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Key posts

  • The headlines today
  • New COVID-19 variants spread; cruise ship to land in Tasmania
  • Aged care workers to get 15 per cent pay rise
  • Shoppers warned of purchase limits on grocery staples
  • Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews investigated
  • Airport walk-off could disrupt peak travel
  • Musk starts mass job cuts at Twitter
  • Today’s headlines so far
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The headlines today

Well, that’s a wrap. Thank you for joining me on the blog this afternoon.

I’m signing off for the evening but here’s a summary of the headlines today in case you missed them:

  • Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews is being investigated in a secret anti-corruption commission probe over his role in the awarding of two grants to a Labor-linked union on the eve of the 2018 election.
  • NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet visited the regional town of Forbes, which is bracing for its worst flood in 70 years, and urged people across the state not to drive into floodwaters.
  • Flights in and around the country could be impacted ahead of the festive season after airport firefighters voted to take industrial action today.
  • Aged care workers will receive a 15 per cent pay boost after the Fair Work Commission handed down its decision in the high-profile wage case backed by the government.
  • The Reserve Bank lowered its Australian economic growth forecasts as higher interest rates weighed on consumers’ ability to spend.
  • Education Minister Jason Clare declared that the Coalition are being hypocritical in their criticism of the government’s recent mission to repatriate the families of former IS fighters from Syria.

Have a great evening and a wonderful weekend!

New COVID-19 variants spread; cruise ship to land in Tasmania

Finishing with a COVID update and some numbers, about 2000 passengers aboard Carnival Australia vessel Coral Princess will call into the port of Burnie on Saturday after an outbreak of the virus.

NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said there were indications the state would be entering a new wave of COVID-19.Credit:Getty Images

A spokesman said a small number of guests had the virus but did not confirm the exact number.

“As a result of continued and proactive testing, the COVID-19 situation onboard Coral Princess has improved considerably in recent days, with a significant number of guests being released from isolation after returning a negative Rapid Antigen Test,” the company said in a statement on Friday.

All cruise passengers who test positive to the virus are required to isolate in their cabin for at least five days and must also return a negative test result prior to disembarking.

Meanwhile, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said several subvariants of the virus were circulating and that it was likely the state would be entering a new wave.

“We are starting to see an increase of COVID-19 cases and changes in the variants circulating in NSW, which tells us we are entering the next COVID-19 wave,” she said. “By looking at all the local information we have and what’s happening overseas we believe COVID cases will rise in the coming weeks.”

Here are the weekly virus numbers by jurisdiction:

NSW: 12,450 new cases, 24 deaths
Victoria: 10,226 new cases, 23 deaths
NT: 242 new cases, 2 deaths
Queensland: 4,427 new cases, 14 deaths
SA: 3797 new cases, 29 deaths
ACT: 910 new cases, 1 death
TAS: 1320 new cases, 5 deaths
WA: 6874 new cases, 17 deaths.

With AAP

Former Prime Minister immortalised in Ballarat statue

In lighter news, a bronze Malcolm Turnbull bust is the newest addition to Ballarat’s Prime Ministers Avenue, unveiled at a ceremony attended by the man himself today.

Malcolm Turnbull and sculptor Linda Klarfeld unveil a bronze bust of the former prime minister on Friday afternoon at Ballarat.Credit:Nine

It’s the 29th in a succession of statues costing between $30,000 and $50,000 each and funded by the City of Ballarat.

Mayor of the city Daniel Moloney said he was proud to have Turnbull visit Ballarat’s Avenue of Prime Ministers which has become a tourist attraction.

“Ballarat’s Avenue of Prime Ministers is unique in the Australian context,” he said. “It’s not often in the global context that you get a peaceful transition of power. This is a place where we come to celebrate the history of our Prime Ministers and democracy.”

Here’s what Turnbull had to say about the statue:

“Having a head on a plinth is a bit of a worry. There’s lots of people who have wanted to put my head on something else over the years.”

