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Australia news live updates: Linda Burney ‘believes deeply’ that a voice to parliament would have prevented Alice Springs crisis


Burney believes Indigenous voice would have prevented Alice Springs crisis

Linda Burney has told ABC radio that she believes “very deeply” that the situation in Alice Springs would not have escalated like it has had there been an Indigenous voice to parliament.

[If] the voice of the parliament had been established previously … we wouldn’t be where we are in terms of Alice Springs at the moment because we would be getting practical advice from people who are representative of the community in relation to these social issues.

I mean, it is wrong to think that the issue out here is just alcohol … There is a seasonal issue involved.

Karvelas:

Do you really think that if we’d had a voice to parliament, making recommendations, you wouldn’t have seen this situation escalate?

Burney:

I do believe that very very deeply. That’s the whole point.

Karvelas:

But the voices were telling you – they might not have been enshrined in the constitution, minister, but they were telling you and the Northern Territory government that things were going to explode.

Burney:

Which is why we are responding, which is why there was substantial money committed in the budget towards central Australia. This is not something that we walked into yesterday, Patricia, this has been something that we’ve been working with and dealing with for a very long time.

Key events

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The question of who bears responsibility for not heeding warnings that ending alcohol restrictions in the Northern Territory six months ago would lead to problems, continues to be a live debate with the territory government, current and former federal governments all accused of dropping the ball.

ABC News Breakfast’s Michael Rowland continues to press NT Chief Minister Natasha Fyles on the issue.

Rowland:

Just as recently as a couple of days ago you were pushing back against the reintroduction of wider alcohol restrictions saying they were discriminatory and would disempower Indigenous communities. Have you got I wrong, Chief Minister?

Fyles:

I think it’s really important for people to understand the context. The intervention caused disempowerment to Aboriginal Territorians. The point of that was to have a purgative time with no alcohol in remote communities whilst alcohol management plans were developed. They were developed by community and it was the previous Coalition Government that let them sit on Ministers’ desks in Canberra. Peter Dutton was part of the Cabinet that let stronger futures lapse without any other measure so the Northern Territory Government has done a huge amount around alcohol policy. We put in place a measure to support community, but I acknowledge that with six months of data, we need to do more and that’s why we will continue to work in this space with community, being careful that we don’t disempower people over what is a legal product.

Fyles continues to deny that in hindsight she should have brought in tougher legislation at a Territory level when the federal legislation expired in the middle of last year.

We brought in legislation. It was the Coalition Federal Government, Peter Dutton was a part of that Cabinet, that did nothing

Rowland:

But at the time, you were warned by the Country Liberal Party opposition and independent member of Parliament that your proposal would open the floodgates, lead to rivers of grog, have horrific consequences. Aren’t we seeing all of that now?

Fyles:

So we did put in place a measure and there is also a number of other measures, but what we are saying is we need to be agile in this space. We have had six months of those changes. So what we need to do is work with community around how alcohol is managed not just in Alice Springs, but in the broader central Australian community. It’s a very difficult issue because it’s a legal product, but we know the harm that it can cause.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Host Andrew Bolt also pressed Peter Dutton for his position on the Indigenous voice in the constitution, suggesting it divides Australians on race.

Dutton said:

I just don’t think we need to pull down one part of who we are as a culture or a people to build up the other and I think it’s equally applicable to Australia Day, to other debates, including in relation to the Voice. I think it’s important that we hear from a regional voice because there is … acute disadvantage and people do want to see an outcome, a better outcome and a better future for those people.

This is curious – last week Dutton told the Sun Herald he was in favour of constitutional recognition, but now he seems to be suggesting the voice “builds up” one group at the expense of others.

Dutton continued:

Well, Andrew, from my position, I’ve been very upfront and honest in relation to my approach: that is that we’re going through a discussion now, we’re going through trying to obtain all of the detail from the prime minister and from the government, and the onus is on the prime minister to provide that detail to millions of Australians. If there are fatal flaws, if there are insurmountable issues that we can’t get over, then we’ll be very clear about that, but I’m considering respectfully all of the information that is there at the moment.

