NSW State opposition leader Chris Minns has slammed the state budget handed down by the government yesterday for blowing out the deficit and pinning hopes on what he describes as a “heroic assumption” of growth in the NSW Economy over the next 12 months.
Minns says that for the budget to return to surplus as the Coalition outlined yesterday, the NSW economy would need to grow at a faster rate than “at any point in the last 12 years”:
That’s all predicated on this heroic assumption the growth in the New South Wales economy next year will be massive, bigger than at any point in the last 12 years.
You have the United States and Europe concerned about a recession; interest rate rises in the US, Europe, and Australia. The New South Wales government predicts a huge economic growth increase next year. It’s just not supported by the facts.
We need to prepare for all eventualities. It would help if you were straight with taxpayers.
Those heroic assumptions are unlikely to come true.
Perrottet is seeking more information about Baril aro’s appointment
There’s likely to be a lot more scrutiny on the decision by the NSW government to grant a $500,000 a year (plus expenses) job to former Nationals leader and former deputy premier John Barilaro.
As we reported here yesterday evening, the government had opted to give the job last August to a senior and highly experienced trade official, Jenny West, only to withdraw the offer the following month.
Barilaro, also trade minister for the state, resigned on 4 October and left politics.
The choice of Barilaro raised eyebrows when it was announced late last Friday, and the NSW upper house plan both an inquiry into the appointment and today is likely to vote on a motion to stall the job until that inquiry is completed.
Premier Dominic Perrottet is going to face endless questions about the appointment. Asked a few minutes ago on RN Breakfast by Patricia Karvelas about Guardian Australia’s report, he did not exactly resolve the issue:
I’ve spoken to the minister for investment [Stuart Ayres] about getting some information and the detailsnce I’ve received those details, I’ll be happy to make them public.
Perrottet will have a press conference later this morning and will likely face more grilling. There are quite a few details to unearth: when did a public service job suddenly become a political appointment? And who made that call?
Updated at 18.17 EDT
Perrottet spruiks budget spending
So first off the bench this morning is NSW premier Dominic Perrottet on his government’s first budget, which included a spending spree on health and education.
Perrottet was on RN Breakfast this morning and was asked if this budget, one that looks from some angles like a typical Labor budget, was a direct response to the electoral thumping the Liberals saw at the federal election:
Our budgets every year are focused where they should be, and that’s on the families across NSW and ensuring we meet people where they are.
The public across the state wants a sense of positivity and vision moving forward, and if you’re not setting and looking at how you can better …
It’s been a challenging time in our healthcare system, so we’ve had to keep further investing in health.
In addition, in our state, we faced floods in the northern rivers, where we’ve continued to invest … While we see a dip in the short term, we’re on track to return to surplus in this budget … Also, we see strong revenue growth here in our state.
Updated at 18.14 EDT
Further action flagged on online hate speech
The Labor government has flagged further action on online hate speech, with new communications minister Michelle Rowland saying she has “grave concern” about extremism in Australia.
It comes after media and politics experts told a Victorian state government inquiry into extremism that the federal government should further crackdown on encrypted messaging apps like Telegram, a less-regulated breeding ground for far-right groups.
Communications minister Michelle Rowland. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
Rowland said Labor was concerned about misinformation and digital literacy, with several proposals being prepared for consideration by the federal cabinet. She also said the government was working with industry groups to progress new codes of practice under the Online Safety Act legislated by the former Coalition government.
But asked specifically for a response to calls from the Victorian inquiry for the federal government to address encrypted social media platforms used by extremist groups, Rowland said Labor was looking at further action. She told Guardian Australia:
The rise of extremism in Australia is of grave concern, and I’m keenly aware the Communications Portfolio has a role in addressing this scourge. I’m on the record expressing concern that more should be done, particularly regarding group hate speech online, and I will pursue this matter.
The minister did not elaborate on what actions were under consideration.
Victoria’s extremism inquiry heard evidence from Dr. Belinda Barnet, a media lecturer at Swinburne University, who said such groups were migrating to platforms such as Telegram after being removed from more mainstream social media platforms.
Swinburne academics told the inquiry that platforms like Telegram “should be subject to the same level of scrutiny and regulatory pressure as larger platforms like Facebook are”.
Rowland said Labor was keen to build on work done by the former Coalition government and backed the role of the eSafety Commissioner and the Online Safety Act to remove harmful or illegal material online.
