What happened Tuesday 24 May 2022
With that, we’ll end our live coverage of the day’s news. Here’s a summary of the main developments:
- The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has praised the leaders of US, Japan and India as Australia’s “like-minded friends” at the Quad leaders summit, saying his new government will bring fresh energy and resources to the goal of ensuring a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific. Guardian Australia’s chief political correspondent, Sarah Martin, has filed this report from Tokyo.
- The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, says the issuing of an election day press release about the interception of an asylum seeker boat was a “disgrace” and has demanded an explanation from public servants.
- More than one in 10 votes were ruled invalid in the multicultural seat of Fowler, raising serious questions about whether explanations of Australia’s compulsory preferential voting system are getting through.
- State premiers will immediately begin pushing the new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to overhaul Australia’s health system, amid concerns that a lack of investment in new general practitioners is exacerbating pressure on public hospitals.
- The New South Wales government is looking to make flu vaccinations free amid “unprecedented” demand on ambulance services and ongoing hospital delays caused by influenza, Covid and furloughed staff.
- The Liberal moderate Andrew Bragg says after the Liberal party’s rout in its progressive heartland, the incoming opposition must reject the “conspiracy theorists” of the climate wars and return to core values of enterprise and fairness.
Thanks for following along, we’ll be back to do it all again tomorrow.
Have a great evening.
State premiers will immediately begin pushing the new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, to overhaul Australia’s health system, amid concerns that a lack of investment in new general practitioners is exacerbating pressure on public hospitals.
On Tuesday the New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, revealed he had already spoken to Albanese following the federal election and would unite with other state leaders to push for health reform to be a priority for the new government.
Declaring that “the people never get it wrong”, Perrottet, now the most senior Liberal party member in government after the Coalition’s defeat at federal level, said he welcomed Labor’s election victory as a chance to have “fresh conversations” on health reform.
It follows a decision at the most recent meeting of the new Council for the Australian Federation – made up of the premiers and first ministers – to push the commonwealth to reform Australia’s two-tiered health system as a priority, amid “significant budgetary pressures” caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Read more from Guardian Australia’s Michael McGowan and Adeshola Ore:
More immigration, improved skills policy and simplifying collective bargaining have emerged as three top demands from employers for the new Labor government’s jobs summit.
Experts suggest the forum could also pave the way for reforms including wage theft legislation, which was dropped from the Coalition’s industrial relations bill, and action on union demands about insecure work.
The employment summit, likely to be held by September, comes at a time of record-low unemployment and as most workers are suffering real pay cuts due to soaring inflation.
When he proposed it in 2021, the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, described the summit as a chance to “identify barriers to full employment, tackle job insecurity and create a new agenda for national productivity”.
More than one in 10 votes were ruled invalid in the multicultural seat of Fowler, raising serious questions about whether explanations of Australia’s compulsory preferential voting system are getting through.
Fowler, in Sydney’s south-west, has one of the highest non-English-speaking populations, many of whom have come to Australia as refugees from countries with very different political systems.
It had a huge informal vote of 10.47%, and scrutineers reported that in some booths it was closer to 20%.
In the neighbouring seat of Blaxland, centred on the multicultural suburb of Bankstown, the informal vote was even higher at 11.02%.
Anthony Albanese and the US president, Joe Biden, are now holding a bilateral meeting at the Quad leaders summit in Tokyo.
The two leaders exchanged pleasantries and did not appear to announce anything of substance, before a US government official appeared to move reporters away.
“Thank you guys, let’s go,” the official shouted repeatedly, before the broadcast ended.
The New South Wales government is looking to make flu vaccinations free amid “unprecedented” demand on ambulance services and ongoing hospital delays caused by influenza, Covid and furloughed staff.
The state’s health minister, Brad Hazzard, announced on Tuesday the government was seeking to implement a similar scheme to the one being offered in Queensland.
Hazzard said vaccines were crucial amid fears this year’s flu season could be worse than in 2017, when there were 1,876 more deaths than expected in NSW, which the ABS largely attributed to the severe influenza season. “This flu season could be every bit as bad, if not worse,” Hazzard warned.
Health officials are particularly concerned about soaring numbers of flu cases while the state continues to battle Covid-19, as well as consistently high levels of medical staff furloughing and “unprecedented” demand on emergency and ambulance services.
Hazzard said the NSW scheme would probably look like Queensland’s, where flu vaccines will be free for the next month. “We’re working with our colleagues in the pharmacy area and also GPs to look at how we might be able to achieve that,” he said.
The federal election victory of Queensland’s newest Liberal National party MP, Colin Boyce, was gleefully welcomed by his former state parliamentary colleagues on Tuesday – mostly his political opponents.
During question time in the Queensland parliament on Tuesday, he was name-checked by a succession of Labor ministers.
The state treasurer, Cameron Dick, said the Coalition had lost many of its most moderate voices and instead “woke up with Colin Boyce”.
The resources minister, Scott Stewart, offered his congratulations to the new federal member for Flynn. “Turning a safe seat into a marginal one. Well done Boycey,” Stewart said. “He made it clear he’s an LNP climate change denier.”
Anthony Albanese has reaffirmed his Labor government will not move to close coalmines outside of the environmental policies it took to the election.
The prime minister, speaking after the multilateral talks at the Quad leaders summit in Tokyo, was asked if expanding the membership of the Australia United Kingdom and United States (Aukus) alliance was discussed.
He said Aukus was discussed “by the participants of Aukus” and “not centrally”. Albanese said that instead climate change was the main thing leaders had discussed.
“We had quite a good discussion, longer than I thought it would be,” Albanese said, adding that he made reference to former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher’s pioneering stance on addressing climate change.
In response, Albanese was asked if he, like Thatcher, would close coalmines, and if he would sign the Cop26 pact to phase out coal.
“No,” Albanese said.