Dutton had a few hints on the ultimate position: that “nobody’s in favour of racism in the Liberal Party” and that “of course” all Australians have to have their say in government decisions – not adopting but not refuting Bolt’s view that the voice amounts to special treatment.

Dutton said:

I will make very clear my position in due course. There are a lot of commentators and people who are our supporters and others who were calling for us, demanding that we state a position before the government even made their announcement when it was mooted that there would be a constitutional referendum. Now, we’re in a position where I believe very strongly that we’re putting appropriate pressure on the government, which we wouldn’t have been able to do had we just raced out of the blocks and declared a position without listening to all of the facts. I think the prime minister would be saying now, he’s not releasing any detail because Liberals have already made up their mind and other parties have already made up their mind and therefore they don’t deserve the detail.

NSW government headed for election defeat, polls suggest

A second opinion poll within days has pointed to defeat for the NSW government at the March election, AAP reports.

The Resolve Strategic poll published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday shows Labor is ahead with a primary vote of 37%.

The coalition’s primary vote is on 34%, down from the 42% vote it recorded in the 2019 election.

However, Dominic Perrottet’s rating as preferred premier is the highest since he succeeded Gladys Berejiklian in 2021 despite his recent admission that he wore a Nazi costume to his 21st birthday party.

The premier apologised for his behaviour, describing the incident as a naive mistake that did not reflect his views.

The poll found one-third of voters favoured Perrottet as premier, while 29% backed Labor’s Chris Minns. More than one-third of voters remained undecided.

The Greens are on a primary vote of 12%, while independents are polling at 11% as so-called “teal” candidates target a series of coalition blue-ribbon electorates in the hope of repeating successes from the federal election last year.

A recent YouGov poll, published in The Sunday Telegraph, also predicted the end of 12 years of coalition government in NSW at the election on March 25.

If found Labor led the coalition by 56% to 44% on a two-party preferred basis, while it was ahead by 39-33% on first preferences.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Peter Dutton appeared on Sky News’ Bolt report last night for an I-told-him-so type discussion about how the opposition leader went to Alice Springs in October and called for a royal commission into sexual abuse of children.

Dutton welcomed Anthony Albanese’s trip to Alice Springs – but appeared to chip him for not making it a media event, commenting “they’re strange circumstances where you don’t tell the media you’re going, you go in just for a short period of time and I just question who he’s been able to meet with in such a short visit”.

Dutton said:

I just don’t understand how in our country, in this year, any leader in Alice Springs can sit back – or across the country, for that matter, as you point out – can sit back and tolerate the knowledge of what’s happening in Alice Springs. I mean, it kills me to think of the young children who are being sexually violated in that community or anywhere. But the prevalence is acute in Alice Springs and other parts of the Northern Territory at the moment. There are many people who are having their lives adversely impacted, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and we hear from the Northern Territory [chief] minister and it really runs, this is a theme that runs through the prime minister’s thinking as well, is that they don’t want to act because of race. I mean it’s just such an absurd proposition: they need to act because these kids need to be protected. They need to act because people are committing offences against the law. If the rule of law isn’t applied equally, then you will get disorder and dysfunction within communities and that’s not what we want to see. So, I just think if you know that there are these abhorrent behaviours and activities taking place, I just don’t know how, as a leader, you can sit there and be quiet. We need to stand up, be heard, make sure that the response is provided, the changes take place, and the lives of these kids and women are improved.”

An absurd proposition and also not one I’ve heard the prime minister make or a straw man in other words.

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

People of Alice Springs might say help took too long: Burney

Burney was also pressed on what was done to heed early warnings, such as Central Australian Aboriginal Congress chief Donna Ah Chee’s warning that freer access to alcohol would add “fuel to the fire” of social issues.

Burney said:

Yesterday we made important progress and that’s what I want to focus on. This is the beginning of the response. Not the end.

I have been in discussions with the Northern Territory government and community organisations here in Alice Springs for a number of months and yes I have expressed that there needs to be some very, very real thoughts put into our alcohol restrictions.

