Australia news live: Davos meeting ‘positive’ sign for China-Australia talks; feta feud slows EU trade deal

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LIVE – Updated at 03:11

Follow the day’s updates live.

 

Fair Work takes action against Super Retail Group for allegedly underpaying workers

AAP is reporting that the workplace regulator is taking legal action against the owner of Supercheap Auto, Rebel Sport, Macpac and BCF for allegedly underpaying workers by more than $1 million.

The Fair Work Ombudsman announced the federal court action against Super Retail Group and its subsidiaries on Friday following some “serious” contraventions of the Fair Work Act.

It’s alleging the stock exchange-listed company did not pay salaried employees their minimum lawful entitlements, given that they generally performed significant overtime.

Fair Work examined a sample of 146 workers and found they were underpaid by $1.14 million between January 2017 and March 2019.

The amounts ranged from small to about $34,500 per employee, including store managers, retail workers and administrators.

Fair Work began investigating after Super Retail Group self-reported the underpayment of thousands of employees in 2018.

It apologised and paid back more than $52.7 million in entitlements and interest to current and former workers.

 

Woman charged over McCubbin painting protest in WA

A woman has been charged with criminal damage of one of Australia’s most famous paintings as a protest against a gas company’s alleged destruction of rock art in Western Australia’s north.

Video released by activist group Disrupt Burrup Hub on Thursday showed a woman spray-painting a Woodside Energy logo onto Fredrick McCubbin’s work Down On His Luck at the Art Gallery of WA.

She then appears to glue her hand to the wall beside the colonial masterpiece as a man lays an Aboriginal flag on the floor of the gallery.

The gallery said the McCubbin was protected by a clear plastic sheet and not damaged by the yellow paint.

Police said on Friday a 37-year-old Northbridge woman had been charged with one count of criminal damage and was due to appear in Perth Magistrates Court on February 16.

In a recent similar action in Melbourne, where two Extinction Rebellion activists glued themselves to a prized Pablo Picasso, no charges were reportedly laid.

Disrupt Burrup Hub has called for industrial development on the rock art-rich Burrup Peninsula, about 30km west of Karratha in the Pilbara region, to be stopped, including Woodside Energy’s expansion of the Pluto gas plant.

The group is now raising money to cover its legal fees.

– With AAP

 

03:03 Eden Gillespie

‘Credible’ crocodile sighting at popular Queensland island

Locals swarmed One Mile jetty on Queensland’s North Stradbroke island this morning after media reports that a crocodile was circling the area.

Video footage uploaded on social media shows locals gawking at something moving in the water but the jury is still out on whether it was a croc or a dugong.

Shannon Mitchell, bistro manager of the Little Ship club, told Guardian Australia that the island is currently divided into believers and non-believers.

“You have believers or non-believers at the moment. I’m a believer … A couple of locals have seen it and there’s some evidence of tracks in the sand,” she said.

Mitchell said she had seen three helicopters, drones and rangers patrolling the shoreline in boats on Friday morning.

“It’s a small town. So this is the most excitement we’ve had for a while,” she said.

“We will be serving crocodile on the menu as of next week. We’ll have some sausages and maybe some croc burgers or something like that.”

It comes after Queensland’s environment department denied reports that they are investigating new footage of a crocodile on the island.

The department denied there had been any further sightings since Wednesday. They also stressed the initial spotting, while described as “credible” , was still unconfirmed.

 

Traditional owners defend alleged attack on painting

Murujuga traditional owners come out in support of protesters who allegedly defaced a painting at the Art Gallery of WA yesterday to highlight Woodside Energy’s $16.5bn Burrup Peninsula gas project.

Protesters allegedly spray-painted a stencil onto a Frederick McCubbin painting, drawing attention to industrial impacts on sacred Murujuga rock art.

Traditional owners said Woodside needed to stop “destroying” ancient art.

How can there be so much fuss about some temporary spray paint on a single piece of art from 100 years ago when Woodside are spraying their emissions all around the oldest, largest art gallery on planet earth? Murujuga holds the stories and songlines of our people going back more than 50,000 years. Woodside need to stop destroying our art.

Raelene Cooper, Mardudhunera woman and former chair of the Murujuga Aboriginal Corporation called the protesters courageous:

Some people were asking why can’t they leave the art alone. That’s exactly how we feel about what Woodside is doing to our rock art, and our sacred songlines and the plants and animals on the Burrup. The toxic emissions must be sending them a bit crazy or blind if they can’t see the damage the Burrup Hub is doing to our art, our culture and our environment.

