Today’s headlines at a glance
By Josefine Ganko
Thanks for reading the blog today. Here’s a look back on the top news headlines from Wednesday, October 4.
The federal government will spend $50 million on tougher compliance and permanent investigation teams to stamp out criminal exploitation of migration, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced.Opposition Leader Peter Dutton hit back at O’Neil’s claim that he “presided over a migration system that was used to facilitate some of the worst crimes in our society.”Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Chris Minns visited bushfire-affected areas of the state, after homes were destroyed on the South Coast.Victorians also felt the impact of fires and floods, with residents of eastern Victoria being ordered to evacuate their homes immediately amid fears of a sudden increase in flooding later tonight.Former Liberal MP Dave Sharma is seeking a return to federal politics, nominating at the last minute to replace retiring senator Marise Payne.In a submission to the Senate, Qantas has doubled down on its position, urging the government to stand firm on its Qatar Airways decision.Tasmania’s former attorney-general will quit politics, ending a stalemate that could have forced the state’s minority Liberal government to an early election.And overseas, at least 21 people are dead and 18 have been injured in a horrific bus crash near Venice.
That’s all for today, have a splendid evening ahead, and we’ll see you bright and early tomorrow for another live blog.
Qantas urges government to stand firm on Qatar flights
By Amelia McGuire
Qantas has urged the federal government not to review an application by Qatar Airways to double its flights to Australia, and defended its refusal to disclose the nature of its communications with the government ahead of the original rejection.
Qatar Airways has applied to the Department of Infrastructure and Transport for a review of the controversial decision, which would have allowed the gulf carrier to add 28 flights to the country’s four biggest airports.
Qantas CEO Vanessa Hudson during a hearing with the Select Committee on Commonwealth Bilateral Air Service Agreements.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Transport Minister Catherine King denied the original application in July.
Qantas lodged a nine-page submission to the Senate on Tuesday, one week after the Senate select committee into bilateral air rights chair Bridget McKenzie admonished the airline business for failing to do so ahead of last week’s appearance.
“If Virgin and Rex can do it, I do not understand why the largest and most dominant carrier in the country can’t respect this committee by putting pen to paper and addressing the terms of reference,” McKenzie said last week.
In the submission, Qantas said claims Qatar would have generated hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tourism revenue- aired by much of the aviation and tourism industry – were overbaked. It said Qatar Airways carries a “disproportionately high” number of Australians out of the country.
“On that basis, suggestions that granting the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority application would have materially advanced the Australian tourism industry’s recovery are overstated,” Qantas said.
The carrier group also said its international competitors have “significantly lower cost bases” due to lower labour costs in their home markets, meaning Qantas needs to continue restructuring to “improve our own competitiveness”.
Dutton suggests Alan Joyce influenced Voice referendum wording
By Josefine Ganko
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has claimed that Anthony Albanese decisions on the wording of the Voice referendum question were under the instructions of former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.
In a press conference in Perth, Dutton was asked whether he was concerned a No vote would affect Australia’s reputation overseas, to which he responded that the Prime Minister knew the referendum would “create an international reputational risk” and yet did not stop the referendum or change the question’s wording “because Alan Joyce and others were telling him not to.”
The claim is in line with Dutton’s characterisation of Albanese as part of the “big end of town”.
“[Albanese] hangs out on the red carpet with Alan Joyce,” Dutton said.
“When you hang out with the top end of town, you forget about what normal people in the suburbs and the cities and the regions are saying, and that’s the problem that the Prime Minister’s got.”
As Dutton continues to lead the No campaign, Anthony Albanese denied that he only pursued the Voice to parliament referendum because he was assured Peter Dutton would provide bi-partisan support for the proposal.
Albanese told Richard Glover on ABC Radio Sydney that Dutton had “never declared opposition or support” but that he believed the “turning point where he declared his opposition” was the Liberal Party’s loss at the Aston by-election.
But Albanese did concede that the appointment of outspoken Yes supporter Julian Leeser to the shadow cabinet gave him reasons to believe the opposition would provide their support.
“When Mr Dutton appointed Julian Leeser as not just his Shadow Indigenous Affairs Minister, but also Shadow Attorney-General, I took that as a sign, as I think was a reasonable expectation, that Mr Dutton wasn’t going to be hostile to this proposal. Because if he was, why would he appoint Mr Leeser to that position?”
