Australia news live: Hillsong names married couple as church leaders in wake of founder Brian Houston’s resignation

LIVE – Updated at 05:14

Follow the latest updates live.



Anthony Albanese has declared the voice to parliament will have no impact on First Nations sovereignty, and has rubbished the idea of having a constitutional convention before the referendum later this year, writes Katharine Murphy.

Full story here:

Related: Albanese declares Indigenous voice won’t impact First Nations sovereignty



Consumer complaints continue to trail pandemic

Dodgy consumer goods are most likely to drive Queenslanders to complain, as pandemic-related supply issues and services shortages continue to frustrate the state.

Queensland’s Office of Fair Trading clawed back more than $11m in 2022 and consumer complaints continued to eclipse pre-pandemic levels.

Rising cost of living pressures underscored the importance of consumers getting what they paid for, the attorney general and minister for justice Shannon Fentiman said.

Last year the OFT finalised more than 19,300 complaints from Queensland consumers.

Personal and household goods garnered the most complaints of any industry at 6,200, a more than 50% increase on pre-pandemic levels.

Total consumer complaints processed by the OFT have ranged between 18,500 and 19,300 since the Covid-19 pandemic began, up from an average of around 15,000 in the five years to 2019.

There has also been an increase of more than 80% in complaints for the personal and household services industry since the pandemic – this industry includes complaints about services such as whitegoods repairs, removalist services and cleaning companies.

Motor vehicles sales, real estate agents and vehicle services were Queenslanders’ next three biggest causes for contention.

The Attorney General’s Office said increases were to be expected due to pent-up demand and supply chain issues during Covid-19, and the OFT was monitoring the issue closely.

The government said it expected such issues to ease as supply chain issues resolved, but recommended consumers do their research before lodging a complaint with the OFT.


Hillsong choses replacement for Brian Houston


Hillsong Church has named a married couple to head up its leadership in the wake of founder Brian Houston’s resignation as he fights accusations he concealed his late father’s child sexual abuse.

Interim leaders Phil and Lucinda Dooley were commissioned as global senior pastors at a morning service held in Sydney and streamed across Australia and internationally on Sunday.

Chairman Stephen Crouch told the congregation the Dooleys had a long history with the church, serving in many roles before dedicating the past 14 years of their lives to establishing Hillsong in South Africa.

They will lead our church with grace and wisdom.

The appointment follows a year of significant change for Hillsong including the implementation of recommendations from independent reviews of both the governance structure and the process for complaints against credentialed pastors.

The Hillsong board has also been renewed and a spiritual advisory team created to work with its senior clergy.

Pastor Phil said during Sunday’s service he and wife Lucinda resolved to “serve our global church family with humility of heart, love and conviction that the church is the hope of the world”.

Houston maintains he did “the right thing” not going to police after his father, Frank Houston, told him he had molested an underage boy three decades earlier.

He told a Sydney court in December it was the victim’s explicit wish for the incident not to be made public or for there to be an investigation by authorities.

Frank Houston admitted abusing the boy at a home in Sydney’s Coogee in 1970, which he confessed to his son in 1999.

Houston has pleaded not guilty to a charge of concealing the crime until his father’s death in 2004.

The case will resume in June.

Hillsong announced in April 2022 it had accepted Houston’s resignation after it was found he had breached the church’s moral code by having inappropriate relations with two women.




Severe storms have been forecast for central, northern and easter Queensland with severe thunderstorms expected in some areas that may lead to flash flooding.

Death of girl in Perth shark attack being investigated


The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is investigating the circumstances around the death of a girl on the Swan River at North Fremantle in Western Australia.

The girl died while jetskiing with her friends. After seeing a pod of dolphins in the river, she dove into the water to swim with them.

Soon after her friends witnessed the attack.

Witness have told reporters a man jumped into the water to help the girl, but she passed away on the beach.

It is not known which species of snark was responsible for the attack, but the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) has advised members of the public to show caution when entering the water.

Western Australian police are currently preparing a report for the coroner.

Such attacks are extremely rare and the incident marks the first since Perth man Cameron Wrathall was bitten in January 2021 and the first death since 1923 when a 13-year-old boy, Charles Topsail Robertson, was killed after being bitten on the back of his thigh.



Private schools urged to share sports facilities and green space with public students

Some of Sydney’s elite private schools are facing pressure to share sports facilities and open space with public schools students in high-density suburbs.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the North Sydney mayor, Zoë Baker, plans to ask principals at Shore School, Loreto Kirribilli, Wenona, St Aloysius’ College and Redlands to consider sharing their facilities with locals.