Asked if the NT government took too long, she replied:

Look, I’m not going to get into whether they’ve taken too long or they haven’t. But clearly, if you ask people in Alice Springs, the answer might be ‘yes’. But the most important thing is that we made enormous gains yesterday, [central Australian regional controller] Dorelle Anderson will report back in one week and then we will know where we will head after that report back.

Burney said the federal government had made commitments at the election related to community safety, denying that it had taken too long to get involved.

Burney believes Indigenous voice would have prevented Alice Springs crisis

Linda Burney has told ABC radio that she believes “very deeply” that the situation in Alice Springs would not have escalated like it has had there been an Indigenous voice to parliament.

[If] the voice of the parliament had been established previously … we wouldn’t be where we are in terms of Alice Springs at the moment because we would be getting practical advice from people who are representative of the community in relation to these social issues.

I mean, it is wrong to think that the issue out here is just alcohol … There is a seasonal issue involved.

Karvelas:

Do you really think that if we’d had a voice to parliament, making recommendations, you wouldn’t have seen this situation escalate?

Burney:

I do believe that very very deeply. That’s the whole point.

Karvelas:

But the voices were telling you – they might not have been enshrined in the constitution, minister, but they were telling you and the Northern Territory government that things were going to explode.

Burney:

Which is why we are responding, which is why there was substantial money committed in the budget towards central Australia. This is not something that we walked into yesterday, Patricia, this has been something that we’ve been working with and dealing with for a very long time.

Should governments have acted sooner on alcohol restrictions in Alice Springs?

The Northern Territory chief minister Natasha Fyles and the minister for Indigenous affairs Linda Burney have appeared on ABC Radio after the announcements in Alice Springs yesterday.

Fyles was reluctant to say her government should have heeded warnings that ending alcohol restrictions six months ago would lead to a crisis.

Fyles stressed that the intervention in the NT disempowered Aboriginal Territorians and that it was the previous Coalition government who was responsible for ending the Stronger Futures legislation.

It was the previous coalition government that walked away and left the Northern Territory with no measures.

Burney followed, saying she had brought it up with the Northern Territory government:

I had expressed that there needs to be some very, very real thoughts put into our alcohol restrictions.

Patricia Karvelas:

Do you think it took too long?

Burney:

Look, I’m not going to get into whether they’ve taken too long, If you ask the people in Alice Springs, the answer might be yes.

Linda Burney: ‘Being able to drink is not more important than being safe’

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

The Indigenous affairs minister, Linda Burney, has spoken to Radio National about social issues including lack of access to drinking water and alcohol related-violence in Alice Springs.

Burney said:

I went to Stuart Park last night and met with local people living in town camps … many of who had obviously experienced violence. And one of the things that really shocked me is, I was talking to the local member Marion Scrymgour who had visited the hospital and there are 16 beds in ICU, 14 of those were taken by Aboriginal women who had been beaten … I think alcohol is one of the major contributors to some of the problems.

It’s about balance – but being able to drink is not more important than being safe, in my view.

Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney.
Minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Thorpe’s ‘divisive tactics and motives’ similar to Dutton’s: Marcia Langton

The Indigenous academic Prof Marcia Langton has written in the Australian newspaper this morning ahead of Australia Day, which she says has “become a field day for the culture warriors”.

It’s unnecessary and boringly ritualistic to persist with this annual festival of identity crisis. It has become a field day for the culture warriors. January 26 was established as the national day only 29 years ago, and yet those who are committed to it like to give the impression it was written in stone in their golden age of imperialism.

Langton, who is co-chair of the Indigenous voice to parliament design group, says that both sides of politics know how the culture war works, saying that the motives and tactics of the opposition leader Peter Dutton and the Greens’ First Nations spokeswoman, Lidia Thorpe, are “very similar.”

