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The Guardian - AU
The Guardian - AU
Kate Lyons and Emily Wind (earlier)

Museum loses anti-discrimination case – as it happened

Ladies Lounge creator Kirsha Kaechele exiting a hearing in the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on 19 March.
Ladies Lounge creator Kirsha Kaechele exiting a hearing in the Tasmanian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on 19 March. Photograph: Jesse Hunniford Mona/Charlotte Vignau

What we learned – Tuesday 9 April

A flurry of late-breaking news to end your Tuesday, folks. We’re going to wrap up the blog now and we’ll be back, as always, tomorrow.

Here’s what happened today:

  • A decision will be handed down in the defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson brought by Bruce Lehrmann on Monday.

  • In a submission to the federal court in that defamation case, Brittany Higgins has questioned whether she was drugged on night of alleged rape. Higgins has told the federal court the suggestion by an AFP officer that she might have been drugged should have been raised in the defamation trial.

  • The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart has been ordered “to cease refusing entry to the exhibit known as Ladies Lounge … by persons who do not identify as ladies” after a legal battle. The decision was handed down after Jason Lau, brought an action against the museum, claiming he was denied entry into Ladies Lounge because of his gender.

  • The Northern Territory government has extended the Alice Springs youth curfew until the territory’s school holidays end next Tuesday. The move was praised by NT Labor MP Marion Scrymgour, who said “the status quo cannot continue”.

  • A landmark case has kicked off today, with Roxanne Tickle, a transgender woman, suing the women-only social media platform Giggle for Girls for discrimination after being blocked from using the app. It is the first time a case alleging gender discrimination has been heard by the federal court and may have global implications.

  • The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, has announced she will reject Walker Corporation’s Toondah harbour project – an apartment and retail development on an internationally important wetland – at Queensland’s Moreton Bay, due to the potential environmental impact.

  • Australia and its Aukus partners, the US and the UK, confirmed they are considering working with Japan on Aukus pillar 2, which refers to advanced capability development. Anthony Albanese said Japan was a “natural candidate for that to occur”.

  • Vice Admiral David Johnston has been recommended to serve as new chief of the defence force from July, when General Angus Campbell steps down.


Brittany Higgins questions whether she was drugged on night of alleged rape in new court submission

Brittany Higgins has told the federal court the suggestion by an AFP officer that she might have been drugged on the night she was allegedly raped should have been raised in the defamation trial.

Higgins filed a seven-page submission to the court on Tuesday after being invited by Justice Michael Lee last week to make final submissions concerning her credit before the judgment in Bruce Lehrmann’s defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson is handed down on Monday.

Higgins said any question about her evidence should take into account the possibility she may have been drugged on top of her trauma, the submission said.

The suggestion she was drugged was raised by the AFP in a document tendered by former Seven producer Taylor Auerbach last week. Auerbach said he got the document from Lehrmann.

An AFP note in the document - which was a master chronology prepared by Lehrmann’s lawyers - said: “I also have concerns from info I heard that this may have happened before or could happen again. (I was referring to info that alleged victim may have been drugged). Paul [Sherring] – we need to speak to a range of people. Security staff cleaners may have info.”

Read the full story:


Mona ordered to stop refusing men entry to Ladies Lounge

The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart has been ordered “to cease refusing entry to the exhibit known as Ladies Lounge … by persons who do not identify as ladies” after a legal battle.

The decision was handed down in the Tasmanian civil and administrative tribunal after Jason Lau, who visited Mona last April, brought an action against the museum, claiming he was denied entry into Ladies Lounge because of his gender in a contravention of Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

Kirsha Kaechele’s installation Ladies Lounge opened at Mona in 2020. Women who enter the space are pampered by male butlers and served champagne while being surrounded by some of the museum’s finest pieces of art. Those who do not identify as women are not permitted entry.

Lau had argued that denying men access to some of the museum’s most important works (there is a Sidney Nolan, a Pablo Picasso and a trove of antiquities from Mesopotamia, Central America and Africa in the women-only space) is discriminatory. Kaechele said that was the point.

The artist Kirsha Kaechele leaves a hearing at the Tasmanian civil and administrative tribunal on 19 March.
The artist Kirsha Kaechele leaves a hearing at the Tasmanian civil and administrative tribunal on 19 March. Photograph: Jesse Hunniford Mona/Charlotte Vignau


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Egyptian refugee Sayed Abdellatif freed after 12 years in Australian detention

A bit of joy for your afternoon. Egyptian refugee Sayed Abdellatif, whose case Guardian Australia has been following and reporting on for more than a decade, has been freed after almost 12 years in Australia’s immigration detention facilities.

He was granted a temporary protection visa and released on Tuesday afternoon from Villawood detention centre.

Abdellatif was emotional as he was reunited with his wife and children, whose faces he had seen only during supervised approved visits to the high security facility during the past decade.

“My family and I are so happy and grateful. Our family is finally back together after so many years of being separated unnecessarily,” he said. “We’ve waited for this for a very very long time.”

The full story is here:


Marion Scrymgour welcomes Alice Springs youth curfew extension, saying ‘the status quo cannot continue’

The Labor MP Marion Scrymgour has applauded the decision by Northern Territory chief minister Eva Lawler to extend the Alice Springs youth curfew until the NT school holidays end next Tuesday.

Scrymgour told the ABC the curfew has been a “circuit breaker” that has given the community “respite and breathing room”.

I think that people have wanted the government to lead and take some responsibility for this. All credit to Eva Lawler, she has been very strong about these decisions and I know that they have not been popular decisions.

She has done this in the interest of the community, of the town, for businesses but also, more importantly, for the young ones that are on the street.

Scrymgour says action needs to be taken to reduce the number of liquor licenses in the community, as well as introducing more temporary housing for young people, where they can be connected to services.

The Labor MP said that the curfew and the incidents that prompted it have made people realise that “the status quo cannot continue”.

“People want to do something about this and I think it has taken last week’s riots, the tragic death of the young person, to finally resonate with people that we cannot continue,” she said.


Mayfair 101’s James Mawhinney charged after Asic investigation

The high-profile fund manager behind failed plans to redevelop Queensland’s Dunk Island has been arrested and charged with four counts of engaging in dishonest conduct, the corporate regulator says.

James Mawhinney faced the Melbourne magistrates court on Tuesday and was granted conditional bail including that he remain in Australia. He did not enter a plea.

It is understood the businessman behind the collapsed private investment fund Mayfair 101 had recently returned to Melbourne for a retrial of civil proceedings brought by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic) in the federal court.

The federal court initially hit Mawhinney with a $30m fine and a 20-year ban on offering financial products for misleading and deceptive conduct.

The court has heard that investors – including retirees who were sold the products as alternatives to term deposits, a former Nationals MP and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation political party – stood to lose a combined $211m raised by companies run by Mawhinney since 2016.

Mawhinney successfully appealed his sanctions in 2022 on the grounds he was not granted procedural fairness, and a retrial was ordered. Those proceedings began on Monday.

The Australian reported the fresh charges relate to an unregistered investment scheme, IPO Wealth.

According to ASIC:

It is alleged that on four occasions between 9 August 2019 and 21 April 2020, Mr Mawhinney dishonestly misrepresented to the trustee of the IPO Wealth Fund, that the IPO Wealth Group owned two Italian companies, Poveglia S.R.L. and Retta S.R.L, when it did not.

Mawhinney is due to return to court on 28 June.


In case you need a refresher on the Lehrmann defamation case ahead of the judgment being handed down next week, Amanda Meade, our media correspondent, spoke with deputy editor Gabrielle Jackson for an episode of Full Story. It’s well worth a listen.

Judge to hand down verdict in Bruce Lehrmann defamation case on Monday

Justice Lee will deliver his judgment in the defamation case against Network Ten and Lisa Wilkinson brought by Bruce Lehrmann at 10.15am next Monday 15 April.

The judgment was initially due to be handed down last week, but was reopened after Channel Ten argued that fresh evidence should be considered, after bombshell allegations from a former Channel Seven producer about the network’s dealings with Lehrmann in order to secure an exclusive interview with him in 2023.

Ten was successful and former Spotlight producer Taylor Auerbach spent two days in the witness box last week giving dramatic evidence, in which he alleged that Seven paid thousands of dollars for massages, drugs, sex workers, accommodation and meals for Lehrmann while they tried to get him over the line for an exclusive interview. Channel Seven has denied the allegations.


