Australian news live: year of Sydney train disruptions looms; businesses push back on ‘same job, same pay’ laws

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01:18Christopher Knaus

Legal services call for investigation after reports police were directed to take ‘strong approach’ to enforcing Covid fines

Two community legal services have lodged a formal complaint against NSW police over its “heavy-handed” enforcement of Covid fines during the pandemic.

The Redfern Legal Centre and Public Interest Advocacy Centre said on Monday they had asked the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission to investigate the way police enforced Covid fines, following an internal video published by the Sydney Morning Herald showing former NSW police commissioner Mick Fuller directing officers to take a “strong approach to enforcement” and that they “start to issue tickets over using discretion”.

In a statement, Redfern Legal Centre chief executive officer, Camilla Pandolfini, said the significant volume of fines issued by police suggested they were not using their discretion to issue fines and were instead issuing them by default.

Some of our clients were as young as 12 years old when NSW Police officers issued fines to them. Parents called us, in tears, unable to pay the fines issued to their young children.

People experiencing homelessness, with significant mental health conditions, or returning home from their shift as health workers were fined by NSW Police. Many of these people were not actually in breach of the directions.



Sydney trains $97m maintenance catchup to cause year-long weekend disruptions

Sydney train commuters will endure a year of weekend disruptions as premier Chris Minns says it’s time “to bite the bullet” on a $97m backlog of overdue maintenance.

AAP reports that Minns told Sydney radio 2GB on Monday the blitz on the beleaguered rail system will be done “mainly on weekends and certainly out of peak hours”:

We need to do this … because maintenance on the railway networks is at an all-time low.

About 80% of Sydney trains were running on time but that figure should be 95%, he said.

That’s because there hasn’t been enough money put into maintenance. We’ve just got to bite the bullet and get on with it.

The transport minister, Jo Haylen, revealed on Sunday a major review of the system found several years’ worth of critical maintenance was required to prevent things from getting worse.

The review made 12 recommendations for restoring reliability to the network, which has suffered repeated meltdowns.

A new timetable introduced in 2017 was found to be responsible for the huge backlog of work and repairs because it left very little time for workers to gain access to tracks. Buses would be substituted for at least a year when tracks were being repaired.

Sydney Trains CEO, Matt Longland, said there would be “significant track works over the next few months” but promised there would be a concerted effort to minimise disruption for commuters.

australian news live: year of sydney train disruptions looms; businesses push back on ‘same job, same pay’ laws

The Sydney train network has suffered repeated meltdowns in recent years and only about 80% of services have been running on time. Photograph: Roni Bintang/Getty Images



Melbourne flood alert system to be transferred to BoM after last year’s disastrous flooding

Melbourne’s flood alert system is set to be overhauled after more than 500 homes and businesses were inundated without warning last year, AAP reports.

Melbourne Water, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Victoria State Emergency Service will work together to improve flood forecasts and warning systems following consultation in the aftermath of the Maribyrnong River flooding disaster in the city’s northwest last October.

Responsibility for flood warnings and forecasts will be transferred to the BoM, bringing Melbourne into line with the rest of Australia.

After the October 2022 flood, Melbourne Water was criticised by residents who said warnings came too late.

At Chifley Drive in Maribyrnong, the river rose from a minor flood level of 1.7 metres at 4.25am on 14 October to a major flood level of 2.9 metres two hours later.

In a 36-page submission to its Maribyrnong flood inquiry, Melbourne Water admitted the river rose faster than its modelling predicted.

Melbourne Water managing director, Nerina Di Lorenzo, said:

We know that every minute counts in a flood emergency. Simplifying the process of generating flood warnings between our agencies will further improve timeframes and better support our community when extreme weather events occur.

australian news live: year of sydney train disruptions looms; businesses push back on ‘same job, same pay’ laws

Persistent rain caused flooding in the north-west of Melbourne last October. Photograph: Diego Fedele/AAP


05 Jun 2023 00:38

Plibersek says fisheries were consulted on marine park expansion

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has been giving a press conference about the Macquarie Island marine park expansion. She’s asked about the response from the seafood industry who say there was a lack of consultation with them about the proposed changes.

Plibersek responds that on the contrary, public consultation had gone for months and involved fishing companies directly:

Well, I have spoken directly to the two companies involved on several occasions. There’s been months of public consultation. We’ve had about 14,700 responses from the public. Only a handful actually opposed the addition of more highly protected waters around Macquarie Island.

