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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Australia news live: questions over India Covid test results as repatriation flights under way

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Amanda Meade

The ABC has demanded the Institute of Public Affairs correct “erroneous and misleading claims” the public broadcaster said the rightwing lobby group made to a parliamentary committee.

The IPA claimed the ABC was not the most trusted media organisation in the country and “only 15.4% of Australians watch it” in its submission to the Senate’s media diversity inquiry.

“If the ABC is as trusted as its staff and supporters claim it is, then it has nothing to fear from privatisation or reform,” the lobby group told the committee.

Surveys consistently show a high level of public trust in the ABC.

The IPA’s audience figure of 15.4% does not account for the fact the ABC’s content has a huge reach across multiple platforms and services. The ABC’s output is not just television but encompasses ABC News online, which has been the No 1 digital news website for 12 months, and ABC Radio, which is also the No 1 national network.

You can read the full report below:

Queensland reports no new local Covid cases

Oh, and ditto to Queensland!

Annastacia Palaszczuk

Monday 17 May – coronavirus cases in Queensland:

0 new local cases

1 overseas acquired case

13 active cases

1,589 total cases

2,547,312 tests conducted

Sadly, seven people with COVID-19 have died. 1,564 patients have recovered.#covid19 pic.twitter.com/Lw1Wv3pHB5

May 16, 2021


Victoria records no new locally acquired Covid cases


Indonesian fishermen rescued off Western Australia

Twenty Indonesian fishermen aboard a semi-submerged trawler have been rescued off the Western Australian coast, reports AAP.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority coordinated the safe recovery of the crewmen who were stranded approximately 670 nautical miles west of Perth, on Sunday afternoon.

Indonesian authorities notified Australia on Thursday that the vessel was in distress and required assistance. The following morning, the Perth AMSA Challenger Jet and two airforce planes flew out to the vessel and dropped several life rafts.

A Japanese fishing vessel diverted to the distress vessel and rendered initial assistance.

The HMAS Anzac eventually transferred the fishermen aboard, bringing them to safety.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority executive director response Mark Morrow said the rescue was a relief to all involved, crediting the quick response of the Japanese boat with playing a vital role in the rescue.

The successful saving of 20 lives at sea is an incredible achievement of which all responding authorities should be proud.

One of the fishermen required urgent care and was to be transferred by Anzac’s embarked MH-60R helicopter to a Perth hospital. Anzac will return the remaining crew to their homeport in Bali with an expected arrival late next week.

Defence minister Peter Dutton spoke about the incident on Sunday night:

I want to thank the crew of HMAS Anzac as well as the aircrew who dropped essential items, which helped the Indonesian crew survive until their rescue…

I also want to acknowledge the patience and good will of the families of Anzac’s crew, who are now waiting longer to see their loved ones following a long deployment.


Such a fascinating story from the Guardian Australia team this morning, laying out exactly who actually owns the outback. (Looks like one of the main answers might rhyme with Pina Pinehart.)

Some truly fantastic maps and graphics in this one – definitely worth checking out.

Six months ago Guardian Australia set out to learn who owns the outback. The data we received was unwieldy, incomplete, inconsistent and often came with a hefty price tag. There is no nationally consistent protocol for recording land tenure and land use information, or even clearly established definitions of what constitutes ownership or control of land.

So, in the absence of official data, we have collated large datasets from every state and territory and pieced together a database of land ownership. We then looked to the work of a rural newspaper, the Weekly Times, which has been tracking farm ownership. We also looked at information contained in media reports, official websites of known major landowners, cattle brand directories, government servers and other online maps.

You can read the full story from Josh Nicholas, Calla Wahlquist, Andy Ball and Nick Evershed below:


Border Force find ice in barbecue grills

Drug bust stories do tend to all be pretty similar, but by god, there is something deep down in my lizard brain that finds those photos of all the confiscated drugs laid out on a blue tarp compelling.

With that said, these are photos from a massive $100m ice bust that Border Force located inside a shipment of barbecue grills from Thailand.

