As it happened: PM calls on Optus to pay for fresh customer passports; Labor says federal budget set to face $32b deficit – Sydney Morning Herald

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That’s all from us tonight, if you’ve just joined us, here are the biggest news events of the day:
And a court in military-ruled Myanmar sentenced Australian economist Sean Turnell to three years in prison for violating Myanmar’s official secrets act, and Foreign Minister Penny Wong slammed the conviction, calling for him to be released.
Thanks again for following along. Broede Carmody will be with you bright and early tomorrow morning to take you through the news of the day.
The government will work with First Nations Australians on how best to deliver the referendum to establish a voice to parliament, including how to make it accessible to Indigenous people.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told the voice working group in Canberra today that every member of his government was committed to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart.
“From the people around this room (to) everywhere I go in the country, I’ve got to say there is enormous goodwill,” he said. “This is an opportunity to lift the whole nation up. We have so much to learn from Indigenous Australians.”
Linda Burney has put the Indigenous Voice to parliament at the top of the government’s agenda. If the referendum is successful, it will change what it means to be Australian.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney, Special Envoy for Reconciliation Pat Dodson and Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus met with the referendum working group today.
Discussions focused on the timing of the referendum, refining the question to be put to the public and the information needed to help the referendum to pass.
While a date for the referendum has not been set, it is likely to be held in 2023.
Albanese said he recognised there is a risk to holding the referendum.
“If we don’t have a referendum, then by definition it won’t succeed,” he said. “The risk has to be balanced up with the certainty of failure if you don’t try.”
The group also discussed the design of the voice, including that the body provides independent advice and is made up of First Nations people based on the wish of local communities but it will not have a program delivery function or a veto power.
A constitutional expert group to advise on the referendum will also be established by the government.
The West Australian government has restricted the purchase of nitrous oxide gas canisters – also known as “nangs” – to people over the age of 16.
The reclassification by the Therapeutic Goods Administration of the gas to a schedule 6 poison also requires labelling of warnings against inhalation of the nitrous oxide gas inside the canisters.
Under these new regulations, in effect from Thursday, any sale of nangs to someone under the age of 16 would breach the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014, which carries with it a maximum penalty of $30,000.
Nitrous oxide is often sold in small metal canisters.Credit:Rob Brewer/Flickr
Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the efforts were put in place to protect young people whose brains were more vulnerable.
“These new restrictions will make it much harder for young people to get their hands on these small bulbs of nitrous oxide,” she said.
“Physicians are seeing an increase in some chronic uses of nitrous oxide with some really significant neurodegenerative conditions.
“They are incredibly dangerous and poisonous, particularly for young brains that are still developing.”
Limitations to the number of canisters that can be purchased and times they can be purchased online and in retail are currently being negotiated with the industry.
Read more here.
Singapore: The Nobel Prize-winning former head of the Roman Catholic church in East Timor has been accused of sexually abusing boys during the country’s independence struggle in the 1990s.
The Vatican will investigate the claims made against Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo in a report by Dutch news magazine De Groene Amsterdammer, its representative in East Timor said.
Bishop Carlos Felipe Ximenes Belo pictured at his home in Dili in 1996, the year he was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.Credit:AP
The publication quoted two men who alleged that as teenagers, between the ages of 14 and 16, they were sexually abused by Belo at his residence in Dili and then paid money by the bishop.
“He knows that the boys have no money. So when he invited you, you came over and gave you some money,” the report quoted one of the alleged victims as saying. “But meanwhile you are a victim. That’s the way he did.”
Belo, 74, a revered figure in deeply Catholic East Timor who shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 with current Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta, hung up the phone immediately when approached by the magazine for comment.
But the allegations contained in the report would be investigated by the Vatican, said Marco Sprizzi, its representative in East Timor.
“Pope Francis is so much engaged in zero tolerance so no doubt after an article like that, they are investigating and they will investigate deeply,” he told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. “I’m sure 100 per cent of that.”
