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Australia news live updates: Dutton pledges to ‘support the government in any way’ on Pacific policy; PM to meet with Macron


Pacific policy: Dutton pledges to ‘support the government in any way’

Peter Dutton says he will seek a unity ticket with Labor in the Pacific after tensions strained Australia’s relationship with Solomon Islands.

The opposition leader told reporters in Canberra on Friday that he will continue to build on the relationships the Coalition established while in office.

I’ve met with the leaders … to the extent that we could over the course of Covid, most of it obviously virtually.

I’ve been friends and met with delegations and spoken with Pacific Island leaders over my time in parliament, and I’m very, very keen to continue that relationship, to build that relationship, to offer bipartisan support.

Dutton emphasised the importance of the region to Australia.

We’re talking about family and near neighbours that we need to work even more closely with.

So I’d be very happy to support the government in any way.

NSW records 14 deaths, 9,139 new Covid cases

New South Wales has recorded another 14 deaths of people with Covid-19.

There are also 1,455 people in hospital, including 54 in intensive care. There were 9,139 positive test results recorded in the 24-hours to 4pm yesterday.

COVID-19 update – Friday 24 June 2022

In the 24-hour reporting period to 4pm yesterday:

– 96.6% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
– 95.1% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/v2lz6jB4Vq

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) June 23, 2022

Victoria records 20 deaths, 7,723 new cases

Victoria has recorded another 20 deaths of people with Covid-19, with 412 people in hospital, 27 in intensive care and 11 on ventilators.

There were 7,723 new cases reported yesterday and are currently 42,037 active cases.

Qantas announces $5,000 payment for staff, forecasts return to profit next year

Elias Visontay

Elias Visontay

Qantas is forecasting a loss of up to $550m this year, despite strong demand for domestic and international flights allowing it to reduce its net debt to $4bn by the end of this financial year.

That’s a $1.5bn improvement in the past six months.

In a market update on Friday, the airline forecast it will make a significant loss this year, of between $450m to $550m, with Qantas group predicting it will return to underlying profit in the next financial year.

It also announced that it will give 19,000 EBA-covered employees a $5,000 payment to share the benefits of its recovery. The payments will be made once the new enterprise bargaining agreements covering them are finalised. Qantas will spend about $87m on these $5,000 staff payments.

Qantas will also further cut its domestic flying schedule in response to rising fuel prices. For July and August it will cut a further 5% of capacity on top of the 10% it already announced. The 15% reduction in capacity will last through September, with capacity cut by 10% from October to March. The airline will contact customers booked on flights that are cut.

While Qantas has not announced any reductions in its international capacity today, it said the group will be flying at 83% of pre-Covid levels by the fiscal quarter beginning in July – down from 90% in the current quarter.

Ahead of the July holidays, Qantas has also sought to thank customers “for their patience and understanding” during what has been “a challenging restart for the industry globally”. Qantas has been heavily criticised for delayed baggage and poor on time performance this year, with the Transport Workers Union claiming the airline’s decision to outsource baggage handling staff is contributing to the issues.

Qantas said there will be a 15% increase in ground handling staff during the July holiday compared with staffing levels during the Easter holidays.

Qantas group chief executive, Alan Joyce, also announced that budget carrier Jetstar’s ceo, Gareth Evans, will step down from his role in December.

PM to receive national security advice on possible Ukraine visit

Some more on Anthony Albanese’s potential visit to Ukraine.

The prime minister told ABC 7.30 last night that he was getting national security advice on whether to accept the invitation from the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, saying:

We don’t want a circumstance whereby there’s risk to Australian personnel by undertaking such a visit, but we’ll take that advice and we’ll act accordingly.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has urged Albanese to give the proposal serious consideration, telling AAP on Friday:

We’ve formed a special bond with Ukraine. President Zelenskiy is one of the century’s great heroes, and he’s provided inspiration not only to his people but to the rest of the world as well.

I hope that we can visit in due course and if the prime minister is able to visit, if that’s the security advice he’s received, that it’s safe for him and for his delegation to visit, then I think it’s entirely appropriate that he would.

Tamsin Rose

Tamsin Rose

Review of John Barilaro’s appointment to trade commissioner role to be made public once completed

The “legitimate public concerns” over the appointment of the former New South Wales deputy premier John Barilaro to a highly paid trade commissioner role will be dealt with in a review to be made public, according to the customer service minister, Victor Dominello.

