Australia news live updates: experts call for public federal Icac; 23 Covid deaths; first debate confirmed | Australian politics


20.07

Government frontbenchers have tried to walk back the prime minister’s lack of commitment on establishing a federal corruption watchdog if he wins next month’s election.

Coalition ministers are claiming the government will again try to legislate the federal anti-corruption commission if it wins another term. That’s despite Scott Morrison this week effectively confirming the government would not meet its promise to legislate the watchdog, made prior to the last election.

Morrison has attempted to blame Labor’s lack of support for failing to bring legislation to the lower house.

Employment minister Stuart Robert appeared on Nine’s Today program this morning, and said the government would seek to establish the body in its next term.

We will come back again and we will seek, through a bipartisan level, to get that going.

Simon Birmingham, the finance minister, said the election would give it a mandate to act on the body. That’s despite the government already having taken the issue to the election in 2019, which it won.

We’re not going to legislate for the type of reputation-destroying, star chamber model we’ve seen in NSW.

19.36

My colleague Luke Henriques-Gomes reports that the Morrison government has excluded flood victims outside Lismore from a new $350-a-week “top-up” paid to those unable to work.

You can read his full report here:

19.20

Jack Newton dies aged 72

Australian golfing legend Jack Newton died overnight, aged 72.

Newton won the 1979 Australian Open, won once on the PGA Tour and was a three-time winner on the European Tour.

His family said he died overnight due to “health complications”. In a statement, they said:

(He) was a fearless competitor and iconic Australian, blazing a formidable trail during his professional golfing career between 1971 and 1983.

He fought back from tremendous adversity as only he could …

In true Jack Newton style, we will celebrate his incredible life, however, for now, our family asks for privacy and we appreciate everyone’s love, support, and friendship throughout his life.”

Newton is survived by his wife Jackie, daughter Kristie and son Clint. He has six grandchildren.

You can read the full story here:

19.07

Victoria records seven Covid-related deaths

Victoria, meanwhile, has recorded seven deaths and 9,600 new cases.

19.05

NSW records 16 Covid-related deaths

NSW has recorded 16 Covid deaths and more than 15,000 cases.

COVID-19 update – Friday 15 April 2022

In the 24-hour reporting period to 4pm yesterday:

– 96.1% of people aged 16+ have had one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine
– 94.6% of people aged 16+ have had two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine pic.twitter.com/X9JdZaJIcM

— NSW Health (@NSWHealth) April 14, 2022

19.03

Airport queues moving

Queues are so far moving faster than expected at major airports, after a week of huge delays. There were some concerns about another chaotic day at the airport on Good Friday. About 80,000 passengers were due to travel through Sydney airport alone.

AAP has this report:

Queues are moving well at Sydney airport even as hundreds of people fill the country’s busiest airport as they head out for Easter holidays.

Airports around the country will remain busy over the break and school holiday period.

Around 80,000 passengers are expected to depart Sydney on Good Friday and they are being advised to arrive two hours early for flights.

Twitter users reported large lines at Sydney airport on Friday morning.

“Terminal busy but queue moving,” said one user.

Another reported a “dream run” through baggage-check and another said the airport was “busy but lines are moving OK”.

People travelling through Melbourne airport reported similar conditions, with one saying they made it through bag drop and security in under 10 minutes.

It follows days of chaos at airports around the country with staff shortages due to Covid-19 isolation rules a major factor in the delays.

For much of Thursday queues and wait times at Sydney airport were hours long but eased later in the day.

Melbourne will handle 76,000 passengers each day over the Easter period while Adelaide is anticipating 25,000 on Friday.

Monday will be Hobart’s busiest-ever day for flights, with more than 81 planes coming and going.

With the relaxing of coronavirus restrictions, Australians are set to spend $7.1bn this holiday season, according to research conducted by Roy Morgan.

More than 4 million Australians are planning a trip away this Easter, with 63% travelling within their own state and more than one-third heading interstate.

People queue on arrival at Sydney domestic airport ahead of the Easter long weekend
People queue on arrival at Sydney domestic airport ahead of the Easter long weekend. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

18.47

The Q&A audience laughed at Liberal MP Andrew Bragg last night when he attempted to blame the government’s failure to legislate an anti-corruption commission on Labor.

The government has been under pressure over its broken promise on a federal Icac. The government drafted legislation, which was widely criticised, but never put it to parliament. Despite that, it is blaming Labor for its own broken promise.

