October 24, 2023

Australia news LIVE: PM reveals ‘cyber shield’ plan on first day of US visit; Labor non-committal on childcare, parental leave super changes

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Pinned post from yesterday 6.35pm

Today’s headlines

By Angus Thomson

This is where we will leave our live coverage for today. Thanks for following along.

Before I go, here’s some of what was making headlines today:

Five homes have been destroyed and more than 50 people are sheltering in evacuation centres as bushfires spread rapidly across southern Queensland. Fire crews continue to battle around 43 blazes across the state, with conditions expected to get even tougher in the coming days.

In NSW, police say multiple fires threatening properties on the state’s Mid North Coast were deliberately lit. Much of the state’s north will be subject to total fire bans tomorrow, with conditions expected to ease on Thursday as cooler southerly winds make their way across the state.Senior executives at the ABC were grilled by a parliamentary committee in Canberra today, with managing director David Anderson revealing the public broadcaster will launch a review into its Voice referendum coverage. Financial officer Melanie Kleyn confirmed the broadcaster had experienced $500 million in “real terms” funding cuts since the 1980s, and that 74 employees had so far left the ABC under its $22.2 million redundancy scheme. In Washington, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is embarking on a four-day blitz to convince members of a divided Congress to push through legislation enabling the AUKUS submarine pact. Oh, and President Joe Biden has arranged for the B52s to perform for the Australian PM, an avowed fan of 1980s music. And back at the National Press Club in Canberra, outgoing National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson issued a stern warning to Albanese’s government as it seeks to solve issues with water buybacks in the Murray Darling and proposes a ban on live sheep exports.

Thanks again for following our coverage of national events today. If you want to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the Israel-Hamas conflict, you can follow our live coverage here.

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yesterday 5.58pm

NSW public schools face shortfall of 3200 casual teachers each day

By Lucy Carroll

In state news, NSW Education Minister Prue Car has refused to put a figure on an acceptable teacher vacancy rate for the public system after alarming new figures revealed public schools are short almost 3200 casual teachers each day.

At a heated budget estimates hearings on Tuesday, Car said the government would be transparent about teacher shortages following revelations 10,000 classes are running daily without a dedicated teacher.

NSW Education Minister Prue Car at a budget estimates hearing this afternoon. Credit: Janie Barrett

The NSW Education Department ran a survey of public schools from 14 August to 1 September, showing schools had average gap of 3,184 casual teachers each day, with 87 per cent of schools reporting vacancies during the fortnight survey period.

Car told the hearing the government would measure its success by continuing the annual survey, adding that the most important metric to address was decreasing the number of teachers resigning.

“Resignations are outstripping retirements, and we need to keep teachers in our system,” she said.

NSW Education Department secretary Murat Dizdar said the state has a teacher “attraction and retention problem”.

“I don’t sleep easily when my own kids come home and say their teacher wasn’t there and their class wasn’t covered,” he said.

At the end of September there were 2247 teacher vacancies in NSW public schools, the department confirmed, an increase from 1820 unfilled positions in May.

yesterday 5.32pm

Markets wrap: ASX drifts higher as miners and energy companies gain

By Millie Muroi

The Australian sharemarket has defied a negative lead from Wall Street, which was weighed down by elevated bond yields and a slump in oil prices, as miners and energy companies lifted the local bourse from a 12-month low on Tuesday.

The S&P/ASX200 rose 12.8 points, or 0.2 per cent, to 6856.9 at the close, anchored down by consumer staples and utilities companies. The Australian dollar was fetching 63.56 US cents.

Australian shares closed higher today despite a negative lead from Wall Street. Credit: Wayne Taylor

Energy companies, which have rallied in recent weeks on concerns about oil supply in the Middle East, resumed their climb despite oil prices slumping as Israel appeared to hold off on a broader ground invasion in Gaza. Ampol (up 1.2 per cent) and Santos (up 0.6 per cent) both climbed along with coal miner New Hope (up 2 per cent).

Resmed (down 2.6 per cent), Pro Medicus (down 2 per cent) and Sonic Healthcare (down 1.7 per cent) weighed on the healthcare sector, which shed 0.3 per cent. Consumer staples (down 1 per cent) were also weaker as supermarket giants Woolworths (down 1.3 per cent) and Coles (down 0.9 per cent) declined along with Endeavour Group (down 1.4 per cent).

Read the full wrap from Millie Muroi here.

yesterday 5.21pm

Five homes destroyed by fire in Queensland, residents told to evacuate

By Angus Thomson

Houses have been destroyed and scores of people have been forced to flee their homes as bushfires spread across southern Queensland.

Hundreds of volunteers and firefighters are battling the blazes, with locals grabbing their own machinery to help emergency services defend their properties.

No injuries have been reported, Rural Fire Service Chief Superintendent Tony Johnstone said, but five houses have been destroyed, and another 10 properties are under threat.

“We’ll know further about what structures and houses that have actually been devastated once we get a chance to control the fires,” Mr Johnstone said.

There are 43 blazes being fought by more than 400 volunteers and firefighters across Queensland, backed by waterbombing aircraft.

The fire at Hat Head National Park last week.Credit: NSW RFS – Sancrox/Thrumster Brigade

In NSW, police are treating a number of fires on the state’s Mid North Coast as suspicious. Much of the state’s north will be subject to total fire bans tomorrow, with conditions expected to ease on Thursday as cooler southerly winds make their way across the state.

You can keep up to date with current bushfire warnings in Queensland on the QFES website and the Rural Fire Service website for fires in NSW.

