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The Guardian - AU

Independent candidate dismisses eligibility concerns – as it happened

Independent candidate Dai Le
Independent candidate Dai Le, who is currently leading Kristina Keneally in counting for the Sydney seat of Fowler, has insisted she is eligible to sit in parliament if she claims victory after the federal election. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

What happened Wednesday 25 May 2022

With that we will end our live news coverage for the day. Here’s a summary of the main news developments.

  • The interim home affairs minister, Jim Chalmers, has sent a clear signal the Murugappan family will shortly return home to Biloela.
  • People with medical conditions or disabilities that increase the risk of severe Covid-19 will be eligible for a fourth vaccine dose after updated advice by Australian health authorities.
  • Australia’s new foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, will travel to Fiji on Thursday in an early sign of her determination to deepen the relationship with Pacific countries. Meanwhile, there is a report that China will seek a region-wide deal with almost a dozen Pacific islands covering policing, security and data communications cooperation when its foreign minister, Wang Yi, hosts a meeting in Fiji next week.
  • A teenage gunman has killed at least 19 children and two adults after storming into an elementary school in Texas, officials have said, the latest bout of gun-fueled mass killings in the United States and the nation’s worst school shooting since Sandy Hook a decade ago.
  • An employee at the now-collapsed Aboriginal Community Benefits Fund (ACBF) allegedly described its Aboriginal clients using a derogatory and racist term, and directed another sales representative going door-to-door to sign people up even if they were drinking alcohol, according to internal emails seen by Guardian Australia.
  • Relentless rainfall has sparked a leech invasion in New South Wales, with no reprieve in sight for already damp dwellings.
  • A woman found guilty of murder has wiped away tears as she continued to deny strangling and stabbing her mother to death two decades ago.

Thanks for following along, we’ll be back to do it all again tomorrow.

Updated

Following on from that report about China seeking a region-wide deal with Pacific islands as China’s foreign minister travels to eight countries in the region: Australia’s new foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, will travel to Fiji tomorrow, amid a growing competition for influence in the Pacific.

Guardian Australia’s chief political correspondent, Sarah Martin, who is on her way back from Tokyo where new prime minister Anthony Albanese and Wong travelled for a Quad leaders summit, reports that Wong has broadly addressed the topic of Australia’s role in the pacific.

“Look, after a lost decade we’ve got a lot of work to do to regain Australia’s position as the partner of choice in the Pacific, in a region that’s less secure and more contested, but that work starts now,” Wong told reporters.

Wong added:

China has made its intentions clear.So too are the intentions of the new Australian government. We want to help build a stronger Pacific family. We want to bring new energy and more resources to the Pacific. And we want to make a uniquely Australian contribution including through our Pacific labour programs and new permanent migration opportunities. I will be a frequent visitor to the Pacific, starting this week with a visit to Fiji as we lead up to the Pacific Islands Forum.”

Daniel Hurst, Guardian Australia’s foreign affairs and defence correspondent, filed this report about Wong’s Fiji trip:

Updated

China to seek regional Pacific security and policing deal – report

Reuters is reporting that China will seek a region-wide deal with almost a dozen Pacific islands covering policing, security and data communications cooperation when its foreign minister, Wang Yi, hosts a meeting in Fiji next week.

A draft communique and five-year action plan sent by Beijing to 10 Pacific islands ahead of a foreign ministers meeting on 30 May has prompted pushback from at least one of the invited nations, which says it showed China’s intent to control the region and “threatens regional stability”.

In a letter to 21 Pacific leaders seen by Reuters, the Federated States of Micronesia president, David Panuelo, said his nation would argue the “pre-determined joint communique” should be rejected, because he fears it could spark a new “cold war” between China and the West.

Wang will visit eight Pacific island nations that China holds diplomatic ties with between 26 May and 4 June.

He arrives on Thursday in the Solomon Islands, which recently signed a security pact with China despite objections from Australia, the United States, Japan and New Zealand, which fear it could upset regional security arrangements and give China a military foothold in the Pacific.

You can read the Reuters report here:

Updated

Wet weather brings leech invasion to NSW suburbs

Relentless rainfall has sparked a leech invasion in New South Wales, with no reprieve in sight for already damp dwellings.

The blood-sucking creatures have been attracted into suburban areas, where higher than normal rainfall and humidity are providing suitable conditions to feed.

Linda Campbell has been batting off leeches in her Winmalee home in the Blue Mountains for months.

She said:

I’ve lived in this house for seven years [and] I have never found leeches inside before now. I don’t have a dog. My two cats aren’t allowed outside, so they haven’t hitched a ride on a pet.

Read more:

Updated

Chalmers flags ‘substantial progress’ on returning Murugappan family to Biloela

The interim home affairs minister, Jim Chalmers, has sent a clear signal the Murugappan family will shortly return home to Biloela.

Chalmers told reporters on Wednesday he had made “substantial progress on this in the last day or two” and hoped to discuss arrangements for the return once Anthony Albanese returned from Tokyo.

Chalmers said:

I have received advice that I sought almost immediately, having been appointed the interim minister for home affairs. I hope to be able to announce progress on this case very, very soon.

The Morrison government refused to allow the family permanent residency because Tamil asylum seekers Nades and Priya Murugappan arrived in Australia by boat.

Read more:

Updated

Woman guilty of murdering mother in 2001

A woman found guilty of murder has wiped away tears as she continued to deny strangling and stabbing her mother to death two decades ago.

“I don’t understand, I didn’t do it,” Isabela Carolina Camelo-Gomez said to her legal counsel in the New South Wales supreme court on Wednesday.

As the 47-year-old was taken into custody, she continued to express disbelief at the jury’s verdict, saying:

The justice system gets everything wrong.

Camelo-Gomez, now 47, had pleaded not guilty to murdering Irene Jones in her Sydney home in 2001.

But after a week of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous guilty verdict.

Read more:

Updated

SBS cans youth-oriented TV show The Feed

SBS has axed its local television program aimed at young audiences, The Feed, after almost 10 years.

The program, hosted by Marc Fennell, will end next month, although the brand will continue to exist through digital-only stories, explainers and comedy for digital platforms.

SBS director of news and current affairs Mandi Wicks said:

The Feed has also been an amazing place to discover and develop young and diverse Australian journalists, producers and editors, and we believe the new direction will play to the strengths of the current talented and creative team and continue to serve as a talent incubator for SBS.