In a letter seen by the Herald, Baker reportedly wrote to principals in her council area to “invite them to have a conversation” about how the relationship can be managed.

Some of the private schools are the largest landholders in the North Sydney area.

We have a lack of green space and 16 schools. Traditionally, there has been a hostile relationship between the local community and some private schools, and we are trying to resent that.

Sharing of school grounds and facilities does already take place but mostly on an “ad hoc” basis with any negotiations to formalise a sharing arrangement.

State school abuse victims to be included in Victorian apology


Victim-survivors of child sexual abuse at Victorian public schools will be included in a formal apology to state parliament, following fresh calls since the death and funeral last week of Cardinal George Pell.

The Victorian government’s apology to children abused in institutional care, slated for later this year, will recognise those who suffered harm in state schools, the premier, Daniel Andrews, confirmed on Sunday.

A formal apology on behalf of the government was promised late last year as part of a redress scheme for people who suffered abuse or neglect while at Victorian orphanages, children’s homes and missions from 1928 to 1990.

When announced, the Andrews government said the apology would be directed at “survivors of all forms of abuse in institutional settings”.

But it did not specifically reference victim-survivors from state schools, who are covered by a federal redress scheme.

Andrews denied they were originally excluded from the apology.

If there has been any confusion or if there’s been a sense by any of those victim-survivors or their carers, families, advocates that they were not included in the spirit of the apology … then I’m very sorry about that.

Former premier Steve Bracks issued a formal apology to a cohort dubbed “Forgotten Australians” in 2006, while a national apology recognised institutional sex abuse victims and survivors in 2018 following a royal commission.

But Victoria remains one of the few Australians jurisdictions yet to formally apologise to sexual abuse survivors from government schools, with former Justice party MP Stuart Grimley calling for that to change last year.

On Monday, Andrews will meet with several government school abuse survivors, including former Beaumaris primary school student Glen Fearnett who was allegedly abused by a teacher in the 1970s.

They’ve told their story, they’ve advocated and I’m looking forward to hearing from them.

It’s only through listening, and then acting and believing victim-survivors that we can hope to make sure that we don’t see a repeat of this evil sort of behaviour.

A date for the apology and its exact wording will be led by consultation with victim-survivors, the premier said.

If you find yourself struggling and need support, contract Lifeline on 13 11 14 and beyondblue on 1300 22 4636.




Wilson waits on rematch chance after boxing ‘sabotage’

Australian boxer Liam Wilson is hanging out for a rematch against Emanuel Navarette for the World Boxing Organisation strap if his protest is upheld.

Wilson described the match as a “piss-take” after his controversial defeat at Arizona’s Desert Diamond Arena on Friday night.

His team have claimed Wilson was “robbed” after the Mexican favourite was allowed 27 seconds to recover from a trademark left hook that floored him in the fourth round.

Navarrete, unbeaten since 2012 in 31 fights, then roared back to win an 11th world title fight in a third division via a ninth-round stoppage.

Those extra 17 seconds after the knock down were life-altering for the unheralded Wilson, whose victory on US debut would have been at least equal to the shock world title upsets by Jeff Horn five years ago and Jeff Harding nearly 30 years before that.

It followed a bizarre weigh-in drama on Thursday when Wilson was found to be about 2kg lighter than he had expected to be when the combatants stood on the scales.

Navarrete snuck just under the 59kg super featherweight limit, leading to accusations of cheating and scale tampering to ensure the Top Rank star made weight.

For more on this story, read the full report on Guardian Sport.

Related: ‘Robbed’: Australian Liam Wilson denied world title upset by bizarre 27-second count



NRL stars Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton arrested, charged after birthday brawl

NRL stars Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton have reportedly spent the night in jail after being been arrested and charged for allegedly fighting outside a Canberra nightclub early on Sunday morning.

A week before the two players were due to line up together for the NRL’s showpiece Indigenous vs Maori All Stars clash, the close friends were out celebrating Wighton’s 30th birthday when the alleged incident occurred.

Witnesses saw the pair allegedly clash in the Canberra CBD outside a club on Bunda St at 3.45am and rang police.

ACT police subsequently charged Canberra five-eighth Wighton, 30, with fighting in a public place and failing to comply with an exclusion direction. South Sydney fullback Mitchell, 25, was charged with resisting territory public official along with fighting in a public place and failing to comply with an exclusion direction.