Dutton knows how this culture war works. And his confected outrage this week has been timed to undermine the most important idea that could unite Australians in a vision of the nation all can take pride in – the proposed Indigenous voice to parliament and government; the culmination of thousands of Australians discussing ways to overcome the frontier hatreds that persisted from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Greens senator Lidia Thorpe knows how this culture war works too, and has done more than her fair share to wreck the chances of Australians voting for a voice. She is the leader of a new faction in the Greens party – the Blak Greens. Relying on her persona as a Greens senator by day, Thorpe has rallied her gaggle of supporters to con Australians into thinking this year’s Survival Day rallies are protests against the voice. She and the Blak Greens – I think there are three of them – prioritise “treaties and truth-telling” over the voice. That the voice would inform the parliament and governments on not just dire issues such as the urgent need to curtail alcohol supply into vulnerable towns such as Alice Springs, but also about treaty aspirations guided by a Makarrata commission, seems to be beyond the comprehension of the far left.

Thorpe’s divisive tactics and motives are very similar to those of Dutton’s in undermining the voice. Dutton doesn’t want details for the sake of information. He wants the opportunity to undermine any details that will be released. Thorpe wants nothing more than to repeat the claims about “waste of money” and “useless”. It’s just a matter of time before Dutton says this about the information that will be made public in February.

Prof Marcia Langton.
Prof Marcia Langton. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Good morning!

Thanks to Martin for kicking off proceedings for us this morning.

The government will today host a roundtable meeting to address sexual violence associated with dating apps.

The minister for social services, Amanda Rishworth, told ABC radio this morning there was “big interest” from the tech companies to address the issue.

Rishworth says she wants to see the design of the apps incorporate features to prevent or intervene early in instances of sexual violence.

Can we put, for example, education about respectful relationships? Can we use the technology to look at patterns of behaviour and intervene early?

And more on the news in the Northern Territory – the federal and territory governments have flagged the reintroduction of alcohol bans, which lapsed last year. Communities have been given the option to opt out of the bans.

After an emergency meeting late last night between community leaders and federal ministers, the prime minister, Anthony Albanese announced a new regional controller to “make sure that we get federal and state programs coordinated in the best possible way”.

The NT chief minister Natasha Fyles announced a three-month trial to ban the sale of takeaway alcohol on Mondays and Tuesday, restrict operating hours for bottleshops and a limit of one transaction per customer per day.

You can read more from our Indigenous affairs editor, Lorena Allam:

In South Australia, the former prime minister Julia Gillard will conduct the first public hearings for SA’s royal commission into early childhood education and care.

The hearings start today and will take evidence from a range of expert witnesses, kicking off with Associate Prof Victoria Whitington from the Child Development Council.

Let’s get into it!

Australians among Oscars nominees

The Australian of the Year contenders may be gathering in Canberra but an already internationally recognised great Australian, Cate Blanchett, will be going for her third Oscar win in March after she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in the film Tár. It is her eighth nomination.

The Australian husband and wife team Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin have been nominated in the best picture category for Elvis, but Margot Robbie missed the cut despite speculation that she might get the nod for her role in Baylon.

Here’s the full list of nominees.

Elvis makers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin at Paris fashion week.
Elvis makers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin at Paris fashion week. Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

US state of Oregon plans to ban sale of kangaroo products

Lawmakers in Oregon, under pressure from animal rights activists, are hoping to pass legislation banning the sale of kangaroo products in the state.

Rafqa Touma has been investigating the story and finds that the trade mostly involves the sale of kangaroo leather for turning into football boots, or what Americans call “soccer cleats”.

Australian trade groups have called the idea “emotive misinformation” and say that the lawmakers don’t know what they’re doing.

State education can cost parents $100,000, report says

Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

Experts are calling for greater government investment in public education as a new survey suggests parents could spend up to $100,000 putting a child through the state school system starting this year.

The Futurity Investment Group’s cost of education index found the cost of a government education in Melbourne was $102,807, which was 17% above the national average of $87,528, making it the most expensive city for public education.

Although public schools don’t charge mandatory fees, the survey asked parents about the other costs involved in schooling. Nationally, voluntary student contributions – which are optional – made up just 4% of total costs for government education – the rest going towards optional additional expenses like electronic devices, uniforms and tutoring.