Fennell would front two new documentaries as part of a newly created specialist documentary unit, SBS said.

The final episode of The Feed on TV is to air on SBS on 28 June.

Updated

Here’s everything you need to know about the expansion of eligibility for a fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose, from Paul Karp:

Penny Wong set to travel to Fiji, coinciding with Chinese minister’s Pacific tour

Australia’s new foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, will travel to Fiji on Thursday in an early sign of her determination to deepen the relationship with Pacific countries.

Wong’s travel coincides with an eight-country trip to the region by China’s foreign minister amid a growing competition for influence in the Pacific.

The Albanese government has signalled that a more ambitious climate policy will be a key plank in its strategy to ensure Australia is seen as “a generous, respectful and reliable” partner to Pacific countries.

Wong, who joined Anthony Albanese at the Quad summit in Tokyo on Tuesday, was flying back to Australia on Wednesday but is scheduled to travel to Fiji on Thursday.

Wong said the early visit, during her first week in office, demonstrated “the importance we place on our relationship with Fiji and on our Pacific engagement”.

She said in a statement:

I will travel to Fiji to strengthen our vuvale [family] partnership and to discuss how we can best secure our region and help build a stronger Pacific family.

Read more:

Penny Wong
Penny Wong is expected to meet Fijian prime minister Frank Bainimarama on her visit. Photograph: Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images

Updated

An employee at the now-collapsed Aboriginal Community Benefits Fund allegedly described its Aboriginal clients as “black cunts” and directed another sales representative going door-to-door to sign people up even if they were drinking alcohol, according to internal emails seen by Guardian Australia.

You can read the latest on the Youpla funeral fund from Lorena Allam and Ben Butler here:

Updated

National Covid summary

Here are the latest coronavirus numbers from around Australia today, as the country records at least 41 deaths from Covid-19:

ACT

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 934
  • In hospital: 88 (with 1 people in ICU)

NSW

  • Deaths: 11
  • Cases: 8,970
  • In hospital: 1,209 (with 35 people in ICU)

Northern Territory

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 289
  • In hospital: 11 (with 1 person in ICU)

Queensland

  • Deaths: 10
  • Cases: 5,584
  • In hospital: 426 (with 15 people in ICU)

South Australia

  • Deaths: 1
  • Cases: 3,975
  • In hospital: 236 (with 10 people in ICU)

Tasmania

  • Deaths: 0
  • Cases: 899
  • In hospital: 51 (with 2 people in ICU)

Victoria

  • Deaths: 17
  • Cases: 13,023
  • In hospital: 567 (with 37 people in ICU)

Western Australia

  • Deaths: 2
  • Cases: 12,419
  • In hospital: 301 (with 7 people in ICU)

Updated

Doctors welcome expanded Covid booster program

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed the expansion of the Covid-19 fourth dose program, after the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation earlier recommended that all people aged 16 to 64 with certain risks factors be eligible to receive a second booster dose.

People who are now recommended to receive a second booster dose include those with immuno-compromising conditions, cancers, specific chronic inflammatory conditions, chronic liver disease, chronic lung disease and severe chronic kidney disease.

Karen Price, the RACGP president, said that “the pandemic is far from over and this winter booster expansion is a positive step forward” given current high levels of community transmission.

She said:

Now, people with certain risk factors that would make them more susceptible to severe effects from Covid-19 have the opportunity to receive a second booster dose, which will further enhance their immune response to the virus.

Price encouraged “anyone who falls in this cohort to step forward and receive their second booster jab with their usual GP”.

Keep in mind that our healthcare system is under enormous pressure at the moment. Covid-19 and influenza cases are climbing, and many hospitals are over-stretched, so by expanding the booster dose program we can help keep more people out of hospitals beds which is a win-win for all concerned.

Price added that some GPs are already under strain as they are “still very much struggling to absorb the cost of taking part in the Covid-19 vaccine rollout”.

Updated

If you’re wanting more information about the mass shooting at a Texas school, the Guardian’s live blog on the tragedy has all the latest.

Updated

Win for Mike Cannon-Brookes in swaying AGL investors

There’s a bit going on in energy markets. AGL stock raider billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has had a win in his effort to woo more shareholders for his bid to block the plan to split the country’s biggest electricity provider into two.

Hesta Super said in a statement today that it would swing its $21m holding – or about 0.36% of AGL – behind MCB’s bid. Cannon-Brookes is AGL’s biggest shareholder with about 11.3% and needs support from 25% of the holdings to foil the demerger.

Debby Blakey, chief executive of Hesta, said:

The events at AGL represent a watershed in active ownership in this country. Shareholders are pushing for greater action on climate change and a more rapid transition that aims to enhance the company’s ability to create long-term, sustainable value.

We cannot simply divest away from the risk of Australia being slow to transition to a low-carbon future. Responsible investors have a responsibility to their members to go to where the biggest emissions are and as owners try and first change the behaviour of these companies.

The vote will be on 15 June. Should MCB succeed, he would seek to accelerate AGL’s exit from coal-fired power. Its Liddell plant in the Hunter is already down to three units and will close them by next April (handily after the NSW state election, next March).

The remaining plants are Bayswater, near Liddell, and Loy Yang A in Victoria’s Latrobe Valley.

Mike Cannon-Brookes
Mike Cannon-Brookes. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

A lot is happening in the energy sector, as it happens. As we reported here, the Australian Electricity Regulator will tomorrow release the default market offer for 2022-23 – after the Morrison government delayed it from 1 May, when it is usually published.

With wholesale prices soaring, the offer is likely to be lifted, perhaps by 10% or more. Those same market forces have claimed one corporate victim, with more to come.

Yesterday, the Essential Services Commission in Victoria initiated a “retailer of last resort” for customers of failed gas retailer Weston Energy Pty Ltd to other retailers in the state to ensure continued supply of essential gas services.

The commission said:

Weston Energy was suspended from the Declared Wholesale Gas Market by the Australian Energy Market Operator for failing to comply with AEMO requirements under the National Gas Rules.

The market suspension affects 184 large and medium-sized customers with 1140 sites in Victoria. Customers will be contacted directly with information about the new arrangements, including options for ongoing supply, and whom to contact for more information or in the event of any disputes, the commission says.

