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Benita Kolovos

New Victorian laws aimed at crime bosses to target ‘ill-gotten gains’

Victoria’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, and police minister, Anthony Carbines, are holding a press conference now on their “unexplained wealth” laws, to be introduced to parliament today, aimed at crime bosses.

Carbines begins:

Organised crime bosses who think they can hide their wealth with their partners or with others, that will no longer be the case under this legislation. Police will only need a reasonable suspicion … [of] where crime bosses are hiding their wealth, and they’ll be able to pursue them.

This also will go to assets. Where organised crime bosses think they can have the fancy cars, the flash yachts, spend their money on hotels and strippers, you’re drawing attention to yourself. Victoria police will be after you. They will be able to use these laws to crack down and reclaim that stolen wealth, that ill-gotten gains.

Symes explained how the laws will close a loophole:

What we’ve heard from Victorian police and there’s been an independent review in relation to our laws, is there are gaps and there are barriers for police pretty well know that the assets obtained by the individual has been obtained through illegal means, through spending money that they obtained illegally. What the barrier has been is that we’ve had to demonstrate that that is connected to criminal activity, the onus now will be flipped under this legislation, you will have to demonstrate that you obtained by legal means … it’s very likely unless they won Tattslotto and they can show their winning ticket, they probably were doing illegal activities to obtain their wealth.

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The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has demanded a meeting with ABC management to protest last night’s Four Corners program, which he alleged “was the journalistic equivalent of a bowl of vomit”.

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The program was titled Ukraine’s War: The Other Side. The ABC’s blurb said it was “a rare insight from the other side”, adding that “filmmaker Sean Langan’s groundbreaking documentary offers a human perspective on life on the Russian frontline”.

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In a statement issued this morning, Myroshnychenko said the program “unquestioningly repeated and aired countless blatant lies, historical distortions, racist claims and propaganda narratives emanating from the Kremlin” and therefore “completely served the interests of Russia’s dictator, Putin”.

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Myroshnychenko said:

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It also minimised and denigrated the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children who have been killed by Russian soldiers in an illegal and brutal invasion strongly condemned by Australia and the majority of countries through the UNGA resolution in March 2022.

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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation should be ashamed that it put such total garbage to air.

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Through the Minister for Communications, I will ask for a meeting with the Managing Director of the ABC and the Executive Producer of Four Corners to understand what process led to the airing of this pro-Putin and pro-violence propaganda piece by Australia’s national broadcaster. I will share with them the facts that the program totally disregarded.

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Comment is being sought from the ABC.

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The drama around Don Farrell’s comments though comes because of their timing. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is visiting Australia this week (after visiting New Zealand) and there are suggestions Farrell made the comments downplaying the US relationship because of that pending visit.

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Simon Birmingham told Sky News this morning:

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I can’t get inside Don Farrell’s head to say for sure whether or not you’re right. But what Don Farrell did was quite insulting to the United States, and he ought to apologise for it. He ought to set the record straight.

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Let’s be very clear. Under the Five Eyes agreement, the United States shares its most sensitive intelligence with Australia. Under the Aukus partnership, we’re expecting the United States to share its most sensitive defence technologies with Australia. So, we are asking them to put enormous trust in us and we should reciprocate that trust. Every single Albanese government minister should be crystal clear about that. Not dismissive of it.

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(Just an FYI, New Zealand is also a member of Five Eyes).

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New laws are set to be introduced to Victorian parliament to force career criminals to repay any wealth that they cannot prove was lawfully acquired.

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The state attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, and police minister Anthony Carbines will on Tuesday announce the new laws they say are “aimed at depriving crime bosses of the use and enjoyment of their unexplained wealth”.

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They said while authorities can currently confiscate wealth they believe has been illegally acquired, it must be in the criminal’s name.

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Under the bill, a new pathway will be created for an “unexplained wealth order” that will allow authorities to seize an asset purchased due to the proceeds from crime in someone else’s name.

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The changes will also capture “consumable wealth and wealth that has been gifted, disposed of or expended” – such as the hiring of a yacht, a hotel penthouse or sexual services.

