revealed the Act to be an incomplete and inadequate strategy for confronting exploitation and addressing the egregious human rights abuse of modern slavery.
Australian companies failing to adhere to Modern Slavery Act
Two-thirds of Australian companies working in high-risk industries for slavery are failing to comply with Australia’s Modern Slavery Act, more than three years after it was enacted.
A new report from a coalition of human rights organisations and academics - Broken Promises - has examined the second year of corporate statements submitted to the federal government’s Modern Slavery Register by 92 companies sourcing from four sectors with known risks of modern slavery: garments from China, rubber gloves from Malaysia, seafood from Thailand and fresh produce from Australia.
The report found:
66% of companies reviewed are still failing to comply with the basic reporting requirements mandated by the legislation, with some companies not submitting reports at all;
Over half of the commitments made by companies in the first year of reporting to improve their modern slavery response (56%) remain unfulfilled based on their second year statements;
43% of companies are still failing to identify obvious modern slavery risks in their supply chains;
There is a mere 6% increase in the number of companies appearing to be taking some form of effective action to address modern slavery risks, with two in three companies still failing to act.
Daniel Andrews pledges more local mental health hubs in Victoria
I’m with the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, in Northcote this morning, where he’s announcing $67m to deliver new mental health and wellbeing local hubs in Leongatha, Narre Warren and Northcote and a further $10m to begin planning for another 20 services across the state.
This will bringing the total number of hubs underway to 50.
The hubs were a key recommendation of the royal commission into mental health, to provide walk-in care and support for adults who are experiencing mental health concerns or psychological distress, as well as treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.
Andrews says the hubs remove barriers that many Victorians face when they need treatment and connect them to support – without making them jump through hoops like a GP referral or meeting eligibility criteria:
This is free of charge, no appointment required, no referral required. The ability to go and find that front door to our mental health system in your local community where you can get everything you need or be referred to everything you need.
It’s about providing a 100% free of charge, a trusted local convenient service to everybody in our community experiencing mental illness.
Data breach expert calls for Australia to ‘disrupt the business model’ of hackers and outlaw ransom payments
David Lacey, the managing director of ID Care, an organisation which helps people and businesses with data breaches, is speaking to the legal affairs commission about the government’s data breach legislation.
As part of his evidence, Lacey says ID Care have “observed about an 80% increase in ransomware attacks against Australian entities over the last three months”.
Lacey, a former Australian crime commission commissioner, wants to see the committee consider making the recommendation that paying a ransom should be a crime.
He says that is because the only way to break the business model of the organised criminals responsible for the biggest breaches, is to take away the possibility of money.
I think there really needs to be serious consideration of whether paying a ransom is an offence, in my experience in working in the organised crime, innovation and disruption landscape.
It is a business model and the way to disrupt effectively organised crime is to disrupt their business model.
There was a report released within the last week by a leading cyber forensics firm...and they had surveyed 500 Australian businesses on whether they had experienced a ransomware attack and there was around I think, from memory three quarters had over last five years, and 79% had elected to pay the ransom.
And the average ransom payment was over a million dollars.
So if I’m an organised criminal, that commits ransomware I’m loving Australia.
What a great target. A guaranteed a million dollars a hit.
So that has perpetuated the problem we are seeing impact the community at large now. So that’s why I make those comments not lightly, but deeply thinking that one way is to remove that business model through creating a disincentive to pay ransom.
Investigation into Matthew Guy's former chief of staff referred to Ibac
The Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC) has referred its investigation into opposition leader Matthew Guy’s former chief of staff to the state’s anti-corruption watchdog.
In August, the Age reported that Guy’s former chief of staff had proposed during salary negotiations last year to ask a Liberal party donor to pay more than $100,000 to his business. The investigation revealed that the proposed contract – which was never signed or actioned, but prompted Mitch Catlin to resign – had also been sent to Guy.
The VEC referred the matter to Ibac on Wednesday, saying on Thursday it had not received “full cooperation” from those connected to the investigation.
The electoral commissioner, Warwick Gately, said:
It’s my responsibility to ensure compliance with all electoral laws and ensure all participants are held to the same standard.
Despite public statements to the contrary, the VEC has not received full cooperation from those connected to its investigation. While the VEC is not in a position to allege wrongdoing based on the allegations it has sought to investigate, the possibility of offences against the act –including under section 218B – have also not been able to be discounted.
How quickly can flood waters submerge a road?
This road in Wellington in western New South Wales was submerged in minutes.
See for yourself.
Mining Council warns government against sector tax changes
The Minerals Council of Australia’s chief executive, Tania Constable, has warned the Albanese government against any changes to tax the sector to recoup windfall profits due to high resource prices.
