Australia news live updates: Daniel Andrews nominates Jacinta Allen as new Victorian deputy premier

view original post
From 14m ago

Andrews nominates Jacinta Allan to be deputy premier

Daniel Andrews has announced that the new leadership team will recommend that Jacinta Allan be named deputy premier. That recommendation has to be confirmed by the Labor caucus.

Allan and Andrews are both from the left faction of the Labor party, which breaks with a common practice of having the leader and the deputy be from different factions. But Andrews says it is not the first time the one faction has held both roles.

My recollection is that while, for instance, Rob Hulls [deputy premier under John Brumby] did a very good impersonation of someone from the left, he was not from the left. Likewise, while John Thwaites was a progressively progressive member of that government, he was not a member of the left. So, let’s not get into these sorts of games.

I am very confident, just as my senior leadership team colleagues are very confident, that the caucus will make the right decision.

Updated at 21.29 EDT

China and Australia can ‘coexist peacefully’ with respect, ambassador says

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, says relations between the two countries “enjoy greater potential for cooperation”.

The focus of his address is the state of relations between Australia and China “and my personal views on what we could do in the immediate future”.

After recent federal election, Australia has a new Labor government. This is a choice for the Australian people – and it’s a domestic affair of this country. Nonetheless, it has provided with an opportunity of possible improvement of our bilateral relations.

Australian government ministers were blocked from meetings or calls with their direct Chinese counterparts for more than two years as the relationship deteriorated, although lower-level diplomats and public servants kept in communication.

The high-level freeze finally ended when the new deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, sat down for an hour with China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, in Singapore earlier this month.

Xiao says recent face to face contacts – including the meeting in Singapore – were “obviously very significant for the bilateral relationship”.

The more important question, Xiao says, is: “How we can keep the momentum and put our bilateral relationship back on the right track”.

There continue to be from interjections members of the audience at University of Technology Sydney, including about the crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong.

After one audience member was removed for interjecting, Xiao was met with applause after saying:

I think I should continue.

He went on to say there is “no reason that we cannot coexist peacefully when we respect each other”.

Vaccine mandate for teachers dropped in Queensland, NSW likely to follow

Queensland is removing Covid vaccination mandates for teachers from next week and New South Wales is considering a similar proposal.

The Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said that from 1am next Thursday, people will no longer need to be vaccinated to work in schools, childcare, prisons and airports or to visit jails, aged care and disability facilities. Individual employers will still be able to enforce their own mandates, she said.

“Restrictions that have protected us have eased in sensible stages, and today I announce with the advice of the Chief Health Officer, we are removing some of the last remaining Covid restrictions,” she told parliament on Friday.

Mandates will remain in place for workers in healthcare, hospital, aged care and disability care facilities in Queensland.

In New South Wales, the education department will take a proposal to key stake holders to remove the vaccine mandate for all but staff who work in Schools for Specific Purposes. Staff in those facilities will be required to keep up to date with Covid boosters.

If implemented, the policy change means that 965 casual staff who are currently not working due to vaccine mandates will be able to return to onsite teaching, and teaching staff who resigned due to the vaccine mandate will be able to reapply for advertised roles.

Protester interrupts beginning of address by Chinese ambassador to Australia in Sydney

Daniel Hurst

A protester has interrupted the beginning of a speech by China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, in Sydney.

Xiao, who arrived in Australia in January, had only started addressing the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney when an audience member started shouting “Stop the genocide” and “Tibet remains colonised”.

The event includes an in-person audience – but the webinar was temporarily suspended. Two minutes later, when it resumed, Xiao said: “Obviously it is not a good start.”

An audience member shouted: “How about freedom of speech in China?”

Xiao resumed his speech.

It’s my pleasure really to be here for this event, although there are different views. And I respect the invitation from the UTS and ACRI. It is upon the invitation from UTS and ACRI that I come here it exchange views with you.

He said he would also listen to audience views through questions.

I think it’s a good opportunity – we have different views but they should be expressed in a way that is appropriate.

Updated at 21.34 EDT

Andrews nominates Jacinta Allan to be deputy premier

Daniel Andrews has announced that the new leadership team will recommend that Jacinta Allan be named deputy premier. That recommendation has to be confirmed by the Labor caucus.

Allan and Andrews are both from the left faction of the Labor party, which breaks with a common practice of having the leader and the deputy be from different factions. But Andrews says it is not the first time the one faction has held both roles.

My recollection is that while, for instance, Rob Hulls [deputy premier under John Brumby] did a very good impersonation of someone from the left, he was not from the left. Likewise, while John Thwaites was a progressively progressive member of that government, he was not a member of the left. So, let’s not get into these sorts of games.

I am very confident, just as my senior leadership team colleagues are very confident, that the caucus will make the right decision.

Updated at 21.29 EDT

Merlino continued:

Time comes for everyone, and in politics sometimes that is beyond your control. You lose preselection, you lose your seat at the election. For some lucky ones, and I consider myself to be incredibly lucky, we get to call time on a career.