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attorney general Jaclyn Symes.”,”caption”:”Victorian attorney general Jaclyn Symes.”,”credit”:”Photograph: James Ross/AAP”}}],”attributes”:{“pinned”:false,”keyEvent”:true,”summary”:false},”blockCreatedOn”:1710798348000,”blockCreatedOnDisplay”:”17.45 EDT”,”blockLastUpdated”:1710798974000,”blockLastUpdatedDisplay”:”17.56 EDT”,”blockFirstPublished”:1710798370000,”blockFirstPublishedDisplay”:”17.46 EDT”,”blockFirstPublishedDisplayNoTimezone”:”17.46″,”title”:”Victoria announces ‘unexplained wealth’ laws aimed at crime bosses”,”contributors”:[{“name”:”Benita Kolovos”,”imageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2022/03/03/Benita_Kolovos_2.jpg?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=d3f0a5f1842f00e9418475562a58b666″,”largeImageUrl”:”https://i.guim.co.uk/img/uploads/2022/03/03/Benita_Kolovos.png?width=300&quality=85&auto=format&fit=max&s=5eab712ba445dc6cf12cdc0f9a1eff16″}],”primaryDateLine”:”Mon 18 Mar 2024 19.59 EDT”,”secondaryDateLine”:”First published on Mon 18 Mar 2024 15.29 EDT”},{“id”:”65f8b3ea8f08f31585c6fd4e”,”elements”:[{“_type”:”model.dotcomrendering.pageElements.TextBlockElement”,”html”:”

The reason Chris Bowen has a bit of pep in his step today is because of the release of the latest default market offer on electricity prices.

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As Peter Hannam reports, there could be some relief in store on power:

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Millions of households could see power prices fall in the coming year as falling costs for generation have declined from the “extreme peaks of 2022”, the Australian Energy Regulator says.

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The regulator released its draft default market offer for the 2024-25 on Tuesday, setting a guide for electricity prices in New South Wales, South Australia and south-east Queensland. Victoria was expected to reveal its equivalent default prices soon.

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The majority of residential customers can expect price cuts of between 0.4% to 7.1%, while most small business customers could see reductions between 0.3% and 9.7%, the AER said. Price changes, though, may hinge on location and type of load demand.

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Asked whether Paul Keating should meet China’s foreign minister Wang Yi, Chris Bowen says:

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\n

Certainly if he chooses to.

\n

I mean, this is a very important visit by the Chinese foreign minister. I think it reflects the efforts of the government and of the Chinese government to be fair, to stabilise relations.

\n

There’ll be important meetings with serving government ministers. It is entirely usual for a visiting foreign minister to seek out a former prime minister, particularly one who played the role he did in Australia finding security in Asia, not from Asia, as Paul Keating did all those years ago.

\n

He’s deeply respected across Asia and a meeting of that nature is, I think, singularly unremarkable.

\n

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Welcome back to politics live for the second sitting day of the session. Thank you to Martin for kicking things off this morning. Amy Remeikis will be with you for most of the day.

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It’s going to be a busy one – so let’s get into it.

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Survivors of sexual harassment in the workplace will be encouraged to share their stories and solutions as part of a new project being launched by the Australian Human Rights Commission today.

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The Speaking from Experience project – another recommendation from the landmark 2020 Respect@Work report – will allow victim-survivors to voluntarily share their experiences so the commission can better understand how common workplace sexual harassment is and come up with ways to prevent it from happening.

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The sex discrimination commissioner, Anna Cody, said those who had experienced sexual harassment while on the job could offer “invaluable insights into the challenges and solutions needed to create safer workplaces”.

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In particular, Cody wanted to hear from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander workers, culturally and racially marginalised workers, young workers, workers with disability and LBGQTI+ workers.

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Cody told Guardian Australia:

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We know that, very sadly, sexual harassment pervades every industry and every workplace. We’ve had a national inquiry. What are the areas now that we need to really focus on to shift the experience of sexual harassment within Australian workplaces?

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A number of in-person consultations will also be held, kicking off in Perth this week.

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The Coalition has taken aim at former prime minister Paul Keating for accepting a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, who is visiting Australia later this week.