Constable told reporters in Canberra:
What we’re doing is standing up for families, standing up for small businesses across regional Australia. We can’t afford to see jobs go in regional Australia. We can’t afford to see investment slow down … So when bad policies emerge, the mining industry is going to look at those individually and as a whole and what sort of impacts they’re having.
Asked how the council knew it would be bad policy, Constable said it is “already having discussions with the government”.
What we want to see is that taxes are ruled out on the mining industry in Australia – that’s all government needs to say.
Asked what options are on the table, Constable said that “power prices in Australia” should not be conflated with the export industry.
We’ve heard some commentary from the government that they don’t have a preference to tax the export industry at the moment, but they haven’t ruled it out. What we want the government to do is rule out more taxes on the export industry.
Constable said households would be helped not by “taxing industries” but by bringing on more supply of renewables and gas.
Asked about the fact coal prices are high due to the invasion of Ukraine, Constable said that mining is cyclical and coal had five bad years followed by two good years of profit.
It is nothing to do with the [invasion of] Ukraine in Australia. We expect to see prices level out in the next few years, that’s normal to the mining industry.
‘It’s Forbes, it floods, but this is different’: flood preparations under way in central west
The SES and NSW Police are on hand at a meeting point in Johnson Street on the north-west side of Forbes, ferrying essential workers and residents across the water.
As the hospital and medical services are on the southern side, many who require supplies or medical attention are transported across the water. Otherwise, authorities are discouraging residents from taking their own boats through the water.
That hasn’t stopped Tony Wallace, who says he wants to check on his retail business. He thinks it’s been completely inundated, and he wants to ensure there are no live wires and everything is unplugged.
It’s Forbes, it floods, but this is different, it’s never reached this height before. There’s only so much you can do from here though, its just devastating for the town.
I’d say the water is going to stay up until at least Monday or Tuesday, so I’m just heading down to take stock of the damage, unplug some chords, and see where the water is at. If it’s just in the warehouse, it’s OK, but if it hit the office, the carpet or the electricals, the damage will be substantial.
RBA and ASIC criticise ASX management
In a quick follow-up to ASX’s ditching of its CHESS platform upgrade plans (see earlier post), the Reserve Bank of Australia and the Australian Securities and Investments Commission have fired out an announcement of their own.
They call the abandonment “a significant setback to the replacement of critical national infrastructure for Australia’s cash equity markets and now brings into sharp focus the longevity of the existing CHESS platform”.
They’ve issued a joint letter of regulatory expectations to highlight what is required now. They want ASX to ensure “the current CHESS is supported and maintained to ensure its stability, resilience and longevity so that it can continue to service the market reliably”.
Also, they want the replacement program to be “brought back on track after the solution design has been completed so ASX’s commitment to deliver safe and reliable clearing and settlement infrastructure is fulfilled”.
The ASIC chair, Joe Longo, isn’t pulling his punches, saying:
“ASX has failed to demonstrate appropriate control of the program to date, and this has undermined legitimate expectations that the ASX can deliver a world-class, contemporary financial market infrastructure.”
The RBA governor, Philip Lowe, says: “The announcement by ASX after many years of investment by both ASX and industry is very disappointing.
“ASX needs to prioritise developing a new plan to deliver safe and reliable clearing and settlement infrastructure. The Reserve Bank of Australia also expects ASX to maintain the current CHESS so that it continues to operate reliably and support confidence in Australia’s cash equity markets.”
Not quite an endorsement of the current ASX management, you’d have to think.
Senate hearing on privacy laws considers tiered system
The data breach laws has moved on to privacy advocates, who are looking for a tiered system, so the focus isn’t just on the worst of the worst, but looks at all breaches to discourage lax behaviour.
That looks like something the senators who are on this committee seem interested in. These committee hearings form part of the final recommendations to government on how bills can be improved, or gaps in the legislation.
Checkmate for ASX’s CHESS blockchain replacement project
Companies on the stock market have to brave shareholder sentiment on a daily basis but it’s notable when the operator of the exchange releases a special announcement about itself.
ASX, which runs the main Australian share exchange, said it will write down $245m to $255m on pre-tax profit for the first half of this fiscal year as it “derecognises” the investment it poured into replacing its clearing house electronic subregister system (CHESS) platform.
CHESS, given its mishandling of the upgrade, probably should be downgraded to “checkers”.
Anyway, CHESS has had a long pedigree as the way the markets shifted off paper and people stopped yelling at each other in an exchange about a quarter of a century ago.