There is never a right time. This is hard. It is hard to leave my beloved portfolio of education and mental health. It is hard to do it. But there does come a time for everyone … For me it is 20 years. For others, they have more energy, more ideas.

I know I can go 100 miles an hour, 100%, through to November, but I know deep in my heart I could not commit to another four years. The seat of Monbulk will always be a marginal seat … I did not want to have a by-election in the seat of Monbulk [but] I did not have four years in me to continue as a member of parliament.

He directed this comment at the press pack:

Thank you to the media. There are times I won’t miss you and times I will miss you. But thank you for the work that you do.

Updated at 21.31 EDT

Merlino then stood up to give his final statement.

Thanks very much Dan. It is good to be here for the last time.

Updated at 21.27 EDT

‘No premier could ever have had a better deputy’ than Merlino, Andrews says

Daniel Andrews gave a personal send-off to deputy premier, James Merlino – who was standing right behind him, smiling awkwardly through the praise like it was a best man speech at a wedding.

Andrews said:

James and I came into the parliament at the same time. James is not only a trusted colleague, but a dear friend. No premier – no premier – could ask for a better deputy than James Merlino. He is a person of courage and conviction. He is defined not just by his work – and I will come to that in a moment – but he is defined by his character, decency, his hard work, his determination to stand up to his local community, and for everybody across our community who needs a champion.

In each of the portfolio areas that he has been honoured to serve in, he has brought that sense of compassion, that sense of urgency, that effectiveness to bear … More recently, James has, of course, taken on responsibility for the implementation of Australia’s first and only royal commission into mental health, acknowledging, as I do, that that system is broken, and that we need to do more and that we need to do better.

James leaves the ministry and will leave the parliament knowing that just yesterday, introducing the most profound rewrite of the Mental Health Act in the history of our state, leading our nation. Work has begun on a 90% of the recommendations of the royal commission. James can be very, very proud of that work as well. That will change lives. It will save lives.

On a very personal note, I will never be able to repay James for his loyalty, for his friendship, for his care and comfort to me. No premier could ever have had a better deputy, and I don’t believe Victoria could have had a better acting premier than we had for an extended period last year.

To not doubt for one moment that the government, the cabinet and the state was in the safest of hands allowed me and my family to deal with almost a life-changing injury. Less than one millimetre – it would have been a life-changing injury. He allowed me to focus on them and I will never be able to thank him for stepping up like he did.

He is an outstanding person, a great Victorian. He has been an outstanding deputy premier and while I am saddened by his decision, I understand.

And if you look at, I think, almost the last line of this statement today where he indicates that his kids – three beautiful kids – are “super excited” that he was not going to be in politics anymore, I think that says it all. When it is right, it is right.

Updated at 21.27 EDT

Daniel Andrews gives press conference and thanks ministers departing cabinet

Daniel Andrews is speaking now, partly to announce those new appointments and partly to send off those who are leaving.

He also headed off the inevitable questions about the impact of losing so many senior ministers, saying: “There is great depth in our cabinet, there is great depth in our caucus.”

The changes will mean that more than half of the leadership team is made up of women.

Updated at 21.18 EDT

Daniel Andrews appoints coordinating ministers to fill roles of resigning cabinet members

Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has appointed a series of coordinating ministers – holding positions, basically – to fill the roles of the four senior cabinet ministers who have announced their resignation.

There will be a caucus meeting tomorrow to confirm new cabinet appointments.

Updated at 21.17 EDT

Two-thirds of aged care providers are operating at a loss – report

Christopher Knaus

Two-thirds of Australia’s aged care providers are now operating at a loss, and the sector is warning the situation will only worsen in coming months.

Late Thursday, aged care accountancy firm StewartBrown released its latest data on the financial situation of the sector. It showed 64% of residential aged care providers were operating at a loss in the nine months to March. Providers had an average operating loss of $12.85 per bed each day.

Those figures continue a trend of deteriorating financial sustainability in the sector since 2018. The data forecasts that losses will worsen in coming months to $15.59 per bed each day. The sector has consistently warned it is facing financial crisis.

Paul Sadler, head of peak body Aged & Community Care Providers Association, said:

Based on these figures, many providers could be forced to leave aged care unless there is additional funding to allow providers to meet the increasing costs of providing quality care and support.

It is clear that aged care workers need a significant pay rise, but without additional support, aged care providers will be unable to attract more workers and to realise improvements in the quality of care.

The sector has lobbied the new government to adjust the indexation arrangements to increase subsidies to aged care providers. It also wants the new government to create an independent pricing authority, to properly assess the cost of aged care services, as recommended by the royal commission.

Updated at 21.11 EDT

Arrow Energy withdraws from two coal seam gas leases in Queensland

Arrow Energy has formally withdrawn from two coal seam gas leases in Queensland’s Scenic Rim region after a decade-long campaign by locals against its plans, AAP reports.

State resources minister, Scott Stewart, says the company has withdrawn its application to renew two exploration permits near the town of Beaudesert, south of Brisbane.

My department have accepted these withdrawal applications meaning these exploration permits no longer exist,” he told parliament on Friday.

