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Saturday, March 2, 2024

Australia politics live: Penny Wong condemns ‘any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure’ after Gaza hospital blast

Australia politics live: Penny Wong condemns ‘any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure’ after Gaza hospital blast


‘We condemn any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure,’ Wong says on Gaza hospital blast

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, has responded to the strike on a Palestinian hospital, which has left at least 500 people, many of them women and children, dead.

Palestinian authorities fear the death toll could rise to over 1000. Palestine has blamed the IDF for the missile strike. The IDF has blamed a ‘misguided’ Palestinian rocket. Israel had earlier in the week ordered the evacuation of hospitals, which the World Health Organisation condemned.

Wong:

The scenes from the explosion at a Gaza City hospital are deeply distressing. It is clear there has been a devastating loss of life. Our thoughts are with those killed, those injured and their loved ones.

The protection of civilian lives must come first and respect for international humanitarian law is paramount. We condemn any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals.

The foreign minister has responded to the strike on a Palestinian hospital, saying ‘the protection of civilian lives must come first’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Key events

There is a question for the Fijian prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka

Q: You spoke yesterday about the Lowy Institute about how Pacific countries are bearing the brunt of the climate crises that they didn’t cause. You will be at the Pacific Islands Forum at the Cook Islands next month alongside Prime Minister Albanese.

Are Australia’s emissions targets enough or should we be curbing now fossil fuel developments? Do you expect the Pacific leader also use next month’s meeting to put pressure on Australia to shut down its fossil fuel industry?

Rabuka:

We are realistic about our demands. As the slowdown on some of the things that are making them tick at this time, that have contributed to the progress this far, and we have benefited from those, through aid and assistance and grants in the past, we do not want them to stop doing what they are doing.

We want them to tone down – the word is “sustainable”.

We all forget that we are all going for “sustainable”. It has to be sustainable. You don’t just stop everything.

It’s got to be sustainable in the, from the, from a sovereign point of view.

For us in the Pacific, we will have to contribute, to counter what has not been able to achieved quickly here, we in the Pacific, can con contribute towards through assistance for our mitigation and other programs that we carry out and …lessen the effects of climate change.

PM echoes Wong’s condemnation of ‘indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure’ in Gaza

Anthony Albanese is asked about the deadly missile strike on the Palestinian hospital, which has left at least 500 people dead, two-thirds believed to be children. The death toll is expected to double. Many Palestinians had been sheltering in the hospital after being told to leave southern Gaza by Israel. Israel has denied involvement in the missile strike and blamed a Palestinian group. Palestinian authorities have blamed Israel for the strike.

Albanese says:

We have seen a devastating loss of innocent life since the attacks on Israel by the terrorist group Hamas.

The scenes from the explosion at a Gaza City hospital are deeply distressing and it is clear that there has been a devastating loss of life. Every innocent life matters.

That’s whether it is Israeli or Palestinian.

Our thoughts are with those killed, those injured, and their loved ones.

The protection of civilian lives must come first, as the parliament said in its resolution that we carried on Monday.

And respect for international humanitarian law is paramount.

We condemn any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals. Australia joins with others in calling for international law to always be upheld.

When Australia hosts an official guest, the press conference is not an all in – the press gallery works out who to send, and the questions are workshopped (there is only a couple of questions allowed).

It’s the same when Australian leaders travel as official guests of other countries.

Albanese signs agreement with Fiji prime minister

Anthony Albanese is holding a press conference now, after signing an agreement with the prime minister of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka.

The discussion ranged from economies to climate change and from cybersecurity to the region’s security and sport.

The prime minister of the Republic of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka, at a meeting with Anthony Albanese in the cabinet room of Parliament House.
The prime minister of the Republic of Fiji, Sitiveni Rabuka (right), next to Ajay Amrit, Fiji’s high commissioner to Australia, at a meeting with Anthony Albanese at Parliament House. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

NSW and Western Australia plans for EV road user tax likely invalid after Vic high court decision

We’ve been digging further into the high court’s 4-3 ruling that Victoria’s electric vehicle charge is invalid. Not only does this mean that Western Australia and New South Wales’ plans for road user charging are likely invalid, the decision exposes a range of other state levies to challenge from car registration, to gaming taxes to waste levies.