Professor Benjamin Smith, chair of World Rock Art at UWA and author of recent research on damage to Murujuga rock art from emissions at the Burrup Hub said Woodside’s claim no-peer reviewed research had shown emissions from LNG production was damaging the art was “wilfully misleading”.

It has been shown without any doubt that nitrogen oxide pollution, combined with local rain and dew, is causing serious damage to Murujuga rock art. Woodside is the largest nitrogen oxide emitter by far at Murujuga.

We don’t need to fingerprint the source to know that Woodside’s nitrogen oxide and other forms of acidic pollution are damaging the rock art and that these emissions are a serious problem that needs urgent intervention.

Related: Frederick McCubbin painting defaced with Woodside logo in protest at Art Gallery of Western Australia

 

02:52 Tory Shepherd

Former SA senator forms ‘trouble-making project’ aiming to share government information

The former South Australian senator Rex Patrick has a new project – helping independents get hold of government information.

Patrick, along with the former journalist and political adviser Philip Dorling, has started Project Argus, “a public interest trouble-making project intended to stir the political pot to achieve better public policy outcomes”.

When he was in parliament, Patrick’s freedom of information (FOI) requests and dogged grilling of people in estimates was a thorn in the side of the government. He’s offering the teals and other independents the benefit of his experience. According to the website:

Project Argus will seek to integrate FOI, across all jurisdictions – national, state and territories – into the independents’ government oversight role. The project will be integrated with other tools used to extract information and force debate – questions without notice, written questions, orders for the production of documents and inquiries.

Project Argus will also provide assistance to assist the independents in propagating information obtained under FOI to the media.

 

02:41 Elias Visontay

Domestic Qantas flight turned around mid-flight

A Qantas flight from Melbourne to Sydney turned back to Tullamarine airport on Friday morning due to an indication of a “minor engine issue”.

Pilots received the indication shortly after flight QF430 took off, and the Boeing 737 returned to Melbourne as a precaution, Qantas told Guardian Australia.

“The aircraft landed normally – this was not an emergency or priority landing. Both engines remained operational throughout the flight,” Qantas said. Customers will be reaccommodated on the next available flights over the next few hours.

Friday’s incident is the third in as many days for Qantas, after a flight from Auckland to Sydney issued a mayday call due to an engine failure and landed with just one engine on Wednesday, and a flight from Sydney to Fiji turned back to Sydney as a precaution due to a potential mechanical issue.

 

02:36 Caitlin Cassidy

‘Positive signs’ that recent Covid wave was passing, Victorian CHO says

Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton has provided greater detail on the 4,912 Covid cases reported in the state in the past week, a 37.2% decrease on the previous week.

Two cases of the subvariant XBB 1.5 have been detected in the state through genomic surveillance testing. The North American variant has caused concern internationally for being highly transmissible and drug-resistant.

A handful of cases has been found in Australia in the past fortnight.

In better news, Sutton said there were continued “positive signs” the November-December wave had passed, as cases and hospitalisations continued to decline.

Covid-related deaths, though, had increased by 5.5% in the past month, as expected following the extended period of high community transmission.

The average daily number of new cases was 702, down from 1,130 last week, while hospitalisations had also fallen to 324.

Sutton:

In the past three months, 6,019 Covid patients were hospitalised in Victoria. Of those hospitalised, 41% had not received their third vaccine dose and 30.6% were unvaccinated.

Transmission is being driven by multiple Omicron variants. The most recent wastewater analysis shows the recombinant strain XBF makes up the highest proportion of detections, followed by BQ.1/BQ.1.1 and BR.2.

Two cases of the subvariant XBB.1.5 have been detected in Victoria through genomic surveillance testing. With Australia’s most comprehensive wastewater surveillance, Victoria is well-placed to monitor the emergence of this variant locally.

 

South Australia has released its weekly Covid update.

There have been 2,053 new cases detected and 22 further deaths.

There are 102 people being treated in hospital as of 11.59pm Thursday and five people in ICU.

 

Student wellbeing must be a priority, Save the Children says

Save the Children and 54 reasons have responded to the Productivity Commission’s report into the National School Reform Agreement, saying student wellbeing must be a national priority, as it is critical for all children to have the support they need to thrive.

Matt Gardiner, CEO of 54 reasons, which delivers Save the Children’s services in Australia:

The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, exposure to major disasters such as the 2019-20 bushfires and 2022 floods, and complex disadvantage from intergenerational poverty and socio-economic exclusion have put significant pressures on the wellbeing and engagement of students in Australia.