Tickle v Giggle: transgender woman sues female-only app for alleged discrimination in landmark case

We have an update from the landmark Tickle v Giggle case, which is being heard this week at the federal court, from Daisy Dumas, who was in court for the proceedings. She writes:

Roxanne Tickle, a transgender woman from regional New South Wales, is suing the women-only social media platform Giggle for Girls after being blocked from using the app.

In a lawsuit filed in December 2022, Tickle claimed she was unlawfully barred from using Giggle in September 2021 after the firm and its CEO, Sall Grover, said she was a man. Tickle is seeking damages.

The former Liberal party candidate Katherine Deves, representing Giggle, failed to have the case thrown out of court.

The case is the first time alleged gender identity discrimination has been heard by the federal court and goes to the heart of how gender identity is interpreted.

In her opening remarks, Tickle’s barrister Georgina Costello KC said that “Ms Tickle is a woman” but that “the respondents flatly deny that fact.”

Giggle and Grover’s barrister, Bridie Nolan, said the focus must be on biological sex.

Read the full story here:


Victorian minister hits back after state opposition opposes second injecting room

Victoria’s mental health minister, Ingrid Stitt, has hit back at comments by the state opposition who today said they would oppose a second injecting room in Melbourne and instead invest in rehabilitation services.

The opposition said there were more than 3,300 Victorians waiting for drug and alcohol treatment, an increase of 40% since the government first committed to a second safe injecting room – in Melbourne’s CBD – in 2020.

Stitt said:

The Liberals’ [and] Nationals’ track record in AOD [alcohol and other drug treatment] services speaks for itself. They only delivered two new residential rehabilitation beds in the four years when they were last in government. That is half a bed a year. Drug use is a complex matter and must be dealt with sensitively and comprehensively, and we’re taking the time to get it right.

She said the government had doubled funding in the alcohol and drug treatment space since coming to government in 2014, with $372m invested in the most recent budget alone.

In 2020, the government tasked the former police commissioner, Ken Lay, with investigating the possible location for a facility. It was due to be finalised at the end of the year but the government asked Lay to revisit his findings after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The report was finally handed to the government in June 2023 but is yet to be released. Nine News Melbourne on Monday reported that Lay did not provide a suggested location for the government but highlighted three areas of the city of concern.

Premier Jacinta Allan and Stitt refused to confirm the report on Tuesday.


Many thanks for joining me on the blog today. Kate Lyons will be here to guide you through the rest of today’s rolling coverage. Take care.


Bronze plaque allegedly stolen from cenotaph in Melbourne

A 95-year-old bronze plaque has allegedly been stolen from a cenotaph in Melbourne’s inner-east.

According to the Hawthorn RSL sub-branch, the plaque from the St James Park cenotaph has been stolen. The sub-branch said it was “beyond devastated” by what has happened:

This plaque was placed on the cenotaph in 1929 and has lasted almost 100 years, before someone decided they deserve it more than the community. We at the RSL don’t own this plaque, it belongs to all Australians, and for someone to steal it is disgusting behaviour.

The sub-branch said Victoria police had been notified and are investigating, and Boroondara council was working with then to have something in place for Anzac Day and “a permanent replacement as soon as possible”.

Independent Kooyong MP Monique Ryan said she was “appalled” by the news, and that the plaque’s removal was “senseless and offensive”. She called for the plaque to be returned ahead of Anzac Day.


Rideshare and food delivery industry 'cannibalising itself', union leader says after Ola news

Rideshare platform Ola’s sudden decision to cease its operations across Australia in three days time comes as the industry is “cannibalising itself” amid unsustainable competition, the Transport Workers Union has said.

Earlier today, the rideshare app sent an email out to customers stating its services will no longer be available from April 12.

The union said it was not yet clear why Ola decided to cease operations, but that it follows a trend of sudden exists across the rideshare and food delivery industry, with Milkrun, Send and Voly shutting down operations in the past two years, and another three transport companies shutting down due to “unsustainable contracts” that resulted in 2m000 people losing their jobs.

The union’s secretary, Michael Kaine, said companies with sustainable business models were struggling to compete with other companies “exploitative” models.

He said the gig economy reforms, passed earlier this year and due to take effect from August, would help fix this issue by putting companies on a level playing field.

He said:

This industry is cannibalising itself. Companies operating sustainable models that support workers are being forced out... Ola’s exit shows how critical it is to get standards in place to lift pay and make transport gig jobs safe, secure and sustainable.

The union said it was meeting with Ola to ensure the “best possible outcome” for rideshare drivers who will lose work after the platform’s closure.


Eva Lawler also went into more detail on the three recommendations not accepted by the NT government from the police review:

The one around the transporting of prisoners [using private companies], that recommendation is one that we noted and have not accepted at the moment because we think there needs to be a lot more consideration around that … We do need to look into the possibilities of what can be done into the future but we do not think we have the resources to be able to do that right this moment. It is one that we need to spend more time on.

Around [private] security, we have seen an increase in private security in our shopping centres, for example, around the CBD in Darwin. It seems to work and provides reassurance also to Territorians to have security people there … We thought that the time was not right to be able to take away those of private security guards.

We will continue to have officers [at] our bottle shops in central Australia … We have heard loudly and clearly from Katherine and Alice Springs that they want to have a police presence or the presence of an officer.


NT chief minister believes Alice Springs youth curfew has been a ‘great success’

Eva Lawler said she had “anecdotal” evidence of the youth curfew’s success so far and is scheduled to visit Alice Springs again on Thursday – after two previous visits.

The conversations on the ground from Alice Springs residents is that this has been the best thing that has happened to Alice Springs. It really was a circuit breaker.

People are feeling so much safer and more comfortable … Also the data that police have around the numbers [of kids on the street outside curfew], it started at 60 and dropped down to 40, it went up a little bit over the weekend. It is great to see those numbers have been reduced. Thirty kids on average. Maybe there is a small group continuously on the street but we are putting services around that [and] to me the curfew has been a great success.


NT chief minister says community consultation guided curfew decisions

Taking questions, chief minister Eva Lawler is asked what advice she was given in relation to extending the youth curfew in Alice Springs.

She said there had been a summit yesterday afternoon and she met with the commissioner this morning.

When I made the initial decision around the curfew, as we said, we did not consult widely, we made sure we put that summit in place this week.

They heard from about 45 people from across Alice Springs yesterday. The overarching [view] was that we need to keep the curfew in place, particularly over the school holidays, so it will end at 6am on the Tuesday morning.

They will continue to monitor the curfew, like they have around the last 10 days or so, until 6am on Tuesday morning.


NT government to accept 15 of 18 recommendations in police review

Speaking on the Northern Territory police review, the chief minister, Eva Lawler, said the government would accept 15 of the 18 recommendations provided.

The review showed the need for the organisational structure to improve, and for more support for frontline police, Lawler said:

I’m confident that we have the right commissioner and the right police minister in place to make sure that the report recommendations are implemented in full.

The police review provides a roadmap and clear directions about what needs to happen to get an improved and more responsive NT police force.

The community expects that police will have sufficient resources to be highly visible on our streets and play a greater role in preventing crime. Territorians expect a high level of service from their police force and to ensure that happens, we’ll give NT police force the resources it needs to be more responsive to the needs of the community.

We will accept 15 out of the 18 recommendations contained in the police review. Accepting these recommendations will come at significant cost and we will see unprecedented resources provided to the NT police force.

Lawler said the government did not accept recommendations to reduce police coverage at bottle shops in the territory, or to discontinue using private security services in public places to reduce “antisocial behaviour”.

The final recommendation that is being noted, but not accepted, by government is in relation to using private companies to transport prisoners.


Alice Springs curfew extended until end of NT school holidays

The Northern Territory government has extended the Alice Springs youth curfew until the territory’s school holidays end next Tuesday.

The chief minister, Eva Lawler, is speaking to the media and told reporters:

The youth curfew will run until 6am on Tuesday, the first day back at school. The youth curfew will cover the entire school holidays.

We’ve seen very encouraging results with introduction of the youth curfew and even after it has ended the police, the department of education, territory families and health and other service providers will keep working together much closer than they have been doing before the youth curfew.

We will continue to provide updates to the community on arrangements that will be put in place when the curfew ends.