The replacement effort began about seven years ago and since late 2017 focused on using blockchain (a digital register more commonly associated with cryptocurrency) as the way to go. That effort looks to have been abandoned today.
An independent review by Accenture “and its own internal assessment” triggered the end of the game.
That report identified “significant challenges with the solution design and its ability to meet ASX’s requirements”, the company said, adding, “current CHESS remains secure and stable, and is performing well. ASX will continue to invest in its capacity and resilience”.
The recent woes wracking the crypto world (think, the collapse of the FTX exchange) and rising cybersecurity threats probably haven’t helped bolster confidence in blockchain-related systems.
ASX shares will presumably open soon for trading. They haven’t had a great 2022, losing about 23% in value so far compared with about 6% for the top 200 share index.
‘Special support’ on the way for Eugowra, minister says
On the devastation in Eugowra, where 90% of homes have been affected in the community of 700 people.
Murray Watt says he understands the scale of devastation is in a different order:
You literally have got homes that have been washed away. Not just homes that are flood water through them, they have been dislodged and moved, in some cases, tens and hundreds of metres down the street.
It is a very big disaster. As I say, yesterday we activated the Australian government disaster payment for the community and the surrounding communities and I have no doubt there will be more support coming very soon. We will be working closely with the New South Wales government on that.
Asked about the fact most people in Eugowra are uninsured:
People living in Eugowra and other flood-affected communities can absolutely rely on the federal government to come to the party to provide disaster support. That is what we have done in every one of the floods we have seen over the last three months since we took office and will continue to approach it.
Everything I am seeing and hearing out of Eugowra is that it is a particularly badly affect the community and we are already in discussions with the New South Wales about additional support needed.
Yesterday afternoon I spoke to the New South Wales emergency management minister, Steph Cooke, and have been in contact with the federal member Andrew Gee. They have been very clear with me that there is going to be special support for the community and working with them on that right now.
Federal and state governments working on road and infrastructure repair after floods
“What negotiations are under way with New South Wales on a support package in this latest round of floods?”
We already activated a range of different disaster payments for communities in New South Wales in cooperation with the New South Wales government.
So far we have made available the $1000 payments that the federal governments makes to people who are affected along with 13 weeks of income support for people who can’t get to their work or can’t get to their business. There are grants in place for small businesses, farmers along with concessional loans. There are freight subsidies in place as well.
We are already starting work with the New South Wales and other state governments around repairing roads and other infrastructure as well.
There’s already been a significant amount of money going out the door from the federal government, as there should be, to support communities as they recover. Only yesterday I agreed to extend back $1,000 payment, the Australian government disaster recovery payment councils to four more council areas in NSW.
Emergency minister says cost of floods will be billions
The federal emergency minister, Murray Watt, has been speaking in Brisbane about the flooding disaster in eastern states:
The overall cost of the current flood disaster, I can guarantee you, it is going to be in the billions of dollars. What I said this morning in an earlier interview was before the budget, government had provisioned $3bn to cover at least some of the cost of disaster payments and repairers that were likely to see. That had just been the amount occurred already, they had been making a forward provision of what we might see. With each week these on and with each row damaged, the damage bill is going to go up. We will be working very closely with state governments and local governments to make sure those repairs are getting done quickly. Unfortunately, it is not going to come cheap.
Guardian Australia’s 2022 good gift guide is out!
Can you believe it’s almost the festive time of year? Before you break into a sweat at the idea that you have yet to do your Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa shopping, take a deep breath, it’s going to be all right.
The marvellous lifestyle team at Guardian Australia have put together this very fun and affordable (all under $50) gift guide to help you through this holiday season.
From culinary treats to draw-on nail polish, sunscreen that will make you excited and (my personal favourite) a koala, there are a range of gift ideas to show your loved ones you care without breaking the bank.
Check it out for yourself.
Green senator questions whether information commissioner has funding to cover investigations
Greens senator David Shoebridge wants to know how the office of information commissioner will have enough resources to cover all of the investigations related to this bill, given what has already happened in data hacks.
I can’t conceive of how you’re going to have the resources that you need to deal with the new powers and to deal with the new expanded role you’ve been given. If it’s $5.5m to deal with Optus, you’ve got about a $30m budget for all of your obligations.
He also raises the Medibank, MyDeal and the limited (comparatively) Telstra hack.
Given the costs involved in resourcing these investigations, Shoebridge wants to know how the OIC will actually be able to use these new powers the legislation would give the office.
I have got to be frank, if we give you this new penalty power, but you haven’t got the resources to do that for Medibank. Or for Woolworths because we already know that your office is slammed in other parts of the jurisdictions … We give you the penalty powers, but literally you’ve only got the resources for one shot and that’s with Optus.