A robust education system must prioritise far more than academia alone to support our kids now and prepare them for the future.

Building on the recommendations by the productivity commission, Save the Children is calling for the next agreement to establish a National Student Wellbeing Program and a platform for student voices to be heard to ensure accountability to children for their wellbeing.

Students have a fundamental right to be heard and taken seriously on all matters that affect them and that they are entitled to all necessary support to develop to their fullest potential.

 

Greens respond to education report

For those who have recently joined us – the Productivity Commission has issued a scathing assessment of national education strategies this morning, saying student outcomes have not improved over the past five years.

Now the Greens have responded, saying the findings in today’s report are evidence that a lack of funding for public schools has created an inequality crisis in education.

Greens spokesperson on schools, senator Penny Allman-Payne:

Australian public school teachers must be reading the news today and thinking, ‘Tell us something we don’t know.’

Eleven years ago David Gonski said that there was growing inequality in the school system, that the root cause was funding inequality, and here’s the model to fix that.

But instead of embracing the Gonski recommendations, cowardly governments balked at taking funding from elite private schools. So now, more than a decade later, with public schools still underfunded across the country, no one should be remotely shocked by the Productivity Commission’s findings.

It’s great that the report identifies inequality and student wellbeing as central issues, but there’s nothing in the report’s recommendations that doesn’t cost money.

We don’t need more analysis, more accountability mechanisms, more working groups, more inquiries or more reports. Our public schools need more money, and they need it yesterday.

Australia’s assistant trade minister chats with China’s vice-minister of commerce at World Economic Forum

01:02 Daniel Hurst

After years of trade tensions, a meeting between the Australian trade minister and his Chinese counterpart is a step closer after talks in Davos overnight.

Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, met with China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum.



China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, and Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, after their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday night. Photograph: Australian government


© Provided by The Guardian
China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, and Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, after their meeting on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos on Thursday night. Photograph: Australian government

A source familiar with the meeting described the atmosphere as constructive and positive, and said the pair had agreed that it would be beneficial to arrange a meeting soon between the senior ministers: Australian trade minister Don Farrell and the Chinese commerce minister, Wang Wentao.

That next step would most likely be a virtual meeting, but it would be the first conversation between an Australian trade minister and a Chinese commerce minister in more than three years. It is unclear yet whether progress has been made in Australia’s push to remove Beijing’s trade actions against a range of Australian exports including wine and barley.

A spokesperson for Ayres told Guardian Australia this morning:

Overnight Assistant Trade Minister Ayres met China’s Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting. Assistant Minister Ayres raised the importance of cooperation to deliver the outcomes of the World Trade Organization 12th Ministerial Conference, and the removal of current trade impediments affecting Australian exports to China in both countries’ interests.

It is understood the Australian government sees the latest meeting as another step towards stabilising the bilateral relationship.

The Australian government argues it is open to resolving outstanding trade issues bilaterally and to regular dialogue that enables the two countries to navigate their differences “wisely”.

Canberra continues to push for the removal of trade impediments affecting Australian exports, making the case that it would be “mutually beneficial”. Beijing has also given indications it is open to exploring a resolution through direct talks, rather than through the World Trade Organization. But it has made secret of its own concerns about Australian trade actions, including the treatment of Chinese foreign investment proposals.

For more on the backstory, see our earlier report.

No plans to alter punishing Australian Open schedule

From AAP:

Australian Open chief Craig Tiley is adamant the tournament schedule won’t be altered to avoid late finishes despite five-time finalist Andy Murray labelling his marathon against Thanasi Kokkinakis a “farce”.

Murray and Kokkinakis didn’t hit Margaret Court Arena until 10.22pm on Thursday and after the Scottish veteran mounted an incredible five-set comeback victory, they didn’t finish until 4.05am Friday.

“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” Murray said of the late finish.

“Rather than the discussion being about an epic Murray-Kokkinakis match it ends in a bit of a farce.”



Andy Murray shakes hands at the net after his five-set victory against Thanasi Kokkinakis during day four of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Andy Murray shakes hands at the net after his five-set victory against Thanasi Kokkinakis during day four of the Australian Open at Melbourne Park. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Murray was also denied a bathroom break at 3am and aired his frustrations with the chair umpire when he levelled proceedings at two-sets all.

But Tiley ruled out any adjustments mid-tournament, either via a curfew or by shuffling matches around.

“At this point, there’s no need to alter the schedule,” he told the Nine Network.

“We will always look at it when we do the [post-tournament] debrief, like we do every year.

“But at this point … we’ve got to fit those matches in the 14 days so you don’t have many options.