In short, Weston was paying too much for the higher energy prices than it could pass on (presumably it hadn’t hedged enough). This provision has not been used since 2016, one insider says. With the energy squeeze likely to get worse, it’s a fair bet that it won’t be the last Retailer of Last Resort order.

Updated

Dai Le insists she can sit as MP after eligibility questioned

Dai Le, the independent leading the count in the New South Wales seat of Fowler, has insisted she is eligible to sit in parliament, after a news report and social media users questioned her citizenship.

Le disclosed to the Australian Electoral Commission that her mother was born in Vietnam, but indicated she didn’t know the citizenship of her father.

She declared she had never been a citizen of a foreign country, despite coming to Australia as a refugee from Vietnam at age 11.

Le posted on Facebook:

This morning there have been extensive media enquiries in relation to my eligibility to satisfy Section 44 of the Australian Constitution to stand for election.

I can confirm that the AEC accepted my application to stand for the federal election and that I’m not a subject or a citizen of another country, and was not when I lodged my nomination form with the AEC prior to the close of the nomination.

It’s important to note that the AEC does not conduct inquiries into candidates’ eligibility, so the AEC accepting a nomination in itself doesn’t say anything about eligibility, as the many MPs disqualified in the 45th parliament can testify.

Anyone who wants to dispute an election result or a candidate’s eligibility has 40 days from the return of the writ to do so.

Guardian Australia contacted Le for comment.

Dai Le
Dai Le: ‘I’m not a subject or a citizen of another country.’ Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Updated

Eligibility for fourth dose of Covid vaccine expanded

The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (Atagi) has expanded the recommendations on the use of the fourth dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The new advice recommends a winter Covid booster for people aged 16 to 64 who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe Covid illness, and people with a disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities.

Atagi said healthy people aged 16 to 64 who do not have risk factors for severe Covid are not recommended to receive an additional winter dose at this time.

In March, Atagi recommended the fourth Covid dose for people aged over 65, residents of aged care or disability care facilities, immunocompromised people and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 50 years or above.

Updated

Jim Chalmers says work is under way to return Murugappan family to Biloela

The new Labor government says it has made “substantial progress” since being sworn in on Monday in its efforts to return the Murugappan family to Biloela, and has foreshadowed a further announcement on the issue “very, very soon”.

The family of asylum seekers were taken from their home in the Queensland town four years ago and placed in immigration detention. The Coalition did not heed calls from the community in Biloela to allow them to return, however Labor had indicated it would intervene to grant the family a visa if it won the election.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, who is also the interim home affairs minister as the Labor cabinet is being formed, said he had “made some substantial progress on this in the last day or two”.

I hope to have a conversation with the prime minister when he returns from his international trip and obviously there are a series of steps that I would need to appropriately take in order to give effect to our long-held view that that family must get home to Biloela, to the warm embrace of one of the most wonderful Queensland towns.

If you will forgive me a moment of parochialism as a Queenslander born and bred, I am so sick and tired of Queensland being caricatured as a certain way when it comes to some of these issues.

It warms the heart to see the way that that town of Biloela has gotten around this beautiful family and campaigned long and hard for this family to be returned to their home in Biloela where they are making such a terrific contribution to the local community.

I have made some progress on this. I have received advice that I sought almost immediately having been appointed the interim minister for home affairs. I hope to be able to announce progress on this case very, very soon.

Updated

Removing trade protections would be first step to improving China-Australia relations, Chalmers says

Jim Chalmers said a good first step to repairing relations with China would be for Beijing to remove trade protections it had introduced in recent years.

Chalmers said he wouldn’t be making significant foreign policy changes just yet, but added:

China has become more aggressive and more assertive and our responsibility as the incoming Government is to manage that complex relationship in a considered and sober fashion.

If there is to be an improvement in relations it makes sense to us for the first part of that, the first step, to be the removal of some of those sanctions and tariffs which are doing damage to our economy and to our employers and exporters. That would be a good place to start.

Updated

Peter Dutton becoming Liberal leader would be ‘last man standing situation’, incoming Labor cabinet ministers say

Peter Dutton’s ascension to head of the Liberal party and the next opposition leader would be the result of a “last man standing situation” and would show the Liberal party “learned absolutely nothing” from their election loss, according to incoming Labor cabinet ministers.

The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, said:

It’s sort of a last-man-standing situation isn’t it? But also if Peter Dutton is the answer then it’s not entirely clear that they heard the questions that were raised during this election campaign.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said:

I think Peter Dutton’s elevation would show they have learned absolutely nothing from the drubbing they got on Saturday. Peter Dutton has all of the same characteristics that people didn’t like, that they saw in Scott Morrison. I think we’re up for a very divided period when it comes to the Liberals and Nationals.

Updated

Penny Wong to travel to Fiji on Thursday

Australia’s foreign minister, Penny Wong, is planning to travel to Fiji tomorrow in an early statement of intent to deepen the relationship with Pacific countries.

It is understood Wong, who is currently flying home from the Quad summit in Tokyo, is intending to travel to Fiji tomorrow and is expected to have meetings with the prime minister and the foreign minister and female leaders.

Wong also intends to deliver a speech in Suva on Friday. Wong plans to travel widely in the Pacific in the lead-up to the Pacific Islands Forum in July.

The trip comes at a time when China’s foreign minister is also embarking on a major trip around the region, in a sign of the growing competition for influence in the Pacific.

Kate Lyons has the latest on China’s efforts:

Updated

New treasurer and finance minister looking for ways to cut costs from Morrison government policies

The new treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and finance minister, Katy Gallagher, have foreshadowed some potential areas of Morrison government policies and spending, such as multinational tax reform and spending on consultants, that they could look to undo as they search for cost-cutting measures.

Chalmers said:

When we released our costings less than a week ago we talked about the fact that we’d already found $11.5 billion in budget improvements, which is a good start when it comes to the task ahead of us. We can’t flick a switch and make $1 trillion of debt disappear but whether it is multinational tax reform, whether it is trimming spending on contractors and consultants, whether it is starting to unwind a decade of rorts and waste and mismanagement in the budget.

Gallagher said:

In the early briefings I’ve had I do think there’s opportunity to find further savings in the budget and we’ll be looking closely at that. It is early days but I think the commitments we made last Thursday in our costings document around returning the regionalisation fund and the unallocated money in the community development grants were sensible.