The information commissioner, Angelene Falk, says the office will do what it needs to. She said:
In terms of the resourcing of the office, l we will always take the regulatory action that’s warranted in the circumstances and in this occasion, I’ve gone to government, I’ve sought the funding and it’s been provided and I’ll continue to raise the issue of the need to have access to a funding base that takes account of the need to bring litigations.
‘I could not receive better news’: Djokovic says after being granted visa
Novak Djokovic has spoken after the Australian government’s decision to grant him a temporary visa, allowing him to play the 2023 Australian Open.
(If you want to read the immigration minister’s statement, it was up earlier on the blog).
Djokovic was at the centre of international drama on the eve of this year’s event when he was held in a detention centre for attempting to enter the country while not vaccinated, before being deported.
The 35-year-old has now spoken publicly, revealing his delight that the decision to bar him from Australia until 2025 has been reversed.
Speaking in Turin after defeating Andrey Rublev at the ATP Finals, the Serbian said:
It’s a relief, obviously knowing what I and people closest to me in my life have been through this year with what happened in Australia and post-Australia obviously.
I could not receive better news for sure – during this tournament as well. Australian Open has been my most successful grand slams. I made some of the best memories there.
Of course, I want to go back there, I want to play tennis, do what I do best, hopefully have a great Australian summer.
I’m always thankful to go through experiences, no matter what the experiences are. I try to be optimistic and positive in life.
I look forward to starting the new year in Australia, and we’ll see how the next year goes.
The news arrived before one of his last performances of the year. He went on to deliver a very convincing win, beating Rublev 6-4 6-1 to qualify for the semi-finals of the season-ending event – and he reckoned it may have helped his game out on court.
Did it affect my game today? I would like to believe it did. Why not? I don’t think it did affect me too much because I’m familiar with what I need to do in order to prepare myself for every match.
Of course, knowing that I have clarity now, what I do in the off-season, starting the season in Australia, also of course it did relieve some of the pressure me and my team felt. Just giving that clarity makes it great for us.
– with AAP
Forbes braces for biggest flood in 70 years
Water is quietly lapping streets in Forbes this morning, as the anxious wait for the flood’s peak continues.
Lachlan River is expected to reach 10.8 metres today, matching its historical peak from 1952.
Locals arrive along the banks of the water in groups, saying they’re just checking the levels, adding that its higher today than it was yesterday.
Aaron Ratcliffe works and lives in Forbes, but got out in time. He works at a bakery in town, and has been sleeping in his car, waiting for the water to recede.
What can you do? There’s nothing we can do, we can only wait.
I’m going to stay in Parkes tonight, its around a half hour from Forbes, and stay with some friends, but I was sleeping in my car last night.
They reckon its going to get higher, but where is all this water going to go? Its crazy, Forbes has become a lake.
Medibank and Optus decline invitation to Senate hearing on privacy laws
Greens senator David Shoebridge is on this Senate committee looking at privacy laws and he makes a point of pointing out who is NOT in the room.
We have a number of other key stakeholders standing up today but I want to express my frustration that the committee invited Medibank and we invited Optus and we invited Woolworths, we invited Telstra to come because they clearly have experience relevant to what we’re considering.
And they all declined. And I think it’s a that is a failure, a collective failure of that part of corporate Australia to come and clearly explain to this committee right now, how this act would work.
Wyangala Dam to spill 350GL total: Water NSW
The dam across the Lachlan River in the central west has seen record flooding this week.
The spill is likely to end tomorrow with a total of 350GL water released, according to Water NSW.
Proposed privacy laws come under Senate scrutiny
The Senate legal and constitutional affairs committee is holding a hearing into the government’s proposed privacy legislation. The office of the information commissioner is appearing and detailing why the bill, which gives the OIC more powers when it comes to companies found to not be adequately protecting people’s data is necessary.
The information commissioner, Angelene Falk, said she welcomed the bill.
We see this as a positive step towards updating Australians privacy law to ensure we have a regulatory framework that empowers individuals and ensures entities protect personal information, and best serves the Australian economy.
Victorian rail track cleared after train derailment
Shipping containers have been cleared from tracks near Geelong after a train derailed, blocking an important rail corridor between Adelaide and Melbourne.
Sixteen carriages from a 1.7km-long train went off the tracks at Inverleigh early on Monday, sending dozens of shipping containers tumbling.
No one was injured in the derailment and the cause is under investigation.
All the shipping containers and wagons have now been removed from the tracks, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) confirmed today.
Fifty workers will start repairing the one kilometre of damaged track, using 1500 new concrete sleepers and 2500 tonnes of rock ballast.
