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

PM ‘taken aback’ by speech – as it happened

Anthony Albanese addresses the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane on Thursday.
Anthony Albanese addresses the Queensland Media Club in Brisbane on Thursday. Photograph: Darren England/AAP

What we learned; Thursday 11 April

We’re going to finish up there for today. Here’s what happened:

  • Anthony Albanese spent the day selling his new industry plan for a green interventionist industry policy, which would use direct government support to speed up the energy transition. The announcement has been met with approbation from many in industry, with Peter Dutton responding “it’s not going to happen”.

  • The prime minister says he was “taken aback” by comments from the opposition leader in a speech last night, in which Dutton blamed Labor and police for a rise in anti-semitism, and likened pro-Palestine protests that took place in October to the shooting murder of 35 people at Tasmania’s Port Arthur historic site in 1996.

  • Victoria police has announced a renewed search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy in Enfield state park, about 25km south of the regional city, focusing on an area highlighted by intelligence derived from a number of sources.

  • Joe Biden has said he is “considering” Australia’s request to end Julian Assange’s prosecution. Anthony Albanese responded to the news on ABC News Breakfast and said this was an “encouraging statement”. Assange’s brother said the comments “open the door for the Australian government… to get Julian’s release across the line”.

  • A man has been charged after more than 700kg of Xanax was seized in Sydney – the NSW police force’s largest single seizure of pharmaceutical drugs.

  • And renters have been hit with the steepest quarterly hike in 17 years as the housing crisis continues to bite.


The Afternoon Update is live, with a wrap of the news from today.

You can subscribe to the Afternoon Update newsletter to get the news straight to your inbox every day, and start your day with our Morning Mail newsletter by subscribing here.

Universities urge Albanese government to invest in sector

Australia’s peak body for universities has urged the federal government to invest in the tertiary sector in order to meet an expansion of Australian industry and innovation flagged by the prime minister.

Universities Australia said the sector would be “central” to powering the federal government’s future made in Australia act, announced by Anthony Albanese on Thursday.

Its chief executive officer, Luke Sheehy, said powering the development and growth of new industries, technologies and jobs required the creation of new knowledge and skills - which meant an uptick in tertiary qualifications.

Universities are central to this task ... we welcome the prime minister’s acknowledgement of Australia’s universities and the need to open the door to a university education for more Australians, which will underpin our future prosperity.

Sheehy pointed to the Universities Accord final report, commissioned by Labor, which recommended expanding university teaching and research funding and boosting commonwealth support places. The commonwealth is still considering the report.

We urge the government to commit to these reforms that that will support our sector to continue delivering for the nation and our people.


Light plane crash at Cowra airport

Emergency services are responding to a light plane crash at the Cowra airport, on the New South Wales central tablelands.

The plane, which was believed to have had two occupants, is suspected to have flipped during take-off at about 2:20pm. Neither occupant was injured.

Paramedics treated both patients at the scene, with one taken for treatment by a rescue helicopter and the other transported to the local hospital.

The airport is popular for flight schools and private light aircraft owners, and is located next to the rural town’s SES and RFS emergency centres. Chifley district police attended the scene, along with local fire crews.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has been notified and said it is gathering more information about the incident. Reporters from local media outlets on the scene were told a female passenger in the plane suffered only minor injuries and a male was in severe shock.


Australia’s major supermarkets accused of purchasing properties to ‘turf out’ independent stores

The head of the food division at Metcash, which owns the IGA and Foodland brands, has accused major supermarkets of paying inflated prices to buy out competitors, and purchasing properties to “turf out” independently owned stores at the end of their leases.

Grant Ramage, the chief executive of Metcash Food, told a Senate inquiry on Thursday that the practices diminished the network of independent stores by removing successful businesses.

“That removes critical scale from our network and they’re often prepared to pay significantly inflated prices, far more than any other independent would ever afford to pay,” Ramage said on Thursday.

“If they can’t buy the store, they try and buy the property. We have good examples where they then turf out the independent at the end of the lease even when they already have multiple stores in that locality.”


Australian government ‘deeply concerned’ about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act

The assistant foreign minister, Tim Watts, said the Australian government remains “deeply concerned” about Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

In a post to X, he urged Uganda to “respect human dignity and provide equal protection to all under their laws”.

The Act is a shocking reversal of human rights and a grave threat to lives. We stand with the LGBTQIA+ community.


NSW opposition leader calls on MP to resign

The New South Wales opposition leader, Mark Speakman, has called on Tim Crakanthorp to resign from parliament after the corruption watchdog found the Labor MP had breached public trust.

Crakanthorp was also found to have breached the ministerial code of conduct following an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac).

The probe was launched last year when it was discovered the then minister for the Hunter had allegedly failed to declare “substantial private family holdings” in the region relating to his wife’s family.

The Icac made no finding of corrupt conduct against the Newcastle MP.

Addressing the media after the report was released, Speakman said:

If he doesn’t resign, the premier should move to expel him from the parliamentary Labor party and not rely upon his vote on the floor of parliament. This is a test of [NSW premier] Chris Minns’ commitment to integrity in government.

Minns said earlier today that Crakanthorp would not be returned to cabinet but he would be allowed to remain in the Labor party room.

Neither Crakanthorp’s wife nor her family were accused of any wrongdoing.


Sydney’s second airport on schedule for 2026 opening

Sydney’s second airport is nearing the final stages of construction, as authorities carve up land for housing and businesses to support the new precinct in western Sydney.

On Thursday, local leaders as well as state and federal ministers gathered at the Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue’s Airport City Summit to discuss the future of the Western Sydney International (WSI) Airport precinct.

The New South Wales government unveiled a land release for 1,000 homes in Bradfield – the name for the new CBD anchoring the precinct.

The federal transport minister, Catherine King, revealed the airport was on track for its 2026 opening, and was near 75% completed.

King said:

I can report that as at 29 February 2024, WSI is 73% complete and on track to commence on schedule in 2026 – initially capable of catering for up to 10 million annual passengers.


Two hospitalised, one critical after stabbing in south-west Sydney

A 25-year-old man is under police guard in hospital while a man and woman remain in critical condition following a stabbing in Sydney’s south-west, AAP reports.

Emergency services were called to a unit on Ninth Avenue at Campsie shortly before 9pm last night, where they found a 53-year-old woman with knife wounds to her thigh and a 46-year-old man who had been stabbed in the face, arm and chest.

Both were taken to hospital, the man in a critical condition.

A 25-year-old man was arrested by police and also taken to hospital where he remains under guard.

A crime scene has been established and investigations are ongoing.


Many thanks for joining me on the blog today. The lovely Kate Lyons will be here to take you through the rest of our rolling coverage. Take care!

China’s inflation all but stalled in March – and that’s not a good thing

As we noted in an earlier post, inflation in the US rose more than expected in March, rising 0.4% rather than the 0.3% economists had expected. From a year earlier, prices were up 3.5%.

Well, the second-biggest economy in the world, China’s, has the opposite problem. Economists had forecast inflation there to rise 0.4% from a year earlier, but it came in at just 0.1%. Inflation, in other words, was tilting back towards deflation.

February’s 0.7% year-on-year rise in prices now looks like a bit of lunar new year blip (and perhaps, so much fortuitous number crunching by the stats bureau to bolster spirits soon after the annual Communist party gathering in Beijing).

Expect more calls for the Chinese government to step up spending to revive the sagging economy. Perhaps Australia-like stimuli to “go early, go hard, go households” might eventually be the path taken, though it might be more a case of “go sooner or later”.

Anyway, to the extent demand from China for Australian exports sinks, that won’t be good for the federal budget (via royalties for red dirt and other commodities), nor company profits (and jobs). The Australian dollar, too, might retreat further against the US dollar (if not so much on a trade-weighted basis as China’s yuan will likely be joining any retreat).

One positive of weak Chinese inflation is that China’s outsized share of global manufacturing should also push down those prices – and nudge Australian inflation lower.