We have our policy, where we will do exactly what I’ve said we would do in terms of our Powering Australia plan. It’s all out there. It’s fully costed. It’s ready to go. It will make a big difference.
'No change in Australia's position' on Taiwan: Albanese
Anthony Albanese is asked about Joe Biden’s comments on Monday that the US would intervene militarily to defend Taiwan if it was attacked by China, and what Australia would do.
Biden’s exact sentiment is unclear, after he earlier today stressed there had been no change in US policy on this issue expressed in his comments on Monday.
Albanese mentions this, and says:
I confirm there’s no change in Australia’s position.
There should be no unilateral change to the status quo. Our position has not changed.
Anthony Albanese is speaking from the Quad leaders summit in Tokyo after meetings earlier today.
The prime minister stresses that his government’s “commitment to the quad has not changed”, but says “today was also an opportunity for myself as the new Australian prime minister to indicate Australia’s changed position on climate that has been welcomed by these three nations in the quad”.
They’ve welcomed it because it will strengthen what is an important issue in the Indo-Pacific. We know that China is seeking to exert more influence in the Pacific and we know that climate change is such an important issue. I share the view that this is a national security issue. Climate change is not just about the environment, it’s about the shape of our economies, but also our national security going forward.
South Australia records 14 Covid deaths and 3,482 new cases
A South Australian man in his 30s is one of 14 people who have died with Covid in the state.
SA Health confirmed 3,482 new cases of Covid on Tuesday.
The health department said the 14 deaths included one woman in her 70s, one woman in her 80s, four women in their 90s, one man in his 30s, one man in his 60s, four men in their 70s, one man in his 80s and one man in his 90s.
Marles told Sky News the return of passengers occurred “in a very ordinary and routine way”. He said:
What this shows is that there is absolutely no change in terms of Australia’s border settings under this government. We will maintain a strong border, which is the right thing to do, in terms of protecting lives at sea.
Question: Operation Sovereign Borders has been enforced under your direction already?
Completely. And it was always going to be – that was always our policy. It’s been our position since 2015. It’s the third election that we’ve taken it to. And it was very clear in my mind that this is exactly what we would do when faced with this situation, and we’ve done it, and people smugglers out there should know that very clearly.
There will be no change under this government and Australia retains its strong border stance. But I also want to say that the circumstances in which a media release was put out by the former government on Saturday, on election day, I mean, it was a disgrace, this should never have been in the public domain.
The text that was sent out by the Liberal party in that moment made our country less safe, made our borders less secure. That’s what we need to understand.
The Liberal party text message sent to voters in marginal seats on Saturday afternoon used the boat arrival to implore people to vote Liberal. It followed a media release that confirmed the interception of the vessel.
We’ve asked the secretary of the Department of Home Affairs [Michael Pezzullo] to report to us on the circumstances of the issuing of that media release on election day ... these are matters which should not have ended up in the public domain. And what’s really clear is that the former Liberal government was far more interested in its own political interests than the national interest. It sought to create division where there was none.
Asylum seekers intercepted on Saturday returned to Sri Lanka
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, says people on board the asylum-seeker boat intercepted on Saturday have been returned to Sri Lanka.
While signalling that he wants people smugglers to hear the message that Australia’s strong border policy hasn’t changed, Marles also confirmed the new government had demanded an explanation about the public service’s issuing of a press release on election day about the boat’s interception.
Marles made the comments in an interview with Sky News broadcast a short time ago. He said there was never any difference between the two major parties on support for Operation Sovereign Borders, despite the Coalition’s attempts during the campaign to suggest Labor would take a weaker line.
The joint agency taskforce known as Operation Sovereign Borders issued a statement a short time ago saying it had “safely returned passengers on board the vessel intercepted 21 May 2022 to Sri Lanka”.
The taskforce commander, Rear Admiral Justin Jones, said the direction to him by the acting prime minister was that “this government remains committed to Operation Sovereign Borders, and to the protection of lives at sea”.
Jones said each passenger underwent an assessment of their health and protection grounds and “all passengers were screened out from evoking Australia’s protection obligations”.
Fuel prices are in the news as the bowser pain crosses the $2 a litre threshold even with the 22.1 cents six-month savings for motorists in Josh Frydenberg’s final budget as treasurer back in April. (The “savings” cost $3bn, so we’ll pay for it some other way.)
The Australian Institute of Petroleum put last week’s average retail price at 199.1 cents a litre, and the wholesale one at 183.3 cents (implying a margin of 7.8 cents) a litre.
The other big energy bill that’s headed higher is electricity. We’ve seen for some time that wholesale prices are skyrocketing (doubling in a year), and that’s continuing.
Well we got a bit of an indication how soaring power prices will affect what households and other users will pay.
The Victorian government today released its default offer for 2022-23, lifting the level by 5%.
The offer specifies the prices that may be charged for standing offers, and covers about 200,000 households and 50,000 small businesses that are on standing offers. This represents around 7% of households and 16% of small businesses, the government says.
The setting serves as an anchor because retailers are “required to use it as a common reference price when advertising their market offers and discounts”, the government adds. “This enables customers to easily compare market offer prices and choose a plan that best suits their needs.”
Compare away, otherwise you’ll end up paying more.
We’ll see what non-Victorians will have to pay on Thursday when the Australian Energy Regulator releases its default market offer. Given regions such as Queensland and New South Wales are more exposed to high fuel costs than Victoria – black coal is traded globally but brown coal less so – we can expect price rises of more than 5%.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, electricity makes up just over 2.5% of the basket of goods in our Consumer Price Inflation gauge, so we can expect the inflation rate to nudge a bit higher too.
A bit of a tangent, but other things are going up at an exponential-looking rate. Australia’s power sector contributes about a third of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, with similar tales in most countries (unless they have a lot of hydro power, such as New Zealand.)
Our atmosphere’s ability to trap heat that would otherwise be headed back to space has increased by half in the last 30-odd years. That’s another curve we’ve got to bend ...