Arrow halted operations at the two leases a decade ago following an 18-month community blockade of its drilling sites.

The company quietly applied to extend the leases in 2018, and as part of those applications had to submit a plan for commercial gas extraction by 2033.

The Scenic Rim mayor, Greg Christensen, community groups, activists, and state MP Jon Krause were deeply concerned when they found out about the applications earlier this year.

Stewart spoke with Christensen over Zoom two weeks ago about Arrow Energy’s applications and promised not to make a final decision until they had met in person.

After Arrow withdrew the applications, the minister said the matter had been responsibly handled by all parties.

“I would like to place on record my thanks to all those who engaged with me in a respectful manner in relation to this matter, including Arrow Energy, the mayor of Scenic Rim regional council, Greg Christensen, and the member for Scenic Rim [Jon Krause],” Stewart said.

Updated at 21.07 EDT

Aemo to return to regular operations of national energy market today

As flagged by the energy minister, the Australian Energy Market Operator will formally end the suspension of the wholesale electricity spot market at 2pm today.

In a statement, Aemo said:

The current energy challenge in eastern Australia is the result of several factors across the interconnected gas and electricity markets. This includes periods of high electricity demand, coupled with a large volume of generation unavailable due to maintenance or unplanned events, planned transmission outages and high energy commodity prices.

Returning to regular operations of the [National Energy Market] is now possible, as we are currently seeing more normal electricity bidding and dispatching through Aemo’s automated resources, along with reduced electricity shortfalls and fewer manual interventions needed by Aemo.

It added that it expects “conditions to remain dynamic in the short term once the suspension is lifted”.

Updated at 20.54 EDT

Asked if he could guarantee energy security through winter, Bowen said:

I can guarantee the government is fully focused on the task at hand. I can guarantee that every single action that needs to be taken will be taken as it has been over the last three weeks. Every single action has been taken.

Government has been ‘very active’ in working to avoid blackouts, Bowen says

Bowen said the government had worked with both the energy regulator and Aemo to keep the lights on.

The government has been very active and the fact that we have managed collectively, the regulators, the operator, working cooperatively with states and territories to avoid any load shedding to avoid any blackouts is a testament to all those who work so hard over the last three weeks.

No help from the people who created the situation, in the previous government. The regulator, operators, state and territory governments [are] working very cooperatively with the commonwealth [and] have managed to keep the lights on, no load shedding, no blackouts.

Asked by Guardian Australia’s economics correspondent, Peter Hannam, if the Australian Energy Regulator has contacted retailers to seek more information about the financial stability of those retailers, Bowen said:

It would be irresponsible of me to start speculating about liquidity matters. I remain in constant contact with the regulator. The government remains very alive to the issues to be considered as the market returns. I will not start commenting on financial viability.

Updated at 20.52 EDT

Energy minister Chris Bowen says ‘normal market conditions’ have returned

The energy minister, Chris Bowen, has told reporters in Sydney that the Australian energy market has returned to “normal market conditions” after a bumpy few weeks.

We are aware of the long term challenges, the need to get more renewables and storages into the system that work will continue and in the meantime we are managing very vigilantly a short term crisis.

He dismissed criticism from the Coalition – who were very recently in government and therefore very recently responsible for the conditions that resulted in an energy crisis – saying the opposition party could either decide to be taken seriously as a credible alternative government, “or they can be a laughing stock”.

They appear to be taking the latter approach by somehow claiming that the last 10 years of denial and delay don’t count and somehow claiming that the government that’s been in for four weeks is somehow, you know – by talking about renewables – is somehow spooking the coal fire generators to not working.

That’s apparently what Sussan Ley said yesterday, all the talk of renewables spooked the market. Renewables don’t spook people and they don’t spook coal-fired powered generators into not working. If the Liberal party wants to be taken seriously they might start being a bit more mature about the discussion.

Updated at 21.37 EDT

Three men arrested after 45kg of cocaine found in jukebox shipped from Greece

Two Australians and a Greek foreign national have been arrested after $20m worth of cocaine was allegedly smuggled into Australia inside a jukebox, AAP reports.

The 45kg consignment from Greece was detected by Australian border force officers and tracked to a home at Sunshine North in Melbourne’s west.

A 39-year-old Spotswood man, a 26-year-old Reservoir man, and a 66-year-old Greek foreign national were arrested by Victoria police and Australian federal police officers on Tuesday.

Police searched the Sunshine North property as well as homes in Spotswood and Reservoir and commercial premises in Toorak and Kingsville.

Two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a Harley Davidson motorbike, luxury watches, jewellery, clothing, drugs, and a significant amount of cash were seized.

The Spotswood and Reservoir men were each charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug, and attempting to possess a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug.

They faced court on Wednesday and have been remanded in custody. The Greek man was released pending further inquiries.

The men are believed to be significant members of a crime syndicate, AFP Detective Inspector Mark McKiernan said.

“We also know drug trafficking can lead to drug wars in our streets and in source countries, and often law-abiding citizens can be the collateral damage to that violence,” McKiernan said.

Updated at 20.32 EDT