The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, announced the review yesterday.

Speaking on 2GB radio on Friday morning, Dominello said:

The premier has acknowledged that there are some legitimate public concerns around this and that’s why he’s ordered a review from [Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary] Michael Coutts-Trotter. We wait for the outcome of that review, which the premier’s indicated will be made public.

Asked if he thought Barilaro would make it over the the US to start the job, Dominello said:

I’m not going to second guess the process. I’ll wait and see what the review reveals.

Pacific policy: Dutton pledges to ‘support the government in any way’

Peter Dutton says he will seek a unity ticket with Labor in the Pacific after tensions strained Australia’s relationship with Solomon Islands.

The opposition leader told reporters in Canberra on Friday that he will continue to build on the relationships the Coalition established while in office.

I’ve met with the leaders … to the extent that we could over the course of Covid, most of it obviously virtually.

I’ve been friends and met with delegations and spoken with Pacific Island leaders over my time in parliament, and I’m very, very keen to continue that relationship, to build that relationship, to offer bipartisan support.

Dutton emphasised the importance of the region to Australia.

We’re talking about family and near neighbours that we need to work even more closely with.

So I’d be very happy to support the government in any way.

Group of senior Victorian ministers set to retire, forcing cabinet reshuffle

Four senior Victorian ministers are expected to announce their retirement from politics as early as today.

The big names expected to announce their departure are the deputy premier, James Merlino; health minister, Martin Foley; police minister, Lisa Neville; and minister for tourism, sport and major events, Martin Pakula.

Guardian Australia’s Victorian state correspondent, Benita Kovolos, attempted to contact all four ministers but they’re keeping mum.

It continues the changing of the guard in the Andrews government, after the former attorney general Jill Hennessy and the planning minister, Richard Wynne, announced last year that they would retire at the state election in November.

Youpla funeral fund collapse leaves 31 Aboriginal families struggling to pay for burials

At least 31 Aboriginal families are struggling to pay for funerals for loved ones who died since the collapse of the ACBF-Youpla funeral fund, Lorena Allam and Ben Butler report.

They write:

Veronica Johnson, a financial counsellor with the Broome Circle community support group, says three of her clients have been left desperately out of pocket since the Youpla collapse in March.

“One of them was buried, but it was a pauper’s funeral that [was] funded by the government, just a very basic funeral. And the beautiful lady who passed away, she had paid religiously [into the fund] till the day that she died,” Johnson said.

“She was sitting in a morgue for nearly two months until eventually the family got the pauper’s funeral from the WA Department of Communities. So, obviously, [the] family had to become financially stressed to pay for it. And that’s not what she signed up for.”

Johnson said another family is seeking to raise $2,000 by asking people to collect tin cans so that they can cash them in to pay for their mother’s funeral.

“We want people to see this is the level of financial human disaster that this has caused,” Johnson said.

You can read the full story here:

Points-based mutual obligation system for jobseekers will be opt-in, Burke says

Burke was also asked what tweaks he is planning to make to a controversial points-based mutual obligation system for jobseekers, which was introduced by the Morrison government and which Burke said it was “too late” to change.

He says the full brief arrived at his home last night and he is still reading through it, “so I’m very close to being able to make a decision”.

He says he will be working to the following three design principles:

  • People who would prefer to remain on the current system and not switch over to the new points-based system will be able to do so.
  • Everyone will start the new system with a blank slate, even if they had accrued penalties under the current system.
  • People will be able to undertake skills training or other courses as part of their mutual obligations, and will not have to abandon that course if they are offered a job interview.

Tony Burke says real wages can and should rise while inflation is high

Employment minister, Tony Burke, has told Radio National that he does not accept arguments from some economists suggesting that wages cannot rise while there is high inflation.

Burke was asked about comments made by Reserve Bank governor, Philip Lowe, who said that 3.5% was a “good anchor point” for wage rises, and added that: “If wage increases become common in the 4–5% range, then it is going to be harder to return inflation to 2.5%.”

He said Lowe’s comments had been taken out of context, because Lowe also said he wanted to bring inflation back to between 2 and 3% – which would put wage growth, at 3.5%, ahead of inflation.

Burke said 3.5% was offered not as a cap but an “anchor point,” meaning some workers may get higher wage increases:

It’s not like 3.5% is there as a cap, but he is issuing a warning that we are not currently in a wage crisis spiral and we should avoid being in one.