Coalition retains four more seats as Greens take Griffith in Brisbane
Guardian Australia has just called the following five seats:
- Cowper – Nationals retain (NAT leads by 2.7%, postals in favour of NAT)
- Griffith – Greens gain (GRN has a large lead, postals ~ 50/50)
- Leichhardt – LNP retain (LNP ahead by 3.2%, postals in favour of LNP)
- Menzies – Liberal retain (LIB up 1%, postals in favour of LIB)
- Moore – Liberal retain (LIB up 1%, postals in favour of LIB)
This brings the current seat count to:
- Labor 73
- Coalition 55
- Independent 9
- Greens 3
- Others 2
- In doubt 9
You can see our full, up-to-date election results here.
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, has told Sky News the new government has continued to enforce Operation Sovereign Borders, and people smugglers should hear the message that the strong border policy hasn’t changed.
More details from Guardian Australia’s foreign affairs and defence correspondent, Daniel Hurst, soon.
The Victorian rightwing MP Bernie Finn has been expelled from the state’s parliamentary Liberal team for posting on Facebook that abortion should be banned, even for survivors of rape.
In a decision that resulted in Finn describing the party he joined four decades ago as “dead”, Liberal MPs voted to expel him during a party room meeting on Tuesday morning.
Finn will be forced to sit on the crossbench in the upper house and is unlikely to be preselected ahead of November’s state election.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, said the Victorian Liberal party “welcomes a wide and diverse range of views” but expected MPs “to be team players and uphold standards in their public discourse”.
“In many ways, it is disappointing that it has come to this but we expect discipline from all members of the parliamentary party,” he told reporters after the vote.
Read more here:
Australia to host Quad leaders next year
The Victorian Nationals leader, Peter Walsh, has reaffirmed the party’s position supporting the target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, after his federal counterpart, Barnaby Joyce, signalled the party may abandon its support following the Coalition’s election loss.
In a statement on Tuesday, Walsh said the state branch of the Nationals “continue to stand with regional Victorians who are committed to action on climate change”:
We believe that continuing to take action now will secure a more prosperous, productive and profitable future for our farmers and those businesses along the supply chain that rely on a thriving agriculture sector to survive.
Scientists have long warned that climate change is already pushing us down a path of more extreme weather events where we have more intense rainfall and longer periods of drought.
The Victorian Nationals do not support any watering down of our nation’s climate change targets and remain committed to implementing measures to achieve net zero by 2050.”
The Victorian Nationals are not a fan of Joyce. They sought to disaffiliate the state party from its federal counterpart in protest when he returned to the leadership in 2021.
National Covid-19 update
Here are the latest coronavirus case numbers from around Australia on Tuesday, as the country records at least 68 deaths from Covid-19:
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 820
- In hospital: 90 (with 3 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 14
- Cases: 8,751
- In hospital: 1,234 (with 38 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 236
- In hospital: 17 (with 1 person in ICU)
- Deaths: 18
- Cases: 5,118
- In hospital: 451 (with 17 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 14
- Cases: 3,482
- In hospital: 232 (with 9 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 0
- Cases: 913
- In hospital: 46 (with 1 person in ICU)
- Deaths: 16
- Cases: 11,656
- In hospital: 545 (with 36 people in ICU)
- Deaths: 6
- Cases: 12,114
- In hospital: 312 (with 12 people in ICU)
Leaders of the US, Japan, Australia and India gathered in Tokyo on Tuesday for a summit of the Quad. What is the group, where did it come from and why do diplomats keep coming up with strange names for various partnerships?
A dramatic surge in flu cases amid the Covid-19 pandemic is putting NSW hospitals under “significant pressure” as staff fall victim to the viruses.
After two years with very few cases, the health minister, Brad Hazzard, says a “horror flu season” has “hit NSW earlier and harder than it has for many years”.
About 2,000 workers are absent from hospitals on an average day.
“It is absolutely crucial that you go and get your flu vaccine as soon as possible,” he said.
There have been 14,812 reported flu cases and 3,349 people have arrived at emergency departments with influenza-like illnesses in NSW this year.
More than 8,000 cases of Covid were reported on Tuesday, with 1,234 people in hospital with the virus, 38 of them in ICU.
Health secretary Susan Pearce said the double whammy of a resurgence of flu in the midst of the unrelenting Covid-19 pandemic was putting emergency departments “under significant pressure”.
“Please do not call triple zero or attend emergency departments for non-urgent issues,” she said.
Queensland Nationals MP Keith Pitt has thrown his support behind leader Barnaby Joyce, saying he will support him when the party leadership is spilled at a meeting of Nationals MPs next week.
“We will need people who have had that experience – Barnaby has done well, the Nationals have done well, we have done our job,” he told Sky News.
Analysis: inside China's message to Australia
Let’s take a moment to step through the “congratulatory message” from China’s premier, Li Keqiang, to the new prime minister, Anthony Albanese.
The word is that the message has been “transmitted” (ie it’s on its way, exact method unclear).
But there was some confusion overnight because an early Chinese state media report said Li had “called” Albanese to congratulate him.
A phone call at leader level would be a major development, because Australia has said China has blocked calls at a leader and ministerial level since the very beginning of 2020 amid the souring of the relationship. (All throughout, diplomats and officials have continued to speak with each other.)
The Xinhua story was later corrected to say: “Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Monday sent a congratulatory message to Anthony Albanese on his assumption of office as prime minister of the federal government of Australia.”
The sentiments expressed in the message are consistent with months of diplomatic formulations expressed by Chinese officials, who have signalled that they are open to post-election talks to get the relationship on the “right track”. Even last week, Chinese diplomatic sources told Guardian Australia and SBS News that they saw “a good opportunity” to ease tensions in the period after the election, regardless of the outcome.
