September 19, 2023

Australia news LIVE: Rift over treaty deepens among No campaigners; Church seeks exemption for religious belief in misinformation bill

Key posts

Latest posts

Latest posts


School closures ‘concerning’ as firefighters descend on NSW south coast

By Caroline Schelle and Angus Dalton

The head of Save the Children Australia says it’s concerning there are school closures in NSW due to extreme fire danger which can have a “far-reaching consequences” for children.

It comes as a catastrophic fire warning has been issued for the state’s far south coast, as 61 fires burn around NSW.

“It’s concerning that we are already seeing school closures in NSW due to extreme fire danger this early in the year,” the charity’s chief executive Mat Tinkler said.

“With the bushfire risk only set to increase as we head into a predicted scorching summer, Australians will be bracing for significant impacts on children’s wellbeing and access to education.”

He said many families in the warning areas also endured the Black Summer bushfires in 2019-2020.


“[They] are now having to react once again to a dangerous fire season. We know that climate-fuelled disasters can have far-reaching consequences for children.”

He said that children’s voices should be at the centre of climate policies.

Firefighters have gained the upper hand in controlling a small bushfire that flared in Eden, on NSW’s south coast, and threatened homes this afternoon.

The NSW RFS has also issued a “watch and act” warning for a bushfire burning near the border of NSW and Victoria in the Bondi State Forest. No homes are under threat but the fire is moving east towards the Monaro Highway.

In Queensland, authorities have asked residents to stay informed about fires near Townsville and the Sunshine Coast.


Flight Centre boss calls for reversal of Qatar Airways decision

By Amelia McGuire

Flight Centre boss Graham Turner has called on the government to reverse its decision on rejecting Qatar Airways from doubling its flights to Australia if it actually concerned with behaving in the national interest.

“It’s in the government’s interest to reverse the decision and it’s in the national interest. I don’t think there’s any doubt on that,” Turner told the Senate select committee into bilateral air service right agreements.

Flight Centre chief executive Graham “Skroo” Turner is a critic of the government’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ application for extra flights to Australia.Credit: Dan Peled

Turner, who appeared at the inquiry on behalf of Flight Centre and the Australian Travel Industry Association, of which is he the deputy chair, said the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission should have oversight of bilateral air service right agreements.

He also called for more open skies agreements and a review of the slot management scheme at Sydney Airport to reduce domestic flight cancellations across the country.

Turner also faced intense questioning from Labor senators Linda White and Tony Sheldon over Flight Centre’s treatment of its workforce and customers after COVID-19 as well as its historic price fixing over a period between 2005 and 2009, as exposed by the ACCC in 2018.

“We had billions of dollars to refund to people and we obviously had to get rid of two thirds of our staff during that period, it was a difficult time and we certainly didn’t do everything right,” Turner said.


Rents in Perth rise faster than any other capital city

In other state news, Perth tenants are struggling amid a housing crisis as rental prices rise faster than any other capital city and the vacancy rate plummets.

Advertised rents rose 19 per cent in the past year and four per cent in the 12 weeks to September 12, according to Shelter WA.

House prices in Perth are also at record highs.Credit: Moment RF

Perth also has the tightest vacancy rate of the capitals at 0.4 per cent and regional Western Australia experienced some of the largest rent rises in the nation.

Shelter WA chief executive Kath Snell said tenants were being “smashed by some of the biggest rent rises in the country”.

“From Bunbury to Broome, and beyond, the housing crisis is hitting Western Australians hard,” she said on Tuesday.

Two WA regions are among Australia’s top ten areas for rent rises in the past year – the Goldfields recorded a 30.8 per cent increase while rents in the Mid-West and Wheatbelt rose by 24.4 per cent.



This afternoon’s headlines

By Caroline Schelle

Thanks for reading our live coverage this morning.

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

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Airbnb is a problem in his own electorate, saying a debate on short-stay rental tax is “not surprising”.One of the aviation industry’s most senior economists told a Senate inquiry that Australia’s domestic airline competition has weakened substantially since COVID-19.Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie said the Qantas chairman oversaw “some egregious behaviour” from the company during his tenure.The Reserve Bank Board considered raising interest rates by a quarter percentage point earlier this month due to the risk of inflation remaining too high for too long.Cybersecurity Minister Clare O’Neil said Australia doesn’t “have the mechanisms in place” to adequately tackle cyber criminals.And a 24-year-old man has been charged with two counts of attempted murder after women were stabbed and men attacked with a frying pan at ANU yesterday.

My colleague Angus Dalton will be keeping you updated for the rest of the afternoon.


Bargain hunting to heat up as Christmas shopping starts early

By Emma Koehn

Cash-strapped shoppers are primed to enjoy an early wave of discounts as retailers aim to keep buyers spending through the festive season.

An annual report into holiday retail from consulting giant Deloitte shows 71 per cent of retailers surveyed by the group expect higher discounting this festive season than last year. “Retailers tell us discounting, and promotional activity will be the key to enticing customers,” the report said.

The Christmas rush looks set to start early this year, with some sales starting in October.Credit: Jason South

Deloitte’s research included interviews with between 35 and 40 large businesses as well as consumer data from more than 20,000 shoppers worldwide. The report also said retailers would invest heavily in online, click-and-collect and delivery options, while boosting in-store experiences too.

While discounts may help to move products off shelves, few retailers are optimistic that their margins will hold up – most (52 per cent) expect a decline in margins for in-store shopping this year.

Recent retail sales figures suggest Aussie retailers face a tough fight for the consumer dollar over coming months, with shoppers cutting back on categories such as fashion and home goods to balance rising mortgage and fuel costs.