Still, China’s 2.8% slide in factory-gate prices from a year earlier was not a good sign. According to Reuters, prices have been falling for a year and a half, with the pace quickening slightly from February’s 2.7% rate.

Not so much headwinds but counter currents that might knock Australia off that “narrow path” that it’s been on, namely, avoiding a recession and reining in inflation.


Tropical cyclone off Queensland coast won’t impact mainland or islands, Bureau says

Tropical Cyclone Paul rapidly formed off the coast of Queensland overnight, but the Bureau of Meteorology assured it will not impact the mainland or any east coast islands.

The cyclone is currently a category two system located roughly 1000km northeast of Cairns.

The Bureau said Paul is expected to be a short-lived cyclone, weakening tomorrow as environmental conditions deteriorate.


Charles Darwin University vice-chancellor questioned over conflicts of interest at Middle Arm inquiry

Circling back to the parliamentary inquiry into the Middle Arm development in Darwin: Charles Darwin University’s vice-chancellor, Scott Bowman, has been asked why the university had not declared to the inquiry potential conflicts of interest related to partnerships it has with industry.

The university’s official submission supported development at Middle Arm – subject to environmental monitoring and community consultation – because of the “need to drive economic growth in the NT”.

CDU offers scholarships worth $15,000 funded by Santos and Inpex, both of which have LNG facilities at Darwin Harbour. Santos is also the proponent of the Barossa gas project which, if developed, would pipe gas into Darwin harbour.

Bowman said he did not perceive that the scholarships, along with a “very small amount of money for research” and laboratory equipment, warranted a conflict of interest.

The university was also asked about a memorandum of understanding it has for collaboration on critical minerals with Tivan, one of the announced tenants of the Middle Arm project.

The independent senator David Pocock also asked Bowman about a Guardian Australia story on a request CDU made to the inquiry not to publish submissions by three of its staff that criticised the university’s position on Middle Arm.

Bowman said the objections were to statements the university “thought weren’t factually true”, relating to the university’s internal processes in developing its official submission to the inquiry.

Bowman later admitted it would have been better to correct the record instead of having these statements redacted or withheld.

Pocock said:

It sounds like you’re saying … you can have your academic freedom, but don’t criticise the university.


End of the road ‘a few weeks away’ to ensure Assange’s extradition does not go ahead, Labor MP says

The Labor MP Josh Wilson says now is a “critical window” to ensure Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings do not go ahead, after the US president, Joe Biden, said he was “considering” Australia’s request.

Wilson seconded a motion in February, passed by the House of Representatives, calling for Assange to be released. Speaking on 6PR Perth earlier today, Wilson said Biden’s comment was “very encouraging”.

We’re glad that the advocacy which has picked up over the last 12 months could be having that effect.

We’re in this critical window … it is a situation that’s been running for a long time. In fact, it’s five years today that Julian Assange has been in maximum security prison, Belmarsh prison, when he has never been convicted of any substantial charges. It is well and truly time for him to go free – that’s the message from the Australian government. The PM has said that; indeed, the leader of the opposition has said it.

Wilson added this is a critical time because “the end of the road, as far as those court proceedings are concerned, is probably only a few weeks away”.


Albanese ‘very concerned’ about Australia’s social cohesion

Continuing from our last post – Anthony Albanese has expressed he is “very concerned” about social cohesion in Australia, saying the country has been a “successful, multicultural nation”.

I think when it comes to the Middle East, these are complex issues. They do not need people talking up the heat, they need people turning it down …

I’m concerned that that there have been occasions where there have been attempts to politicise this, or weaponise these issues in a way, which, in my view, isn’t appropriate.


Anthony Albanese ‘taken aback’ by Peter Dutton’s comparison of Opera House protest to Port Arthur massacre

At the Queensland Media Club this afternoon, Anthony Albanese was asked by Guardian Australia reporter, Eden Gillespie, about his eyebrow-raising speech last night.

Gillespie asked:

Peter Dutton has blamed police and Labor for the rise in antisemitism. He said police were going soft on people and that you had been too weak. What do you think of those allegations? And of Mr Dutton using the Gaza issue to make domestic political criticisms?

The prime minister responded:

I think that Peter Dutton’s reference to Port Arthur … people will draw their own conclusions about that. I did see those comments and was somewhat taken aback by those comments. And it’s up to him to explain that.

I’m someone who has spent time, including recently in Parliament House, with the family of victims of Port Arthur. And I think that sometimes what Peter Dutton does in his comments, is to think about how hard you could possibly go and how angry you could possibly be – and then go one step further.

Last night, Dutton likened the 9 October protests against Israel’s initial response to Hamas’s 7 October attack to the shooting murder of 35 people at Tasmania’s Port Arthur historic site in 1996, which heralded tougher gun laws in Australia.

While no one was killed during the 9 October protests, the events at the Sydney Opera House were akin to a Port Arthur moment in terms of their social significance.


Minns rebuts claim from Dutton that police have been weak on antisemitism

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, has hit back at the federal opposition leader Peter Dutton’s claim that police have been weak on antisemitism.

Minns said:

Keep NSW police out of the federal political fight. They do a great job in New South Wales and we should all get behind them.

In a speech yesterday, Dutton blamed police and Labor political leaders for what he called an unprecedented and unchecked rise in antisemitism.

The former Queensland police officer accused police of being weak and woke, and demonstrating a “supine” response to antisemitism:

Minns said the NSW police force was a “wonderful institution”:

The men and women that make up the police force work around the clock … being a police officer is way harder than being a senior politician, including being the leader of the opposition.


Climate Change Authority advises government on 2035 emissions target

One of the Albanese government’s biggest announcements before the next election will be the national emissions reduction target it sets for 2035. It will indicate how rapidly the government plans to accelerate action to address the climate crisis.

The Climate Change Authority is advising the government on the target, and has just released an issues paper that gives the first insight into its thinking.

Its initial proposal is for a cut of between 65% and 75% compared with 2005 levels by 2035.

The authority’s chief executive, Brad Archer, said the evidence considered so far suggests this target “would be ambitious and could be achievable if additional action is taken by governments, business, investors and households”.

The government’s current target is a 43% cut by 2030. Views differ among experts on whether it is on track to achieve it. Scientists have said while it is a big improvement on the Coalition’s climate pledge when it was in power, it is not enough to live up to the goals of the Paris agreement.

The authority’s issues paper also considers what steps the government should be taking in six areas – electricity and energy, transport, industry and waste, agriculture and land, resources, and the built environment – to get to net zero by 2050.

We’re wading through the issues paper. You can read it here.


Middle Arm site is crown land, NT minister says in response to Thorpe question on consulting Larrakia people

Back to the parliamentary inquiry into the Middle Arm development in Darwin:

The social impact study senator David Pocock asked about in today’s Middle Arm inquiry was first reported on by Guardian Australia in this story last year, in which Larrakia traditional owners raised concerns about the development and a lack of consultation from the Northern Territory and federal governments.

The study said it could not make any findings about the development’s potential cultural impacts because there had been inadequate consultation with Larrakia and Tiwi people.

In this morning’s hearing, the independent senator Lidia Thorpe asked the NT government what steps it had taken to consult Larrakia people, the traditional owners of Darwin. In particular, she asked the government to explain part of its submission to the inquiry, which said it was taking a “Larrakia-led” approach to the development, based on principles of free, prior and informed consent:

Your government have said that you follow the principles of free prior and informed consent. You said that – so what does that mean? Tell me what it means? Explain that to me.

The chief minister, Eva Lawler, said the government had strong relationships with Larrakia people but on the question of free, prior and informed consent specifically, she didn’t “see the relevance” because Larrakia people did not hold native title rights and the Middle Arm site was crown land.

The government told the inquiry there was a Larrakia consulting group that had been working with the government and there had been “a range of meetings with larger family groups”.


Rockingham police appeal to public after suspected human ashes found on bus

Police in Rockingham, Western Australia are appealing for the owner of a box of what is believed to be human ashes to come forward, after it was left on a bus late in February.

Rockingham police shared a photograph of the box, which has the dates 24/4/77 and 29/4/23, as well as the word “Ranga” and a love heart, written on the front. If the dates are dates of birth and death, this would mean the person died shortly after their 46th birthday.

WA police said:

On [12 March], a Transperth staff member has attended Rockingham Police Station to hand-in a cardboard box that was left on a Transperth bus on [24 February]. It is unknown which bus route the bus travelled, but was possibly the 549 Route which travels between Rockingham and Fremantle.

The owner of the box, and anyone with information, is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.


Climate Council latest organisation to back Future Made in Australia Act

The Climate Council is the latest organisation to welcome the government’s announcement of a Future Made in Australia Act.

The CEO, Amanda McKenzie, said this is “exactly the sort of leadership Australia needs” to tackle climate pollution and generate clean jobs.

McKenzie said similar policies have been introduced in the US and “dramatically ramp up investment and create tens of thousands of new jobs”.

The Act could be a gamechanger that facilitates immediate investment to match the global clean energy shift, supercharge new industries, and cement Australia’s advantage in clean energy.

Climate Council senior researcher Dr Wesley Morgan said making smart investments could attract capital and “more bright ideas” to Australia, “putting us at the heart” of global energy and industry partnerships.

With the right policy settings, the Future Made In Australia Act can unlock huge economic benefits – in new industries, more jobs and a safer climate future for every community.


Albanese weighs in on state elections in Queensland later this year

Let’s circle back to Anthony Albanese at the Queensland Media Club, where he has been taking questions from reporters.

He is asked about comments from the state premier, Steven Miles, that winning the Queensland election will be like climbing higher than Mount Everest, and he’s “not even at base camp yet”.

Albanese acknowledged it is difficult for a long-term government, but said “a lot of people” wrote off the former Victorian premier Daniel Andrews before the last election in Victoria.


What I’ve seen in Steven is someone who really cares about people, who doesn’t want people to be left behind – and that sort of compassion, I think, will shine through.

I wish him well. I am not a participant in the Queensland state election but certainly I will be prepared, as I always am. I’ve lodged a few Labor campaigns around the country and I’ve lodged a few campaigns in Queensland over a period of time also.

So it is difficult for a long-term government – they have been in government for three terms, and Annastacia [Palaszczuk] I think retired with an extraordinary record of leading Labor to victory on three occasions. She deserves incredible respect and is a Labor hero forever as a result of that.

But we will wait and see how it goes. I heard a lot of people write off Daniel Andrews before the last election in Victoria also.


Factchecking claims from Dutton on 2GB radio

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has falsely claimed that the Australian government is “talking about giving statehood to a Hamas-led territory in Palestine”.

In a regular interview with 2GB radio today, Dutton spoke about the rise in antisemitism in Australia, before claiming:

And we’ve got the prime minister running off talking about giving statehood to a Hamas-led territory in Palestine. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

This is not what the government has said. The foreign minister, Penny Wong, certainly triggered a round of political debate – and some criticism – with her speech on Tuesday stressing that the only way to end the cycle of violence in the Middle East in the long term is a two-state solution. She said each state must recognise the right of the other to exist.

Wong noted that the international community was “now considering the question of Palestinian statehood as a way of building momentum towards a two-state solution” – which is true given that countries including the Conservative party-governed United Kingdom has said so openly – but she did not give any timeframe for Australia to do so.

Wong was emphatic that the Australian government saw “no role for Hamas in a future Palestinian state”.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, reiterated yesterday – a day before Dutton’s 2GB claim – that “we don’t think that Hamas should have any role in a future Palestinian state – we’ve made that very clear”. Albanese said:

They’re a terrorist organisation and not a legitimate party to the future of Palestine. And they are an organisation that have not assisted … Palestinians, as well as, of course … being committed to the destruction of the state of Israel.

What we want is Israelis and Palestinians to be able to live in peace and security with stability, and to be able to prosper in the future in a region which is peaceful.


Circling back to the parliamentary inquiry into the Middle Arm development:

Over two days of hearings in Darwin, senators are taking evidence from Larrakia traditional owners, environment groups, scientists and health workers with concerns about the project.

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the inquiry had taken “hundreds” of submissions from community members concerned about the health impacts of a new industrial precinct just a few kilometres from Palmerston. She pushed the government to provide its “worst case scenario” modelling of the potential health impacts of the project.

The government told senators they had undertaken 200 studies examining the full range of potential impacts of the project. Those studies are not public and Hanson-Young asked for them to be tabled on notice. At a rally before the hearing, she said she plans to raise all of the concerns presented to senators in Darwin at a meeting with the environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, today:

I’ll be telling her that there’s no social licence for Middle Arm in Darwin, the Darwin community are worried about the impact on their health.

The independent senator David Pocock pointed to a social impact study, commissioned by the NT government, which he said warned the Middle Arm development could lead to – among a long list – reduced health and safety, reduced housing affordability, reduced marine safety, potential water scarcity and a reduced quality of life for Darwin residents. Pocock said:

I mean, is this one of the 200 technical studies that you’ve referenced? And if so, how can you claim that studies have consistently backed the development? They seem like serious, serious risks.


Plan for Australian-made renewables will benefit people and the planet: WWF

The WWF-Australia has welcomed plans for a Future Made in Australia Act, as announced by Anthony Albanese today.

CEO Dermot O’Gorman said the prime minister’s speech – which just wrapped up – presented “a bold vision for Australia to capture the opportunities of becoming a renewable energy export superpower”.

O’Gorman said Australia needed to invest significantly more to unlock the true potential of green manufacturing:

Globally, countries are set to invest over US$1.8 trillion in clean energy.

If Australia is going to be a leader in that new economy, and make the most of the opportunity to work with key trading partners in Asia to decarbonise steel and iron supply chains, we need more investment to grow our capability and capacity.

The prime minister’s announcement today is a step in the right direction.


Albanese officially announces Future Made in Australia Act

Back at the Queensland Media Club where Anthony Albanese has been speaking:

He said the government would be guided by three principles as he announced the Future Made in Australia Act:

First, we need to act and invest at scale, moving beyond a hope-for-the-best approach, where the priority has been minimising government risk rather than seeking to maximise national reward.

Second, we need to be more assertive in capitalising on our comparative advantages and building sovereign capability in areas of national interest. For too long, governments have taken a reactive patchwork approach which has been more about managing an immediate crisis than maximising long-term opportunity…

Thirdly, we will continue to strengthen and invest in the foundations of economic success – affordable and reliable clean energy, a better and fairer education system, skilled workers, secure jobs, fair wages, modern infrastructure, shared ambition with business and private capital and a positive regulatory environment.

NT chief minister rejects criticism of Middle Arm development at senate inquiry

The chief minister of the Northern Territory, Eva Lawler, has used a federal Senate inquiry to reject criticism of the proposed Middle Arm development at Darwin harbour, telling opponents of the project “you can’t complain about a wait time at a hospital or funding for education if you don’t support Middle Arm”.

Hearings of an inquiry examining the controversial project, in which the Albanese government is taking a $1.5bn equity stake, have been taking place in Darwin.

The project has been controversial because it was publicly labelled a sustainable development despite being linked to new gas projects.

Lawler told this morning’s hearing the proposed industrial precinct signalled “a change of direction” for the territory that would lead to an increased population, more GST and “ongoing secure jobs for territorians”. She said:

You can’t complain about a wait time at a hospital or funding for education if you don’t support Middle Arm.

The government told the hearing that an environmental impact statement for the project, originally expected last year, would now be handed to the federal government later this year.

Lawler was asked whether the government could clarify “once and for all” whether the site would support a petrochemicals industry. The chief minister said she would not rule out that possibility; however, officials said the concept for the development had evolved over the years to factor in renewable energy and critical minerals.

The chief minister said “Middle Arm provides the opportunity for energy for industry … whether it’s renewables or it’s gas”.


Albanese speaking at Queensland Press Club

Prime minister Anthony Albanese is delivering a speech on his ‘future made in Australia’ legislation at the Queensland Press Club.

We’ll bring you the highlights, but here is a look at what Albanese has been saying:

In all this we need to aim high, be bold and build big to match the size of the opportunity that is right there in front of us and we have to get cracking. We have unlimited potential, but we do not have unlimited time. If we don’t seize this moment, it will pass. If we don’t take this chance, we won’t get another. If we don’t act to shape the future, the future will shape us.

That’s the sense of purpose and urgency that drives our government. We know there is a world of opportunity out there and we know the world won’t wait for us. If we want to make our future here in Australia, here in Queensland, we have to go forward now.

Tim Crakanthorp found to have breached public trust and ministerial code but no finding of corrupt conduct

The former New South Wales Labor minister Tim Crakanthorp has been found to have breached the public trust and the ministerial code after an investigation by state’s corruption watchdog.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption made no finding of corrupt conduct.

The probe was launched last year when it was discovered the Newcastle MP had allegedly failed to declare “substantial private family holdings” in the Hunter region relating to his wife’s family. Crakanthorp was the minister for the Hunter.

Neither Crakanthorp’s wife nor her family were accused of any wrongdoing.

In its report handed to the premier, Chris Minns, on Wednesday and released publicly today, Icac found that Crakanthorp had beached the public trust when he “knowingly failed to declare a conflict of interest arising from interests” in property around the Broadmeadow Investigation Area and the Hunter Park Sport and Entertainment Precinct held by him, his wife and his in-laws.

“That such failure constituted a breach of public trust,” Icac found.

The commssion also found that Crakanthorp’s “conduct in participating in meetings when minister for the Hunter that could affect his and his extended family’s properties constituted a breach of public trust”.

The commission found Crakanthorp breached the ministerial code “by failing to declare his conflict of interest as required” and by participating in meetings relating to the conflict.

Crakanthorp has been contacted for comment.


Great Barrier Reef suffering ‘most severe’ coral bleaching on record

Concern that the Great Barrier Reef may be suffering the most severe mass coral bleaching event on record has escalated, after a conservation group released footage showing damage up to 18 metres below the surface.

As Sharlotte Thou and Adam Morton report, marine biologist Dr Selina Ward says it was the worst bleaching she had seen in 30 years working on the reef, and that some coral was starting to die.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society has released video and photos of bleaching on the southern part of the reef extending to greater depths than had been previously reported this year.

You can read the full story below:


ACTU responds to ‘Future Made in Australia’ legislation: ‘this is a nation-building project’

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has welcomed the prime minister’s “Future Made in Australia” legislation, announced today.

Anthony Albanese is due to give his speech at the Queensland Press Club very shortly around the policy. You can read all the details on the policy from Karen Middleton below:

The ACTU president, Michele O’Neil, said:

The prime minister’s announcement today of a Future Made in Australia Act promises a historic step forward for workers, for the climate, and for every Australian who wants a fair go on a livable planet.

Decarbonising our economy could create hundreds of thousands of good secure well-paid jobs, healthier communities, and a renewed national prosperity, while safeguarding Australians from spiralling climate crises …

This is a nation-building project [that] will help Australia compete at the head of the pack in the global race toward our clean energy future and make sure the benefits flow to workers their families and communities.


Aldi confirms it has no plans for Tasmanian expansion

As we flagged just earlier: Aldi is not expanding into Tasmania any time soon, according to the chief executive of the supermarket chain’s Australian arm, due to difficulties in setting up in more isolated areas with smaller populations.

Aldi’s Anna McGrath told a Senate inquiry into supermarkets today that while the chain now had almost 600 stores across the country, it could not reach some areas accessed by major chains Coles and Woolworths.

When we’re identifying where to expand, we do need to consider the additional costs and complexities that are involved and therefore when it comes to Tasmania it would be largely the supply chain elements.

It’s not currently in our plans.

The Greens senator Nick McKim, who represents Tasmania and is chairing the committee, said the response would disappoint shoppers seeking an alternative to the majors.

Recent financial results suggest consumers are starting to turn against the big supermarkets due to high grocery prices, instead shopping at lower-cost rivals including Aldi.

The Senate inquiry, designed to investigate how big supermarkets set prices and use their market power when dealing with suppliers, is due to report its recommendations to the government in early May.

The recommendations may include measures that would help rivals better compete with Coles and Woolworths, which collectively control two-thirds of the market.

It has taken Aldi more than two decades to build a 10% market share after opening its first Australian store in 2001.


Need a lunchtime read?

Reporting from Indonesia, Per Elinder Liljas has this powerful and beautifully photographed feature on Indonesia’s nickel trade, an industry Jakarta hopes is the ticket to becoming a developed nation.

Nickel has upended life on the Indonesian islands of Sulawesi, Halmahera and Obi. Over a decade the region has gone from modest ore exporter to the world’s foremost refiner of the metal. A rural backwater has been catapulted into modernity.


No Aldi for Tasmania

The Tasmanian senator Tammy Tyrrell has shared a titbit from today’s Senate inquiry into supermarket prices: Aldi is not looking at setting up in the state any time soon, she said.

“Sad new for Tasmanians,” she wrote on social media platform X.


Dutton says Labor 'living out their university prejudices' in Palestine policy

Circling back to the opposition leader Peter Dutton’s press conference:

Taking questions from reporters, Dutton was asked whether the Coalition is misrepresenting what the government is saying around recognising a Palestine state.

During a speech this week, the foreign minister, Penny Wong, suggested recognising Palestinian statehood could create a path to a two-state solution – but flatly rejected any future role for Hamas.

But the opposition and Dutton have been very critical of the government’s stance:

Responding to the reporter’s question just earlier, Dutton responded:

I listen to the Palestinian leaders in our country who say that Hamas should play a role in relation to a state in Palestinian territory.* So has Penny Wong consulted with the Palestinian leaders or community here in Australia? I don’t think so.

I think Penny Wong and Anthony Albanese are living out their university prejudices, views created on university campuses for them in the 1980s that don’t have relevance in this day and age.

*Dutton did not say which Palestinian community leaders he was referring to. However, the head of the General Delegation of Palestine to Australia, Izzat Abdulhadi, reportedly told ABC radio this morning that “you can’t remove Hamas from Gaza” because “Hamas is a philosophy [and] an idea”.


Albanese denounces ‘more angry rhetoric from Peter Dutton’

Anthony Albanese has also hit back at the Coalition’s claim that the Australian government’s policies are “rewarding terrorism”.

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, spoke of the need for Palestinian statehood as part of a long-term solution in the Middle East.

Albanese told Sky news the Coalition’s criticism was a case of “more negativity and more angry rhetoric from Peter Dutton”.

Albanese made the point that Wong’s comments were unextraordinary in the context of Australia’s long-term support for a two-state solution and given that other countries, including the Conservative-ruled United Kingdom, are considering when recognition of Palestinian statehood might occur as part of building momentum for a two-state solution:

There’s nothing new about my government supporting a two-state solution.

Wong has made clear she sees no role for Hamas in such a Palestinian state.

For an explainer of what exactly Wong did and didn’t say, see this from yesterday:


Albanese 'increasingly optimistic' regarding Assange outcome

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has said he is “increasingly optimistic” about an outcome to free Julian Assange, while promising to continue to use every diplomatic lever to push for it.

Albanese, in an interview with Sky News a short time ago, was asked about Joe Biden’s brief comments overnight about Australia’s request to drop the pursuit of Assange over the publication of a trove of classified documents about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

The US president replied: “We’re considering it.”

Albanese told Sky News the comments were “encouraging” and added that Australia was using “diplomatic efforts at every level” to communicate that it was time this matter was brought to a close:

We want Mr Assange to be able to return home … I am increasingly optimistic about an outcome but it certainly has not been delivered yet. We’ll continue to argue the case at every opportunity that we have.


‘It’s not going to happen’: Peter Dutton weighs in on PM’s new industry plan

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, is speaking to the media from Berkeley Vale on the NSW Central Coast.

He’s responding to the government’s new industry plan (you can read all the details on that below):

Dutton argues that Anthony Albanese is telling Australians what “they want to hear” and says he doesn’t believe his plan can be delivered:

When I hear about him talking made in Australia, I hear the same message he gave to the Australian people in delivering a $275 to cut to your power bill – it’s not going to happen … Promising Australian made solar panels – it’s not going to happen.

This premise is driving up … input costs and Australian manufacturing is going broke. Australian manufacturing is failing under the Albanese government.


ACT laws change to allow majority jury verdicts in criminal trials

The Australian Capital Territory has passed new laws in response to the Bruce Lehrmann rape mistrial.

The new laws make it an offence for jurors to seek information about a trial independently such as through online searches. And in criminal trials, courts may now accept a verdict if 11 out of 12 jurors agree, minimising the risk of hung juries and retrials.

The ACT’s attorney general, Shane Rattenbury, said in a statement:

In a diverse community people may not always agree, resulting in hung juries. This not only causes delays and increased costs, but also adds emotional strain for victims, accused people and others involved in the proceedings.

The community expects both an efficient and a fair justice system. These reforms will help prevent retrials and give the community confidence in our jury system.

These reforms were developed in consultation with key justice sector stakeholders. Feedback from the justice sector was strongly supportive of updating our jury laws.

We understand the vital role jurors play in our criminal justice system. These new laws make their responsibilities clear – both for jurors and the community – and will make the process of coming to a verdict more efficient.

In October 2022 a juror caused a mistrial in the Lehrmann rape trial after conducting their own research and taking a document into the deliberation room.

Lehrmann has consistently maintained his innocence. In the abandoned criminal trial he pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent, denying that any sexual activity had occurred.


Driver and two horses dead after float crash

A man has been killed in a crash involving a horse float in northern Victoria, AAP reports.

The car was towing a horse float in Taminick, west of Wangaratta, today when it veered off the road and hit a low-lying tree branch, Victoria police said.

The driver was the sole occupant of the vehicle and died at the scene. One horse was killed and the other had to be euthanised. Police said:

The exact circumstances surrounding the crash are yet to be determined and investigations remain ongoing.

Police are appealing for dashcam footage and further information from people in the area around the time of the accident.


Victorian premier on asbestos discovered across Melbourne

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, says the state’s environmental watchdog has the resources it needs to handle the investigation into asbestos in several Melbourne playgrounds.

She said the EPA has been working closely with local councils responsible for managing the parks and playgrounds, “going through the records” and “doing site investigations” to understand the source and the cause of the contamination.

They’re doing further work and providing updates to the community as recently as this morning, and as part of that the EPA has undertaken something like 57 individual, targeted investigations to support the work they’re doing and they’ll continue to provide updates on the outcomes of that information. What’s quite different here in Victoria compared to New South Wales is that our EPA has the tools and the resources and the powers to undertake these sorts of investigations.

There is an obligation on the industry to report and provide direct information on this sort of contaminated material. We have a very different regime that is in place here in Victoria, which is why we’re focused on supporting the EPA to do the work they are doing [and] working with those councils who are responsible for these sites.


Key event

Victorian water minister on Murray Darling basin plan: ‘we remain opposed to buybacks’

The Victorian water minister, Harriet Shing, is holding a press conference with the premier, Jacinta Allan, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Asked about the state’s signing up to a rejig of the Murray-Darling basin plan, which we brought to you earlier on the blog, Shing says the state’s position has not changed.

She said:

It’s a wonderful outcome that finally the commonwealth has agreed to fund these projects. It stacks up for everyone and we’re looking forward to seeing that funding coming through the commonwealth with negotiations and agreements to be provided in the coming days and weeks.

Importantly, Victoria hasn’t changed its position. We remain opposed to buybacks. We haven’t signed up to any agreement that was put by the commonwealth and agreed to by other states last year. We are however determined to make sure that we’re continuing to help the commonwealth to deliver on the basin plan to return environmental water.


‘Swift lift’ to the economy might have been fleeting

It seems an era ago that US singer Taylor Swift was playing to packed stadia in Melbourne and Sydney, prompting a few breathless assessments of how many hundreds of millions of dollars the events would pour into the economy.

The latest data from CommBank, which tracks the spending of 7 million CBA retail customers, suggests there was a splash of spending in February but the effects were not so long-lasting, as we note here:

The spending figures, to be sure, were just one month’s results, and there was the distortion of having all of Easter within March for the first time since 2016.

Still, there’s few other signs of confidence perking up. Much like the so-called Black Friday online spending sprees in November merely pull forward Christmas spending, it seems the Swift effect was largely to briefly drain or divert spending on other things.

Meanwhile, hopes the US would soon start cutting interest rates seems to have been dashed by the higher-than-expected inflation figures for March. (Also probably not Swift’s fault.)

The miss – 0.4% from February, rather than 0.3% as forecast – might not look like much, but the “last mile” of bringing down inflation to target is looking like it could be a bit longer. (Perhaps “last league” is more appropriate?)

Why all this matters to Australia is partly through the exchange rate. The Australian dollar lost more than 1 US cent overnight, to trade recently at about 65.1 US cents, as a result of that US inflation result. Traders that might have moved money out of the US to get a higher yield elsewhere will stay put for a bit longer.

The Reserve Bank will be less inclined to cut interest rates here because such a move would send the Australian dollar lower, inflating the cost of imported goods and slowing our own trek to bringing inflation down to the 2%-3% target range.

Of course, the US is not the only influence of markets. China’s inflation figures for March are out later today and they might go the other way – reinforcing that nation’s deflationary tilt. We’ll learn soon enough.


Conditions apply in return of famous magpie to family

A social media-famous magpie, known for her fun relationship with two dogs, will be reunited with her family under certain conditions, AAP reports.

Molly had been surrendered to Queensland authorities by her Gold Coast family in March, following complaints over the lack of a permit.

Juliette Wells and Reece Mortensen rescued the bird when she fell from a nest in 2020. The bird subsequently formed a happy and wholesome relationship with dogs Peggy and Ruby.

The state’s premier, Steven Miles, said the Department of Environment, Science and Innovation was working with the couple to secure a permit and bring Molly home with strict conditions to assure the best outcomes for her health and wellbeing. The department said:

Independent expert veterinary advice has shown Molly is highly habituated and may have developmental issues, meaning it can never be rehabilitated or returned to the wild.

For Molly to return home, the couple can no longer receive commercial gain from the bird or her image and will need to undertake wildlife carer training. They will also need to advocate for public education of native wildlife and engage the department on an ongoing basis to ensure Molly is receiving adequate care. The department said:

Once the individuals have demonstrated they can and will meet the conditions, Molly will be placed with its former carers.


NSW police execute largest single seizure of pharmaceutical drugs in states’ history

A man has been charged after more than 700kg of drugs were seized in Western Sydney – the NSW police force’s largest single seizure of pharmaceutical drugs.

Following extensive investigations, police executed a search warrant on a storage unit in Auburn at 8pm on Sunday. During the search police located and seized 722kg of Alprazolam, or “Xanax”, with an estimated street value of $12m. Police said in a statement:

This is the largest single seizure of pharmaceutical drugs in NSW history.

Police also stopped and searched a truck travelling in Wagga Wagga around 9pm yesterday as part of investigations, where police located and seized shopping bags containing almost $1m in cash.

The driver, a 28-year-old man, was arrested and taken to Wagga police station where he was charged with supplying a prohibited drug greater than large commercial quantity and knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime.

He was refused bail to appear before Wagga local court today.


Land released for homes on new Sydney airport doorstop

Land for 1,000 homes in Sydney’s newest city – to be built on the doorstep of a 24-hour international airport – has been released, AAP reports.

The site at Bradfield city centre will deliver new homes and jobs alongside the opening of the Western Sydney airport and metro in 2026, NSW’s planning minister, Paul Scully, said.

A draft master plan, released earlier this year, includes a pool, a central park, 10,000 new homes and tree-lined pedestrian-only streets.

Scully said the mixed-used site set across 4.8 hectares has space for the 1,000 new homes, as well as commercial childcare, hotel, retail and medical facilities. It is the first parcel of land to be released by the government for private development.

Scully said in a statement:

This is the first opportunity for the private sector to get involved as a flagship partner in the development of the new city.

Construction for the first phase of the business precinct is underway with completion set for the end of next year.


Missile pact between Australia, the US and Japan announced

In case you missed it, a missile pact between Australia, the US and Japan has officially been announced.

As David Smith reports, US president Joe Biden and Japanese prime minister Fumio Kishida made the announcement during a joint press conference in Washington

Biden said the two nations’ forces will cooperate on a joint command structure and, along with Australia, develop a new air missile defence network. You can read more below:

Anthony Albanese spoke about the potential for working with Japan earlier this morning as part of Aukus, which you can read here.

Senate inquiry into Middle Arm development begins in Darwin

A hearing of the federal Senate inquiry into the Middle Arm development, which the Albanese government has committed $1.5bn to, is beginning in Darwin.

The hearing opens with a statement from Senator Sarah Hanson-Young who says she wants to correct a report that appeared in the NT News that suggested gas companies had been “snubbed” by the inquiry because they would not be appearing.

She says that is “false” and they had been invited to appear. She hopes they will appear at future hearings in Canberra and notes the committee has the power to summon witnesses.

However Senator Susan McDonald later claimed that one of the gas companies Tamboran had wanted to appear in Darwin today but had been “cancelled” by the committee in favour of a later hearing in Canberra.

The inquiry is examining the proposed industrial development on Darwin harbour, including the process that led to the federal government’s decision to promise it funding.

The NT’s chief minister, Eva Lawler, is appearing before the inquiry first, along with several senior NT government officials. Environment groups, academics and health workers will appear later today.


AEC concerned for low turnout at Cook byelection

The Australian Electoral Commission is urging all voters in the Cook electorate to vote in this Saturday’s byelection as it expressed concern over low turnout.

The commissioner, Tom Rogers, said the number of votes cast so far are below previous early voting levels in Cook and below expectations for the byelection.​

The early voting numbers we’re seeing are down by approximately 11.2% based on the same period in the 2022 federal election and nearly 13% for the same period in the 2023 referendum in the division.

Postal vote applications closed yesterday, and those numbers are down slightly as well.

​Rogers said if people vote early in one election they will typically do so in the next, which is “why the numbers we’re seeing makes us worry about low participation.” He appealed to voters in a statement:

​Failure to vote may result in a fine and will mean you have no say on who represents you in parliament.

About 18,447 people had cast an early vote up to 10 April, compared to 21,143 votes cast in Cook at the same stage in the 2023 referendum and 20,769 at the same stage in the 2022 federal election.


Albanese ‘needs to act now’ to secure Assange’s release, his brother says

Julian Assange’s brother Gabriel Shipton has responded to news US president Joe Biden is “considering” Australia’s request to end Assange’s prosecution.

In a statement, Shipton said:

President Biden’s comments open the door for the Australian government to double down on its engagement with the United States government to get Julian’s release across the line.

My brother still remains imprisoned in very harsh conditions with rapidly deteriorating physical and mental health. This has gone on long enough.

Anthony Albanese needs to act now and with urgency to stop this extradition from occurring, by reaching a diplomatic solution whereby Julian can return home to Australia as soon as possible.

‘Kind though surprising and unsolicited gesture’: Julian Hill on statue from constituent

We have all been waiting with bated breath for an update on the statue given to Labor MP Julian Hill from one of his constituents, I’m sure.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about: Hill made one of the more interesting updates to the parliamentary interests register, declaring a “priceless” 75 centimetre statue of himself that he was recently gifted by a constituent. Josh Butler has the full story here:

Well, Hill has just posted an update to X about the statue, acknowledging it was a “kind though surprising and unsolicited gesture”.

Yes. This did happen. A kind though surprising and unsolicited gesture. And thanks for your well wishes, statue is doing well.


Police sniffing out two men allegedly involved in perfume heist

Victorian police are sniffing out two men they believe can assist with inquiries into a perfume heist, where roughly $25,000-worth of fragrances was allegedly stolen.

In a statement, police said unknown offenders attended a pharmacy in Kalkallo in a black ute around 5.30am yesterday. Officers have been told two male offenders exited the vehicle and forced entry into the premises, where they allegedly stole five trolleys of fragrances totalling around $25,000.

Police understand the men left the store with the trolleys before loading the fragrances into the boot of the car and fleeing the scene. No one was inside the building at the time.

Investigators have released CCTV footage of a vehicle and two men they believe can assist with inquiries. Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.


Victoria police announce renewed search for Samantha Murphy

Victoria Police has announced a renewed search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy in Enfield state park, about 25km south of the regional city.

Murphy was last seen more than two months ago when she left her Ballarat East home to go for a run on 4 February. Last month, police charged 22-year-old Patrick Stephenson, from nearby town Scotsburn, with the murder of Murphy.

Victoria Police say the search will focus on an area highlighted by intelligence derived from a number of sources.

Mark Hatt, the acting detective superintendent for crime command, says the search will involve a number of detectives from the missing persons squad:

Since Samantha’s disappearance over two months ago, a range of searches and other enquiries have been undertaken in the Ballarat area as part of this investigation. This includes extensive large-scale searches such as we have planned this week, but also smaller targeted searches focused in very specific areas.

I want to assure those in the Ballarat community that police remain focused on doing everything we can to return Samantha to her family.


Crakanthorp thanks community after Icac investigation dropped

The former New South Wales minister, Tim Crakanthorp, has thanked the community for its support after the state’s corruption watchdog announced it had dropped its investigation into his conduct.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption announced it had “terminated” its preliminary investigation yesterday afternoon, eight months after the Newcastle MP was dumped from cabinet. A spokesperson said:

As the commission is satisfied that there are no reasonable prospects of finding Mr Crakanthorp’s conduct is sufficiently serious to justify a finding of corrupt conduct, it has terminated its investigation.

Today, Crakanthorp said:

I welcome yesterday’s statement from the NSW Icac that they have terminated their inquiry. I want to thank the countless people who have offered kind words and support. It has truly been appreciated. My focus for the last 16 years, as both a councillor and a member of parliament, has been to serve the people of Newcastle to the best of my ability. That will continue to be my priority.

More here:


Man to face court after alleged home invasion in Sydney’s south-west

A man will face court today over an alleged home invasion in Sydney’s south-west last year.

On 28 September, emergency services were called to reports of shots fired at Chester Hill. Officers were told five men had allegedly forced entry into a home and threatened occupants with weapons including a baseball bat and firearm.

A 46-year-old woman was allegedly hit with a bat, while a 48-year-old man suffered a leg wound. Neither required hospital treatment.

A number of children were home at the time of the incident, police say, but were not injured.

Following investigations, a 23-year-old man was arrested at a correctional facility yesterday. He was charged with specially aggravated breaking and entering with intent while armed with a dangerous weapon, and discharging a firearm with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was refused bail to appear at Bankstown local court today. Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers.


Angus Taylor says talk of Palestinian state ‘reckless’ and ‘inappropriate’

Angus Taylor also reiterated the opposition’s stance that it is too soon to be considering recognising a Palestinian state.

On the Today show, Taylor said:

The precondition for getting to what Penny Wong is asking for is the hostages to be returned, the terrorist infrastructure to be dismantled, a good faith negotiations and agreement on borders, a knowledge that both sides will be able to be secure under the new arrangements and we are nowhere near any of those things.

