February 5, 2024

Australia news LIVE: Stage 3 tax cuts to benefit the majority of Australian workers; Ben Roberts-Smith defamation appeal begins

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PM’s stage 3 tax plan met with applause at Labor caucus meeting

By Olivia Ireland

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is speaking before the Labor party room during the party’s caucus meeting in Canberra.

Spruiking the government’s reformed stage 3 tax package, Albanese is met with a round of applause as he says every taxpayer will get a tax cut under the revised plan.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“These tax cuts that we will put into the parliament tomorrow are good economic policy, but they also will make an enormous difference,” he said. “[Opposition Leader Peter Dutton] can’t say that there’s cost of living pressures on low and middle income earners and then refused to do anything about it.

“What we have done is make not an easy decision, we’ve made a right decision at the right time for the right reasons.”

Albanese said the government was yet to achieve its mission of relieving the cost of living burden facing Australians, but figures released last week revealing inflation had dropped to 4.1 per cent showed things were “heading in the right direction”.

“Every taxpayer deserves a tax cut, and we’re going to give it to them.”


Read: Penny Wong’s full statement

By Olivia Ireland

In a formal statement, Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the death sentence of Yang Hengjun has been “harrowing” and she is moved by the academic’s strength.

Wong’s statement acknowledges the acute distress Dr Yang’s family would be feeling after many years of uncertainty.

“This period has been extraordinarily difficult. Like so many Australians, I am moved by Dr Yang’s strength, and the strength of his family and friends,” the statement says.“The Australian Government will be communicating our response in the strongest terms.”

“We will continue to press for Dr Yang’s interests and wellbeing, including appropriate medical treatment, and provide consular assistance to him and his family.

All Australians want to see Dr Yang reunited with his family. We will not relent in our advocacy.”


Australian Yang Hengjun may appeal against China death sentence

By Olivia Ireland

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong has been advised Yang Hengjun could have avenues to appeal after two years if he does not commit any serious crimes during that period.

“I’m advised that Dr Yang still has avenues for appeal available to him,” she said.

Wong also said the decision to speak publicly instead of resolving the diplomatic case behind closed doors was due to the nature of the sentence.

“Our judgment was that the nature of this sentence was such that it was important for us to speak publicly and directly from me,” she said.

“Ahead of those representations being made in private, as you know we seek to conduct our engagement with other countries. Recognising there are times you speak privately and there are also times we have to make our position very clear publicly and today is one of them.”

Read the full story by North Asia correspondent Eryk Bagshaw here.


‘Appalled’ Wong stops short of recalling ambassador from Beijing

By Olivia Ireland

Australia will not consider recalling Australia’s ambassador from Beijing, Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says.

Foreign Minister Penny WongCredit: Alex Ellinghausen

“More broadly about the relationship, I have said stabilisation means we co-operate where we can, disagree where we must and we engage in the national interest,” she said.

“I would make the point this is a decision within China’s legal system. Clearly this is an occasion on which we disagree. However, Australia will continue to advocate for the interests of Dr Yang.

“I do not step back from what I said at the outset, which is that the Australian government is appalled by this decision.”


Detained Australian’s medical needs must be met, Wong demands

By Olivia Ireland

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says the government will not relent in advocating for Yang Hengjun, who has previously requested medical parole.

“The Australian government has advocated for Dr Yang with China at every opportunity and at the highest levels. We have consistently called for basic standards of justice, procedural fairness and humane treatment for Dr Yang,” she said.

“Australia will not relent in either advocacy for justice for Dr Yang’s interests and wellbeing, including appropriate medical treatment, and we will continue to provide consular assistance to him and his family.”


Australia will respond to death sentence in the strongest terms, Wong says

By Olivia Ireland

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong says the death sentence imposed on Yang Hengjun is the most “harrowing news” and Australia will be responding in the strongest terms.

“In Beijing, Australian citizen Dr Yang Hengjun has received a suspended death sentence. We understand that this can be committed to a life sentence following two years,” she said.

“As a first step, I have directed my secretary to summon China’s ambassador to Australia to express our objection.

“I want to acknowledge the acute distress that Dr Yang and his family will be feeling today.”


Watch: Penny Wong speaks in Canberra

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong is speaking in Canberra after Australian Yang Hengjun was sentenced to death by a Chinese court.

Watch live below:


Breaking: Australian sentenced to death by Chinese court

By Eryk Bagshaw

Australian father Yang Hengjun has been sentenced to death by a Chinese court, but his life could be spared after a two-year-reprieve for good behaviour.

The 57-year-old has spent more than four years in jail on national security charges and claims of espionage that have always been strongly denied by the Australian government and his family.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong is expected to speak in Canberra shortly.

Yang Hengjun has spent five years in a Beijing prison cell. Credit: Sanghee Liu

The sentence, which commutes a death sentence to life in prison after two years of good behaviour, effectively means the pro-democracy writer will spend the rest of his life in prison on espionage charges that have always been strongly denied by Yang’s family and the Australian government.

Read the full story by North Asia correspondent Eryk Bagshaw here.


This afternoon’s headlines

Thank you for reading our live coverage for the first half of the day.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re just joining us:

A senate committee was told Treasury was asked to investigate options for changing the legislated stage 3 tax cuts in mid-December.Treasurer Jim Chalmers has slammed claims the fuel efficiency standard would increase car prices as “absolute rubbish”. Koalas, platypuses, echidnas, turtles, birds and other native species face a deadly threat if an outbreak of venomous fire ants is not eradicated.Opposition finance spokeswoman Jane Hume said the Coalition will “always support lower and simpler taxes”, but wouldn’t say if it would support the government’s changes on stage 3 cuts.And Foreign Minister Penny Wong will be speaking to reporters in Canberra shortly, we will bring you the latest on what she has to say.

My colleague Angus Thomson will be keeping readers updated for the rest of the day.


Vic police chief rejects Midsumma boss’ claim on Pride March clash

By Lachlan Abbott

And in Victoria, the state’s police chief commissioner Shane Patton says officers did nothing to escalate a violent clash with protesters at Melbourne’s annual Pride March, in a rejection of the festival organiser’s claim that “both sides” contributed to the disruption.

Yesterday, about 50 demonstrators confronted a police contingent of about 100 officers participating in the Midsumma Pride March as they walked down Fitzroy Street in St Kilda.

Videos captured scuffles that erupted as protesters tried to halt police from marching in the LGBTQIA+ event by standing in their way. Police pushed them back.

Later, Patton called the protesters an “ugly rabble” for throwing paint, calling police “killers” and blocking the officers’ path in the parade. He said protesters came “with intent to confront, and if not to attack police, to threaten them”.

“Police were trying to push them away and unfortunately, there will be footage that shows that occurring, and it looks confrontational and that shouldn’t be the case,” Patton said.

Midsumma Festival chief executive Karen Bryant told the media yesterday: “We are highly disappointed by the disruption of the march and the escalation of events from both sides.”

Here’s the full story on the clash.

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