The track is expected to reopen next Tuesday.
The corporation said in a statement:
ARTC extends its thanks to the community and freight customers for their patience and understanding as works are carried out.
– from AAP
SES conducts 284 damage assessments in Eugowra
Our thoughts are with those in inland NSW bracing for flooding, as well as those facing down the long road of recovery.
The images of the devastation left after flash flooding in Eugowra are only a hint of what that community has experienced. The NSW SES and Westpac Rescue Helicopter have shared a few more, as they continue to assist the community.
Wildlife volunteers fear contaminated flood waters could be linked to kangaroo deaths
Wildlife rescue volunteers working along the Murray River have raised concerns that kangaroos could be dying after drinking contaminated flood water.
The alarm was raised after one-fifth of a population of kangaroos that have been trapped for three weeks on an island near Moama, on the New South Wales side of the border, died despite being an apparently healthy weight.
Anthony Albanese meets new UK prime minister in Bali
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has just shared a photo with the new UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, after the pair’s meeting at the G20.
They spoke about the Aukus security and defence pact, with Australia still yet to make a decision on whether it pick a US or British-designed nuclear submarine.
You’ll have to wait until March, and we will release the documentation and we’ll make announcements when appropriate.
NT public servants to walk off job over pay deal
Hundreds of teachers, prison officers and other public servants will walk off the job in the Northern Territory amid stalled pay negotiations with the government.
Teachers in Darwin and Alice Springs will hold four-hour work stoppages today, while corrections workers will stop work for 12 hours.
Nurses, firefighters and utility workers will also take protected industrial action.
Unions have pushed back against the 2% annual wage increase offered to public sector workers by the NT government.
The government last month backflipped on its wages policy, getting rid of an unpopular four-year pay freeze.
The UnionsNT secretary, Erina Early, said:
We feel like we are going around and around on a rollercoaster, with the government hoping the workers fall off and give up.
This will not happen and Thursday’s day of action is to demonstrate to the government: your workers are angry and fed up with the constant lack of support and the government’s shameful wages position.
The NT education minister, Eva Lawler, said she did not expect a significant disruption to learning.
The principals will inform all parents. The parents have then the choice about whether they keep their child home for those four hours or they send them to school. There will be strong supervision of those students at school.
The NT chief minister, Natasha Fyles, said the government was continuing to negotiate with unions.
We understand the cost of living pressures that Territorians are under. We’re trying to provide what we think is fair wages growth whilst at the same time managing our budget.
– from AAP
Gina Rinehart reportedly attends Trump’s campaign launch
There are widespread reports that the mining magnate and Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart, was in attendance at Donald Trump’s presidential campaign launch yesterday at his Mar-a-Largo resort in Florida.
Rinehart has yet to publicly state she was at the event.
The reports emerged after Rinehart – or her doppelganger, right down to the pearls – was spotted in the background of a selfie posted by Trump’s son Eric with his wife Lara.
Guardian Australia has contacted Rinehart for comment but did not receive a reply last night.
In 2016 Rinehart urged the Australian government to adopt the stimulatory policies, like cutting government tape and company tax, which Trump had promised as then US president-elect.
‘Big challenges’ require more sitting weeks, Pocock says
So there is still quite a bit David Pocock wants to work through when it comes to the IR bill and he is paying a lot of attention to the Senate inquiry into the bill. It is not something he wants to see rushed.
Would he support an extra week being added to the sitting calandar, to get through all the legislation the government wants passed?
I’ve said I’m committed to continuing to negotiate work through these these issues that I have looking at that.
There’s a mountain of legislation that they’ve flagged as wanting to get through in the next two weeks. I think the Senate will probably need more time just to do that. So I’m certainly open to that. I suggested earlier in the year that we look at adding more sitting weeks, given the big challenges we face and I think the expectation that community that politicians get on with solving these these big challenges, so I’d certainly be supportive of that.
Pocock holds town hall on IR bill
ACT independent senator David Pocock, who could be, as our colleague Paul Karp pointed out last weekend, the Senate kingmaker on the government’s IR bill, held a town hall meeting last night to get an idea of what the community wanted him to do on the bill.
(Paul went to the town hall meeting – you can read his take here.)
Pocock told ABC radio RN he had heard a lot from people about the impacts of stagnant wage growth, including what he called “the working homeless”, recounting a story a woman, who works as a cleaner at a hospital, told about a colleague who was living in a caravan park:
These are people who have helped get us through the pandemic. So clearly a lot of people wanting to see wage rises. And as I’ve been saying, and as I said last night, there’s 80 to 85% of the bill that I think is good to go. It would pass on Monday with my support. I’m working through that final 10 to 15% to make sure that we get it right.