Li said in Monday’s message that “the sound and stable development of China-Australia relations conforms to the fundamental interests and common aspirations of their people and is also conducive to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific region”.
This has been a line Chinese officials have used for years. Even the “wolf warrior” foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said in June 2021 that China has always believed “that a sound and stable relationship serves the fundamental interests of the two peoples”.
According to the Xinhua report, Li went on to say:
In the 1970s, the Australian Labor Party made the correct choice in establishing diplomatic ties with China, making important contributions to the development of bilateral relations.
China’s new ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, said in February that the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties by Gough Whitlam in December 1972 could provide an opportunity to ease tensions.
Finally, in the message to Albanese, Li said the Chinese side “is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future, and uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership”.
This is almost identical to Xiao’s statement in February:
Taking the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between our two countries as an opportunity, China is willing to work with Australia to meet each other halfway, review the past and look into the future, adhere to the principle of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and make joint efforts to push forward China-Australia relations along the right track.
One area of difficulty here is the different perspectives on the meaning of “mutual respect”. In Beijing’s view, that would include Australia not “interfering” in issues such as the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and military pressure against Taiwan. Both sides of Australian politics have vowed to continue to speak up for Australian interests and values and are concerned about China’s militarisation of disputed features in the South China Sea. Penny Wong has suggested Beijing should drop coercive trade actions against Australian exports if it wanted to give a sign of good faith.
Queensland records 18 Covid deaths and WA records six
Queensland has recorded 18 Covid deaths in the past 24 hours and 5,118 new cases. There are 451 people in hospital and of those, 17 are in ICU.
In Western Australia, today’s report includes six deaths, which date back to 10 May and were reported to WA Health yesterday; a man and woman in their 90s, two men in their 80s, as well as a man and woman in their 70s.
There are 12,114 new cases, which brings the total to 81,866 active cases in WA. There are 312 people with Covid-19 in hospital, and 12 in ICU.
Consumer confidence has stabilised after weeks of decline over concerns about cost of living pressures, but the new treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has warned inflation has further to rise.
Chalmers was sworn in on Monday after Labor secured at least a minority government at Saturday’s federal election, and has been receiving briefings from Treasury officials in the past couple of days.
He says the idea that Labor is inheriting an economy performing well will be news to people copping the worst real wage rise cuts in more than 20 years.
“There is no use mincing words, this is a serious economic situation that we are inheriting from our predecessors,” Chalmers told ABC radio on Tuesday.
“What will change, you now have a government that understands these cost of living pressures and has a plan to deal with them over time.”
Australia’s first Indigenous truth-telling commission has appointed Hugh de Kretser, the Human Rights Law Centre’s executive director, as its new chief executive.
Victoria’s Yoorrook Justice Commission has the mandate to probe systemic injustices experienced by Victoria’s Aboriginal communities since colonisation.
Last year, the former chief executive Josh Smith quit following internal infighting.
De Kretser said he was “excited” for the challenge of supporting the truth and justice process for Victoria’s First Nations communities.
The Yoorrook Commission is currently conducting public hearings. An interim report is due at the end of next month.
The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has remained tight-lipped about the fall in his party’s primary vote in the state at the weekend’s federal election.
Despite federal Labor edging closer towards forming a majority government, there were significant drops in the party’s primary vote in outer northern and western Melbourne seats such as Scullin (14%), Lalor (7.4%) and Calwell (9.5%).
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Andrews said state and federal elections were “different”.
“Not one vote will be taken for granted in any seat, anywhere,” he said.
Andrews acknowledged there were “always lessons to be learnt” after elections but said he was not a Labor party commentator.
“Victorians are a good deal smarter than some people credit them and they can spot people who are about their political party first and their state second,” he said.
Andrews also alluded to the state opposition, saying Victorians could “at the darkest time, play politics”.
Russia’s assault on Ukraine only highlights the importance of those goals, the fundamental principles of international order, territorial integrity and sovereignty, international law, and human rights, must always be defended, regardless of where they’re violated in the world.
So the Quad has a lot of work ahead of us. The fact of the matter is we’ve got a lot of work to do keeping this region peaceful and stable, tackling this pandemic and the next one and addressing the climate crisis as referenced by our new colleagues, ensuring that technologies of the future are governed according to our values.
... But in a short time, we’ve shown the Quad is not just a passing fad. We mean business. We’re here to get things done for the region, and I’m proud of what we’re building together and I look forward to our vital partnership flourishing and for many years to come.
Biden says he sees the US as a member of the region:
We are an Indo-Pacific power. I was once asked by ... I won’t go into it but I was once asked by the leader of China why I kept talking about being an Indo-Pacific power and I said, “Because we are. We share the Pacific, one entire side of our country.”
And we have been deeply involved with all of you for a long time. As long as Russia continues this war, we’re going to continue to be partners and lead a global response and, you know, we’re an Indo-Pacific power, as I said.
We’re going to stand with you, our close democratic partners, and we’re going to stand for the shared values and the shared vision we all have.
Shortly before Russia launched its invasion, my administration published our Indo-Pacific strategy to advance a free, open, connected, secure and resilient Indo-Pacific.
Biden says the Quad has done a lot – including partnering on 5G supply chains and its Covid response. He said it is happening at a formative moment in the world’s history:
At the same time, we’re navigating a dark hour in our shared history. The Russian brutal and war against Ukraine has triggered a humanitarian catastrophe and innocent civilians killed on the streets and millions of refugees are internally displaced as well as, island and this is more than just a European issue. This is a global issue.
The fact is that if you turn on the television, you’ll see what Russia is doing now. It appears to me that Putin is just trying to extinguish a culture.
He’s not even aiming at military targets anymore. He’s taking out every school, every church, every natural history museum, as if to try to obliterate the Ukrainian culture. And the world has to deal with it and we are.
The global food crisis is made worse by Russia’s blocking Ukraine from exporting its millions of tonnes of grain ... as long as Russia continues the war, the United States will work with our partners to help lead a global response because it’s going to affect all parts of the world.