Earlier in the night Mitchell posted a photo to Instagram of himself with Wighton, both wearing cowboy hats, as they celebrated the birthday before the alleged fight broke out, accompanied by the caption “Happy birthday my brother 30th” with a brown love heart emoji. Wighton later reposted it on his Instagram page.

But something allegedly went awry between the Australian Kangaroos teammates in the hours afterward and, according to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, both men reportedly spent the night in jail.

For more on this story, read the full report at Guardian sport.

Related: NRL stars Latrell Mitchell and Jack Wighton arrested, charged after birthday brawl



That’s not how you make carbonara

In this age of culture wars and disinformation, there are a few subjects that truly threaten to destroy friendships, divide nations and whip up internet controversy.

One of them is the humble carbonara.

The New York Times took a brave stand last week when it posted an alleged carbonara recipe that contained tomatoes on social media – and was immediately met with outrage from Italians, foodies and foodie Italians.

The responses were fast and furious with some posting Sopranos memes joking the proposed spin on the Italian classic should be a crime and others saying it “looked tasty” but plainly was not carbonara.

The chief complaint among the purists was that the controversial addition violated the basic purity of a dish that is composed of five ingredients: pasta, egg, pecorino, guanciale and black pepper.

Guanciale is an Italian cured meet that can be difficult to source, so substitution with a more easily available alternative like pancetta is acceptable – when desperate.

As the Sydney Morning Herald notes in its deep-dive into the subject, carbonara is one of the most bastardised recipes in existence with cooks addition cream, garlic and now, tomatoes.

Defenders of the dish often respond that it’s fine to experiment – just don’t pretend like it’s carbonara.

It is also not the first time people have fought over the proper way to make the classic – there are plenty of videos available online of Italian chefs reacting to popular videos of cooks making carbonara badly.



Record turnout for Midsumma pride march in Melbourne

The Midsumma pride march has kicked off in St Kilda, with organisers reporting there are record numbers in attendance.

Opening the event was the premier, Daniel Andrews, who walked with his wife Catherine and the minister for equality, Harriet Shing:

Independents Monique Ryan and Zoe Daniel are also marching:



Octopus DNA offers glimpse into climate past – and future

Deep in the DNA of an Antarctic octopus, scientists may have uncovered a major clue about the future fate of the continent’s ice sheet – raising fears global heating could soon set off runaway melting.

Climate scientists have been struggling to work out if the ice sheet collapsed completely during the most recent “interglacial” period about 125,000 years ago, when global temperatures were similar to today.

The ice sheet holds enough water to raise sea levels by 3 to 4 metres with fears that global heating could soon push it towards runaway melting that would lock-in rising sea levels over centuries.

In an ingenious approach, a team of 11 scientists – including biologists, geneticists, glaciologists, computer scientists and ice-sheet modellers – looked at the genetics of Turquet’s octopus – a species that has been living around the Antarctic continent for about 4m years.

Genetic samples were taken from 96 octopuses collected over three decades from around the continent.

The octopus DNA carries a memory of its past, including how and when different populations were moving and mixing together, exchanging genetic material.

The scientists say they detected clear signs that, about 125,000 years ago, some octopus populations on opposite sides of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet had mixed together, with the only likely route being a seaway between the south Weddell Sea and the Ross Sea.

“That could only have happened if the ice sheet had completely collapsed,” said Dr Sally Lau, a geneticist at James Cook University who led the research.

For more on this story, read the full report by Guardian Australia environment reporter Graham Readfearn.

Related: Clue to rising sea levels lies in DNA of 4m-year-old octopus, scientists say



Unclaimed Sydney airport luggage goes up for auction

A hedge trimmer, a circular saw and a sun lounge are among the more unusual items up for sale in Sydney airport’s revived lost property auction over the next week.

A frequent flyer’s loss will be a bargain hunter’s gain when the online auction for charity returns after a two-year break because of Covid.

Starting on Sunday the auction features more than 3,000 unclaimed items including 120 laptops, more than 20 phones and tablets, dozens of headphones, 16 cameras, sunglasses, handbags, jewellery, wine, perfume and an air fryer.

The auction runs until 12 February, with bids starting at $5 and proceeds going to the Bayside Women’s Shelter.

Sydney airport says its lost property auctions have raised more than $1.4m for charity since 2013.

Airport CEO Geoff Culbert said there was “a treasure trove” of goods to pick from.

We even got some rather unique sales like a hedge trimmer, circular saw, and sun lounge, although we’re still scratching our heads wondering how that ended up at the airport.

For music lovers there is a classical violin or for those who just like to listen there are more than a dozen Bluetooth speakers as well as a record player and 50th anniversary edition of Abbey Road on vinyl.