I made a slight adjustment to the original maps that I proposed, to give the fisheries operators slightly more water to fish in. They have argued they should be able to trawl sometimes in the future and I said no to that. The waters are too precious to allow trawling. They’re not doing it now and I don’t want them to be doing it in the future.

Plibersek said the government expects the marine park expansion to be operational from 1 July.


05 Jun 2023 00:30Elias Visontay

High Speed Rail Authority board appointments announced

Planning for high speed rail in Australia has inched slightly further forward, with the formation of the inaugural board for the government’s soon to be launched High Speed Rail Authority.

On Monday, transport minister Catherine King unveiled five board appointments for the HSRA which is set to commence operations on 13 June.

Jill Rossouw will chair the HSRA board. Rossouw is currently executive director if infrastructure at IFM Investors and a board member of the Port of Brisbane.

Other board members will be: Gillian Brown who is a director of Ausgrid; Diane Crowther who is the CEO of the UK’s High Speed One railway; Ian Hunt who was CEO of the Moorebank Intermodal Company and is a non-executive director of Canberra Light Rail; and Neil Scales who was recently director general of the Queensland transport department.

In a statement, King said the appointments followed a “merit-based process” and that the board has appropriate skills, qualifications, knowledge and experience to best bring high-speed rail to reality.

High speed rail was a signature policy Anthony Albanese took to the May 2022 election; however, announcements for the project – which has been promised to begin with a stretch between Sydney and Newcastle – have been few and far between in the more than 12 months since Labor took office.


04 Jun 2023 23:59Daniel Hurst

Jail terms for exploiting migrant workers to be introduced in Australian government crackdown

Australian employers who exploit migrant workers will be banned from hiring other visa holders and will face new criminal penalties as part of a government crackdown.

On Monday the federal government will announce legal changes to tackle what it calls “a crisis of exploitation with up to one in six recent migrants paid less than the minimum wage”.

The changes, to be introduced to parliament within weeks, will include making it a criminal offence to coerce someone into breaching their visa condition. This offence will attract a penalty of up to two years in prison.

The government will also use new prohibition notices to “stop employers from further hiring people on temporary visas where they have exploited migrants”.

In addition to tripling some existing financial penalties, the government will give temporary visa holders who are sponsored by an employer much longer to find a new job. This aims to ease the pressure exploited workers face to stay in poor conditions.

Some visas currently allow a gap of only 60 or 90 days between employer sponsors. The new gap of 180 days aims to make it easier for sponsored migrants to move between employers.

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, said that over the past 10 years the migration system had “drifted deeper and deeper into reliance on low-paid temporary migrant workers who we know are routinely exploited”.

Read the full story here:


04 Jun 2023 23:48

Business groups argue ‘same job, same pay’ laws would disadvantage workers

I mentioned a little earlier that business groups have glommed together to launch a campaign against the federal government’s proposed “same job, same pay” industrial relations laws.

They’ve released a statement this morning, arguing that the legislation would “lead to lower wage growth and fewer jobs” – essentially that it will make things harder for workers. Here’s a sample of what they’ve got to say:

The so-called ‘Same Job, Same Pay’ proposals does not mean equal pay for men and women. It does not speak of fairness and justice, as its name falsely represents.

It means by law, employers will have to pay workers with little knowledge or experience exactly the same as workers with decades of knowledge and experience.

It means by law, you cannot earn better pay by working harder or longer, if your colleague does not share your ambition or work ethic.

This retrograde policy will deny Australian workers flexibility and the capacity to be treated individually. It will deny them the opportunity to negotiate more pay for harder work.

The signatories here – sorry for the word salad that you’re about to read – are those noted champions of the working class: the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, Business Council of Australia, Council of Small Business Organisations Australia, Master Builders Australia, Minerals Council of Australia, National Farmers Federation, and the Recruitment, Consulting & Staffing Association.

We heard from the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, earlier, who said the point of the legislation was to ensure that labour hire, casual workers, and gig workers aren’t used to undercut the pay and conditions that had been won by permanent employees.

The government’s notes on the proposed legislation are quite useful here, with some of the principles being that “business should be able to access labour hire for genuine work surges and short-term needs” but also that “labour hire workers should be paid at least the same as directly engaged employees doing the same work”.

Expansion of marine park a ‘huge win for world ocean protection’: Plibersek

04 Jun 2023 23:36Lisa Cox

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, has signed off on a final design for an expanded marine park that will triple the size of the Macquarie Island marine park in the Southern Ocean, calling it a “huge win for world ocean protection”.

