Australia news live updates: energy minister says market back to ‘normal’; two-thirds of aged care providers operating at a loss

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LIVE – Updated at 02:34

© Photograph: James Ross/AAP Daniel Andrews announced on Friday that the new leadership team will recommend Jacinta Allen (pictured here in 2020) as deputy premier. That recommendation has to be confirmed by the Labor caucus.

Follow the day’s news.

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

02:34 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.

 

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.

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.

 

‘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.

 

Merlino then stood up to give his final statement.

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

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.

 

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.

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

02:11 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.

 

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.

 

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”.

 

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.

 

Energy minister Chris Bowen dismisses criticism from Coalition that energy market was ‘spooked’ by renewables talk

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Blockade Australia says 25 NSW police officers attended their campsite this morning and arrested two people.

We have sought confirmation from NSW police.

The environmental activist group says one of the activists arrested was a 62-year-old Aboriginal woman who was staying at the campground.

We’ll bring you more as soon as we can.

Victorian police minister and tourism minister confirm resignations

24 Jun 2022 00:59 Benita Kolovos

Police minister, Lisa Neville, and minister for tourism, sport and major events, Martin Pakula, have also confirmed their retirement. That is the last of the expected resignations.

Neville, who has been in parliament for 20 years, said she is resigning due to health issues: she was forced to take six months’ leave last year to recover from surgery for Crohn’s disease.

Here’s part of her statement:

I have only known one way to approach public life and that is to invest every ounce of energy into it. Being an MP and a Minister is a unique privilege and one that demands your total focus. My recovery in 2021 allowed me to resume work in late 2021, but I know I cannot give another four years. I wish it were otherwise, but I must be honest with myself, the wonderful people I work with and the Bellarine community.

She added:

While it is no longer sustainable from a health perspective for me to commit to being Minister and local member for the next term, I am not finished with public service and look forward to finding other ways to continue to contribute to public life after the election in November.

Daniel Andrews, who was elected the same year as Neville, said he had “long admired Lisa’s openness about her battle with Crohn’s disease”.

Lisa has always tried to make things easier for others.She’s also always put her responsibility to the people of Bellarine and Victoria first. She’s put her job ahead of her health for a very long time – and now it’s time for Lisa to put herself first.

Pakula has been in parliament for 16 years. His lower house seat of Keysborough was recently abolished as part of an electoral redistribution but he was expected to make a move to the upper house. Instead, he’s leaving.

Politics, he said, was “a job which often demands an unhealthy measure of emotional and mental commitment”.

As politicians, we are notoriously bad at appreciating when considerations for our own well-being demand that we stop and find something else to do with our lives. I’d like to think I’m not one of them.

Andrews is not expected to announce his new cabinet until next month.

 

24 Jun 2022 00:54

The writs for the 2022 election have now been returned.

Writs for all 151 House of Representatives elections, and for the Senate elections in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, were returned to the governor general, David Hurley.

Writs for Senate elections in all states have been returned to state governors throughout the week.

Tom Rogers, the commissioner of the Australian Electoral Commission, said the return of the writs marks the completion of the “most complex and challenging election in Australia’s history”.

Victorian health minister Martin Foley confirms resignation

24 Jun 2022 00:50 Benita Kolovos

Victorian health minister, Martin Foley, has also confirmed he is resigning and will not be seeking re-election in November.

Foley, who is also minister for ambulance services and equality, thanked nurses, doctors, paramedics, allied health professionals and scientists for their work during the pandemic. He said working with them has been the “greatest revelation” of his professional life.

Here’s part of his statement:

Today I have informed the Premier that I will not contest the seat of Albert Park at the November state election.

Consequently, I will also be stepping down as a Minister in the Andrews Labor Government…

The past two years have been a tough time for all Victorians. Many of us have come to reflect on what we aspire to achieve. I am no different. I am looking forward to contributing to a better, fairer, sustainable Victoria in a different capacity. One that allows me more time to focus on my family and wellbeing and different interests.

Foley took over from Jenny Mikakos as health minister after her resignation in September 2020, and has served in parliament for 15 years.

Daniel Andrews said:

From being a senior leader in the trade union movement organising on behalf of some of the lowest-paid workers, to being Victoria’s first Equality Minister, nobody has fought harder than Martin to give a voice to those who needed it most. Those who, for too long, have been powerless, unsafe, persecuted.

We often say that in Victoria, equality is not negotiable. And that’s in no small part thanks to the community ally Victorians have had in Martin Foley. Martin has never been afraid to face difficult issues, and make difficult decisions, when he knew it was the right thing to do – and when he knew it would help people.

Andrews said without Foley, there would be no royal commission into mental health or the establishment of Victoria’s first medically supervised injecting room.

Victorian deputy premier James Merlino confirms resignation

24 Jun 2022 00:43 Benita Kolovos

We have our first confirmed resignation from Victoria’s cabinet in deputy premier, James Merlino.

He’s issued a statement this morning:

Today I advised the Premier of my decision to resign as Deputy Premier of Victoria, Minister for Education and Minister for Mental Health. I will also not contest the seat of Monbulk at the election in November.

A twenty-year journey is coming to an end. It has been an honour and a privilege to serve in the Victorian Parliament and represent my community of Monbulk. I leave with feelings of deepest gratitude, a little sadness and excitement for the future.

The premier, Daniel Andrews, has also issued a statement:

James Merlino – Deputy Premier, Minister for Education, Minister for Mental Health and Member for Monbulk – has advised me he will not seek re-election in November this year. He will also step down from Cabinet.

While our Government is often referred to as the Andrews Labor Government, nothing we’ve achieved in infrastructure, in health and education, in equality, in jobs and skills, in any area – would have been possible without the hard work, determination and leadership of the best Deputy any Premier could ever wish for.

Victoria has also never had a better Acting Premier.

In 2021, James seamlessly took over chairing the Cabinet and leading the Government at a difficult time for our state and a tough time for me and my family.

I will forever be grateful for his care and concern but moreover, his competence – allowing me to focus on recovering from very serious injuries, confident, indeed certain, that the state was in the best of hands.

Andrews said he has asked Merlino to stay on in the role of campaign chair ahead of the 26 November election.

Merlino is one of four senior ministers in Victoria expected to announce their resignation today.

 

24 Jun 2022 00:30

People camping outside Sydney passport office to beat queues

While we’re on travel-related queues, people are reportedly camping outside Sydney passport office in order to beat the queues.

There were five people, with sleeping bags, already lined up at midnight, according to journalist and queuer Barbie Dutter.

By 7am, Dutter reported, the queues were snaking around the block.

 

24 Jun 2022 00:29

You can read Merlino’s full statement here:

 

24 Jun 2022 00:27

Travellers warned to expect long airport delays as school holidays begin

Travellers have been warned to again prepare for lengthy delays at Australian airports, with millions of people due to jet off for the start of school holidays.

Schools in Victoria, Queensland and the Northern Territory are on holidays from tomorrow, while NSW, WA, and the ACT have one week to go.

Melbourne airport is expecting 2.1 million people to pass through the airport between today and 14 July, Nine News reported. That’s compared to 1.7 million people at Easter.

Nathan Currie, a reporter for Channel Seven’s Sunrise program, reported that queues at Melbourne’s T3 were out the door at 6.18am.

Sydney is also expecting to see 2.1 million people between 27 June and 17 July, compared to 1.8 million over Easter.

South Australia and Tasmania will break from 9 July.

NSW records 14 deaths, 9,139 new Covid cases

24 Jun 2022 00:11

New South Wales has recorded another 14 deaths of people with Covid-19.

There are also 1,455 people in hospital, including 54 in intensive care. There were 9,139 positive test results recorded in the 24 hours to 4pm yesterday.

Victoria records 20 deaths, 7,723 new Covid cases

24 Jun 2022 00:11

Victoria has recorded another 20 deaths of people with Covid-19, with 412 people in hospital, 27 in intensive care and 11 on ventilators.

There were 7,723 new cases reported yesterday, with a total of 42,037 active cases.

Qantas announces $5,000 payment for staff, forecasts return to profit next year

24 Jun 2022 00:09 Elias Visontay

Qantas is forecasting a loss of up to $550m this year, despite strong demand for domestic and international flights allowing it to reduce its net debt to $4bn by the end of this financial year.

That’s a $1.5bn improvement in the past six months.

In a market update on Friday, the airline forecast it would make a significant loss this year of between $450m and $550m, with Qantas group predicting it would return to underlying profit in the next financial year.

It also announced that it will give 19,000 EBA-covered employees a $5,000 payment to share the benefits of its recovery. The payments will be made once the new enterprise bargaining agreements covering them are finalised. Qantas will spend about $87m on these $5,000 staff payments.

Qantas will also further cut its domestic flying schedule in response to rising fuel prices. For July and August, it will cut a further 5% of capacity on top of the 10% it already announced. The 15% reduction in capacity will last through September, with capacity cut by 10% from October to March. The airline will contact customers booked on flights that are cut.

While Qantas has not announced any reductions in its international capacity today, it said the group will be flying at 83% of pre-Covid levels by the fiscal quarter beginning in July – down from 90% in the current quarter.

Ahead of the July holidays, Qantas has also sought to thank customers “for their patience and understanding” during what has been “a challenging restart for the industry globally”. Qantas has been heavily criticised for delayed baggage and poor on-time performance this year, with the Transport Workers Union claiming the airline’s decision to outsource baggage handling staff is contributing to the issues.

Qantas said there will be a 15% increase in ground handling staff during the July holiday compared with staffing levels during the Easter holidays.

Qantas group chief executive, Alan Joyce, also announced that budget carrier Jetstar’s chief executive, Gareth Evans, will step down from his role in December.

 

23 Jun 2022 23:56

PM to receive national security advice on possible Ukraine visit

Some more on Anthony Albanese’s potential visit to Ukraine.

The prime minister told ABC 7.30 last night that he was getting national security advice on whether to accept the invitation from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying:

We don’t want a circumstance whereby there’s risk to Australian personnel by undertaking such a visit, but we’ll take that advice and we’ll act accordingly.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has urged Albanese to give the proposal serious consideration, telling AAP on Friday:

We’ve formed a special bond with Ukraine. President Zelenskiy is one of the century’s great heroes, and he’s provided inspiration not only to his people but to the rest of the world as well.

I hope that we can visit in due course and if the prime minister is able to visit, if that’s the security advice he’s received, that it’s safe for him and for his delegation to visit, then I think it’s entirely appropriate that he would.

 

23 Jun 2022 23:47 Tamsin Rose

Review of John Barilaro’s appointment to trade commissioner role to be made public once completed

The “legitimate public concerns” over the appointment of the former New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro to a highly paid trade commissioner role will be dealt with in a review to be made public, according to the customer service minister, Victor Dominello.

The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, announced the review yesterday.

Speaking on 2GB radio on Friday morning, Dominello said:

The premier has acknowledged that there are some legitimate public concerns around this and that’s why he’s ordered a review from [Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary] Michael Coutts-Trotter. We wait for the outcome of that review, which the premier’s indicated will be made public.

Asked if he thought Barilaro would make it over the the US to start the job, Dominello said:

I’m not going to second guess the process. I’ll wait and see what the review reveals.

Pacific policy: Dutton pledges to ‘support the government in any way’

23 Jun 2022 23:36

Peter Dutton says he will seek a unity ticket with Labor in the Pacific after tensions strained Australia’s relationship with Solomon Islands.

The opposition leader told reporters in Canberra on Friday that he will continue to build on the relationships the Coalition established while in office.

I’ve met with the leaders … to the extent that we could over the course of Covid, most of it obviously virtually.

I’ve been friends and met with delegations and spoken with Pacific Island leaders over my time in parliament, and I’m very, very keen to continue that relationship, to build that relationship, to offer bipartisan support.

Dutton emphasised the importance of the region to Australia.

We’re talking about family and near neighbours that we need to work even more closely with.

So I’d be very happy to support the government in any way.

 

23 Jun 2022 23:29

Group of senior Victorian ministers set to retire, forcing cabinet reshuffle

Four senior Victorian ministers are expected to announce their retirement from politics as early as today.

The big names expected to announce their departure are the deputy premier, James Merlino; health minister, Martin Foley; police minister, Lisa Neville; and minister for tourism, sport and major events, Martin Pakula.

Guardian Australia’s Victorian state correspondent, Benita Kovolos, attempted to contact all four ministers but they’re keeping mum.

It continues the changing of the guard in the Andrews government, after the former attorney general Jill Hennessy and the planning minister, Richard Wynne, announced last year that they would retire at the state election in November.

 

23 Jun 2022 23:17

Points-based mutual obligation system for jobseekers will be opt-in, Burke says

Burke was also asked what tweaks he is planning to make to a controversial points-based mutual obligation system for jobseekers, which was introduced by the Morrison government and which Burke said it was “too late” to change.

He says the full brief arrived at his home last night and he is still reading through it, “so I’m very close to being able to make a decision”.

He says he will be working to the following three design principles:

  • People who would prefer to remain on the current system and not switch over to the new points-based system will be able to do so.
  • Everyone will start the new system with a blank slate, even if they had accrued penalties under the current system.
  • People will be able to undertake skills training or other courses as part of their mutual obligations, and will not have to abandon that course if they are offered a job interview.

 

23 Jun 2022 23:13

Youpla funeral fund collapse leaves 31 Aboriginal families struggling to pay for burials

At least 31 Aboriginal families are struggling to pay for funerals for loved ones who died since the collapse of the ACBF-Youpla funeral fund, Lorena Allam and Ben Butler report.

They write:

Veronica Johnson, a financial counsellor with the Broome Circle community support group, says three of her clients have been left desperately out of pocket since the Youpla collapse in March.

“One of them was buried, but it was a pauper’s funeral that [was] funded by the government, just a very basic funeral. And the beautiful lady who passed away, she had paid religiously [into the fund] till the day that she died,” Johnson said.

“She was sitting in a morgue for nearly two months until eventually the family got the pauper’s funeral from the WA Department of Communities. So, obviously, [the] family had to become financially stressed to pay for it. And that’s not what she signed up for.”

Johnson said another family is seeking to raise $2,000 by asking people to collect tin cans so that they can cash them in to pay for their mother’s funeral.

“We want people to see this is the level of financial human disaster that this has caused,” Johnson said.

You can read the full story here:

Related: Collapse of funeral fund Youpla leaves 31 Aboriginal families struggling to pay for burials

 

23 Jun 2022 23:07

Tony Burke says real wages can and should rise while inflation is high

Employment minister, Tony Burke, has told Radio National that he does not accept arguments from some economists suggesting that wages cannot rise while there is high inflation.

Burke was asked about comments made by Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, who said that 3.5% was a “good anchor point” for wage rises, and added that: “If wage increases become common in the 4–5% range, then it is going to be harder to return inflation to 2.5%.”

He said Lowe’s comments had been taken out of context, because Lowe also said he wanted to bring inflation back to between 2 and 3% – which would put wage growth, at 3.5%, ahead of inflation.

Burke said 3.5% was offered not as a cap but an “anchor point,” meaning some workers may get higher wage increases:

It’s not like 3.5% is there as a cap, but he is issuing a warning that we are not currently in a wage crisis spiral and we should avoid being in one.

The wage price index is currently running at 2.4%.

Even that anchor point would require a significant increase in wages on where people are today … I do agree that it would be very difficult to imagine a scenario where that wage price index gets up to 4s and 5s.

Burke said Australia was not currently in a wage spiral because real wages are not rising, and he criticised economists who say Australia cannot afford wage increases with inflation heading to 7%. Real wages needed to rise, he said.

We were told for a decade wages could not go up because inflation was low. Now some people are saying wages can’t go up because inflation is high. We were told that wages could not go up until unemployment was low. Well now unemployment is low, and we’re told that wages cannot go up.

Asked which workplaces might have the highest wage growth, he said it would be those with the highest union density.

I expect it will be the case that there are union agreements that are higher and non-union agreements that are lower …

There are two household truths: that is if you shop around you’ll spend less and if you’re in a unionised workforce you’ll earn more.

 

23 Jun 2022 22:51 Paul Karp

Greens to push Labor to ditch ‘unfair’ tax cuts

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, will address the Queensland Media Club today, outlining their strategy for the balance of power in the Senate: that they will be “constructive” but not a “rubber stamp”.

In excerpts of the speech, seen by Guardian Australia, Bandt renews his call for a gas company windfall tax:

Australia already has a windfall tax, it’s called the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax. The only problem is it is completely broken. Gas corporations have figured out how to game it so they will never pay tax.

Gas corporations have built a pile of $282bn in tax credits between them. That means they have to work through $282bn of profits – the GDP of Finland – before they would have to pay any tax.

All we have to do is make a simple change to the law preventing the use of these tax credits and we can scoop up some of the windfall these gas companies are making off us. The money raised from closing this loophole and fixing the tax more broadly would raise $59bn over the estimates, which we can use to help homes and businesses weather the crisis and get off gas.

Bandt will also reiterate his call for Labor to scrap the stage three income tax cuts.

He says:

In balance of power in the Senate, we will push Labor to ditch these unfair tax cuts that will rip $244bn out of the public purse. Labor must rethink these tax cuts for billionaires and save our progressive taxation system before it is too late.

If these tax cuts for the very wealthy proceed, we will move a step closer to US-style inequality, where the government fails to provide the basic essential services people need to survive.

Labor shouldn’t give Clive Palmer a tax cut while people can’t afford to get their teeth fixed. The Greens would rather get dental into Medicare than give Clive Palmer a $9,000-a-year tax cut. Two-thirds of these tax cuts will go to men, just one-third to women. The wealthiest 1% will pocket as much from these tax cuts as the poorest 50% of the population combined.

These tax cuts haven’t come into effect yet. We can reverse them without asking everyday people to pay a single dollar more tax than they are at the moment.

Good morning and welcome

23 Jun 2022 22:30

Good morning,

Anthony Albanese has admitted the government will have to place a cap on spending when it hands down its first budget in November, saying that while it will deliver on election commitments there is a difficult fiscal repair job ahead.

The prime minister told ABC’s 7.30 program:

We’re going to have to really put the brakes on some of the spending which is there.

There are a range of things we would like to do that we won’t be able to do in our first budget.

Albanese also confirmed he will make a stop in France during next week’s trip to Europe for the Nato summit to meet the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and is considering also travelling to Ukraine.

The detour to Paris around the meeting in Madrid is a bid to repair the relationship with Macron, damaged when Australia scrapped the submarine contract with French builder Naval Group in favour of the Aukus deal and Macron called Scott Morrison a liar.

He told Leigh Sales:

I’ve been invited by president Macron to meet with him in France. I’ll be doing that in a week’s time. We do need to reset. We’ve already had very constructive discussions.

Speaking of Macron, a study by the Australian National University has found that Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were, at the time of the May election, the most unpopular party leaders since the study began in 1987.

The Australian Electoral Study is a survey of 3,500 voters. On average, voters rated Morrison a 3.6 out of 10 on a scale of popularity, while Joyce was 3 out of 10.

In other news, Ukraine has been given candidate status in its campaign to become part of the European Union, a move that the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described as a “victory”. The application usually takes years, but Ukraine’s has been sped up due to the Russian invasion. Although as Zelenskiy noted, the country has been knocking at the door of the EU for years. He tweeted: “We have been waiting for 120 days and 30 years.”

Let’s crack on. You can reach me at calla.wahlquist@theguardian.com or on Twitter at @callapilla.