“Over the last three days, we’ve had extreme heat, over five breaks of rain, we’ve had cold … we’ve had three late nights with scheduling to try and catch up with matches.”

South Australian government pledges state-based voice to parliament

00:44 Tory Shepherd

South Australia is set to have a voice to parliament by the end of the year.

The Labor government has pledged a state-based Uluru statement from the heart would go ahead, regardless of what happens with the federal government’s referendum.

The Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher, plans to introduce the legislation when parliament sits in February and hopes to have the voice in place by the end of the year.



South Australian Labor MP and Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP


© Provided by The Guardian
South Australian Labor MP and Aboriginal affairs minister, Kyam Maher. Photograph: David Mariuz/AAP

The SA Greens revealed yesterday that, as well as supporting a “yes” vote in the referendum, they will support enshrining a voice to the SA parliament. That will give the government the numbers they need to pass the legislation.

Maher told the Advertiser the advisory body would comprise elected Aboriginal people. He said:

What SA is proposing is an Australian first – a fully elected Aboriginal body that will not only be a voice to our parliament but a voice within our parliament.

The federal Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, said the SA model was “worthy of consideration at the national level”.

Greens MLC Tammy Franks told ABC it would allow “grassroots Aboriginal voices to be heard”.

 

Pilbara Minerals posts ‘absolute cracker’

Driven by EV takeup and decarbonisation, Australia’s biggest lithium miner has had an “absolute cracker” December quarter on strong production and growing global demand.

“It’s all coming together at the perfect time,” Pilbara Minerals CEO, Dale Henderson, said on an investor call on Friday.

“What an amazing quarter we’ve had.”

The chief financial officer, Brian Lynn, said the December quarter was an “absolute cracker” with a strong operating margin supporting an $815m increase in the cash balance to $2.2bn.

He said operating costs continued to be elevated and are still being impacted by labour shortages and supply chain shortages.

“There is this general inflationary pressure being experienced,” he added.

The company has not yet started paying tax.

The first payment, of $90bn, will be made to the tax office in February.

– With AAP



Pilbara Minerals says its bumper quarterly result shows the lithium market is now global. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP


© Provided by The Guardian
Pilbara Minerals says its bumper quarterly result shows the lithium market is now global. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

 

00:06 Eden Gillespie

Queensland environment department denies it is investigating new footage of alleged crocodile on North Stradbroke

Queensland’s environment department has denied media reports that they are investigating new footage of a crocodile on North Stradbroke Island.

7News reported on Friday that the department was looking into a video that had recently emerged of a crocodile on a beach on the island.

The network claimed wildlife officers were set to travel to the beach and that the beach’s name had not been made public to avoid scaring away the croc.

The department denied this was the case and stressed that Wednesday’s sighting, while initially deemed “credible”, was still unconfirmed.

Khal Asfour pulls out of NSW state election candidacy

19 Jan 2023 23:56 Tamsin Rose

The Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour, has withdrawn as a candidate from the New South Wales state election.

Just before 9am on Friday, he released a statement claiming a “vicious smear campaign” had left him with no choice but to pull out.

A spokesperson for Asfour said the latest round of headlines, believed to be those in today’s Daily Telegraph about expenses charged to ratepayers during an overseas trip, had been the “last straw”.

The mayor is vehemently denying any wrong doing and has at all times adhered to the policy set by council, a policy scrutinised by the Office of Local Government.

The attack on the mayor has been a political hatchet job and those pursuing him must be condemned.

The spokesperson said Asfour wanted to give opposition leader, Chris Minns, enough time to find a replacement.



City of Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP


© Provided by The Guardian
City of Canterbury Bankstown mayor, Khal Asfour. Photograph: Bianca de Marchi/AAP

 

19 Jan 2023 23:55

Sugar tax is the talk of the town today.

The Australian Medical Association is warning we could become “odd one out” internationally if we don’t adopt a tax on sugary drinks ASAP.

It might seem a bit of an ask considering the cost of living crisis, but they say it’s worth it – to keep us healthier and fund preventive health measures.

My colleague Josh Butler has the exclusive:

Related: Doctors warn Australia risks being ‘odd one out’ if it resists sugar tax on soft drinks

 

19 Jan 2023 23:44

NZ Labour party looks to replace Ardern after resignation announcement

As New Zealanders reel from Jacinda Ardern’s shock resignation as prime minister, her Labour party is moving to replace her.

All roads appear to lead to the education minister, Chris Hipkins, a close ally of Ardern, but no candidates have declared for the role.

