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

Key posts

Latest posts

Latest posts


ABC boss responds to ‘half a billion’ loss in real terms funding

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 Klein about cuts to the ABC’s funding over the past four decades.

“That’s right,” says Klein, 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 Klein 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.“What it is that we need to do keeps increasing with time. 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 despite the restoration of $83.7 million in 2022 across four years, following an indexation freeze implemented by the previous government, the sum was “effectively a one-off funding”, the initial freeze creating a “$40 million a year ongoing gap”


Four Corners yet to hand climate protest footage to WA police

By Calum Jaspan

Returning to Canberra, where ABC managing director David Anderson has told the federal parliament’s environment and communications legislation committee the broadcaster is still yet to hand over any documents relating to a controversial episode of flagship investigations program, Four Corners, after being lobbied by staff and the media union, the MEAA.

The Western Australian Police Force earlier this month ordered the public broadcaster to hand over documents and footage related to climate protests, including footage filmed outside the home of Woodside petroleum boss Meg O’Neill.

In response to a question from Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, Anderson said:

“I don’t believe so, not yet. We have been in contact with WA Police last week. We have been seeking to get constraints on the order to produce, such that we can protect confidential sources that we have provided a confidential obligation to.”

Anderson said the broadcaster’s response to the police is now “beyond the timeframe the WA Police were looking for”.

Over the past five years, Anderson says the ABC has received 28 orders to produce, complying “in some way” with 26 of them, “always protecting our sources.”


New legal partnership aimed at reducing child removals

To NSW now, where new laws will come into effect next month requiring the Department of Communities and Justice to take “active efforts” to prevent children from being removed from their families.

Ahead of the change, the DCJ has formed a partnership with the Aboriginal Legal Service and Legal Aid to deliver early legal advice to all families involved in out-of-home matters. The agreement is particularly targeted at improving rates for Aboriginal children in NSW, who are 12 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous kids.

Minister for Family and Communities Kate WashingtonCredit: Dion Georgopoulos

Families and Communities Minister Kate Washington said the new agreement is particularly aimed at improving outcomes for Aboriginal children in NSW, who are 12 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous kids.

“This agreement puts children first and ensures all organisations work collaboratively to keep kids staying safely at home with their families,” she said.

The agreement will be introduced across NSW after trials in Tamworth, Newcastle and Gosford.



Shoppers urged to buy sustainable presents this Christmas

By John Collett

It might seem a little soon to be talking Christmas presents just yet, but with Australians expected to spend $10.5 billion (or $578 per person) on gifts this festive season, consumers are being urged to give more thought to their Christmas shopping and help reduce the number of gifts that end up in landfill.

Clean Up Australia chair Pip Kiernan says gift givers should seek quality over quantity by trying to find out what someone will want, rather than buying “stocking fillers and cheap trinkets”.

Australians are expected to spend $10.5 billion on gifts this Christmas, but how much will be unwanted, cannot be recycled and end up in landfill?Credit: Kate Geraghty

But retailers’ green credentials aren’t independently verified, and it isn’t always easy to identify environmentally friendly options. Last year, the Consumer Policy Research Centre audited 122 green claims across a range of product categories and found only 32 per cent were able to provide supporting evidence or verification on their websites or packaging that would provide some confidence the claims are accurate.

If you do get a gift, consider buying second-hand from a charity or vintage store, Kiernan says. And giving gifts that are made from recycled materials or can be recycled should be on everyone’s Christmas shopping list.

Read the full story from personal finance writer John Collett here.


Government should not be exempt from new misinformation laws, says Pocock

To another Senate estimates hearing now, where Independent Senator David Pocock has questioned why government agencies should be exempt from proposed laws cracking down on misinformation.

The Albanese government is sifting through thousands of comments and submissions on draft laws to force social media platforms to deal with “false, misleading and deceptive” content.

Independent senator David Pocock in Senate estimates in November 2022. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Pocock queried why government information should not be held to the same standard as that from other sources and said it would not “pass the pub test” for the exemption to stand when the laws were eventually introduced, he said.

Assistant Minister for Infrastructure Carol Brown said the exemption was developed to ensure government messaging about emergencies would not be removed by social media platforms.

“This is actually one of the measures being looked at through the consultations and views are being considered by the department,” she said.



ABC redundancy plans have seen 74 employees leave so far

By Calum Jaspan

Returning to the ABC executives being questioned by a committee in Canberra, who have been quizzed about redundancy payments made to staff.

One Nation Senator Malcolm Roberts asked about the payments, which amounted to $22.2 million in the broadcaster’s annual report.

One Nation senator Malcolm Roberts in February.Credit: James Brickwood

The broadcaster’s financial officer Melanie Klein said the figure is an estimated redundancy provision, based on the ABC’s announcement in June.

As of September 30, 74 employees had left the ABC so far, Klein told the committee.

The initial announcement signalled up to 130 roles would be made redundant, through the process of consultation, a number of employees qualified for redeployment opportunities.

“I would estimate that number might, perhaps move to 100,” says Klein.


