February 2, 2024

Australia news LIVE: Coalition mulls Labor’s stage 3 tax cut changes; Dutton to pledge $900m project for Dunkley byelection

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Man allegedly caught smuggling 5kg of heroin into Australia in camp stretcher

A 68-year-old man was allegedly caught smuggling about 5kg of heroin into Australia inside a camp stretcher.

According to the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the West Australian man was questioned by Australian Border Force (ABF) officers at Sydney International Airport on January 24 after arriving on a flight from Vietnam.

Australian Border Force officers allegedly discovered the drug.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

An examination of the man’s camp stretcher led to the alleged discovery of the drug, which had an estimated street value of $2.25 million.

The AFP arrested the man, who was charged with importing a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug. He was refused bail at court and is next due to face Downing Centre Local Court on March 20.

AFP Detective Acting Sergeant Susan Cooper said the huge amount of heroin would have resulted in “untold damage to Australian communities” if left undetected.

“The AFP and our partners are committed to thwarting the international drug trade and preventing our airports from being used as part of the criminal supply chain,” she said.

ABF Superintendent Mal Nimmo said Border Force officers were highly skilled to identify potentially suspicious packages which passengers bring into the country.


Wong hits back at Dutton’s claim she should be sacked if she reverses UNRWA funding pause

By Olivia Ireland

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has hit back at Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s earlier comments she should be sacked if she decides to reverse a decision to pause $6 million of funding to the United Nations agency for Palestinians in Gaza after allegations 12 of its staff may have been involved in the October 7 terrorist attacks.

Wong on Thursday indicated UNRWA is one of the only aid organisations to Gaza and the Australian government was serious about trying to ensure that fewer children are starving.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

In response, Dutton today said her position would be “untenable” if she gave funding to UNRWA.

A spokesperson for Wong said she has always acted within the law.

“The foreign minister has acted entirely within the law. The Government has received legal advice on this,” they said.

“Our focus is the dire humanitarian situation and what Australia can do to help – Mr Dutton is focused on making false and exaggerated claims for a cheap political hit.”


Police shoot at car after driver allegedly evades random breath test

By Jessica McSweeney

A NSW Police officer fired a shot into a car in a Sydney suburb after the driver allegedly tried to evade a random breath test and drove directly at police.

On Thursday night, officers in Ryde had set up a stationary RBT site on Wicks Road in Ryde when a black Audi tried to avoid the site.

Police say a driver tried to evade a random breath test and drove directly at officers.Credit: Edwina Pickles

Police pursued the car, stopping it on Coxs Road. However, while they were conducting checks, the driver allegedly drove the car directly at police.

An officer shot a single round into the windshield before it was driven away. A police officer was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital with a leg injury.

The car was later found at a home in Melrose Park, where police spoke with two men and a woman. No charges have been laid.


Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke says ports agreement shows he made right decision on intervention

By Angus Thompson

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke says the deal for a 23 per cent pay increase reached between ports operator DP World and its wharfies has vindicated his decision not to intervene in the wage dispute a fortnight ago.

The Dubai-based stevedore and Maritime Workers Union separately announced the parties had come to an agreement over pay and conditions, bringing months of industrial action to an end, two weeks after Burke refused to step in despite calls from the business lobby and Coalition.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke.Credit: Oscar Colman

“Had I intervened – as [Opposition Leader] Peter Dutton and others encouraged me to do – this dispute would have dragged on for months. It would have been the wrong call and it highlights Mr Dutton’s appalling judgement,” Burke said.

Workers will receive an 8 per cent increase to their pay packets in the first year, plus 0.25 per cent income protection. In the second year they will receive a 7 per cent increase, 4 per cent in the third year, and 4.5 per cent in the fourth.

They will also receive back pay from the expiry of the last agreement, and a $2,000 sign-on bonus.

“This is how enterprise bargaining is meant to work: both parties negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement that acknowledges the common interests between employers and workers,” Burke said.