Plibersek announced plans to add an area about the size of Germany to the park in February.

Public consultation has finished, with 99% of submissions in favour, and the minister will now recommend to the governor general a proclamation to expand the marine park to 475,465 sq km, including large new areas designated as high protection zones.

Halfway between Hobart and Antarctica, Macquarie Island and the surrounding waters are home to species including the endemic royal penguin, rockhopper penguin, subantarctic fur seal, southern elephant seal, black-browed albatross and the grey petrel.

The original proposal was to put an additional 388,000 sq km under the highest level of protection. Plibersek said that had been altered slightly to 385,000 sq km due to a small adjustment to the Patagonian toothfish fishing zone in response to feedback from the fishing industry.

Plibersek said 93% of the expanded park would be completely closed to fishing, mining and other extractive activities:

I want to protect our oceans for our kids and grandkids. This announcement is part of our mission to conserve Australia’s special places, particularly those that are home to threatened species.

Macquarie Island is an exceptional place. It’s a remote wildlife wonderland – a critical breeding ground for millions of seabirds, seals and penguins.

An alliance of 27 environment groups, including the Pew Charitable Trusts and the Australian Marine Conservation Society, welcomed the decision.

National oceans manager for the Pew Charitable Trusts, Fiona Maxwell, said by tripling the size of the park and making 93% a fully protected marine sanctuary, “Australia has given Macquarie’s wildlife the best possible chance to survive and thrive into the future”.

When the plan was announced in February, the seafood industry’s peak body Seafood Industry Australia said it was concerned about the proposal, labelling it an overreach “funded by international activists” that would “tarnish the sustainably managed toothfish fishery”.


04 Jun 2023 23:34Elias Visontay

Qantas and Virgin given little incentive to cheapen air fares, watchdog warns

Australian aviation is at a “critical juncture”, with policy shortcomings allowing for a duopoly marked by higher air fares and poorer service, the consumer watchdog warns, as it loses extra resources to scrutinise the sector.

Qantas Group – including budget carrier Jetstar – and Virgin Australia have carried 90% of domestic passengers over the past two decades, and as many as 94% in April this year, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s quarterly domestic aviation monitoring report released on Monday, the final edition of the three-year task.

Average revenue per passenger – while down from last December’s record air fare peak – remains just above pre-pandemic figures even when adjusted for inflation, but the number of passengers and seats flown by airlines hovers just under 2019 levels.

ACCC chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb noted the high market concentration in Australian aviation is rivalled only by natural monopolies such as electricity grids and rail networks.

Without a real threat of losing passengers to other airlines, the Qantas and Virgin Australia airline groups have had less incentive to offer attractive airfares, develop more direct routes, operate more reliable services, and invest in systems to provide high levels of customer service.

Read the full story here:

Matt Shirvington to replace David Koch on Seven’s Sunrise morning show

04 Jun 2023 23:27

Seven has announced Matt Shirvington will replace longtime Sunrise presenter David Koch, who resigned from his role at the morning TV show in May after 21 years in the job.

Shirvington, 44, has been a fill-in presenter on Sunrise for a while now, and has worked a sports presenter and commentator for Seven since 2020. But he’s perhaps more widely known for his performance on the track in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. He moved into media after his athletics career wound down in 2006.

Shirvington said in a statement this morning that he was “excited but also humbled” to take on the job.


04 Jun 2023 23:20

Plibersek dodges question on number of fossil fuel projects seeking approval

Plibersek has come under fire for approving a new coalmine in May despite the repeated warnings from climate campaigners, in line with scientific advice, that no new fossil fuel developments should go ahead if the world is to limit global heating to 1.5C.

Asked how many coalmine projects are sitting on her desk at the moment, Plibersek skips away from answering the actual question:

Yeah. Look, I think the most important thing is that we have a legislated pathway to net zero in Australia. So the previous government had 22 energy policies; they didn’t land one. They weren’t prepared to commit to taking us on this journey to net zero, so we’re behind the eight ball.

We’re starting slow, but I have doubled the rate of approval for renewable energy projects. I’ve got a lot more renewable energy projects on my desk.

As you say, I have approved one coalmine. I have cancelled two others. We do need to get a wriggle on with this transition to get more renewable energy into our grid.

We’ve got a target of 82% renewable energy in our east coast grid, and we’re building massive offshore windfarms, we’re – as I said, you know, picking up the pace … we need to make that transition.


04 Jun 2023 23:16

‘Well over 99%’ of 14,700 submissions on marine park expansion were in favour: Plibersek

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, is giving interviews this morning about the expansion of the Macquarie Island Marine Park.