Bayside Women’s Shelter general manager Sallianne Faulkner said the charity would use the proceeds to develop and fund a new social enterprise hub, working together with the community to break the cycle of domestic and family violence.

Sydney Airport’s ongoing support will allow us to open a community hub including a cafe, which will provide women with skills development, training and paid work to help set them up for the future.


Interest rates expected to rise in first RBA decision of 2023


The first cash rate decision of the year will suck up most of the oxygen in an otherwise quiet week for economic data.

The Reserve Bank board is broadly expected to hike interest rates by another 25 basis points on Tuesday, taking the cash rate to 3.35%.

Nomura Australia economist Andrew Ticehurst said another rate hike by the US Federal Reserve – albeit a smaller quarter-point increase – and likely cash rate increases by other major central banks supported the case for another RBA hike in February.

And underlying inflation, which excludes large price rises and falls, was surprisingly strong in the December quarter, lifting 6.9% annually.

Looking back at RBA communications in December, Ticehurst said the central bank alluded to more rate hikes “over the period ahead”.

Ultimately, we think the governor is attempting to balance cooling growth against uncomfortably high inflation and the risk of a break-out in wages and inflation expectations.

But equally, the RBA appears very keen to avoid recession, and naturally, would not wish to be ‘blamed’ for delivering one.

Nomura analysts anticipate another 25bp lift, and that a larger hike is more probable than a pause.

Deloitte Access Economics has called for the central bank to pause and assess the impact of its rate hikes so far, or risk tightening conditions too far.

Recent testimony from the RBA at a federal parliament cost-of-living inquiry leaves room for doubt.

“What we can say is that we think the peak in inflation was at the end of 2022 – at around 8% – and that inflation will begin to ease over the course of this year,” economic analysis chief Marion Kohler said on Wednesday.




Lord’s Prayer to be replaced in Victorian parliament

As Victorian parliament returns for 2023, MPs will once again rise to hear the Lord’s Prayer regardless of their religious beliefs.

But days appear numbered for the longstanding tradition.

The Andrews Labor government made an election promise to workshop a replacement for the Lord’s Prayer at the start of this term.

The commitment was brokered after crossbencher Fiona Patten pitched a motion in 2021 to replace the prayer in the upper house with a moment of silent reflection, a move backed by some religious figures.

Patten, an atheist, lost her upper house seat but has initiated a petition to encourage people to write to the premier, Daniel Andrews, and attorney general Jaclyn Symes to honour their promise.

More than 20 local councillors last week sent a letter to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, Andrews and other ministers calling for rules to prevent councils from starting meetings with single-faith prayers.

Both houses of Victoria’s parliament have opened each sitting day with the Lord’s Prayer since 1918, but it has been recited alongside an acknowledgment of country in recent years.

The ACT lower house replaced the Christian prayer with an invitation to pray or reflect in 1995.




Questions about ongoing recovery of social security debts

The third block of hearings at the Robodebt royal commission has just finished up with extraordinary revelations about how government officials sought to avoid public scrutiny of the program.

One question that will follow is how much has changed?

Welfare advocate Tom Studans says he has been sent a current copy of a debt letter that is now being used to alleged debts against people on social security – and has raised some reasonable questions about the lack of information that is still inherent to the process.


01:30 Katharine Murphy

Voice will have no effect on Indigenous sovereignty: Albanese

In Canberra, Anthony Albanese has finished his speech and we are now in a period of questions.

The first one is about sovereignty. This has been a significant issue over the summer, with the Greens senator Lidia Thorpe expressing concern that the voice might impact First Nations sovereignty.

“The vote and referendum will have no impact on the issue of sovereignty,” the prime minister says.

He says Chief Justice Robert French of the high court has made this point clear as has the expert legal reference group.



Nurses union launches NSW election ad campaign

Nurses and midwives are ramping up their pre-election campaign to install staff-to-patient ratios in NSW public hospitals, with a series of TV ads.

After four statewide strikes last year, the NSW Nurses and Midwives’ Association says it is targeting candidates of all political stripes to back shift-by-shift ratios amid chronic understaffing.

Association general secretary Shaye Candish said the ad campaign, which urges people to “vote like your life depends on it, because one day it might”, puts health and wellbeing front of mind for voters.

We have lost far too many experienced nurses and midwives because NSW is the last mainland state yet to commit to nurse and midwife to patient ratios.

It’s beyond abhorrent, it’s shameful. NSW should be leaders in this space but instead we are being left behind.