The eSafety commissioner can demand the removal of such content within 24 hours or level significant financial penalties against the service hosting that content.
Labor has announced policies that serve as an antidote to misinformation online, including funding support for trusted sources of news and information and the national rollout of digital and media literacy skills for young Australians. These commitments are currently being prepared for Cabinet consideration.
The Commissioner is not empowered to monitor messaging services for harmful content but can act based on a complaint. Industry-led codes of practice are being developed to see the industry deal with illegal and harmful content before the eSafety Commissioner.
Updated at 18.13 EDT
Australians feeling less safe, poll shows
Just 12% of Australians trust China to act responsibly in world affairs, according to the latest annual Lowy Institute poll of public sentiment on international relations.
That reflects a four-point drop from the 16% result for the same question in last year’s Lowy Institute poll – and compares with 52% four years ago.
The full results of the 2022 poll are due to be released next week, Still, the executive director of the Lowy Institute, Michael Fullilove, will provide some key findings when he addresses the National Press Club in Canberra today.
The last decade has also seen a steady decline in the proportion of Australians who feel safe when thinking about world events. In the latest poll, 53% of respondents said they felt “very safe” or “safe” – a 17-point fall from last year and 39 points lower than the result in 2010.
Meanwhile, 87% of respondents said the alliance between the US and Australia was “very” or “fairly important” to Australia’s security, a nine-point increase from last year.
Fullilove is expected to tell the press club that the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and his ministers have “shown energy, purpose, and dispatch in the manner in which they have carried out their international responsibilities” over the past month.
He will say that the new government’s more ambitious approach to climate and resetting relations with France would be warmly welcomed in Washington, DC.
According to extracts distributed before the speech, Fullilove will say Australia is “proximate to the world’s largest powers, its sharpest rivalries, and its biggest opportunities,” and the quality of its statecraft “needs to lift accordingly”.
He will say he agrees with “the broad thrust of the former government’s approach to China,” but that doesn’t mean he is uncritical. He will say diplomacy requires cunning as well as strength:
In my view, we have not always been as smart as we might have been. Sometimes Australian ministers and parliamentarians strayed beyond protecting our interests and values and allowed indiscipline and politics to creep into their public comments. There certainly seemed to be a lot of war talk.
The chief responsibility for the current state of the relationship, though, lies with the men in Zhongnanhai [in Beijing]. Their actions have changed the way Australians think about China.
The Australian government should be firm, cautious, and disciplined. We should cooperate with China when we can, disagree when necessary, and always stand our ground.
See our latest piece on the end of the diplomatic freeze between China and Australia:
Updated at 18.09 EDT
Pledge to back the World Bank pandemic fund
The federal government will contribute to a new fund established by the World Bank to help prepare for future pandemics.
Treasurer Jim Chalmers and health minister Mark Butler made the commitment during addresses to a G20 meeting overnight, pledging that Australia would back the new financial intermediary fund.
The fund, a collaboration of financial and health institutions, aims to address shortfalls in financing for pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response.
Chalmers told the meeting:
While it has often been said that Covid-19 “doesn’t discriminate”, we all know our most vulnerable citizens were impacted most by this awful virus’s health and economic damage. The G20’s collective action is important – and I urge all members and guests here today to continue to support Indonesia’s leadership in addressing systemic financing gaps for pandemic preparedness and response.
Butler and Chalmers said in a joint statement:
The pandemic has highlighted the weaknesses in the global health architecture, and Covid-19 has also shown the disproportionate impact pandemics can have on the world’s most vulnerable.
The statement did not provide the financial contribution Australia would make to the fund, but it’s understood the money will be drawn from existing federal funding for overseas development assistance.
Updated at 18.07 EDT
We begin again with the energy crisis, with the Australian Energy Market Operator indicating that the extraordinary electricity market shutdown could be lifted later tonight. In a statement, Aemo said it would act if it were satisfied generators could offer enough supplies to avert any shortfalls.
Meanwhile, scientists are urging authorities in NSW and Queensland to abandon major dam projects, warning of significant environmental and agricultural consequences. They include NSW plans to expand Wyangala near Cowra and build the Dungowan dam near Tamworth and the dam being considered at Hells Gates in north Queensland. ANU professor Jamie Pittock will tell a conference later today that the proposals are a waste of taxpayer money.
A lot is going on, so let’s dive in.