“While there are some processes still to complete, this in-principle agreement is good for the company, good for the workers and good for the Australian community.”


Shadow treasurer refuses to commit to position on Labor’s stage 3 tax overhaul

By Olivia Ireland

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor has refused to give a commitment on whether the Coalition will support the government’s stage 3 tax package, saying his party will always advocate for lower taxes.

Speaking on Sky News, Taylor said the Coalition will go through its normal processes before coming to a decision.

Shadow treasurer Angus Taylor.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“We obviously haven’t seen the legislation yet. We know the Greens will get their grimy hands on it. Labor will no doubt have to do some ugly negotiation on that,” he said.

“It’s very clear that Australians’ standard of living has collapsed under this government. [It’s been] 18 months and they’re far poorer than they were 18 months ago.”

Reference was made to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s earlier comments that his party would not raise taxes, but Taylor said he would not announce the party position on the stage 3 package.

“We are the party for lower taxes, Labor clearly isn’t. Labor loves to raise taxes,” he said.

“We’ll go through our normal process … and then I can come onto the show and talk about that announcement.”


Jumping castle operator pleads not guilty to Hillcrest jumping castle deaths

A jumping castle operator charged with workplace safety breaches over the Hillcrest Primary School tragedy in which six children died has pleaded not guilty.

Chace Harrison, Jalailah Jayne-Maree Jones, Zane Mellor, Addison Stewart, Jye Sheehan and Peter Dodt were killed after the inflatable castle was lifted into the air in December 2021.

Flowers blanket the front lawn of Hillcrest Primary School following the tragedy.Credit: Marta Pascual Juanola

They were enjoying end-of-year celebrations with classmates on the oval of the school in Devonport in Tasmania’s northwest.

Rosemary Anne Gamble, the operator of a company called Taz-Zorb which supplied and set up the castle, was charged in November with failing to comply with workplace health and safety requirements.

Gamble appeared in Devonport Magistrates Court on Friday and pleaded not guilty.

She was granted bail and is due to next face court in March.

It is alleged the castle was tethered at four of its eight anchorage points.

It is also alleged pegs were not installed at the recommended 45-degree angle and pegs recommended by the manufacturer, or a suitable alternative, weren’t used.

According to court documents, seven students were on the castle when a “significant” weather event occurred, causing it to become dislodged and airborne.

They fell from the castle, while a blower attached to the castle to keep it inflated struck a nearby student.

Gamble allegedly failed to ensure the anchorage system was sufficient to prevent the castle from lifting and failed to ensure there was a peg at each anchor point in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.



Home lending decline led by drop in owner-occupiers

Lending to buy homes took a tumble in the final month of the year as the property market upswing lost momentum.

Home loan commitments fell 4.1 per cent in December, led by a 5.6 per cent decline in lending by owner-occupiers.

Lending to buy homes took a dive in December.Credit: Michelle Smith

This was the largest monthly fall for households planning to live in the home since the start of 2020.

Investor lending was also down, figures from the Australia Bureau of Statistics show, sinking a more modest 1.3 per cent.

But through the year, investor loans rose 20.4 per cent and owner occupiers lifted 7.4 per cent.

Oxford Economics Australia senior economist Maree Kilroy said property price growth was slowing.

The 0.4 per cent lift in home prices in January, based on the latest national home value index from CoreLogic, was the 12th monthly increase, but at a weaker pace of growth than in mid-2023.

“While interest rates have likely reached their peak this hiking cycle, given the latest consumer price index read, housing affordability has deteriorated significantly over the past two years, a key headwind for prices over the next 12 months,” Kilroy said.

She predicted rate cuts later in the year, plus a persistent undersupply of housing, would likely place a floor under prices.



Ports industrial action ends after pay deal struck

By Angus Thompson

Ports operator DP World and the Maritime Union of Australia have struck a four-year pay deal, ending industrial action that has plagued container terminals and riled the business community for months.