The wage price index is currently running at 2.4%.

Even that anchor point would require a significant increase in wages on where people are today … I do agree that it would be very difficult to imagine a scenario where that wage price index gets up to 4s and 5s.

Burke said Australia was not currently in a wage spiral because real wages are not rising, and he criticised economists who say Australia cannot afford wage increases with inflation heading to 7%. Real wages needed to rise, he said.

We were told for a decade wages could not go up because inflation was low. Now some people are saying wages can’t go up because inflation is high. We were told that wages could not go up until unemployment was low. Well now unemployment is low, and we’re told that wages cannot go up.

Asked which workplaces might have the highest wage growth, he said it would be those with the highest union density.

I expect it will be the case that there are union agreements that are higher and non-union agreements that are lower …

There are two household truths: that is if you shop around you’ll spend less and if you’re in a unionised workforce you’ll earn more.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Greens to push Labor to ditch ‘unfair’ tax cuts

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, will address the Queensland Media Club today, outlining their strategy for the balance of power in the Senate: that they will be “constructive” but not a “rubber stamp”.

In excerpts of the speech, seen by Guardian Australia, Bandt renews his call for a gas company windfall tax:

Australia already has a windfall tax, it’s called the Petroleum Resource Rent Tax. The only problem is it is completely broken. Gas corporations have figured out how to game it so they will never pay tax.

Gas corporations have built a pile of $282bn in tax credits between them. That means they have to work through $282bn of profits – the GDP of Finland – before they would have to pay any tax.

All we have to do is make a simple change to the law preventing the use of these tax credits and we can scoop up some of the windfall these gas companies are making off us. The money raised from closing this loophole and fixing the tax more broadly would raise $59bn over the estimates, which we can use to help homes and businesses weather the crisis and get off gas.

Bandt will also reiterate his call for Labor to scrap the stage three income tax cuts.

He says:

In balance of power in the Senate, we will push Labor to ditch these unfair tax cuts that will rip $244bn out of the public purse. Labor must rethink these tax cuts for billionaires and save our progressive taxation system before it is too late.

If these tax cuts for the very wealthy proceed, we will move a step closer to US-style inequality, where the government fails to provide the basic essential services people need to survive.

Labor shouldn’t give Clive Palmer a tax cut while people can’t afford to get their teeth fixed. The Greens would rather get dental into Medicare than give Clive Palmer a $9,000-a-year tax cut. Two-thirds of these tax cuts will go to men, just one-third to women. The wealthiest 1% will pocket as much from these tax cuts as the poorest 50% of the population combined.

These tax cuts haven’t come into effect yet. We can reverse them without asking everyday people to pay a single dollar more tax than they are at the moment.

Good morning and welcome

Good morning,

Anthony Albanese has admitted the government will have to place a cap on spending when it hands down its first budget in November, saying that while it will deliver on election commitments there is a difficult fiscal repair job ahead.

The prime minister told ABC’s 7.30 program:

We’re going to have to really put the brakes on some of the spending which is there.

There are a range of things we would like to do that we won’t be able to do in our first budget.

Albanese also confirmed he will make a stop in France during next week’s trip to Europe for the Nato summit to meet the French president, Emmanuel Macron, and is considering also travelling to Ukraine.

The detour to Paris around the meeting in Madrid is a bid to repair the relationship with Macron, damaged when Australia scrapped the submarine contract with French builder Naval Group in favour of the Aukus deal and Macron called Scott Morrison a liar.

He told Leigh Sales:

I’ve been invited by president Macron to meet with him in France. I’ll be doing that in a week’s time. We do need to reset. We’ve already had very constructive discussions.

Speaking of Macron, a study by the Australian National University has found that Morrison and Barnaby Joyce were, at the time of the May election, the most unpopular party leaders since the study began in 1987.

The Australian Electoral Study is a survey of 3,500 voters. On average, voters rated Morrison a 3.6 out of 10 on a scale of popularity, while Joyce was 3 out of 10.

In other news, Ukraine has been given candidate status in its campaign to become part of the European Union, a move that the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has described as a “victory”. The application usually takes years, but Ukraine’s has been sped up due to the Russian invasion. Although as Zelenskiy noted, the country has been knocking at the door of the EU for years. He tweeted: “We have been waiting for 120 days and 30 years.”

Let’s crack on. You can reach me at calla.wahlquist@theguardian.com or on Twitter at @callapilla.





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