Bragg told Q&A last night:

We’ve tried to establish an important institution and that hasn’t been possible and the Labor party wouldn’t agree so we’ll have to go it alone in the next term if we are returned to government.

Audience:

(LAUGHTER)

Bragg:

The point is you want to have an anti-corruption commission in Canberra to look at corruption, there are already things in the system like Senate estimates and the auditor general department which already exist, which are quite strong, but I think we should have an anti-corruption commission, it should be strong, it should have public hearings and I’m hoping we can deliver it in the next term.

Interesting to note there that Bragg supports public hearings. The model his government has proposed would not allow public hearings for government corruption. Public hearings would only be possible for law enforcement matters.

Chris Bowen, also on the panel, said it was a nonsense that the government needed to wait for opposition agreement before introducing legislation.

I mean, Andrew’s model is a joke. Experts have said you would be better off doing nothing. But to this whole farce of an argument that somehow they couldn’t introduce legislation, they haven’t even introduced the legislation, because the Labor party wouldn’t sign on to it, that’s a very interesting development. So apparently now the government is not going to introduce any legislation unless we agree first. This is great news! This is wonderful news! It means we now have power of veto as the opposition. This is just complete nonsense.

18.33

Think tank’s Icac warning

The Centre for Public Integrity has warned a federal anti-corruption commission that is unable to hold public hearings would be largely ineffective.

Scott Morrison is under pressure over his government’s failure to legislate an anti-corruption commission, despite promises to do so ahead of the last election. Morrison came up with a policy proposal and draft legislation, but his model was roundly criticised by experts, including for its inability to hold public hearings. Morrison has previously likened the NSW Icac to a “kangaroo court”.

On Friday, the Centre for Public Integrity released a new report saying the ability to hold public hearings were “critical” to the success of recent Victorian Ibac and NSW Icac investigations. The NSW Icac was able to expose corruption to the public in 42 public hearings and 39 public reports between 2012-13 and 2019-20.

Geoffrey Watson, former counsel assisting NSW Icac, said “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Watson, now a director with the Centre for Public Integrity, said “many investigations would not be successful without them”.

Corruption flourishes in the dark. Without public hearings the public may not find out about corruption investigations until years after the fact, if at all.

Retired judge Anthony Whealy, who is chair of the centre, said public hearings had not been overused by the NSW Icac.

Far from overuse, NSW Icac holds public hearings only in a fraction of its investigations when it is in the public interest to do so. Our research shows that, from 2012-2020, NSW ICAC held 979 private examinations and only 42 public inquiries.

A national integrity commission must be able to hold public hearings when the commissioner deems it is in the public interest to do so. It will be ineffective without this ability.

18.25

Labor’s Chris Bowen was on ABC Q&A last night and was asked when a Labor government would hold a referendum on the Indigenous voice to parliament.

He said he would prefer it to take place in the second half of the term of government, if that improved the prospects of success.

We want to see it happen. We want to see bipartisanship and I give credit to Andrew and his leadership here, he has been a very strong voice for a voice on his side of politics … But he is not in the majority in his party and we should give him more assistance and recognise his work. But it will need bipartisanship. Only eight referendums have passed without bipartisan support in all our lives.So it’s unthinkable that we would put it to the people and lose. So I’d rather – to answer your question, Stan, I’d rather put it to the people and win in the second half of the term than put it to the people in the first half and lose. It’s not my place to commit to a date tonight, it is not my place.That is the place of consulting with First Nations people and with the delegates to the Uluru Statement and working with them.

Liberal MP Andrew Bragg says he believes it can be achieved within 18 months and nominated a date of 27 January 2024 as a “target we should try and set sail for”.

We must keep faith with the Uluru Statement and there must be a proper analysis, which is run by Indigenous people, principally, about what sort of amendments would be adequate to deliver that agency and that agenda from Uluru. I think we can achieve that within 18 months. I’ve always liked the idea of trying to improve the general debate around Australia Day. I do think that 27 January 2024 is a target we should try and set sail for.

18.13

Retailers are expecting a big boost from Easter long weekend sales, boosted by unrestricted regional travel and grocery sales.

AAP reports:

Retailers expect a $7.1bn boost over the Easter long weekend as many Australians get away for the first time in two years.

