February 1, 2024

Australia news LIVE: PM welcomes inflation falling to 4.1 per cent; Labor spruiks stage 3 tax cut changes

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Bulk-billing rates increase after Medicare funding boost

By Olivia Ireland

Health Minister Mark Butler has welcomed new data showing thousands more Australians are now seeing their GPs without having to pay out-of-pocket fees.

Butler said the number of GPs bulk-billing their patients had increased by 2.1 percentage points since October. The government pledged a $5.7 billion funding boost for Medicare in the May 2023 budget.

Health Minister Mark Butler.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“Really pleasingly over the last couple of months, since the money actually started to hit general practices, we’ve seen an increase in bulk billing,” Butler said.

“360,000 additional free visits to the doctor in just two months, in November and December.”

He said it was proof the government had begun to stop the downward slide in bulk-billing rates.


House prices rise again in January

The Australian property market has extended its growth into 2024 despite prices falling slightly in three cities, including Melbourne.

The latest data on home prices, released by CoreLogic on Thursday, showed a 0.4 per cent lift in dwelling values in January – the 12th straight monthly increase in the home value index.

House prices have risen again across the nation.Credit: Oscar Colman

But compared to the middle of last year, the pace of gains has been slower. Sydney recorded a more modest 0.2 per cent lift in home values in January, while Melbourne recorded a 0.1 per cent decline.

Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth recorded increases of 1 per cent or more, while Canberra and Hobart recorded falls of 0.2 per cent and 0.7 per cent respectively.

The nation is also facing an ongoing undersupply of new homes according to fresh data on dwelling approvals, which fell 9.5 per cent in December and were down more than 15 per cent for 2023, compared to the year before.



‘He’d still be with us’: Grieving mother condemns care given to son

The family of a mentally ill Aboriginal man who took his own life in a prison cell says his death could have been avoided with appropriate care.

Timothy Garner died at Sydney’s Silverwater jail on July 7, 2018. He was on remand after being charged with robbery and possession of a prohibited drug three months earlier.

A coronial inquest heard the 30-year-old father had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia and was being seen by a specialist team to assess his risk of self-harm before his death.

In the week before he died, a psychiatrist recommended Garner be transferred to a mental health facility. But five days before his death, he was removed from the waitlist and cleared from the “risk-intervention team’s” assessment after his condition was deemed to have improved.

Delivering his findings on Thursday, Deputy State Coroner Derek Lee said it would have been more appropriate for Garner to remain under the team’s management but it was not possible to determine if this would have likely changed the course of events.

Outside the court, Michelle Garner said her son’s death could have been avoided if he had received appropriate health care.

“He’d still be with us today,” she said. “The last time I saw Tim alive, I told prison staff he needed to see a doctor, he needed to be medicated, but I wasn’t kept informed about my son’s condition.”

The coroner recommended the prison remove ligature or hanging points in cells.

Lifeline 13 11 14Beyondblue 1300 22 4636



Stockmarket loses all gains that took it to new high on Wednesday

The Australian sharemarket has given up all the gains that sent it to an all-time high on Wednesday, after US Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said a rate cut next month was unlikely.

The ASX200 was down 90.5 points, or 1.18 per cent, at midday, to hit 7,590.2. One day earlier, the benchmark index gained 80.5 points to break the previous record high it set 29 months ago.

The broader All Ordinaries was down 95.3 points at midday, or 0.12 per cent, to 7,817.4.

Overnight the Federal Reserve left interest rates on hold – as was expected – with Mr Powell saying rate cuts would likely begin sometime this year but probably not as soon as March, as some traders had expected.

On the Australian market, every sector was in the red at midday. Tech was the biggest loser, down 2.1 per cent, after Wisetech Global dropped 2.7 per cent.



Wong’s position ‘untenable’ if she knew about UN agency links to Hamas attacks: Dutton

By Olivia Ireland

Penny Wong’s position as foreign affairs minister is “untenable” if she received advice about links between the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees and the October 7 Hamas attacks in Israel before committing funding to the agency, Opposition Leader Peter Dutton says.

Israel claimed last Friday that 12 workers from the UNRWA had been involved in the attacks, which were the catalyst for the latest conflict in Gaza. The UN says it has since terminated the contracts of several workers. Australia has also hit pause on a $6m aid package that had been earmarked for the agency.

