September 18, 2023

Australia news LIVE: Bowen says Coalition’s nuclear option would cost $387b; Taiwan warns Albanese of China’s ‘hidden agenda’

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This afternoon’s headlines

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons

Thank you for joining me on the news blog this afternoon. For those just tuning in, here is what you need to know:

Temperature records for the start of spring have been shattered in parts of Australia.Late AFL footballer Ron Barassi will be given a state funeral in Melbourne, as the AFL considers whether to honour him by renaming the premiership.Qatar Airways has declined an invitation to appear before the Senate, but might be summoned.NSW Premier Chris Minns has said he is open to a state-based Voice to parliament, while also campaigning for a Yes vote in the referendum.Today is the last day for Australians aged 18 and over to enrol to vote or update their details on the AEC website ahead of the referendum.An 18-storey landmark office building in the centre of Sudan’s capital has been engulfed by fire as fighting between the military and a rival paramilitary force enters its sixth month.


Sharemarket closes down as all sectors trade in the red

Technology and energy companies dragged the Australian sharemarket lower on Monday following a negative lead from Wall Street over the weekend and ahead of the Federal Reserve’s interest rate decision this week.

The S&P/ASX 200 was down 48.6 points, or 0.7 per cent, to 7230.4 at the close as all sectors traded in the red.

Read about the winners and losers on the local bourse, with the full update from Millie Muroi.


Environmental group takes Plibersek and two coal companies to court

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons and Miki Perkins

In national news, litigation is an increasing trend in the battle for climate action, and environment reporter Miki Perkins has this update from the Federal Court in Melbourne.

A non-profit environmental group has taken Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek and two coal mining companies to court for allegedly failing to protect “living wonders” such as the Great Barrier Reef from climate change.

An environmental group is taking the Environment Minister and two coal companies to court for allegedly failing to protect the Great Barrier Reef.

The Environment Council of Central Queensland began outlining its case today, asking Justice Shaun McElwaine to consider whether Plibersek’s refusal to assess the climate harm of two proposed coal mines in NSW was lawful.

It is the first court challenge to a coal or gas decision made by the current environment minister and the outcome could affect all pending coal and gas projects. The two coal-mining companies, Narrabri Coal, a subsidiary of Whitehaven, and MACH Energy, have joined the litigation.

Read the full story here.


Film critic Paul Byrnes departs after 47-year career

By Melanie Kembrey

Today we’re farewelling our film critic Paul Byrnes, who has awarded his final stars after nearly 40 years of reviewing (and more than 10,000 films).

Byrnes was a cadet when he joined The Sydney Morning Herald in 1976 and worked as a correspondent in Papua New Guinea, a senior feature writer for Good Weekend, and in the NSW state political bureau (to name just a few of his postings).

In 2007 Paul Byrnes was awarded the Pascall Prize for Film Critic of The Year.Credit: Robert Pearce

He turned to film reviewing full time in 1985. His first review was of Mike Radford’s Another Time, Another Place, after which he jokes he “got better”.

In his later years he wrote for all our mastheads, and his final review last month was of Hlynur Palmason’s epic saga Godland, which he gave 4.5 stars.

This review alone offers a snapshot of the skills, insight, passion and wit that Byrnes brought to his work.

During the course of his long career, he was awarded the Pascall Prize for critical writing in the arts in 2007 and also spent 10 years at the helm of the Sydney Film Festival.

Byrnes – who is the author of non-fiction books The Lost Boys of Anzac and Sons of War – has made an undeniable mark on culture and criticism in this country. He is, at least, looking forward to spending a little more time in the sunlight after spending so much of his life in the dark of cinemas.

He penned a wonderful piece about his experiences as reviewer (including 10 of his favourite films) for last weekend’s Spectrum. You can read it here.


AFL legend to be given state funeral

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons

In breaking news, the Victorian government has just confirmed that the family of late AFL footballer Ron Barassi has accepted the offer of a state funeral.

Ron Barassi at the 2022 AFL round 1 match between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs.Credit: Getty

Here’s what Premier Daniel Andrews had to say in a statement a few moments ago:

The word legend is used a lot.

But nobody deserves it quite like Ron Barassi.

He didn’t just play the game – he reshaped it.

And how fitting that Friday night’s game was a cliffhanger between the Dees and the Blues.

The Department of Premier and Cabinet will work with Mr Barassi’s family and state memorial details will be announced in due course.

As previously reported, Barassi, a former Melbourne captain, died on the weekend. He was 87 years old.


Qatar Airways rejects invitation to appear at government hearing

By Amelia McGuire

Qatar Airways has officially declined to appear at the government’s upcoming Senate hearing into bilateral air service agreements, scheduled to kick off on tomorrow.

The Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements was formed following backlash over the government’s rejection of Qatar Airways’ application to double its flights to Australia.

Qatar Airways may be summoned before the Senate.Credit: Alamy

Labor Senator Tony Sheldon said Qatar’s refusal to attend Tuesday’s hearing was disappointing and called for a representative from the airline, and Qatar’s civil aviation regulator to be summoned before the inquiry.

“If the Liberals and Nationals want to give Qatar’s state-owned airline open entry, the Senate needs to scrutinise its practices, including its involvement in the ongoing Qatar corruption scandal at the European Parliament, and its widely criticised labour practices,” Sheldon said.

“Mr Al Baker should front up to this inquiry rather than provide commentary about Australia from the other side of the world.”

Qatar is yet to rule out appearing at future hearings, which are scheduled to take place later this month.

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker told CNN over the weekend he was blindsided by the decision not to allow the airline to double its flights.

He said he remained hopeful it would be reversed, given the airline’s support for Australia throughout the pandemic.


AFL might rename premiership to honour Barassi

By Damien Ractliffe

The AFL is considering whether to rename the premiership cup after the late Ron Barassi as part of larger discussions about the best way to remember and honour him.

Barassi, a Legend of the Australian Football Hall of Fame and a multiple premiership winning coach and player, died on the weekend. He was 87.

AFL legend Ron Barassi in 2010.Credit: Mal Fairclough

AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan said this afternoon:

The management team discussed Ron Barassi this morning. Hard to imagine a bigger or more significant figure in the history of Australian rules than Ron Barassi.

His legacy is being considered. There is, I know, a lot of push to renaming the premiership cup. There are other ways to remember him. Those things are being discussed. We believe we need to then go and speak to key industry figures at clubs and then ultimately it’ll be the commission decision.

It’s a subjective view [on whether to rename the premiership cup]. I believe Ron Barassi needs to be honoured in some way. There are a variety of ways. I do think he needs to be acknowledged in the game in the same way Norm Smith has been, or Jock McHale.

The best player afield in the grand final is awarded the Norm Smith Medal, while the Jock McHale Medal goes to the premiership-winning coach.

McLachlan also said there was discussion about honouring Barassi on grand final day.

I’m committing to all of you, the discussions started this morning. They need to be widened to senior club figures and ultimately to the commission, but I think we need to get that done this week because I think that’s what football needs.


Join the conversation

Sean Kelly’s opinion piece on why, after avoiding it for 200 years, it’s no wonder the Voice debate has turned so ugly, is sparking much debate with our subscribers.

@ AshleT says: “People can vote how they see fit, but if Albanese thinks this has brought Australia together in some warm fuzzy fashion, god help us if he decides we need to vote on something divisive.”

@ Christopher Alger writes: “I was always a Yes voter. But one of the more interesting concepts I read recently was that the Voice is not proposed on racial grounds. It is proposed on Indigenous grounds. Where the Indigenous have been disadvantaged and historically dispossessed (see the erroneous philosophy of terra nullius). So, this is not a racially dividing topic. It’s about the recognition of our Indigenous peoples. I feel much more comfortable with this recognition than any other option.”

@ JeffH says: “So far the debate, if you can call it that, has been rather flawed from both sides. But there has been one positive: Indigenous people have been speaking out and we are starting to listen to their voices, pro and con.”

But @ WilliamB has a different view: “How can Australians make an informed decision on the Voice when First Nations people are divided on the issue?”

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


NSW may get a Voice to parliament of its own

By Caitlin Fitzsimmons

Good afternoon, it’s Caitlin Fitzsimmons, and I am hosting the blog this afternoon.

Staying with Chris Minns’ press conference, the NSW premier also spoke about his support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament and the possibility of having a similar consultative body in NSW as well.

The Walk for Yes in Sydney on Sunday.Credit: Steven Siewert

South Australia, Victoria and Queensland already have state-based Voice bodies for First Nations representatives to advise the government.

In an article on The Guardian on the weekend, Minns spoke about the process of working towards a treaty with Indigenous people in NSW and how he was open to a state Voice body as part of that.

He told reporters at a press conference today that the consultation would not begin until after the referendum.

“As I said before the election campaign, and since people went to the polls in NSW, that won’t take place until this referendum is out of the way,” Minns said.

“Obviously, we’ll have to assess how Australians vote, and then we’ll engage with First Nations people right here in NSW.”

Minns was one of a number of politicians from across the political spectrum who attended the Walk for Yes in Sydney yesterday and spoke at the rally in Redfern Park.

It also happened to be his 44th birthday and, prompted by Yes23 spokesperson Rachel Perkins, the crowd of up to 30,000 people sang Happy Birthday To You as he took the stage. He shared an optimistic message about how Yes can win.

Minns said today there had been “a lot of commentary about how this referendum will inevitably go down”, but he did not think anything was inevitable in politics.

“My sense is that people in Australia are just starting to switch on to this issue,” Minns said.

“So it’s up for debate, and I’m voting Yes, I’m urging people to do the same thing. And thousands of people shared that sentiment all the way from Redfern to Sydney University yesterday.”

More than 200,000 people marched in Yes events around Australia yesterday.


This afternoon’s headlines

By Ashleigh McMillan

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

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

Energy Minister Chris Bowen has called the Coalition’s plan to transition out of coal using nuclear technology a “fantasy” because it would cost $387 billion.

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie says Transport Minister Catherine King had “not consulted and done [her] homework” when she decided to block Qatar’s bid for more flights.

Former prime minister Scott Morrison is set to reveal in detail how his Christian faith influenced him, in a memoir to be published next year.

National Press Club president Laura Tingle has hit out at suggestions the scheduling and staging of speeches by Senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price and Warren Mundine was driven by race.Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told Triple M radio on Monday that if Australia voted Yes to the Voice to parliament referendum on October 14, it would “feel better” about itself as a nation.Today is the last day for Australians aged 18 and over to enrol to vote or update their details on the AEC website ahead of the referendum.Albanese is being urged by Taiwan’s chief representative in Australia to lobby Chinese President Xi Jinping not to invade the self-governing island when he makes a landmark visit to Beijing this year.The NSW government has committed to constructing tracks for the second stage of the Parramatta light rail line within the next three years after allocating an extra $200 million in the state budget.Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is expected to hand down the first tranche of his government’s long-awaited housing reforms this week, but refused to rule out a levy on Airbnb properties this morning.

Caitlin Fitzsimmons will be anchoring the blog this afternoon, thanks again for your company.

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