Belo, who now lives in Portugal, became a Timorese hero during the Indonesian occupation and was awarded the Nobel Prize for his non-violent resistance.
In September 1999, he was evacuated on an Australian Air Force plane to Darwin as pro-Indonesia militia attacked his home, where 5000 people had sought refuge from violence in the aftermath of the East Timor independence vote.
Read more here.
Major gas producers have promised to offer all available supply to Australian buyers before shipping it overseas in a deal with the federal government to prevent a predicted LNG shortfall on the east coast next year.
But Australia’s gas buyers are disappointed the agreement fails to address the soaring gas price, warning high energy costs are pushing some manufacturers to breaking point.
The Albanese government has claimed a win under a deal with LNG exporters to supply the domestic market.Credit:AP
The competition watchdog last month forecast a shortage of 56 petajoules in 2023 – about 10 per cent of domestic demand – escalating concerns over rising costs for gas-reliant manufacturers, and prompting Resources Minister Madeleine King to threaten unprecedented export controls if the industry failed to boost domestic supply.
Queensland producers Origin Energy-backed APLNG, Shell’s QCLNG joint venture and Santos’ GLNG committed on Thursday to offer 157 petajoules to the domestic market before overseas clients over the next 12 months.
King, who renewed warnings exporters would face penalties in recent days, hailed the deal as a win, saying it included several measures that would “put downward pressure on prices” for local gas buyers.
The agreement requires producers to provide more information to the market on the amount of gas produced and volumes available at any given time.
LNG companies have also committed to offering gas contracts to local buyers at no more than the cost of the export spot market less the price of processing and shipping, known as the netback price.
Read more here.
High interest rates and financial turmoil have wiped $500 billion in wealth from Australian households, with warnings from Treasurer Jim Chalmers the global economy has become a “pretty dangerous place” that will pull some of Australia’s key trading partners into recession.
As official data showed inflation at a 30-year high, Chalmers said it would be “foolish” to believe Australia and the federal budget could be spared from the fallout of the troubling economic conditions emerging around the world.
The slowing property market and tumbling share market have delivered the biggest three month hit to Australians’ wealth on record.Credit:Flavio Brancaleone/The Sydney Morning Herald
The Reserve Bank board meets next week, with markets and economists expecting it to lift interest rates for a record sixth consecutive month. Markets are tipping another half percentage increase in rates on their way to a peak of 4.2 per cent by the middle of next year.
Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show the early impact of the interest rate rises in the three months to June, with total household net worth falling by $484.1 billion or by more than $5 billion a day.
It was the largest fall on record, although net worth still stands at $14.4 trillion.
The bureau said the drop was driven by weakness in the housing market and the superannuation sector.
The value of land and buildings dropped by almost $150 billion in the quarter while superannuation shed $294 billion in value. The biggest hit to property was in NSW and Victoria.
Read more here.
Queensland has guaranteed no national parks will be flooded as the government works with affected homeowners to push ahead with the world’s biggest pumped hydro scheme.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the Pioneer/Burdekin pumped hydro construction on Wednesday as part of the government’s $62 billion 10-year energy plan.
With the potential to deliver up to 120 gigawatt hours, the project will be 21 times bigger than Wivenhoe hydro, currently the state’s largest.
It is expected to enter the construction phase in 2025, with the completion of stage two scheduled for 2035.
The Burdekin pumped hydro will be built primarily on cattle-grazing and sugar-cane land under a new public-owned entity, Queensland Hydro.
The premier said no national parks will be flooded as part of the multibillion-dollar scheme.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk on tour to promote the government’s $62-billion energy plan.
“I want to give that reassurance to the people of this region,” she told reporters on Thursday.
The government has allocated a $270 million down payment towards detailed planning of the project, with an expected total cost of $12 billion.
Energy Minister Mick De Brenni said that about 20 per cent of landowners had been contacted since the announcement and about 50 homes would be affected by construction.
He said about 1000 sites were assessed and the area west of Mackay stacks up the best.
Read more here.
Welcome to your five-minute recap of the trading day and how the experts are seeing it.