Australian Border Force found it in a consignment that came by sea cargo at Port Botany from Thailand on 4 May, NSW police said in a statement early on Monday.

They said it was discovered in 62 large cardboard boxes labelled food items and electric barbecue grills.

The consignment allegedly contained 316kg of methylamphetamine, with an estimated potential street value of $94.5m.

Police are hoping that anyone with any information about the drugs will contact them.

NSW Police Force

Investigation launched after almost $100 million of ‘ice’ located concealed in BBQ grills @AusBorderForce @AusFedPolice https://t.co/Gppga539TE pic.twitter.com/IQsXDWMZAt

May 16, 2021


Australian cricketers touch down in Sydney

In case you were worried about the Australian cricketers that fled to the Maldives after the Indian travel ban was announced, they have just touched down in Syndey!

After spending two weeks out of the subcontinent, the players can now legally return to the country via charter flight organised by Cricket Australia.

They will now be spread out across the city’s quarantine hotels to isolate for two weeks. Their numbers will not be counted in the state’s returned traveller weekly caps.

9News Australia

#BREAKING: The plane carrying 38 Australian cricketers and staff has just landed at Sydney airport. #9News pic.twitter.com/tPmKCVJPzp

May 16, 2021


Nationals narrow lead in Upper Hunter byelection: poll

The Nationals hold a narrow 51-49 two party preferred lead as voters in the seat of Upper Hunter prepare to go to the polls in a crucial NSW byelection, reports AAP.

It’s a must-win seat for the Berejiklian government which will be left up to three seats in minority unless the Nationals hold the seat on Saturday.

A YouGov poll published in the Daily Telegraph on Monday has the Nationals struggling to hold the previously blue-ribbon seat, meaning preference flows will be critical.

The YouGov poll of 400 people conducted in the Upper Hunter last week found 25% support for Nationals candidate Dave Layzell while Labor’s Jeff Drayton is sitting on 23%.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian along with NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro and NSW Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell officially open the NSW Nationals campaign office in Singleton in April.

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian along with NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro and NSW Nationals candidate for Upper Hunter Dave Layzell officially open the NSW Nationals campaign office in Singleton in April. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Shooters Fishers and Farmers candidate Sue Gilroy has 16% support, while One Nation’s Dale McNamara holds 11% support.

The Greens Sue Abbott has 6% support, the same as farmer Kirsty O’Connell – who is being supported by former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.

A hefty 19% of people remain uncommitted in the seat. Last election the Nationals won 34% of the primary vote.

The byelection was sparked by Nationals MP Michael Johnsen’s resignation in March after being accused of raping a sex worker in 2019. Johnsen strongly denies the allegations and has not been charged.

Last week a fourth government MP was forced to move to the crossbench.

Families minister Gareth Ward stepped aside on Thursday after it was revealed he is the subject of a police investigation into historic sexual violence allegations.

Former sports minister John Sidoti is also on the crossbench while the Icac investigates corruption allegations and upper house MP Matthew Mason-Cox was also expelled from the Liberal party earlier this month after defying premier Gladys Berejiklian by nominating for president of the upper house.


Second Indian repatriation flight expected to touch down this morning

Another thing to look out for is the second Indian repatriation flight landing in Darwin today.

Everyone is extremely keen to find out how many people were actually let on to this flight, after Saturday’s repatriation plane touched down with just over half of their seats filled.

Forty-two of the 150 people booked on the first repatriation flight, which landed in Darwin on Saturday, were barred from flying after they tested positive either in PCR tests in the days prior to departure or rapid antigen tests at the gate, and 30 more were barred as their close contacts. About 80 people made the flight and are quarantining at Howard Springs.

Passengers disembark a Qantas repatriation flight from India at RAAF Base Darwin on 15 May.

Passengers disembark a Qantas repatriation flight from India at RAAF Base Darwin on 15 May. Photograph: Stewart Gould/EPA


OK, so this is all about making sure we have enough fuel supplies if something in the international community happened that meant petrol deliveries were suddenly cut off. (No prizes for guess which countries the government might really be worried about here.)