Joe Biden is up now – he jokes that it’s OK if Albanese falls asleep:
Prime Minister Albanese, I welcome you to your first Quad meeting.
Like I said, you got sworn in, got on a plane – and if you fall asleep while you’re here, it’s OK. Because I don’t know how you’re doing it! It’s really quite extraordinary, just getting off the campaign trail as well.
Congratulations on your election. As I [told] you when you won and I called you, we greatly appreciate your commitment on being here so soon after taking office.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is now speaking. He starts by congratulating Australia’s new PM.
Your being here with us within just 24 hours of your swearing-in demonstrates the strength of our friendship within the Quad and your commitment to it.
Excellencies, the Quad group has made an important place for itself on the global stage, in a very short time.
Today, the scope of the Quad has increased and also it is more influential. Our mutual trust and determination are giving democratic forces a new energy and enthusiasm. At the Quad level, our mutual cooperation is encouraging a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region which is a shared objective for all of us.
Despite the difficult circumstances of Covid-19, we have increased mutual coordination in several areas such as vaccine delivery, supply chain cooperation, disaster response and economic cooperation.
We will stand firm on our values and our beliefs, on what we know will enhance the prosperity and stability of our region and what is firmly in the interests of all those who call the Indo-Pacific home.
I’m honoured to be among such close friends of Australia, to take these next steps with you to pursue positive and practical ways to support a free, open and resilient Indo-Pacific.
I look forward to strengthening our Quad partnership starting with a productive meeting today.
Albanese says his government will do more on climate change:
We will act in recognition that climate change is the main economic and security challenge for the island countries of the Pacific.
Under my government, Australia will set a new target to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030, putting us on track for net zero by 2050. We have had a change of government in Australia, but Australia’s commitment to the Quad has not changed and will not change.
And our commitment to ASEAN and its centrality has not changed. My government has already committed to a greater focus on South-East Asia, including the appointment of a special envoy for the region and $470 million in additional foreign aid over the next four years.
This is in addition to our increasing assistance to the Pacific by over $5 billion, deepening our defence and maritime cooperation and using the power of proximity to strengthen our partnerships.
We will bring more energy and resources to securing our region as we enter a new and more complex phase in the Pacific’s strategic environment. And we will continue to stand with you, our like-minded friends, and collectively, we will continue to stand up for each other.
Anthony Albanese speaks at opening of Quad summit
Anthony Albanese is speaking now – he thanks everyone present for their congratulations.
As we gather today, I acknowledge all that the Quad has achieved. Standing together for a free, open, and resilient Indo-Pacific region, and working together to tackle the biggest challenges of our time, including climate change and the security of our region.
My government is committed to working with your countries and we are committed to the Quad. The new Australian government’s priorities align with the Quad agenda – taking action on climate change, and building and stronger and more resilient Indo-Pacific region, through better economic security, better cybersecurity, better energy security and better environmental and health security.
Our cooperation is built on the values that we share – a commitment to representative democracy, the rule of law and the right to live in peace. Today, we look ahead to what we’re yet to do.
The leaders are now making initial comments to media.
Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is up first:
Today, as we meet in person, I am looking forward to a candid exchange of views on global and regional situations.
At the same time, I must say that without walking in step with the countries in the region, we cannot secure success for the Quad either. We should therefore listen carefully to the voices of the countries in the ASEAN, South Asia, as well as the Pacific Island countries so as to further advance cooperation conducive in solving urgent issues facing the region.
During this meeting, I wish to clarify the concrete progress of broad-based practical cooperation that we have worked so far and also to discuss new areas of cooperation, such as assisting in regional climate change measures, maritime awareness, humanitarian aid and disaster relief.
The US president, Joe Biden, has arrived at the Quad meeting, and the leaders have gathered to take their photo.
The four leaders – Biden, Anthony Albanese, India’s Narendra Modi and Japan’s Fumio Kishida – made chit-chat as they were photographed all together.
A lot of the work is done before the meeting, but the four leaders will now meet for several hours, to discuss China, climate change, Russia’s war on Ukraine and other security issues.
New South Wales is considering making flu vaccines free, as they are in Queensland, as cases surge around the state.
The health minister, Brad Hazzard, said the policy was being worked through with pharmacies and GPs and he would have more to say in coming days.
We’re working with our colleagues in the in the pharmacy area and also GPs to look at how we might be able to achieve that.We’ll make some announcements on that over the next few days … and hopefully we will be able to follow a similar path but it’s a little too early yet. We just got to make sure the system works across the board.
He reminded people over 65 and people with some medical conditions including pregnant women that the flu jab was already free for them and was widely available.
Chief health officer, Kerry Chant, said flu season had arrived early this year after record low cases over the past two years. She said:
Influenza spread in the community is high. We are also seeing presentations to hospital and some admissions to ICU with influenza-like illness. The flu season has kicked off early. We’ve had almost no flu for the last two years so I urge everyone to get vaccinated now.
Quad summit kicking off in Tokyo
The Quad summit is about to begin and leaders are gathering to have their photograph taken – which starts the talks.
We’ve seen Anthony Albanese and Narendra Modi arrive, with Japan’s prime minister, Fumio Kishida, greeting them both. US president, Joe Biden, has not appeared yet.
Cairns’ controversial Captain Cook statue is being removed after James Cook University purchased the land on which it stands.
Martin Anton, the owner of a Far North Queensland demolition company, is its new custodian – it is unclear how much he paid for the statue.
Speaking to ABC recently, he said he hoped to put it back up in a public place if he could find one – but had no clear plans at the moment.
At Parliament House the entire Senate wing, which includes the press gallery, was just evacuated as part of a planned drill. Our photographer-at-large Mike Bowers has captured these pictures:
Labor majority in sight but some seats still too close to call
Labor is close to securing the parliamentary seats it needs for majority government but some contests from the weekend election are still too close to call.