Ardern’s shock exit was followed by another, with her deputy Grant Robertson ruling himself out of the race.

Leaving Napier on Friday after their party’s year-starting retreat, Labour MPs backed an internal process at a closed-doors caucus meeting on Sunday.

“The team are taking it incredibly seriously,” Hipkins said.

“We need to select a new leader and then we need to really unite behind the new leader and continue to deliver stable leadership for New Zealand.

“It’s likely that we will land on a consensus position and there might not even be a contest.”



New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins, a close ally of Jacinda Ardern who is tipped to become the next party leader though no candidates have yet declared. Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AP


© Provided by The Guardian
New Zealand education minister Chris Hipkins, a close ally of Jacinda Ardern who is tipped to become the next party leader though no candidates have yet declared. Photograph: Mark Mitchell/AP

 

19 Jan 2023 23:18

Police in Sydney continue search for Swedish student missing off North Head

Police are resuming for the third day their search for a Swedish student believed to have been swept into the water off Sydney, AAP has reported.

Reports suggest 20-year-old Noa Sage fell from a height of about seven metres on to rocks at Blue Fish Point at Manly’s North Head about 5.30pm on Wednesday before ending up in the water.

Officers from Northern Beaches Police Area Command, along with the Marine Area Command and surf lifesavers, searched the area.

The search was initially suspended late on Wednesday night before resuming on Thursday and Friday with aerial help from PolAir.



A Manly ferry crosses in front of North Head, where Swedish student Noa Sage is believed to have fallen and been swept into the water. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
A Manly ferry crosses in front of North Head, where Swedish student Noa Sage is believed to have fallen and been swept into the water. Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images

 

19 Jan 2023 23:05

Inquiry into Maribyrnong floods needed, Victorian Greens say

The Victorian Greens are calling for a parliamentary inquiry to be established into the devastating Maribyrnong River floods, amid resident concerns that the current review’s scope is too narrow.

Melbourne Water this week opened submissions for its inquiry into the October floods. But the Age reported that residents and former staff have raised issues about the scope failing to consider crucial factors like government policy and urban planning. Deputy leader of the Victorian Greens, Ellen Sandell, said a broad-ranging inquiry was urgent:

I’m worried the Labor government is using this limited inquiry to deflect blame, and avoid any discussion of what governments have done wrong or should do better.

With disasters like floods becoming more common with climate change, the community deserves a proper inquiry into how we can protect lives, livelihoods and homes during climate disasters, rather than just protecting vested interests.

During the floods, residents were angered by the Fleming Racecourse’s flood wall which protected the site from rising waters while neighbouring properties were inundated with water.



Emergency workers look at a submerged car on a flooded street in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Emergency workers look at a submerged car on a flooded street in the Melbourne suburb of Maribyrnong. Photograph: William West/AFP/Getty Images

 

19 Jan 2023 22:48

Turn-by-turn cycling directions to launch on Apple Maps

As someone who recently ended up on a six-lane road trying to get to one of Melbourne’s beaches – this is really comforting.

From AAP:

Apple will launch turn-by-turn directions for cyclists – as well as warnings about routes with punishing hills – in a major update to the tech giant’s mapping app.

The cycling directions will be launched around the country on Friday, including detailed information on bike paths, bike lanes and high-traffic routes.

The Apple Maps upgrade, available on iPhones and iPads, will let users select a cycling option when searching for directions, suggesting “routes on bike paths, bike lanes and bike-friendly roads”.

Users will also be shown elevation and traffic information about routes, so they can avoid steep climbs and busy areas, and will be prompted to dismount their bicycle at risky intersections.

WeRide Australia executive officer, Peter Bourke, said millions of Australians could benefit from the update, but Apple needed to take feedback from users who were actually on the ground.

“If they are sent down a road that may be the quickest way to get somewhere by car, but not the safest, it may be the last time that person chooses to ride,” Bourke said.

“As long as they accept on-the-ground improvements and feedback, we welcome any of these companies that are doing it.”



Apple’s mapping app is being upgraded to give cycling directions to users around the country. Photograph: xavierarnau/Getty Images


© Provided by The Guardian
Apple’s mapping app is being upgraded to give cycling directions to users around the country. Photograph: xavierarnau/Getty Images

 

19 Jan 2023 22:46 Daniel Hurst

Five-year $41m maintenance contract extension for army’s fleet of Chinook helicopters

The government has announced a $41m extension to an army helicopter maintenance contract.

The five-year extension means Boeing Defence Australia “will continue to support the maintenance, training and sustainment services for Army’s fleet of 14 CH-47F Chinook helicopters”, said a statement issued by Defence this morning.



