The day that was, Thursday 1 June
We’re going to wrap up the Australia politics live blog for today.
Here’s what made the news:
The trade minister, Don Farrell, has encouraged Australia’s exporters not to put all their eggs in one basket of a trading market, even as Australia pursues a more stable relationship with China.
The education department awarded two contracts to PwC this year after the Tax Practitioners Board found unauthorised disclosures had been made of confidential government briefings.
Mining giant BHP has admitted it underpaid almost 30,000 workers more than $430m after incorrectly deducting leave from staff entitlements for more than a decade.
The federal government confirmed that early childhood workers will not get a pay increase from 1 July, despite a 15% pay increase coming for aged care workers from the budget.
The CSIRO board member David Knox was overpaid $200,000, but it has yet to be paid back, as it was only discovered in recent weeks, estimates heard.
The prime minister and deputy prime minister are headed to Singapore, with Anthony Albanese giving a keynote address at a defence dialogue before heading to Hanoi.
We’ll be back with you tomorrow. Until then, enjoy your evening.
PM’s enduring radio interview
The PM, Anthony Albanese, did an FM radio interview where – from what I gather – the hosts are trying to get a world record for hosting the longest interview ever. Here’s a bit of the conversation if you want a sense of what it’s like after they’ve been on air for 10 hours.
Cody: PM, I’ve got a question for you. Our anchor Josiah here, he’s the king of conspiracy theories. I would not normally ask you this on our show, but Josiah believes that Joe Biden is a robot. You’ve met him, can you confirm if he’s a real human or is he a robot?
Josiah: Or a clone?
PM: President Biden is a great man and he’s a friend of mine and he is doing, I think, a pretty amazing job.
Fevola: Wonderful job.
Josiah: But is he real?
PM: He is very, very real. And so is Dr Jill Biden, his other half. I spent a bit of time with them a week ago in Japan at the G7.
Cody: God you’re busy.
Fevola: Geez, you’re getting around.
CSIRO overpays board member $200,000
In senate estimates, the Greens senator David Shoebridge has been asking about the CSIRO board member David Knox, a one-time Santos chief executive. (There’s a broad theme here about links between CSIRO and fossil fuel companies – the CSIRO chief, Larry Marshall, said that Knox left Santos “many years” ago).
“CSIRO has become aware in this calendar year of an overpayment to Mr Knox. The value is approximately $200,000,” the chief operating officer, Tom Munyard, said.
“We’re working with the department at the moment to determine the exact situation.”
It was a “historical” overpayment”, Munyard said. He had only found out in recent weeks, and that they were investigating the cause of the overpayment and what to do next. “He has not paid it back as yet,” Munyard said.
Government rejects two online safety codes from industry
The eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, has refused to register two online safety codes proposed by industry, meaning she’ll now be able to develop her own and enforce them under the Online Safety Act.
The two codes she refused to register relate to codes covering apps, websites and file storage services such as iCloud, as well as one covering dating sites, online games and instant messaging.
Her concern is that neither of the codes developed by industry require the companies to detect and flag child abuse material or terrorism content being stored on their services – or in the case of messaging services being shared over encrypted applications.
Apple had previously backed away from plans to implement technology that would allow for flagging of such material held in iCloud.
Inman Grant said:
For eSafety, these and other basic requirements are non-negotiable, and while we don’t take this decision lightly, we feel that moving to industry standards is the right one to protect the Australian community. Both the codes and the industry standards, once developed, will apply equally to Australian and overseas providers where their services are provided to users in Australia.
She also reserved a decision over search engine codes because it had not included the recent integration of generative AI tools.
Apple and the industry body, Digi, were approached for comment but did not provide comments specifically about the rejected codes.
Malcolm Roberts still unsure about climate change science
Have pity for the head of the national science agency, Dr Larry Marshall, who is undergoing his 27th Senate estimates session. And it will be the CSIRO chief’s last – he gave quite a nice farewell speech as his opening statement.
But first, it’s yet another run in with One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts who delights in “doing his own research” and apparently believes he can single handedly bring climate change science undone.
After Roberts tables a document that he believes will prove him right, he gives a little speech on his trust being broken.
Marshall’s prepared, and unfurls a long chart of global temperatures. Unfortunately the standing orders ban props, so he rolls it up again, the session rolls on.
Alleged miaowing heard in NSW parliament
NSW coalition MPs will be cautioned about their behaviour after miaowing was allegedly heard while a female Labor minister answered a question in state parliament, AAP reports.
The cabinet minister Jenny Aitchison interrupted question time on Thursday to allege she had heard “a cat miaow” sound from the opposition benches.
But no MP owned up to making the sound, which Aitchison labelled offensive and said occurred while industrial relations minister Sophie Cotsis was addressing the house.
The behaviour of all NSW MPs and staffers has been under the spotlight since a year-long investigation by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick found one in five people who work at Parliament House have experienced sexual harassment in the past five years.
The opposition leader, Mark Speakman, who was seated well away from Aitchison, later told reporters he hadn’t heard the sound.
But if it did occur, it was unacceptable and he would be reminding MPs to treat everyone with respect.
“We are often going to have robust disagreement but at the end of the day, that’s a matter of basic courtesy and decency,” he said.
NBN Co sweetens satellite service plan amid growing competition
Australians living in regional and remote parts of Australia will now be able to get faster speeds on the NBN satellite service, with NBN Co launching “Sky Muster Plus Premium” plans that for the first time have no monthly data caps.
The 400,000 homes and businesses covered by the satellites will be able to order the service from today, with no data limit and download speeds of up to 100 megabits per second.
It followed a three-month trial with 10,000 users, and has been able to be achieved by NBN Co moving tens of thousands of users off the satellite service and onto the fixed wireless service, thus freeing up capacity.
Gavin Williams, NBN Co’s chief development officer for regional and remote, said:
This new plan will help more people thrive in the digital age like never before. Not having to worry about a monthly data allowance offers more flexibility in how and when people use their internet, and more time to do the things that matter most.
NBN Co said last week it was hoping the launch of this service will stem the loss of customers to competitors such as Elon Musk’s Starlink, as the company will need to start thinking of what will replace the satellites when they run out of fuel in 2030.
The PM, Anthony Albanese, won’t be meeting with the prime minister of Singapore, Lee Hsien Loong, who tested positive for Covid-19. Lee’s deputy will attend instead.
PM to head to south-east Asia
Anthony Albanese is about to begin his journey to Singapore for the whirlwind south-east Asia trip he has planned – after delivering the keynote speech at a defence dialogue in Singapore, he will head to Hanoi.
And with that, the house sitting is beginning to wind down. Estimates will continue into the afternoon, with another session tomorrow before everyone goes on break until 13 June when parliament resumes. That will be the last sitting before the winter break, so should be a FUN two weeks!
The blog will switch back to general news from tomorrow, but Politics Live and me will be back when parliament starts up again. I will get a wriggle on getting some more of your questions answered, so thank you and keep them coming.
Josh Taylor will take you through the late afternoon and evening, so stay tuned for what’s coming up (more estimates mess no doubt)
Thank you for joining us for what was a pretty chaotic couple of weeks – we truly appreciate it. As always – take care of you Ax
Malcolm Roberts continues to claim Covid vaccines unsafe
For our sins, we have been tuning into One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts questioning the health department over Covid vaccines – and secretary Brendan Murphy absolutely refuting the senator’s claims that the vaccines were not safe.
The hearing with the health department officials has been dominated by senators Canavan, Rennick and Roberts asking about the pandemic, including concerns about alleged “censoring” of social media posts and doctors. Roberts, in a line of questioning this afternoon, asked about the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency regulatory action against doctors who had raised concerns about vaccines.
Department officials denied they had been “censoring” – but that doctors were obliged to use “the best clinical evidence and medical judgment” when dealing with patients. Roberts was sceptical. But then Murphy, the chief medical officer through the first stage of the pandemic, interjected to refute Roberts.
Can I make a point, Senator Roberts keeps asserting there’s new evidence the vaccines are not safe or effective. We completely refute that suggestion. There’s no credible scientific evidence.
Roberts responded: “That’s a false statement.”
No sorry senator, I’m going on the best available scientific evidence and I do think you should be able to make that statement continually.
I’ll keep making the statement based on science.
The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, the minister responsible sitting at the table, said to Roberts in support of Murphy: “it can’t be left unchallenged”.
Roberts: “He can challenge it but I’m not convinced.”
The committee chair, Labor senator Marielle Smith, intervened to request that Roberts pose questions to the officials – not just utter statements.
The proceedings continue.
Mike Bowers was in the chamber as the Ben Roberts-Smith verdict was handed down:
No plan to increase pay of early childhood workers, Labor confirms
Over in Senate estimates, Senator Mehreen Faruqi has pointed to the federal government’s women’s economic equality taskforce which urged the government to introduce an interim pay rise for early childhood educators and aged care workers, backed by the union.
The budget includes a 15% pay rise for aged care workers from 1 July, but not for early childhood education workers.
A recent report from Anglicare has revealed early childcare workers are … in extreme rental stress, spending 68% of their income on rent and … barely able to survive on their current wages. People are leaving the workforce because of it.”
Assistant minister for education Anthony Chisholm said he valued the work they did and they should be “well remunerated”, while confirming there were no plans for an interim pay increase.
No contempt of parliament in breach of confidentiality during briefing
The Labor MP Daniel Mulino is giving an update on the breach of confidentiality in a private briefing the economics committee received from the RBA governor, Philip Lowe.
Information from the meeting was published in the Australian Financial Review, including that Lowe and Labor committee MPs got into a “discussion” over wage rises.
Mulino says the committee considered the matter of the leaks and agreed that yes, there had been an “unauthorised disclosure” which was a “clear contravention” of the standing orders, but that “on this occasion, the unauthorised disclosure is unlikely to have caused substantial interference to the work of the committee or the house, such as to amount to a potential contempt under the parliamentary privileges act”.