Dave Sharma nominates for vacant Senate seat
By Paul Sakkal
Former Liberal MP Dave Sharma is seeking to return to federal politics by replacing retiring senator Marise Payne.
Nominations for Payne’s position closed on Wednesday afternoon.
Sharma, who lost the seat of Wentworth to teal MP Allegra Spender, was not expected to run for the Senate spot but lodged a nomination form shortly before the 5pm deadline.
Former Wenworth MP Dave Sharma has thrown his hat in the ring for Marise Payne’s Senate seat with a last-minute nomination.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer
The 47-year-old is expected to highlight his foreign policy and national security credentials as a former ambassador to Israel.
Former NSW minister Andrew Constance remains the favourite to replace Payne in a field that will also include barrister Ishita Sethi, lawyer Pallavi Sinha, Monica Tudehope, a highly-regarded adviser to former premier Dominic Perrottet, and right-winger Lou Amato.
Albanese, Minns meet with NSW RFS in Bermagui
By Josefine Ganko
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Chris Minns have met with NSW Rural Fire Service personnel and volunteers at the Bermagui staging area on the state’s South Coast.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Chris Minns meet with members of the RFS at the Bermagui staging area.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
The pair drove north from Bega where they earlier received a briefing at the Bega Valley Fire Control Centre and held a press conference.
Bermagui is just 14km east of Coolagolite, where NSW RFS spokeswoman Angela Burford said bushfire burnt through more than 5000 hectares of land. The fire was downgraded to advice just after midday, as firefighters worked to contain the blaze with aircraft.
Victorian residents told to leave as floodwaters rise
Residents in eastern Victoria have been told to evacuate their homes immediately amid fears of a sudden increase in flooding.
People in Tinamba, Tinamba West, Newry, Mewburn Park, Bellbird Corner and Riverslea near Maffra have been told to leave with flooding expected from 10pm tonight.
An alert issued by Vic Emergency urged them to take their pets, mobile phones and medications, with the best evacuation route being Maffra-Sale Rd towards Sale.
A major flood warning has also been issued to residents along the Macalister River downstream of Lake Glenmaggie, with locals told to move to higher ground.
Total rainfall in that area was 150mm in the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday and further rain was forecast into Thursday.
The river was at 5.75 metres and rising on Wednesday afternoon, with further planned releases from Lake Glenmaggie.
There were hundreds of calls for help as rivers continued to rise and damaging winds lashed the region following days of bushfire threats.
Most calls for assistance to the State Emergency Service overnight were connected to flooding near Eildon.
Emergency Services Minister Jaclyn Symes said the situation was dynamic.
“We have, in good news, downgraded emergency warnings for fire,” Ms Symes told reporters at state parliament.
“We’ve had a lot of rain across the state and that has brought flood concerns and flash flooding concerns.”
The Bureau of Meteorology placed Melbourne and most of the state’s east under flood watch with more rain expected throughout Wednesday.
Who is to blame for asylum seeker surge? We check the numbers
By David Crowe
Today’s political dispute over migration policy has triggered a false claim from Opposition Leader Peter Dutton about the number of asylum seekers who have arrived in Australia since the last election, in another sign of how heated the argument has become.
Dutton claimed 105,000 asylum seekers had come into the country in the 15 months since Labor took office in May last year, but experts say the actual number is about 10,000.
Speaking in Perth on Wednesday after the government blamed him for the problem, Dutton defended his record on border policy – including stopping asylum seeker boats – and accused Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles of being weak.
“Ministers like Claire O’Neil and Mr Giles have no capacity to make the tough decisions to keep our borders safe,” Dutton said.
“At the same time, Labor’s presided over 105,000 asylum seekers over the course of the last 15 months — a record number in our country.”
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton made false claims about the number of asylum seekers who have entered the country.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
This reflected the total number of asylum seekers in Australia this month: 104,676, according to data listed on government websites and checked by Abul Rizvi, a former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration.
But these applicants arrived over many years. Dutton’s language suggested Labor was to blame for those asylum seekers.
“Why did they lose control of our borders when they were in government? Why have they allowed 105,000 asylum seekers into our country over the last 15 months?” he asked.
In fact, most of the asylum seekers arrived during the nine years the Coalition was in government, including the period when Dutton was minister responsible for immigration, border protection and home affairs.