Continue reading about the bargains for shoppers here.


‘Vested interests’ benefit from inaction over porn protection: Experts

By Jordan Baker

Former child abuse royal commissioner Robert Fitzgerald and top domestic violence campaigners have accused the federal government of putting vested interests ahead of child safety by ignoring advice to trial an Australian porn passport.

In an open letter to be sent to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland today, more than three dozen child and women’s safety experts said early exposure to pornography was leading to the normalisation of violence against women and a rise in child-on-child sexual abuse.

Consent advocate Chanel Contos.Credit: Jamila Toderas

Signatories include consent campaigner Chanel Contos, the first NSW Commissioner for Children and Young People Gillian Calvert, parenting experts Maggie Dent, Michael Carr-Gregg and Steve Biddulph, the head of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Anna Bowden, and ethicists Tim Costello and Professor Clive Hamilton.

“It is our strong view that the government has allowed itself to be swayed by industry resistance to an age verification system,” the letter read.

“Vested interests should not have been put before the wellbeing of children.”

Continue reading about the bid for a trial here.


Join the conversation

Millie Muroi’s opinion piece on why immigration is not to blame for Australia’s housing crisis is sparking plenty of discussion with our subscribers.

@Abhi Garg says: “It’s funny what stereotypes exist about immigrants. It seems they’re either 1) Cheap labour with poor language skills or 2) White collar educated workers who want private schooling for their children and who will drive up house prices. Either way “we don’t want them here” seems to be the pervasive mentality.”

Immigration is often blamed for Australia surging house prices, rather than decades of failure domestic policy.Credit: Matt Davidson

@nickbusselmann writes: “Thanks Millie, but good luck convincing the majority of commentators who love to blame immigration for everything and advocate bans on bringing migrants into the country (with no suggestions on how to fill the subsequent skills and services gap of course).”

@Ashley Sevior says: “People moving here to live isn’t the problem; it’s people buying investment properties while they live overseas. You should need to be a permanent resident of Australia, with a visa to live here, in order to own property here.”

What do you think? Let us know your thoughts here.


‘One of the most aggressive competitors’: Qantas’ former chief economist

By Amelia McGuire

Earlier, one of the aviation industry’s most senior economists Dr Tony Webber told the Senate select committee into bilateral air rights that Australia’s domestic airline competition has weakened substantially since COVID-19.

“We saw the exit of Tiger Airways which held between 7 and 10 per cent of the market, and Virgin is not the same carrier as it was before COVID-19.

“Qantas holds more than 60 per cent of the market, and the way you measure that impact is to look at their margins and the significance of their profits,” Webber said.

Dr Tony Webber (pictured) is one of the aviation industry’s most senior economists. Credit: Brook Mitchell

Webber used to work as Qantas Airways’ chief economist and now runs independent analytics business Airline Intelligence and Research.

He also said at least part of the reason many flights are cancelled between key capital cities is down to the commercial interest of the major airlines who can easily exploit Sydney Airport’s slot regulation.

“The regulatory framework that is currently in operation essentially incentivises, or can be used, in an anticompetitive way,” Webber said. “I think Qantas is one of the most aggressive competitors ever. If a new carrier encroaches on its routes or its market share it will aggressively respond.”

Webber said there would have been a material improvement in inbound tourism, largely from Europe, if Qatar was granted the flights which would have generated about $1 billion for the economy.

He also said Qatar’s extra flights would have lowered airfares by between 7 and 10 per cent. Webber said Qantas’ international flights have increased by 52 per cent over the six months to June.

Webber doubled down on his previous assessment that Australia does not have the most competitive airspace in the world, contradicting comments made by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese earlier this month.


Lawyer of strip-searched women defends government’s Qatar Airways call

By Amelia McGuire

The managing partner of Marque Lawyers Michael Bradley has confirmed his clients – five women who are suing Qatar Airways in the Federal Court – first became aware of the government’s bilateral air rights application rejection on July 10 after receiving a letter from Transport Minister Catherine King.

Bradley’s clients were passengers of Qatar Airways in 2020 and were subjected to invasive searches by Qatari police at Doha Airport in 2020 after the police found a newborn baby discarded at a nearby terminal.

Transport Minister Catherine King.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

The minister faced sustained criticism over her rejection of the additional flights which would have put downward pressure on fares and created significant additional tourism revenue.

Bradley told the Senate select committee the women maintain Qatar Airways’ should not be granted any additional flights until it improves its approach to human rights.

He also said the airline needs to accept that his clients need to be compensated.

“We’ve had over 20 directions hearings in this case already, and we’re nowhere near a hearing already. They have made this a tortuous and expensive process. This has become a classic example of what the legal system often inflicts on survivors of sexual violence,” Bradley said.

He also said Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al-Baker should front the senate inquiry in person, rather than send a delegate.


‘Need to chill out a bit’, PM says of Modi comments

Anthony Albanese was also asked whether he regretted calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the boss” during the Indian leader’s visit earlier this year.

“You need to chill out a bit, we [were] at a venue where Bruce Springsteen played the last time I was there, and I made the point that the reception he got from the community … welcomed him very strongly,” Albanese said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the G20 summit in New Delhi.Credit: Getty

“It’s as simple as that, so I welcomed Prime Minister Modi to Australia as I welcome other guests to Australia as well.”

Modi visited Australia in May, and at an event was held at Sydney’s Olympic Park with thousands packing the stadium.

He was asked about the comments after Canada’s decision to expel an Indian diplomat as it probes the assassination of a Sikh activist in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Most Viewed in National



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.