What we learned; Wednesday 17 May
That’s where we’ll leave the blog for today – thanks so much for joining us. Here is a wrap of the day’s biggest stories:
The deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, said in a speech today that the full ambition of Aukus will only be realised if the transfer of technology and information between Australia and the US is “seamless”.
Wages increased at annual rate of 3.7% in the March quarter, topping expectations.
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has revealed the Quad meeting will not be going ahead after US President Joe Biden’s withdrawal.
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, is still expected to come to Australia this year.
Anthony Albanese criticised Liberal MP Stuart Robert’s no-show at parliament as “completely unacceptable”.
Some of the injured children involved in yesterday’s collision between a school bus and a truck will have to undergo amputations. The truck driver was charged earlier today.
The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, was at the National Press Club and rejected suggestions the opposition rhetoric on migrants had emboldened fascists.
The former Liberal shadow attorney general Julian Leeser said the voice referendum wording was “a stumbling block” for some to vote yes.
Sydney recorded a new low in rental listings, with the number of new listings falling 17% month-on-month in April on realestate.com.au – the lowest it has been in a decade.
The Falls festival will not ring in 2024, with organisers announcing the national New Year’s event will take a year off to recalibrate.
The AFL has decided against a twilight grand final, confirming the 2023 decider will be held at the traditional time of 2.30pm AEST on 30 September at the MCG.
The Miles Franklin long-list was announced, and included 11 Australian novelists.
Mark Latham likely to have to defend controversial tweet insulting Alex Greenwich in court
AAP is reporting that the controversial NSW One Nation MP Mark Latham is set to defend a graphic and homophobic tweet in court as his window to apologise closes.
The One Nation state leader was widely condemned from across the political spectrum after posting the tweet directed at openly gay Sydney MP Alex Greenwich last month.
Greenwich earlier this month said the tweet was “extremely defamatory” and he was prepared to sue Latham if the One Nation MP did not apologise, retract the comment and commit not to make similar statements again.
A deadline for Latham to apologise for the tweet passed at 5pm on Wednesday, and it is expected a claim will be filed in the federal court in the coming days.
Victorian minister for equality hosts drag storytime event in Parliament House
The Victorian minister for equality, Harriet Shing, hosted a drag storytime at the state’s Parliament House today, attended by the premier, Dan Andrews, Labor MP Vicki Ward and families.
In the past six months, at least 11 queer events across the state have been cancelled.
Shing said it was important to remember increasing intimidation from members of far-right groups was not enough to stop every council around Victoria from raising a rainbow flag:
Nor could it stop us from hosting a drag queen storytime event right here in Parliament.
I was so proud to be joined by so many colleagues, rainbow families, allies, and members of our LGBTQI+ communities. It was a colourful, fun and inclusive celebration of LGBTQI+ visibility, and sent a really strong and positive message that LGBTQI+ safety, connection and pride have never been more important than now.
After successfully protecting a drag storytime outside Eltham library today, a group of LGBTQ+ defenders, the Rainbow Community Angels, have promised to protect future queer events. The group’s co-founder, Felicity Marlowe:
It’s been fantastic … But we’d really like a world where we didn’t need to be there. People should really be able to leave work and study and go to the local library. Whether you’re a young kid, a rainbow family [or] an older trans person. These are our beautiful public institutions.
We are sick of the systemic discrimination and vilification. Our families and children are under and it’s got to stop.
Maribyrnong city council declares pollution health emergency
A “health emergency” has been declared by a Melbourne council, which claims residents are suffering above-average rates of hospitalisations for certain conditions partly due to a surge in road trains on its suburban streets.
Maribyrnong city council, which takes in Footscray in the city’s inner western suburbs, announced the declaration on Wednesday, claiming rates of illness in the municipality due to pollution “considerably exceed the Australian average”.
“Council believes this is in part due to the exhaust from heavy trucks, which contains particulate matter, being blown directly into resident’s homes day in and day out from morning to night,” it said in a statement.
The health emergency declaration follows long-term frustration about heavy trucks driving through suburban streets around Footscray, even after a curfew was introduced in 2015.
Adolescent asthma rates in the City of Maribyrnong are 50% higher than the state average, and the hospital admission rate is 70% higher than the Australian average for those aged between three and 19.
AFL sticks with afternoon grand final slot
The AFL has decided against a twilight grand final, confirming the 2023 decider will be held at the traditional time of 2.30pm AEST on 30 September at the MCG.
Outgoing boss Gillon McLachlan said the time of the grand final would continue to be reviewed to “deliver the best possible game experience, both for fans at the ground and for the millions watching the broadcast”. The incoming chief executive, Andrew Dill, had indicated his support for a day grand final.
There had been speculation this year’s grand final could move to a twilight slot of around 4pm but fans and senior AFL figures kept their support behind a day final.
In 2020 Covid restrictions forced the grand final to move to an evening time slot at the Gabba in Brisbane, and then a twilight time slot in 2021 at Perth’s Optus Stadium. Last year’s fixture between Geelong and Sydney was held in the afternoon in front of more than 100,000 people at the MCG. Proponents of a later grand final start time argue the potential TV ratings spike is worth breaking tradition for.
The AFL is also expected to announce its support for a yes vote on the Indigenous voice to parliament in the coming days.
PM cautions accepting Coalition ‘scare campaign’ rhetoric on migration levels
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, also took aim “a low-rent attempt by the Coalition” to whip up a scare campaign about migration, during his interview with ABC Radio Brisbane this afternoon.
Albanese was asked what his plan was for housing for arriving migrants. Albanese cautioned the interviewer, Steve Austin, not to accept the Coalition’s rhetoric on the topic:
It’s important to not be sucked into a scare campaign about what the migration levels are.
Albanese pointed to pandemic-related factors when explaining the budget projections for net overseas migration.
The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, and his senior Coalition colleagues have focused on migration in the wake of the budget. The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, said on Monday that “this budget does add 1.5 million immigrants … most importantly without a plan”.
But the budget doesn’t set this as a target or a policy as such – it outlines forecasts for “net overseas migration”.
Net overseas migration is forecast to be 400,000 in 2022-23, followed by 315,000 the next year and 260,000 in each of the following three years. The Coalition has added these together to come up with the “1.5 million immigrants” figure.
PM confirms Indian leader Narendra Modi will still visit Australia despite Quad meeting cancellation
The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has confirmed that the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, will still visit Australia for a bilateral meeting next week, despite the cancellation of the Sydney Quad leaders’ summit after Joe Biden pulled out.
During an interview with ABC Radio Brisbane this afternoon, Albanese confirmed that Modi would meet with Albanese and also hold business meetings and make an address at Homebush in Sydney:
I look forward to welcoming him to Sydney. He made me a very welcome guest in March and he is the host of the G20 this year.
As for the Japanese prime minister, Fumio Kishida, Albanese said a bilateral program wasn’t planned in Australia. He said Kishida had visited Perth late last year, and Albanese would attend the G7 summit hosted by Kishida this weekend.
Albanese reiterated that there were now plans “for the four Quad leaders indeed to have discussions when we are at Hiroshima at the G7 meeting”.
Light plane crashes at Melbourne Essendon airport
AAP is reporting that a light plane has crashed onto its roof at Melbourne’s Essendon airport.
Television footage from the scene shows the small plane lying on its roof on the grass with firefighters nearby.
Nine emergency vehicles responded to the crash, which was reported at 4pm.
Paramedics were called to the incident but were not treating any patients, an Ambulance Victoria spokesperson said. Fire crews are working to isolate any potential fuel leak before the scene can be declared safe.
Julian Leeser: voice referendum wording ‘a stumbling block’ for some to vote yes
The former Liberal shadow attorney general Julian Leeser has said that the wording of the voice referendum question is a “stumbling block” for some Australians to vote yes.
Leeser was on the ABC’s Afternoon Briefing, and addressed reports that the yes vote had been declining in support, reflected in some recent polls, and said the referendum was in “real difficulty”:
I think referenda always start out or tend to start out with high support for the yes case and as time goes on, and people hear the campaign, and doubts are created, the support is whittled away. Unfortunately, the legislation has not even been settled and yet we are already in a position where the referendum is in real difficulty.
I still think there is a lot of goodwill in the community for it. But … I have been critical of the government’s handling of this: not releasing detail, not answering some of the questions that Peter Dutton put in early January, I think, has been problematic for the success of this.
You cannot change the past but we can change the future. And that is what I’m focused on.
I’m not arguing here about the legal technicalities. I am arguing that these words that are in the referendum are a stumbling block for some Australians to vote yes, I want to remove the stumbling block and encourage more Australians to vote yes to the referendum.
Queensland cabinet reshuffle predicted tomorrow
Queensland’s environment minister, Meaghan Scanlon, will be promoted to housing minister in a cabinet reshuffle aimed to revitalise three critical portfolios ahead of next year’s state election.