Official figures from the Australian Electoral Commission on Tuesday morning have Labor winning 75 seats, one short of a majority in the House of Representatives.
The Liberal-Nationals coalition has 59 seats.
There are six seats where the margin between leading contenders is fewer than 1,000 votes: Deakin (Victoria), Ryan (Queensland), Gilmore (NSW), Grey, Sturt (South Australia) and Lyons (Tasmania).
In the Melbourne suburban seat of Deakin, the former Liberal minister Michael Sukkar is leading by just 55 votes.
The seats of Richmond (NSW), Macnamara (Victoria) and Brisbane (Qld) where the Greens are in the race are also in play, with the AEC yet to publish two-candidate preferred figures.
Independent candidates are leading in 10 seats, the Greens in two, with the Centre Alliance and Katter’s Australian Party retaining their seats.
There are hopes 50 eastern quolls returned to the wilderness in NSW will spark a historic baby boom for the endangered creatures.
It’s the largest single release of the little predators on the mainland by the Australian conservation organisation Aussie Ark.
The creatures are now roaming free within the confines of the 400 hectare protected Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary in Barrington Tops, part of the Great Dividing Range in NSW.
Introduced feral foxes and cats – the no 1 killers of native wildlife in Australia – have been removed from the sanctuary to create a pristine habitat for species like quolls to survive, thrive and breed.
Scott Morrison officially resigns
Scott Morrison has handed in his resignation as PM ...
With the change of government, lots of economic statistics will get a new yardstick, partly to keep track of trends but presumably for campaign fodder next time around.
The final pre-election consumer sentiment by ANZ and Roy Morgan, for instance, showed a modest upturn after four weeks of declines:
The weekly survey mostly covered the period before Saturday’s election results came in, although polls of course had been showing for some time that Anthony Albanese would be the new prime minister (even if many didn’t trust them).
“News that unemployment had fallen below 4% may have contributed to the lift in sentiment, even if the Q1 wage data disappointed,” David Plank, ANZ’s head of Australian economics, said.
The weak wage price index number – just 2.4% vs a headline inflation rate of 5.1% – might also have contributed to the moderate inflation sentiment picked up by the survey.
Higher energy prices, including the run-up in petrol prices lately to above $2 a litre in capital cities (higher in the bush, of course) may be among the pressures that will nudge those expectations higher.
The Reserve Bank next meets 7 June, and investors (and most economists) predict a second consecutive increase in its key interest rate target. If the cash rate does rise to 1.3% or so by August – up from 0.35% now – that will be a tough early marker for the Albanese government.
We have more info here from AAP about the proposed class action into Victoria’s Triple Zero from Slater & Gordon:
Law firm Slater and Gordon believes thousands of Victorians could join the lawsuit against the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority after a series of fatal errors led to at least 15 deaths and multiple injuries, including to children, since 2014.
An investigation by Slater and Gordon found longer-than-usual call wait times and ambulance dispatch delays resulted in thousands of “avoidable” and “unnecessary” health complications.
“The health system has been under strain in recent years, but Victorians should always be able to register a call for help,” Slater and Gordon class actions senior associate Gemma Leigh-Dodds said in a statement.
“Esta’s critical role means its shortcomings are not just unfortunate, we believe they have led to multiple deaths and injuries that could have been prevented.”
It comes after a string of tragic deaths linked to ambulance delays.
Members of the Liberal party are packing up their ministerial offices ...
As the Liberal party started its self-examination, Barnaby Joyce was busy putting lipstick on a pig, talking up the National party’s stellar result on the weekend.
Bernie Finn out of parliamentary Liberal party
Victorian MP Bernie Finn has been expelled from the parliamentary Liberal party, the state opposition leader, Matthew Guy, says.
Speaking after a party room vote on Tuesday, Guy said it was Finn’s “behaviour not beliefs” that led to the expulsion:
I want to make it clear this motion is about respectful discourse. It is not about the Liberal Party, not navel gazing from a federal election or other issues, it is about moving on and being a sensible alternative government. A respectful, sensible alternative government. That is what we expect from every member of the parliamentary team.
In many ways, it is disappointing that it has come to this but we expect discipline from all members of the parliamentary party. And I expect people to uphold respectful discourse, whatever their issues may be, whatever their topics may be, it needs to be respectful, and that’s what we expect in the parliamentary Liberal Party.
Finn will now be forced to sit on the crossbench in the upper house and will be unable to run as a Liberal at November’s state election.
It comes after he posted on Facebook he was “praying” for abortion to be banned in Australia. He later commented that rape victims shouldn’t be allowed to terminate their pregnancies.
Guy also made reference to an earlier Facebook post, in which Finn compared the premier, Daniel Andrews, to Adolf Hitler.
Finn has asked supporters to join him on the front steps of parliament this morning. He is expected to address media at 10am.
Premier Daniel Andrews said the Liberal Party was “bitterly divided” and focused on a “factional war.”
VIC records 16 Covid deaths and NSW records 14
Victoria has recorded 16 Covid deaths overnight and 11,616 new cases. There are 545 people in hospital and of those 36 are in ICU and 7 are ventilated.
In NSW there have been 14 Covid deaths, and 8,751 new cases in the past 24-hours.
There are 1,234 people in hospital and of those 38 are in ICU.
The author of a landmark report into drug addiction in New South Wales believes the government’s “tough on crime” approach to a spate of shootings is destined to fail unless it dramatically overhauls funding for rehabilitation and treatment.
Senior Nationals MP David Littleproud has rebuked the West Australian premier for labelling the potential Liberal leader Peter Dutton an extremist.
“Mark McGowan’s comments yesterday were sad ... give it up, mate,” Littleproud told the Nine Network on Tuesday.
The deputy Nationals leader, who worked with Dutton in the defeated Morrison government, came to his coalition colleague’s aid after McGowan delivered a scathing assessment of the former defence minister.