Candish said following talks with nurses and midwives across NSW, it was apparent they are fatigued and burnt out, feeling stressed and constantly worried they are letting their patients down.

Nurses and midwives are being overworked, meaning they are responsible for too many patients and can’t safely care for our communities the way they were professionally trained, and our public health system is buckling under the pressure as a result.

Patients are being forced to wait too long to receive treatment in hospitals and this is having a ripple effect through the public health system.

She said there was growing peer-reviewed evidence to show safe staffing ratios saved lives, improved patient health outcomes and saved governments money.



00:42 Katharine Murphy

Voice debate won’t affect government’s policy agenda, Albanese says

Anthony Albanese gets a third and last question: Will the voice debate preoccupy the government too much this year? Will it distort considerations of government?

The prime minister says no, the government is going full tilt on its policy agenda – childcare, national reconstruction fund, cost of living.

He says the government’s agenda of economic, environmental and social reform is very broad “but at the same time, how about we get this done as well”.

With that, the prime minister is swept out of the room.


00:31 Katharine Murphy

At the National Press Club, the second question to the prime minister is about legislating the body versus taking the constitutional route.

Anthony Albanese says the people who are now championing legislating the body failed to do so when they were in government. (That gets a chuckle in the room.)

He says there is no need for another constitutional convention because there has been so much preparatory work done on constitutional recognition over the past decade.

I sincerely hope we can get as much support across the political spectrum as we can, but I make this point, I get the same vote as everybody else. This is something that has come from the bottom up and we are going to give people a vote.



NSW Labor opposition leader to outline election pitch

Labor Leader Chris Minns will speak to a crowd of party faithful in the battleground seat of Penrith on Sunday, at NSW Labor’s unofficial campaign launch, ahead of the NSW election on 25 March.

The rally will take place in the key western Sydney seat of Penrith, currently held by Liberal MP Stuart Ayres on a margin of 1.3%.

It comes after a difficult few days for the government, including the release of a scathing auditor general’s report criticising its handling of a bushfire recovery grants scheme.

The scheme saw former deputy premier John Barilaro’s office interfering to effectively exclude Labor-held electorates from receiving funds, the auditor-general found.

Minns said emergency funds should not be handed out with people’s political preferences in mind.

I would have thought common decency would have stepped in long ago and no government would manipulate a process to see a community recover.

Unfortunately, that’s what happens when a group of people have been in power for 12 years.

The premier, Dominic Perrottet, said he would consider possible improvements in light of the report, but denied the funding arrangements were pork barrelling.

Labor will hold a formal campaign launch two weeks out from polling day.



00:07 Eden Gillespie

NSW premier quizzed about auditor generals report

The NSW premier was also asked about the auditor general’s report which found the process for fast-tracked bushfire recovery grants “lacked integrity”.

The report found thresholds set by the former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s office effectively excluded Labor electorates from urgent funding in an “inconsistent and poorly documented” black summer grants program.

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s response:

I made it very clear when I became premier through an independent review in relation to grants administration in our state, we adopted all of those recommendations. There should be no politics being played in the administration of grants anywhere in this country. I completely support that.

Perrottet said he had made changes, including amendments to the ministerial code of conduct, to ensure funds “go to where they’re needed”.


00:04 Katharine Murphy

Albanese addresses National Press Club

Anthony Albanese is on his feet at the National Press Club after getting a standing ovation from the crowd gathered at the Chifley Research Centre conference. (You’d expect the warm welcome – this audience is party faithful.)

We have a news story this morning previewing this speech.

Related: Albanese says Indigenous voice next step in reconciliation and opponents ‘trying to start a culture war’

The prime minister is using this outing to put the voice referendum in the context of democratic decay. He’s basically arguing there are a number of citizens in democracies around the world that feel alienated from political parties and governments.

Albanese says the voice referendum will be an opportunity to bring people in, to give Australians the opportunity to shape and modernise the constitution. He says in an era of populism, misinformation and insurrection, prime ministers have to both include and trust the people.

Quite interesting: that context.


04 Feb 2023 23:56 Eden Gillespie

NSW treasurer blames Labor for reopening Pep-11 gas project

NSW’s press conference has now turned to the subject of the controversial Pep-11 gas exploration license.

Guardian Australia revealed on Saturday that Sydney MP, Alex Greenwich, and a coalition of independent political candidates, were attempting to kill Pep-11 by banning the development of the area through a change in NSW law.

It comes after the federal government and Asset Energy agreed to void the former prime minister Scott Morrison’s decision to block further exploration of the gas field before it played out in court.

The NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, told reporters on Sunday that teal federal MPs had failed to stop the Labor government from “reopening the threat of offshore drilling on our coastline on the northern beaches and central coast”.

The only way people living on the northern beaches on the central coast can stop the destruction of our coastline and drilling for offshore gas is by voting for your Liberal National candidate.

We’ve seen that the teals are absolutely ineffective when it comes to protecting our coastal marine parks from the threat of Pep -11.

Australian football players in shock over Saudi-Fifa sponsorship deal

04 Feb 2023 23:48

Australian football player Kate Gill has spoken to the ABC this morning about the recently announced sponsorship of Fifa’s women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand by the Saudi’s.

Players have been expressing shock and frustration over the potential sponsorship deal, saying they have largely been left out over the decision to take the money.

Speaking to the ABC this morning, Gill said it was “hard to see how they’ve coalesced to see how visiting Saudi is right for the Women’s World Cup”.

When you look at the surface, you can see that it is a blatant disregard of their human rights treatment when you look at the country itself. LGBTI+ people are still regarded as criminals, and women over there still really face strict restrictions of their rights. And that’s notwithstanding the progressions that have been made as well. It just sat really uncomfortably when it was announced.

Gill said many players were “really avid human rights defenders” and wanted Fifa to listen to its players by rejecting the proposal.

Those decisions then become the athletes. The athletes become the face of those decisions, and it’s really challenging when you don’t have full transparency over why these decisions are made and what has actually gone into the thought process behind this.

It’s putting a lot of pressure on the players. So I think it would be welcomed if they would sit down and have the discussions with the players so they can fully understand and ask questions as to why this needs to happen.

Saudi Arabia has faced a string of human rights abuses in the past. Though Saudi Arabia has passed laws to give women more agency in their lives such as the right to drive, men still remain dominant and control decision-making within the kingdom.

Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based journalist and critic of Saudi Arabia, was murdered by government officials inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018.

The kingdom has hired US public relations firm, Edelman – a go-to public relations firm for the US oil and gas industry – in a $9.6m deal to clean up its public image. Saudi Arabia is also home to the world’s largest oil company, Saudi Aramco, which reported a 90% increase to their profits in June 2022.

The Women’s World Cup runs from 20 June 20 to 20 August.

Saudi Arab has been named host of the 2027 Asian Cup. The country also has ambitions to host the World Cup in 2030 and the Women’s Asian Cup in 2026.


04 Feb 2023 23:47 Eden Gillespie

NSW Liberals promise help with energy bills if re-elected

In their biggest election promise to date, the NSW government says it will give households $250 to spend on energy bills if residents compare plans through the Service NSW website.

The measure will be rolled out on 1 July if the Liberal party wins the NSW election next month and will apply to everyone, ­including those already on a rebate.

The one-off cost-of-living payment will be given even if NSW households do not change providers, premier Dominic Perrottet said.

This will make a real difference to household budgets across New South Wales and [it’s] part of the Liberals and Nationals’ long-term economic plan to provide support for families and keep New South Wales moving.

The treasurer and minister for energy, Matt Kean, said the plan was “all about ensuring that we help people ease pressure on household budgets”.

The NSW Energy Bill Saver initiative is estimated to cost $500m with two million households expected to participate.

A journalist has asked the NSW premier if the $250 energy bill payment is “a drop in the bucket” and an election “ploy” to “make it look” like the government is addressing cost-of-living pressures.

Perrottet’s response:

We’re making it easy to switch [energy plans] but most importantly, easy to save for families across western Sydney and right across our great state … There is no government anywhere in the country that has the cost-of-living relief and the support for family budgets in the Liberals and Nationals here in New South Wales.

Albanese speaks on Indigenous voice to parliament

04 Feb 2023 23:36

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is due to begin his speech at the Chifley Research Centre where he is expected to outline why he is optimistic about the potential for success in the upcoming referendum on the Indigenous voice to parliament.

Related: Albanese says Indigenous voice next step in reconciliation and opponents ‘trying to start a culture war’


04 Feb 2023 23:06

Increase to Medicare rebate a possibility

The health minister, Mark Butler, says an increase to the Medicare rebate is not off the table, as the federal government tries to address problems in Australia’s healthcare system.

Butler has also hit back at criticisms a Medicare review initiated by the government did not have tangible recommendations to provide immediate relief.

The head of the Australian Medical Association, the peak body representing doctors, said the report had nothing in it to help Australians immediately access more affordable and timely healthcare.