The HMAS Adelaide embarks Australian army CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters before departing the Port of Brisbane in January 2022. Photograph: Australian Defense Force/Zuma Press Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock


© Provided by The Guardian
The HMAS Adelaide embarks Australian army CH-47 Chinook heavy-lift helicopters before departing the Port of Brisbane in January 2022. Photograph: Australian Defense Force/Zuma Press Wire Service/Rex/Shutterstock

This is separate from the major decision announced earlier this week to dump a different fleet of helicopters, the MRH90 Taipan, in favour of Black Hawks.

In today’s statement, the first assistant secretary of the joint aviation system division at Defence, Shane Fairweather, said the Chinook helicopters had “a reputation for consistently delivering effective, safe and affordable capability for Defence”. He said the Chinook fleet was based in Townsville, while maintenance and sustainment service support was provided in Oakey and Brisbane:

The CH-47F Chinook fleet is an important capability for Defence, providing critical lift capability on several domestic and regional operations, including Bushfire Assist in 2020, and Tonga and Flood Assist in 2022. This contract extension will expand the maintenance and training support for our Chinook fleet, while boosting opportunities for defence industry in Queensland.

 

19 Jan 2023 22:44 Paul Karp

PM speaks on radio about Jacinda Ardern and their shared DJ pasts

Anthony Albanese has spoken to KIIS 106.5 about the legacy of outgoing New Zealand prime minister, Jacinda Ardern.

Albanese said:

Jacinda did an outstanding job as prime minister of New Zealand. She has gone out on her own terms – there’s an old saying in this job, not many get to go out, they get carried out with attacks from behind or in front …

She showed you can be kind but be strong at the same time … I used the word kindness in my victory speech on 21st of May. So many people have mentioned ‘it’s nice you said you wanted to be kind’ … People really noticed it. With Jacinda, she showed you could have empathy at the same time you had intellect and decisiveness, she certainly showed that as prime minister.

On a lighter note, Albanese noted that he and Ardern “are also probably the only two people who’ve been elected to high office that have also been DJs”.



DJ PMs: Jacinda Ardern and Anthony Albanese. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP


© Provided by The Guardian
DJ PMs: Jacinda Ardern and Anthony Albanese. Photograph: Rick Rycroft/AP

There was a bit of back and forth about whether Albanese would DJ at host Kyle Sandilands’ wedding on 29 April. The PM noted parliament is not sitting that day and he’ll wait for an invite.

Albanese revealed he has no demerit points on his licence, joking that it “helps that [I’m] not allowed to drive”, adding that he misses “being able to duck up to the shops” on a Saturday morning.

Albanese confirmed that federal departments can choose to allow employees to take a day other than Australia Day off. “I think that’s fine to have some flexibility in the system,” he said. “I myself will have a very busy Australia Day.”

Covid deaths rise in NSW and Victoria

19 Jan 2023 22:33

Covid numbers are in for NSW and Vic, cases are down but deaths are up, which you can see illustrated in the graph below:



Covid cases and deaths for week ending Friday 20 January. Photograph: Guardian Australia


© Provided by The Guardian
Covid cases and deaths for week ending Friday 20 January. Photograph: Guardian Australia

In Victoria, 156 deaths have been reported in the past week and 4,912 new cases.

In comparison, the state recorded 7,908 cases and 149 deaths last week.

In NSW, 131 lives have been lost and 9,062 new cases have been recorded.

In comparison, the state recorded 14,053 cases last week and 112 deaths.

BHP seeks clarification of NSW’s coal market intervention

19 Jan 2023 22:31 Peter Hannam

Yesterday we had the news that the NSW government was in talks with the thermal coal industry about reserving as much as 10% of output for domestic use.

The move took the sector by surprise and raised questions about why we don’t have an east coast gas reservation too.

Western Australia has required 15% of gas output in that state be kept for local users, with the result that energy prices there have been shielded from the spikes seen after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in many parts of the world.

(The gas sector warned an investment drought would follow its inception 15 years ago … but the WA government reckons $100bn has been invested since.)

Anyway, BHP, the world’s biggest miner, has weighed in about the NSW actions. They operate the Mt Arthur coalmine that they couldn’t find a buyer for, and are now running it towards closure.

The company says it’s waiting for more details on how a requirement to hold back output for domestic use will affect operations.

It sees the move as a risk for the business, and raisies the question of how it would physically transfer coal to AGL’s Bayswater and Liddell power stations in the Hunter Valley since a conveyor belt to the two plants was dismantled several years ago. (Liddell will close for good in April, so no coal will be needed there).