She tells ABC TV the government received 14,700 submissions from the public consultation process into the project, the vast majority of them supporting it:

This is a great opportunity to add to the area of protected oceans around Australia. We’ve got a target of 30% of our land and 30% of our waters protected by 2030, so we really are getting a wriggle on with that.

I announced in February that it was my intention to protect this beautiful place and since then, we have had several months of public consultation, we have had 14,700 submissions from the public about this place, and well over 99% of them supported the expansion of the marine park because people understand that this is a unique and beautiful place.


04 Jun 2023 23:12

‘Same job, same pay’ laws about ‘closing loopholes’ for undercutting pay, says Chalmers

Jim Chalmers was also asked about business groups who have launched a campaign against Labor’s “same job, same pay” legislation, which the government says is aimed at making sure that labour hire and other insecure working arrangements aren’t used to undercut other workers’ pay and conditions.

One of the criticisms business groups have made of the legislation is that they say it will prevent them from hiring someone with experience and paying them better as a consequence.

Chalmers responds to that criticism:

This isn’t about stopping businesses rewarding experience. It’s about making sure that workers are eligible for the pay and conditions that the employers have agreed with their workforces. It’s about closing loopholes to make sure that labour hire, for example, or casual workers or gig workers are used in the way that they’re intended.

We recognise that there’s a role for example, for labour hire, whether it’s expert work, whether it’s surge capacity; we know that there’s a role there, but we don’t want to see it used as a sort of ongoing way to undermine and undercut people’s pay and conditions that have been negotiated with employers. That’s our motivation here. It’s not about trying to prevent businesses from recognising different levels of experience.


04 Jun 2023 23:02

Chalmers: government ‘prepared to consider’ whether more should be done after AFP investigates PwC

Asked whether he thinks there ought to be penalties for PwC, Chalmers says the federal police investigation needs to roll out first, through the government will consider further action “if more needs to be done”:

First of all, let’s let the AFP process play out. That’s important. Treasury’s referred it to the AFP. And there are other steps we’re working through, cleaning up the tax practitioners board, the AFP referral, and the steps being taken on procurement, I think represent a pretty decisive and methodical response. And if more needs to be done, we’re prepared to consider it.

Chalmers says PwC scandal ‘a substantial breach of faith’

04 Jun 2023 23:00

The federal treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has been speaking on ABC RN this morning. He’s asked about the PwC tax scandal. He says it’s something “that “people have got a right to be absolutely filthy about” and that it amounts to “a substantial breach of faith”.

He says he doesn’t know the “precise number of contracts” that PwC has with the government, although it’s “substantial”, and that the government needs to shift away from relying quite so heavily on external contractors and consultants:

But what we have done since being made aware of this really appalling behaviour, that people have got a right to be absolutely filthy about, is we’ve worked through a decisive and methodical response on cleaning up the tax practitioners board [and we have] already got legislation in the parliament to that effect.

Treasury referred it to the federal police. The finance department is strengthening their procurement framework. And we’re asking people to take into consideration this behaviour when they award future contracts. And if there’s more that can be done beyond all of that, obviously, we’re prepared to consider it.

We think that there has been a substantial breach of faith and a substantial breach of trust here. And we need to get on top of it so that people can have faith in the way that these things are done into the future, at the same time as we rebalance a bit away from the overuse of external contractors and consultants and try and rebuild capacity and the Australian public service.


04 Jun 2023 22:34

Good morning. Welcome to a brand new week.

First up this morning is the news that Macquarie Island marine park is set to triple in size, with an extra 385,000 sq km added to the ocean reserve, according to the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek. This will result in a total park size of 475,465 sq km, with 93% of it completely closed to fishing, mining and other extractive activities.

Macquarie Island is halfway between Hobart and Antarctica, with the surrounding waters home to species including the royal penguin, rockhopper penguin, subantarctic fur seal, southern elephant seal, black-browed albatross and the grey petrel. We’ll have more on that shortly.

Elsewhere today, we’re expecting Justice Anthony Besanko to publish the full reasons for Thursday’s decisions in the Ben Roberts-Smith case, after they were held back by a few days to ensure they did not unintentionally reveal classified information. It comes as the Australian government now looks for “a way forward” to compensate families of victims of alleged war crimes in Afghanistan.

And that’s just the start of it. I’m Stephanie Convery, I’ll be with you for the next few hours. Caffeinate yourself.

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