On my early briefings I’d say there weren’t too many fiscal rules in place in the final terms of this Government. So we do see large pockets of money being allocated places without a lot of detail and that’s certainly an area of significant interest for us.

We want to make sure that you don’t have $400 million buried somewhere without any business cases or any criteria around that money being spent just to be dolled out during the course of an electoral term, that is not appropriate and we won’t be doing that.

“We think it will take generations to pay down a generation of debt,” Chalmers adds.

Updated

New Labor government ‘inheriting a very serious set of economic and budget challenges’, Jim Chalmers says

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, says his new Labor government is inheriting “substantial issues” related to debt, inflation and wages growth from the Coalition government, and is warning Australians there will be challenges in restoring the economy.

Chalmers, speaking amid days of departmental briefings for incoming government ministers, said he met with the heads of the Reserve Bank, Asic, Apra, the ATO and the ACCC on Wednesday morning, and said “we are inheriting a very serious set of economic and budget challenges”.

Chalmers said:

There is no use mincing words around ... the serious nature of the economic challenges that the new Albanese Labor government is inheriting. The defining challenges in our economy are skyrocketing inflation, rising interest rates, fall in real wages and not having anywhere near enough to show for a budget which is absolutely heaving with trillion dollars in Liberal party debt.

We need to make sure we are upfront with the Australian people about the seriousness and the nature and the magnitude of the challenges that our new element is inheriting from our intercessors. No new government can flick a switch and make $1 trillion of debt disappear, flick a switch and completely fix overnight the substantial issues that we have with skyrocketing inflation and falling real wages.

Chalmers said he will give a “detailed statement” to the parliament when it returns “which is blunt and frank and upfront with the Australian people about the challenges we have inherited”.

On wages, Chalmers reiterated that his government will make a submission to the Fair Work Commission as part of its current process reviewing the minimum wage, and said:

I don’t think anybody in Australia, certainly no one at the Fair Work Commission, is under any doubt about our position and that is that people on the lowest wages in Australia deserve a decent pay rise which recognises the skyrocketing costs of living.

Updated

Rural News Corp paper in Victoria urges Barnaby Joyce and Nationals to concede climate change is real

An editorial in the Weekly Times has delivered a rare sharp rebuke to Barnaby Joyce post-election, urging him and the National party to concede climate change is real and will affect all parts of the country, not just “leafy suburbs” in the city.

Known as the “bible of the bush”, the Victoria-based News Corp newspaper dedicated to rural and particularly agricultural issues has accused Joyce of “not reading the play” from the weekend’s election results.

“The lessons for Joyce and co are right before their eyes with increased support for two of their own. Darren Chester in Gippsland and Kevin Hogan in Page, both of whom believe climate change is real,” the editorial says.

“The climate schism within the Nationals ranks is already playing out with rumblings of a break away from the Liberals and jockeying for party leadership positions.

“But what must happen first is a concession from the deniers that climate change is real and will affect all parts of the country, not just the leafy suburbs of Melbourne and other capital cities.”

Read more:

Updated

And with that, I will leave the blog in the capable hands of Elias Visontay for the rest of the day. Thanks for reading.

NSW Icac to investigate three southern Sydney councillors

AAP is reporting that the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption will hold a public inquiry to determine if three southern Sydney councillors took kickbacks to favour developments.

Operation Galley will investigate the conduct of former Georges River and Hurstville City councillors, Constantine Hindi and Vincenzo Badalati, as well as then Hurstville City councillor Philip Sansom.

In 2016, the former Kogarah and Hurstville city councils were merged to create Georges River council.

Icac is investigating whether, between 2014 and 2021, then Hurstville City council and later Georges River councillors Hindi and Badalati, and then Hurstville City councillor Sansom, “sought and/or accepted benefits as an inducement or reward for partially and dishonestly exercising their official functions” to favour certain developments.

Icac said on Wednesday it would determine if the trio favoured the interests of Ching Wah (Philip) Uy, Wensheng Liu and Yuqing Liu, in relation to planning that affected 1-5 Treacy Street and 1 Hill Road, Hurstville (“the Treacy Street development”), and 53-57 Forest Road, 108-126 Durham Street and 9 Roberts Lane, Hurstville (“the Landmark Square development”).

The commission will also examine whether the three councillors deliberately failed to declare or properly manage any conflict of interest arising from their relationships with Ching Wah Uy, Wensheng Liu and Yuqing Liu.

Hurstville City council is also investigating whether the developers provided benefits, including overseas flights and accommodation, to the councillors as a reward or inducement to favour their interests.

Commissioner Stephen Rushton SC will preside at the public inquiry and counsel assisting the commission will be Zelie Heger.

The inquiry will start on 14 June and is expected to take five weeks.

Updated

Analysis: how Australia’s new position on climate is being received

Some more reaction is rolling in after yesterday’s Quad summit in Tokyo. Interestingly, the Australian government won support from India, Japan and the US to include the following line in the joint leaders’ statement:

We welcome the new Australian Government’s commitment to stronger action on climate change, including through passing legislation to achieve net zero by 2050 and lodging a new, ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution.

Wesley Morgan, a Climate Council researcher and research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, said today that the Quad leaders’ summit was “the first of many important steps on the road to repairing Australia’s international climate reputation, which was in tatters after years of failings from the former Morrison government”.

Morgan said the new Albanese government’s decision to place climate change at the centre of Australia’s foreign policy and acknowledge it as a threat to national security had already delivered “crucial economic and strategic dividends for Australia”.

Morgan cited the prospect of a reset with Pacific island states, improved relations with the US, and a signal from the EU’s special envoy for the Indo-Pacific about the prospect of progress on the free trade agreement between Australia and the EU.

Morgan said:

Right now, it’s safe to say that we can hold our heads a little higher. However the new Australian government has a mandate to go even further and faster, which would deliver even more economic and strategic dividends.

Cheryl Durrant, a Climate Councillor and former director of preparedness and mobilisation at the Australian Department of Defence, said Australia was “now back in step with its allies on climate change”.

Durrant said the latest developments were “encouraging” and climate change needed “a strategically coherent response”.

The new government has pledged to reduce emissions by 43% by 2030 on 2005 levels, compared with the former government’s formal target of a 26% to 28% cut. But it has so far stopped short of heeding calls from the Pacific for even more ambitious action and specific curbs on fossil fuel projects.

