July 13, 2023

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

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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.


Ministers get cracking on plan to phase out caged eggs

By Sarah Brookes

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

At the first time Australia’s agriculture ministers have met face-to-face 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.


Penny Wong expected to meet with China’s Wang Yi tonight

By Chris Barrett

Foreign Minister Penny Wong is expected to meet with China’s acting 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.

“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 with counterparts from Indonesia, India, South Korea, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos and is 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.


Man accused of sending death threats to MP identified

By Cloe Read

The man accused of sending death threats to the federal 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.

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 accused of allegedly making calls which 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.


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’s 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.


Up soon: Penny Wong in Jakarta

By Anthony Segaert

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

Foreign minister Penny Wong, currently 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 two countries is not quite perfect.


Tasmanian Greens leader resigns for state upper house tilt

Tasmania’s parliament has suffered further upheaval, with longstanding state Greens leader Cassy O’Connor resigning for a tilt in the state’s upper house.

O’Connor, one of two Greens MPs in Tasmania’s lower house, was first elected in 2008 via a countback and became leader in 2015.

She held a press conference today in Hobart, saying she was quitting as leader and stepping down as member for Clark.

Cassy O’connor will resign as Greens leader in Tasmania.Credit: Jess Hromas

“This hasn’t been an easy decision,” she told reporters.

“I love my job. I love working in parliament and especially in an exciting, dynamic, balance of power parliament. But it is time to go.

“It is the right time for the Greens. We need renewal in leadership and the House of Assembly.”

Her departure comes after the Liberal government was plunged into minority in May when two MPs quit to the crossbench over concerns with the state’s deal for an AFL club and stadium.

There is speculation a state election will be held well before its June 2025 due date.

O’Connor said she intended to seek pre-selection for the upper house seat of Hobart.

A recount will be held to replace her in Clark, with her seat expected to go to Greens candidate Vica Bayley.



This afternoon’s headlines at a glance

By Caroline Schelle

Thank you for joining us during our busy live coverage.

I’m handing over to my colleague Anthony Segaert, who will be anchoring the blog for the rest of the day.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re just joining us:

Federal Mildura MP Anne Webster has been confirmed as the parliamentarian who allegedly faced death threats from a man arrested in Brisbane on Tuesday.Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says Labor’s “negative” campaign over former opposition frontbencher Stuart Robert’s involvement in robo-debt will affect the polls on Saturday.Voice architect Noel Pearson says the referendum later this year will be the “most important vote” Australia will ever have.Pro-democracy activist and retired Sydney baker Chau Van Kham thanked Australians and the prime minister for securing his release from a Vietnamese prison.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at their meeting at NATO.Credit: ReutersThe German ambassador to Australia says a potential trade deal with the European Union is “too big to fail”, and it could go through another round of negotiations.Meanwhile, Anthony Albanese has offered Ukraine 30 more Bushmaster armoured vehicles following a meeting between the pair on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Lithuania.Mining giant Fortescue Metals Group reassured investors the split between its biggest shareholders, Andrew and Nicola Forrest, will not change control of the company.And overseas, the BBC has restarted an inquiry into presenter Huw Edwards after police announced that they were taking no further action.


Join the conversation

Our story on the average take-home pay of the chief executives falling to its lowest in nine years is generating interesting conversation with our subscribers.

@Linus says: “It would be good to see a CEO pay fixed to a defined multiple of the average salary for their employees; that way, any increases must be across the board.”

@ChrisA writes: “The problem with the ridiculously high CEO salaries is that there doesn’t seem to be an effective way to get them all reduced. Shareholders voting against the remuneration report may cause a board spill but the new board can then just rubber-stamp the same CEO remuneration.”

The fall in actual pay for CEOs reflects falling bonuses and the departure of highly paid bosses such as Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.Credit: Oscar Colman

@Brenda Loots says: “Quick, somebody set up a go-fund-me page for the poor darlings. Seriously – remuneration there bears no resemblance to ‘fair’ compensation. They’d be nothing without the 100s or 1000s of workers doing the actual work in their respective organisations.”

What do you think? Let us know using the link above.


New airline Bonza cuts routes due to weak demand

By Amelia McGuire

Australia’s newest airline, Bonza, will cut five routes from its schedule less than six months into operations due to a lack of demand and reliability issues on its more popular routes.

Bonza chief commercial officer Carly Povey sent an open letter to customers today to announce the changes to its route map, which will come into effect next month.

New airline Bonza is cutting five routes and reducing the frequency of some of its other services.

The airline will also reduce the frequency of some of its other services due to insufficient demand to enable an additional weekly service on three of its strongest routes.

Povey told this masthead the airline had not taken the decision to reduce its route map to 22 destinations lightly, but said it was important to improve the experience of customers and be responsive to demand.

Find out more about the changes here.

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