In a joint judgment then chief Justice Susan Kiefel, Stephen Gageler and Jacqueline Gleeson said the case was the “first time this century” the court had considered the constitutional section stating that the power “to impose duties of customs and of excise” is exclusive to the commonwealth.

In a move that could cause wider ramifications beyond road user charging, the court reopened and overruled a precedent case from 1974, for the “anomalous and unsustainable” conclusion that a tax on the consumption of goods is not an excise.

The court concluded a prohibited state excise is a tax that is closely related to the production or manufacture, sale, distribution, or consumption of goods, that could affect its manufacture or production.

In separate judgments justices Michelle Gordon, James Edelman and Simon Steward dissented.

Gordon accused the majority of an “abandonment of past authority”, citing cases “which held that particular taxes on goods were not a duty of excise” that “must now be wrong”.

Gordon noted that Victoria had argued other charges that could be challenged on the same basis include “duties on the transfer or conveyance of goods … motor vehicle duties and vehicle registration charges, commercial passenger vehicle levies, gaming machine levies and ‘point of consumption’ betting taxes, and waste disposal levies”.

Edelman said that “without any empirical or economic evidence” the majority had concluded that a tax of around $300 “is reasonably anticipated to have a real and substantial economic effect in the market for the sale of goods worth up to $300,000 each”.

Steward accused the commonwealth of a “remarkable and entirely unprecedented” power grab by arguing that it “had exclusive power to impose consumption taxes”.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Labor should refund tax ‘paid by electric vehicle users’, Victorian Greens say

The Victorian Greens are calling on the state government to refund all electric vehicle drivers who were slugged with a tax the high court has found was unconstitutional.

Upper house MP Katherine Copsey told reporters outside parliament:

The ruling from the High Court today is a win for the climate and for Victorians who want to bring down their transport emissions. Labor’s electric vehicle tax was always a ridiculous idea.

The Greens fought it tooth and nail when it was first introduced and it’s great to see that the community has had this win today.

Transport is Victoria’s fastest growing source of emissions and we need to see a change in direction.

Labor now needs to refund the tax that’s been paid by electric vehicle users, they need to repeal it in parliament and they should go further to correct course.

We should see subsidies and incentives for the uptake of electric vehicles and switching to climate-friendly forms of transport.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

‘Shock after shock’: RBA’s governor speaks on Middle East conflict affecting inflation

The RBA’s Michele Bullock was also asked about how the Middle East conflict might affect inflation in Australia.

At the Australian Financial Security Authority summit in Sydney, according to AAP, Bullock said:

Typically, when we think about shocks to supply that increased prices, you think, well, that’s probably ‘OK, it’ll wash out’.

But the problem is that we’ve just got shock after shock after shock.

And the more that that keeps inflation elevated, even if it’s from supply shocks, the more people adjust their thinking, and the more people adjust their inflation expectations, the more entrenched inflation is likely to become.

Asked why the RBA might not have been prepared for Hamas’s attack on Israel and the still unfolding subsequent response, Bullock said the tensions were “not unknown” even if the timing of the attacks were a surprise.

Some shocks are things that come completely out of the blue.

I think the Russian invasion of Ukraine, possibly, and the pandemic definitely.

Oil prices have lifted overnight in the wake of the horrific bombing of a hospital in Gaza, with oil futures rising about 1.5% to just under $US88 for a barrel, according to Bloomberg.

As it happens, average petrol prices eased in the past week to about $2.04 for a standard unleaded litre, compared with 208.5 cents a week earlier, the Australian Institute of Petroleum said.

Five Eyes partnership to ‘defeat’ intelligence threats, Burgess says

Mike Burgess then moves to the reason for the summit between the Five Eyes partners.