Research by the Australian Retailers Association and pollster Roy Morgan estimate $1.5bn will be spent on food alone, including seafood, hot-cross buns and Easter eggs.

About one in 10 of the 2184 Australians surveyed said they would be spending more on food this year, while two-thirds said they would be spending the same.

Easter Saturday is one of the top 10 trading days of the year.

“For many, this is the first true holiday since the pandemic began,” association CEO Paul Zahra said, noting the long queues at domestic airports.

“Even Christmas last year was disrupted by the surge in Omicron cases and testing requirements to cross borders, which forced many people to cancel their plans at the last minute.”

Con Doukas arranges a fish display at Musumeci Seafoods at the Sydney Fish Market ahead of Easter long weekend celebrations.
Con Doukas arranges a fish display at Musumeci Seafoods at the Sydney Fish Market ahead of Easter long weekend celebrations. Photograph: Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

18.06

Party leaders to attend Good Friday services

So what can we expect from the leaders today?

Both parties have agreed to an unofficial “truce”, according to News Corp. They will limit campaign advertising and public appearances for the entirety of Good Friday.

Both the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and the Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, are due to attend church services.

That follows the script from the last election, when Morrison avoided public appearances on Good Friday, waiting until Saturday to appear at Westmead Hospital in Sydney to hand out chocolate eggs to sick children.

The then opposition leader, Bill Shorten, volunteered at a Salvation Army hostel on Good Friday, but made no significant public funding announcements.

We are expecting Morrison and Albanese to resume public campaigning on Saturday, before again breaking on Easter Sunday.

pic
Composite: Mick Tsikas | AAP & Lukas Coch | AAP

17.55

Both of the major parties have made significant commitments in the area of aged care in the lead-up to the election, following the aged care royal commission and the pressures of the pandemic.

But the nation’s largest home care provider, myHomecare Group, has issued a stark warning this morning. Speaking with the Guardian, its chief executive, Stuart Miller, said aged care workers were now at “breaking point”, facing huge turnover, increased demand for their services, abuse from families and low rates of pay.

He said the Coalition’s promised $800 bonus for workers, designed in part to help retain staff, was simply not working in home care. He said:

The outcome for us is that we are having to constantly manage which clients get the level of care that they need. We make sure those people who have urgent needs always get met, but sometimes it means your house might not get cleaned this week, it might have to wait until next week, and that’s a really unfortunate thing for everybody.

You can read the full story here:

pic
Photograph: Ute Grabowsky/Photothek/Getty Images

17.48

Sticking with the campaign, my colleague Paul Karp has taken an in-depth look at the seat of Curtin, in Perth, which has been in conservative hands since its creation.

Independent Kate Chaney, one of a crop of mostly inner-city independents backed by Climate 200, is seeking to change that. She’s running on a platform of greater action on climate change and integrity in politics.

You can read more about her prospects, and the mood on the ground, here:

17.38

Good morning

Hello and welcome to our live coverage for Good Friday.

It will be a relatively sleepy start to the Easter weekend, compared with the frenetic pace of campaign’s first week.

Scott Morrison and Anthony Albanese will both attend church services today and have confirmed they will square off in the first leaders’ debate on 20 April, in Brisbane, in an event hosted by News Corp outlets Sky News Australia and the Courier-Mail. The debate is to be hosted by Sky News journalist Kieran Gilbert and will include questions from voters.

Morrison cancelled events on Thursday after members of his security detail were involved in a serious crash in Tasmania, resulting in hospitalisations.

The news comes as the Coalition faces continued criticism about its failure to legislate an anti-corruption commission, as promised.

The government is also facing questions about some of its candidates, including Scott Morrison’s hand-picked candidate in McMahon, Vivek Singha, who accused the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, of causing “hatred [and] fear” in India. That follows repeated apologies from the Liberal party’s candidate in Warringah, Katherine Deves, who compared her anti-trans activism to standing up against the Holocaust during a YouTube panel.

Meanwhile, the ABC is reporting that Labor has ditched a commitment to hold a referendum on becoming a republic within its first term, instead focusing on prioritising the referendum to establish an Indigenous voice to parliament.

We’re also expecting a busy day at airports across the country, after wild scenes in the last two days. The Australian reports 79,000 travellers are expected to go through Sydney Airport on Friday, just shy of the 82,000 on Thursday.

Strap in, we’ll keep you across all the latest developments.





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