Well, how many days of fuel do we actually have if worst comes to worst?

Angus Taylor:

Right now, we’re sitting on 83. We want to get it to 90. This package is all about getting it to over 90. But it’s also about ensuring that in the worst circumstances we can use our own crude oil and our own refineries to keep those core essential services going, as we did through the pandemic …

And we’ve seen around the world, the uncertainty that is being created in fuel markets. We saw a cyberattack on a pipeline in the US last week. We’re seeing what’s happening in the Middle East right now. It’s an important time to make sure we’ve got the fuel we really need in the worst possible circumstances.

Now, does it strike anyone else that $2bn dollars feels like a hefty price for seven extra days of fuel?


But the sounds of Angus Taylor, it seems taxpayers could be propping up the oil refineries long into the future.

So, the agreement is through to 2027. We would expect it to extend beyond that.

Part of the package is to require the refineries to do an upgrade to clean their fuels, to reduce the sulphur levels in the fuels, which has a very positive environmental benefit.

Once they’ve made that investment, it makes the refineries much more sustainable and they’ll be required to make that investment by 2024.

So, this is part of a broader package that underwrites the longevity of the refineries, ensuring the low-emissions, lower-sulphur fuel that we need, and most importantly keeps those essential services when we absolutely need them under the worst circumstances in a world that’s far less certain than it once was.


Protecting Australia’s two remaining oil refineries a matter of national security, says energy minister

Energy minister Angus Taylor says protecting Australia’s last two remaining domestic oil refineries is a matter of urgent national security.

It’s all about keeping our fuel supplies, when we absolutely need them. It’s all about national security. And ultimately this is about saying, “We will support the refineries to stay in the market in the worst possible circumstances. We won’t pay them anything if prices are solid, high.”

And ultimately as part of a broader package, which ensures that we have the fuel we need when we absolutely need it.

So, it means our truckies, our tradies, our commuters, our emergency service workers have access to that fuel when they really need t as they really need it, at an affordable price too, because an important part of this is making sure we’ve got competition and supply in the market as well as the reliable fuel we really need.

The minister for energy and emissions reduction Angus Taylor.

The minister for energy and emissions reduction Angus Taylor. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian


Victoria Crown inquiry begins in Melbourne

Another big news story from today, the Victorian royal commission into the suitability of gaming giant Crown to hold a Melbourne casino licence will begin hearing evidence this morning and has revealed its first witnesses.

First up, the commission will question Timothy Bryant and Jason Cremona from the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, reports Andi Yu from AAP.

Questions will focus on the gambling regulator’s monitoring of Crown, its investigation into the 2016 arrests of 19 staff across four Chinese cities, and junket operations.

All those arrested in 2016 were later charged with gambling promotion offences, and remain the subject an ongoing class action against Crown.

In 2019 media reports, it was alleged that Crown junket operators brought in high-rolling gamblers from China with links to organised crime.

The revelations led to the establishment of the Bergin inquiry in NSW, which in February found Crown unfit to run a casino at its newly built Barangaroo complex in Sydney.

The other two witnesses to be questioned in week one of the Victorian commission are Dr Murray Lawson, director of ethics and risk culture at top accounting firm Deloitte Australia, and Nick Stokes, head of financial crime and money laundering reporting officer at Crown Resorts Limited.

Written submissions to the Victorian royal commission closed on 26 April.

Inquiry CEO Elizabeth Langdon on Saturday released 30 submissions received from the public online. She said 46 had been lodged in total but not all were suitable for publication.

To provide greater opportunity for people to engage with the commission, she said relevant documents had been translated into eight languages.

Finkelstein has been given until 1 August to report back to the government with recommendations.

The logo of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts Ltd adorns the hotel and casino complex in Melbourne.

The logo of Australian casino giant Crown Resorts adorns the hotel and casino complex in Melbourne. Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters


Luke Henriques-Gomes

A nine-year-old girl who sometimes uses a wheelchair was described as not having mobility concerns in a report prepared for the national disability insurance scheme trial of independent assessments.