Updated

Victorian government working towards free flu shots, Daniel Andrews says

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, says the state government is working with pharmacists and doctors to make the flu shot free for everyone in the state.

The Queensland government has already made the jab free amid soaring influenza rates in the state, while the New South Wales government is taking steps to do the same.

Currently in Victoria, the flu shot is free for those considered most vulnerable to the flu, including children aged between six months and five, people aged over 65, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions.

Andrews said the government would have more to say about increasing the eligibility for a free vaccine soon:

We’re working with the Pharmacy Guild and the AMA on that very issue. It’s really important that we talk to them, they’re the ones who predominantly undertake that work. They’re the ones who are distributed and actually provide those jabs. So, we’re in detailed discussions with them and when we have more to say we will ... Our vax rates for flu are higher than other states, I want them higher still. But at the same time, it’s really important that we don’t just make announcements, we’ve got to have a plan, a detailed plan before we go down that path and the best people to talk to are the ones who do that work and that’s GPs and surgeries and pharmacists.

Detected cases of influenza in Victoria have surged in recent weeks. There have been 11,906 cases this year so far.

Updated

WA records 12,419 new Covid cases and two deaths

Western Australia has recorded 12,419 new Covid cases. There were two deaths overnight, a man in his 70s and woman in her 80s.

Updated

Six electorates still up in the air as Labor sits on 74 seats won

Labor has won 74 seats, with the Coalition on 56 and fifteen members of the crossbench, with six seats still in play.

In four of these seats, it’s a straightforward Labor vs Liberal contest.

In the Labor-held seat of Gilmore, Liberal candidate Andrew Constance leads by just 145 votes.

Liberal minister Michael Sukkar leads in Deakin by 729 votes. Sitting Labor MP Brian Mitchell leads in Lyons by 703 votes, and Liberal MP James Stevens leads in Sturt by 1,261 votes.

Then there are two more complex races where Labor, Liberal and Greens are all polling similar numbers. The key count in these seats will be the three-candidate-preferred count, after all minor candidates are excluded. If the Liberal or Greens candidate comes third in either seat, Labor will win. If the Labor candidate comes third, the Greens will win. Neither seat can be won by the Liberal candidate.

In Brisbane, sitting Liberal National MP Trevor Evans is in clear first place, with Labor’s Madonna Jarrett just 34 votes ahead of Greens candidate Stephen Bates. Scrutineering data suggests the Greens will catch up to Labor on preferences, which would then unlock Labor preferences to elect the Greens. So this makes the Greens the slight favourite.

In Macnamara, the three candidates are very tightly clustered, but Labor MP Josh Burns is leading on 32.3%, ahead of the Greens on 29.8% and the Liberal Party on 29.0%. It seems likely that Burns will stay in first place and win with strong preferences from whoever comes third, but it is still quite tight.

If these six seats go to the party currently favoured, the final count will be:

  • Labor - 76 (+7)
  • Coalition - 59 (-17)
  • Greens - 4 (+3)
  • Centre Alliance - 1
  • Katter’s Australian Party - 1
  • Independents - 10 (+7)

Updated

ACT reports 934 new Covid cases

The Australian Capital Territory has recorded 934 new cases.

Updated

Consent-focused education campaign to begin on social media and Tinder ahead of new laws coming into effect in NSW

Videos showing young people having “simple” and “easy” consent conversations will begin appearing on social media platforms and the dating app Tinder from today as part of an education campaign to coincide with the new New South Wales consent laws coming into effect next week.

The campaign was designed to demonstrate successful consent conversations and is being targeted at 16 to 24-year-olds. The state’s attorney general, Mark Speakman, said the new laws strengthened the affirmative consent model and the campaign videos were important to help change the culture in NSW.

He said:

Under the new laws, a person does not consent to sexual activity unless they do something or say something to indicate consent and a person won’t have a reasonable belief that there is consent unless they do something or say something to find out that that consent operates.

Changing the law is one thing, but at the end of the day, what’s even more important is changing community attitudes, and empowering our citizens to seek consent every time – particularly young people.

Speakman said a “racy” 18+ version of the campaign would be running on popular dating app Tinder. The campaign videos were created over nine months with the help of experts, young people and campaigners like the survivor advocate Saxon Mullins, who said the ads were tackling the issue head on – unlike the now-infamous federal government milkshake consent video.

One of the important aspects of this campaign is that it says exactly what is happening. There is no talking around the issue. Talking around the issue feeds into that uncomfortable awkwardness that people sometimes feel trying to initiate these conversations. That’s the main difference between that and some other campaigns we’ve seen that have tried to be coy in a space where you cannot be coy.

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Rains to continue across Australia in the months ahead

If you’re in a part of Australia that has been relatively wet of late, it looks like things are not going to change much in the coming months.

So what’s going on? Well, the La Niña in the Pacific which influences spring and summer rainfall is lingering longer than forecast. But what’s ahead is a negative phase of the Indian Ocean Dipole.

What’s a dipole? Well in this case, it’s comparing the relative warmth of sea-surface temperatures in the west of the Indian Ocean versus the east. The negative phase means there’s more convection off WA, and that’s where the extra moisture for the rest of the country is going to come from.

Places east of the ranges, such as Sydney, will actually turn a bit drier – we hope. But where we’re looking at wet, east Africa is leaning dry – perhaps disastrously – for millions of people.

The Bureau of Meteorology, meanwhile, has released a special climate analysis of just how wet the end of February and early March were for south-east Queensland and parts of NSW. Here’s our version of the report:

For those wondering what role climate change is playing in the big wet, it’s wise to ignore a statement in one of the newspapers (guess which) today that “science still can’t attribute any single weather event to climate change”.

The climate is obviously very complex, but as the atmosphere can hold (and then dump) 7% more moisture per degree of global heating, the case is actually the other way around: every weather event is influenced by how we’re energising the system.

Or as the special BoM report states: “Observations show that there has been an increase in the intensity of heavy rainfall events in Australia.

“The intensity of short-duration (hourly) extreme rainfall events has increased by around 10% or more in some regions in recent decades, with larger increases typically observed in the north of the country.”

With the land warming faster than the oceans, global heating is also contributing to making heatwaves more frequent, more severe and lasting longer, as the World Meteorological Organization noted earlier this week:

Worth keeping in mind for those who don’t see the point of curbing greenhouse gas emissions, and why some might be asking for the new Labor government to do more.