So talk about putting the cart before the horse. This is reckless. It’s inappropriate. We need to, we all want to see peace. We all want to see peace. But this is not the pathway to get there.

For a full explainer on what Wong said during her speech earlier this week, my colleague Daniel Hurst has you covered:


Opposition responds to government’s new industry plan

The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, has criticised the government’s new industry plan and argued it would require “throwing hard-earned taxpayers’ money around”.

Speaking on the Today show, Taylor also said more information was needed on the proposal:

Of course… we want to see more manufacturing in Australia [but] you don’t beat a cost of living crisis, you don’t address a cost of living crisis by throwing hard earned taxpayers’ money around. And that’s exactly what Albanese is proposing here. We haven’t seen any of the details, I should say, and we’ll look at those closely as they come in.

In case you missed it: Albanese has announced plans for a green interventionist industry policy, which would use direct government support to speed up the energy transition. You can read the full story from Karen Middleton below:

Taylor argued that last time there was a lot of inflation in Australia it was solved by “getting government out of the way”.

By getting rid of the red tape, by letting small businesses get on with the job of doing the things that they do. And right now they’re being crushed.

Look, the country that’s been going down this path fastest is the United States. And we learn overnight that their inflation is going up, not down. It’s not working. This approach doesn’t work. It won’t work. Australians need a solution to the cost of living crisis. But this isn’t it.


Proposed $4bn pumped hydro project could power a third of Sydney’s households by 2031

Sydney’s main source of drinking water could also supply enough renewable energy to power almost a third of the city’s households by 2031 if a pumped hydro project using a former coal washery proceeds as planned.

Zen Energy, an energy retailer, has announced it had signed an agreement with the state-owned Water NSW to build a reservoir at Nattai on the escarpment about 400m above Lake Burragorang on Sydney’s south-west fringe.

The project has an initial cost of $3bn to $4bn and would be financed mostly through debt, a Zen spokesperson said. At 1,000 megawatts of capacity and with about 3km of tunnels, the venture would be about half the generation size of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project, which is presently estimated to cost at least $12bn with its 27km of tunnels.

Continue reading:

Campaign video to launch on World Parkinson’s Day, highlighting impact of disease

Today is World Parkinson’s Day, and the nation’s peak body for those suffering from the disease has released a report demonstrating its prevalence across the country.

Parkinson’s Australia says more than 150,000 Australians live with the disease, equating to 1 in 173 people. And reported cases are increasing, with 12,000 people diagnosed in 2020 alone.

And by 2050 the number of Australians living with Parkinson’s is projected to more than triple, according to Parkinson’s Australia.

International cricketing legend Allan Border, now living with Parkinson’s, will be lending his voice to a video campaign highlighting the impact of the disease on Australians. Olivia Nassaris, Parkinson’s Australia, CEO, said:

The video highlights facts and figures from a scoping study conducted by Griffith University. This study addresses some fundamental gaps in knowledge about prevalence and incidence and other factors critical for the assessment of the burden of Parkinson’s in Australia.

Our research underscores the urgent need for increased awareness, support, and research into Parkinson’s. With incidence and prevalence rates set to skyrocket in the coming years, it’s imperative that we take proactive steps to address the challenges faced by individuals living with Parkinson’s and their families.


Greens say quarterly rent increase data shows need for rent freeze

Earlier, we brought you news via AAP that renters have been hit with the steepest quarterly hike in 17 years.

According to Domain, the median cost of renting a house in the combined capitals reached a new record of $630 a week. Advertised house rents rose 5% over the quarter in the nation’s urban centres, with units also up a solid 3.3%.

The Greens’ housing spokesperson, Max Chandler-Mather, said this demonstrated the need for a rent freeze. He wrote on X:

Renters just copped the *biggest* quarterly rent increase in 17 years, according to Domain. House rents went up 5%, units 3.3% in 3 months. That’s more than 5 times the recent quarterly wage increase. For the sake of millions of renters we must freeze rent increases and stop this.


Medical association calls for national action plan on menopause in Australia

The Australian Medical Association is calling for a national action plan to improve equality for women suffering from menopausal and perimenopausal symptoms.

In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry into menopausal issues, the AMA said many women have difficulty accessing support and that there is profound disparity among the population of those suffering. AMA’s president, Prof Steve Robson, said:

A third of Australian women in midlife say menopause symptoms make it hard to do daily activities and they are also being targeted with misinformation in order to deal with it.

The out-of-pocket health expenses for women are, in general, higher than for men and it is a significant barrier for women to get equitable healthcare.

Australia is currently without a national menopause framework or action plan and we hope it will be a recommendation of the Senate inquiry.

The AMA said an plan would include analysis of medical and therapeutic support to combat menopausal symptoms such as high anxiety, depression, mood swings, forgetfulness or brain fog and suicidal tendencies.

  • Lifeline: 13 11 14


Here’s more on the letter from the union representing Australian journalists:

The MEAA has demanded the Albanese government publicly call on the US government drop its charges against Julian Assange, warning presidential intervention will become less likely the closer the US election gets.

The letter coincides with the fifth anniversary of Assange’s detention in Belmarsh prison in the UK. The MEAA said the UK high court decision to conditionally grant Assange leave to appeal against the extradition order was “a small and unsatisfactory reprieve” and the only solution was a US decision to drop the charges.

In a letter to Anthony Albanese and Penny Wong, the MEAA’s media section president, Karen Percy, said Assange’s extradition and prosecution by the US “would set a disturbing global precedent for the suppression of press freedom and would constitute an assault on the public’s right to know”.

It would mean that any journalist, anywhere in the world, could be charged and extradited for handling any information that the US government classifies as ‘secret’.

We are writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms to take immediate public action to demand the United States government drop the charges against Julian Assange so he can resume life as a free man in Australia.

The call was issued prior to Joe Biden’s comments overnight that he’s considering the Australian government’s request:


Albanese says discussions on Palestinian statehood, two-state solution ‘are taking place’ globally

Moving back to the Australian government’s discussions regarding a Palestinian state (see earlier posts): Albanese was asked about comments from Peter Dutton last night, accusing Penny Wong of being “reckless” in advocating for Palestinian statehood as essential to sustainable Middle East peace.

He told ABC News Breakfast this was “more nasty negativity from [Dutton]”.

A two-state solution is required in the Middle East to break the cycle that has been there for my entire lifetime. I think Australians want to see that and I want Israel to exist within secure borders in safety, security and prosperity, but I also want justice for Palestinians

What is the timeline for recognising a Palestinian state? Albanese said Wong was reflecting international discussions taking place around this issue. And should these discussions be taking place while hostages are still being held? Albanese responded:

Well, they are taking place and you’re aware they’re taking place because you would have broadcast comments from people like David Cameron… who made similar comments, the comments of President Biden speaking [of] a two-state solution. Every one of our like-minded partners. I’ve issued joint statements with the prime ministers of Canada and New Zealand, three of the Five Eyes partners, calling for a two-state solution.


Biden’s comments re: Assange ‘encouraging’, prime minister says

As we reported earlier, the US president, Joe Biden, says he is “considering” Australia’s request to end Julian Assange’s prosecution. Anthony Albanese responded to the news on ABC News Breakfast and said this was an “encouraging statement”.

I have said that we have raised, on behalf of Mr Assange, Australia’s national interests that enough is enough [and] this needs to be brought to a conclusion. And we’ve raised it at each level of government, in every possible way. We’ll continue to engage diplomatically in that in order to achieve an outcome that I believe Australians want to see.

Was this a throwaway comment, or something more? Albanese again said it was “encouraging” but noted the issue is “complex”.

I believe this must be brought to a conclusion and that Mr Assange has already paid a significant price and enough is enough. There’s nothing to be gained by Mr Assange’s continued incarceration, in my very strong view, and I’ve put that as the view of the Australian government.


