September 12, 2023

Australia news LIVE: Greens agree on housing deal with extra $1b for public, community housing; Qantas senior executive resigns

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Watch: Question time in Canberra

Question time is underway in the House of Representatives at Parliament House in Canberra.

Watch live below:

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2.28pm

‘All about listening’: Burney urges respect in Voice debate

By Natassia Chrysanthos

Question time has started in federal parliament and Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney has called for all sides of the Voice referendum debate to treat each other with care and respect.

Her remarks follow comments Indigenous leader and Voice advocate Professor Marcia Langton reportedly made at an event in Western Australia, where she said the No case was based on racism or stupidity.

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Langton was quoted in the Bunbury Herald as saying: “Every time the no cases raise their arguments, if you start pulling it apart you get down to base racism – I’m sorry to say that’s where it lands – or sheer stupidity… If you look at any reputable fact-checker, every one of them says the No case is substantially false. They are lying to you.”

Burney was asked about those comments in question time. This is how she responded:

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“I want to say this very clearly. I call on everyone involved in this referendum to act respectfully and with care for their fellow Australians. We are a great country. We are enhanced by listening to a diversity of views and opinions. Fundamentally, the Voice is all about the act of listening. Listening to some of the most disadvantaged Australians, First Nations people. Listening to remote communities, so we can help close the gap and improve lives. Because we know that listening leads to better results.

Of course there is no room for racism of any kind in this country. We are a diverse country… This is one of our greatest strengths. Whether your family arrived here 60,000 years ago, six years ago, we’re all part of this country’s story. I encourage all Australians to vote yes on October 14 because it is time to listen, it is time for recognition.

1.43pm

This afternoon’s headlines

By Caroline Schelle

Thanks for reading our live coverage for the first half of the day.

It’s time for me to head off, and I’m handing over to Megan Gorrey who will anchor the blog for the rest of the afternoon.

If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know:

Revelations about the tactics used by No campaigners triggered a call for Opposition Leader Peter Dutton to condemn false claims about compensation. It comes after this masthead reported volunteers for Fair Australia are told not to identify themselves upfront as No campaigners as they make hundreds of thousands of calls ahead of the referendum.The Albanese government has been urged in an open letter signed by more than 70 high-profile Australians and organisations to exercise its power to halt the prosecution of whistleblowers.Greens housing spokesman Max Chandler-Mather, says the party would take rent freezes and caps to the next election, after it secured a deal with the government for extra social and affordable housing. A clear majority of the public wants politicians to turn down free club membership from Qantas amid a political storm over the company’s influence over government decisions. In NSW, the state government announced logging will be halted inside key koala habitat inside the proposed Great Koala National Park on the state’s mid-north coast.And overseas, a trapped US explorer has been rescued from a Turkish cave after he became seriously ill more than a kilometre under the surface.

Appreciate your company today, and I’ll be back first thing tomorrow.

1.27pm

US makes deal with Iran to swap prisoners

And in some news from overseas, the Biden administration cleared the way for the release of five American citizens detained in Iran by issuing a blanket waiver for international banks to transfer $US6 billion ($9.3 billion) in frozen Iranian money from South Korea to Qatar without fear of US sanctions.

In addition, as part of the deal, the administration has agreed to release five Iranian citizens held in the United States.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the sanctions waivers late last week, a month after US and Iranian officials said an agreement in principle was in place.

Antony Blinken, US secretary of state.Credit: Bloomberg

Congress was not informed of the waiver decision until Monday, according to the notification, which was obtained by The Associated Press.

The outlines of the deal had been previously announced and the waiver was expected. But the notification marked the first time the administration said it was releasing five Iranian prisoners as part of the deal. The prisoners have not been named.

The waiver drew criticism of President Joe Biden from Republicans and others who say the deal will boost the Iranian economy at a time when Iran poses a growing threat to US troops and Mideast allies.

Find out more on this issue here, from wire service AP.

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1.12pm

Gina Rinehart’s $500m raid on Liontown gatecrashes $6.6b takeover

By Simon Johanson

In business news, Australia’s richest woman Gina Rinehart has plunged half a billion dollars into lithium miner Liontown Resources, indicating she wants a seat on the board just as US giant Albemarle Corporation prepares to inspect the books to shore up its $6.6 billion takeover bid.

Rinehart’s company Hancock Prospecting confirmed recent raids on Liontown’s shares had given it a critical 7.72 per cent stake in the lithium prospector that is developing a lucrative high quality hard-rock deposit in Kathleen Valley, in the middle of Western Australia.

Gina Rinehart has built a stake in Liontown.Credit: Trevor Collens

Rinehart gatecrashing Albemarle’s takeover party ups the ante in a global battle to control scarce supplies of lithium, a key component in modern home and grid batteries used to store the renewable energy generated from wind and solar or to power electric cars.

Continue reading here.

12.50pm

NSW govt ends logging in areas of proposed Great Koala National Park

By Nick O’Malley

Logging will be halted in key koala habitat inside the proposed Great Koala National Park on the NSW Mid-North Coast, NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe announced.

She said logging operations in 106 identified koala “hubs” by the government-owned NSW Forestry Corporation was suspended on Friday, while the government continues work towards declaring the national park.

The announcement comes after this masthead reported fears by activists and scientists that logging had intensified in koala hubs as loggers sought to extract as much timber as possible before they were locked out of the proposed park.

Premier Chris Minns’ government decided to halt logging in key koala habitats. Credit: Kate Geraghty

The hubs constitute about 5 per cent of the area, but around 40 per cent of koala sightings.

“The creation of the Great Koala National Park is essential to saving koalas from extinction in NSW,” Sharpe said.

Nature Conservation Council acting CEO Dr Brad Smith said the decision was a historic step forward for the Minns government.

“What we’ve seen today is ministers Sharpe and [Tara] Moriarty recognise and respond to the community who want to protect their local forests, koalas and First Nations heritage from the devastating impact of logging,” Smith said.

“This decision is a win for the people of NSW, who rallied, protested and demanded better – in some cases tying themselves to the giant trees that will now remain standing.”

12.30pm

Consumers still cautious following RBA pause

Consumer optimism has retreated again after staging a recovery over the past few weeks.

The Reserve Bank’s decision to keep interest rates on hold was not enough to coax consumers out of their cautious state, with confidence levels falling 1.1 points last week.

The weekly index collated by ANZ and Roy Morgan came in at 77.6 points, still well below the 111.1 monthly average since 1990.

ANZ economist Madeline Dunk said the gauge had been stuck below 80 points for six consecutive months, the longest stint on record.

“This is despite the RBA keeping the cash rate on hold at its September meeting, and the June quarter GDP data suggesting that Australia is on track for a soft landing,” she said.

The sub-indices were mixed, with the future of the economy worrying respondents more than their own short- and long-term financial situations.

While the decision to keep interest rates on hold for the third consecutive month wasn’t enough to push up the overall score, Dunk said confidence among those with a mortgage lifted to its highest level in five months.

Predictions from the home building industry suggest construction will be constrained, keeping upward pressure on rents and house prices.

Fresh forecasts from Master Builders Australia have new starts hovering below its 200,000 dwelling yardsticks used to ensure enough homes are being built to keep up with population growth for the next two years.

AAP

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12.15pm

No campaign lashes Clare comments

No campaign organisation Fair Australia has responded to claims from Education Minister Jason Clare this morning.

It comes after this masthead revealed a top No campaigner had instructed volunteers to instil fear in voters’ minds, not to identify themselves upfront as No campaigners and to raise reports of financial compensation to Indigenous Australians if the Voice was set up.

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare has described tactics used by No campaigners as ‘rubbish’.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Education Minister Jason Clare earlier called the claim a “lie” and said it was “rubbish” to suggest the Voice would lead to compensation payments, something Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has previously ruled out.

But a spokesperson for Fair Australia asked “is Mr Clare serious”.

“Clearly he’s the one not telling the truth here,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

“He [Clare] knows full well the Voice is a pathway to division and will create a powerful platform for activists to change the country in ways they refuse to be honest about.”

Readers can find out more about the issue here.

12.00pm

Join the conversation

Our story on Peter Dutton challenging Anthony Albanese to cancel the October 14 referendum on an Indigenous Voice is sparking plenty of discussion with our subscribers.

@Scott55 says: “The idea of a referendum is that all voters get to make their voice heard with a vote for or against the question. Dutton deciding that all Australians do not need a voice, in addition to his argument that Indigenous Australians do not need a voice, shows that he just doesn’t understand democracy.”

Anthony Albanese rejected a bid to cancel the Voice referendum. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

@Daisy writes: “The referendum is not about Albanese or Dutton. And it is clearly too late to call off the referendum. I will vote No, as I do not support a separate Voice for any section of the population in the constitution. However, it is important to address disadvantage and I hope, whatever the outcome of the referendum, there is more progress to address disadvantage. Measures can be introduced to address disadvantage, as experienced by First Nations people and other people, without a Voice.”

@Neil Barker says: “Changing the date will not affect the outcome of the Voice if the Coalition insists on opposing it. A Voice for Aboriginal people means having the power to discuss issues directly with the Executive Government on matters affecting them … Until the Coalition recognises that the current system is not working, the Aboriginal community will never have a Voice aimed directly to the government of the day, and enshrined in our constitution.”

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

11.45am

Sweetener to entice health workers into the NSW public system

By Laura Banks

In NSW, healthcare students will be offered 12,000 scholarships worth $4000 a year as the state government attempts to halt the troubling exodus of nurses, doctors and paramedics from the public system each year, but experts warn it is not the solution to the system in crisis.

Up to 850 new nursing students, 400 medical students and 150 people studying midwifery will be eligible to receive the $4000 grant.

NSW Premier Chris Minns (right) and NSW Minister for Health and Regional Health Ryan Park (left).Credit: Kate Geraghty

Students of paramedicine, Aboriginal health, physiotherapy and occupational therapy will also be eligible to apply.

Existing students can access a one-off payment of $8000, with a total budget commitment of $121.9 million being set aside for the study subsidies in next week’s state budget.

But the grants come with a caveat: recipients must be willing to make a five-year commitment to the NSW public health system.

Learn more about the scholarships here.

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