Today’s headlines at a glance

By Angus Thomson

Hi there, Angus Thomson here taking over from Caroline Schelle, who will be back with you tomorrow morning. If you’re just joining us, here’s what is making headlines this afternoon:

Greens senator Dorinda Cox made a passionate plea for the federal government to do more to improve incarceration rates for Indigenous people after the death of an Indigenous teenager who self-harmed in the youth wing of an adult prison in WA. “It is absolutely clear, that in WA in particular, our government does not care about black people,” she told a Senate estimates hearing. Prominent Yes campaigner Thomas Mayo repeated calls for an independent Indigenous advisory body after the Voice to parliament proposal’s referendum defeat. Mayo spoke of the “emptiness in my chest” after the crushing defeat of the Voice to parliament, but vowed to keep fighting for recognition which is “unfinished business” for Australia. Staying with the Voice, ABC managing director David Anderson told a parliamentary committee the public broadcaster will carry out a review of its referendum coverage. Earlier, Anderson was grilled over leaked comments made by journalist Tom Joyner, in which the broadcaster’s Middle East correspondent called reports over the beheading of 40 Israeli babies “bullshit”. Anderson said Joyner was remorseful for the “unfortunate” comments, made in a private WhatsApp group. Meanwhile, the ABC agreed to pay indemnity costs to former special forces soldier Heston Russell after he won his defamation case against the broadcaster over reports suggesting he was involved in killing an Afghan prisoner.And Australia’s union movement will ban the transportation and use of engineered stone on building sites nationwide if a blanket ban on the deadly substance isn’t in place by next July.


Government ‘doesn’t care about black people’, Cox says after teen’s death

By Natassia Chrysanthos

Greens senator Dorinda Cox has made a passionate plea for the federal government to step up its work improving incarceration rates for Indigenous people after the death of an Indigenous teenager who self-harmed in the youth wing of an adult prison in Western Australia.

She told a Senate estimates hearing that the issue should be “front and centre” given the past six months in politics, which were dominated by the Voice to parliament debate, and said the WA government did not care about black people.

Senator Dorinda Cox is the Greens’ First Nations spokeswoman.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“I have seen and watched successive governments kick the can down the road,” she said.

“Last week a child died in an adult prison, who was on remand, with an intellectual disability.”


Cox said she wanted to know what the federal government was doing to meet targets 10 and 11, which aim to reduce the over-representation of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system, including young people.

“I am appealing to this government to start taking action … and for the attorney-general to start using the power of the federal government,” she said.

Here’s what else she said about the teen’s death:

It is absolutely clear, that in WA in particular, our government does not care about black people.

It does not care … We have a serious problem. This child had an intellectual disability. This child should not have been locked down for 22, 23 hours, in these places. 

There is a serious emergency about the situation of incarceration in this country and we are doing nothing.

Can this government please provide some action in regard to target 10 and target 11 of the closing the gap targets, under the power of the attorney-general?”


ABC still considering an appeal over Heston Russell decision

By Calum Jaspan

ABC managing director David Anderson was questioned whether it was still considering whether to appeal last week’s Federal Court decision on former commando Heston Russell.

The broadcaster was ordered to pay Russell $390,000 over two articles, where he was accused of a war crime.

Anderson was questioned about the appeal process by Liberal senator Sarah Henderson, at the environment and communications legislation committee in Canberra.

Former special forces soldier Heston Russell was awarded $390,000 in his defamation case against the ABC.Credit: Edwina Pickles

He explained the broadcaster was eight days into the appeal period.

“If you’re asking me to apologise to Mr Russell, I’m not going to apologise to Mr Russell,” Anderson said.

Henderson, who is a former ABC employee herself, said the story undermined the ABC’s reputation as a trusted news source.

Anderson told the hearing there was “lots to learn” from the case, being the first time the broadcaster tested a new public interest defence in defamation.

The ABC passed the first two of the three bars needed to pass for the public interest defence, the third being “arguably the most important”, the managing director said.

The executive said legal fees relating to the Russell case tallied between $700-800,000 so far.


Two dozen investigations under way into public servants’ behaviour: APS boss

By Shane Wright

Meanwhile, the head of the Australian Public Service has revealed two dozen investigations are under way into previous and existing staff about their behaviour and performance.

Australian Public Service Commissioner Gordon de Brouwer, providing evidence to a Senate estimates hearing today, said in some cases some public servants have been issued notices of potential breach of the service’s code of conduct.

The public service has been under intense scrutiny following several high-profile issues, including findings from the robo-debt royal commission and revelations by this masthead around Home Affairs secretary Michael Pezzullo.

Michael Pezzullo may not return as the nation’s Home Affairs chief.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

The robo-debt royal commission made 16 referrals relating to former and current bureaucrats.

According to de Brouwer, those referrals were being investigated with action under way.

“I can update the committee that investigations have started for all referrals and that around half of these have proceeded to the issue of notices which outline the grounds and categories for potential breach of code,” he said.


An independent inquiry, headed by former public servant Lynelle Briggs, is being conducted into Pezzullo.

There are also further investigations into some public servants.

“Altogether, and including robo-debt, the (public service) commission currently has two dozen formal investigations under way which is well above the couple or so a year which has been the norm in recent years,” de Brouwer said.

“The inquiries under way reflect the expectation of the Australian people, the government and indeed the public service itself that public servants meet professional standards and all the requirements set out in the Public Service Act and other legislation.

“They give leaders of the public service insight into where institutions and people are vulnerable to failure and how the Australian Public Service can be more resilient and effective in its service to the government, parliament and Australian public.”

Most Viewed in National



Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.