The quality of the coal doesn’t match the needs of the coal plants either, so some kind of blending would be required too, if Mt Arthur’s output was to be burnt in the plants.

“We’ve had an initial briefing from the department and we’re awaiting further detail to understand how extended directions could potentially apply to Mt Arthur Coal, which we have previously announced is being managed to closure,” a company spokesperson said.

“Clearly there are a number of commercial and practical implications that would have to be managed under an extended direction, along with the potential long-term impacts on market dynamics and investment in more energy supply.”

Related: NSW environment watchdog to require big polluters to show how they will hit net zero and then nudge them to improve

 

19 Jan 2023 22:30 Daniel Hurst

Tim Ayres’ meeting with Chinese vice-minister of commerce a precursor to trade ministers’ upcoming meeting

Australia’s assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, met with China’s vice-minister of commerce, Wang Shouwen, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos overnight.

It will help pave the way for a subsequent meeting between the trade minister, Don Farrell, and China’s commerce minister, Wang Wentao. Reuters points out that the Chinese state media outlet Xinhua is now reporting that the pair will meet via video link “in the near future”.

We’re chasing more details on the meeting, but it comes amid ongoing diplomatic efforts to remove the trade “blockages” in the relationship.

For more on the prospect of talks between Farrell and Wang, starting with a virtual meeting before an in-person meeting, see our earlier story here:

Related: In from the cold? Australia and China eye first meeting of trade ministers in more than three years

 

19 Jan 2023 21:33

Agriculture minister says feta feud featuring in EU deal discussions

Remember when we all had to stop calling *sparkling wine* champagne unless it came from the specific region in France? Well, we are here again.

The agriculture minister, Murray Watt, has spent the week in Europe – talking about the trade deal. He’s just spoken about it on RN and apparently, they have been discussing geographical indicators.

Call it feta-style, feta-like, mirror-quality feta – but don’t call it feta, they say:

 

19 Jan 2023 20:59

Good morning everyone, this is Cait Kelly, I will be with you this morning. There are a few things flying around, so let’s get into it!

 

19 Jan 2023 20:39

Thanasi Kokkinakis fought (and eventually lost) one of the Australian Open’s most extraordinary tennis matches last night, eventually losing to Andy Murray in a six-hour epic that finished past 4am.

He has feelings.

Murray, naturally, is delighted. Read his reactions, and our match report, here:

Related: ‘I have a big heart’: Murray delights in latest five-set victory in Melbourne

 

19 Jan 2023 20:32

Much of NSW declared free of varroa mite

In good news for bees, especially those planning interstate travel, Australian Associated Press reports that states and territories will reopen their borders to bees from most of NSW for the first time since an outbreak of varroa mite was detected in Newcastle in June last year.

In what has been described as a major milestone for Australian beekeepers, the NSW emergency blue zone has been declared free of the invasive mite.

Red and purple zones remain in place in areas surrounding Newcastle where beekeepers are still required to maintain close surveillance on the health of their hives and regularly report to authorities.



An emergency blue zone for NSW honeybees has been declared free of the invasive varroa mite. Photograph: Denis Anderson


© Provided by The Guardian
An emergency blue zone for NSW honeybees has been declared free of the invasive varroa mite. Photograph: Denis Anderson

The NSW agriculture minister, Dugald Saunders, said other states will reopen in the coming weeks for the transfer of bees and hives from the blue zone across borders for pollination.

“This is a significant step in the fight to eradicate the mite, and for our beekeepers and pollination-reliant industries that have done it tough over the past seven months,” Saunders said.

“But this is not the time for complacency; now more than ever, we need beekeepers to make sure they continue to do the right thing and maintain their alcohol-wash surveillance so we continue to move in the right direction.”

NSW will work with South Australia, Victoria and Queensland to develop a set of conditions governing interstate movement.

Australian Honeybee Industry Council chief executive, Danny Le Feuvre, said the news added to confidence that the eradication of varroa mite in NSW was possible.

In November last year a fresh outbreak of varroa mite was detected at a property near Cessnock, prompting an expansion of the existing red zone, which applies to all hives within a 10km radius of an infected premises.

Those within the red zone are required to destroy their hives completely to stop the spread of varroa mite.

A purple zone, applying to hives within a 15km radius beyond the red zone, were considered part of the emergency surveillance zone.

All other parts of the state were deemed blue zones and were also under tight restrictions in terms of transporting hives.

NSW has roughly 13,000 registered commercial and recreational beekeepers.