The premier said an “extremely conservative” Dutton did not fit with modern Australia.
“I actually don’t think he’s that smart,” he said.
But Littleproud said Dutton provided the balance Australians were looking for in a federal leader.
“On economic and national security he is quite hard ... (but) he is more pragmatic on some of the more social and environment issues than people think,” he said.
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, said he believed Mr McGowan always has “wise things to say”.
The Australian Electoral Commission says it has seen no evidence to support Clive Palmer’s election night accusation that its staff were taking home ballots, describing the suggestion as “frustrating and disappointing”.
But Palmer has stood by the claim, telling Guardian Australia a United Australia party candidate “followed the AEC officers to their houses” and recorded video of their movements.
A crash involving up to 15 cars is causing major delays on the Pacific Highway heading into Brisbane this morning.
The major pile-up happened around 6am this morning, amid wet weather.
The Queensland Ambulance Service said six people had been taken to hospital with injuries and seven others had been assessed for their injuries.
Liberal Andrew Bragg blames election loss on 'culture war'
Liberal senator Andrew Bragg has come out swinging this morning against his party’s culture wars, saying the Liberals lost the election because it imported US-style culture wars.
He cited the pre-selection of Katherine Deves in Warringah, telling the ABC her views were “very regrettable, undignified and hurtful”.
He also told The Age his party spent too much time on the “confected culture war” instead of economic renewal.
There was a tendency to prioritise division over economic policy ambition.
Unless we are anchored by a strong economic agenda, we drift off into division. Some of this weird stuff has been very damaging.
We spent too much time talking about trans issues. That really damaged our brand. People just couldn’t understand why [we spent] all this time talking about the trans issues which community and professional sporting groups are managing themselves.
Haines said her integrity bill – which was debated in the last parliament – was the perfect place for Labor to start.
If the Albanese government is going to deliver this integrity commission by Christmas, I think it would make a lot of sense to start with the bill I put forward. It’s very detailed. Its ready to go. It’s been endorsed by eminent retired judges across the nation and legal academics and experts.
So that’s the ideal place to start. It’s also been endorsed by the new independents coming onto the crossbench. So the co-operation of the crossbench would be there.
I think we saw in the last parliament also the opposition supported my bid for debate on that bill. And indeed, all of the crossbench and of course the member for Bass [Bridget Archer] who crossed the floor on that. It’s an ideal place to begin.
A quick reminder if more recent electioneering has driven all of that from your minds:
The independent member for Indi, Helen Haines, is on the ABC now. She says she has spoken to the new PM.
I congratulated prime minister Albanese on his success. And I made it clear to him that I wanted to see that promise of an integrity commission delivered by the new government.
As they have promised, by Christmas. So we talked about that. I also talked about the pressing need for investment in rural and regional healthcare, and most particularly here on the border, where we desperately need a new single-site hospital.
Marles was also asked if Labor was looking at an October budget:
It’s an environment that has created by the fact we have had a government that doubled the debt before the pandemic started. Has left us on a pathway to more than $1tn of debt. We’ve got deficits as far as the eye can see in terms of what the liberals have done with the budget.
So a lot of that does present a challenge for us going forward. And I think even more significantly it’s that lost decade of productivity I have described. But we’ve got plans to change that. We are really focused on making sure we can get productivity going again because that’s what will make sure we get wages going again.
Marles is also asked about petrol prices, which are rising again:
It is difficult. We’re facing a cost of living crisis. As a government, we’re willing to say that in a way the former government was not. What ultimately underpins is it we’ve had the longest period of wage stagnation since records were kept.
What underpins that is a decade of lost productivity. What that’s we need to change. It doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve been clear about that. But the job does start overnight and we’re on the pathway right now to making sure that we revitalise Australian industry, we give people the skills they need so they can get the good jobs out there.
There’s more immediate steps we can take in relation to making childcare more affordable for example, which will have an impact on the cost of living. But this is a big challenge for the country.
You can’t repair a decade of economic neglect which we’ve seen under the former government in a week. But we are going to start the job today.
Marles is asked about China sending a congratulatory text to Albanese - after 2.5 years of diplomatic silence.
I think China is going to continue to be a difficult relationship for us. From an Australian point of view, we understand the complexity of the relationship.
It is our largest trading partner, but China is seeking to shape the world around it in ways we have not seen before, in places like the South China sea. But [also] in increased strategic competition in our region, in the Pacific, and we’ve seen the agreement they have signed with the Solomon Islands.
All of that I think is going to make it a pretty challenging pathway forward. And we are certainly going to be navigating that pathway from the point of view of making sure Australia’s national interest is absolutely clear.
We build the strategic space to be able to have the courage to speak to Australia’s national interest when that differs from Chinese action.
The acting prime minister, Richard Marles, is on the ABC now. He was asked how it feels going from deputy PM to acting PM within 72 hours:
My head is spinning is the honest answer to that. Genuinely feels unbelievable. But look, it’s been an exciting 24 hours and I think we feel the responsibility of the office very significantly.
But we’re excited about the opportunity of what we can do for the Australian people. I think coming out of the pandemic this is one of the biggest moments to reimagine the nation that we’ve had since the end of the second world war and we’re excited about the opportunity to grab that.
Victoria’s opposition is set to vote to expel MP Bernie Finn from the parliamentary Liberal party this morning, after he posted on Facebook he was “praying” for abortion to be banned in Australia.
If passed, as is expected, the upper house MP will be forced to sit on the crossbench and will be unable to run as a Liberal at November’s state election.
Finn’s comments came after the leak of a draft decision showing a majority of US supreme court justices may overturn Roe v Wade, which ruled abortion was a constitutional right.
In his post, Finn said “killing babies is criminal”. When a woman commented that she did not support abortion but believed there should be options for women who are victims of rape, Finn replied: “Babies should not be killed for the crime of his or her parent.”