Patricia Karvelas asks what it is Pocock is concerned about, other than the single interest stream:
There’s been a lot of talk in the Senate committee hearings, which is which is still happening. So I’m engaging in the in the Senate committee process. We’ve got more hearings on Tuesday, and some really good stuff is coming out of that. There are concerns about the union veto before agreements can be put to a vote, especially in cases where there’s more than one union at the negotiating table. You could be in a situation where one union is really happy with an agreement and another one vetoes that and I’m really keen to see a strict statutory review period.
Watt talks up Albanese’s ‘constructive’ meeting with Xi
Moving on from the floods, Murray Watt is asked to put on one of his other hats – agriculture minister – to answer a question about what Anthony Albanese’s meeting with China’s President Xi Jingping means for Australia’s producers.
Watt doesn’t stray too far from the official line:
I think it’s certainly a very positive step that the prime minister had what seemed to be a very constructive meeting with the Chinese president. I actually spoke to the prime minister about it the night he had had that meeting because I was about to address a conference of wine growers in Adelaide.
And of course the wine industry has been one of the major losers out of the deterioration of our relationship with China.
So, you know, there’s a huge amount of interest in our agricultural communities about the opportunities to reopen some of those block trade paths with China. But at the same time, I think we need to be realistic that this is not something that’s going to happen overnight.
You know, I think it is very encouraging. We’ve seen a huge impact, particularly on agriculture products like beef, cotton wine, lobsters, barley, that where we’ve seen massive drops in our exports because of the China market effectively being close. So it would be a very positive thing if we can reopen that but I think we just all need to be a little bit patient and recognise that this is going to take a bit of time to work through.
Stronger laws needed to prevent construction in disaster-prone areas, minister says
And then we get a very clear answer on this question from Patricia Karvelas:
Do we need stronger laws preventing construction in disaster-prone areas or even regulations to make homes more resilient to natural disasters given this is now a permanent feature of our lives?
Yes, I think we do. I’ll give you a really straight answer on that. I think that all of us can see past development decisions that have been approved by different governments which we all now shake our heads about and, and unfortunately, that kind of thing continues to go on around the country.
It didn’t get a lot of publicity, but when the prime minister announced the home buyback scheme with the New South Wales premier in Lismore recently, one of the other things he announced was the New South Wales government would be leading some work for national cabinet about how we could revamp our planning and development laws across the country.
You know, there’s in some ways, you know, we’ve got all these legacy decisions that have been made by past governments about approving development in flood plains and that’s where the mitigation and home buybacks can play a role. But what we need to do at a minimum is stop approving developments in areas that we know are going to flood. So that work as I say is going to be led by the New South Wales government for consideration by national cabinet and the discussions I’ve had with emergency ministers around the country. I think there’s a real appetite to get moving on this. It’s something that’s been in the too-hard basket for too long, and we’re all literally paying the price of that now.
Emergency management minister discusses buybacks in flood-prone areas
Murray Watt says the federal government will work with state governments to address the issue of communities which repeatedly flood and moving people’s homes. But he doesn’t think anyone should think that will solve it:
Really the two areas where we’ve seen those sort of commitments now, which is south-east Queensland and northern New South Wales have really been focused on areas where we’ve seen repeated flooding over the last few years. I mean, I think no matter what any government does, the reality is we are going to be having floods and fires and cyclones and other disasters in the future.
But what we know is that there are certain areas in the country that are prone to repeated flooding, and it often ends up actually being more cost-effective, let alone avoiding the emotional heartbreak, if we can move some of these people to higher ground. I can certainly think of other areas of the country where these kinds of approaches might be needed. But we need to sort of sit down and work that through with some of the state governments and before we can commit more funding.
He doesn’t want to name any areas just yet – this is going to take a lot of consultation, as well as looking at flood maps and predictions for the future, but Watt says it is something the federal government is taking seriously and that the new permanent disaster mitigation funding has a big role to play:
We’ll be able to invest in things like flood levees drainage improvements, bushfire evacuation centres, so I think when it comes to mitigation, there’s a range of approaches we can take.
But what I can assure your listeners is that they now have a federal government that’s taking these issues seriously and is prepared to put serious money on the table to back it in.
ADF personnel to help in NSW as government works on dedicated disaster workforce
Murray Watt is asked about a permanent disaster workforce to assist during national disasters and their clean-up, given the pressure put on the defence force.
He says he and defence minister Richard Marles have been working on it.
