October 2, 2023

Australia news LIVE: Government cracks down on education visa scams; RBA rates headache as house values almost back to peak

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4.41pm

Pre-polling opens for Voice referendum

Campaigners for both sides of the Voice referendum have hit the ground running as early voting opens across the country.

The Yes and No campaigns have less than two weeks to make their case over whether to enshrine an Indigenous advisory body in the constitution, as Australians prepare to cast their ballots on October 14.

Early voting has opened in the Northern Territory, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

Volunteers hand “how to vote” cards outside a polling booth on Monday at Thornbury in Melbourne.Credit: Getty

Polling stations will open in NSW, the ACT, Queensland and South Australia on Tuesday, after public holidays in those parts of the country.

On Monday, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told reporters in Hobart he remained optimistic the Voice will get up despite published polls indicating the contrary.

“No country ever enlarged itself and got better through fear campaigns,” he said.

“What enlarges the country is optimism and hope.”

Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney pointed to the largely preventable and manageable diseases of trachoma and rheumatic heart disease, which First Nations communities disproportionately suffered from, as a reason why governments needed to listen better.

“I get quite emotional when I come to things like this because it is such a shot in the arm for us to keep going and it says to me … (from) non-Aboriginal Australia: ‘we are with you, we are seeing you and we are hearing you’,” she said.

Yes23 campaign director Dean Parkin was on the hustings in Melbourne alongside Labor, Greens and independent politicians with Victoria widely considered a “must-win” state.

Opposition Indigenous Australians spokeswoman and prominent ‘no’ campaigner Jacinta Nampijinpa Price was in Perth for an event.

AAP

4.10pm

Cleary declares Voice support after NRL final

By Sarah Keoghan

Clive Churchill medallist Nathan Cleary has declared his support for the Voice, just hours after the Penrith star’s grand final win on Sunday night.

Cleary backed the Voice in a video posted to social media by Indigenous leader Roy Ah-See shortly after Penrith’s 26-24 win against the Brisbane Broncos.

“No voice, no choice. Come on Australia, vote yes,” Cleary said in the video.

The 25-year-old halfback is considered to be one of the game’s most influential players.

You can read more on how the video came about here.

3.44pm

NSW, Victoria hit by bushfires

By Sarah Keoghan and Madeleine Heffernan

People in the NSW town of Home Rule have been told it is too late to leave as bushfires continue to wreak havoc across the state.

An emergency warning was issued at 2pm on Monday for the town in the state’s Central West as a grass fire threatens homes in the area.

“It is too late to leave Seek shelter now,” the warning from the NSW RFS said.

“Firefighters and water bombing aircraft are working in the area.”

The grass fire is just one of 81 fires currently burning across the state – 29 of which are yet to be contained.

A bushfire burns in Victoria’s High Country near Rawson on Sunday.Credit: Nine News

Meanwhile, people in eastern Victoria are being urged to prepare for bushfires, flash flooding and damaging wind gusts in the coming days.

There are currently 18 severe weather warnings across the state, covering bushfires around Cobbannah, Glenaladale, Moornapa, Culloden, Briagolong, Seacombe, Loch Sport, Selwyn, Buckland and Harrietville, Erica, Rawson and Walhalla.

On Monday, flood warnings were also issued for the South Gippsland River, the Ovens and King rivers, the Latrobe River, the Kiewa River, the Thomson River, the Macalister River, the Upper Murray and Mitta Mitta Rivers, the Avon River, the Mitchell River, the Avon River, the Bemm, Cann and Genoa rivers, and the Snowy River.

Jason Heffernan, chief officer of the Country Fire Authority, said there had been 220 bush and grass fires in Victoria since Saturday, including three that are still burning.

A home has been lost, as have several sheds.

“Our message to the communities in and around for affected in the areas the moment is make sure that you have your Bushfire Survival Plan, that you’ve decided now what your triggers are should something occur, have the VicEmergency app available or the VicEmergency website, listen to your emergency broadcaster, have more than one source of information, and be prepared and ready to act,” Heffernan said.

“That may mean you may need to take action in the very early hours of the morning because as we heard that frontal system will come into effect late this evening and into the early hours of the morning.”