Tuning out: party ends for a third of music festivals

More than one-third of Australian music festivals are losing money as operational costs skyrocket, red tape becomes harder to wade through and people in their late teens and early 20s ditch events, AAP reports.

That’s the finding from Creative Australia’s first Soundcheck report, which revealed it cost an average $3.9m to run a music festival.

Among 51 Australian music festivals surveyed, more than half turned a profit – but 35% lost money with a median deficit of $470,000.

Rising operational costs were severely hurting almost half of festival organisers, while a lack of funding and grants, insurance costs and extreme weather were also sore points.

Australian live music venues’ public liability insurance policies increased 10-fold in the year to August 2023, and one festival organiser said their insurance excess climbed from about $5,000 to $250,000.

The number of young adults attending music festivals slumped from 41% of all ticket buyers in 2018/19 to 27% in 2022/23. People in their mid- to late-20s overtook younger people as the biggest ticket-buying demographic.

Festival-goers were also waiting longer to buy tickets than they did before Covid. Organisers speculated that cost of living pressures, along with festival cancellations and headliners pulling out at the last-minute, led some punters to hold off on buying tickets.

You can read more about the issues facing the music festival sector below:


Wind gusts up to 100km/h on the way for parts of NSW east coast

The Bureau of Meteorology says strong winds are on the way for parts of the New South Wales east coast, just days after heavy rain and flooding hit the region.

A low pressure system is forecast to develop off the east coast tonight and tomorrow morning bringing a “vigorous southerly flow”, the bureau said.

Wind gusts up to 100km/h are possible between Wooli and Wattamolla from early tomorrow morning. The wind risk will then move to the Hunter and mid north coast around mid-morning.

The damaging wind gusts are set to ease by late Wednesday afternoon. Meteorologist Angus Hines has the latest:


Potential asbestos uncovered at additional three sites in Melbourne

Victoria’s environmental regulator says it has uncovered potential asbestos at an additional three sites in Melbourne, as it continues investigating the contaminated material discovered at several parks.

Potential asbestos contamination has been uncovered at three council areas in Melbourne – Hobsons Bay city council, Merri-bek council and Brimbank council.

The Victorian Environment Protection Authority says potential asbestos has been discovered at Dennis Reserve in Williamston, Fitzgerald Square Reserve in Sunshine West, and Altona Coastal Park.

The EPA says it expects the lab results of samples from four parks suspected of containing asbestos, collected over the weekend, later today.


ATO says bill will fix loophole that ‘frustrated’ efforts to deal with suspected wrongdoing

The Australian Taxation Office says a new bill will “squarely address” the loophole that prevented the agency from providing federal police and Treasury with more details on PricewaterhouseCoopers’ suspected wrongdoing.

In early 2023, it was revealed a former PwC partner, who was advising the Australian government on the draft multinational tax laws, had shared confidential information with his colleagues over several years, which was then sold to overseas tech companies, giving them time to prepare them for new, tougher laws.

The ATO had tried to get the Australian federal police to investigate in 2018 after first becoming aware of suspected wrongdoing in 2016. But the matter was not investigated until several years later because, at the time, the ATO could not produce enough evidence to convince the AFP to investigate.

At a hearing into the bill today, the ATO’s second commissioner, Jeremy Hirschhorn, said secrecy obligations had “frustrated” the tax office’s efforts in dealing with the matter, and that the proposed changes would fix that.

These measures ... squarely address some of the frustrations which emerged through the PwC matter. The first was that when we detected this very early, we were able to tell the police, or provide some information to the police, but we weren’t able, on our advice, to tell the victim of the crime being Treasury, or the potential crime, being Treasury so that first measure directly addresses that.

Another aspect of the bill will allow the ATO to share its findings with professional disciplinary bodies, such as the Tax Practitioners Board. Hirschhorn said:

Professionals who have participated in misconduct, in a sense, cannot cynically rely on the ATO’s principled approach to secrecy for information not to get to their professional body ... the professional bodies are [so] hamstrung that they almost have to wait till there has been a finding by another government body before they can take action against members of their profession.


Opposition congratulates new ADF appointments

The federal opposition has congratulated Vice Admiral David Johnston on his appointment as chief of the defence force and Air Marshal Robert Chipman on being appointed vice chief.

The opposition also congratulated and thanked outgoing chief General Angus Campbell for “his dedication and service”.

A joint statement from the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, the shadow defence minister, Andrew Hastie, and the shadow assistant defence minister, Phillip Thompson, says:

We join with the government in thanking all outgoing leadership for their service to the ADF and the nation.

As Australia faces increasing challenging strategic circumstances, we need strong leaders who will ensure our ADF is well-equipped with the capabilities and personnel needed to defend our nation.


Scott Morrison backs latest Aukus announcement

The former prime minister Scott Morrison has backed moves for Aukus nations to work with Japan on pillar 2 projects as part of the defence deal.

In a post to X, Morrison said involving other nations in pillar 2 of the deal is “a natural progression” and it “makes a lot of sense” to start with Japan:

Aukus was conceived and designed as a highest common denominator partnership amongst like-mindeds to extend defence tech advantage, thereby aiding stability and balance in the Indo-Pacific. Involving Japan in pillar 2 projects will complement this.

You can read more about the initial announcement earlier in the blog here.


Greens respond to supermarket chiefs’ upcoming appearance at Senate inquiry

The Tasmanian Greens senator Nick McKim has responded to news that the chief executives of Australia’s big supermarkets will appear at a Senate inquiry next week.

The Coles CEO, Leah Weckert, and the outgoing Woolworths boss, Brad Banducci, are set to appear before the inquiry on 16 April. Jonathan Barrett brought us all the details earlier in the blog here.

In a series of tweets, McKim argued the pair would have to “answer for price gouging shoppers and putting the squeeze on farmers”.

They’ll have to explain how they are raking in billions in profits while millions of Australians are struggling to put food on the table.

People have given evidence spoken about skipping meals, being forced to dumpster dive and missing out on other essentials … It’s time for the CEOs to front the Senate and face the music.


NSW government considers cutting Warragamba Dam storage level

The New South Wales government is weighing up dropping storage levels in the main dam serving Sydney in a bid to mitigate flooding, AAP reports.

Councils along the flood-affected Hawkesbury have reignited calls for the wall on Warragamba Dam to be raised, a plan promised by the former Coalition government but abandoned under the incoming Labor administration.

Sydney’s largest reservoir has spilled a total volume of water equivalent to half of Sydney harbour since it reached 100% capacity on Saturday, according to Water NSW.

The premier, Chris Minns, said rebuilding the dam wall would take eight to 10 years, come at an enormous cost and would not stop flash-flooding in western and north-western Sydney. He told reporters today:

Forty-five per cent of floodwaters in the Hawkesbury, Richmond catchment don’t come over the top of Warragamba Dam, so we could be in a situation where we raise Warragamba, we spend $2bn and those communities are still inundated by flooding.

But Minns said the government would look at all potential changes, including dropping the maximum allowable water level at Warragamba, as long as Sydney’s drinking water supply could be supplemented.

So that’s not going to give us an immediate relief, it’s going to take a bit of time.


Criminal record should not mean access to NDIS denied, says Australian Lawyers Alliance

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) says access to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) should not be used as a means of ongoing punishment for people who have a criminal record.

In a statement, it noted media reports about former prisoners and offenders accessing the NDIS. ALA spokesperson Greg Barns said any implication or message that this is somehow wrong “is misplaced”.

The right to health is a human right that applies to all Australians whether they have a criminal record or not.

Once someone has served their sentence, they should not be further punished by denying them access to government support services, if they are eligible for them. Further, access to NDIS should be made available to people who are in prison, many of whom have serious mental and physical health disabilities.

In fact, while people are imprisoned and serving their sentence they are entitled to the same level of health care as others in the community. This should not change when they are released from prison.

Barns argued the NDIS can be an important tool in rehabilitation by providing essential supports, meaning it is in the community’s interest for people with past convictions to have access to it.


Albanese updates gifts on parliamentary interest register

In other recent updates to the register, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, noted last week that he’d been gifted a watch from the Sultan of Brunei, which he surrendered to his department (politicians are only allowed to keep gifts over a certain value if they pay the difference, with official gifts often surrendered to their departments).

He also got a bottle of wine from Brokenwood Wines, which he visited recently on a visit to the Hunter, and a “miniature Boxer model from Rheinmetall” after announcing a major defence industry deal with that manufacturer last week.

Albanese also said he had “retained” a custom turntable from the US president, Joe Biden, which he was presented with on his visit to America last year for a state dinner. In an earlier register update, Albanese had noted he had “surrendered” the turntable (which came with a “commemorative plaque”), as well as surrendering books on rock and roll history, and framed AC/DC and Bruce Springsteen records.


Labor MP declares … 75cm statue of himself from a constituent

Labor MP Julian Hill has made one of the more interesting updates to the parliamentary interests register that we’ve seen in a while, declaring a 75cm statue of himself that he was recently gifted by a constituent.

There’s all manner of eye-opening updates to the register of interests from our federal politicians, from swathes of free sporting and concert tickets to envious property portfolios, and we try to keep track of some of the more interesting ones. Some MPs are meticulous in keeping up-to-date on their latest gifts and changes in circumstances, giving public notice when they’re given as little as a free badge or a pack of lollies, while others are more sparing in their updates.

But Hill, the member for the Melbourne seat of Bruce, might have one of the more unconventional updates we’ve seen in a while.

“Statue of me received from a constituent Mr Haidary. 56cm high. Seated on a 75cm high throne. Made in Iran,” he added to his register yesterday, noting the value as “priceless”.

We’re very happy to bring you a photo of the Hill statue:

It’s a unique one, but reminds us of the wood carving Scott Morrison received on the 2019 election trail:


Business confidence holding up better than consumers as price pressures ease

As we saw in an earlier post, consumers might not be so chuffed but it turns out businesses don’t quite share their pessimism.

NAB’s latest monthly survey found conditions and confidence were little changed in March, with confidence still slightly above the “zero” reading and conditions remaining above the long-run average.

By industry, there were positive signs for retail and construction which both saw improvement in confidence and conditions in the month, though in trend terms conditions remain weakest in these two [interest] rate-exposed sectors.

There are tentative signs that supply and demand are coming into better balance with capacity utilisation continuing to ease albeit gradually and from a high level.

That sort of language about a better demand-supply balance turned up in the Reserve Bank‘s minutes of its meeting last month. In that gathering, the RBA board only considered the case of leaving its cash rate on hold. (Mortgage holders will be hoping they start at least to consider cutting the rate at the board’s next meeting on 6-7 May.)

Another reason why the RBA might not be that far off at least mulling rate cuts is that businesses report “some modest easing in the pace of labour and materials cost growth”, although both elevated, NAB said.

We’ll get the March quarter consumer inflation figures from the ABS on 24 April. That will be widely watched - including by treasurer Jim Chalmers and Katy Gallagher as they put the final touches to the federal budget due out 14 May.

Tax Practitioners Board chair appears at hearing

The Tax Practitioners Board has appeared at a parliamentary hearing this morning about laws proposed in light of the PricewaterhouseCoopers confidentiality breach scandal.

The scandal came to light when a former PwC partner, who was advising the Australian government on the draft multinational tax laws, shared confidential information with his colleagues over several years, which was then sold to overseas tech companies, giving them time to prepare them for new, tougher laws.

The Australian Taxation Office formally referred the issue to the watchdog for tax practitioners in mid-2020, and the TPB then made inquiries with Treasury. But due to secrecy obligations, there were limitations around what information could be shared between the agencies, slowing down any inquiry into the matter.

The TPB, chaired by Peter de Cure, said it supported the planned legislative changes that will allow it to share protected information with Treasury about suspected misconduct or breaches of confidentiality agreements.

I think the prior situation has been that there hasn’t been enough clarity and hopefully this will give rise to improved ability to share information.

On offering additional protections for people coming forward to blow the whistle on suspected wrongdoing, de Cure also said:

I think it just removes that barrier and makes it clear that a person who wants to speak to us can do so with clarity of that whistleblower protection being available.


29-year-old Adelaide woman in hospital with meningococcal disease

South Australian Health has alerted to a new case of meningococcal disease in Adelaide.

The 29-year-old woman from metropolitan Adelaide is in a stable condition in hospital after being diagnosed, the health department said.

SA Health has identified multiple people who have come in contact with the patient and three people have been directed to receive clearance antibiotics.

There have been nine cases of meningococcal in South Australia total so far this year, up from 5 this time last year.

Ola rideshare app appears to close operations in Australia

Rideshare app Ola appears to have abruptly closed its operations across Australia.

It has sent an email out to customers stating its “services will no longer be available in your area” from 12 April.

We have viewed emails sent to customers in Canberra and Queensland, alerting it would “discontinue operations”. The emails reads:

This means that you will no longer be able to book any rides through your Ola app from that date.

You must not take any rides with any vehicle purporting to be an Ola vehicle or Ola driver from 12th April 2024. Ola has not authorised any driver or any other party to use the Ola brand or provide rides on Ola’s behalf.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank you for all your support for Ola.

The email says customers can still access their account information through the app until 11 May but will lose access after that.

The email did not state a reason for why Ola was shutting down.

Ola Australia’s last posts to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter/X were in 2021.


Supermarket chiefs to face combative Senate inquiry

The chief executives of Australia’s big supermarkets are scheduled to appear at a combative Senate inquiry next week to face claims food retailers have benefitted from a cost-of-living crisis by expanding corporate profits.

The planned appearances of the Coles CEO, Leah Weckert, and the outgoing Woolworths boss, Brad Banducci, on 16 April comes during a period of intense public scrutiny of a sector not seen since 2008, when it faced similar price gouging allegations.

The witness list for next week’s hearings was updated this morning.

Relentless price rises in essential items, from food to housing and utilities, has emerged as a central political issue for the next federal election, with cost relief expected to be featured prominently in next month’s federal budget.

According to an analysis of submissions and public commentary, the supermarket representatives will likely argue that supermarket profit margins are relatively slim compared with other industries, and that cost increases for shoppers have been driven by price rises imposed by major food brands.

Coles and Woolworths have been contacted for comment.

The major supermarkets are also facing a 12-month pricing probe by the competition regulator and will need to adjust to a revamped groceries code that governs how they deal with suppliers and customers.


Tropical Cyclone Olga to weaken to tropical low off Pilbara coast

Tropical Cyclone Olga is weakening over the open water north of West Australia’s Pilbara coast.

The Bureau of Meteorology says it is a category 1 system currently, forecast to weaken to a tropical low later today as it moves southwest.

Strong and gale force winds are possible around coastal areas west of the Pilbara overnight and into Wednesday, the Bureau warned.

Jacinta Allan condemns rates of violence against women, family violence

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, has been giving a news conference and said the rates of family violence in the country are unacceptable, after the alleged murder of woman by her partner in Ballarat at the weekend.

Allan said:

It’s only the ninth of April and already 18 Australian women have been killed in 2024. This is unacceptable and it has to stop.

Women don’t just deserve the right, they must have the right to live and work and move safely around our community. It is just unacceptable that too many women are losing their lives at the hands of a violent [partner].

I think that is incumbent upon all of us to reflect on those statistics, because behind every statistic is a woman, is a family and a community who are grieving and it just reinforces the need that we have to work incredibly hard to make sure that women and all members of the community should to move safely around the community.


Residents can return with caution to parts of Gronos Point: SES

Earlier, the New South Wales State Emergency Service was warning people to avoid certain properties in Gronos Point, near Richmond, due to dangers following the recent flooding.

This has now been lifted, and people are advised to return with caution.

Consumers’ mood remains bleak with many bracing for more RBA pain

There’s not a lot of optimism among consumers, if the monthly Westpac/Melbourne Institute survey is any guide. Their latest read has sentiment firmly stuck in a negative zone that it’s occupied over the past two years – or roughly since the Reserve Bank started hoisting interest rates from a record low 0.1% in May 2022.

On the positive side, consumers do expect continued “progress” on inflation with cost-of-living pressures easing as a result. Slightly at odds with that view, though, is that expectations for what will happen to interest rates have tilted slightly upwards in the past month.

“Just over 40% of consumers are still bracing for rate increases [over the coming 12 months], while 24% expect no change, 21% expect declines and 15% reported ‘don’t know’,” Westpac said.

A separate weekly survey for ANZ and Roy Morgan has also recorded an uptick in what people think will happen to inflation. That gauge is at the highest for 2024.