Which means no contempt of parliament.
Plus, everyone denied having been involved.
Each member of the committee and secretariat gave an assurance that they had not disclosed the contents of the committee’s report or proceedings to any person not authorised to receive the information.
In light of this, the committee’s view is that it would be difficult to determine with any certainty the source of the disclosure, it is highly regrettable that this serious breach of standards has occurred given that the economics committee is an important policy focused committee which has benefited greatly from good faith interactions with regulators, experts and stakeholders from across the financial sector and the broader economy.
I stressed that those who leaked confidential committee deliberations demonstrate a lack of respect for their colleagues and for parliament while undermining public trust in our democracy.
I want to remind again, all those involved with parliamentary committee processes of the importance of observing the rules against unauthorised disclosure of committee proceedings. Such breaches erode public trust, and have a clear in adverse impact on our work as committee members and as stewards of the parliaments reputation.
Question time ends
“And on that note, Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.”
So there it is. Question time ends until 13 June, when the sitting resumes.
There is a round of applause for a longtime staffer Belynda Zolotto, who has served the House of Representatives for 35 years.
That is quite the achievement.
Anthony Albanese has a rah-rah dixer about how great the government is going, and getting the caucus to say “hear hear” which means he is just about to end question time for the week.
Thank Dolly for small mercies.
‘Serious people’: Linda Burney on voice referendum working group
Back to question time and Melissa Price asks Linda Burney:
Does the minister agree with the following statement from a member of the government’s voice referendum working group and I quote, ‘The voice will be able to speak to all parts of the government including the cabinet ministers, public servants and independent statutory officers and agencies such as the Reserve Bank, the parliament won’t be able to stop the voice making those representations. It can’t shut the voice up,’ end of quote.
The referendum working group that the member refers to is a group of Indigenous people, both from the Torres Strait and from mainland Australia.
They include Ken Wyatt, the previous minister for Indigenous Australians in the last government. It includes people like Noel Pearson. It includes people like Megan Davis, it includes people like Pat Turner.
These are serious people and they have guided the government on the way in which we have conducted ourselves in relation to voice for the parliament.
There is also an engagement group and a legal expert group.
We have released a set of design principles that clearly answer the question that you have asked.
The design principles are about how the voice will be made up, how it will be chosen, and most importantly, what its role will be. It will be a body that will provide independent advice to the parliament, the executive on issues that affect First Nations people, things like health, things like housing, things like education the issues that are reported on every year in this house in the closing the gap report that is what the voice will contain itself to it will not have a veto power and it will not have a funding mechanism.
It will not deal with things like parking tickets. It will not involve itself in Anzac Day, as scaremongers have said this is a voice that is about improving the practical outcomes for First Nations people and it is absolutely about recognising the extraordinary history that everyone is chasing the chance of 65,000 years the story and culture your voice will enhance democracy in this country and it will enhance the way in which this parliament operates.
Labor not open to tieing student loans to indexation
The education minister has confirmed a coalition of independents approached him yesterday to call for action on the indexation on student loans.
On Monday, eight MPs wrote an open letter to Jason Clare urging him to freeze indexation before the 7.1% rate came into effect.
Asked if he was open to not tie student loans to indexation, he told 2GB:
No, I’m not, Ben, because this is the way that’s worked for 35 years, and if you make that change, then taxpayers pay more. The cost of degrees is important, but the cost of kids in western Sydney missing out in going to university at all is a massive problem. And if I’ve got more money to invest in higher education, that’s where I want it to go, to more kids from poor backgrounds to go to uni.
Turning to the NTEU report released today which found some degrees including those in arts and humanities would take in excess of 40 years to pay off, he pointed to changes to the costs of degrees under the Coalition’s Job Ready Graduates Scheme, which Labor hasn’t reversed.
Changes the last government made to Hecs … massively increased the cost of some degrees. It was intended to get more people to do teaching, and nursing hasn’t worked for a whole bunch of reasons.”
He said the University Accord, which will hand down its final report in December, was looking at that issue.
Gendered debate in Senate estimates
“Toxic masculinity is alive and well,” the Liberal senator Hollie Hughes has told Senate estimates. I can’t really get a handle on why”.
The context was a broader discussion about whether the National Reconstruction Fund was inflationary or not, and then Senator Tim Ayres had a teeny tirade about Trumpian politics and then Hughes said … that.
A bit later Hughes said she was “intrigued and quite honestly shocked” that (she says) the industry department did gender impact assessment work on the National Reconstruction Fund but not inflation or productivity modelling (department chief Meghan Quinn said all sorts of economic work is done). Then Hughes complains that the Labor senator Helen Polley has said “they don’t care about women”.
I’m a woman, I’m a mother of a daughter, I reject your claim and I ask you to withdraw it.
The chair, Labor senator Jess Walsh, said Hughes also said some unpleasant stuff (presumably referring to the toxic masculinity stuff).
Polley said she was happy to withdraw the comment she made “about the former government’s record on women”.
The National Reconstruction Fund was never going to be used for native tree logging, or coal or gas projects, Labor senator Tim Ayres has told senate estimates. The Greens helped the legislation for the $15 billion fund pass parliament after a deal with the government to ban the fund from spending money on coal, gas or native logging. Asked if those things were “ever contemplated”, Ayres said:
The fund was never envisaged to be directed towards primary production.
The Liberal party was against the fund, arguing it was inflationary, which is a line they’ve been running in economics estimates all day.
The fund’s purpose is to diversify the economy through investment in projects including renewables, transport, medical science, and defence, but it may be the vague “value adding” to forestry and resources that had people worried.
If you’re wondering where the education minister is on the three decade high indexation of student loans, he’s broadly in line with the chief executive of Universities Australia, ie, nothing to see here.
Speaking on 2GB this morning following National Tertiary Education Union reports some degrees could take more than four decades to pay off,Jason Clare reiterated while the costs of loans were going up, it didn’t mean students would pay more each year.
If we were to make a change to this today, [freezing indexation] it’d cost taxpayers money. It’d cost the people ... who may not have a university degree, they’d have to cop the bill. And it wouldn’t mean one extra dollar in the pockets of students today to help with those things, like paying for food and rent.”
He went on to tell Ben Fordham going to university “makes you money” and is “your ticket to the show”, and dismissed concerns made over the consideration of student loans in banks approving mortgages was pushing people out of the housing market.
I think the big issue there is the cost of housing.”
Greens quiz Labor on indexation of Hecs debts
The Greens MP for Brisbane, Stephen Bates, is asking about the indexation of Hecs/Help debts which went through today, which saw student debts increase by an average of $1700. Bates points out that prime minister went to university for free and asks:
Why did your government do nothing to stop this indexation and even go so far as to block the Greens’ bill to free student debt and abolish indexation?
As some who took well over a decade (well over) to pay off their Hecs debt, I know exactly how it would feel seeing how much money you have paid off and not have it count because of indexation.
Jason Clare takes the question and says:
If we make a change here what this means is that taxpayers in all of our electorates have to pay more.
And if we do what the Greens are suggesting, that’s taxpayers paying $9bn more.
But more than that … that means that fewer people go to university, … just a lucky few, a privileged few. And I want more people to go to university.
He continues about how he wants more people to go to university.
Labor questioned on implementing aged care royal commission findings
The independent MP Andrew Wilkie asks Anika Wells:
Most recommendations of the aged care royal commission have not been implemented, nor have the sector’s pleads for more funding been met. As a result, many service providers can’t reliably provide high quality care facilities are closing and numerous providers are facing difficult choices about where about whether they even stay in business.
Minister, beyond some extra nurses and a pay rise when will all 148 royal commission recommendations be implemented?
There are some scoffs at the “beyond some extra nurses and a pay rise”.
The Albanese Labor government has always recognised the steep challenges that face the aged care industry in this country and we’ve never shied away from the scale of the response required.
And I would argue that we have acted urgently in the first 12 months to address the scale of the crisis that we have confronted and that is why I traveled to the member’s home state of Tasmania earlier this year to listen to the workers and the residents and the facility managers on the ground to eight different facilities across Tasmania to hear their experiences and their ideas about how we address these problems and how we address them urgently and I would argue that we have a historic $36bn funding injection in the budget is something the scale of which has not been seen as parliament on aged care and I think that that’s important and meritorious.
Also this budget that is only three weeks old. It directly addressed 46 of the royal commission recommendations, I’m sorry 44 and that means that in our first 12 months in government of the 148 recommendations, we’ve now addressed 69 which is almost half.
And I accept there’s a long way to go and I’ve never shied away from the fact that we do have much more to do but to go from nine out of 148 in 15 months to 69 out of 148 in 12 months, I think expresses the scale of the urgency and the gravity that we take.
Liberals question communication minister’s acceptance of hospitality from the gambling industry
The shadow communications minister, David Coleman, has a question for Michelle Rowland, his government counterpart:
According to a recent analysis, the MP who has accepted the largest amount of tickets and hospitality from the gambling industry is the minister. The total number of ticket and hospitality packages from the gambling industry accepted by the minister is 10. Given her role in regulating gambling advertising, does the minister think this is appropriate?
The reason why the member knows that information is because I have declared it all as required by the parliament, as every member of parliament is required to do so. And the reason why it is declared is because I follow those rules.
Now I made it very clear some time ago in our public forum where the honourable member was also present that I had made a personal decision. Although I did comply with all the rules that I understood there was community concern around this issue, and I made a conscious decision that I would no longer accept any donations from gambling companies. Nor hospitality from gambling companies.
Now the honourable member was asked the same thing as I do recall, he was unable to answer that question himself. So the member may wish to reflect on his own behaviour in this regard.