Futurity Investment Group’s Kate Hill said the figures proved there was “no such thing as a free education” in Australia. She said the total cost of education has risen at nearly double the rate of inflation over the past decade.

Jim Chalmers on ‘Capitalism after the Crisis’

Katharine Murphy

Katharine Murphy

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, has been busy over the summer, penning a 6,000 word essay for The Monthly headlined Capitalism after the Crisis.

Politics watchers with long memories will recall there’s a tradition of Queensland Labor rightwingers contributing long-form think pieces mulling the state of the country. Kevin Rudd wrote about the global financial crisis more than a decade ago. Wayne Swan wrote about inequality and the power of vested interests in the Australian economy.

The Chalmers essay explores values-based capitalism. The piece highlights the importance of the clean energy transition to setting up a new era of prosperity and sustainability; the importance of healthy democratic and economic institutions; and the centrality of wellbeing to measures of economic success.

The essay also traverses some interesting territory about the prospects for collaboration between government and the private sector. Chalmers says the times are turbulent but “we can do more than simply batten down the hatches and hope for the best”.

He says there is an opportunity to build an economy that is “stronger, more sustainable and more inclusive, where more of our people share in our economic success”.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers has penned an essay for The Monthly.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers has penned an essay for The Monthly. Photograph: Jason O’Brien/AAP

Cargo ship taking on water off Queensland coast

A coal carrier that began taking on water off the Queensland coast has been secured by tugboats after sparking an emergency response.

The Panama-flagged bulk carrier Frontier Unity reported seven metres of water in its engine room while heading to Hay Point near Mackay on Tuesday, AAP reports. It was empty of coal.

Twenty four people are aboard the vessel.

An Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) representative said it was notified of an incident off Hay Point about 1pm on Tuesday.

“AMSA was informed the Panama-flagged bulk carrier ship Frontier Unity was experiencing water ingress into its engine room following repair work undertaken by commercial divers,” the representative told AAP in a statement.

“As the ship is within port limits and under the national Plan for Maritime Environmental Emergencies, Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) is the lead agency responding to this incident, with AMSA providing additional support.”

AMSA, which has a representative at the scene, tasked the Cairns-based Challenger aircraft to drop de-watering pumps to the Frontier Unity.

No injuries or fatalities have been reported.

“All parties involved are working collaboratively in the response to this incident to minimise risk to safety or the environment,” AMSA said.

The ship has been reported as being stable, with the water ingress now stemmed, and is remaining at anchor with two tugboats alongside.

Welcome to the blog

Good morning and welcome to our live coverage of the day’s news in Australia. Yesterday was dominated by events in the Northern territory and there’s more reaction to that coming up. We are also counting down to the Australian of the Year awards, and there are Oscar nominations announced overnight to mull over.

Indigenous elders have given a cautious welcome to plans announced by the prime minister to restrict alcohol sales in Alice Springs after the town faced an alarming rise in crime after the relaxation of intervention-era alcohol laws. But community leaders also pleaded with Anthony Albanese and other visitors from Canberra and Darwin that they couldn’t just make yesterday’s high-profile visit a one-off and that more sustained help is needed for the region and its neglected remote areas.

Rajwinder Singh, the man accused of murdering 24-year-old Toyah Cordingley on a Queensland beach four years ago, is to be extradited to Australia after a court hearing in Delhi overnight. Judge Swati Sharma informed Singh that his extradition to Australia had been allowed by the courts. Singh simply said “thank you” when the extradition was approved. It could take three to four weeks before he is back in Australia.

This year’s Australian of the Year finalists are gathering in Canberra for the ceremony later today. The runners and riders include human rights activist Craig Foster, migrant leader John Kamara, Indigenous musician William Barton, insect farming pioneer Olympia Yarger, documentary maker Taryn Brumfitt, Land Council chair Samuel Bush-Blanasi, paediatrician Angraj Khillan and end-of-life care advocate Samar Aoun.



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