The Australian sharemarket has added to its early morning gains, buoyed by a healthy session on Wall Street that saw US markets post their most significant gains this month.
The ASX200 is up 1.86 per cent, or 117.9 points, to 6,579.9 points per cent at midday. All 11 sectors are in the green, with the energy sector leading the charge, up 3.63 per cent. Financial stocks are up 1.11 per cent, with all big four banks in positive territory.
The S&P 500 has snapped a six-day rout.Credit:Bloomberg
AGL stocks have rebounded after dropping at the start, up a modest 0.3 per cent after the company announced it would close the Loy Yang power plant a decade ahead of schedule. The brown coal plant generates about 30 per cent of Victoria’s power each year.
In other news, financial software company Iress has shed 15.4 per cent after announcing a downgrade in its earning guidance due to increased supplier costs.
Meanwhile, Australia’s job vacancies dropped slightly in August to one unemployed person per job vacancy. Despite the ease, job vacancies were still 107.4 per cent higher than they were in February 2020. The numbers indicate continued labour shortages and ongoing disruptions to operations.
US stocks and Treasuries rallied on Wednesday on the back of the Bank of England’s decision to stage a market intervention. The move boosted UK bonds and tentatively calmed markets.
On Wall Street, the S&P 500 snapped a six-day rout. It rose the most since early last month, and for the first time since the US Federal Reserve boosted rates and dialled up its hawkishness a week ago. The index jumped more than 2 per cent later in the session, bolstered by gains in shares after the company’s annual device event on Wednesday showed it pushing further into wellness, security and the auto industry.
Read more here.
STOCKHOLM: A fourth leak on the Nord Stream pipelines has been reported off southern Sweden, a Swedish news agency reports.
Sweden’s coast guards told news agency TT that they have a vessel on the site of the leak, off Sweden. All four detected leaks are in international waters, two near Sweden and two near Denmark.
Leaks from natural gas pipelines running from Russia under the Baltic Sea to Germany may be the result of sabotage.Credit:AP
The Nord Stream pipelines run through the Baltic to transport gas from Russia to Germany. Neither pipeline was operating, but both were filled with gas. The Danish and Swedish governments believe that the leaks off their countries were “deliberate actions.”
Before the leaks were reported, explosions were recorded. A first explosion was recorded by seismologists early Monday southeast of the Danish island of Bornholm.
A second, stronger blast northeast of the island that night was equivalent to a magnitude-2.3 earthquake. Seismic stations in Denmark, Norway and Finland also registered the explosions.
Some European officials and energy experts said Russia is likely to blame for any sabotage — it directly benefits from higher energy prices and economic anxiety across Europe — although others cautioned against pointing fingers until investigators can determine what happened.
Aged pensioners have been dragged into an ugly political brawl over how much they can earn before impacting their payments.
The partisan fight erupted after a late-night manoeuvre in the Senate, when a non-controversial government bill to make it easier for seniors to get cheaper access to everyday items was amended.
The income threshold for seniors health cards will soon be increased to $90,000 for singles and $144,000 for couples.
Minister for Social Services, Amanda Rishworth says the coalition is delaying relief for pensioners.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
But in a surprise move, the coalition and Greens joined forces to tack on an amendment to double the pension work bonus to $600 a fortnight, meaning older Australians could earn an extra $7800 a year.
The amended legislation passed the Senate but appears unlikely to clear the lower house when parliament returns in late October.
That means older Australians will have to wait longer for cheaper medicines and trips to the doctor.
Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth confirmed the government would strip out the amendment about work bonuses.
“The Liberal-National coalition attached an unrelated amendment to the legislation as a political stunt,” Rishworth told AAP on Thursday.
“We want to ease cost of living pressures for older Australians and it is disappointing the coalition is delaying this much-needed relief.”
The government has already introduced its own work bonus bill to the lower house, which would allow pensioners to earn $4000 a year before having their payments cut.
Labor’s proposal equates to about $150 extra a fortnight while the coalition and Greens pushed for $300.
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