As it happened: PM announces $1.5 billion energy bill relief; police union calls for Lehrmann case inquiry – Sydney Morning Herald

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That’s it for today! Thanks for joining me for this afternoon’s blog. We’ll be back tomorrow with more news as it happens.
Here’s a wrap of today’s headlines in case you missed them:
In Victoria, the Environmental Protection Authority has uncovered 3000 tonnes of hidden plastic bags linked to the collapse of Australia’s largest soft plastic recycling program.
Have a wonderful evening, we’ll be back with our live news coverage next week.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton and shadow minister for climate change and energy, Ted O’Brien, have slammed the government’s energy bill relief measures, saying they will push up prices, in a press conference in Brisbane today.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has criticised the Albanese government’s energy bill relief measures.Credit:Nine News
Referring to the price caps announced by the prime minister this afternoon, Dutton said that, “nowhere in the world has there been any experience of success in capping prices.”
“What the government needs to do is to drive more supply of gas into the market instead of reducing supply,” he said. “This government is an economic train wreck.”
O’Brien said a consequence of the price caps would be a reduction in energy supplied to the market.
“Everybody who has studied even the basics of economics knows that price is a function of supply and demand,” he said. “Once you place a price cap down, you are pushing supply down. As a result, prices will go up, the liability will get worse, jobs will be compromised, and Australia’s energy security will continue to be jeopardised into the future.”
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk says the federal government has agreed to chip in for multibillion-dollar pumped hydro projects in the state as part of the deal reached by national cabinet to lower power prices.
Speaking from Brisbane after the virtual meeting, Palaszczuk — who has been vocal about compensation for any price cap on state-owned coal power operations — said the result was a “great day for Queensland”.
Annastacia Palaszczuk has agreed to chip in for multibillion-dollar pumped hydro projects in the state.Credit:AAP
With the state now set to direct a cap on the price of coal bound for domestic power stations at $150 per tonne, Palaszczuk said the federal government had also given commitments to “jointly” fund early work on key renewable projects.
“It’s good that this is only for one year…I commend the prime minister [Anthony Albanese] for that,” she said of the price caps.
The state and Commonwealth will also work through additional issues with Gladstone’s privately-owned coal power station.
Asked to elaborate on the funding agreement, said in-part to help work on a key $12 billion central Queensland pumped hydro project still subject to lengthy assessments, the Premier remained coy. “We can talk about those details later,” she told reporters.
The state government had been seeking federal money for the project, part of its broader energy transition plan.
Palaszczuk said the Commonwealth would also contribute money to fast track the Rockhampton ring road project.
Opposition leader Peter Dutton has responded to the national cabinet’s energy bill relief announcements from this afternoon.
And to the United Kingdom now, where the royal family has rebuffed claims made in Prince Harry and wife Meghan’s Netflix documentary series that members of the royal family declined to take part in it, amid the fallout from the release of the first three episodes.
The program, which began streaming yesterday, displayed an on-screen statement at the start of the documentary that stated: “Members of the royal family declined to comment on the content within the series.”
In one of the episodes, Harry, the youngest son of the King, claimed there was a “huge level of unconscious bias” within the royal family and that Meghan said that her job as an actress “clouded” the judgment of the royals when she was first introduced to them.
Harry and Meghan share their story in a new Netflix series.
Harry also directed a veiled swipe at his brother, who he suggested failed to see why Meghan needed protection from racist abuse in the UK both in the press and online. The pair said the palace instructed the couple to say nothing.
While both Buckingham and Kensington Palace – the official households of the King and Queen consort and the Prince and Princess of Wales – said they would not comment publicly about the program, several British media outlets have reported they have denied claims they were approached for a right of reply to the content of the six-part series which began streaming on Thursday.
The much-hyped program threatens to drive a further wedge between the royals and Harry, who has a strained relationship with his father and brother since he left Britain for California in 2020.
Read Rob Harris’ story here.