(For those who don’t know, Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing partnership between Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States).

Burgess:

We will meet and defeat this threat because we have a weapon that others do not.

The power of partnerships.

The power of the Five Eyes which is underpinned by shared values and common resolve.

…[For] the private sector, academic sectors, security is a shared responsibility and we want to work with you to raise awareness of these threats, stricken defences, build resilience and secure your success, this summer partnership, the summits will advance this partnership and this summit will protect these partnerships.

Chinese intelligence tried to infiltrate prestigious Australian institution, Asio boss tells summit

Mike Burgess:

Just last month, Asio detected and disrupted a plot to infiltrate a prestigious Australian institution.

The plot involved a visiting professor, a genuine academic who had also been recruited by Chinese intelligence.

Their spymaster had given them money and a shopping list of intelligence requirements and sent them to Australia.

The academic even set his Australian PhD students research assignments in line with his intelligence requirements.

I took a personal interest in this case as an engineer, I was flattered, somewhat, that one of the topic researched was me but if they were looking for the next Mark Zuckerberg, they picked the wrong gig.

Working with the research institution, Asio intervened and removed that academic from the country before that harm could be done.

This sort of thing is happening every day in Australia as it is in the country here (the summit is happening in California, US).

Threats on IP sector ‘are serious but not insurmountable’, Burgess says

Mike Burgess:

China has developed a ruthless business model aimed at seizing commercial advantage.

Stealing intellectual property is the first step in the … talent programs, joint ventures and acquisitions to harvest the expertise to exploit the intellectual property.

Sometimes that technology is put to military use, often it is given to companies and mass-produce undermining the innovator. Our discussions here will raise awareness of the rates and improved defences.

Simple steps can make a difference.

We cannot think we are helpless and that resistance is futile. The threats facing the [IP] sectors are serious but not insurmountable. Our adversaries, are sophisticated but not unstoppable.

Chinese government engaged in most ‘sophisticated theft of intellectual property’ in human history, Asio boss says

Asio boss Mike Burgess is speaking at a Five Eyes press conference which is focussed on Chinese hacking.

Burgess says:

It’s no surprise nations want to steal Australian innovation, from the electric drill to Wi-Fi to penicillin to Google Maps, the black box recorder to the refrigerator. Australia is a nation of innovation.

I mention this not to boast but to remind us that innovation can be lifesaving and world changing.

Which is what makes it so valuable.

Each of the countries here can make a similar claim – in fact, innovation is a global endeavour and no nation alone can claim leadership. Unless of course you cheat.

All nations by, all nations are ceased due to advantage but this summit is focused on behaviour that goes well beyond traditional espionage.

The Chinese government is engaged in the most sustained scale [of] sophisticated theft of intellectual property and expertise in human history.

It is unprecedented and unacceptable.

Catie McLeod

Catie McLeod

Up to police to allow another pro-Palestine march, Minns says

The New South Wales premier, Chris Minns, says he will leave it up to the police to decide whether another pro-Palestine march through Sydney’s CBD should go ahead on Saturday.

Organisers have submitted an application to the police to hold the march after staging a largely peaceful static gathering in Hyde Park on Sunday following a more chaotic march held last Monday, at which some people chanted antisemitic slurs.

Addressing the media on Wednesday, Minns said:

The right to protest is legal in NSW, but we’ll have no tolerance for hate speech. And if there’s any incitement to violence or racial vilification, the police are going to … show no tolerance.

After coming down hard on the pro-Palestinian rally organisers last week, Minns softened his rhetoric when he was asked about the bombing of a hospital in Gaza on Tuesday night which killed hundreds of civilians.

He said:

Obviously, I’m really concerned about the loss of innocent Palestinian civilian lives, particularly children.

We’re in the midst of an international crisis, that may well get worse before it gets better and that’s having consequences right here in NSW.

While it might be the case that it’s too much to expect for the community to pull together right at this moment, we can’t let international events pull us apart either.

Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

Independent MPs call for case against war crimes whistleblower David McBride to be dropped

A group of independent MPs and senators are again calling on Mark Dreyfus to discontinue the case against war crimes whistleblower David McBride, who is due to face court next month.

The crossbenchers, which included Helen Haines, Andrew Wikie, Kate Chaney, Sophie Scamps and Rebekha Sharkie, were joined by whistleblower advocates in urging the attorney-general to intervene and stop the case, as he did last year with lawyer Bernard Collaery.

McBride will face court in November nearly five years after being charged for his role in leaking documents to ABC journalists relating to alleged war crimes by defence force personnel in Afghanistan.

Wilkie described the federal government’s commitment to strengthening whistleblower protection laws “hollow” while the case against McBride was being pursued.

The fact that we have the whistleblower about alleged war crimes in Afghanistan as the first person to front a court in Australia about the alleged war crimes in Afghanistan just beggars belief.

Wilkie went on to say he had spoken with Dreyfus, who had told Wilkie he would not intervene as the cases against McBride and tax office whistleblower Richard Boyle were not “exceptional circumstances”.

Immigration minister Andrew Giles has given an update on the number of New Zealanders who have taken up the fast track to Australian citizenship offer which opened in July.

More than 30,000 New Zealanders have applied for citizenship in the first 100 days – New Zealanders living in Queensland take up more than one-third of applicants, with Victoria coming in second, and New South Wales, third.

For some context on what Penny Wong was responding to, there is this story from our correspondent in Jerusalem;

‘We condemn any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure,’ Wong says on Gaza hospital blast

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, has responded to the strike on a Palestinian hospital, which has left at least 500 people, many of them women and children, dead.

Palestinian authorities fear the death toll could rise to over 1000. Palestine has blamed the IDF for the missile strike. The IDF has blamed a ‘misguided’ Palestinian rocket. Israel had earlier in the week ordered the evacuation of hospitals, which the World Health Organisation condemned.

Wong:

The scenes from the explosion at a Gaza City hospital are deeply distressing. It is clear there has been a devastating loss of life. Our thoughts are with those killed, those injured and their loved ones.

The protection of civilian lives must come first and respect for international humanitarian law is paramount. We condemn any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure, including hospitals.

Australia politics live: Penny Wong condemns ‘any indiscriminate attacks and targeting of civilian infrastructure’ after Gaza hospital blast
The foreign minister has responded to the strike on a Palestinian hospital, saying ‘the protection of civilian lives must come first’. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Housing market surprises RBA’s new governor, who also wants media to help with messaging

RBA’s Bullock is asked about what surprised her, and housing prices top her list.

The housing market has surprised me a bit,” she tells the AFSA summit.

We noted yesterday house prices not falling but in fact picking up for most of this year is not what the RBA (or many analysts) had forecast at the start of 2023 given interest rates were on the climb.

Bullock also talked about the importance that the public’s expectations about inflation “don’t get de-anchored”. Yes, markets are still expecting inflation to be well outside the RBA’s 2%-3% target range one year out but further into the future they are pencilling in 2.5%.

(The RBA’s current projections, to be updated on 10 November, have CPI dropping to 3% by June 2025.)

Should inflation expectations lift, “it will be hard” to bring inflation back down in the future, Bullock said.

We’ll get September quarter inflation numbers on 25 October, which will no doubt generate a lot of media and public attention.

Bullock has just wrapped up. To this ear, she sounded fully at ease (with few pointed questions, it should be said) and cracked the odd joke. She noted her predecessor, Philip Lowe, had been at the end of a lot of flak.

We can take difficult decisions and yes, [Lowe] did cop a lot but I think he got knocked off, though, by Alan Joyce,” Bullock said, referring to the now ex-chief executive of Qantas.

As to her approach to journalists, she said they could help the RBA get its message out.

[W]hat we want to do is communicate with the Australian people and the media can help us to do that, but I wouldn’t say we are aiming at the media.



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