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3.04pm

Qantas pilots to stop work over pay dispute

By Amelia McGuire

Pilots at Qantas subsidiary Network Aviation, who also fly QantasLink aircraft in Western Australia, will take protected industrial action for a 24-hour period on Wednesday over stalled enterprise agreement negotiations.

More than 99 per cent of the Australian Federation of Air Pilot members at Network Aviation – over 95 per cent of the workforce – will legally strike to progress the negotiations for a new enterprise agreement after its prior deal expired in 2020.

Qantas is already making preparations to schedule flights ahead of Wednesday. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“Network pilots are paid significantly lower than pilots at comparable airlines,” said AFAP Senior Industrial Officer Chris Aikens.

“The AFAP has been genuinely negotiating and trying to reach an agreement with Qantas management but the company remains unwilling to revisit its inflexible wages policy instituted under the former CEO.”

Qantas said it has finalised contingency plans to mitigate the potential disruption on passengers by cancelling about 50 per cent of scheduled flights, redeploying Qantas 737 jets for intra-WA flying, and rescheduling the remaining affected flights.

Network Aviaiton Chief Operating Officer Trevor Worgan hit out at the protected action on Monday.

“This strike action from the Australian Federation of Air Pilots’ has been timed to hurt travellers during the busy school holiday period,” he said.

“We’ve been able to protect as much flying as we possibly can, but unfortunately, our contingency options can only cover part of our regular schedule and we have had to cancel dozens of flights.”

The action is not expected to disrupt travel beyond flights scheduled in regional WA.

2.32pm

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:

Australia recorded its driest-ever month in September, while NSW and Victoria recorded their second-warmest September on record.Education Minister Jason Clare says the federal government may need to publicly name and shame childcare centres that charge excessive fees.A price rebound across the nation’s property market that has added $336 billion to the value of Australian homes and land in just three months is delivering an inflation headache to the Reserve Bank.Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he is still optimistic that Australia will vote Yes at the Voice to Parliament referendum, and there are “no losers” if it is successful on October 14.Early voting on the referendum opened in four states today. Victorian Liberal Senator Jane Hume denied suggestions the No camp had relied on misinformation to sway voters.Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians, Senator Malarndirri McCarthy, says there is no singular battleground state for the referendum.NSW bureaucrats have apologised after rangers ordered Yes campaigners to stop distributing flyers and move on while canvassing support for the Indigenous Voice to parliament in Sydney’s CBD.The royal family’s official website went down on Sunday morning after being targeted in a cyberattack for which Russian hackers have claimed responsibility.Businessman and climate activist Simon Holmes a Court says there is no good reason for Australia’s ongoing nuclear prohibition and labelled Labor and the Greens’ implacable opposition to nuclear energy “bordering on irrational”.New Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan announced her cabinet on Monday morning. Deputy Premier Ben Carroll has taken on the education portfolio, while Harriet Shing was promoted to housing minister.

NDIS Minister Bill Shorten says it will take a “major mindset” shift to improve inclusion in Australia after the release of the disability royal commission’s final report.

My colleague Sarah Keoghan will be taking over for the afternoon.

2.11pm

Joyce and Plibersek spar over rising childcare costs

By Ashleigh McMillan

The mounting costs of childcare in Australia have been discussed widely today, after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) released an interim report into the sector on Sunday.

As we reported, Australian families spent as much as one-sixth of their income on childcare last year, which is taking a toll of household budgets alongside housing costs and rising energy prices.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce and Labor Minister Tanya Plibersek were both asked about the issue earlier today on Today.

Here is Plibersek’s view on the issue:

At this time of year, [families] are making decisions about what they do for next year, and if they’re making a decision not to work an extra day or two, that’s really impacting the family budget. It’s also not good for the Australian economy that people are locked out of work because they can’t afford childcare.

There are obviously lots of centres doing the right thing. And parents for the most part really love their childcare centres, particularly the people who are working in those centres. They love those people who look after their kids.

But if there are some people doing the wrong thing and ripping off parents, then we got to get to the bottom of that.

And here is what Joyce said:

They said they’re going to fix [childcare], and the prices are going up. Now they’re saying, ‘Well, don’t worry, something wonderful will happen in the future.’ Well, haven’t we heard that one all before?

Now we’ve seen the ACCC report come out and the difference between nominal and actual childcare – nominal is about 20 per cent, actual is about 27 per cent.We’ve got an interim report from the Productivity Commission and we look forward to the finalization of that report.

But the Labor Party is asleep at the wheel… If you’ve dealt one part of the issue and completely forgotten about another, and all that has happened is childcare centers made more money.

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1.34pm

UK’s Sunak fires starting gun on de facto election campaign

By Latika Bourke

Manchester: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has nominated protecting motorists from a speedier transition to net-zero and low-speed zones as part of his long-term vision to justify giving the Conservatives an unprecedented fifth term in government.

Sunak launched his first party conference as leader in Manchester in England’s north, vowing to do things differently.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murty arrive in Manchester for the Conservative Party conference.Credit: AP

His speech on Wednesday will be widely seen as firing the starting gun on a de facto election campaign, with speculation he could go to the polls within the next 12 months, particularly if the economic situation improves.

Sunak has rolled back net-zero measures, including delaying the mandating of new cars being electric until 2035, in line with the EU in a pre-election pitch to families and motorists.

“I’m here putting forward a program that I believe is right for the country,” he told the BBC.

Read the full article here.

1.07pm

Australia records its driest month ever

By Laura Chung

This year’s weather patterns have sent records tumbling, and September was no different. Australia received the least amount of rain ever last month, while NSW and Victoria recorded their second-warmest September on record.

The national rainfall average was 4.83mm last month, 70.8 per cent below the 1961-1990 average, data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows. It’s the driest month since records began in 1900, with the second-lowest record set in April 1902 with 4.88mm of rain.

September was the driest month ever since records began. Credit: Brook Mitchell

Hot weather also swept across the country in September – the national average mean temperature was 2.43 degrees warmer than the 1961-1990 average.

That makes September the third-warmest on record. NSW, Victoria and South Australia recorded their second-warmest September on record.

The dry and hot weather comes as authorities prepare for the coming spring and summer months, which will see elevated fire risks for most of the country.

In Victoria, several fires continue to burn, with residents in the state’s east on high alert to evacuate. In NSW, there are 78 fires burning, 14 of which are yet to be contained.

12.36pm

Join the conversation

By Matthew Burgess

Sean Kelly’s opinion piece on why a No vote in the upcoming referendum will haunt our national conscience is sparking much debate with subscribers.

@SteveP says: “The Australian conscience will be hurt when the rest of the world looks at us after Oct 14 and shakes their heads if we say NO. Australia, the backward racist island nation stuck in the last century … How can we then lecture other countries on human rights when we cannot close the gap.”

@OliverH writes: “A lot of ‘No’ comments are about how a failure of the referendum will bloody Albanese’s nose … They put petty political point-scoring above the humble plea from a significant majority of our First Australians to have a secure advisory Voice for closing the gap.”

But @Mordey has a different take: “It won’t hurt the nation’s conscience, but it should hurt those on the YES side who are completely unable to articulate a compelling case as to why we need to change the constitution.”

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

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12.21pm

Federal government could ‘name and shame’ childcare centres with high fees

By Ashleigh McMillan

Staying with the issue of high childcare costs, and Education Minister Jason Clare says the federal government may need to publicly name and shame centres which charge excessive fees.

As we’ve written about today, the second interim report into sector from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) was released on Sunday.

Some recommendations from the report include parents being given more information by childcare providers, as well as the need to patch up ‘childcare deserts’ where there are few options for parents.

In the four financial years between 2018 and 2022, an average Australian family with two children under three was spending 16 per cent of its net household annual income on centre-based full-time daycare, the report found.

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Clare told Today that the report shows that childcare prices “exploded” across those four years and the government had its work cut out to combat the pressure that has put on household budgets.

“Prices in Australia went up by double the amount of the rest of the OECD,” he said.

“Apart from the mortgage or the rent, [childcare] is the biggest bill that a lot of families pay… the childcare cap doesn’t really work. Four years ago you had one in 10 centres charging above it, now it’s in one in five.

“This report says there’s a lot more we gotta do, including potentially naming and shaming those operators who charge excessive fees.”

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