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Queensland reports 10 Covid deaths and 5,584 new cases

Queensland has recorded 5,584 new cases and 10 deaths overnight:

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Australia’s eSafety commissioner: ‘Freedom of speech is not the same thing as a free for all’

Comments made by Australia’s eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, at the World Economic Forum this week about a “recalibration” of human rights and free speech have been picked up by right-wing conspiracy theory accounts on YouTube, but the full context makes it more clear.

Inman Grant said:

I think we’re gonna have to think about a recalibration of a whole range of human rights that are playing out online, you know, from freedom of speech to the freedom to, you know, to be free from online violence, or the right of data protection to the right to child dignity.

Earlier, Inman Grant pointed out when she was at Twitter, the free-for-all on the platform meant many marginalised voices were being silenced due to online abuse:

What I saw every day when I was at Twitter was that marginalised voices and voices of women and those of intersectional factors, were being silenced.

So, freedom of speech is not the same thing as a free for all. And what we have done is we have drawn a line and we have said, if this veers clearly into the lane of serious online abuse – and I have to prove serious intent to harm, as well as the fact that it’s menacing, harassing, and offensive in all cases, so a very high bar – but it tackles that content that clearly veers into that lane and it’s designed to silence.

Later in the panel discussion Brett Solomon, the executive director of digital rights group Access Now, pushed back against the idea of more eSafety commissioners in other countries in charge of removing content.

He said:

A state-centric online policing framework can actually be a dangerous precedent that leads to greater insecurity and greater lack of safety for the populations that I work for and that I work with.

We have concerns about this idea of online policing that comes from the state because particularly as you say, when we move from content that we speak about, or content or data about us, when it actually becomes about our identity, when it becomes about our biometrics, our irises ... our faces and our gait and all of the things that are going to happen with 5G and the metaverse, then it becomes even more important that we have the proper regulations and frameworks in place.

Inman Grant defended her powers, pointing out that there was a lot of discerning involved:

Some of our cases take two weeks and nothing is black and white. It requires a regulatory investigation and there are four different levels ... I have to be transparent in terms of what I report, but I can be challenged. I’ve got an internal review process.

People can go to the ombudsman, the tribunal or the federal court and, you know, discretion, fairness, and proportionality have to be displayed and I need a statement of reasons, it has to hold up in a court of law, but I appreciate your point: that someone, somewhere else that doesn’t have the same regard for democratic principles or the same ability to discern and investigate and just say, well, we’ll take down this content.

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Karen Andrews: ‘The people we lost in droves were predominantly women’

Next, I wanted to go back to Karen Andrews appearance on News Breakfast, where she acknowledged that the party had lost a huge number of female voters and said the Liberals had to “understand what happened”.

She thought the party didn’t “represent their views” and that was a “harsh reality”:

I don’t think the answer is whether we tack right or tack left. The reality is that the people we lost in droves were predominantly women – educated women.

They were women who were financially secure. They were unhappy – unhappy with the Liberal party and they chose to take their vote elsewhere. They didn’t generally take them to Labor. They took them to the Greens party. We need to understand why that happened and we need to address that issue. We have had issues with how women feel, [how] they are treated by the Liberal party. We have to turn that perception around and we have to make sure that that is not the reality.

Look, a lack of empathy is probably a word that has been used, but I think it’s better to say these disaffected women in particular did not think that [we] were the party that represented their views. They were not happy to be associated with the Liberal party brand. That is a very harsh reality but it is the reality.

We need to take that on board. We need to make sure that these women in particular, but not exclusively women, know they have been heard by us. The issues that are important to them we need to tackle – we need to make sure that we have a strong policy position. I do hope that we take the time that’s needed to put in place the proper policy settings.

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In case you missed this one earlier, here’s a report by Peter Hannam that looks at the intervention by the Morrison government to delay the publication of default market offer for power prices until after the election. The offer serves as a benchmark for retailers (except in Victoria where they have their own).

The Australian Energy Regulator will release the new offer tomorrow – instead of 1 May after an intervention by the government to push back the date until the business day after 25 May. The offer’s price increase is likely to be close to or even above 10%, a rise that would have jarred during the election campaign and countered the Coalition’s claims that they had lowered power prices by 10%.

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Sharma says Liberals don't have a better option than Dutton

I also wanted to return to Dave Sharma’s appearance on RN Breakfast this morning, who was very pointedly asked if Peter Dutton, who is due to become the new leader of the Coalition, can win back the seats lost on Saturday.

Sharma appeared unconvinced and said there shouldn’t be a fixation on the leader:

I don’t know at this stage. It’ll really depend upon how the government is travelling.

His first job and his main job is to hold the government to account. I think he can do a good job of that. He’s our most experienced parliamentarian by some way.

I think Peter will do a good job as as opposition leader. Whether we can win back seats lost like this in three years is going to be subject to a range of factors and, to be honest with you, I don’t think we’ve got a better choice at the moment in terms of opposition leader.

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Jim Chalmers: Albanese is ‘showing the world we are serious about climate change’

OK, there were a couple of titbits I missed from the morning rush of politicians speaking to the media, so just wanted to highlight a couple.

First up, treasurer Jim Chalmers made the rounds and told Sunrise the PM’s trip to Tokyo was a “perfect start to the new government”:

Anthony Albanese has showed how comfortable he is in the world stage. And part of that is showing the world that we are serious about climate change and we are serious about cleaner and cheaper energy.

What that means is implementing here at home our powering in Australia plan, which will get prices down, boost investment and create hundreds of thousands of jobs and also make us one of the responsible nations in addressing this.

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Jean-Pierre Thébault applauds new climate stance

France’s ambassador to Australia has welcomed the new government’s pledge to ramp up action on the climate crisis.

The Morrison government’s decision to scrap the French submarine contract last September in favour of Aukus nuclear-powered submarines caused a rupture in the relationship, although Labor supports that decision.

French ambassador Jean-Pierre Thébault said the new stand of Australia “on the core issue of climate change” made the country potentially a “privileged partner”.

Speaking to an audience in Canberra this morning, Thébault said climate change was “a major threat for international peace and security and stability”.

He said for the most exposed countries – such as those in the Pacific – climate change was an existential problem. Thébault spoke of countries’ collective duty of care to act:

The declaration of the new Aust government to go strongly in this direction is a major, very positive development.