The competition watchdog has lost its case in the federal court against Google after alleging Google misled Australian consumers in the way it gained their consent to use their personal information for targeted advertising.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleged Google misled consumers when it failed to properly inform them, and did not gain their explicit informed consent, about its move in 2016 to start combining personal information in consumers’ Google accounts with information about those individuals’ activities on non-Google sites that used Google technology, formerly DoubleClick technology, to display ads.
A court has dismissed the ACCC’s claim that Google deceived or misled users about the use of their data.Credit:Bloomberg
This meant this data about users’ non-Google online activity became linked to their names and other identifying information held by Google. Previously, this information had been kept separately from users’ Google accounts, meaning the data was not linked to an individual user.
Google then used this newly combined information to improve the commercial performance of its advertising businesses.
The Federal Court of Australia on Friday rejected the ACCC’s submission and ordered it to pay Google’s costs. Judge David Yates said he was not satisfied that the Commission had established that Google contravened the Australian Consumer Law as alleged.
Federal parliament will be recalled before Christmas to pass laws to enforce price caps on coal and gas under a national deal on energy that aims to ease pressure on household bills next year.
The price controls are a drastic new measure to shield Australians from a global energy shock, imposing a cap of $125 per tonne on coal – half the rate on the spot market – and about $12 per gigajoule on gas for electricity generators and other big energy users.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has announced $1.5 billion in relief for energy bills.Credit:Nine News
But the framework will need further talks between Canberra and the states to decide the financial assistance that can guarantee savings, most likely by offering taxpayer help to retailers before they send bills to households.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese reached a broad agreement with state and territory leaders on Friday to impose the new regime after planning the policy for weeks and declaring he wanted a solution by Christmas.
“I’m pleased to announce there was agreement at the national cabinet on the way forward to provide energy price relief for household and for businesses,” he said after the meeting.
While the big coal-producing states of NSW and Queensland will impose the price controls on coal for domestic customers – while leaving export contracts alone – the gas controls will be done by the federal government and will require parliament to meet in the next weeks.
The national cabinet meeting, held online because Albanese has COVID, concluded after 90 minutes of talks, but it struggled to get a final deal on the amount to be paid in financial assistance because of differences between the states.
Albanese said the agreement was to take “urgent action” across federal and state governments to deal with the energy shock caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Firstly, the Commonwealth will take action on gas with a mandatory code of conduct for the next 12 months to set a price of $12 per gigajoule.
Parliament will be recalled next week to deal with the legislation needed to enforce this cap.
The second element would be an agreement between the federal, NSW and Queensland governments on the $125 cap on coal, with the states expected to use their powers (a change to the law in NSW and an existing regulation in Queensland) to enforce this cap.
Albanese acknowledged the concerns in NSW about the impact on the cost of production and said the Commonwealth would provide support for that.
The Commonwealth will provide $1.5 billion to provide relief for households and small business, paid through state governments to reduce people’s bills.
Albanese said this would be better than offering cash handouts because the cash payments would add to inflation.
“It will also be temporary but will start in the second quarter of 2023,” he said.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spoke about reaching a deal on capping power prices, following this afternoon’s National Cabinet.
Three thousand tonnes of plastic bags have been discovered in six Melbourne warehouses after the collapse of Australia’s largest soft plastics recycling program.
Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority uncovered the waste in sites in Melbourne’s west and north as part of an ongoing investigation into the REDcycle program, which was suspended last month after secretly stockpiling soft plastics for years.
REDcycle, Australia’s largest soft plastics program collapsed in early November sending the waste to landfill.
“Although the operators of REDcycle did tell us about some of the sites, intelligence from logistics companies and others is assisting EPA’s investigations. If you have any of these soft plastic wastes at your warehouse, we need to know,” the authority said.
The REDcycle program collapsed in November amid revelations hundreds of millions of bags and other soft plastic items dropped off by customers at Coles and Woolworths are being secretly stockpiled in warehouses and not recycled.
Instead of being taken to companies that use the plastic to make other items, REDcycle was transporting the plastic to warehouses for long-term storage in what some experts considered a potential environmental and fire safety risk.
Read the full story here.
Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority has provided an update after 3,000 tonnes of plastic bags were discovered in six Melbourne warehouses following the collapse of Australia’s largest soft plastics recycling program.
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