Rowland then goes through what the Coalition failed to do in the space over the last decade and says the government remains committed to harm minimisation.
Ley continues attack line over grant
Sussan Ley is back.
My question is to the minister for health and I refer to media comments from the minister’s office last night claiming the minister had nothing to declare when ERC awarded the $23m cyber wardens grant.
At Senate estimates today it was confirmed the PM put in place a specific conflict of interest protocol for the minister on matters relating to 89 Degrees East. Given the minister is under this prime ministerial direction why didn’t he recuse himself from the decision to award this grant, which benefits 89 Degrees East?
Mark Butler is prepared for this question – Ley is referring to his wife, who has previously done work for 89 Degrees East.
I welcome this question because … I can tell you take the PM’s mandatory ministerial code of conduct very, very seriously and after my appointment as the minister for health, I made all of the appropriate declarations [to] the prime minister that are required by the code out of an abundance of caution.
That included my wife’s engagement at 89 Degrees East, in spite of the fact that her contract for services with that company had concluded in late 2021 in anticipation of the birth of our child, but given the possibility that she might enter a new contract for services at some point in the future, which she did, ultimately, in February of this year, arrangements are in place to manage any potential conflict consistent with long-standing practice for ministers of both sides of politics and their spouses.
Ley has a point of order on relevance. Tony Burke counters:
The minister has been clearly relevant to the question at this point before … the deputy leader is familiar with the concept of what it does look like when someone breaches the ministerial standards.
Paul Fletcher is OUTRAGED. Burke withdraws, the point of order is not relevant and Butler continues:
I can confirm that at no time has any matter been before me for a decision about that company. And were that to happen, I will manage that in accordance with long-standing arrangements, followed by both sides of politics, about potential conflicts between ministers and their spouses.
Dixer on AI
Not content with media interviews, a press release and a press conference, industry minister Ed Husic is now taking a dixer on the AI discussion papers which have been released today.
We. Get. It.
AI could write this speech by rote now.
Liberals question $23m grant to ‘Labor alliance company’
Sussan Ley is back with the next question and asks:
Ley: Through the budget process, this Labor government awarded a $23m Cyber Wardens grant without tender which will benefit the Labor alliance company at 89 Degrees East. A spokesperson for the minister for health quoted in the media confirmed the measure had been brought before the expenditure review committee of cabinet. Did any ministers declare a conflict of interest at the meeting of the Expenditure Review Committee (ERC) when this grant was approved?
Anthony Albanese says:
I’m not sure whether the deputy leader of the opposition has ever been on the ERC, but if she had ever been on an ERC she would know the answer [to] that question is obviously that the ERC doesn’t consider those levels of detail.
It is just never dealt with at a meeting of the expenditure review committee. It’s not what we do, when we’re putting together a budget. It’s not what the former government did or what not what it’s not what this government did.
So the grant that the member referred to was a grant to go to [the Council of Small Business Organisations Australia] and it’s a matter for them which contractors they engaged to administer the program.
Andrew Gee asks question on interest rate rises
The Nationals turned independent MP Andrew Gee wants to know what the government is doing to help stop interest rate rises.
Treasurer, today I’ve spoke to Scott Goodman from Mudgee [who] runs a small business with his wife called Mudgee Music … Scott told me that if interest rates keep rising Mudgee Music and other small businesses face a very bleak future. What is the government doing to bring interest rate relief to home and business owners … ?
Jim Chalmers runs through the recent comments from the RBA governor Dr Phillip Lowe that the budget did not add to inflation, and in fact, lowered inflation. He says they know they have to do more on supply chain issues and are making those investments.
There are no snarky comments or jokes – Chalmers runs through the answer like he’s speaking to a colleague, or carrying out a media interview, which is how the government treats the crossbench.
The Ben Roberts-Smith summary judgement is being handed down.
You can follow along with that here:
Has the government cut $1.5bn from the ADF?
Daniel Hurst, as always, has a fact check on that figure:
The Australian Strategic Policy Institute, which is part-funded by the Department of Defence, issued a report earlier this week titled ‘The big squeeze’;
The only increase in the Defence budget over the next three years is compensation for the increased cost of imported military equipment flowing from a fall in the value of the Australian dollar. Excluding this, the core funding of Defence (not including the Australian Signals Directorate) has actually been reduced at a time when unprecedented demands are being placed upon it. Between 2023-4 and 2025-6, Defence funding, excluding compensation for adverse foreign exchange movements, drops from $154bn to $152.5bn.
That is based on a comparison of the total funding over those three years and what had been earmarked in the Coalition’s March 2022 budget.
Liberals try an attack line on defence
Andrew Hastie gets a question and is VERY serious in how he delivers it:
In November, in a interview with the Australian newspaper the [prime minister said] that he would spend more whatever was necessary to produce a defence force that could defend Australia. But this week the Department of Defence confirmed in budget estimates that the government has cut $1.5bn [from] the ADF.
Australia is in the most challenging and strategic environment since the World War II. Why is a prime minister breaking promises and making it harder for the ADF to keep our country safe?
… The fact is … what we have done … is produce a defence strategic review … aimed at what assets does Australia need to defend ourselves? Where should they be placed? And actually delivering it.
If you can’t defend your country with a press release, and what we saw from those opposite is a press release, and indeed, [Hastie] has said this: ‘As the assistant defence minister, I saw a lot of waste. There are always savings to be made. So we are not arguing that there should be no cuts. We want to just make sure they are done in a considered way. If they are done, we also want certainty. Funding Aukus will require sacrifices’.
That is what the former assistant minister for Defence said …
Hastie tries to stop the pain with a point of order on relevance – there is no point of order.
Because on 31 October 2022, the member said this. ‘Yes, we squandered a lot of opportunity through the leadership changes’. He went on to say ‘it created ministerial churn, which led to inertia institutionally and I think it meant we delayed a lot of those decisions. It has been a criticism and I think a valid one’.
Hear hear. Hear hear. But of course it was consistent with his leader because he said this ... ‘I wish that we could have acquired more capability within Defence earlier’.
… If only he was in a position to do something as a Defence Minister to acquire more capability! Fair dinkum. The Nationals haven’t missed out either … the leader of the National party said this on 13 March: ‘I think Defence has to put their hand up and acknowledge that most of their procurement over many decades across many different governments has been ordinary at best. Ordinary at best’.
You have to ask the question while some of these people have jobs. Indeed you do.
Question time begins
Peter Dutton is very quick off the blocks with a question which ends with: when will the prime minister admit he got it wrong?
Anthony Albanese thanks Dutton for a “word salad” (because of the very long preamble), which is brave given some of the word salads the prime minister is known for. He goes through the government’s budget and other cost of living measures and then turns to Dutton’s budget reply speech, asking when they are going to get it costed.
Imagine if a Labor leader in the opposition had released a centrepiece of a budget reply three weeks later, said, well, it will all appear in due course and it might be hundreds of millions, it might be billions, we don’t know what it is, we don’t know what it will cost, we don’t know what the impact will be.
Fair dinkum. You are just not up to it.
Coalition attack prescription changes in 90-second statements
Over in 90-second statements (MP airing of the grievances) Coalition MPs are still talking about the 60-day prescription change (where you can get two months from one prescription, paying just one dispensing and handling charge).
There is a lot about how much pharmacists stand to lose (health department estimates show up to $158,000 lost in government dispensing fees in the fourth year) but no mention of the doubling of the rural pharmacy allowance, that the money will be reinvested into community pharmacies or that patients save money.
If you were after the Ben Roberts-Smith blog, you will find it here:
Final question time of this parliamentary sitting imminent
We are about to head into the final question time of the sitting which should be fun for absolutely no one.
Yesterday we saw pharmacists in the gallery as part of the Coalition’s tactics. Turns out Anthony Albanese knew one of them and was able to ask how her twins were.
So who knows what today will bring in terms of theatre.
Victorian Liberals vow to repeal removal of tax exemptions of private schools if elected
Victoria’s opposition spokesperson for education, Matt Bach, is holding a press conference at parliament after the head of the state’s Catholic schools wrote to Labor MPs urging then not to go ahead with its changes to payroll tax.
The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria’s executive director, Jim Miles, on Wednesday wrote to MPs warning them more than 21,000 students at about 20 schools will suffer if they lose their long-held exemption to payroll tax next year.
The change, revealed in last week’s state budget, means about 110 high-fee private schools will be required to pay tax on staff salaries, raising more than $420m over three years.
The Coalition has vowed to repeal it if elected in 2026. Bach says:
Every day we’re learning more about the true impact of the Labor government schools tax that announced just last week.
Today we’ve heard more in particular from Catholic schools, and so many Catholic schools with mid-range fees are going to be hit by this significant tax hike. We’ve learned today, for example, that for many schools with fees around $8,000 or $10,000, this new tax hike represent a 10% cut to their budgets.
You can’t cut 10% from the budget of any school without them leading to very significant fee increases in school fees.
Dreyfus: nothing stopping misinformation being included in government pamphlet on voice except ‘good judgement and moral conduct’
On the voice, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, was asked this morning whether there was anything stopping misinformation being included in the pamphlets being mailed out to Australians on both the yes and no cases.
The short answer is: no.
Q: There will be these official pamphlets produced … is there anything to prevent them containing misinformation?
The contents of the official pamphlet are effectively a 2,000 word essay for yes and a 2,000 word essay for no. They are to be written by the MPs in both Houses who have voted yes for the yes part of the pamphlet, and those parliamentarians, senators and members who have voted no are responsible for the no part of the pamphlet. It’s up to them what the pamphlet contains.
Q: So there’s not really anything to prevent them containing misinformation?
Good judgment and moral conduct should ensure that we have a respectful tone in this debate. And both the yes case and the no case that are presented to the Australian people in this pamphlet, which the Liberal party asked for.
They demanded that we have this pamphlet, which has been part of referendums in the past. Both sides are responsible for ensuring that we have a respectful tone in this debate, including in this pamphlet.
Q: Are you a bit blind to the realities of modern political campaigning by placing that much stock in in moral judgment?
Well, hope springs eternal and I have confidence in my colleagues in this parliament. They know the importance of respectful debate. They know the importance of reasoned debate, and they know that as a country, we have to go on working with each other whatever the outcome of this referendum.
But I know that Australia will be a better country if we have a yes, a resounding yes result at this referendum.
Back at the press club – the trade minister, Don Farrell, is also the special minister of state, so things like the referendum fall within his remit.
He was just asked about the voice at the press club and gave a breakdown of demographic support for and against the voice:
If it was held this Saturday, I think it would get up, there would be a majority of Australians voting for it and there would be a majority of states.
If I can break the [contigents] down into three groups, people under 35, very overwhelmingly in favour of a voice to Parliament. People 35-55, pretty evenly split. People over 55, generally a majority opposing.
I think that young cohort will be enough to counter the no vote and I think it will be the young people who will deliver an Indigenous voice for Australia.
This week’s Ray Hadley and Peter Dutton radio talk
Peter Dutton spoke to Ray Hadley for his weekly radio therapy session, where he once again spoke about the voice, this time claiming it would mean “literally thousands of additional public servants at the cost of billions of dollars to provide the advice and information on every area of government policy”.
There is no evidence of this. It does not take thousands of additional people or cost billions of dollars for public servants to provide evidence to senate estimates which cover every area of government policy. It does not take thousands of additional people or billions of dollars for advice to be provided to MPs who ask for it on any issue of government policy. It does not take thousands of additional people or cost billions of dollars to provide information to parliamentary committees which examine all areas of government policy.
But here is where Dutton is:
I think the government’s been very clear that the voice will be another bureaucracy on top of the ones that are already there, and I think you’re right to ask the questions about where the money’s being spent, because when you go into the communities, you’re walking around in communities where, in Alice Springs for example, in the town camps, people are living in dreadful circumstances, in squalor, and somebody is making money somewhere, but it’s not getting into the areas where it needs to – the schools, some schools are doing very well in some Indigenous communities, others are just not. The kids aren’t attending schools at the rates we would want them to.
The Canberra voice, ultimately, is a bureaucracy and it’s going to be literally thousands of additional public servants at the cost of billions of dollars to provide the advice and information on every area of government policy. The fact is, as the referendum working group has pointed out, this has a very wide-ranging remit and the voice won’t be silenced, as the Indigenous leaders are saying at the moment.
So that means they’ll have to be consulted on defence policy* and all the other issues, which will come at a huge cost to provide that expert advice in the bureaucracy that will need to be created, and it’ll be very expensive.
*This is a red herring
Liberals say national disability insurance agency not consulted over 8% NDIS growth target
The shadow minister for the NDIS, Michael Sukkar, says estimates have revealed that the NDIA (national disability insurance agency) was not consulted over the 8% growth target on the NDIS.
From Sukkar’s statement:
The government claimed the NDIA CEO, Rebecca Falkingham PSM, and chair, Kurt Fearnley, were consulted, yet through questioning we learned the views of the NDIA were not sought ahead of the imposition of the 8% cap.
… Falkingham admitted: ‘We were, however, not consulted on the 8% growth target in advance of what was being proposed for discussion at national cabinet.’
The government must now come clean with vulnerable NDIS participants and admit that no consultation took place with the NDIA.
With almost 600,000 participants on the scheme, Labor needs to explain how the arbitrary 8% cap decision was reached and who will have their NDIS plans cut in order to meet this cap.
Woolworths to take delivery fleet electric by 2030
Stepping out of politics for a moment – Woolworths has announced it will be decommissioning its fleet of 3,000 diesel trucks and go electric by 2030.
That starts with 27 electric trucks being put on the road in Sydney over the next two months. AAP reports climate groups have welcomed the announcement and hope it will put pressure on competitors to follow suit.
Woolworths’ chief executive, Brad Banducci, said the company made the commitment to electric trucks in an effort to cut 60% of its transport emissions by 2030.
“Not only can we help make our suburban streets quieter and cleaner, but we hope to set an example for other businesses to support the growth of Australia’s EV industry,” he said.
The commitment will see Woolworths decommission more than 3,000 internal-combustion-engine trucks, with the last added to its fleet in 2027, and put more than 1,200 electric trucks on roads for home delivery services.
The company, which began testing two electric trucks from Foton Motor and SAIC Motor in 2022, will also deploy 27 electric trucks over the next two months in parts of Sydney, including the city, inner west, eastern suburbs, Sutherland Shire and the St George region.
The trucks will be recharged at Woolworths’ Mascot and Caringbah fulfilment centres.
Senate hears education department has used Israeli spyware on at least three occasions
The Department of Education has used a controversial Israeli spyware that allows users to crack into smartphones and copy data on at least three occasions, Senate estimates has heard.
Yesterday in Senate estimates it was revealed Service Australia – first reported by Guardian Australia to have used the software in 2021 – also offers it to other agencies and departments when it may assist in investigating financial offences against the commonwealth.
The federal government has been facing pressure to ban Services Australia from using the spyware.
Asked by Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi if the department had used Cellebrite’s technology, they confirmed they had used it for the most serious fraud investigations with an AFP warrant on three occasions since 2018.
The first assistant secretary, Tristan Reed, said an example would be collecting information from phones of suspected people committing childcare subsidy fraud. Asked how long data was stored for and where it was stored, he asked to answer on notice (that is, he will look into it and report back).
Australia will resume WTO application against China if sanctions remain on Australian barley
The trade minister, Don Farrell is also asked about the barley review China is undertaking to see whether the sanctions it placed on Australian barley will remain (China offered the review just before what was going to be an averse finding from the World Trade Organisation, where Australia had raised a case).
Q: With the barley review, would you accept anything less than a full revocation of the sanctions? All sanctions go or no deal?
We have got a free trade agreement with China. It has got certain provisions in it and we want the Chinese government to comply with their obligations under that free trade agreement. That is our expectation and that is what we have asked for.
If we find ourselves in a situation where, having shown an act of goodwill to suspend our WTO application and we don’t get the result we want, we have made it clear to the Chinese government that we will resume that application.
Trade minister says Australia happy to extend negotiations with EU on free trade
Our own Daniel Hurst is at the national press club and notes that the EU ambassador to Australia, Gabriele Visentin, is in the audience – Don Farrell namechecked him in saying that Australia would be happy to extend negotiations with the EU to get the right free trade deal.
Trade minister addresses national press club
Over at the national press club, the trade minister, Don Farrell, is giving the address.
He is talking free trade agreements and why they are good – but the questions will mostly be focused on China.
No need to ‘worry’ about Hecs loan: Universities Australia boss
The chief executive of Universities Australia Catriona Jackson appeared on ABC radio today, telling listeners she completely understood why people are concerned about the 7.1% increase on student loans that came into effect from today, while also assuring “one thing students don’t need to worry about is a Hecs loan”:
While the size of the debt will get bigger today, it doesn’t mean you are paying more next week out of your tax or the week after or the week after … it’s that the term of the loan gets longer.
Pointed to the fact lending institutions consider Hecs in the same way as other loans, Jackson said the system was designed to remove barriers to education:
At the moment, there’s a great big review going on of all the higher education policy settings. We are really pleased to see this. We’ve been asking for this, just a bit of a freshen up, a good look at Hecs just to make sure that it’s serving that original policy intent.
When we had, in inverted commas, free degrees – they were never free. The taxpayer paid for them. A very small proportion of the population went to university. We’re talking single digits proportions. Now, it’s about 40% of the young population, people who are fairly young. And that’s just really fired our development as a country.”
More than a dozen nations across the world have free tertiary education in some form including Norway, where 55% of 25- to 34-year-olds have a degree – a similar rate to Australia.
I learned a new term in today’s Senate estimates – “debris neutral”.
The Australian Space Agency is up and the Greens senator Peter Whish-Wilson is asking about space junk. He points out that the European Space Agency is aiming to no longer be adding to the net waste orbiting the Earth by 2030 – ie, to become debris neutral.
Agency chief Enrico Palermo said space was getting more contested and congested and that Australia had a role to play in reducing space junk, including by tracking debris and developing niche technologies.
The agency doesn’t yet have a target, he said, but is working on sustainability with partners including the United Nations committee on the peaceful uses of outer space:
We are actually right now working with international partners on a sustainability framework … for space matters. In our regulations or rules today, there are debris mitigation guidelines.
I’d say this is an emerging area of research for us.
Whish-Wilson then asked about the marine environment, as in what happens when a big chunk of rocket splashes down.
“There are certain parts of the earth they target for re-entry,” Palermo said, which I am only including here as an excuse to revisit this story:
Pocock doesn’t rule out running lower house candidates
Earlier the crossbench held a press conference outlining their call for the Albanese government to end native forest logging.
Those in attendance included independent MPs Monique Ryan, Allegra Spender, Sophie Scamps, Kate Chaney, Green Elizabeth Watson-Brown and senators David Pocock and David Shoebridge.
I asked Pocock if he might increase his leverage over the government by running candidates in the lower house at the next federal election – which he didn’t rule out. Labor holds all three House of Representatives seats (Andrew Leigh, Alicia Payne and David Smith).
My focus is obviously representing the ACT as an independent senator. A lot of people do ask if I’m thinking about running candidates. My priority at the moment is serving people of the ACT, consulting with them, being accessible, being accountable and ultimately voting on their behalf. It feels like a long way off so we’ll wait and see.
Earlier, Ryan said that push on native forest logging had “additional support from the Senate crossbench” which is interesting because Greens, Labor and Pocock still leaves them a vote or two short (depending on if Lidia Thorpe votes with the Greens).
Shoebridge said he would be “astounded” if Labor couldn’t put together a progressive majority in the Senate, and suggested Coalition senators may cross the floor over the issue even if the Coalition itself wasn’t in favour.
Health department yet to advise on future Covid inquiry
Health department secretary Brendan Murphy says his department is “ready and willing to participate” in a royal commission into the handling of Covid, but that the government hadn’t yet asked them for advice or timing for such an inquiry.
Murphy, the chief medical officer during the early stages of the pandemic, told Senate estimates that the government hadn’t asked “specifically” for advice on a royal commission – but noted it “may not be auspiced by the department of health” when it eventually occurs.
The timing was “a decision for government”, said Katy Gallagher – who, it must be pointed out, is in fact a very senior member of the government as the finance minister, and the minister representing at the estimates committee:
It’s a matter before government... they [health department] will be appropriately involved.
We will deliver on our commitments.
Gallagher said a decision hadn’t been taken about the timing of an inquiry, or the nature of such an inquiry – also not committing explicitly to actually holding a royal commission, when asked what kind of inquiry it would be. Anthony Albanese has long said there would be an inquiry, but said it wouldn’t be while Covid was still an issue in the community and responsible agencies were still dealing with it.
Nationals senator Matt Canavan, asking the questions at this point in the hearing, noted that it would be some time before Covid was no longer an issue.
Albanese’s meeting with Singapore PM in doubt
Anthony Albanese was supposed to meet with Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong as part of his attendance at the Shangri-La Dialogue but that looks in doubt after Lee tested positive for Covid again, in what is being called a “Covid rebound’.
Lee had tested positive on 22 May, but tested negative on Sunday. He has since tested positive again. The dialogue starts tomorrow and Albanese leaves for Singapore this afternoon, having been invited to deliver the keynote address tomorrow night.
There will still be high-level bilateral meetings, it is just unlikely Albanese will meet with Lee, if he is still testing positive. After Singapore, Albanese will head to Vietnam.
I know quite a few of you miss the below the line comments being open on the Politics Live blog – we do too. And I am getting your messages about it.
This is just a note to say that given how many issues are before the courts at the moment, everyone is just being safe. And a reminder that in Australia, what you publish on social media is considered publishing in the eyes of the law, and subject to the same laws as a media site.
Stay safe out there and take care of you Ax (and you can always email me or hit me up on the socials if there is something you need me to know)
The New South Wales minister for the prevention of domestic violence, Jodie Harrison, has made an impassioned plea for all people to work together to end domestic violence after two shocking deaths in recent days.
Harrison shared her sadness and distress at the deaths of a three-year-old boy in Riverwood on Wednesday afternoon and 34-year-old mother Tatiana Dokhotaru’s over the weekend.
During question time, she said:
This week has seen two horrendous examples… The impact on families and communities is nothing short of devastating.
She said women and children needed to feel safe at home and detailed the shocking numbers of domestic violence reports the state’s police force was dealing with:
There is an urgent need for joined-up, collaborative systems, which is sensitive to the early signs of domestic violence and can offer a whole system’s approach responsive in ways that are appropriate and effective… I ask everyone in the community if you see it, if you hear it, report it. If you see unacceptable behaviour towards women, call it out you. Women’s rights are human rights and we must all play our part in protecting them.
The ACT victims of crime commissioner says Brittany Higgins became upset when a senior police officer told her to stop speaking with the media about her alleged rape in Parliament House or risk having the case thrown out.
The commissioner, Heidi Yates, is giving evidence before an independent board of inquiry established to investigate the ACT criminal justice system’s handling of the case.
Yates has been criticised, including by police, for her role in supporting Higgins.
Higgins alleged her former Liberal party colleague Bruce Lehrmann raped her in a minister’s office in Parliament House in March 2019.
Lehrmann, who pleaded not guilty to one count of sexual intercourse without consent, has always denied the allegation of rape and no findings have been made against him.
Yates told the inquiry that after an interview with police on 26 May 2021, Detective Superintendent Scott Moller told Higgins that the charge could not go ahead and it would “all be for nothing” if she continued to speak with the media.
Yates said that Moller had previously made similar statements, but on this occasion he was louder, harsher, used his hands to emphasise his point, and it was “directive, rather than informative”.
She said Higgins “started to slump in her chair, she started looking down, and I believe she started to cry”.
Yates said she immediately intervened, telling the inquiry she had previously dealt with other complainants in sexual assault matters who blamed themselves for charges collapsing, and wanted to ensure Higgins and police knew it would not be the complainant’s fault if a similar outcome occurred in the Lehrmann case.
Former Queensland solicitor general Walter Sofronoff, who is chairing the inquiry, said that it appeared Moller was saying two things: that Higgins should not speak to the media, and that if she did the case would collapse.
Yates confirmed to Sofronoff that her reason for intervening was related to the second element of Moller’s directive: that Higgins would be to blame if the case collapsed.
The inquiry continues.
AOC launches reconciliation action plan
After working with its Indigenous advisory committee over the past year the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) has today launched its reconciliation action plan (RAP) at the National Centre of Indigenous Excellence in Redfern today.
It comes after the AOC last month announced its support for an Indigenous voice to parliament.
Olympian and Kaanju man Patrick Johnson, who is the chair of the AOC’s Indigenous advisory committee, said reconciliation “must be led by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people”:
My message is simple. Don’t walk in front of us, don’t walk behind us, walk with us. And through this RAP journey, that is what we are determined to do.”
The president, Ian Chesterman, said:
The AOC’s vision is a nation where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and other Australians walk together in unity in a reconciled Australia. The support of our Indigenous Advisory Committee [IAC], chaired by Patrick Johnson has been central to bringing that vision to life. That message of ‘walking together’ is so critical.
As in Tokyo, Olympian Kyle Vander-Kuyp, a proud Worimi and Yuin man, will provide support on the ground for Indigenous olympians in Paris as well as inform and engage with non-Indigenous Team members. In Tokyo, a record 16 Indigenous athletes represented Australia, bringing the total of known Indigenous olympians to 60. Kyle’s presence in Tokyo was invaluable for those athletes and the broader team. His impact in Paris, now in the elevated role of Deputy Chef de Mission, will be even greater.
Last week more than 20 major sporting organisations united in support of the voice to parliament. Many of the major codes – including AFL, NRL, Rugby Australia, Football Australia, Netball Australia, Tennis Australia and Cricket Australia – had already confirmed their support but came together to publish an open letter to all Australian sport fans, saying: “We, as a collective, support recognition through a voice.”
BHP admits $430m in worker underpayments
Mining giant BHP underpaid almost 30,000 workers more than $430m after incorrectly deducting leave from staff entitlements for more than a decade.
The issue largely relates to the miner wrongly deducting annual leave from rostered employees for public holidays since 2010. Public holidays are typically not counted as annual leave under most contracts.
BHP, one of the world’s biggest miners, said remediation costs would total up to US$280m pre-tax, which equates to $430m.
BHP said it had found a similar issue at copper and gold miner OZ Minerals, which it took over earlier this year.
We are sorry to all current and former employees impacted by these errors. This is not good enough and falls short of the standards we expect at BHP,” said Geraldine Slattery, who heads BHP’s Australian business.
We are working to rectify and remediate these issues, with interest, as quickly as possible.”
BHP said it reported the issue to the Fair Work Ombudsman, which oversees workplace laws.
Industry and science minister Ed Husic is talking about the two discussion papers on AI he has released today.
It’s about not allowing Skynet to happen. Kinda. It’s about putting safeguards in place around how the technology can be used.
I want to assure you obviously that we’re not starting from scratch, as I mentioned Australia already has laws and guardrails in place, but in this discussion are they enough?
We want the experts and the community to be able to step forward with their views and to provide contributions on that. Over an eight-week process we will be accepting submissions.
After that point in time, we will obviously take those on board.
Coalition MP accused of meowing at female minister in NSW state parliament
The New South Wales regional transport minister, Jenny Aitchison, has accused a coalition politician of meowing at a female government minister during question time.
Aitchison told the parliament she had heard a “cat’s meow” coming from the coalition benches shortly after the industrial relations minister, Sophie Cotsis, began speaking in the house.
She did not name the member she believed had made the noise but invited them to withdraw it.
The speaker, Greg Piper, then warned the parliament against such conduct, saying he would take action against them.
The Sydney MP Alex Greenwich described it as “appalling behaviour”.
Well, he had to cancel his Australian trip for the Quad meeting because of it, but the US house of representatives has voted for a bipartisan bill to raise the debt ceiling, so Joe Biden’s change of plans was not for naught.
Ben Roberts-Smith verdict due today
The federal court in Sydney will soon hand down its verdict in the blockbuster defamation case brought by Ben Roberts-Smith against three newspapers. The court will decide whether Australia’s most decorated living soldier was defamed by a series of newspaper articles accusing him of murdering unarmed civilians while serving in Afghanistan.
The trial has been one of the most dramatic and costly defamation cases in memory. We are expecting a judgment to be handed down at 2.15pm in the federal court in Sydney, delivered by Justice Anthony Besanko.
We will be running a seperate live blog to bring you those updates as they happen – I will also make a very quick reference to it on Politics Live as well.
Dfat questioned over Socceroos friendly in China
The Socceroos’ plan to play a match in China against Argentina has been raised during Senate estimates today.
The Coalition was seeking to verify a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that the match, to be held at the Beijing Workers’ Stadium on 15 June, had “the support of the Australian government” amid ongoing efforts to stabilise relations with China.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials told the hearing that Australia had provided some logistical support and advice about travelling to China.
Under the protection of parliamentary privilege, the opposition’s assistant spokesperson for foreign affairs, Claire Chandler, told the Senate’s foreign affairs, defence and trade committee:
The issue isn’t that we’re playing a football match in China, it’s that the promoter appears to be associated with the United Front.