Penny Wong visits a UN health clinic for Palestinians run by the UNRWA in Amman, Jordan, this month.Credit: DFAT

Appearing on Sydney radio station 2GB, Dutton was asked about reports that Jewish leaders had warned the government weeks ago about the UNRWA’s links to the Hamas attacks.

“I believe that Penny Wong’s position is untenable if it’s demonstrated that she had advice that this [aid] money could be used for a purpose that wasn’t intended by the government,” he said.

“If she has received that advice then the money’s been flowed on regardless, and ended up in the hands of terrorists, that is an outrage because firstly, it’s taxpayers’ money, it’s against our national interest and she had definite advice – if that’s what turns out to be the case – that she should not have ignored.”


Dutton hits back at Albanese after PM’s radio lament

By Olivia Ireland

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has rejected Anthony Albanese’s concerns about the state of politics in Australia, saying it was “sad but predictable” that the prime minister had accused the opposition this morning of playing politics.

Albanese told Sydney radio station WSFM he was concerned about the fact the opposition “just oppose everything”. In response, Dutton told Sydney radio station 2GB that the prime minister had ultimately lied to Australians.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“It’s sad but predictable … the fact is Australians know when the prime minister’s lied to [voters],” Dutton said.

“He did in relation to the Voice, promising that the detail would be made available before people voted – it never happened.

“In relation to the tax cuts, people have budgeted for those tax cuts. I think the debate now is about what comes next because [Treasurer] Jim Chalmers, when you look at his words, he’s got this cute form of words around negative gearing.”

Dutton also accused the government of making an “attack on aspiration” and pitting one Australian against the other.

“People can reasonably say that they’re worried that changes are coming,” he said.


Albanese rules out trading with Greens to secure stage 3 tax cuts

By Olivia Ireland

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says he will not trade on different issues to get support for his stage 3 tax cuts package.

Speaking from a press conference in Umina Beach, Albanese was asked if he was open to negotiating with the Greens on JobSeeker or dental Medicare to get their backing for the stage 3 package.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at the National Press Club last week.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“We will always look at budget measures, but what we won’t be doing is trading across different issues. We’re focused on this. This stands on its merits,” he said.

“People can decide whether they want to leave people behind. All those people earning under $45,000 will not get a cent under the former government proposal. Working families will not be the priority, whether low-income earners or middle-income earners.

“I’d urge people across the House of Reps and the Senate to treat people with the respect as we always do.”


Donors give more money to Libs than Labor

By Paul Sakkal

The Liberal Party secured $27 million more in political donations than Labor last financial year.

The Australian Electoral Commission today released a log of all financial contributions made to political parties, unions and other political campaigning organisations between July 2022 and the end of June last year.

Gambling and consulting companies were among those that donated to political parties, along with wealthy individuals such as mining billionaire Clive Palmer, who gave $7 million to the United Australia Party, making him the year’s largest donor.

The Liberal Party and its state divisions gathered more than $110 million over the past financial year, compared with Labor’s $83 million.

The contributions were received after the May 2022 election. Donations are greater in the periods before elections.

We’ll have more detailed information on the biggest spenders later this morning.


Experts urge greater EV charger investment, despite limited delays

By Jennifer Dudley-Nicholson

Dire predictions about lengthy waits at electric car charging stations have failed to materialise these summer holidays, experts say, even though the use of public chargers more than doubled across Australia.

Representatives from two of the country’s biggest providers, Chargefox and Evie Networks, told AAP electric cars experienced their “biggest week ever” for public charging this holiday season, and use across the period soared by 150 per cent.

EV charger waits were less than expected this summer.Credit: Shutterstock

But Electric Vehicle Council energy and infrastructure head Ross De Rango said the success should not lead businesses or governments to become complacent as battery-powered cars continued to grow in popularity.

The news came after sales of electric cars more than doubled in Australia during 2023, and after some drivers suffered 90-minute charging delays during the 2023 summer holiday break.



PM laments political partisanship, blames opposition

By Olivia Ireland

Speaking on multiple radio programs this morning, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has expressed concern about the state of politics, placing blame on the opposition.

When asked on Sydney radio station WSFM if Australia was heading down the same path as the US with people divided along party lines, Albanese responded that he was concerned about the conduct of the opposition.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen, Nine News

“I am concerned about the politics where the opposition just oppose everything … I used to say I’m the Labor leader, not the opposition leader, because my job is to do the right thing,” he said.

“For example, throughout the pandemic … even where we thought the government’s measures weren’t perfect, we said we won’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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