Thébault was speaking at an Indo-Pacific forum organised by the Australian National University’s national security college, the EU delegation to Australia, and the French embassy.

He said he wished to “reconfirm strongly the importance of the Indo-Pacific for the EU”. While some might have expected Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could lead the EU to turn its attention away from the Indo-Pacific, that was not the case, he said.

Thébault said it was of “great satisfaction” to France that the EU was stepping up its engagement with this vital region.

The EU released its Indo-Pacific Strategy back in mid-September (which was quickly overshadowed by the Aukus announcement).

Gabriele Visentin, the EU’s special envoy for the Indo-Pacific, spoke about the strategy at the ANU event this morning. Visentin acknowledged the attendance of the then-foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, at February’s EU ministerial forum for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific in Paris.

Visentin said the EU looked forward to engaging with the new Australian government before the next round of negotiations on a free trade agreement between the EU and Australia.

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The AAP is reporting that a reward of $1m is being offered for information about the suspected murder of NSW teenager Gordana Kotevski nearly three decades ago.

The 16-year-old from Lake Macquarie was last seen being forced into a car on Powell Street, Charlestown, while walking from Charlestown Square shopping centre to her aunt’s home on the same road about 9pm on 24 November 1994. Despite extensive investigations she has never been found.

A coronial inquest into Gordana’s disappearance in 2003 determined she was dead, most likely as a result of foul play.

NSW police today the reward for information about her fate had been increased.

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I am not the opposition, Allegra Spender says

Newly voted-in Wentworth independent Allegra Spender has told Sky News she does not see herself as the opposition, and will support “good policy”.

Spender said she would seek to work constructively with Labor, and would seek to hold the “government to account”:

As I’ve always said, my good job is not to be the opposition. My job is to support good policy from wherever it comes and also to develop that and that’s what I will be doing.

I’ll be holding the government to account and I’ll be making sure that we put forward strong ideas that are constructive and useful in the parliament.

Allegra Spender
New Wentworth MP Allegra Spender. Photograph: Mark Baker/AP

Spender added that a shift toward the right for the Liberal party would not result in them reclaiming the seats they lost to the teal independents:

If the Coalition continues to shift to the right, you know, the chances of getting those seats back are very, very low. And then what is the Liberals path or the Coalition’s pathway to government? It has a long way to go.

So I think it has to think really carefully about where it goes now and go back to those Liberal roots of you know, a small “L” liberal.

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Potential senator and former rugby great David Pocock has said he hopes “horsetrading” won’t be required in the new Senate.

Speaking on RN Breakfast, Pocock said he also hoped Labor will support his private member’s bills, including a bill that would lift the ban on territory governments introducing or even debating legislation on issues such as voluntary assisted dying:

Voluntary assisted dying is something people here in Canberra simply can’t wait for. This really is about dignity and equality and I’d hope that doesn’t require horsetrading. To me, it’s pretty straightforward.

ACT independent Senate candidate David Pocock
ACT independent Senate candidate David Pocock. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

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Albanese gives update on Quad meeting

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has addressed the media from Tokyo, before he returns home, and has spoken about some of the discussions had during the Quad meetings.

Anthony Albanese with the other Quad leaders
Anthony Albanese with the other Quad leaders. Photograph: Yamazaki/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

On Joe Biden and his relationship with the US president he said:

I renewed my acquaintance with President Biden and I appreciate his invitation to visit Washington soon. President Biden, the United States, is our most important ally. Australia will continue to develop a strong working relationship with the US administration and, in particular, we talked about improving our engagement and our mutual position with regard to climate change and the need for global action.

There are many consistencies in Australia’s national security positions but there are some differences with the former Australian government, particularly when it comes to climate change.

On India and his relationship with Narendra Modi:

With prime minister Mohdi we had very constructive discussions. I have visited India both as a backpacker, but also as a leader of parliamentary delegation.

I was pleased that the prime minister invited me to visit India soon as well. We will work on many dates there. The relationship with India, which will grow to be the third largest economy in the world in coming years, is a very important one for Australia and the diaspora in Australia, of course – a growing one as well.

We talked about the potential for education exchange, particularly the potential for Australian universities taking advantage of the change position of India and co-locating in India serving both students locally based in independenta that could spend some time in their home country of India studying at Australian-based universities and then, perhaps, complete half of their degree as well in Australia.

And on Japan and Fumio Kishida:

To prime minister Kishida I just think he was an extraordinary host of this Quad leaders’ summit. I very much look forward to working with the prime minister on issues, including on national security issues and defence cooperation.

The prime minister will visit Australia later this year. We discussed potential programs and some initiatives that could arise from that leaders’ summit, which is an annual event between Australia and Japan.

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Victoria records 13,023 new Covid cases and 17 deaths

Victoria is reporting 13,023 new cases and 17 deaths.

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NSW reports 8,970 new Covid cases, 11 deaths

NSW has recorded 8,970 new cases and 11 deaths.

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The SMH has some interesting lines from the Liberal candidate in Gilmore, Andrew Constance, who says his party were punished for being “too focused on themselves”.

While Gilmore remains on a knife-edge, the former state government minister said he was not surprised by the outcome of the election, warning the Liberal party that it needed to refocus on community concerns:

The party has been too introverted and too focused on itself.

It has to recognise its broad-based appeal is not sectional interest. The party exists for the community … there’s no such thing as a “heartland” in Australian politics.

We’re a progressive country and people want change – that’s what the vote was about for everybody.

The party’s future depends on its ability to uphold community values, and you can’t lose sight of that. It would be very easy to pour petrol on an internal argument but there’s no point, because that’s not why we exist.

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More politicians in the media, with independent Zali Steggall, fresh from retaining Warringah and increasing her majority, telling the Today show the Liberal party should have listened to her electorate.

Zali Steggall on election day
Zali Steggall on election day. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

She said: “Fortune favours the brave,” and added that Josh Frydenberg would have retained his seat had he listened more:

I think the Liberal party didn’t heed the warning from Warringah three years ago – that communities wanted stronger policy on climate change, on integrity and, of course, the treatment of women.

Each of those MPs that lost to independents had the opportunity prior to Cop26 last year to cross the floor and vote for debating the climate change bill, for example.

They failed to do that, and their communities judged them on it.