90,000 school children failing to meet Naplan standards

19 Jan 2023 20:29 Paul Karp

Almost 90,000 students each year are failing to meet minimum Naplan reading or numeracy standards, according to the Productivity Commission.

The commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today.

It found the agreement:

  • doesn’t include sufficient clear, measurable targets to drive reform including having only one target for academic achievement and none for student wellbeing

  • lacks targeted reforms to improve outcomes for students from poor backgrounds, from the regions, Indigenous students and students who do not meet the minimum standards for literacy and numeracy; and

  • lacks transparent, independent and meaningful reporting on the reform activity of governments.



The Productivity Commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP


© Provided by The Guardian
The Productivity Commission is releasing a report into the national schools reform agreement today. Photograph: Dan Peled/AAP

The report did not consider schools funding, which was not within scope.

The education minister, Jason Clare, said:

This report makes it clear that serious reform is required. It is very critical of the current national school reform agreement developed by the former Coalition government. It also makes it clear that the implementation of this agreement over the last four years has been slow and has had little impact. This is damning.

The report recommends:

  • freeing up more of teachers’ time for teaching

  • clear and measurable targets for academic achievement of all students, in particular students from priority equity cohorts;

  • targets to reduce the proportion of students who do not meet minimum standards of literacy and numeracy;

  • public reporting on progress on implementing reforms and achieving targets; and

  • focus on student wellbeing.

In December Clare and state and territory ministers commissioned another review of the agreement, which is set to last to December 2024 after it was rolled over for an additional year.

Clare said:

This is an important report and it will play a key role in the development of a new national school reform agreement. Work on that has now begun … In future, funding needs to be tied to reforms that will make a real, practical difference.

Welcome

19 Jan 2023 20:16

Good morning and welcome to our rolling news coverage. I’m Martin Farrer here to bring you the main overnight news before your scheduled blogger takes over for the main part of the day.

The big moving story of the past few hours has been that three more adults have been charged with the murder of Indigenous teenager Cassius Turvey in Perth last October. A 27-year-old man from Wundowie, a 24-year-old man from Chidlow and a 20-year-old woman from Herne Hill have each now been charged with murder and will appear at Perth magistrates today, Western Australian police said last night. Jack Steven James Brearley, 21, has already been charged with murder.

Australia risks being placed on a human rights blacklist after the three most populous states failed to meet their obligations on oversight of prisons under a UN anti-torture treaty. The human rights commissioner, Lorraine Finlay, said such a failure could affect the country’s human rights credibility on the world stage. The deadline to comply – already extended twice – runs out today.

Almost 90,000 students each year are failing to meet minimum Naplan reading or numeracy standards, according to a report by the Productivity Commission this morning. In a review of the National School Reform Agreement, the commission said boosts to funding have had little impact on literacy and numeracy results.

And we can’t finish without mentioning the epic tennis news overnight with Thanasi Kokkinakis playing out a five-set thriller with Andy Murray at Melbourne Park that didn’t finish until after 4am. It was a suitably dramatic end to a day that also saw world No 1 Novak Djokovic rage at heckling fans whom he accused of being “drunk”, and where Russia’s Andrey Rublev accused Ukraine-supporting fans of giving him verbal abuse.

 

19 Jan 2023 19:28

Trans-Tasman ties likely to stay strong

The resignation of Jacinda Ardern has caused waves across the Tasman but her departure is unlikely to affect Australia’s relations with its near neighbour, according to one former diplomat.

“The Australia-New Zealand relationship is very close, and will remain so irrespective of who the prime ministers are,” said Allan Behm, a former diplomat who worked closely with New Zealand.



Jacinda Ardern with her partner Clarke Gayford following the announcement of her resignation on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Jacinda Ardern with her partner Clarke Gayford following the announcement of her resignation on Thursday. Photograph: Reuters

“But when you have PMs who get on really well, like John Howard and [former New Zealand prime minister] Jenny Shipley did, or clearly as Anthony Albanese gets on with Ardern, it makes the relationship that much more effective.”

Josh Butler has the full story here, and there is also a full appreciation by our New Zealand correspondent Tess McClure here:

Related: From stardust to an empty tank: one-of-a-kind leader Jacinda Ardern knew her time was up

Tenterfield police shooting

19 Jan 2023 19:28

NSW police have launched a critical incident investigation after a man was shot dead when he pointed a gun at officers at a northern NSW police station.

The 48-year-old had attended Tenterfield police station when the confrontation happened on Thursday afternoon, police say, and he died at the scene.

Standby for more updates on this story.