The president, Steve Robson, said while he welcomed the review, there was nothing in the report to ensure Australians struggling to see a GP or facing long operation waitlists were seen any quicker or more affordably.

Butler said he was “surprised” by Robson’s attitude, given AMA vice president Danielle McMullen was a member of the Medicare taskforce and had contributed to the report.

Medicare was established nearly 40 years ago by the Hawke government and while it was still a “shining jewel” in healthcare, when speaking to Sky News on Sunday Butler said the system did not reflect the needs of modern Australians.

Changes to the rebate are not off the table, affordability was a major pressure that we discussed at the task force.

[But] you can’t just put more money into the existing systems. The existing systems do not reflect the needs of Australians today.

Butler said all healthcare groups, including the AMA, who participated in the taskforce recognised reform was needed.

Opposition spokesman Paul Fletcher said the Medicare report was “pretty thin” and Australians would probably have to wait until after the May budget before the government took action.

This government said they were going to protect and restore Medicare and so far they’ve cut the number of sessions you can get funded with psychologists from 20 to 10.

[There’s] a bit of rhetoric but not much performance.



04 Feb 2023 22:46

Wayward Tasmania ponies reunited with owners

Two wandering ponies have been reunited with their owners after escaping in Tasmania this morning.

Police wrangled the ponies into a temporary paddock in Hillborough Road.

Anyone missing ponies were advised to “please call 131444 to join the Saddle Club” and return “your equine friends”.

But by 9am the ponies had been reunited with their owners – crisis averted.

Megan Davis on Indigenous voice: ‘Doing nothing isn’t an option’

04 Feb 2023 22:43

Davis stressed that the voice is “not going to be a top-down mechanism” and stressed that “it’s going to be drawn from communities”.

I made this point to Leeser and Dutton in the meeting – we’re all talking about the same thing. We’re talking about our people in communities, you know, doing the hard yards of keeping our people together and flourishing, and trying to do better for our communities.

The key thing is how do they get that seat at the table? And that’s what the constitution is about, it’s about not allowing the space for politicians to continually silence our voice. It’s to mandate it so that we do have a seat at the table to make sure that the policies and laws are of a better quality and they actually result in outcomes. Because right now, that’s not the case.

Concerns about litigation that may follow where the parliament fails to consult with the voice “has been dealt with” and that it would create a norm of consulting with Indigenous people on laws about them.

They’re required to listen, hear and consider the voice, yes, but there’s no entity in the nation that can veto the work of the Australian parliament.”

Davis says if the referendum fails, there are “downstream risks” for people who have little faith in the Australian political system to deliver change becoming more disenfranchised – but the campaign is “only focused on the “yes”.

We’ve always only been focused on the ‘yes’. We’ve spent five years fighting for reform, where straight off the bat a prime minister said no to us. We were disappointed and we woke up the next day and thought to ourselves, “Let’s just turn every ‘no’ into a ‘yes’.”

So, every time a prime minister has said no, every time a minister has said no, we’ve just taken it as a yes and kept working. So, we’re not looking at any negative consequences of a ‘no’ vote because it’s going to be a ‘yes’ vote.

We believe absolutely, because this has been half a decade since Uluru, in the agency of the Australian people and that the Australian people get, they do get this reform. They understand the importance of having a voice at the table and they also understand that nothing has worked until now. They can see that the status quo doesn’t work. So, doing nothing isn’t an option here.


04 Feb 2023 22:36

Megan Davis from the Referendum Working Group reveals details of recent meeting with Peter Dutton

Professor Megan Davis from the Referendum Working Group is speaking to ABC Insiders this morning about the proposal for the Indigenous voice to parliament.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has been in the media over the last few weeks demanding more detail from the government over how the new body will work.

Dutton has 15 specific questions, but Davis said that in a recent meeting Dutton did not ask those questions.

One of the really important parts of that meeting was to explain to him where the voice to parliament comes from. So, we spoke about the 12 constitutional conventions and the national constitutional convention that was held five years ago. We spoke about why the voice to parliament was the primary reform that came out of that. We spoke about the 12 years of constitutional recognition in this country, so we’re in the second decade, and went through the seven processes and 10 reports that exist on this matter.

Davis says Dutton may ask his questions at a later time and “committed to future meetings”.

There’s only so far we can go in terms of those questions. We can’t tell you the address or location of the building of what the voice will be, or what the business cards will look like. We can tell only so much in terms of those questions because, of course, if the voice is successful, what happens in Australian democracy is there is a process that follows. And the inference from a successful voice referendum is that First Nations communities will have some say, or a very large say, in what that voice looks like and the contours of this voice.

