Australia news live updates: $800m grant fund review finds no rorts, Burke ‘interested’ in unions’ wider pay claims plan

Key events

Greens support unions’ collective bargaining proposal

RN Breakfast host Patricia Karvelas is now speaking to Bandt about the upcoming jobs and skills summit.

Bandt has said he supports the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ proposal for collective bargaining.

Bandt flags party’s support in Senate could help Greens push to stop new coal and gas

Asked by ABC Radio how the Greens will push to stop new coal and gas:

We need to have a moratorium on new coal and gas … we’ll be pushing for a climate trigger in our environment laws because we know the climate crisis is the biggest threat to Australia’s environment.

… but also the government’s safeguard mechanism is coming up that’s going to require the support of the Senate.

We are heading towards the climate cliff at 200km an hour the government is gently tapping the brakes with its climate legislation but then flooring the accelerator by opening new coal and gas projects.

Government undoing its own climate legislation, Greens leader says

On Wednesday, resources minister Madeline King announced 10 new areas totalling over 46,000 km of ocean, would be open for exploration.

The leader of the Greens Adam Bandt is now speaking to ABC Radio about that decision.

Bandt said despite the decision, the Greens will still be supporting the government’s emissions reduction legislation, but his party is still continuing to advocate for a moratorium on new coal and gas projects.

The ink isn’t even dry on the climate legislation and the government is already undoing it … you don’t end the climate wars by opening new coal and gas projects.

Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt.
Australian Greens leader Adam Bandt. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

In hiding, an Afghan woman set alight by the Taliban is forced to wait to join her brother in Brisbane

The last post told you the statistics behind the visa backlog.

My colleague Eden Gillespie brings you this story which shows you the human impact of where those backlogs leave people like Huma.

Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Immigration minister says system is ‘broken’ but new staff reducing backlog

Immigration minister Andrew Giles has told a Sydney thinktank Australia’s visa system has been devalued and decimated, and will take years to restore. He told the Sydney Policy Lab last night:

The former government lost control of the visa system. Almost 1m visa applications were waiting for this Labor government. Good governance demands a figure far smaller.

Endless waiting affects migrants, families, businesses, and the community alike. Partners separated from their loved ones.

State governments unable to complement their stretched healthcare and education workforces. Universities unable to compete against global peers to discover new ideas and knowledge for the benefit of all Australians.

Giles said Australia typically has between 40,000 and 80,000 people living in the country on a bridging visa – an administrative visa given to someone who has a visa application pending. Currently, there are more than 330,000 bridging visa holders:

There is no better indicator of a broken system, mired in uncertainty for everyone involved. In a system where waiting times can be months or even years, there is no known end date to most bridging visas.

The majority of people who hold them are prohibited from leaving Australia. Daily life becomes a struggle. Changing jobs or even applying for finance becomes much more difficult.

Giles said at one point more than 200,000 applications for citizenship were waiting on determination from the department, with some people waiting more than five years for citizenship to be granted.

The minister said new investments in staff and training within the Department of Home Affairs had reduced the backlog, but there was more work to be done, and the redress would take time.

Giles said the government, too, would target the exploitation of migrant workers, seeking to end the weaponisation of “rolling” temporary visas to undercut pay and conditions:

Australia’s modern story has been told by people whose contribution is premised on the fact they were not guests in this country. This continues on the pathway to a better Australia, a reconciled nation that harnesses its diversity.

This is part of the recipe for a better Australia.

Ben Doherty

Ben Doherty

Employment minister open to unions’ collective bargaining proposal

The ACTU’s proposal for sector-wide collective bargaining is of interest to a new government prepared to consider “left-of-field” ideas, minister for employment and workplace relations Tony Burke has said.

Appearing on the ABC’s 7.30 ahead of a national jobs and skills summit next week, Burke said the new government needed to reinvigorate Australia’s industrial relations system and “get wages moving”:”

In the lead-up to the summit, I’m not – we’re not ruling things in or out, there’s some ideas pretty much left-of-field that we kept on the table. I do have to say I’m interested in what the ACTU has put forward. We need to be able to get bargaining moving and there are a few examples in different workforces where that concept of multi-employer bargaining is really interesting.

Burke alleged the former government deliberately kept wages low as a “design feature” of its economy:

We deliberately want to get wages moving. And we have this very unusual situation with the economy at the moment where unemployment is so low and that should create the hydraulic pressure that is pushing wages up, but instead, the pressure is there but the pipes have leaks in them. And bargaining not working is one of those key leaks. So if multi-employer bargaining is one of the ways of opening that up … I’m interested.

Drugs worth $150m found in imported car

More than $150m worth of the drugs ice and cocaine have been found in a vintage Bentley in a shipping container at Sydney’s Port Botany, AAP reports.

The container carrying the 1960 vintage Bentley S2 arrived on a ship from Canada this month.

The car underwent an X-ray and examination and authorities found 161kg of methylamphetamine and 30kg of cocaine hidden behind the headlights.

Yesterday NSW police executed a search warrant at Rooty Hill in Sydney’s west and arrested and charged two men aged 20 and 23.

A third man, 25, was arrested and charged in Ballina in the northern rivers region during a vehicle stop after police found 2.2kg of ice and more than $1.1m in cash.

All three men were refused bail to appear at local courts today.

Industry minister gives green light to grants awarded under Morrison secret ministries

Sarah Martin

Sarah Martin

The Industry minister, Ed Husic, has announced that a review of the grants awarded under the modern manufacturing initiative, which Labor complained made Scott Morrison the personal decision-maker for up to $800m of grants, did not breach any grant guidelines and will go ahead.

The audit checked whether grant rules were followed, whether the advice of the independent panels was followed and whether the program as a whole delivered value for taxpayers.

It found that the grants were all supported by an independent assessment committee and the processes adhered to grant guidelines. Husic said:

Despite the brazen attempt of the former Morrison government to politicise this grant process by delaying announcements until the election period and failing to inform unsuccessful applicants, the Government is now satisfied the companies have been awarded MMI funding according to the applicable grant process.

The Department of Industry, Science and Resources will now begin the contracting process for about half of the 68 grants announced under the program, with only 34 so far contracted.

Husic also took aim at the former government for waiting until “the last possible moment close to an election” to announce the successful recipients, and for failing to notify those who had been unsuccessful among the 400 applicants.

Good morning!

In the latest news out of former prime minister Scott Morrison’s secret ministries saga, the grants for the modern manufacturing initiative which Morrison would have overseen due to his swearing into the industry portfolio looked as though they could be in doubt.

But the current industry minister, Ed Husic, has given the green light to the grants, with an audit finding they did not breach any grant guidelines.

Meanwhile, the employment and workplace relations minister Tony Burke has indicated that he is open to the Australian Council of Trade Union’s proposal for collective bargaining.

Burke told ABC’s 7.30 last night that collective bargaining could help get wages moving:

I do have to say, I am very interested in what the ACTU have put forward.

Nine papers is also reporting that Burke will use a speech later today to announce a sweeping expansion of the industrial relations system.

Nick Bonyhady reports Burke will declare “Uber-style labour contracts a ‘cancer’ on the Australian economy, and is launching talks with major players on how to extend traditional employee rights to gig workers”.

The minister for immigration, Andrew Giles, gave a speech in Sydney last night on the administration of the immigration system, saying the government is starting to shift the backlog of visas:

We have shifted the backlog from almost a million visa applications to around 900,000.

Let’s get going!


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