As it happened: Labor push ahead with NACC legislation despite whistleblower concerns; Senior Coalition MP gave secret advice to lobbyists – Sydney Morning Herald

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Thanks for joining me for today’s live blog coverage, that’s it from us for the day.
Here’s a rundown of today’s news in case you missed it:
I hope you have a lovely evening, we’ll see you tomorrow!
The Australian sharemarket closed up this afternoon, after setting a new 100-day high following a strong session on Wall Street overnight.
Wall Street traders had a strong day.Credit:AP
Gold miners were the standout on the index, with Evolution Mining up 6.6 per cent and Northern Star Resources ahead 2.6 per cent after a rise in gold futures overnight.
Coal miners were among the best performers yesterday, but took a hit during today’s trading, as the energy sector as a whole spent the day in the red. New Hope was down 8.8 per cent, Whitehaven Coal dropped 6.7 per cent and Yancoal slid 4 per cent at close of trade.
Qantas shares continued to rise during early trading today after the airline lifted its profit forecasts yesterday, but dropped off in line with the overall index during the afternoon. The airline closed up 0.2 per cent by the end of the day.
Read more in today’s wrap with Billie Eder here.
Moving to the central bank, and Shane Wright has reported that two sets of recommendations to overhaul the Reserve Bank may be handed to the federal government by the panel overseeing its first independent review in 40 years.
Of the more than 110 public submissions received, the panel said there was a mood for change.
But panel members also said today that a “high bar” would need to be met for any changes to be made to the bank’s role.
The review followed an investigation by this masthead that showed concerns about how the bank was operating monetary policy ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. Both sides of politics went to this year’s election promising a review.
An option raised in some submissions was for a separate RBA board of monetary policy experts to be established that would set interest rates. The existing board would oversee the RBA’s governance.
It’s a move that would bring the Reserve Bank into line with many other central banks but senior Treasury official Gordon de Brouwer said it would need bipartisan support for such changes.
There was also discussion about the make-up of the board, which is currently drawn from the business community and appointed by the treasurer of the day.
Back to question time, and the traditional owners of the destroyed Juukan Gorge rock shelters say they were disrespected and sidelined in the federal government’s formal response.
Environment and Water Minister Tanya Plibersek pledged the destruction of sacred sites would not happen again.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Mining giant Rio Tinto blew up the 46,000-year-old Juukan caves in May 2020, devastating West Australian custodians and causing global outrage.
Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek today presented the government’s response to a parliamentary report on the incident, labelling the sacred site’s destruction “unthinkable” and pledging it will never happen again.
But the traditional owners, the Puutu Kunti Kurrama and Pinikura people, claimed they had not been properly consulted.
Chairman Burchell Hayes said custodians were angry and disappointed there had been “no detail or meaningful follow-up”.
“We would have expected the minister would want to meet with us before making a public announcement about our country and cultural heritage,” he said in a statement.
Plibersek’s office said the minister had attempted to engage with the PKKP several times this week.
A parliamentary committee which examined the destruction found major federal law reform was needed to protect Australia’s cultural heritage.
Plibersek said the government had accepted seven out of eight committee recommendations and would work through the final one with the First Nations Heritage Protection Alliance.
Opposition spokesman Pat Conaghan said the issues raised by the report “drew into very sharp focus the wider need for the modernisation of Indigenous heritage protection laws here in Australia”, but that work to improve cultural heritage law should not “demonise” the resources industry or impose “unacceptable risks to sensible sustainable economic development across Australia”.
The sitting week might have Prime Minister Anthony Albanese occupied right now, but when summer rolls around, he’ll be able to kick back, relax … and plough through some books.
The Grattan Institute has recommended six books for Anthony Albanese.
Albanese might be more familiar with budget papers and briefing documents, but Jason Steger reports that the Grattan Institute has prepared a list of essential books it thinks the PM should read.
Every Aussie PM since 2009 has been given a list, including Scott Morrison who, four years ago, was recommended No Friend But the Mountains by former asylum seeker and Manus Island detainee Behrouz Boochani. That one might not have gone down well at The Lodge.
Grattan chief executive Danielle Wood said the lists weren’t based on a particular PM’s reading tastes, but “the archetypal PM who care about the direction of the country and is engaged with broad policy challenges”.
