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Australia news live: PM declines to comment on Roberts-Smith ruling but says Labor ‘committed’ to Brereton recommendations

Wille Okon 186 June 2, 2023

Daniel Hurst
Daniel Hurst

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, speaking in Singapore, has been asked about the impact of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation ruling on Australia’s international standing.

The prime minister responded cautiously:

The determination that was made yesterday is a determination of a civil proceeding between two parties. It didn’t involve the government and it would be inappropriate to comment on the detail of that given the potential that is then there for future action that the government might be a party to.

Albanese went on to express Australia’s commitment to act on the Brereton report into alleged war crimes, which followed a four-year long inquiry and was released in late 2020:

Can I say, though, [on] the Brereton inquiry and report – we are committed as a government to implementing the recommendations to the extent possible. And that is very important going forward. That is an area in which we have a responsibility and we have indicated very clearly that we would take up that responsibility.

Albanese also argued Australia’s international standing was “extraordinarily strong”. He said that included “the standing of our defence forces and our defence personnel”.

On claims from employers that the increase will lead to job losses, higher prices, and struggling businesses, McManus points to the profits being reported by big businesses currently.

Big business post their profits and have maintained and some of them expanded their profit margins at this particular time. They’re not feeling any pain whatsoever. They’re doing very well. So they can all afford this pay increase.

If you look at small businesses, some of them can as well. But it is true, there’s always some small businesses and some businesses that struggle every year regardless of what the pay increase is. And so the choice is do you give people more of a bigger real wage cut and have them cutback on spending and have them materially struggle and when woe talk about materially struggling, we’re saying not getting to the doctor and skipping meals or do we increase wages so they can tread water? On a balance of all of that, it’s the right thin for the country to make sure that the lowest paid workers don’t continue to carry it all the way of the current economic situation.

Wage rise less than what was sought but ‘will make a huge difference’: Sally McManus

The secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Sally McManus, is on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing discussing the Fair Work Commission decision to raise the minimum wage 5.75%.

She admits it is less than the 7% that was sought, but the number “will make a huge difference” to around 3 million people on those awards and minimum wage. She says shop assistants will be about $51 a week better off, and disability workers will be a minimum of $66 better off.

That’s a lot of money when you’re considering how you’re going to pay for the groceries. We welcome the increase and we know it will make a real difference.

She says those who are saying the pay increase will be inflationary are doing so for political reasons or “simply employers that just don’t like giving payrises”.

Daniel Hurst
Daniel Hurst

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, speaking in Singapore, has been asked about the impact of the Ben Roberts-Smith defamation ruling on Australia’s international standing.

The prime minister responded cautiously:

The determination that was made yesterday is a determination of a civil proceeding between two parties. It didn’t involve the government and it would be inappropriate to comment on the detail of that given the potential that is then there for future action that the government might be a party to.

Albanese went on to express Australia’s commitment to act on the Brereton report into alleged war crimes, which followed a four-year long inquiry and was released in late 2020:

Can I say, though, [on] the Brereton inquiry and report – we are committed as a government to implementing the recommendations to the extent possible. And that is very important going forward. That is an area in which we have a responsibility and we have indicated very clearly that we would take up that responsibility.

Albanese also argued Australia’s international standing was “extraordinarily strong”. He said that included “the standing of our defence forces and our defence personnel”.

Australia and India to enter trade agreement ‘as soon as possible’

Back in Senate estimates, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has assured senator Claire Chandler that no “sensitive areas” were taken off the negotiating table with India in a bid to hasten ongoing trade negotiations.

Chandler’s inquiry follows confirmation yesterday from the department that the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, privately raised alleged human rights issues with Narendra Modi during his recent visit, despite not raising them publicly.

Frances Lisson from the department told estimates Australia had agreed with India to enter a trade agreement “as soon as possible”, which she hopes means it will be done by the end of the year.

The world’s fastest growing economy, India is negotiating a number of free trade agreements at the moment and Lisson said Australia had secured “priority status”:

We are in talks with India at the moment over the scope of the issues, we haven’t taken anything off the table.

Samantha Jonscher reports

Benita Kolovos
Benita Kolovos

Victorian private schools to be stripped of payroll tax exemption will be lower than forecast: Andrews

Victoria’s premier, Daniel Andrews, has confirmed the number of private schools set to be stripped of their longstanding payroll tax exemption will be lower than forecast in last week’s budget.According to the budget, 110 “high-fee” private schools would be stripped of their payroll tax exemption from mid-2024, raising more than $420m over three years.

But amid strong resistance from independent and Catholic schools about the changes, Andrews has just told a budget estimates hearing the number of schools to be affected will be lower than forecast.

He said:

Perhaps there should have been some better footnotes around this item in the budget. I’ll fully concede that point.

Andrews says the education minister is consulting with schools to come up with a new definition of what a “high-fee” school will be:

I’m not in a position to confirm what it will finish up at, but it will go up … There’ll be less than 110 schools … and the overall revenue that is derived from this measure will almost certainly be less than what has been forecast.

Albanese releases statement after meeting with Singapore’s acting PM

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has released a statement after his meeting with Singapore’s acting prime minister, Lawrence Wong Shyun Tsai.

The pair discussed Australia and Singapore’s perspectives on the regional strategic outlook, the deep and abiding defence relationship, expanding trade and investment ties and growing cooperation on food and energy security, as well as progress made under the Green Economy Agreement.

Albanese said:

This visit has been an opportunity to affirm our friendship, and map the next steps to implement our new Australia Singapore-Green Economy Agreement.

We are ambitious for what we can achieve together on the path to net zero, pushing boundaries and setting new standards to drive green trade and investment.

My visit to Singapore was an opportunity to look ahead with ambition for the next phase of this important relationship.

Southeast Asia and Asean matters to Australia – that’s why I’m here this week. We are tied together by more than geography – we are linked by family, friends, business, education, tourism and a shared interest in the stability of the region into the future.

I look forward to outlining Australia’s commitment to a better future for our region at the Shangri-La Dialogue this evening.

Coles takes another $25m provision to repay underpaid staff

Coles has set aside another $25m to repay the salaried supermarket managers it inadvertently underpaid for years, AAP reports.

“Coles apologises unreservedly to affected team members,” the supermarket giant said in a statement on Friday.

Coles had already taken a $25m provision for underpaying staff in 2021 and is facing both a federal court proceeding by the Fair Work Ombudsman and a separate class-action lawsuit related to the matter.

The supermarket said it had “worked diligently” in relation to these issues and was making the remediation “following further consideration of the issues as they have evolved”.

The underpayments apparently occurred because Coles was not paying its salaried supermarket store managers enough to cover their minimum lawful entitlements, given that they were working significant overtime.

In recent years Woolworths, Qantas, BHP, the ABC, Super Retail Group, Michael Hill Jewellers, Rockpool Dining Group, Domino’s Pizza and Sunglass Hut have all admitted paying staff in violation of Australia’s highly complicated system of industrial wage awards.

Natasha May
Natasha May

Thanks for your attention this Friday as we followed the ongoing reactions to the ruling in Ben Roberts-Smith’s defamation case as well as the annual wage increase review by the Fair Work Commission. Still plenty more to come, but that’s it from me – Josh Taylor will be bringing you the rest.

A positive RAT test may have been all the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, had to show for his aborted meeting with the Singaporean prime minister who contracted Covid-19 – but we’ve gotten the classic diplomatic snaps from his encounters with the acting prime minister and president.

As a side note, while Albanese is away overseas his Sydney home is being opened to the public tomorrow for those who fancy a picnic and tour of Kirribilli House.

Albanese said:

While Kirribilli House is the Prime Minister’s official residence in Sydney, the Australian people are its true custodians.

Along with Admiralty House, Kirribilli House grounds and gardens will be open to the public from 10:00am – 2:00pm.

Since 1957, Kirribilli House has been a Commonwealth property for special occasions and official purposes, including as an official residence. Countless international dignitaries have visited for bilateral talks and official events.

Visitors are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy views of Sydney Harbour.

Daniel Hurst
Daniel Hurst

The Australian War Memorial has responded to calls to remove Ben Roberts-Smith’s uniform from display in the wake of the defamation case ruling, saying it is “considering carefully the additional content and context to be included in these displays”.

In a statement issued moments ago, the Australian War Memorial chair, Kim Beazley, said on behalf of the Australian War Memorial Council:

The Memorial assists in remembering, interpreting and understanding Australia’s experience of war and its enduring impact. This includes the causes, conduct and consequences of war.

The Memorial acknowledges the gravity of the decision in the Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG defamation case and its broader impact on all involved in the Australian community.

This is the outcome of a civil legal case, and one step in a longer process.

Collection items relating to Ben Roberts-Smith VC MG, including his uniform, equipment, medals and associated art works, are on display in the Memorial’s galleries.

We are considering carefully the additional content and context to be included in these displays.

The Memorial acknowledges Afghanistan veterans and their families who may be affected at this time.

‘A lot of packing’: McGowan on final day as WA premier

McGowan says he hasn’t had any second thoughts on stepping down as the state’s leader:

I don’t have second thoughts. I’m not regretting it.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan speaks to the media outside Dumas House on his last day in office.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan speaks to the media outside Dumas House on his last day in office. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

As for how he’ll be spending his final day in the top job, the answer is unsurprisingly bureaucratic: in a lot of meetings – with a spot of morning tea.

Resigning has a lot of work attached to it, I tell you.

A lot of packing, and meetings and farewells and morning teas. There’s still signing and all that sort of thing to be done.

It’s an interesting experience. I haven’t resigned from a job since I left the navy, what, 27 years ago, so I’m a bit out of practise.

Meanwhile, in Western Australia the outgoing premier, Mark McGowan, has arrived at the state government’s office, Dumas House, for his final day on the job.

On arrival, McGowan was interviewed by the media from inside his car – still wearing his seatbelt – in what can only be described as the opposite of a doorstop.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan speaks to the media outside Dumas House on his last day in office.

Western Australian premier Mark McGowan speaks to the media outside Dumas House on his last day in office. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

Amanda Meade
Amanda Meade

Ben Roberts-Smith has resigned from Seven, where he has been the general manager of Seven Queensland since 2015.

The managing director and chief executive officer James Warburton has told staff Roberts-Smith has offered his resignation.

Warburton said in an email seen by Guardian Australia:

As you’re all aware, the judgement in the defamation case was handed down yesterday.

Ben has been on leave whilst the case was running, and today has offered his resignation, which we have accepted.

We thank Ben for his commitment to Seven and wish him all the best.


Page 2

The topic of Amanda Meade’s Weekly Beast needs no introduction, read here:

Cait Kelly
Cait Kelly

Australia will have a warmer winter than average

Senior climatologist with the BoM Brad Jackson said Australians can expect a warmer winter than average.

Talking through the BoM’s winter forecast, Jackson said:

At the moment, the chance of exceeding median rainfall is reasonably low throughout the bulk of Australia, and across the snowy mountains, New South Wales, Victoria, sort of Queensland, South Australia.

The only areas likely to receive average, or above average rainfall, is around north-west Western Australia.

Jackson said many slopes may need to make more of their snow this year to combat the higher temperatures.

Works have been paused at Melbourne’s West Gate Tunnel after a minor collapse of rock and soil at the site.

There has been minor movement of rock and soil in one cross passage. There is no impact to workers. The site has been secured and is safe. Works have paused and monitoring has been established.

— West Gate Tunnel (@WestGateTunnel) June 2, 2023

There were 8,669 new cases in the weekly reporting period, and 14 people are in intensive care.

Those figures are down significantly from last week’s 10,642 cases and 63 deaths, which were the highest since January.

This week we reported 8,669 new cases with a daily average hospital occupancy of 464 and 14 patients in ICU. 50 deaths were reported in the past 7 days.