Madeline Dunk, an ANZ economist, said:

This is the first time since November 2022 (when inflation expectations peaked at 6.8%) that inflation expectations have increased for three weeks in a row. Higher petrol prices may be contributing to this rise in inflation.

Chatter about higher fuel prices as school holiday approaches won’t help subdue those expectations (and offer another reason to get an electric vehicle with power prices likely to retreat for many in the coming year).

And, for what it’s worth, investors are still betting the RBA will slice 25 basis points off the cash rate by November, lowering it 4.1%. A blowout US inflation number later on Wednesday (eastern Australian time), though, might push that timing back a bit too.


Victorian government supports extra reproductive leave for women in public service

Circling back to Victoria where the premier, Jacinta Allan, has been giving a press conference. Allan says the government supports extra reproductive leave for women in the public service.

The proposal of five days additional leave has been put forward by the Community and Public Sector Union during bargaining and Allan says the government will support it:

I don’t want to cut across the right of members to have their say on the in-principle agreement that’s been reached … in the instance of providing support for women. They need support to be able to fully participate in the workforce and our women’s pain inquiry is already telling us that chronic pain for women affects many women, it’s holding them back from being able to hold down a job to participate in the workforce to achieve both their full potential but also for the rest of society to benefit from their skills and talents.

And so having a workplace that understands [that from time to time we] need to provide women with additional support [with] being able to conceive a baby, [or managing] the pain that can come from time to time – or for many women all the time – with their periods.

She said the leave would also be able to be used by women undergoing menopause or perimenopause.


Rain hampers search for 20-year-old woman after cliff fall

Challenging wet conditions have made work difficult for search crews as a major, multi-agency hunt for a woman who fell from a waterfall enters its third day, AAP reports.

The 20-year-old woman was reported missing early on Sunday afternoon following reports she had slipped and fallen at Belmore Falls, in the NSW Southern Highlands region.

Chief inspector Brendan Bernie told ABC Radio conditions had made it tough to continue the search:

It is still slippery, there is a lot of water and dampness around the areas we’re searching. We are confident we can identify the location where she actually has slipped, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to determine [the exact position yet].

The extensive water- and land-based search resumed this morning after the operation was suspended yesterday evening due to low light.

Bernie said authorities would be using all available resources in an attempt to find the missing woman. Police have been talking to a male friend, who was with the woman on Sunday, as they try to work out what happened in the lead-up to the incident:

The full circumstances around why they were there that day is still to be determined. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to determine where the female has ended up.

Waste levy scrapped for flood-hit areas along east coast

Seven more local government areas in New South Wales affected by the recent east coast flooding will have the waste levy lifted for them as clean-up efforts continue.

The state’s environment minister, Penny Sharpe, said residents in the following LGAs would be able to take flood-generated waste to the tip without paying the waste levy:

  • Blue Mountains;

  • Camden;

  • Liverpool;

  • Penrith;

  • Sutherland;

  • Wingecarribee; and

  • Wollondilly

The Hawkesbury, Wollongong, Shoalhaven, Shellharbour and Kiama LGAs had already received waivers.

Sharpe said local landfill gate fees may still apply. The waiver for all 12 LGAs is in place until 30 June, with requests for extensions to be considered.

The government also left the door open for more LGAs to join this list as the clean-up progresses, if needed.


Victorian premier takes questions on potential second safe injecting room for Melbourne

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, is refusing to be drawn on whether the government will open a second safe injecting room in Melbourne’s CBD.

Last night, Nine News Melbourne reported a long-awaited report by former police commissioner Ken Lay which recommended a new site and highlighted three areas of the city of concern.

Allan said she would not comment on the contents of the report – which was handed over last year – until the government has finalised its response:

I appreciate there is a lot of interest, there is a keenness and a desire for the government to provide its response and to release the Ken Lay report. And we are working very hard on finalising our response and finalising our decision and going through the appropriate cabinet processes to finalise our response to the Lay report.


Greens call for ‘final rejection, now’ on Toondah harbour project

The Greens are calling for environment minister Tanya Plibersek to make a “final rejection, now” on the Toondah harbour project.

As Lisa Cox reported earlier, Plibersek said:

I have made my proposed decision, which is to protect Moreton Bay from unacceptable impacts from a proposed development.

Responding to this on X, Larissa Waters, the Greens leader in the Senate, said the “proposed rejection should be made a final rejection, now”.

The community have made their voices heard, why keep them waiting with a ‘proposed rejection’?

Dredging 40 hectares of Ramsar-listed wetlands for luxury high-rise residences no one can actually afford makes no sense, except to the profits of developers like Walker Corp.

We are calling on [Plibersek] to finally reject this dodgy project and save Toondah harbour.


The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, has also shared this video announcement on her Toondah harbour decision:


One serving or former ADF member contacts suicide emergency service every four hours

One serving or former member of the Australian Defence Force makes suicide-related contact with emergency services every four hours, according to new research published today by the royal commission into defence and veteran suicide.

Using linked data about Queensland veterans, the new study by the Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research found that ADF veterans and serving members were 1.24 times more likely than members of the wider adult population to have suicide-related contact with police or paramedics. It found that permanent serving and former members were at greatest risk, being almost six times more likely to have such contact than reservists.

In a statement, the royal commission said the research estimated that the death rate for male veterans who had experienced suicidal ideation was almost eight times that of the general male Queensland population and, among female veterans compared with the wider female population, the rate was 10 times greater.

The royal commission’s chair, Nick Kaldas, said the findings challenged Defence’s argument that service protects against the risk of contemplating suicide. Kaldas said in a statement:

For some time, there was a reluctance to accept that issues of suicide and suicidality were impacting current serving members. This research demonstrates there is a clear link between service in the ADF and suicide and suicidality, which was accepted for the first time by military chiefs at our recent Sydney hearing.

The commission completed its public hearings recently but is still taking evidence in private session ahead of publishing its final report later this year.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14


Landmark Tickle v. Giggle case kicks off in federal court

Not a seat is free – and no standing is allowed – in the federal court room that is hearing a landmark case that will test the boundaries of the Sex Discrimination Act.

Roxanne Tickle, a transgender woman from regional New South Wales, sued the women-only social media platform Giggle for Girls for discrimination after being blocked from using the app.

Known as Tickle v. Giggle, it is the first time a case alleging gender discrimination has been heard by the federal court and may have global implications.

In a lawsuit filed in December 2022, Tickle claimed she was unlawfully barred from using Giggle in September 2021 after the firm and its CEO, Sall Grover, said she was a man.

Tickle had made a complaint to the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2021, with Giggle – represented by former Liberal party candidate Katherine Deves – then failing to have the case thrown out of court.

The trial is not being live-streamed because of unacceptable online behaviour during an interlocutory hearing in April 2023.


Why was the Toondah harbour project so controversial?

As environment reporter Lisa Cox brought us just earlier, Tanya Plibersek has rejected the Toondah harbour project over its impact on globally significant wetlands.

Plibersek’s announcement looks set to end an almost decade-long battle by conservationists and community groups to protect the site, with long-time campaigners the Australian Conservation Foundation hailing it a “landmark decision for nature and people”.

But why was it so controversial? You can read the full explainer below:


Albanese urges transparency on Gaza aid worker deaths

Anthony Albanese has called for Israel to be more transparent and accountable in its investigation into the air strike deaths of multiple aid workers, including Australian Zomi Frankcom, AAP reports.

Yesterday, the federal government announced the former defence force chief Mark Binskin would serve as a special adviser to Australia on Israel’s investigation of the incident.

The prime minister said independent oversight was needed. He told reporters earlier this morning:

We welcome more transparency, more accountability for what is a tragic occurrence, there have been almost 200 aid workers [who] have lost their life during this conflict.

No aid worker should be at risk of losing their life when they are providing support in a humanitarian way.

Quite clearly, in Gaza, there are dire consequences for the population there. Issues of access to clean water, access to food, basic provisions, people suffering greatly. We want to make sure that that humanitarian support is available there.

The PM also said he had spoken with Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, on concerns about a potential ground invasion of Gaza.

We’re very concerned about the humanitarian consequences as are like-minded countries, including the United States.


Human Rights Law Centre calls for whistleblower laws to come together in single regime

Federal whistleblower laws should be brought together into a single regime to give those coming forward more confidence, the Human Rights Law Centre says.

The legal advocacy group is appearing at a parliamentary inquiry this morning and has warned there are three different whistleblowing protection laws – for those in the public sector, private sector and for those blowing the whistle on issues within tax administration.

The committee is looking at proposed amendments to tax laws to close loopholes that allowed the PricewaterhouseCooper confidentiality scandal to occur, and to strengthen disclosure protections to encourage whistleblowers to come forward with wrongdoing in the taxation space.

Jade Tyrell, the law centre’s acting senior lawyer, said whistleblowers were often the only reason these scandals came to light and therefore it was essential to protect them. By bringing together the three different protection regimes, the pathway for disclosures could be made simpler.

Tyrell said:

Research has shown that whistleblowers are the primary mechanism for identifying wrongdoing about organisations. Robust, accessible protections are essential to prevent future PwC leak-equivalents. Whistleblowers make Australia a better place.

Kieran Pender, HRLC’s acting legal director, said the bill in its current form goes a step forward in the right direction but needs to address how to support whistleblowers after they’ve come forward.


Burning rubbish found on Sydney road likely contains asbestos

Burning rubbish suspected of being contaminated with potentially deadly asbestos has been found dumped on a roadside in Sydney, AAP is reporting.

The pile was found about 11pm last night on a back road in Rossmore, on Sydney’s south-western fringe.

NSW police, firefighters and the local council were involved in the cleanup of the site, which was about a 15-minute drive from two asbestos-accepting tips.

The discovery comes less than a week after laws doubling most pollution fines and strengthening the power of the state environmental regulator came into effect.

Companies guilty of wilful waste disposal that harms the environment can now be fined up to $10m, while the unlawful disposal of asbestos carries fines of up to $4m.

Individuals can also be fined up to $2m and $1m, respectively, for the two offences.


Mid-morning summary

If you’re just joining us, here is what has been making headlines so far today:

  • Australia and its Aukus partners, the US and the UK, confirmed they are considering working with Japan on Aukus pillar 2. Pillar 2 refers to advanced capability development, while pillar 1 focuses on nuclear submarines.

  • In a joint statement, the three nations said “since the inception of Aukus” they had always intended to work with other nations on pillar 2 projects.

  • Anthony Albanese said Japan was a “natural candidate for that to occur”, and clarified this would be a project-by-project approach rather than an expansion of the membership of Aukus.

  • The opposition welcomed the announcement, but stressed the importance of ensuring nuclear submarines were delivered to Australia.

  • Vice Admiral David Johnston has been recommended to serve as new chief of the defence force from July, when General Angus Campbell will stand down.

  • The government is also recommending Air Marshal Robert Chipman serve as the AFD’s new vice chief.

  • A number of other promotions within the ADF were announced.

  • Woolworths has recommended global retail giants like Amazon and Costco should be subject to the supermarket code of conduct, alongside other large Australian companies.

  • Craig Emerson, who is leading the review of the code, said that Woolworths “makes a good point”.

  • A man has died following a single-vehicle crash in Sydney’s lower north shore, after his car apparently lost control and hit multiple traffic lights before spinning and flipping, police say. Traffic impacts appear to have cleared as of 10am.

  • A search resumed this morning for a 20-year-old woman who went missing while bushwalking at Belmore Falls in New South Wales.


Tanya Plibersek rejects Toondah harbour project over impact on globally significant wetlands

The environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, has announced she will reject an apartment and retail development on an internationally important wetland at Queensland’s Moreton Bay.

Plibersek has said she would refuse Walker Corporation’s Toondah harbour project first proposed eight years ago, and opposed by a long-running community campaign backed by scientists and conservationists – because it would have an unacceptable impact on the Ramsar site.

I have made my proposed decision, which is to protect Moreton Bay from unacceptable impacts from a proposed development.

These wetlands are rare, unique and important to prevent the extinction of animals like the eastern curlew and loggerhead turtle.

My proposed decision says that we can’t destroy portions of this internationally important wetland.

Continue reading:


Public transport fails to keep up with apartment boom

Public transport services in greater Melbourne have not kept up with the city’s apartment boom, prompting calls for a bigger emphasis on transport during planning, AAP reports.

The number of apartments grew by 88% from 2004 to 2022 but there was only a 5% increase in transport services within walking distance, RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research found.

Along the route 86 tram line there was a 102% increase in apartments, but just a 0.3% lift in transport services. It was a similar story on the Upfield train line where the number of apartments jumped by 134% but there was just a 7% increase in services.

However, researchers did find exceptions, such as along the Frankston line where there was a 58% jump in train services but the number of apartments grew by 16%.

Lead researcher Steve Pemberton said the reasons for the discrepancy between areas was not clear as researchers found no pattern to explain it. He said overall, public transport services had not matched the growth of apartment housing.

If the objective is to encourage people to live in higher density housing, then an uplift of public transport services in areas where density is increasing should be part of what helps make people want to live there.


Richard Marles on gender equity in defence appointments

The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, spoke to reporters about the significance of appointing Susan Coyle to be the chief of joint capabilities.

Marles said:

This time last year there had never been a woman who had served at the level of a three-star in the Australian Defence Force. As a result of this promotion round as of July this year in Michelle McGuinness, Natasha Fox and Susan Coyle there will now be three three-star rank officers in the Australian Defence Force [who are women], that’s three of 10.

It is a very significant step forward in terms of the participation of women in the senior leadership of the [ADF]. You cannot be what you cannot see and in this promotion round, indeed, as there have been over the last 12 months this is a moment of significant growth we’re pleased to be announcing.

Major flooding continuing through parts of south-east Queensland

Major flooding is continuing along the Warrego River in rural Queensland, following floods through the south-east.

The Bureau of Meteorology said major flooding is likely at Wyandra this afternoon, while major flooding is expected at Cunnamulla Bridge late this week – where it may peak near 10 metres on Friday.

The Warrego River at Bakers Bend is currently at 8.66m and falling, with moderate flooding.

At Wyandra the river is at 8.89m and rising, at a moderate flood level. This is likely to reach the major flood level of 9m late this morning and may peak at 9.40m this evening.

At Cunnamalla Bridge the river is at 6.35m, above the minor flood level. It is expected to reach the moderate level during Wednesday and experience major flooding by Friday, near 10m.


Victorian records first snowfall of the year

Hotham Alpine resort has recorded its first snowfalls of the year, 60 days out from the official start of the 2024 snow season.

The resort, which is Victoria’s highest alpine village, shared this video to X early this morning and said temperatures had dipped to -2C:

Mount Hotham has a maximum forecast of 3C today, according to the Bureau of Meteorology. This will climb back up to a maximum of 8C by Thursday, and 11C by Sunday.


More details on fatal single-vehicle crash in Sydney early today

As we reported earlier, a driver has died following a single-vehicle crash in Sydney’s lower north shore early this morning.

Emergency services were called to Epping Road in Lane Cove just after 4am to reports of a single-vehicle crash. The male driver and sole occupant of the vehicle died at the scene, and is yet to be formally identified.

Police have provided more information on the crash:

The Mitsubishi Mirage appears to have lost control and hit multiple traffic lights at the intersection of Mowbray Road before spinning and flipping a number of times.

According to Live Traffic, heavy traffic conditions and significant delays were still being reported as of 9.12am. Mowbray Road remains closed between Epping Road and Whitfield Avenue, with two of the three eastbound lanes closed along Epping Road.

An investigation is underway and a report will be prepared for the coroner.

Welfare payments not covering basic essentials: Anglicare report

Australians on welfare are struggling to survive one of the toughest cost of living crises in decades as payments fail to cover necessities, a new report shows.

Research by Anglicare Australia shows households with the lowest incomes are bearing the brunt of the nation’s worst inflationary period since the 1980s.

Despite the soaring cost of essentials such as food and housing, most Centrelink payments are only raised through indexation and are not keeping up, the report says.

Households on lower incomes spend a greater proportion of their budgets on essential items and have less capacity to absorb higher prices or reduce their discretionary spending.

The report found in the past two years, housing costs went up by 22% while food and groceries prices rose 17% and electricity costs 17%.

It has become clear over the past 18 months that many Australians are living too precariously to cope with the shocks brought on by rising living costs.

The charity urged the federal government to raise the rate of all social security payments above the poverty line.

It also called for the establishment of an Independent Social Security Commission which would have the power to set and adjust income support payments based on the cost of living.