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The Coalition’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Simon Birmingham, said the idea of the meeting was “pointed and somewhat insulting” in light of the extent of Keating’s past commentary directed towards the Australian foreign minister, Penny Wong:

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Paul Keating’s reckless and irresponsible comments since the Albanese government was elected demonstrates an underlying division within the broader Labor party

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Whatever their personal views, our former prime ministers carry with them a special responsibility to be cognisant of changing security challenges and judicious in the use of their office. Paul Keating’s running commentary has been neither, and is clearly welcomed for propaganda purposes elsewhere.

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Keating yesterday rejected criticism of his decision to accept Wang’s meeting invitation, saying the Australian Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet had offered “to facilitate the meeting and to make appropriate arrangements”.

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Despite his outspoken criticism of the Aukus pact, Keating said he was pleased Australia had “moved substantially from the counterproductive baiting policy the Morrison government applied to China to now something much more civil and productive”.

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Good morning and welcome to today’s politics live blog. My name is Martin Farrer and first I’m going to flag up the best overnight stories before Amy gets into the hot seat.

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Ever since Clive Palmer spent $117m at the last election, there have been growing calls for curbs on political donations. Now an alliance of independents want to outlaw gifts of more than $1.5m. Lower house crossbenchers including Kate Chaney, Zali Steggall, the Greens, David Pocock, Lidia Thorpe and the Jacqui Lambie Network will present a united front by introducing their fair and transparent elections bill in both houses of parliament to outlaw large donations.

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In addition, the Greens plan to introduce a private senator’s bill to give the ACCC powers to “smash the supermarket duopoly”. The idea of divestiture powers allowing the breakup of big businesses after a court finds a serious breach of competition law has been backed by former ACCC chair Allan Fels.

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The Reserve Bank is widely tipped to leave its key interest rate on hold at this week’s board meeting, which winds up today. But economists are split on how soon borrowers can expect rate relief. The central bank will announce the results of its second board meeting for 2024 at 2.30pm and while pundits and investors alike expect the RBA will leave its cash rate unchanged at its 12-year high of 4.35%.

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The Coalition has criticised former prime minister Paul Keating for accepting a meeting with the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, who is visiting Australia later this week. Simon Birmingham called Keating’s decision “reckless” and irresponsible” while the former Labor PM continued to hit back at his critics. Keating, an outspoken opponent of the Australian government’s plans to acquire nuclear-powered submarines, accused News Corp’s national broadsheet The Australian of being “trenchantly anti-Chinese”.

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Key events

NSW premier asks: ‘What can Melbourne genuinely offer?’

Because there are not a lot of actual issues to care about, NSW premier Chris Minns has decided it is time to reignite the Sydney v Melbourne wars (which is ridiculous, because Brisbane is the best Australian capital city as anyone cool already knows).

In a recent speech that was pretty much “Sydney is the best, forget the rest”, Minns said:

Melbourne?

What can Melbourne genuinely offer?

It seems to be if you listen to Melburnians a mix of quote “Check out our coffee lanes” and some kind of “Parisian feel”.

Except that it doesn’t have the Louvre, it doesn’t have Haussmann architecture, it doesn’t have Bonaparte Boulevard’s, it doesn’t have the Musee d’Orsay, it doesn’t have the EiffelTower.

In other words – it’s Paris, without any of Paris’s landmarks but with Paris’s alleyways.

However, when it comes to Sydney, all of that natural beauty creates natural limits to our vision for this town.

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Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

While we await the ABC’s response to the Ukrainian ambassador’s complaints about last night’s Four Corners, it might be worth taking a look at this recent Guardian piece looking at the same documentary when it went to air in the UK:

Ukrainian ambassador furious over Four Corners episode: ‘Total garbage’

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

The Ukrainian ambassador to Australia, Vasyl Myroshnychenko, has demanded a meeting with ABC management to protest last night’s Four Corners program, which he alleged “was the journalistic equivalent of a bowl of vomit”.

The program was titled Ukraine’s War: The Other Side. The ABC’s blurb said it was “a rare insight from the other side”, adding that “filmmaker Sean Langan’s groundbreaking documentary offers a human perspective on life on the Russian frontline”.

In a statement issued this morning, Myroshnychenko said the program “unquestioningly repeated and aired countless blatant lies, historical distortions, racist claims and propaganda narratives emanating from the Kremlin” and therefore “completely served the interests of Russia’s dictator, Putin”.

Myroshnychenko said:

It also minimised and denigrated the deaths of thousands of innocent Ukrainian men, women and children who have been killed by Russian soldiers in an illegal and brutal invasion strongly condemned by Australia and the majority of countries through the UNGA resolution in March 2022.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation should be ashamed that it put such total garbage to air.

Through the Minister for Communications, I will ask for a meeting with the Managing Director of the ABC and the Executive Producer of Four Corners to understand what process led to the airing of this pro-Putin and pro-violence propaganda piece by Australia’s national broadcaster. I will share with them the facts that the program totally disregarded.

Comment is being sought from the ABC.

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For those who didn’t see it this morning, here is Chris Bowen defending Paul Keating’s meeting with China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi.

Chris Bowen defends Paul Keating’s meeting with Chinese foreign minister – video

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The Labor caucus meeting has officially welcomed new MP Jodie Belyea

Anthony Albanese steps up to speak in the Labor caucus room. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
The PM welcomes Jodie Belyea. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
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Peter Hannam

RBA cash rate verdict looms

The Reserve Bank board wraps up its two-day meeting this afternoon and will release its interest rates verdict at 2.30pm AEDT.

Anything but a third “hold” in a row would surprise everyone, not least because the few public outings by RBA officials have left the distinct impression that they are fine with current settings.

The main interest, so to speak, will be whether the board members considered another rate rise (likely) or a cut (unlikely at this point).

RBA governor Michele Bullock will add detail to the bank’s thinking and may even introduce Andrew Hauser.

Houser joined the RBA as deputy governor from the Bank of England last month so this week marks his first board meeting (and the first with the full nine members since Bullock was elevated to the top job in September).

Markets were pricing only a 5% chance of a rate cut from 4.35% to 4.1%, as of yesterday, according to the ASX’s rates tracker. Investors were only “fully pricing in” that first cut by October (which actually means November since there’s no board meeting in October).

Of course a lot can change between now and then: the federal budget, the impacts of revised stage-three tax cuts from 1 July, a Chinese economic slowdown/rebound … and a US presidential election that could turn ugly.

Only so much the RBA with its single tool – its cash rate – can tinker with.

The Reserve Bank of Australia governor Michele Bullock. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

New Victorian laws aimed at crime bosses to target ‘ill-gotten gains’

Victoria’s attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, and police minister, Anthony Carbines, are holding a press conference now on their “unexplained wealth” laws, to be introduced to parliament today, aimed at crime bosses.

Carbines begins:

Organised crime bosses who think they can hide their wealth with their partners or with others, that will no longer be the case under this legislation. Police will only need a reasonable suspicion … [of] where crime bosses are hiding their wealth, and they’ll be able to pursue them.

This also will go to assets. Where organised crime bosses think they can have the fancy cars, the flash yachts, spend their money on hotels and strippers, you’re drawing attention to yourself. Victoria police will be after you. They will be able to use these laws to crack down and reclaim that stolen wealth, that ill-gotten gains.

Symes explained how the laws will close a loophole:

What we’ve heard from Victorian police and there’s been an independent review in relation to our laws, is there are gaps and there are barriers for police pretty well know that the assets obtained by the individual has been obtained through illegal means, through spending money that they obtained illegally. What the barrier has been is that we’ve had to demonstrate that that is connected to criminal activity, the onus now will be flipped under this legislation, you will have to demonstrate that you obtained by legal means … it’s very likely unless they won Tattslotto and they can show their winning ticket, they probably were doing illegal activities to obtain their wealth.

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Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Bowen shrugs off push for ACCC supermarket powers: ‘Not something we’re contemplating’

Staying with Chris Bowen’s press conference, the energy minister seemed to shrug off the Greens calls for the competition regulator to get new powers to bust up the supermarket duopoly.

The Greens senator Nick McKim will introduce a private senator’s bill on divestiture powers this week. Nationals leader David Littleproud has already this morning backed the idea in a radio interview.

Bowen noted the Liberal party hadn’t backed the idea (yet), saying: “What’s the position of the Coalition? I don’t know. I’d be interested to hear what Mr Dutton thinks.”

Bowen pointed out ongoing treasury reviews of supermarkets, saying “we’ll go through things in a normal, methodical, careful way, not the sort of haphazard National party way”.

“It’s not something we’re contemplating.”

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Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Power prices ‘encouraging’ but ‘long way to go’: Bowen

Energy minister Chris Bowen says today’s default market offer on electricity – with the energy regulator saying consumers can expect price cuts of up to 7.1% – is “encouraging” but that there is “a long way to go”.

As reported earlier, the Australian Energy Regulator is forecasting price falls as generation costs reduce from previous peaks. Bowen said there continued to be “real pressures” in the energy market but claimed the falls were in part due to the government’s coal and gas price caps, as well as more renewable cheaper energy coming into the system.

The government faces other looming fights on both its vehicle emissions standards, and plans to change consultation on new gas developments, in Bowen’s energy sphere. At a Parliament House press conference, Bowen seemed to downplay the prospect of taking up the Greens’ offer for the minor party to back the emissions standards in exchange for scrapping the gas changes – the Greens are furious about those changes, raising major concerns about the voices of local Indigenous groups and traditional owners being shut out of consultation on major fossil fuel developments.

Bowen said the emissions standards had “been in the too-hard basket for 20 years”, noting the support of major motoring groups for the change.

“I don’t think the Greens want to seriously contemplate standing in the way of that important change,” he said.

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Bowen drives point home on nuclear: ‘The market hasn’t sorted it out anywhere in the world’

There has been increased commentary that if the government is so sure that nuclear is not economically viable, it should just change the laws stopping nuclear exploration in Australia and let the market prove their point. (Unless the government is too chicken, and worried nuclear will take off is the unspoken part of that commentary)

This is just the latest version of “the opposition has said something and instead of just letting the facts that it is all bupkis speak for itself, we are all going to be forced into a pointless debate debunking the Coalition’s claims, because the Coalition said it, and therefore it must be treated very seriously”. This is how political debate is hijacked in this country – no matter how many experts say something is not worth the time it takes to discuss something, and that there are many actual viable alternatives, or solutions, if the Coalition says something often enough, it gets treated with equal seriousness.

Bowen addressed some of the commentary in his press conference this morning:

I hear this argument – “Just lift the moratorium and let the market sort it out.” The market hasn’t sorted it out anywhere in the world. What sorts it out is big transfers of taxpayer wealth from the taxpayer to nuclear developers. We’re not doing it. We’re not going to do that. So why lift the ban? Because it would send the signal that we might contemplate that.

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Dutton should ‘check his facts’ on nuclear, Bowen says

Chris Bowen was also asked about the Coalition’s latest obsession with nuclear energy. He says:

Peter Dutton might want to turn up at the Press Club for a change and answer some of your questions.

I’m sure there’ll be plenty of questions for all of us to debate, and perhaps at some of the six sites that Peter Dutton’s going to reveal as the sites for nuclear power stations.

He’s welcome to do that as soon as he likes. We can do it today. And then there’ll be plenty of opportunities for debates.

The fact of the matter is … the alternative prime minister of Australia disparaged Australia’s peak scientific organisation, the CSIRO, in a way which was not becoming or befitting the alternative prime minister of Australia.

Just ‘cause he doesn’t like the report, just ‘cause it doesn’t support his ideological premises against renewable energy and in favour of nuclear, is not an opportunity for him, as the alternative prime minister of Australia, to say a report by CSIRO and AEMO is discredited when it’s not.

He was factually wrong when he says it doesn’t include transmission costs. He needs to check his facts and be more respectful of the CSIRO.

Peter Dutton during question time yesterday. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian
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Bowen repeats that Keating meeting ‘singularly unsurprising’

A little bit ago, Chris Bowen held a press conference where he repeated his answer about Paul Keating’s meeting with Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister.

In an almost word for word copy of what he said to the ABC this morning, Bowen told reporters:

It’s singularly unsurprising that they would meet with a former prime minister. Former prime minister Keating is deeply respected across Asia as the man who first pointed out that Australia would seek its security in Asia, not from Asia.

Wang Yi’s visit is important. It’s a symbol of a stabilisation of the relationship which this government has fostered and which China has reciprocated.

That’s important, as our largest trading partner. I think most people would understand that. Minister Wang Yi will be meeting with serving current ministers, and it’s singularly unsurprising he would meet with a former prime minister, particular one such as former prime minister Paul Keating, who has championed deeper ties with Asia.

Chris Bowen defends Paul Keating’s meeting with Chinese foreign minister – video

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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Victorian education minister: ‘There is no teacher out there at the moment teaching that shouldn’t be’

Victoria’s education minister, Ben Carroll, has responded to a report in the Herald Sun, which says the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) has not finalised the misconduct cases of 39 teachers.

An investigation by the Herald Sun found teachers, even those who have been convicted in court of serious crimes, are still under ­“interim suspension” by the VIT.

But Carroll says these teachers are not able to return to classrooms. He tells reporters outside parliament:

I can give assurances to all parents … there is no teacher out there at the moment teaching that shouldn’t be. Under the VITs powers, they do not renew teaching certificates if there is an investigation and the VIT are doing most cases within six months.

He said only one misconduct case has been dragging on for four years.

That is before the courts. It has involved an overseas jurisdiction as well. So unfortunately, we are a little bit bound by the court processes … But teachers that are before the courts do not teach.

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Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Victorian energy minister ‘delighted’ by power prices draft decision

Victoria’s energy minister, Lily D’Ambrosio, says she’s “absolutely delighted” with the Essential Services Commission’s draft decision, announced this morning, which proposes to reduce the state’s default offer for electricity bills.

Speaking outside parliament, she says under the offer, residential customers will see their bills go down by about $112 (or 6.4%) and small businesses will see theirs go down by $266 (7%) from 1 July.

D’Ambrosio says:

This is very exciting news. I’m absolutely delighted with the draft decision.

[It] is open for consultation, but I expect that come the final decision, Victorians will absolutely be receiving the benefits of cost of living relief that are very, very important to them.

She says about 360,000 residential and 58,000 small business customers are now on the Victorian default offer but it also provides a “benchmark” for energy retailers. D’Ambrosio says:

The benefits will flow on by putting downward pressure and greater competition on energy retailers to sharpen their pencils and further and cut bills.

Victorian energy and environment minister Lily D’Ambrosio. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP
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Keating’s China meeting ‘somewhat insulting towards Penny Wong’: Birmingham

On Paul Keating’s meeting with China’s foreign minister, Simon Birmingham says:

You have a look at what Paul Keating’s had to say about Penny Wong and the Albanese government. And he’s been highly, highly critical of them and indeed of anything other than a pretty cosy relationship between Australia and China.

Now, we welcome Wang Yi’s visit to Australia. It’s an important visit, and it is welcome that China is no longer imposing the type of ban on dialogue that was so counterproductive between the relationship.

But it is quite pointed and somewhat insulting towards Penny Wong for the Chinese embassy to have sought this meeting with such a vocal critic of Penny Wong.

(Just wait until Birmingham hears what Simon Birmingham has said about Penny Wong and the Albanese government!)

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Birmingham says PM should haul trade minister ‘into line’

Simon Birmingham continued:

Look, our Kiwi cousins are family. They are absolutely a close and trusted partner. But let’s be very clear about the degree of sensitivity that exists in the Australia-United States relationship in terms of sensitive material and information that is exchanged, and that is only intended to escalate in terms of the level of sensitive information and material being exchanged between our countries.

And we are embarking through Aukus on the closest and most trusted of partnerships and prime minister Albanese and the defence minister, Richard Marles, have sought to be clear about that.

Why is their trade minister at odds with them, and why is he seeking to talk down the US relationship in this way?

That’s why he ought to be pretty quick to correct the record or have the prime minister haul him into line.

Apparently, by this reasoning, our most trusted and closest ally, the United States, would be most grievously injured by the statement that New Zealand, another trusted and close ally might rank higher in Australia’s bestie list, if you consider all history.

This is apparently the diplomatic version of learning your best friend refers to another person as their best friend.

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‘Insulting to the US’: Birmingham on Farrell’s ‘most trusted ally’ comments

The drama around Don Farrell’s comments though comes because of their timing. China’s foreign minister Wang Yi is visiting Australia this week (after visiting New Zealand) and there are suggestions Farrell made the comments downplaying the US relationship because of that pending visit.

Simon Birmingham told Sky News this morning:

I can’t get inside Don Farrell’s head to say for sure whether or not you’re right. But what Don Farrell did was quite insulting to the United States, and he ought to apologise for it. He ought to set the record straight.

Let’s be very clear. Under the Five Eyes agreement, the United States shares its most sensitive intelligence with Australia. Under the Aukus partnership, we’re expecting the United States to share its most sensitive defence technologies with Australia. So, we are asking them to put enormous trust in us and we should reciprocate that trust. Every single Albanese government minister should be crystal clear about that. Not dismissive of it.

(Just an FYI, New Zealand is also a member of Five Eyes).

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Who is Australia’s closest friend? The US or New Zealand?

As Daniel Hurst reported, trade minister Don Farrell caused a little ruckus in the Senate yesterday when he said that New Zealand, and not the US, was Australia’s most trusted ally.

Farrell said:

I’m not sure that United States is our most trusted ally. I would have said New Zealand in the whole history of time.

… But we are very close to the United States, I freely concede that.

Now that has caused OUTRAGE among the Coalition who think that America should be number one.

But Australia and New Zealand have always been close allies and were before the US was in the picture. For starters, there is the whole Anzac thing – Australia New Zealand Army Corps, which was formed in Egypt in 1914. It was disbanded in 1916 and then re-established in 1941.

As Anthony Albanese said in April 2023:

We are absolutely close allies, and will remain that in perpetuity. I can’t imagine a circumstance where Australia and New Zealand aren’t the closest of friends.

And in a joint statement with then-New Zealand prime minister Jacinta Ardern in 2021, Scott Morrison said:

The Australia-New Zealand relationship is unique in its closeness; we are partners and allies, and we share a relationship of family, of whānau. Through our single economic market, our people-to-people ties and our shared interests in the region and the world, Australia and New Zealand stand together.

Scott Morrison with Jacinda Ardern on a visit to New Zealand in 2021. Photograph: Joe Allison/AAP

Now, it is true that Australia’s first visit from a non-royal navy came in 1908 when the “Great White Fleet” was invited to sail to Australia by Alfred Deakin. The American ships prompted Australia to order their first modern war ships which royally annoyed the British. But Australia and the US had some pretty major disagreements including the peace terms after the first world war as well as the reparation agreements after second world war.

New Zealand and Australia have had their disagreements – including the deportation of New Zealand-born citizens from Australia, no matter how long they had spent in Australia – but in terms of strategic relationships, the geography and shared colonial history has linked the two nations together throughout modern history. While the official history has trade between Indigenous Australians and Māori beginning in 1793, there is evidence it started much earlier.

All of this is to say that Australia has always claimed a close relationship with New Zealand, even before the US was in the picture.

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Energy retailers should ‘do the right thing’ on prices, consumer body says

The reactions to the draft default market offer have been coming in and the CEO of Energy Consumers Australia, Brendan French, is happy the Australian Energy Regulator has reduced the retail margins allowed as part of the offer.

We were also very pleased to see that the AER’s media release mentions the legal obligation for retailers to offer assistance to consumers when they are in hardship. People living in Australia have a right to ask their retailer for assistance, and we encourage people to seek help if they are having difficulty paying their energy bills.

But French thinks they could have gone further:

Retailers regularly move customers on to offers that are higher than the Default Market Offer once their market contract ends. We believe strongly that the onus should not be on people to have to switch at that point, it should be on retailers to do the right thing and not charge a loyalty tax, particularly when most customers aren’t really aware it’s happening. We would like to see retailers actively looking to do better for their customers.

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