Our thoughts are with those in hospital, and the families of people who have lost their lives. 🧵 1/2 pic.twitter.com/eLXUrnUHmS

— Victorian Department of Health (@VicGovDH) June 2, 2023
Benita Kolovos
Benita Kolovos

Tim Pallas asked about Victorian government’s future PwC contracts

Yes, Victoria’s budget estimates are still going. Greens MP, Ellen Sandell, just tried asking the treasurer, Tim Pallas, about the PwC scandal, namely how much the government spent last financial year on the consultancy firm and how much it plans to use them going forward?

Pallas avoided answering the question – saying that after they returned from the morning break the hearings were supposed to focus on his industrial relations portfolio:

If you wanted to ask questions about consultancies, I think you missed your opportunity in the treasury portfolio presentation.

Sandell then asks if the government will commit to freezing any future contracts with PwC?

Pallas gives her a little bit more on this one:

I don’t want to waste your time, so I’ll try and answer the question as fairly as I can. The government sees the allegations made with regard to PwC, they’re quite serious and we will be looking at the behaviour and I might say in terms of our contractual arrangements, behaviour is taken into account when any such contracts are entered into. So it will be a consideration into the future and we’ll be looking for assurances that the preservation and confidentiality of information that’s been gathered is not being used for anything other than the basis under which it has been put together under retention for the state.

Trade minister invites South Korea to join Pacific trade alliance

Trade minister Don Farrell has extended an invitation to South Korea to join a Pacific trade alliance as China and Taiwan push for entry, AAP reports.

Farrell revealed he extended the invitation for South Korea to apply for entry to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership during his most recent meeting with his counterpart in the US.

He said Seoul was yet to make an application but “they have taken it onboard seriously”.

“That’s how close and friendly we are,” he told a Senate hearing on Friday.

ABC News has returned to its normal programming after experiencing a technical difficulties.

The news program was replaced for approximately 20 minutes by a montage of pictures and the Courtney Facts program.

When the news bulletin returned to screens, Greg Jennett said:

We are experiencing difficulties in broadcasting regular programming at the moment. We are working to fix all of that.

Homebuyer borrowing sinks 2.9% in April

Homebuyer lending has dropped off again as higher interest rates continue to suppress demand for housing, AAP reports.

The 2.9% monthly fall in new home commitments followed a 5.3% uptick in housing-related borrowing in March.

The value of owner-occupier lending fell 3.8%, to $15.4bn, whereas investor borrowing sunk a more modest 0.9%, to $7.9bn.

Total housing lending is still 25.8% lower than a year ago.

Melbourne’s Yarra River turns green

There’s been concern for the health of Melbourne’s Yarra River since it turned green near Flinders Street Station yesterday.

If it sounds familiar, that’s because Venice’s famous Grand Canal also turned green earlier this week:

The answer to both fluorescent mysteries is a non-toxic substance called fluorescein, used for testing wastewater networks.

The water of the Yarra River has since returned this morning to its usual murky brown today.

Benita Kolovos
Benita Kolovos

Victoria’s budget estimates update

We’re back after a short morning break. Nationals MP, Danny O’Brien, is asking Tim Ada – the secretary of the department of jobs, skills, industry and regions – about his department’s involvement in the energy minister’s 12-day trip to northern Europe and the premier’s trip to China, which were both in March.

Ada:

I believe we were consulted … but we weren’t explicitly involved in administering the trips. Our commissioners are both based in Europe and the United Kingdom would have played a significant role in those trips and it’s probably a question for the other secretaries in the department in terms of payment for those trips.

Asked if the premier met with anyone from the Chinese government with respect to debt financing, Ada said it was a question for the premier and his department.

Liberal MP, Nick McGowan, is next up. He asks Ada how much he’s paid – he says in the order of $500k – and how long he’s been in the job – two months. McGowan then asks how much leave he’s taken since he took on the job. Ada replies:

I had obviously worked in the department of premier and cabinet for four years before taking on this role. I had booked some leave with my family prior to being appointed to this role. And I think I’ve had six days of recreation leave since I’ve started and that’s because they were booked family commitments before I was interviewed and appointed for this role.