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Staying with Karen Andrews on the ABC, where she is being grilled about some of the decisions taken by the Liberal party on election day, including the release of a media statement from Border Force about an asylum seeker boat.

Andrews confirms that she saw the statement before it was released but denies knowledge of the follow-up text messages that went out:

The reason the media release was put out, and it was a very factual media release that was put out, I think it was a statement, but in any event, there was a statement made available by that – I think it was important given the fact that it was election day and there needed to be transparency.

I saw the statement before it was released. There is a secondary issue of texts that were sent out. I had nothing to do with the text messages.

Border Force would have been releasing it in any event, making that statement. I think it was important, given where we were, it was election day, that people did have a statement that made it very clear what was
happening but in a very, in a very operationally focused statement. That was important.

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Peter Dutton will stand unopposed for Liberal party leadership, Karen Andrews says

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews has also fronted ABC News Breakfast this morning. Asked if Peter Dutton is the right person to lead the Liberal party, Andrews says no one is running against him:

He will be standing unopposed to take on the leadership and that means there’s no one else putting their hand up. So it will be Peter. Look, because he has widespread support, you have to assume that he is going to have very strong backing.

I believe that that is the case. He has a very strong support base here in Queensland. They’re backing him in very strongly as leader. That’s why it was important that the deputy change from a state other than Queensland and, while that is personally disappointing for me, the reality is that it was untenable to have a leader and a deputy leader from Queensland.

Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews
Former home affairs minister Karen Andrews. Photograph: Trevor Collens/AAP

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Sticking with politicians in the media this morning, Nationals MP Keith Pitt has told RN Breakfast his party will not push for a more ambitious climate target.

In a testy interview, Pitt essentially stood his ground, denying that the party needed to reconsider its position – its promise of a 26% to 28% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and net zero by 2050:

I’ll expect we’ll hold the current position.

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Sussan Ley in box seat to become Liberal deputy

Queensland Liberal MP Karen Andrews has told Seven’s Sunrise that it is “very clear” that Peter Dutton will take on the leadership of the Liberal party and that Sussan Ley will be his deputy.

The outgoing environment minister will join Dutton, who Andrews says is likely to run unopposed:

It is very clear that Peter Dutton will be elected as the leader unopposed and most likely that Sussan Ley will become the deputy leader.

It is very important that they work across the party, that they work with whoever goes into the shadow ministry to make sure that we are all part of the leadership of the party.

Because no single person can get this right.

We need to make sure that we are working across a whole range of areas with a whole range of people with very different skill sets.

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Newly installed federal treasurer Jim Chalmers says he is a “little more confident today” that the Labor party can form a majority in parliament, as the vote count shows multiple seats going down to the wire.

Speaking on ABC News Breakfast, Chalmers said he hoped Labour could win Brisbane and get up to 77 seats:

I’m a little more confident today than perhaps I was earlier in the week. You know, I speak to people who follow this very closely and looks like we are a very strong chance of a majority.

I really want to see Madonna Jarrett, up in Brisbane, someone who I have a lot of respect for, so ideally we can get to 76 or 77 and have Brisbane included in that pile because she’ll be an outstanding contributor.

We’re pretty confident about McNamara. We think we’ll get majority but that’s not yet entirely assured.

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Dave Sharma says voters didn't think Coalition was 'serious' about climate change

Dave Sharma, who lost his once safe Liberal seat of Wentworth to independent Allegra Spender, has told ABC’s RN Breakfast that the teal independents “positioned themselves quite cleverly”.

Sharma said Spender had picked up protest votes against Scott Morrison from traditional Liberal voters, as well as regular Labor and Greens voters.

Dave Sharma on election day
Dave Sharma on election day. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

Many in his former electorate deeply disliked Morrison, Sharma said, saying they believed he was too religious. They didn’t like that he once carried coal into parliament and they didn’t believe he was sincere about climate change:

Undoubtedly, the prime minister had lost some prestige and credit during over the last few years. I think frustrations with the government are growing as they tend to accumulate after as being in power for as long as we were.

The teal candidates position themselves quite cleverly, I think, as a repository for an anti-government protests vote without without being a Labour/Greens vote. I think that was the secret in seats like mine.

Sharma added that he couldn’t convince constituents in his electorate of his party’s climate agenda, saying that many thought the party didn’t take the issue seriously:

It’s not our policies. I think the policies could do with improvement, certainly, but it’s a lack of belief in the sincerity of our commitment.

I can tell people till I was blue in the face that how much would reduce emissions by 2050. How much money we’re investing in renewable energy ... but people just thought we weren’t serious about it because of our history on this issue.

And because of the rhetoric that people in the Coalition continued to use on the issue that suggested they thought the whole thing was a bit of a joke.

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On the vote count, AAP is reporting that Labor is ahead of the Greens in the seat of Brisbane by a tiny 34 votes, in a seat perviously held by the LNP.

Postal votes, which are still being counted, are favouring Labor candidate Madonna Jarrett over her Greens rival Stephen Bates.

As of yesterday afternoon, former minister Michael Sukkar led the contest for the Victorian seat of Deakin by 74 votes against Labor hopeful Matt Gregg.

Former NSW minister and Liberal candidate for Gilmore Andrew Constance is 105 votes ahead of sitting Labor MP Fiona Phillips.

In the Senate, the Coalition is on track to hold 30 seats, and Labor 25, in the 76-seat chamber from July.

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Good morning

Good morning, Mostafa Rachwani with you this morning, the fourth after the election.

We are expecting prime minister Anthony Albanese to return to Australia today after meeting world leaders in Tokyo.

Albanese used the opportunity to urge China to lift sanctions on Australia, adding that climate change remains the No 1 challenge facing Pacific Island nations.

He is expected to finalise his frontbench today, as the vote count continues, with Guardian Australia putting Labor on 73 seats so far, needing three more to form majority.

Elsewhere, the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that some Liberal MPs feared their government was in trouble as far back as September, and pushed for Josh Frydenberg to challenge Scott Morrison’s leadership. The report says the coup failed when Frydenberg declared his loyalty for Morrison.

And late yesterday senior NSW police announced they had “cut the head off the snake” of a drug syndicate in Sydney, making 18 arrests and seizing 34 mobile phones during 29 raids in south-west Sydney.

We will keep our eyes on Covid numbers and all the swirling reactions to the election, so stay tuned.

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