Asked whether Australia did any due diligence over other organisations that might be involved, Dfat deputy secretary Elly Lawson told the committee:
We don’t scrutinise football match partners. If they approach us for a briefing we’re very happy to provide that briefing. If there was any allegation of interference, that would be a matter for other agencies. Of course the government takes any allegation of interference very seriously or any kind of influence, but that would be a matter for other agencies to address or speak to.
The Labor senator Malarndirri McCarthy, representing Penny Wong at the table, adds that the Socceroos are “world class”:
I certainly have confidence in what they are trying to do to build relationships through the sporting code not only in China but around the country and around the world.
(Note: the Guardian also reported the match had government support: Here is a line from the Football Australia media release: “I would also like to extend our gratitude to the promoters, China Rainbow International Investment Co. Ltd for their ambition in organising this match, along with Beijing Football Association and Chinese Football Association plus the Chinese and Australian governments for their respective support,” Johnson continued.
And here was our article on it: https://www.theguardian.com/football/2023/may/22/socceroos-lock-in-friendly-against-world-champions-argentina-in-china)
Hecs indexation comes into effect
Shadow education minister Sarah Henderson has raised the very punishing Hecs indexation rate in Senate estimates. Today, a 7.1% increase was applied to three million Australians’ student loans (yippee!)
This is crippling for so many Australians who are suffering from cost of living pressures. Already, mortgage brokers … are warning this will impact on Australians’ ability to secure a loan. It appears the minister has no solutions in sight … this is D-Day for three million Australians.”
Education department secretary Tony Cook said the education minister had instructed the department to speak to the ATO in relation to how and when debts are indexed.
Meanwhile, fellow debt-holders across Twitter have woken to “D-day” (myself included) and it feels thrillingly terrible.
Fair work’s awards system ‘badly outdated’, says Allegra Spender
Wentworth independent MP Allegra Spender wants the Fair Work Commission to get a wriggle on with the review of awards the government promised as part of the IR negotiations:
A key condition of the crossbench agreement to support the government’s IR laws was a Fair Work Commission review of awards.
Now we learn in estimates that rather than a matter of urgency, Fair Work Australia isn’t even aware if the minister has written to the commissioner.
Our awards system is badly outdated and urgently in need of simplification. The awards are too complex. It’s a drag on productivity that wastes time and resources and discourages businesses from expanding and taking on new employees. Businesses I know have hired two sets of auditors reviewing their payroll just to make sure they haven’t made an unintended mistake.
Daniel Andrews rebukes Catholic education sector over payroll tax campaign
Daniel Andrews has hit back at the state’s Catholic education sector which slammed his government for stripping its schools of a payroll tax exemption.
The reform, announced in last week’s state budget, means about 110 private schools will be required to pay tax on staff salaries, raising more than $420m over three years. On Wednesday the Catholic education commission (CECV) wrote to all state Labor MPs, saying the tax would impact hard-working, middle-class families and “damage” the relationship with the Andrews government.
Speaking to reporters, Andrews said the government had a “historic” partnership with the CEVC and independent schools:
You can’t have it both ways. Taxpayers across the state, because of commitments that we made as a government, are providing $450m in capital grants to low-fee Catholic and independent schools... I would politely remind the Catholic education commission of that fact.
The CEVC said the tax reform would impact about 20 of its schools and could wipe up to $1m off their operating budgets.
Assange matter gone on ‘too long’, says Dreyfus amid reports of new investigation
Attorney-general Mark Dreyfus was asked about reports the FBI was attempting to find evidence against Julian Assange, with his biographer being interviewed, which is dimming hopes that the US will drop its attempts to extradite him.
Speaking to ABC radio RN Breakfast, Dreyfus was asked:
Q: On another issue, news reports this morning suggests the FBI is reportedly seeking to gather new evidence against Julian Assange, interviewing his biographer. You’ve repeatedly said this case should be brought to a close. Were you aware that there’s an additional or a new investigation taking place?
Until I read that this morning, no. But our position has been very clear for a long time now that this matter has gone on for too long. And that remains our position.
Q: And what’s your view of a fresh investigation?
I’m not going to comment, Hamish, because this matter has gone on for too long and we’re doing everything we can to make sure that it’s brought to an end.
There is some flustering going on in Senate estimates as the department of education is taken to task for its nine contracts with PwC, two of which were entered into in the past two months.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi:
Given the department signed contracts to PwC knowing their massive ethical and governance failures, I don’t know how people can have confidence in what’s going on, but are you still prepared to keep those contracts ongoing?
Department secretary Tony Cook said this was a “broader question about procurement more broadly”.
I don’t have a reason in relation to the contract terms [to suspend them] … but we’ll continue to look at that in terms of PwC performance.
Asked how the department can have confidence PwC won’t use confidential government information for commercial gain, Cook said:
That’s why we’ve provided advice to our staff [less than a week ago] … we’ll continue to work with Finance and Treasury about contractors … and how we can ensure they keep information confidential.
The department also said it had commenced a review, the results of which didn’t have a timeline but were expected to be released in weeks, not months.
Dfat says 174 Australians still in Sudan
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it is aware of 174 Australians who remain in Sudan.
Kate Logan, a first assistant secretary, has told Senate estimates that this number included about 70 family groups. Many were seeking to either come to Australia or move to a safer place in Sudan:
Those family groups are all seeking assistance. It’s fair to say … some of them are citizens and passport holders, some of them are visa holders and some have neither.
Logan acknowledged slow progress. One issue was local travel documents:
It’s very difficult for people to get Sudanese travel documents when they’re visa holders, so that is a big line of effort for us.
The independent MP for Wentworth, Allegra Spender, has a long- term project looking at tax reform ideas. Spender is holding tax roundtables with a variety of experts, which she will use to inform her own tax reform white paper and present to the government, with the hope some of the reforms will be taken up at the next election.
Given the state of tax reform conversation in this country, it is an … ambitious aim. But Spender has had some big names attend – Ross Garnaut and Nicholas Gruen are on the list for the one next week.
Ukraine says it needs Australia in ‘tank coalition of free nations’
So it seems Ukraine is using the direct approach now.
Yesterday in estimates, Daniel Hurst reported that the secretary of the Department of Defence, Greg Moriarty, was questioned over the “secrecy” over what Australia was delivering to Ukraine and replied:
Senator, I don’t accept that we are being secretive – we are delivering the equipment in a methodical way.
We’ve delivered a substantial amount of what the government has committed. What we seek to protect – and I think senators very much appreciate this – is how many vehicles are delivered on what days via what routes into where.
I think that is really important to protect that information, not just in terms of vehicles but the range of equipment. But the government is concerned to be transparent with the Senate about the way in which we are approaching that gifting. The gifting is ongoing.
Ukraine has now entered the chat:
Education department only received advice on PwC contracts in May
The education department only received official advice on its nine contracts with PwC on 25 May this year, months after it went public that a former adviser in the company had revealed confidential information from Treasury.
Asked by Senator Mehreen Faruqi if it was putting in place processes to ensure that confidential information wasn’t revealed, the department of education’s Marcus Markovic said:
We have provided advice to staff to ensure officers undertaking procurement activities take into account the conduct of firms as part of their value for money assessment.
And that process wasn’t in place before now?
The latest advice we’ve got now is far clearer.
Asked when that advice was received, the department said an email had been sent from the finance secretary on 25 May and the department acted “on the same day, or not long after”.
That’s very disturbing I’m sorry to say.
Yesterday, housing minister Julie Collins appointed two part-time members to the National Housing Finance and Investment corporation, which was published on the Gazette:
I, Julie Collins, Minister for Housing, Minister for Homelessness and Minister for Small Business, under subsection 18(1) of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation Act 2018, appoint Nigel Ray and Richard Wynne as members of the Board of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation, on a part‑time basis, for a period of five-years beginning on the day after this instrument is registered on the Federal Register of Legislation.
You may recognise the name Richard Wynne – he was the Victorian Labor housing minister until June 2022 when he retired.
Education department awarded contracts to PwC after knowledge of unauthorised disclosures
The department of education entered into two contracts with PwC this year after the tax practitioners board found unauthorised disclosures had been made of confidential government briefings.
Appearing before Senate estimates, Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi asked the department how many current contracts the department had with PwC and when they had been entered into.
The department of education’s Marcus Markovic replied that they had nine current contracts with PwC worth $8.2m dating back to 2021. All were still current, with the last one entered into on 20 April 2023.
Asked why it had awarded contracts to PwC after there was knowledge of unauthorised disclosures, made on 23 January, secretary Tony Cook said the department was “obviously gravely concerned” about the behaviour of PwC and the contracts were ordered through an independent procurement process.
We have taken actions in relation to seeking advice from PwC … we are waiting on that response. We have made decisions … they were suitable for the type of role that the contract was seeking the expertise on.
Faruqi said it was “absolutely shocking” the department still entered into contracts after the revelations.
Don’t you have processes in the department that ensure that type of thing doesn’t happen?
Australia’s most decorated living soldier, Ben Roberts-Smith, will find out this afternoon the outcome of his case against three of the country’s most trusted newspapers. He has sued them for defamation over articles he says falsely accuse him of war crimes.
We made a five-part podcast series about the case that you can catch up on here and we’ll have a special new episode out in the morning that analyses the judge’s decisions.
Dfat secretary says capability review was not intended for full public release
There is some back-and-forth in Senate estates about the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s capability review.
The Coalition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Simon Birmingham, wants a copy of the review, which looked into what Dfat needs to do over the next 10 years to best make Australia’s case on the world stage and respond to new trends.
The Dfat capability review was conducted by an internal taskforce, but relied on advice from the late foreign policy analyst Allan Gyngell, the former Australia Post boss Christine Holgate and former Australian federal police commissioner Andrew Colvin.
The secretary of Dfat, Jan Adams, says the review was undertaken as an internal management tool and was not intended for full public release, but she takes the issue on notice, prompting this exchange:
Are you aware of a Guardian story entitled “Australia’s diplomatic network has ‘serious gaps’ and needs boost, review warns” dated 8 May 2023?
Yes, senator I am aware of that report.
Does that report quote from that review?
That report quotes selectively from and slightly takes out of context a statement that is in the foreword of the capability plan that was written by the late Allan Gyngell AO.
How was that part of the plan released publicity or provided to the Guardian?
Well, not by me. That’s really all I can say for certain.
Adams goes on to say that she will table the foreword to the review, which “provides the context for the quote that you have referenced from the media article”.
The full original story – including the context – can be found here:
Industry department reviews PwC contracts
Bums were barely in seats for economics Senate estimates before PriceWaterhouseCoopers questions kicked in. The Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne asked about existing contracts, and how confident the industry department (who is first up this morning) could be that PwC wouldn’t misuse confidential information.
The department has five live contracts, but has “taken steps” to seek assurance on the protection of information, and also has updated procedures and new clauses in contracts.
Department secretary Meghan Quinn said:
We are reviewing our engagement with PwC and we’re working through the contracts on a case by case basis.
Catch up on all things PwC here:
While Victoria’s lower house isn’t sitting today, the upper house is kicking on. Lucky us. This morning, several MPs are giving the house notice of motions they intend to move next sitting week. There’s a couple interesting ones in the mix.
Liberal MP Nick McGowan will move a motion calling on the Andrews government to change the road rules to ensure drivers have headlights switched on at all times.
He pointed to a Monash University study last month that found daytime running lamps (DRLs) – which automatically turn the lights on when the car’s handbrake has been released – can reduce the risk of crashing by up to 20%.
While most new cars have DRLs as standard, McGowan is calling on all drivers to switch on their lights, saying it’s “common sense” and “costs nothing”.
Animal Justice party MP Georgie Purcell is introducing a motion to amend the Crimes Act to make it illegal for Victorians to possess animal “crush” videos. She says these videos are pornographic in nature and involve the torture of animals, usually puppies and kittens.
In 2021, NSW became the first state in Australia to ban such videos after they began to infiltrate the dark web.
Sarah Henderson says Labor ‘tone deaf’ on cost of living
As Amy reported a little earlier, the shadow minister for education has given Labor an “F” for education with student debts to rise by billions as the latest indexation rate comes into effect.
That’s despite her party introducing the Job Ready Graduates Scheme, which increased the prices of some degrees including arts. The NTEU today released a report estimating graduates could take in excess of 40 years to pay back their Hecs in large part due to the Coalition’s reforms.
Senator Sarah Henderson:
Today, some 3 million Australians will be hit with a crippling 7.1% increase in their student loans. Fuelled by Labor’s high inflation, this is the highest Hecs indexation rate in more than 30 years.
For the past decade, indexation averaged 2% per year. After so many bad decisions and broken promises from this government, education minister Jason Clare is clearly tone deaf to the cost of living of crisis Australians are facing.
Henderson did not put her name to an open letter signed by eight MPs to immediately freeze indexation but said the government should instead cancel its Startup Year loans scheme.
The industry minister, Ed Husic, has released two discussion papers on how to deal with the growing influence of AI.
The government’s Safe and Responsible AI in Australia discussion paper and the National Science and Technology Council’s paper Rapid Response Report: Generative AI can be found here.
The aim is to establish safeguards over the development and use of the technology.
Julie Collins attacks Greens and Coalition over housing bill
The housing minister, Julie Collins, spoke to the Property Council last night, targeting the Greens and Coalition for refusing to pass Labor’s Housing Australia Future Fund bill.
As you would be aware the legislation to establish the fund is currently being held up in the Senate. We’ve heard all kinds of arguments from those opposing the fund. It’s too much. It’s too little. It’s too soon. It’s not soon enough. These excuses will sound painfully familiar for all of you in this room. The very same excuses get trotted out in local councils across the country to stop the development of more housing. And no one is louder than representatives from the Greens political party. The Greens are not alone – the Coalition continue to stand in the way of the Housing Australia Future Fund, holding up desperately needed homes. Labor will not apologise for wanting more for those who need them most. This debate on the Housing Australia Future Fund has made it crystal clear Labor is the only party who will always back more homes. We will continue making this case and continue to talk to other parties and Senators about the Housing Australia Future Fund.
Labor has support from the Jacqui Lambie Network and David Pocock to pass the housing bill. Negotiations continue with the Greens.
The Greens housing spokesman, Max Chandler-Mather, spoke to Joe Hinchcliffe about his local advocacy and the appropriateness of particular housing developments over the weekend.
The flu and Covid season is having a wide impact with people having to cancel their blood donation appointments.
Donors have saved so many lives, including mine and so many people I care about. I’m sure it’s true for you too. If you can, make an appointment to donate.
James Paterson says response to Lowe’s housing comments ‘a bit unfair’
Liberal senator James Paterson thinks that the RBA governor, Philip Lowe, has received a bad rap for his comments on housing in yesterday’s Senate estimates hearing.
Lowe suggested people go back to sharehousing or live with their family for longer to bring down aggregate demand and higher rents for housing. Rent increases, which Lowe said could get as high as 10% (in the aggregate), are occurring because the RBA is raising rates and those increases are being passed on to tenants. But rents are also one of the main drivers of inflation. So the higher rents go, the bigger its impact on inflation, meaning the RBA once again considers raising rates. And so on and so on.
Paterson said Lowe made the comments after pointing out that while the population had increased by 2%, housing stock had not:
I think people are being a bit unfair. Actually, the substance of his evidence to the committee yesterday was supply is the best solution for the housing affordability crisis that we have. And the best thing we can do is build more homes for more people, and therefore that will help solve the problem. What he did also acknowledge is that that is a slow response, that you can’t build homes overnight, that it takes time and resources and people to do that. And so, he’s just recognising that the falling rate of people occupying homes or the lower number of people occupying homes is putting pressure on the market.
Dfat estimates have begun with Malarndirri McCarthy in the minister’s chair.
She thanks the committee for its understanding and conveys “Senator Wong’s apologies for not being here today following the passing of her father on Tuesday”.
Andrew Leigh plays down inflation concerns
There was obviously a lot of commentary over the monthly inflation rate which came down yesterday, showing a 6.8% increase since April last year.
Fuel drove a lot of that – last April, the Morrison government fuel excise was in place. That expired, so fuel is more expensive compared to last year.
Andrew Leigh said that is one reason why the number, while larger than predicted, is not cause for huge concern.
He told Sky News late yesterday:
The monthly inflation number is just an inflation indicator at this stage. It’ll be a full inflation measure from next year, but right now it doesn’t cover the full basket, so you should expect it to be a little bit more volatile. When you strip fuel out of the equation, then inflation actually falls on this monthly number and the fuel number seems to be largely driven by indexation, which, as you know, happens twice a year. So, I don’t think it’s a major cause for concern. Most economists would agree that the inflation peak has passed.
Potential strike action at Queensland’s Callide and Kogan power stations
The mining and energy union is warning of potential strike action at Queensland’s Callide and Kogan power stations after pay negotiations broke down with a labour contractor over cleaning services.
The union is applying to the Fair Work Commission to take industrial action to address the issue of cleaning contractors being paid $5 less an hour at the Kogan power station compared with those undertaking the same work at the Callide station.
The enterprise bargaining negotiations have gone on for more than two years with no resolution and the union has now lost patience with both the contractor and CS Energy, the government owned corporation in charge of the sites
The MEU Queensland district vice-president, Shane Brunker, says the situation “has the capacity to escalate quickly and affect power generation across Queensland”
Two years is plenty of time to hammer out a deal like this, our members have had it and are ready to down tools.
Either this is resolved in the next few working days or our members will be on the grass, and with their fellow members on site potentially right behind them.
The MEU is calling on the Queensland Labor government to instruct their Government Owned Corporations (GOCs) to audit their books and move full time contract labour back into permanent positions.
The House sitting will begin at 9.30am.
Labor to implement Afghan Lee recommendations
Richard Marles, Penny Wong, Mark Dreyfus and Andrew Giles have announced the government will be implementing all of the recommendations of the review into the Afghan Locally Engaged Employee program (Afghan Lee)
Established on 10 November 2022, the Independent Review led by Dr Vivienne Thom AM has made seven recommendations to improve the design and delivery of the Afghan Lee program. Work to implement the recommendations has already begun.
Consistent with the report’s recommendations and the program’s original intent, the government has expanded eligibility for certification to include security guards and former Afghan government and military officials who were employed with the Australian mission in Afghanistan. Applicants from these cohorts who were previously found to be ineligible will be contacted, where possible.
As part of its commitment to improve the administration of the program, and ensure consistency across government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence will undertake a review of relevant historic decisions.
All applicants will still need to demonstrate they were employed with Australia and at risk as a result of that employment, to be eligible for certification.
Greg Jericho has gone through the ABS data on housing and says it provides the answers to the housing crisis – build more homes:
Kylea Tink condemns indexation of student loans
The Independent MP for North Sydney, Kylea Tink, wants an “urgent” review of the indexation of student loans.
Tink has been talking abut this for some time and questioned Jason Clare about it in question time.
Tink says she is being driven by people’s stories, giving the example of a mother who contacted her to say:
The indexation has resulted in terrible stress on my children and other students. Given the current economic environment, this decision is causing their debts to balloon, placing great financial pressure on them. As an example, my daughter (who has two degrees, studied medicine and works in the public hospital system) has a debt that was increased by $14K.