He maintains he has held such views for his whole political career.
In an interview on 3AW radio on Monday, Finn said he would not attend the party room meeting, describing it as a “kangaroo court”.
He said he was considering joining another political party, should he be expelled.
The opposition leader, Matthew Guy, on Monday said action was being taken because of Finn’s behaviour rather than his views.
Finn has previously been censured for his social media use, including a post in which he likened the Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, to Adolf Hitler. He has also shared pro-Trump conspiracy theories including the claim that the former president was “improperly” removed from office.
Finn has been an upper house MP since 2006. Between 1992 and 1999 he was a lower house MP for the electorate of Tullamarine before it was abolished in 2002.
He has asked supporters to join him on the front steps of parliament this morning.
Liberal party member Warren Entsch is speaking on the ABC. He was asked if he would support Peter Dutton to lead the party.
Nobody has put their hand up, and I will not speculate or comment about Peter Dutton, and I have to say to you, the Peter Dutton that I know is certainly not the Peter Dutton that I see hammered in the media. I have known Peter since he came into the Parliament, and from my perspective, he is a thoroughly decent human being, him and his wife, I considered to be friends.
And I can go through a number of situations, particularly when he was an immigration portfolio that I suspect that anybody else would have said no, but in these cases I was able to present a case, a strong case and the compassion he showed in dealing with those issues and sorting them out to a very positive, satisfactory conclusion is something I won’t forget.
China breaks diplomatic freeze against Australia
China has broken its diplomatic freeze against Australia – sending a message of congratulations to the new prime minister, Anthony Albanese, a sign of willingness to talk after about two and a half years of blocking calls at a ministerial or leader level.
The message came from China’s premier, Li Keqiang, which is standard for how Chinese diplomacy usually works. State news agency Xinhua is reporting that the missive said:
The Chinese side is ready to work with the Australian side to review the past, look into the future, and uphold the principle of mutual respect and mutual benefit, so as to promote the sound and steady growth of their comprehensive strategic partnership.
This is a small sign that China wants to change things and get the relationship more on track.
- This post was amended on 24 May to better reflect the nature of the Chinese premier’s message. See a further post on this topic at 12.51pm AEST.
The rain is not letting up in northern NSW.
AAP reports that people living in the Northern Rivers region are enduring more rain as they try to recover from the impact of devastating floods earlier this year.
The Bureau of Meteorology says the Wilson river at Lismore peaked near the minor flood level on Monday night after heavy rain in recent days, with the downpour expected to continue all week.
A minor flood warning is current for the nearby Richmond River.
There’s a hazardous surf warning in place for much of the NSW coast, from Byron Bay in the north to Batemans Bay in the south.
The BOM says the La Niña conditions that brought unprecedented rain and flooding to vast swathes of the coast in summer and autumn will continue throughout winter, bringing above-average rainfall for much of eastern Australia.
Some areas have already reached the average rainfall for May in the past few days, the BOM said.
On the ABC Joyce also suggested the Nationals would be looking to pick up extra cabinet positions when the new Coalition agreement is discussed.
Q: Is the prospect that you could suggest there is a split in the coalition?
At this point in time, there’s not a Coalition. That will be negotiated. It’s one of the big jobs ahead of us. To negotiate the Coalition, negotiate ministries, the guardrails of policy. Negotiate, you know, resources, these are – this is the big task that is imminently before us.
And you know, that’s what I’ll be focused on, to make sure the Nationals get the best deal they can.
Q: Do you think the Nationals deserve more, given what you said is a very successful campaign?
Well, obviously we are a greater proportion, if there was a Coalition, if there’s a Coalition, we’re a greater proportion of that Coalition. So that’s beyond dispute.
Q: So more frontbench positions?
You’re asking an obvious question. Mathematically, yes.
Barnaby Joyce was just on the ABC, where he was asked if the party was going to drop its support for a net zero target.
Q: Why have you raised the prospect of not supporting net zero?
The Nationals party can talk about what issues they want. We don’t go into the party room saying this won’t be discussed or that won’t be discussed.
Q: But you left it open in your language that it was ...
It’s up for discussion. Given it was agreed in November, in the party room, to support net zero, why do you even revisit ... the prospect of it? I said it’s my intent to stick to our deal. But if other people want to discuss it, that’s their right. My intent is to stick to the deal that I made.
Q: So the agreement from November in the party room doesn’t necessarily mean it’s locked in? The party room can change that view.
Any person – we’re going around the circles, aren’t we? In the party room, people can discuss whatever they like. My intent is to stick to the deal that I negotiated. That’s how it works.
Now, obviously, the Labor party are coming forward now with a different proposition to the parliament. I imagine people want to discuss that. I don’t see anything remarkable about that.
Good morning everyone - this is Cait Kelly and I will be with you on the blog for the first part of the day.
Australia’s new PM, Anthony Albanese and foreign minister, Penny Wong, will make their diplomatic debut on the world stage today after arriving in Tokyo for the Quad meeting. Climate change, concerns over China’s assertiveness and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are likely to be discussed.
It will be another day of leadership speculation for the Coalition parties, with Peter Dutton still looking like the frontrunner for the Liberals. Both Jane Hume or Sussan Ley have entered the race for the deputy position.
The Nationals have announced they will spill their leadership next Monday after Barnaby Joyce signalled they may abandon support for net zero. Joyce was speaking on ABC this morning and said he was confident of his own leadership position:
At this point in time, I haven’t heard of anybody publicly on the record saying they want to stand. I accept that if they do. That’s how the party works.
Slater & Gordon is investigating a possible class action against Victoria’s triple zero authority ESTA for what it says are systemic failures. Slater & Gordon lawyers said that thousands of people have received unacceptable delays.
And Australian petrol prices are leaping back up again, with the average price for the country now nudging $2.
Right – that’s the big headlines, let’s get into it.