Senior government sources told Guardian Australia that Scanlon will replace Leeanne Enoch as housing minister. Scanlon has been the state member for Gaven since 2017 and has been described as a rising star in the Labor caucus.
Health and youth justice will also be targeted in the cabinet shake-up, with reports the state’s health minister, Yvette D’Ath, will swap portfolios with the attorney general, Shannon Fentiman.
Guardian Australia understands no backbenchers will be promoted, with further announcements on the cabinet changes expected tomorrow.
At least 11 queer events called off in last six months after right-wing action
Drag performer Spencer Street is performing at the online Storytime is for Everyone event.
The performer revealed they had an event cancelled leading up to Idahobit day – making it at least 11 queer events that have been called off in the past six months.
Street said continuing to hold events, even virtually, sent an important message to the community.
There are about nine different drag artists that are a part of it. We’re just going to come out and look fabulous.
We’ve all got a little competition going, who’s got the best backgrounds. And just having fun with it, because at the end of the day, we need a little bit of fun, a bit of love.
Over 500 people are registered to attend the event.
Richard Marles calls for ‘seamless’ transfer of technology and information between Australia and US
Sticking with American relations, the defence minister, Richard Marles, has told the American Chamber of Commerce in Adelaide of the importance of Australia’s alliance with the United States.
Marles was giving a keynote speech to the chamber and said the Aukus alliance must also cut red tape around arms and technology exports.
He said the regulations around transfers of information, technology and defence material were understandable, but it was necessary to change them to “help us hold potential adversaries’ forces at risk at a greater distance and increase the cost of aggression against Australia”.
What is really clear is that if we are to realise the ambition of Aukus, the transfer of technology and information between Australia and the US needs to be seamless.
Marles went on to advocate for changes to the culture at the Australian Defence Force, saying it needed to embrace failure as part of developing an “innovative mindset”:
Defence no longer has the luxury of taking the time to get a capability perfect. We must also change our relationship to risk and celebrate the learning that comes from failure.
Bob Carr warns of Biden’s ‘cognitive decline’ and against Australia acting like American ‘client-state’
The former foreign minister Bob Carr has taken to Twitter to warn of the “frailty and cognitive decline” of the US president, Joe Biden, adding that attendance at major forums and conferences have been left to the “unsteady hand of the vice-president, [Kamala] Harris.”
Carr, who is also a former premier of NSW, also said that the Republican base was “loyal to Trump” and to “any heir of Trump”.
It comes after the US president informed the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, that the Quad meeting was cancelled because Biden had to be back in the US to negotiate Congress’s debt ceiling deadlock.
Carr also told the Australian newspaper that Australia needed to rethink its relationship with the United States and that policy makers needed to “factor in a serious uncertainty about projected American behaviour”:
Australia is suffering from being too compliant, too un-pushy, too like a client state. Biden won’t come here, and apparently flicks off our prime minister’s submission about Assange.
We were encouraged by the White House to talk-up the Quad and invest it with more substance that it has. It hasn’t even delivered on its promise for an Asian vaccine.
Act like a client state, get treated like one. We’ve got out of the habit of fruitful arguments with our coalition partner.
Thanks Natasha, Mostafa Rachwani with you to take you through the rest of the day’s news.
Thanks for following along today, that’s it from me this hump day. See you back here tomorrow morning!
Anthony Albanese colouring in rabbits – in pictures
You might have noticed the PM’s press conferences are pretty regularly coming from different childcare centres around the country. That’s because these visits are part of a tour spruiking his subsidies to help more women get back into the workforce. This morning’s press conference came from Goodstart in Tweed Heads.
If you were wondering how Anthony Albanese helped ease the blow of the US president, Jo Biden, cancelling his big visit down under and then the whole Sydney Quad leaders’ meeting falling to pieces as a result … the answer is some colouring in.
I do not have confirmation whether Albanese brought along the Rabbitohs print offs himself or whether the centre provided the PM the opportunity to colour his favourite team’s emblem.
Loch Ard Gorge cliff face in Victoria closed after fears of collapse
Part of a cliff face on the Great Ocean Road has fallen into the sea, leading authorities to close one of the route’s most popular tourist attractions.
The ABC is reporting that the beach steps at Loch Ard Gorge have been closed to the public following a rock fall at a cliff which overlooks the stairs.
A crack was discovered in the cliff face following the rock fall, just three kilometres north-west of the famous Twelve Apostles.
Parks Victoria has engaged specialists to assess the geotechnical risk at the site.