“[But] very generous I thought. I think the guy behind me is better looking than the original, so I can’t complain.”

“You sort of get defenestrated as Prime Minister and then you end up in the Ballarat Botanic Gardens so it’s not all that bad.”

Aged care workers to get 15 per cent pay rise

Aged care workers will receive a 15 per cent pay boost after the Fair Work Commission handed down its decision in the high-profile wage case backed by the government.

The Health Services Union called for a 25 per cent pay rise, comparable to $5 an hour, for aged care workers and nurses after a royal commission into the haemorrhaging sector called on the Commonwealth and providers to overhaul the historical underpayment of the feminised workforce.

In a highly anticipated decision handed down shortly after 4pm on Friday, the industrial umpire concluded staff involved in the direct care of Australia’s elderly were entitled to a 15 per cent pay rise but said it didn’t necessarily exhaust “the extent of the increase justified”.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the result signified a first step in changing the undervalued nature of aged-care work.

Another hearing will be held later this month to determine the timing of the pay rise, and whether it is to be phased in. The commission said the question of “whether any further increase is justified” would be the subject of submissions from employers and the government.

Shoppers warned of purchase limits on grocery staples

The head of a supermarket chain has warned purchase limits could be placed on common frozen food items such corn and potatoes because of a weather-interrupted growing season.

Purchase limits could be placed on common frozen food items such corn and potatoes because of a weather-interrupted growing season.Credit:Bloomberg

Ritchies IGA chief executive Fred Harrison said the shortage is “almost as bad as it’s ever been.”

“We met with Simplot yesterday, who are the major manufacturer and supplier, and there are major, major shortages at the moment on items such as corn, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, peas, carrots, and most of the world potatoes,” he told Sunrise on Friday.

Harrison also said that a purchase limit may go into effect as stock would not improve for the next six to 12 months.

“Trouble is we’ve had constant issues with potatoes for the last 12 months, so there’s not really been a state where there’s been surplus in the system,” he said. “It’s been very much hand-to-mouth. We may have to go to the customers, and say a limit of two or three packs of frozen vegetables.”

The supermarket boss also said recent flooding and supply chain issues overseas had exacerbated food supply issues.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews investigated

Premier Daniel Andrews is being investigated in a secret anti-corruption commission probe over his role in the awarding of two grants worth $3.4 million to a Labor-linked union on the eve of the 2018 election, Paul Sakkal reports.

Premier Daniel Andrews is being investigated in a secret anti-corruption commission probe over his role in the awarding of two grants to a Labor-linked union.Credit:Luis Ascui

The government awarded a $1.2 million contract, which is outlined in public documents, to the Health Workers Union (HWU) on the eve of the 2018 election. Seven days earlier, and before the tender had been finalised, Andrews publicly announced an additional $2.2 million election promise for the same training program alongside HWU boss Diana Asmar.

Sources familiar with the IBAC probe, known as Operation Daintree, told The Age the premier and some of his advisers had been a key focus of the investigation, which is looking into how the money was promised to the union despite objections from Health Department officials.

Two sources with knowledge of the investigation told The Age that a critical meeting between the premier, Asmar and others in early October, weeks before the $2.2 million announcement, had been a particular focus of IBAC investigators.

The inquiry is the fourth Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission investigation to interview Andrews during his current term of office, but the first known inquiry to closely query his actions.

Read more here.

Australian ‘Top Gun’ pilot to be held in Supermax ahead of hearing

Turning to the courts now with Georgina Mitchell: A former US military pilot who was arrested in Australia shortly after returning from China will deny he committed any criminal offence and make a complaint to the inspector general of intelligence, his lawyer has said.

Daniel Duggan formerly operated Top Gun Australia, a scenic flight business.

Daniel Duggan, 54, an Australian citizen and father of six from Orange in Central West NSW, has been in custody since he was arrested at the request of the United States on October 21. A formal request has not yet been made for his extradition.

The arrest came shortly after Australian authorities said they were investigating the practice of former military personnel being offered lucrative contracts to train pilots in China.