The ADF does certainly play a role, particularly in the recovery phase. And just yesterday we activated more defence forces to go into western New South Wales to assist so over the next couple of days, we expect to see 200 defence force personnel helping there to top up these state-based services. But the reality is all of this is putting a huge amount of pressure, whether it be on those state-based services or the ADF. And that’s why in this budget, we committed over $30m to a volunteer veteran organisation called Disaster Relief Australia to sort of top up the kind of services that are available for communities, particularly in that clean-up phase.
As for the time frame on when that dedicated workforce could be expected, Watt says:
But we’re going to be keeping on doing some work on this about what we need to put in place as a country to supplement the ADF and I’d be hopeful that we might be able to bring that to a conclusion around about the budget next year.
Disaster costs will be shared by everyone, Murray Watt says
Murray Watt says the cost of the flood repairs will be shared between governments at all levels. And of course, people themselves will have to pay some costs – if they are lucky enough to have insurance:
There’s insurance costs so let alone the huge damage bill that individuals are going to be incurring themselves.
So I think everyone is unfortunately going to be having to put their hands in their pockets for for this unfolding event that just won’t go away.
But he also points out that cyclone season hasn’t hit as yet either and there is more coming with these floods – even without more rain, South Australia is preparing because of the water coming down the Murray:
So even if we weren’t to get any more rain, we’re going to be looking at even more damage from the existing flood waters. And, as I say, I think we’re likely to see more. We’ve also got to remember that we haven’t yet seen the cyclone season start whether that be in north Queensland, Western Australia or Northern Territory. So unfortunately I haven’t got a lot of good news for people except for the fact that there is unlikely to be a lot of rain over the next couple of days. So that’s a good thing.
‘Billions of dollars in damage’: emergency minister estimates cost of flood disaster
The minister for emergency management, Murray Watt, has told ABC radio RN Breakfast that the floods we are seeing across the east coast will cost “billions of dollars”:
I think it’s realistic to think that we’re looking at billions of dollars in damage and cost to the taxpayer in repairs. It’s a bit too early to be able to put a put a precise figure on it but even if you look at the disaster payments which we have provided to people so far, the bill is really racking up and that’s before we look at the immense cost of road and infrastructure repairs which lies ahead.
The worst thing is that this isn’t over yet.
Twenty-three emergency flood warnings in place across NSW, as help arrives from Singapore
The NSW SES have conducted 12 flood rescues in the past 24 hours and received 265 requests for assistance.
There are a total of 113 active warnings across the state, including 23 emergency warnings.
The NSW SES say emergency service personnel from Singapore are due to arrive in Sydney today:
The international contingent, alongside recently deployed New Zealand personnel who arrived earlier this week, will assist the NSW SES response to the state’s ongoing floods.
They highlighted the main areas of concern as Forbes with its third major flood peak this month expected to arrive today, reaching 1952 record levels of 10.8m.
Downstream, Condobolin and Euabalong are also reaching record river heights, with residents yesterday asked to prepare to evacuate and/or prepare to isolate.
Alongside emergency service partners, SES members conducted 284 damage assessments yesterday at Eugowra, with 225 buildings deemed damaged.
Djokovic granted temporary visa, immigration minister confirms
Guardian Australia broke the story at the weekend that the government would be giving tennis star Novak Djokovic a visa, allowing him to be able to play the 2023 Australian Open.
Immigration minister Andrew Giles has this morning released a statement affirming the decision to overturn the three-year ban that accompanied the decision by the previous government to cancel his visa on the eve of the 2022 open.
Giles said the new position “does not mean the original decision to cancel was affected by error”.
He highlighted that since the decision was made, all Covid-19-related border restrictions have been removed, including the requirement to provide evidence of Covid-19 vaccination status to enter Australia.
Here’s the full statement:
On 14 January 2022, the then Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs made a decision under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act 1958 (the Migration Act) to cancel the visa of Mr Novak Djokovic on public interest grounds. A subsequent challenge to that decision was dismissed by the Full Federal Court which found that the decision was not affected by legal error.
Following the cancellation of his visa, Mr Djokovic sought revocation of the cancellation decision in accordance with the Migration Act. After considering all relevant factors, the Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, and Multicultural Affairs the Hon Andrew Giles MP decided to revoke the cancellation decision under section 133F(4) of the Migration Act. The power under section 133F(4) may only be exercised by the Minister personally.
A decision to cancel a visa under section 133C(3) may be revoked if the person satisfies the Minister that the ground for cancelling the visa no longer exists. A decision to revoke a visa cancellation does not mean the original decision to cancel was affected by error.
Since the cancellation of Mr Djokovic’s visa in January 2022, all Covid-19-related Australian border restrictions under the Biosecurity Act 2015 have been removed, including the requirement to provide evidence of Covid-19 vaccination status to enter Australia.