“Once you start trying to fit the books to any particular personality you get yourself in all sorts of trouble,” she said.
Of all the PMs the Grattan has given a list to, they’ve only heard back from one.
“It was Malcolm [Turnbull]. He asked for the books to be couriered to his holiday home rather than The Lodge and I think he read at least some of them that year. He was probably the most receptive PM to the idea of the list,” Wood said.
Returning to industrial relations, and Nationals leader David Littleproud has delivered a rural spin on the Coalition’s attacks over the governments IR bill.
Littleproud asked that, if a representative for cattle ringers and station-hands on a property applies to the Fair Work Commission for a “single interest” agreement, whether all cattle properties in northern Australia could be roped into multi-employer bargaining.
Nationals leader David Littleproud has asked whether the government’s industrial relations bill relates to workers on cattle properties.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen
Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke replied: “Are these rules meant to be able to reach agriculture? Yeah, absolutely.”
Burke said some of the worst examples of wage theft had come from that sector.
“Not because of the farmers themselves but because of the labour hire firms, rorting the systems, where the farmers thought they were paying decent wages, they were being charged for them, but there was a rort happening that was never meeting the worker,” he said.
“I met with workers, I remember meeting Kate on a visa here from Taiwan, fishing out of the bins beside the supermarket to get food, and she had a full-time job.”
For readers following on from this morning, you’d know a cache of leaked emails revealed how Coalition MP Stuart Robert had been secretly providing advice to a firm that helps big companies win lucrative government contracts.
Bill Shorten said “the job of an MP is to work for your constituents, not your former business partners”.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Now, Government Services Minister Bill Shorten has asked the heads of Services Australia and the National Disability Insurance Agency to “immediately and thoroughly” investigate contracts awarded to companies named in this masthead’s report on secret advice provided by the Liberal MP to a lobbyist.
Speaking about reports in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers during question time in parliament, Shorten said Robert used his status as a federal MP in 2017 and 2018 to help the lobbying and consulting firm Synergy 360, “to help them sign up corporate clients with the promise of helping them navigate the federal public service and political system and meet key decision makers including senior coalition ministers”.
“Specifically, it was reported that emails reveal that Synergy 360 would frequently update corporate clients as to the progress and lobbying and providing access to senior government officials for the allocating and rewarding of several multimillion-dollar contracts,” Shorten said.
“This morning, I have asked the CEO of Services Australia, and the CEO of the National Disability Insurance Agency to immediately and thoroughly investigate any of the contracts awarded to these companies and individuals named in these reports, to assure me and the Australian people that the process was entirely above board and appropriate.”
Shorten said the government believed the job of the MP was to work for their constituents, “not your former business partners”.
“When there’s career lobbying as revealed by the emails, companies are required to be on the lobbyist register. This is not an option … If and when public office has been used to enrich private mates it’s corruption,” he said.
Staying in parliament house, and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has lampooned Opposition Leader Peter Dutton during question time as being “not welcome in Victoria” in the lead up to the state’s election on Saturday.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Peter Dutton was ‘not welcome in Victoria’.Credit:Alex Ellighausen
Segueing into an answer to a question about Labor’s industrial relations bill, Albanese said, “I know [Victorian Liberal leader] Matthew Guy wants him to have a vow of silence … and he’s not welcome in Victoria, but I welcome the leader of the opposition here to ask a question about industrial relations.”
Albanese then went on to spruik the government’s bill, which has been under fire from business groups and the opposition over its multi-employer bargaining provisions.
Question time is currently under way in the House of Representatives.
Watch live below.
Heading back to federal parliament, and the bill to establish the National Anti-Corruption Commission has cleared its first hurdle, passing the House of Representatives on the voices, paving the way for it to clear the Senate next week.
Its passage was preceded by a lengthy debate over amendments.
Only the amendments moved by the government were successful, while those moved by the opposition and by crossbench members were defeated.
As regular readers of this blog will know, a key sticking point during the debate was the requirement for the corruption watchdog to hold hearings in private unless there are “exceptional circumstances” and it is in the public interest to hold public hearings.
This means that the bid by independent MP Helen Haines’ bid to scrap the exceptional circumstances test was defeated, as was the Coalition’s attempt to strengthen safeguards for private hearings.
A second related bill that complements the NACC legislation is expected to pass House this afternoon.
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