The Dubai-based global shipping company and wharfies’ union separately announced the in-principle agreement on Friday, which is yet to be endorsed by the workforce, a fortnight after Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke refused to intervene in the bargaining stalemate.

DP World terminal at Port Botany.Credit: Peter Rae

The union was demanding a 16 per cent pay rise over two years, but Friday’s announcements were silent on pay. However, the MUA’s statement said the agreement delivered “fair pay, safety and fatigue management measures, and provides job security and a fair work-life balance for Australian wharfies.”

“The past fortnight has shown how quickly a fair and sustainable deal can be resolved once both the workforce and the employer are fully engaged in the negotiation process,” MUA assistant national secretary Adrian Evans said.

All industrial action has been withdrawn.

DP World Oceania executive vice president Nicolaj Noes said the company was now focused on restoring the supply chain and rebuilding confidence among customers after the company said last month the industrial action had created a backlog that would take weeks to remedy.

Noes was targeted by Burke during a Sydney press conference last month, accusing the executive of poor industrial tactics and bargaining via the media.


Chalmers accuses Dutton of ‘looking for all kinds of excuses’ not to back their stage 3 tax cuts

By Olivia Ireland

In the last update from Chalmers’ earlier press conference, the treasurer accused Opposition Leader Peter Dutton of “stuffing around” when it comes to his position on the reformed stage 3 tax cuts.

Speaking from Brisbane, Chalmers said the government’s stage 3 tax package would better support all taxpaying Australians.

“I think Peter Dutton is stuffing around and stumbling around [and] looking for all kinds of excuses not to support our bigger tax cuts for more people to deal with the cost of living,” he said.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton (left), Treasurer Jim Chalmers (right).Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“We’ve seen them [the Coalition] flailing about and fumbling about in recent days and what we’re left with is the only definitive statement that’s been made. [Deputy Liberal leader] Sussan Ley was asked ‘will you unwind Labor’s tax cuts’ and she said ‘absolutely’.”

Chalmers said the opposition wanting to see the legislation was not a reasonable excuse for their delayed position, adding the released treasury advice and policy are clear.

“This point about the legislation is once again the LNP looking for excuses to do the wrong thing by people,” Chalmers said.

“They know what these tax cuts are all about; we’ve made the detail very clear; we’ve been explaining why we’ve come to a different and better position; we’ve been upfront about what it means for workers in communities like this one.”


Titus Day receiving midnight police visits as he awaits fraud retrial, court told

By Sarah McPhee

Titus Day, the former manager of singer Guy Sebastian, has been visited by NSW Police multiple times a week and in the dead of night despite it being no part of his bail, a Sydney court has heard.

Day, 51, is awaiting retrial accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars of Sebastian’s earnings, after his convictions were quashed in the Court of Criminal Appeal in December.

Guy Sebastian (left) and former manager Titus Day.Credit: SMH

In Downing Centre District Court today, defence solicitor Phoebe MacDougall said Day has “been receiving up to three or four visits by police each week” at his eastern suburbs home, sometimes at 11pm or midnight. She asked for Day’s bail conditions to be confirmed, and for police to be told that it was not required.

Solicitor Jessica Arman, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said there did not appear to be a curfew among Day’s bail conditions, which included to be of good behaviour, report every Wednesday to police and not go near international departure points.

Judge Timothy Gartelmann, who coincidentally presided over Day’s first trial, said, “perhaps the Crown could communicate that to police, then hopefully the visits will stop”.

Day is yet to be rearraigned and receive a date for his second trial.

Arman said the DPP was still considering the appeal judgment, was not ready to present a settled indictment and a new Crown prosecutor had only recently been briefed in the matter.

Sebastian, the inaugural winner of Australian Idol, was managed by Day at talent agency 22 Management from 2007 and joined Day’s company 6 Degrees in 2009 before the pair’s relationship ended in 2017.

Day’s case was adjourned to February 15. NSW Police declined to comment.

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