Davis said “it’s really critical for the voice to succeed, have legitimacy and be durable”.

There’s only so much detail that we can put forward before a referendum and that will be done – that is the purpose of the three committees that have been working since September, who released communiques with information, who will have information ready for when the referendum bill is stood up.


04 Feb 2023 22:35

Voice vote ‘not like the 1999 republic referendum’

Davis says the voice will be critical in allowing Indigenous people input into laws that are made about them because “right now they’re not including our voices from right across the country”.

She also expects another Closing the Gap report that “tells us we’re not closing the gap and, in fact, are going back in some respects”.

All Australians can see that something has to change. This is not like the 1999 republic referendum, where they said, “It ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” All Australians can see that the status quo isn’t working, that something is broken, and it needs to be fixed.


04 Feb 2023 22:23

Public sector board review to end ‘jobs for mates’

The federal government is launching a review of public sector board appointments to ensure they are based on merit rather than politics and “jobs for mates”.

The finance and public service minister, Katy Gallagher, will announce the review in an address to the Chifley 2023 Conference in Canberra on Sunday as part of the Albanese government’s integrity agenda it took to the last election.

The review will be led by Lynelle Briggs AO, a former Australian Public Service commissioner, CEO of Medicare and commissioner on the aged care royal commission.

Her review will focus on clarifying the role of public sector boards and the skills and standards required, making board recruitment more transparent, how ministers are advised on the selection of board members and improving the diversity of board membership.

Gallagher will say the former government’s approach to political appointments “made a mockery of the process and were exploited for political purposes instead of being based on merit”.

We know that half of the Productivity Commission’s board members have a political connection to the Coalition and the administrative appeals tribunal was stacked with appointments with clear Liberal party links.

This review would be about putting an end to the “jobs for mates culture that defined the previous Morrison government’s public sector appointments”.

Gallagher will say that being on a government board should be about what you know, not who you know.

A report will be published after the review is finalised in mid-2023.

– with AAP


04 Feb 2023 22:01

Girl dies in suspect shark attack

A teenage girl has been killed in a suspected shark attack in Western Australia after she jumped from her jetski into a river, police said.

The 16-year-old was pulled from the Swan River in Perth with critical injuries. Emergency personnel provided medical assistance at the scene but she died, said Insp Paul Robinson, of Western Australia police.

He said the victim was with her friends on jetskis. “There was possibly a pod of dolphins seen nearby and the young female jumped in the water to swim nearby the dolphins.

The family weren’t there when this took place, however, her friends were and as you can imagine this is an extremely traumatic incident for anyone to witness so obviously we’re offering counselling services to anyone who did witness it or is affected by the incident.

He said the fisheries department had advised him it was unusual for a shark to be so far down the river, which flows through Perth into the Indian Ocean.

Related: Teenage girl killed in suspected shark attack in Perth’s Swan River


04 Feb 2023 21:59

Australian leaders must safeguard liberal democracy: PM

Prime minister Anthony Albanese is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at ALP thinktank the Chifley Research Centre’s conference in Canberra today.

Albanese is expected to warn that Australians should pay attention to the 2021 Capitol insurrection in the US and the recent coup attempt in Brazil as an example of what can happen when people fall “headlong into poisonous conspiracy theories”. He will say leaders need to “heed the warning” of these events and safeguard liberal democracy.

You can read our political editor Katharine Murphy’s report on it here:

Related: Albanese says Indigenous voice next step in reconciliation and opponents ‘trying to start a culture war’

Other major speakers include minister for Indigenous Australians Linda Burney, treasurer Jim Chalmers, and Tony Burke, minister for employment and workplace relations.

Good morning

04 Feb 2023 21:58

And welcome to another Sunday morning Guardian live blog.

The Australian prime minister, Anthony Albanese, will deliver a keynote speech at the Chifley Research Centre’s conference in Canberra today. It is expected that he will tell the Labor thinktank that the Indigenous voice to parliament is the next step in reconciliation, while warning that some are working to trigger a culture war over the push for reform.

At 16-year-old girl has died on the Swan River in Perth after a suspected shark attack. The girl was riding a jetski with friends on the water when they noticed a pod of dolphins. The girl jumped in to swim with the dolphins but was attacked soon after and tragically died at the scene.

I’m Royce Kurmelovs, taking the blog through the day. With so much going on out there, it’s easy to miss stuff, so if you spot something happening in Australia and think it should be on the blog, you can find me on Twitter at @RoyceRk2 where my DMs are open.

With that, let’s get started …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *