July 13, 2023

Australia news LIVE: PM offers 30 more Bushmasters to Ukraine at NATO; Voice to parliament debate continues

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yesterday 7.00pm

Good night

By Anthony Segaert

Thanks for your company this evening. Here are some of our top stories:

A man has been charged after allegedly sending death threats to the federal member for Mallee, Anne Webster.Ukraine insists it is grateful for Australia’s aid after receiving 30 more Bushmaster troop carriers.Andrew and Nicola Forrest have hosed down talk that their separation poses a risk to the future of Fortescue Metals Group.Former Queensland Liberal MP Ewen Jones has died of cancer, aged 63.The BBC has restarted an inquiry into presenter Huw Edwards after police announced that they were taking no further action.

And if you’re looking for something to watch: our reviewer says the second season of iconic show The Bear is, yes, even better than the first.

yesterday 6.44pm

Liberal MP says robo-debt was ‘illiberal’

By Angus Thompson

Liberal MP Keith Wolahan has described the robo-debt scheme as “illiberal” as well as a “shameful failure of governance”, revealing that he acted as a barrister for one of the victims of the scheme.

Speaking to ABC radio on Thursday, the Victorian MP said it became clear early on in the welfare crackdown that there were errors in the scheme, which had given him a new sense of perspective.

“It was a shameful failure of governance, and it was also illiberal,” he said of the Coalition government program, which ended before he was elected to parliament.

“One of the reasons I’m a Liberal is we respect the dignity of the individual, and instead we had a computer generated algorithm reverse the onus, accusing innocent people of being guilty of something they weren’t, and the scale was enormous.”

He said he knew many people affected, including members of the Liberal Party, and acted pro bono for a victim, whose “honesty was being questioned by the government”.

“I think it’s important for us to learn the lesson from this and it starts with acknowledging the pain,” he said.

yesterday 6.21pm

Multimillion-dollar gold fraudsters set to be jailed

Two men who roped relatives, friends and backpackers into their $40 million gold-selling fraud scheme will be jailed.

Jonatan Kelu and Cedric Adrian Millner were found guilty of two counts each of conspiring to cause loss to the Commonwealth on Tuesday after police uncovered an intricate tax evasion scheme set up by the pair.

Kelu and Millner bought millions of dollars worth of gold in 2012 without paying GST as the gold was more than 99 per cent pure.

The pair will be jailed after developing a $40 million gold-selling fraud.Credit: Bloomberg

The duo then melted the gold and resold it as a powder to Melbourne company Focus Gold, and then claimed they had paid taxes on the initial purchase and requested a tax offset from the Australian Taxation Office.

Later that year the pair roped in family and friends and placed them between themselves and the pure gold sellers to avoid suspicion, and make it seem as if they were buying secondhand – therefore being forced to pay tax on the gold.

The scheme took a different approach in 2013 when the pair recruited people they referred to as “Koreans” or backpackers on working visas to be the middlemen between them and the sellers.

The ATO ultimately refunded them more than $40 million in tax offsets before they were arrested and charged in 2018.

Millner, who now works and volunteers as a disability support worker, was refused bail today despite his lawyer arguing his clients could not cope without him.

Kelu, who ran as a candidate for former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s seat of Wentworth in the 2007 election, was granted bail to receive treatment for lead poisoning.


yesterday 5.54pm

Australian sharemarket soars as US inflation cools

By Jessica Yun

The Australian sharemarket stayed in good spirits all of today’s session after Wall Street rose to its highest level in over a year amid positive signs of cooling inflation.

The S&P/ASX200 closed up 1.5 per cent, or 111.2 points, to 7246.9 points, with gains across the board. Every sector was in the green, with real estate, tech, consumer discretionary and materials stocks all pulling up the bourse.

The latest inflation report has boosted Wall Street.Credit: Reuters

Today’s strong session marked three days of green in a row for the local bourse, which hit a three-month low on Monday before bouncing back on Tuesday, and extending on those gains the following day.

Get your full five-minute wrap of the day in finance here.

yesterday 5.37pm

Number of WA Indigenous people enrolled to vote ‘a national embarrassment’

By Sarah Brookes

When it comes to the number of First Nations people not enrolled to vote, there’s one state that lags particularly behind: Western Australia.

As the Voice to parliament referendum approaches, one in four Indigenous people of voting age are missing from the state’s enrolment list.

An Australian Electoral Commission spokesman said while WA’s estimated Indigenous enrolment rate remained low at 74.1 per cent, in the six months to December 2022, it grew by 3.6 per cent.

“Australia’s estimated Indigenous enrolment rate is a priority for the AEC,” he said.

“We’re not going to be satisfied until the Indigenous enrolment rate reaches parity with the general enrolment rate.”

The AEC has run a series of mock referendums in regional WA to help voters understand the referendum process and enrol to vote ahead of the Voice to parliament referendum later this year.

State Liberal MP Tjorn Sibma said WA’s low enrolment rate was a “national embarrassment” and said the state and federal governments needed to do more.

Read the full story here.

yesterday 4.47pm

Ministers get cracking on plan to phase out caged eggs

By Sarah Brookes

Caged eggs will be phased out by 2036 after the country’s agriculture ministers endorsed new animal welfare standards for poultry at a meeting in Perth today.

At the first in-person meeting of Australia’s agriculture ministers in three years, federal Agriculture Minister Murray Watt said the market was already shifting to cage-free eggs.

Australia will soon phase out caged eggs.Credit: AP

“Most of the retailers and big manufacturing companies that use eggs are already moving towards more humane methods of raising hens,” he said.

The new standards will still allow for the use of cages in poultry farming, but Watt said egg producers would need to provide additional space and “environmental enrichment” for the chickens.

“They won’t be the kind of cages that we’re all used to seeing on TV in years gone by,” he said.

Watt said about 30 per cent of eggs currently bought in supermarkets were produced from battery hens.

Retail giants Woolworths and Coles have already vowed to end the sale of caged eggs by 2025.

Read the full story here.

yesterday 4.23pm

Penny Wong expected to meet China’s Wang Yi tonight

By Chris Barrett

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong is expected to meet her acting Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Jakarta tonight on the edges of the ASEAN-hosted foreign ministers’ retreat.

Speaking to reporters in the Indonesian capital this afternoon, Wong did not confirm a meeting was locked in, or what she would discuss, but has been vocal about the Hong Kong police’s placing of bounties on activists including on two Australian residents.

Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong speaks at the Australia-ASEAN foreign ministers’ forum in Jakarta today.Credit: AP

“We’re looking to arrange meetings with a number of counterparts including China and I’m happy to talk to you about it when it happens. I will be upfront with people after the meetings about some of the topics discussed, but I certainly don’t propose to flag to the media what I will say at the meeting,” Wong said.

“On the issue [of the Chinese crackdown on Hong Kong], I have been very clear about our position on the national security law and I’ve been very clear about Australia’s view about the importance of freedom of expression, and the government and the Australian people’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of people in Australia including Australian citizens to exercise their freedom of expression.”

China’s foreign minister, Qin Gang, has not made the trip to Jakarta for health reasons and has been replaced by Wang, the former foreign minister and state councillor who hosted Wong on her visit to Beijing last December.


Wong has also reiterated here that the Australian government wants to see movement on Chinese trade sanctions and the imprisonment of Australians Cheng Lei and Yang Hengjun.

Asked whether there may be a delay in Prime Minister Anthony Albanese taking up an invitation to visit China with those issues pending, Wong said: “What I’d say about the prime ministerial visit [is] the prime minister’s intention is to visit at an appropriate time. Of course, we would want the most positive circumstances for such a visit.”

Wong has met counterparts from Indonesia, India, South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and was due to sit down with Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi this afternoon.

She also attended the Australia-ASEAN foreign ministers’ forum today and will be in the room tomorrow for the East Asia Summit for foreign ministers’ meeting, which Russia’s Sergei Lavrov and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken are also attending.

yesterday 3.59pm

Man accused of sending death threats to MP identified

By Cloe Read

The man accused of sending death threats to the federal Nationals MP for Mallee, Anne Webster, has been identified as Simon Geoffrey Raymond.

Court documents in the Brisbane Magistrates Court show Raymond has been accused of threatening to kill Webster, and another person, on April 14 just before midnight.

Nationals MP Dr Anne Webster at Parliament House in June.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

He allegedly repeatedly sent emails addressed to Webster, which were also sent to a large group of medical professionals in Australia and overseas.

He is also alleged to have made calls that included threats of violence and serious harm.

Raymond, who was born in Victoria but has no address listed, is alleged to have committed the offences while in Darwin.

Read the full details here.

yesterday 3.19pm

Former MP Ewen Jones dies aged 63

By Anthony Segaert

Former Queensland Liberal MP Ewen Jones has died of cancer. He was 63.

Jones represented the seat of Herbert, around Townsville in Queensland, from 2010 to 2016.

Ewen Jones has died aged 63.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer

He has been remembered by former colleagues as “the absolute best of men”.

“Ewen had the biggest of hearts and made every day fun,” wrote former Liberal MP Wyatt Roy on Facebook.

“He was a fiercely principled fighter, never afraid to stand up for what was right.

“He always made a point whenever we spoke or caught up to say, ‘I love ya mate’ – not an easy thing for blokes to do. When he got sick, those familiar words made hard times that little bit easier. You would hang out to hear him say it and let him know back.”

Liberal leader Peter Dutton described Jones as “a true champion of Liberal values” who “fought relentlessly for the people in and around Townsville”.

Dutton quoted from Jones’ first speech to parliament:

No one will be left behind while I have the ability to help. I can only imagine what it is like for someone who has fallen completely through the cracks. I have the advantage here over others in that at all times during my life I have known that, above all else, my family loves me, no matter what.

During his time in parliament, Jones served as government whip and sat on several committees, including the appropriations and administration, and education and employment committees, Dutton said.

Jones worked as an auctioneer and in the real estate and financial services sectors before being elected.

He is survived by wife Linda and their three children.

yesterday 2.37pm

Up soon: Penny Wong in Jakarta

By Anthony Segaert

Good afternoon, Anthony Segaert with you for the rest of the afternoon.

Foreign Affairs Mnister Penny Wong, now in Jakarta, is expected to speak to the media shortly as part of a days-long visit to Indonesia. South-East Asia correspondent Chris Barrett will bring all the details shortly.

Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo came to Australia earlier this month. But, as Matthew Knott reported, the relationship between the countries is not quite perfect.

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