Anthony Albanese spruiks new industry plan: ‘We can’t be vulnerable’

The prime minister was also on ABC News Breakfast this morning as he mades the morning television rounds.

Anthony Albanese has been talking up his new industry plan for a green interventionist industry policy which would use direct government support to speed up the energy transition. You can read the full story from Karen Middleton below:

Albanese said his ambition is for “a future made in Australia” and argued if we can create more things here, “we can compete with the world”.

We need to identify where Australia has a advantage – such as in green hydrogen, producing green steel and green aluminium, producing batteries – and we need to look at our national sovereignty and where we need to ensure we can stand on our own two feet.

We can’t be vulnerable. That is one of the lessons of the global pandemic, that we need a more resilient economy [and] that’s about a future made here. It’s about using assets we have, under the ground, in the sky, to produce advanced manufacturing, creating jobs and economic growth and prosperity right here in Australia.

Albanese said there needs to be a “private-sector led surge” but the government is prepared to provide loans or support industries as a catalyst to get off the ground.

This is a global competition that’s happening. It’s a race for jobs and opportunity. We can’t afford to sit it out. If we do that, the world will go past us.


Albanese on the discussion to recognise a Palestinian state: ‘This is about being a serious player’

Anthony Albanese was asked to confirm if the government has a formal plan to recognise Palestinian statehood.

This follows a speech from Penny Wong earlier this week. She told a crowd in Canberra Australia would consider recognising a Palestinian state as a way to achieve a two-state solution, as a broader international conversation takes place towards a pathway to peace.

Speaking on the Today show, Albanese said:

We consistently have said that in the Middle East there needs to be a two-state solution… [Hamas] has no role to play in the Middle East, but justice for Palestinians – we know that there’s been this … cycle of violence over a long period of time. My entire lifetime, this has been an issueand we know that the solution is a two-state solution. And what the world is doing is engaging in discussions about how that might work out.

Q: This announcement is really at this point, nothing more than a thought bubble.


No, this is about being a serious player, about real solutions to the Middle East conflict, that’s what this is about. Looking beyond the current conflict and engaging as we have been doing.

So, with our partners – and if you look at the position of President [Joe] Biden and the British foreign secretary, [David] Cameron, who was recently in Australia… has said very similar things.


Prime minister details potential partnership with Japan on Aukus pillar 2

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has defended Australia’s decision to work with Japan through pillar 2 of the Aukus deal.

Earlier this week, the three Aukus nations – Australia, the UK and the US – announced they would consider partnering with Japan to enhance defence capabilities through pillar 2 of the defence deal. (Pillar 1 deals with the nuclear submarine element of the deal)

Speaking on the Today show, Albanese noted Japan was an “advanced technology nation” and any potential partnership would be about “increasing our defence capability”.

How will that swing with China? Albanese responded:

Well, it’s about increasing our defence capability, and that’s in Australia’s national interest. And we’ve said with China that will cooperate where we can, we’ll disagree where we must, but we’ll always engage in a constructive manner. And that’s what we’re continuing to do.

Yesterday, Reuters reported some pushback from China on the Aukus deal (you can read more in yesterday’s blog here). Asked if he was “poking the bear”, Albanese said Australia is “engaging constructively”.

This is about our national defence, and all nations have a right to ensure that their defence capability is maximised. That’s precisely what Australia is doing.


Victoria signs up to revamped Murray Darling Basin Plan

Victoria has overcome its initial reluctance and signed up to a rejig of the Murray-Darling basin plan.

The federal government had already got South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, and the Australian Capital Territory on board the plan to deliver the last 450GL of water while extending water recovery project deadlines and removing buyback caps.

That 450GL was negotiated mainly for the benefit of the environment at the South Australian end of the Murray River, and has been controversial upstream.

Victoria baulked at the new legislation and said it was already doing its part in returning water to the river. The state’s water minister, Harriet Shing, said the government had a “long-standing opposition to buybacks”, which some fear will hurt towns when water owners sell up.

Now, Victoria has signed up - although it maintains its opposition to buybacks.

The federal environment and water minister, Tanya Plibersek, said:

This commitment unlocks for Victoria the full range of water recovery options already available to other basin states. For some months now, the Albanese government has been working closely with participating basin jurisdictions on water recovery opportunities, including alternatives to buybacks.

This has led to recent announcements of significant funding agreements with NSW and ACT.

Victoria’s commitment announced today will allow for similar opportunities over the coming months, and will allow us to deliver the Murray-Darling basin plan in full in coming years.

Shing said the commonwealth had agreed to fund environmental projects to protect Victorian flood plains:

Our position on buybacks has not changed and we do not support any decision under the basin plan that harms communities, the environment or puts farmers at risk – we will continue to negotiate and advocate for outcomes that do not cause unnecessary harm.


Pat Conroy responds to Biden’s comments on Assange

The defence industry minister, Pat Conroy, is currently in the United States, and the ABC asked him for his response to the latest Assange development:

The Australian government from Prime Minister [Anthony] Albanese down have been very clear that we think the Assange [matter] needs to be brought to a close, we think has been going on for too long and we’ve communicated that to both the United States and UK government. So I welcome president [Joe] Biden’s comment.


Media union renews call to free Assange

Hours after the US president, Joe Biden, signalled he was considering an Australian request to drop the prosecution of Julian Assange, the media union is pressuring the government to continue its lobbying.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) has written to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the foreign minister, Penny Wong, urging them to publicly call upon the US government to drop its charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Overnight in Washington, Biden was asked if he had a response to Australia’s request to end Assange’s prosecution and responded: “We are considering it”.

The MEAA’s letter to the government today comes on the fifth anniversary of Assange’s detention in the UK. The alliance’s media section president, Karen Percy, said:

We are writing to urge you in the strongest possible terms to take immediate public action to demand the United States government drop the charges against Julian Assange so he can resume life as a free man in Australia.

As we draw closer to the US Presidential election, the opportunity for a satisfactory resolution to this case diminish.

- from AAP


Renters hit with steepest quarterly hike in 17 years

Australian renters cannot get any relief, AAP reports, with asking rents rising in the first quarter and the typically busy start-of-year changeover period colliding with an already hot market.

The median cost of renting a house in the combined capitals reached a new record of $630 a week, according to real estate platform Domain, and recorded its sharpest quarterly gain in 17 years.

Advertised house rents rose 5% over the quarter in the nation’s urban centres, with units also up a solid 3.3% to a new record median asking price of $620.

Renters in most capital cities have been forking out more to keep a roof over their heads because of an acute shortage of available properties during a period of booming population growth.

Domain’s chief of research and economics, Nicola Powell, said the rental market usually experienced intense churn in the first quarter, but limited supply and high demand has intensified this:

This imbalance has consequently fuelled a renewed acceleration in rental price growth.

The biggest quarterly changes were recorded in Adelaide, where asking rents for houses rose 5.4%, followed by Perth (4.8%), Melbourne (3.6%), Brisbane (3.3%) and Sydney (2.7%). Vacancy rates also fell in every major city except Hobart, with Sydney, Melbourne and Perth at record lows.



Good morning, and happy Thursday – welcome back to another day on the Australia news live blog. I’m Emily Wind and I’ll bring you our rolling coverage today.

Renters have been hit with the biggest quarterly hike in almost two decades, AAP is reporting. According to data from real estate platform Domain, the median cost of renting a house in the combined capitals reached a record $630 a week and recorded its sharpest quarterly gain in 17 years.

Domain’s chief of research and economics, Nicola Powell, said the rental market usually experienced intense churn in the first quarter, but limited supply and high demand has intensified this:

This imbalance has consequently fuelled a renewed acceleration in rental price growth.

AAP is also reporting that the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance has written to the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the foreign minister, Penny Wong, urging them to publicly call upon the US government to drop its charges against WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange.

This comes as Joe Biden said he is considering a request from Australia to drop the charges against Assange. You can read the full story on this below:

Want to share a story tip? You can get in touch via X @emilywindwrites, or send me an email:

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