With AAP

yesterday 5.06pm

Outgoing farmers’ federation boss fires parting shot at Labor policies

In case you missed it earlier, outgoing National Farmers’ Federation president Fiona Simson issued a stern warning to the Albanese government as it seeks to solve issues with water buybacks in the Murray Darling and proposes a ban on live sheep exports.

“History will not judge this government kindly if it continues to prosecute an agenda focused more on satisfying factions than facts,” she told the National Press Club in Canberra earlier this afternoon.

NFF president Fiona Simson at an earlier National Press Club address in Canberra in 2020.Credit: Dominic Lorrimer

She said a proposed ban on live exports would be “a disaster for animal welfare, our ties in the Middle East and farmers across Australia”.

She used her address to focus on the federation’s achievements during her seven-year tenure and highlighted the sector’s ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“We’re entering the climate transition with our eyes wide open,” she said.

Simson said one of the great disappointments of her tenure had been the Albanese government’s failure to implement an agriculture visa, saying the sector was still struggling to attract workers.


yesterday 4.46pm

Voters face year-long Queensland election campaign

Queensland’s voters don’t go to the polls until October 26, but try telling that to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and opposition leader David Crisafulli, who both launched major campaign pitches this week.

Seeking a fourth term, Australia’s longest serving sitting premier touted her government’s agenda in a campaign-style, taxpayer-funded video where she implored voters to “keep going as our best days are still ahead of us”.

Crisafulli, who took over as Liberal National Party leader almost three years ago, unveiled a plan to prioritise community safety, improve access to healthcare, and appoint a dedicated minister for homeownership if it claims government next year.

“The great Australian dream of owning a home has become an unattainable nightmare for too many Queenslanders – and we must end that,” Mr Crisafulli said.


yesterday 4.30pm

PM plays down fears submarine pact could be put on back-burner

By Farrah Tomazin

Washington: Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has played down concerns that time is running out to pass a raft of legislation to facilitate the AUKUS submarine pact, as he embarks on a four-day blitz to lobby members of a divided Congress paralysed by Republican infighting.

Hours after landing in Washington for a highly anticipated meeting with US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, Albanese said US politicians from all sides understood the value of AUKUS and wanted “to get it right”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addresses the media at a press conference in the Australian embassy during his official visit to the USA.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Congress – the legislative branch of the US government – has been paralysed and without a Speaker of the House of Representatives for three weeks, after top Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted by a small group of hardline rebels within his own party.

Multiple pieces of legislation still need to be passed to make AUKUS a reality, but Congress – the legislative branch of the US government – has been paralysed and without a Speaker of the House of Representatives for three weeks, after top Republican Kevin McCarthy was ousted by a small group of hardline rebels within his own party.

Diplomats and politicians fear that unless they progress over the next few months, the plan could be put on the back-burner when America enters a volatile election year in which Donald Trump is attempting a return to the White House.

Read the full story from North America correspondent Farrah Tomazin here.

yesterday 4.18pm

NSW facing a backlog of over 38,000 Aboriginal land claims

By Max Maddison

Returning to NSW, where the state government has revealed it has a backlog of over 38,000 Aboriginal claims on public lands, despite a record number of applications successfully granted to land councils last year.

The figure emerged during budget estimates on Tuesday afternoon, with Crown Lands and Public Spaces deputy secretary Melanie Hawyes revealing the agency had granted only 726 claims to land councils in 2022-23, a record high for any year since the Aboriginal Land Rights Act was established in 1983.

The site of the former Waverton Bowling Club, which was the subject of a successful Aboriginal land claim last year.Credit: Steven Siewert

The Act was established to compensate Aboriginal people in NSW for historic dispossession of land, and Hawyes said 55,000 claims have been lodged in the four decades since.

With 38,518 claims currently on the department’s books, Hawyes said there was only a team of 20 to resolve the backlog, including 15 “working exclusively on assessment”, an increase from six staff.

She said resolving the claims was complicated by competing claims on parcels, such as one claim over the entire South Coast and then numerous other claims for parcels of land within that area.

yesterday 4.04pm

ABC Middle East correspondent ‘taking a break’ from conflict coverage

By Calum Jaspan

Staying for a moment with ABC managing director David Anderson, who has provided a brief update on the public broadcaster’s Middle East correspondent Tom Joyner.

Anderson says Joyner is “taking a break”, rotating out of the broadcaster’s coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

“He is then returning to his normal base in Istanbul,” Anderson said.

Liberal Senator Hollie Hughes earlier quizzed Anderson about leaked text comments made by Joyner, in which he questioned the veracity of reports over the beheading of 40 Israeli babies.

yesterday 3.45pm

‘In real terms, we’ve gone backwards’: ABC doing more with less

By Calum Jaspan

Referring to a graph published in the broadcaster’s annual report, Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young asks the ABC’s managing director David Anderson and financial officer Melanie Kleyn about cuts to the ABC’s funding over the past four decades.

“That’s right,” says Kleyn, asked by Hanson-Young if the broadcaster has experienced $500 million in “real terms” funding cuts since the 1980s.

The graph referred to by Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, showing a decline in government funding for the ABC in real terms since the 1980s.Credit: ABC annual report 2022-23

“In real terms, we’ve gone backwards, and that’s what that chart shows,” Anderson adds.

Anderson and Kleyn say this cut has come at a time when the ABC is doing more than ever, including digital services, and increased multichannel coverage.

“The costs have gone up exponentially in more recent years,” Anderson said. “We’ve increased our presence in regional and remote Australia which is important, and we’d like to hold that position as much as possible.”

Anderson said the broadcaster received a $83.7 million boost over four years after the Morrison government reversed an indexation freeze on funding, but that effectively amounted to one-off funding because the initial freeze had created a “$40 million a year ongoing gap”.

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