Duggan’s lawyer, Dennis Miralis, said on Friday the exact allegations against his client remain unclear because he was secretly indicted by a US grand jury and the details are not required to be divulged until a formal extradition request is made.

Miralis said his client was recently advised he will be moved to Goulburn Supermax – a move which will be challenged in court if necessary. He described the move as “dramatic and aggressive” and “without any proper foundation”.

Read more here.

Airport walk-off could disrupt peak travel

As we head into the festive season, airport firefighters have voted to take industrial action including work stoppages, which their union said will impact flights into and around the country.

Airservices Australia said it had offered an 11.5 per cent pay rise over three years, while the union seeks 15.5 per cent.Credit:Louie Douvis

Their employer, Airservices Australia, said the United Firefighters Union’s staff shortage claims were misleading and designed to justify unnecessary industrial action to force higher wages.

The corporation provides services at 27 Australian airports, including Melbourne and Sydney.

About 93 per cent of members voted in favour of industrial action, including stoppages, and 96 per cent voiced no confidence in the leadership of Airservices, a commonwealth corporate entity.

The union’s aviation branch secretary Wes Garrett said shortages were undermining safety, and that airports across the country did not have enough firefighters to provide the protection required.

“Despite our ongoing campaign and vocal calls for action on this issue, Airservices continues to deny that a problem exists, and refuses to take any meaningful action, putting the lives of air travellers at risk,” he said.

The union will meet next week to decide when, where and for how long they will take industrial action, and are likely to delay action until closer to the Christmas peak if it is taken this year.

Garrett said stoppages are expected to last between two and 12 hours, with the union required to give at least one week’s notice of any stop-work action.

Airservices Australia said the union’s claims on staffing were not supported by the facts.

“Overall, the network requires 740 (firefighters) and there are more than 750 on staff at present and nearly 100 trainees entering the system over the next two years,” an Airservices spokesperson said on Friday.

Airservices said it has offered a “generous” 11.5 per cent over three years, while the union seeks 15.5 per cent.

With AAP

ASX treading water as inflation weighs on Wall Street

Reporter Nell Geraets has our market wrap today and tells us that the Australian sharemarket remains steady after Wall Street took a negative turn.

The US Federal Reserve chief’s comments on future interest rate hikes and inflation expectations continued to weigh on Wall Street overnight.

But the S&P/ASX 200 dropped by just 0.1 per cent to 6854.2 at midday, buoyed by energy stocks, which are 1.9 per cent higher.

Lithium chemicals company Allkem’s share value increased 4.7 per cent to $14.70, and metallurgical coal producer Coronado Global Resources climbed 6.5 per cent.

Digital payments firm Block, which owns Afterpay, soared 10.2 per cent to $96.40 at 12.08pm AEDT after the company announced an improvement in its earnings from its third quarter last year.

On the downside, healthcare stocks fell by 1 per cent, followed closely by the communication services sector, which slipped by 0.9 per cent.

The US dollar continued to strengthen after the Fed’s big day, pushing the Australian dollar below 63 US cents. The Australian dollar was fetching 62.96 US cents at 6.57am AEDT, a drop of 0.9 per cent.

with AP

Musk starts mass job cuts at Twitter

Starting with social media this afternoon, Twitter will begin cutting staff on Friday according to an email sent out to employees.

The company will inform affected staff on Friday at 9am, San Francisco time, while also temporarily closing offices and suspending badge access “to help ensure the safety of each employee as well as Twitter systems and customer data,” according to the memo.

People with knowledge of the matter have said billionaire Elon Musk plans to eliminate half of Twitter’s workforce to slash costs at the social media platform he acquired for $US44 billion ($70 billion) last month.

About 3700 jobs are on the line according to people with knowledge of the matter. Musk tweeted in early October that “software engineering, server operations and design will rule the roost”.

Several advertisers, meanwhile, have tapped the brakes on placing ads on the platform until they get a clearer idea of Musk’s plans.


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