- from AAP


SES warns people to avoid certain properties in Gronos Point area following floods

The New South Wales State Emergency Service is warning people to avoid certain properties in the Gronos Point area, due to hazards following the recent east coast flooding.

Gronos Point is roughly 20km east of Richmond.

The warning encompasses properties along Gronos Farm Road and Manns Road in the Gronos Point area. The SES says:

You should monitor the situation and avoid the area until further advised. There may be damaged infrastructure and dangerous hazards within the area.

Conroy shares images from United States visit

As we flagged earlier, the defence industry minister, Pat Conroy, is currently in the United States to meet with key officials and defence industry leaders.

He has just shared some images from the Sea-Air-Space exposition. In a statement yesterday, Conroy said he would be participating in an Australian industry roundtable “focused on doing business in the US”, plus a panel discussion to provide an update on Aukus.


Penny Wong on Australian assistance with humanitarian efforts in Gaza

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, says she has spoken with both her Egyptian and Jordanian counterparts to coordinate humanitarian responses in Gaza.

Wong wrote on X:

Australia is working with countries that have influence in the Middle East to help protect and support civilians, advocate for a humanitarian ceasefire, to prevent conflict from spreading, and to reinforce the need for a just and enduring peace.

Wong said she spoke to Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, last night to express support for the country’s “efforts to broker a ceasefire that enables the flow of aid at scale and the release of hostages.”

This week, Wong also spoke with Jordan’s foreign minister, Ayman Safadi, to coordinate humanitarian assistance in Gaza “including through the provision of parachutes for air drops”.

We agreed that a pathway out of this conflict was urgently needed and reaffirmed our commitment to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Wong also spoke with the UN special humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, Sigrid Kaag. She wrote on X:

Australia has committed $2m to support Ms Kaag’s work to facilitate safe, unimpeded and expanded humanitarian access into Gaza.

Israel must do more to ensure aid gets into Gaza, including immediate action to protect and support humanitarian actors.

We will continue to use Australia’s voice to advocate for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the release of all hostages and the protection of civilians.


Opposition weighs in on Aukus announcement

The opposition foreign spokesman, Simon Birmingham, has responded to news that Japan may work with Aukus nations on pillar 2 of the defence deal.

He told Sky News that Japan was the perfect partner, but stressed the importance of Aukus in ensuring nuclear submarines were delivered to Australia, following reports of delays to the vessels:

It’s important to make sure there is 110% commitment across three Aukus partners for the delivery of [nuclear submarines] along the timelines that are outlined.

It’s important that everybody keeps the foot down on the pedal to keep things going there.

- from AAP


Albanese on Aukus deal and Japan: ‘not proposing to expand membership’

Taking questions from reporters, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, commented on the potential for Japan to collaborate on projects through Aukus pillar 2:

What is proposed is to look at pillar 2 of Aukus and look, project by project, whether there would be engagement.

Japan is a natural candidate for that to occur. We’ve already stepped up our defence relationship with Japan in agreements I’ve signed with prime minister [Fumio] Kishida, including access by Japan for Australian bases and Australia to have access in Japan as well.

We have had recently joint naval operations with Japan, including here in Australia, but when we look at pillar 2, that project-by-project approach is there. What is not proposed is to expand the membership of Aukus.

Earlier this morning Australia and its Aukus partners, the US and the UK, announced they are considering working with Japan on pillar 2 of the defence deal. You can read all the details earlier in the blog here.


Marles announces further promotions in defence

Richard Marles also announced a number of other changes to the defence force as part of this round of promotions:

  • Steve Chappell will become the new chief of the air force.

  • Justin Jones will become the chief of joint operations.

  • Susan Coyle will become the next head of joint capability.

Because of the announcements, the following people will be stepping down: Greg Bilton, John Frewen, Gavin Reynolds – and as the prime minister flagged before – General Angus Campbell.

Marles said:

Just under two years ago, when I came to this role, I sought an extension in Angus’s term of two years. I know that in asking Angus to serve those additional two years, that was a burden more than it was a joy, but he has taken that on, because it became really clear to me that in all that we needed to do, having continuity in command was going to be critically important.

I have benefited enormously from Angus’s wisdom, from his guidance and from his counsel. I am personally deeply grateful to you, Angus, for all the service that you’ve provided to me over the last two years but the nation is grateful to you in terms of the service that you’ve provided over a colossal career …


Marles says David Johnston ‘at very heart’ of reshaping culture and capabilities of ADF

The defence minister and deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, was next to speak and congratulate both Vice Admiral David Johnston and Air Marshal Robert Chipman for their promotions.

Speaking of Johnson, Marles said there is “no more experienced officer in the Australian Defence Force today” than him.

As the vice chief of the defence force, David has been at the very heart of reshaping the Australian Defence Force both in terms of culture and also … in terms of the platforms and capabilities that we are seeking to acquire. He has been in the engine room of all the work that we have done over the last two years and this is a moment where we need a safe pair of hands and deep experience to take our defence force forward and there is no person who meets those qualities better than David Johnston.

It is worth noting that, with this appointment, David will ultimately be the person who has served longest as a rank of three-star or above in the Australian defence force.


Angus Campbell to step down as defence chief

Anthony Albanese recognised the “extraordinary service” General Angus Campbell has provided as chief of the defence force:

Indeed, when he steps down, General Angus Campbell will have been the longest ever serving chief of the defence force. He has earned the respect and deep gratitude of Australia and we wish him all the very best for his future.


Government to recommend Robert Chipman as vice chief of defence force

The government is recommending Air Marshal Robert Chipman serve as new vice chief of the defence force.

Speaking in Canberra, Albanese said:

Air Marshal Chipman has provided outstanding leadership of the Royal Australian Air Force for the past two years and has an exceptional record of service and common.


Vice Admiral David Johnston to serve as new ADF chief

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is speaking to the media about a number of senior command changes within the Australian Defence Force. Subject to the governor-general’s consideration and approval, the changes will take effect in July this year, Albanese said.

The first recommended change is for Vice Admiral David Johnston to serve as the new chief of the defence force. Albanese said:

Vice Admiral Johnston is a proven leader, with the experience, intellect and resolve to lead the ADF in a complex and rapidly changing global strategic environment … In the Indo-Pacific, Iraq and Afghanistan, Vice Admiral Johnson has consistently distinguished himself with his capacity to ensure that different elements of defence work together.

His understanding of integrated defence will be critical to delivering on the priorities and recommendations of the defence strategic review, ensuring our defence force has the right capabilities and the right leadership to meet the challenges ahead.


Record for batteries as home energy systems top 250,000

There has been a 21% rise in the use of household batteries – that is, large-scale batteries that can power the home, usually charged by solar – according to Australia’s annual battery market report.

A record 57,000 battery systems were installed in Australian homes in 2023, while a record 656 megawatt/hours of residential battery capacity came online – along with a record-breaking level of installations in businesses of 402MW/h.

Big batteries totalled a record 1,410MW/h of capacity installed as more states turn to energy storage to better manage the evolving electricity grid.

SunWiz’s managing director, Warwick Johnston, released the report today and said:

The economic value of batteries is also increasing as the gap widens between what power companies charge for electricity and what they pay for Australian home owners’ excess solar energy.

Home batteries, or home energy storage systems, soak up excess solar energy during the day to be used in the evening and overnight, particularly for charging electric cars.

The cumulative number of home energy storage systems installed in Australia has topped 250,000, totalling 2,770MW/h, SunWiz said.

At grid-scale and with homes and businesses combined, almost 6,000MW/h of battery storage has been installed since 2015, the report found.

- from AAP


Search to resume this morning for missing bushwalker

A search will resume this morning for a woman who went missing while bushwalking at Belmore Falls in New South Wales.

Just after 1pm on Sunday, emergency services were called to Belmore Falls near Robertson after reports a woman had slipped and fallen down a cliff. An extensive search was initiated, but the 20-year-old was not located and the search was suspended at dusk.

The multi-agency search resumed at 8am yesterday, with police divers assisting.

A command post has now been established at the Belmore Falls lookout car park and the search was scheduled to resume around 8am today, police said.

Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.


Nationals and Emerson agree Amazon and others should fall under supermarket code

Continuing from our last post with more from AAP:

Federal Nationals MP Bridget McKenzie said Woolworths had a point about which retailers were captured by the code. Speaking on Nine’s Today show earlier, she said:

We’ve got large multinationals in the supermarket ring who aren’t captured. So I’d like to see this expanded over time.