Mr Djokovic has subsequently been granted a temporary visa to enter Australia.
New emergency flood warnings in Victoria
Good morning! Thanks to Martin Farrer for kicking the blog off, I’m now online and helming the blog for the first part of the day.
New flood warnings have also been issued in Victoria overnight.
Residents of Iraak, 35km south-east of Mildura, have been told it’s too late to leave while others along the Murray River have been warned to watch and act.
Unemployment figures due
Unemployment figures for October will be released this morning with the rate tipped to rise slightly to 3.6% from 3.5% the previous month.
The September jobless rate held at near 50-year lows, AAP reports, but the data showed signs of a labour market that had passed its tightest point.
Fewer jobs were added to the market than expected – just 900 for the month, and far fewer than the 33,500 lift in total employment in August.
For more on how the economy is shaping up, you could hardly do better than consult today’s Grogonomics column, which tackles wage inflation here:
Flood warnings across central NSW
Communities in New South Wales are braced for more flooding with warnings of historic river rises and prolonged peaks in the state’s central west.
Across the state, authorities have issued 117 warnings and 23 “evacuate now” orders, including for central western Forbes and Gooloogong, Gunnedah in the north-east and the southern border town of Moama.
In Forbes, major flooding is expected with the Lachlan River likely to reach 10.8 metres on Thursday morning, similar to the historic inundation of June 1952.
The peak could remain through to the weekend, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.
State Emergency Service assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said:
We have issued emergency warnings, as well as other areas along the Lachlan River including Condobolin, Gooloogong and Cowra. We are urging communities to stay away from flooded areas, follow advice from emergency services and evacuate immediately if asked to do so.
Along the Lachlan, major flooding is also occurring at Nanami, Cottons Weir, Jemalong, Euabalong and Hillston.
Find the full story here from Mostafa Rachwani:
Svitzer lockout hearing
Plans by tug boat operator Svitzer for a lockout of hundreds of workers from tomorrow – which threatens to cause supply-chain chaos in the lead-up to Christmas – will be fought by the Albanese government.
The plan would affect more than 580 workers indefinitely from Friday, and cover 17 ports in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia, AAP reports.
The Fair Work Commission held a brief hearing yesterday, before later listing another hearing before the full bench in Sydney today at 1pm.
A further hearing will be held tomorrow morning if necessary.
The commission will consider whether “the indefinite lockout of employees ... is protected industrial action for a proposed enterprise agreement that is threatened, impending or probable”.
It acted on its own initiative to intervene as the lockout had the potential to “cause significant damage to the Australian economy”.
Workplace relations minister Tony Burke said the government was arguing the lockout should not go ahead:
That is why we have intervened in the Fair Work Commission’s case to argue this action should be terminated.
The commonwealth will be providing economic evidence to the commission to demonstrate the significant harm to the national economy that would result if the company’s industrial action went ahead.
Burke said the dispute reaffirmed the need for the government’s industrial relations bill to urgently pass, as the current threshold allowing the commission’s intervention was too high.
Good morning and welcome to our rolling coverage of Australian news. My colleague Natasha May will be here shortly to guide you through the day but in the meantime here are some of the key stories making news this morning:
Anthony Albanese spent his last day at the G20 summit in Bali in a series of meetings with the leaders of the UK, France and India, with security and trade uppermost in his mind. Our political editor Katharine Murphy filed late last night on how the prime minister was particularly focused on trying to explore ways of boosting Australia’s defence capability before the new nuclear submarines come on stream in the 2030s. Here’s her story from Bali before she heads with the PM to Bangkok for the Apec meeting, the last leg of his summit marathon.
The Lachlan River is due to peak at a record-equalling 10.8 metres in Forbes this morning amid the threat that the town will suffer a second major flood in the same number of weeks. We will be watching the situation as it unfolds this morning. We also have a dramatic new dispatch about how a woman, her newborn baby, husband and dogs were forced to take refuge on the top of their water tank as flood waters suddenly inundated their property in nearby Tichborne.
Our main exclusive story this morning is that the superintendent in charge of the Queensland police First Nations unit is under investigation for alleged racism and bullying, Guardian Australia has confirmed. Superintendent Kerry Johnson has been accused of racism by a person of colour who worked in the unit, including allegations he blocked her promotion and that he was disrespectful to community members at a funeral in the Indigenous community of Cherbourg.
Also coming up today is a federal government announcement to cap in-home aged-care fees after concerns some providers are “gouging” clients with charges of up to 60%. My colleague Josh Butler has the exclusive story here.