I’ve also been contacted by North Sydney young professionals who point out that because the indexing comes into effect today, they are paying hundreds, and in some cases more than $1,000 in additional repayments.
Cait Kelly has looked at some of the realities of the housing crisis following governor Phil Lowe’s suggestion people go back to share housing or live with their parents:
At 51, Mandy Pritchard does not want to live in a share house, but the unfolding rental crisis means the full-time worker may have to.
It’s a situation the Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, suggested more people would need to consider to bring rents down – telling Australians on Wednesday “we need more people on average to live in each dwelling”.
After splitting with her partner of 19 years, Pritchard – an NGO worker – wants to move from Melbourne to be closer to friends in Sydney or Wollongong, and is being forced to apply for share houses.
ACTU secretary says anyone talking about wage price spirals should apologise
Both Philip Lowe and the treasury secretary, Steven Kennedy, have said there is no wage price spiral (although Lowe said he will be watching) and Sally McManus says that anyone who has been speaking about wage price spirals “should be really apologising”.
The Fair Work Commission is handing down its minimum wage decision tomorrow and McManus hopes it is in line with inflation.
We also know what effect this decision has on overall wages. It has hardly any impact and it has no impact on inflation and we know that over a period of 10 years because you can measure it. It happens every single year. It’s a once-off, just for this year pay rise, and it will just be so people can keep where they are now, not even go forward. If they don’t get the pay rise, there will be more cutting back … If you have less money to spend, that’s less money into [your] local community and that affects businesses. Tomorrow is a huge day and we’re hoping for the pay rise we’ve been fighting for and that’s a 7% increase.
Sally McManus responds to RBA governor’s commentary on housing market
Sally McManus spoke to ABC News Breakfast this morning and gave her thoughts on some of RBA governor Phil Lowe’s commentary around the housing market and what he thinks needs to happen.
McManus says there is a bit of a double standard there:
I think we’re living in two worlds. We’ve got people living in very big houses that have multiple dwellings and they’re landlords. And what they’re doing is when the Reserve Bank governor puts up interest rates, they’re passing on that cost to renters and that’s part of the reason why we’re seeing rents increase.
And I think that that is just basically saying to everyone, look, ordinary people, move in with your parents and grandparents whilst we’re going to say nothing about those CEOs I talked about at companies that actually are the ones that could ease cost of living tomorrow on people but they’re choosing not to because in the end they want to see their bonuses.
The Nacc has come up because the Greens senator Barbara Pocock says the Greens will be referring the PwC matter to the anti-corruption commission for consideration for investigation.
Given anyone can send a referral to the Nacc, there is going to be quite a bit for the Nacc commissioner to consider from 1 July.
Nacc to operate from July
Mark Dreyfus is speaking to ABC radio RN Breakfast and says the National Anti-Corruption Commission will be operational from 1 July.
It will be in full operation on the first of July. It’s going to establish whatever processes it thinks appropriate because the key to the National Anti-Corruption Commission is that it is independent. It won’t be directed by me.
It won’t be directed by the government. It won’t be directed by members of parliament. It’ll be independent and it will be able to receive references or complaints or allegations from anyone in the Australian community.
Fifteen crossbenchers across the house and Senate have signed a letter urging Tanya Plibersek and the government to end native forest logging nationally.
(I think you can guess which crossbenchers signed and which ones did not)
Kooyong MP Dr Monique Ryan is among those who put their name to the letter. Ryan says it just made sense for Plibersek to include amendments to the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 to end the practice:
Labor should listen to its own branches, its own premiers, and some of its own federal members of parliament and finally end the practice that is devastating our climate. Ending native forest logging nationally would save as many carbon emissions as removing almost 2 million cars from the road each year.
It would also improve our health by reducing industrial smoke; provide a lifeline to critically endangered animals; reduce the risk and severity of bushfires; and honour the cultural heritage and wishes of Australia’s First Nations’ communities.
Trade minister to address the National Press Club
The trade minister, Don Farrell, will today urge Australian exporters not to put all their eggs in the one basket, even as he pursues a more stable relationship with China.
Farrell is expected to give an update on talks with China, Australia’s largest trading partner, when he addresses the National Press Club in Canberra today.
But he will also underline the need for trade diversification to avoid over-reliance on a single market:
“We’ve learnt valuable lessons over the last few years, and I encourage all Australian businesses to continue with their diversification plans – and take advantage of new and emerging markets.”
The speech comes a day after the Australia’s free-trade agreement with the UK entered into force. Negotiations with the EU are reaching their final stages amid ongoing sticking points such as naming rights for feta and prosecco. The Australian government also hopes to strike a deal with India by the end of this year.
According to extracts of his speech distributed to media in advance, Farrell will say he believes it is his role to “quietly pursue agreement and consensus” and remain “solely focused on delivering an outcome” rather than chasing the media limelight.
He will say pursuing more trade is key to the government’s economic agenda:
“Twelve months ago, things looked quite different – we inherited a raft of fractured relationships with key trading partners, and a decade of inaction saw us trailing the majority of the world.
“But this government, led by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was straight out of the blocks, getting to work to repair our reputation and move forward.”
Labor criticised over Hecs/Help indexation
The Liberal senator Sarah Henderson has roundly criticised the government for not addressing the issue of Hecs/Help debt indexation.
(Yes, you read that correctly. Opposition is a different beast altogether)
It being 1 June, Hecs and Help loans will be indexed. That means student debt will increase by 7.1%, which equates to a $1,700 average increase. It doesn’t increase the repayment, but it does increase the amount of time it will take people to pay off their university debt.
Henderson, is outraged. She has given the government a “F” which is not a university grade, but you get the gist.
The government should seriously examine what options can be taken to support young Australians pay down their debts, instead of denying it’s a problem.
Henderson will also pursue the indexation of student loans where they have been paid off – but there is a lag in the data because the ATO doesn’t account for loan repayments in real time.
This practice is as bad as a bank charging interest on mortgages which customers have already paid off. The government must look at the reforms required to fix this antiquated tax payments system.
As we will be raising in Senate estimates today and tomorrow, the Albanese government has delivered cuts to numerous education programs whilst failing to adequately address plummeting school standards, a growing crisis in teacher training and retention and a school curriculum which is not delivering for students.
Anthony Albanese to head to Singapore
Anthony Albanese will also be headed to the airport this afternoon – but not for Sydney.
He’s headed to Singapore where he will deliver a speech to the Shangri-La dialogue.
That’s an Asian defence summit, so it is part of the “reassure the region over Aukus/the Quad cares about you” tour.
Albanese will deliver the keynote address at its big dinner on Friday night – the day is set aside for bilateral meetings and sessions on security and strategy in the region.
Welcome to the final day of the house sitting for this parliament session.
Estimates continues today and tomorrow, but House MPs get to flee come the end of the sitting today and you bet they are primed for that airport run.
But first, we must get through one more day of House shenanigans and revelations, and of course, question time.
Thank you to Martin for starting off the blog this morning – you have Amy Remeikis with you now grab your coffee (I am on my third) and let’s get into it.
Major cities lead house price recovery
The major cities are leading a fiery recovery in housing prices, while regional markets are also starting to pick up, AAP reports.
After the residential property market tracked lower for much of last year, it’s now staging a comeback with the CoreLogic home value index recording a third consecutive monthly improvement.
The rebound picked up pace in May, jumping 1.2%, which is the strongest month of growth since November 2021.
A separate index from PropTrack similarly posted an acceleration in dwelling prices, with the gauge recording a 0.33% lift in national prices over the month.
Sydney, particularly the premium end of the market, has been leading the turnaround.
Values surged 1.8% over the month, according to the CoreLogic dataset, with the Sydney market now 4.8% above its trough in January. Home prices in Brisbane also posted a convincing 1.4% gain, and Perth’s market jumped 1.3%.
Western Australia’s biggest city is now the only capital to be back at record highs, with the other urban centres still recovering from their downturns.
CoreLogic research director Tim Lawless said low housing supply was butting up against rising demand and driving prices up.
“With such a short supply of available housing stock, buyers are becoming more competitive and there’s an element of FOMO [fear of missing out] creeping into the market,” he said.
Auction clearance rates were trending higher, lingering at 70% and above over the past three weeks.
The regional index also improved but growth was nowhere near the capital cities.
Housing lifted 0.5% across the combined capitals in May after lifting 0.2% and 0.1% in the two months prior.
“Over the past three months, growth in the combined capitals index was more than triple the pace of growth seen across the combined regionals at 2.8% and 0.8% respectively,” Lawless said.
He said overseas migrants, who have been returning in large numbers since borders reopened, were more likely to land in the major cities, although about 15% would likely go to the regions.
Good morning and welcome to our rolling news coverage of all things Australian and political. I’m Martin Farrer taking a look at the main breaking stories this morning before Amy Remeikis takes the controls.
It lasted a year and cost at least $35m, but today we will discover the verdict in Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial against the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times for, he alleges, falsely portraying him as a war criminal and murderer. It promises to be a momentous judgment for him, the defence establishment and the media, among others. We’ll have live coverage, reaction and analysis.
In Canberra, there will be focus on the Albanese government’s plans to consider a ban on “high-risk” uses of artificial intelligence and automated decision-making such as creation of deepfakes and algorithmic bias under as it attempts to control the technology. In the UK, Rishi Sunak plans to urge Joe Biden to give Britain a big say in how the international guidelines for controlling AI are set.
Another of our top stories concerns the rental market, where many Australians are being forced into taking rooms in share houses because they can’t afford the rent to live alone. Their predicament was thrown into sharp relief when the RBA governor, Philip Lowe, said yesterday that people could save money on rent by sharing, but for many the choice is a difficult one. It comes as CoreLogic reports this morning that major cities are leading a recovery in house prices. The rebound picked up pace in May, jumping 1.2%, which is the strongest month of growth since November 2021.