Craig Emerson agreed with McKenzie, telling the program:

Woolworths, I think, makes a good point, and that is the code to be extended should be expanded to cover rivals Amazon, Costco and even Chemist Warehouse.

But ultimately, the Nationals and the Liberals wanted to see divestiture powers in competition laws in the future, McKenzie said:

We’ll have more to say on that in coming weeks and months.


Calls for Amazon, Costco to fall under supermarket code of conduct

Global retail behemoths Amazon and Costco should be subject to the supermarket code of conduct alongside other large Australian companies, according to grocery giant Woolworths.

While Woolworths is already a signatory to the voluntary code and supports making it compulsory, the company believes more retailers should be subject to its terms. A spokesperson said:

The code should apply to all major retailers operating in Australia, including global retail giants such as Amazon and Costco, who have global revenues many times the size of Australian supermarkets.

Hardware retailer Bunnings and pharmacy Chemist Warehouse, who compete in grocery categories like household cleaning goods and personal care, should also fall under the code, Woolworths argued.

The interim review into the food and grocery code of conduct recommended the guidelines be made mandatory for supermarkets with yearly revenues exceeding $5bn, and for any breaches to be met with up to $10m in fines.

Coles, Woolworths and IGA owners Metcash all said they would consider the detail of the interim report. An Amazon spokesperson said the company was “pleased to play a role in driving competition in the general retail sector to the benefit of all Australians”.

- from AAP


Man dies in single-vehicle crash in Sydney

A man has died following a single-vehicle crash in Sydney’s lower north shore.

Just after 4am, emergency services responded to reports a vehicle had crashed on Epping Road at Willoughby.

A statement from NSW police confirmed the driver, the sole occupant of the vehicle, died at the scene.

The incident caused heavy traffic along the Hills Motorway, and according to Live Traffic significant delays can still be expected hours later with heavy traffic conditions still ongoing.

Live Traffic says Mowbray Road is closed between Epping Road and Whitfield Avenue, with two of the three eastbound lanes closed along Epping Road.

Emergency services, Transport for NSW, a motorway crew and the crash investigation unit are all attending the incident.

Police officers have commenced an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the incident and a report will be prepared for the coroner, a statement said.


Defence industry minister says Japan may collaborate on Aukus

The defence industry minister, Pat Conroy, has been speaking to ABC RN about the latest Aukus announcement – that Japan could potentially join the pact for pillar 2 (you can read more about this earlier in the blog).

He said the three Aukus nations – Australia, the US and the UK – were “always interested in partnering with other countries where [it benefits the] the Aukus partners and the country in question”.

Conroy said the three Aukus nations have “a strong foundation” and that Japan is at the “forefront of developing cutting-edge defence capabilities”.

This is [about] collaborating on technology development on [Aukus pillar 2], on a project-by-project basis. It’s not about Japan being part of the Five Eyes intelligence community, it’s about technological collaboration where it makes sense for all parties involved.

Conroy was speaking to RN from Washington, where he is meeting with key officials and defence industry leaders this week.

Asked about Aukus more broadly, including pillar 1 (which is the nuclear-submarine component), Conroy said it was “all on track and we’re building steady momentum towards that”.


Craig Emerson resists guaranteeing grocery prices will fall

Still speaking on Sunrise, Craig Emerson was asked to give an estimate of how much prices would fall as a result of mandatory code?

I can’t give that estimate... because there is a separate inquiry being conduct by the ACCC itself into the pricing behaviour of supermarkets. So let’s have that inquiry run its course… but then knit in with my inquiry, and I have been working with the ACCC all the way along with this of this.

Q: Give Australians a ballpark [figure], what do you reckon?


You have half of the equation, right. I am dealing with the suppliers. The ACCC will be dealing with the relationship between the supermarkets and the customers. Why would I now predict the outcome of that? That is an impossible task. Mission impossible.

Q: Can you guarantee prices will fall?


Well, they should fall and I don’t know what is going to happen to international oil price prices, Nat. I don’t know if there is going to be an expansion of the war in Ukraine. Want me to predict those too?


Craig Emerson responds to ‘Mickey-Mouse review’ criticism

The author behind a review of the food and grocery code of conduct has responded to comments from the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, that the interim report – released yesterday – was a “Mickey-Mouse review”.

The PM has said he was “absolutely confident” measures in the interim report would bring down prices at the checkout – you can read all the detail on it here. Dutton argues the review was “predetermined”, with the results dictated by the treasurer. Jim Chalmers.

Craig Emerson, who conducted the review, was on Sunrise earlier and said it was a “pretty trivial position” to label it a “Mickey-Mouse review”.

… because this voluntary code was introduced under the previous government, of which Peter Dutton was a senior minister, and it was voluntary – still is – and that is going to change.

But basically, there were no penalties in it. It is like saying the speed limit is 80km/hr but if you do 100km/hr that is fine.


Melbourne park asbestos test results to be revealed

Melburnians living near several parks are slated to find out whether the areas have been contaminated with asbestos, AAP reports.

The Environment Protection Authority is investigating after the cancer-causing substance was found at parks in the Hobsons Bay and Merri-bek council areas.

Inspectors have confirmed asbestos was found at the under-construction park at Hosken Reserve at North Coburg, the PJ Lynch Reserve at Altona North and the Donald McLean Reserve at Spotswood.

Lab results due this afternoon are expected to confirm contamination results for three others: PA Burns Reserve at Altona, GJ Hosken Reserve at Altona North and Crofts Reserve at Altona North.

It is unclear whether inspectors have already confirmed asbestos contamination at Shore Reserve at Pascoe Vale South.

Early investigations raised concerns the asbestos was being introduced to the parks through mulch deliveries, like the contaminated mulch crisis in NSW. But the regulator has said there was no evidence of that. The authority’s Duncan Pendrigh said:

Mulch producers are unlikely the source for this contamination. There may be something being introduced in the supply chain.

The pieces of confirmed asbestos found at the Melbourne parks so far have been bonded asbestos, rather than the more dangerous friable asbestos.


Aukus countries ‘considering’ working with Japan

Australia and its Aukus partners, the US and the UK, have announced they are considering working with Japan on pillar 2 of the defence deal.

The countries released a joint statement this morning, which said:

Since the inception of Aukus, our nations have been clear in our intent to engage others in pillar II projects as our work progresses … Recognising Japan’s strengths and its close bilateral defense partnerships with all three countries we are considering cooperation with Japan on Aukus pillar II advanced capability projects.

The lengthy statement details Aukus’ progress so far and upcoming plans, across both pillar 1 (nuclear-powered submarines) and pillar 2 (advanced capability development).

The Australian defence minister, Richard Marles, UK secretary of state for defence, Grant Shapps, and the US secretary of defense, Lloyd Austin, said that from the inception of ​Aukus, they intended to engage with other nations on pillar 2 projects:

Aukus partners have developed principles and models for additional partner engagement in individual Pillar II projects and will undertake consultations in 2024 with prospective partners regarding areas where they can contribute to, and benefit from, this historic work.

The statement makes it clear this is an intent to work with Japan, not a confirmation.



Good morning and happy Tuesday. Welcome back to another day on the Australia news live blog. I’m Emily Wind and I’ll take you through our rolling coverage.

Early this morning Australia and its Aukus partners – the US and the UK – confirmed that they are considering working with Japan on Aukus pillar 2. Yesterday our reporter Daniel Hurst flagged that the countries were considering expanding the pact. A joint statement said:

Since the inception of Aukus, our nations have been clear in our intent to engage others in pillar II projects as our work progresses … Recognising Japan’s strengths and its close bilateral defense partnerships with all three countries we are considering cooperation with Japan on Aukus pillar II advanced capability projects.

More on this shortly.

AAP is reporting that Melburnians living near several parks are slated to find out whether the areas have been contaminated with asbestos. Inspectors have confirmed asbestos was found at an under-construction park at Hosken Reserve at North Coburg, the PJ Lynch Reserve at Altona North and the Donald McLean Reserve at Spotswood.

Lab results due this afternoon are expected to confirm contamination results for three others: PA Burns Reserve at Altona, GJ Hosken Reserve at Altona North and Crofts Reserve at Altona North.

See something that needs attention on the blog? You can get in touch via X @emilywindwrites, or you can send me an email:

Let’s get started.


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