Rizvi said the asylum seeker numbers had reached 94,260 at the time of the election in May last year and that another 10,416 had been added to the total since Labor took power.
Breaking down the numbers at the time the Coalition left office, he said the 94,260 figure comprised 26,405 applications for asylum at the primary stage at the Department of Home Affairs, another 36,708 at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and 31,147 who had been refused at both the primary and AAT stages but remained in the country.
In other words, there is no way the 105,000 asylum seekers arrived under Labor’s time in power. This is Rizvi’s conclusion: “Dutton’s second statement is patently untrue and he would know it.”
Dutton denies claim he presided over migration system exploitation
By Josefine Ganko
Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, the former immigration and border protection minister and home affairs minister, has refused to take responsibility for the abuses of Australia’s visa system uncovered by the Nixon Review.
Earlier today, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil announced a range of new measures as part of the government’s formal response to the former Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon’s review of the exploitation of the visa system.
O’Neil said Dutton had “presided over a migration system that was used to facilitate some of the worst crimes in our society”.
Dutton defended his record, claiming his government “stopped the boats”.
Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.Credit: Simon Schluter
“If you think I’m going to take a lecture from Clare O’Neil and Anthony Albanese in relation to migration and how to keep our country safe, you’ve got another thing coming,” he said.
Dutton focused on the visa cancellations he oversaw during his time leading Home Affairs, claiming he “cancelled over 6000 visas of criminals”.
“Labor has not done a fraction of the visa cancellations over the course of the last 15 months compared to what we did when we were in government,” Dutton said.
Dutton instead focused on the timing of the report, claiming the government “sat on the report for seven months” and was releasing it now “as a distraction from the Voice”.
Prepare for ‘horror summer’: prime minister, premier visit NSW bushfire
By Mike Foley
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and NSW Premier Chris Minns are on the ground on the NSW south coast being briefed on the first major bushfire of what is shaping up as a high-risk summer season.
The NSW Rural Fire Service confirmed that three houses were lost in the Coolagolite fire in the Bega Valley on the state’s far South Coast.
The fire burnt through more than 5000 hectares of land before it was downgraded from emergency to watch and act at 1.30am on Wednesday when a southerly change came through.
RFS Commissioner Rob Rogers said the Coolagolite fire ripped through 15 kilometres in just a few hours, but said the outcome could have been far worse without the swift action of 800 emergency services volunteers to control the blaze.
NSW Premier Chris Minns and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke to the media from the Bega Valley Fire Control Centre.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Albanese said his visit was an opportunity for himself and Premier Minns to thank emergency services personnel for their efforts.
“This must have been an incredibly traumatic experience,” Albanese said.
“That would be causing a triggering response for people who went through the summer of 2019-20.
“But at the worst of times we see the best of the Australian character and sometimes putting their lives on the line.”
Australia has experienced its hottest July on record and the south coast copped a dry start to spring and is trending into drought conditions due to lower than average rainfall.
Minns said it was a very difficult time for the local community and encouraged people to listen to emergency services announcements for safety updates.
“It’s encouraging to hear the commissioner say the community followed the advice and put in place bushfire emergency plans and listened to communications,” Minns said.
Australia experiencing 1960s-era skills shortage
In a speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, Acting Commissioner Peter Dawkins warned the nation was experiencing a widespread skills shortage not seen since the 1960s.
The speech came as Dawkins released the authority’s 2023 Jobs and Skills Report, which sets out how to develop the road map to ensuring Australia’s skills needs are met.
According to Dawkins, Australia’s ambition to become a clean energy world champion demands urgent attention to train skilled specialist workers.
Peter Dawkins is the acting head of the newly formed Jobs and Skills Australia.Credit: Wayne Taylor
Dawkins said challenges would arise as the economy transitioned to net zero emissions, and would impact jobs already in significant shortage, including electricians.
Modelling suggests the clean energy supply workforce comprising 38 occupations will need to grow by 60 per cent by 2050.
The authority’s report has been released alongside a skills priority list and a clean energy transition study. Jobs and Skills Australia was established after last year’s government jobs and skills summit, which brought together stakeholders to decide what immediate steps could be taken to drive economic growth.
Boosting output and plugging workforce gaps have also been identified as pressing priorities by the head of Jobs and Skills Australia.
Modelling shows about two million more people will be employed in the Australian economy within a decade.
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