As debate continues about the controversial proposal, Sue Tape, whose nine-year-old daughter, Eliza, took part in an ongoing trial of the assessments in January, told Guardian Australia the family had agreed to be involved out of “curiosity” but they were unsatisfied with the process.

The changes were initially framed by the government as about making the NDIS fairer, but have since been recast as a “sustainability” reform, amid an intensifying debate about a claimed cost blowout, which is questioned by advocates.

The plan to have independent assessments carried out by government-contracted allied health professionals would replace the current system where people provide reports obtained from their treating specialists.

You can read the full report below:

Speaking of energy security, we are expecting federal energy minister Angus Taylor to speak with ABC in a few minutes to discuss these plans to keep domestic oil processing in Australia.

New measures to support refinery industry could cost Australian taxpayers $2bn

Paul Karp

Taxpayers could be on the hook for up to $2bn over a decade due to a fuel security payment committed by the federal government to protect Australia’s refining industry.

The Morrison government is seeking to ensure fuel security and save 1,250 jobs at the Viva refinery in Geelong and Ampol’s Lytton refinery in Brisbane.

Tuesday’s budget revealed the government would introduce a production payment to support domestic refiners and direct support for the refiners to upgrade their infrastructure, but the cost of both was “not for publication” due to “commercial sensitivities”.

On Monday Scott Morrison revealed the latter will cost up to $302m for infrastructure upgrades to help refiners bring forward the production of better-quality fuels from 2027 to 2024.

The variable fuel security service payment will see refineries paid a maximum of 1.8 cents per litre when the margin drops to $7.30 a barrel.

The payment will drop to 0 cents when the margin hits $10.20 a barrel, meaning refineries are only supported in downtimes and will not receive government support when they are performing well.

The payment has been costed at up to $2.05bn to 2030 on a worst-case scenario.

The government will introduce the Fuel Security Bill to parliament in coming weeks so the fuel security payment can begin on 1 July 2021. The bill will also set the key parameters for the minimum stockholding obligation that will commence in 2022.

The government will also accelerate the industry-wide review of the petrol and diesel standard to 2022, including a consideration of aromatics levels. This aims to create a Euro-6 equivalent petrol and diesel standard that are appropriate for Australia.

Morrison said, “this is a key plank of our plan to secure Australia’s recovery from the pandemic, and to prepare against any future crises”.

“Shoring up our fuel security means protecting 1,250 jobs, giving certainty to key industries, and bolstering our national security.”


Good morning and I have you are having a fantastic Monday.

Matilda Boseley here to take you through the day’s news.

The first thing to dive into today is the controversy surrounding India repatriation flights, with public health experts urging the government to facilitate medevac-style repatriation flights for Australians with Covid from India.

This comes as Qantas says it is investigating suggestions the Indian laboratory used to screen passengers before boarding a Qantas repatriation flight had its accreditation suspended by the nation’s laboratory board in April.

This has lead to multiple rejected Australian citizens seeking out their dwn Covid-19 PRC tests, and at least eight have since received a negative result.

Forty-two of the 150 people booked on the first repatriation flight, which landed in Darwin on Saturday, were barred from flying after they tested positive either in PCR tests in the days prior to departure or rapid antigen tests at the gate, and 30 more were barred as their close contacts. About 80 people made the flight and are quarantining at Howard Springs.

Prof Catherine Bennett, the chair of epidemiology at Deakin University, said the Australian government must be working to repatriate citizens that are older or have co-morbidities even if they are Covid-19 positive – their safety has become a human rights issue as the Indian medical system buckles during the second wave.

Prime minister Scott Morrison has since conceded that some potential passengers that tested positive “may not have been positive”.

He said: “The testing has got to be up to standard.”

Well, there is plenty to get through so why don’t we dive into the day?

If there is something you reckon I’ve missed or think should be in the blog but isn’t, shoot me a message on Twitter @MatildaBoseley or email me at [email protected].


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