NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing renewed scrutiny today, this time over the allocation of the $250m Stronger Communities Fund.
At a parliamentary committee today, senior ministerial staff are facing questions about the fund, with just a handful of emails between the premier’s office and that of her deputy, John Barilaro, all that is evidence of the allocation of the funds.
The inquiry has heard that documents giving the premier’s approval for millions of dollars in grants were later shredded, and any electronic copies of the notes deleted.
The premier’s former chief of staff, Sarah Cruickshank, said it wasn’t routine practise for the premier’s office to destroy such documents.
Nearly all the grants were awarded to local councils in Coalition-held seats.
Cruickshank was also asked why six grants worth over $40,000 were allocated to the electorate of Wagga Wagga, the electorate of disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.
The parliamentary committee, chaired by Shoebridge, will follow up on the matter with a subsequent hearing scheduled for 27 November.
The first two planeloads of returning travellers have arrived in Darwin, with the first busloads arriving at the Howard Springs facility shortly.
They’ll be subject to strict quarantining, including being offered an arm band that’ll allow doctors to monitor their vitals remotely.
The federal government is essentially leasing the facility, paying the Northern Territory government $50m, with the territory saying it will spend that money coordinating the facility and making sure it is cyclone-proof (cyclone season is on the way).
Wallabies legend Pocock announces his retirement
Sticking with sport for a moment, Wallabies legend David Pocock has announced he is retiring, saying “the time was right” to hang up his boots.
Pocok was capped 83 times over an 11-year Wallabies career, with the 32-year-old saying he will now dedicate his time to activism and environmental conservation.
“There was no one pivotal moment or thing that made me want to retire now, I just had a sense that the time was right,” Pocock told Guardian Australia.
Cheers Josh. It’s grand final weekend, and I’m extremely excited to see a team from western Sydney competing this weekend (this is my life as a Canterbury supporter now), but there’s lots more going on today. Let’s dive in.
I am now going to hand over to my colleague, Mostafa Rachwani, who will see you through the rest of the afternoon.
I hope you all have a pleasant evening.
People in South Australia are now also eligible for the federal pandemic disaster payment.
The $1,500 payment is available to workers who cannot work because they need to isolate or quarantine or care for someone with Covid-19.
So far $15.5m has been paid to 10,300 people since the start of August.
Looks like it is a bigger protest than previous ones have been. As someone in Melbourne, I understand the frustration with lockdown but we are about 48 hours away from (hopefully) much more restrictions being eased.
Victoria police pepper spray anti-lockdown protesters in Melbourne
Police have used pepper spray against anti-lockdown protesters gathered at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne, AAP reports.
Between 200 and 300 protesters gathered at the city’s sacred war memorial opposing coronavirus restrictions in the city.
An AAP photographer says police have used pepper spray amid scuffles.
A few people have been arrested.
A man being arrested and filmed by TV crews said, “What are you holding me for? What is the problem with you?”
The protest got under way about 2pm and is the latest in a string of protests against premier Daniel Andrews’ tough measures to control Covid infections throughout the past few months.
Protesters face two separate fines if they attend an anti-lockdown rally at Melbourne’s Shrine of Remembrance.
Victoria police assistant commissioner Luke Cornelius has warned they could also fall foul of legislation governing behaviour at the shrine.
Cornelius said the RSL and the shrine have made it clear that any protest on the site is disrespectful to the memory of people who have served their country.
He said the shrine legislation covered behaviour and how people are dressed, adding that anyone who refuses to obey police could be fined about $300.
While lockdown rules have been eased this week, Melburnians can still travel no more than 25km from their homes and are not permitted to have visitors to their home unless for caregiving reasons.
They also can be fined if they gather in groups of more than 10 from more than two households, and must wear masks as well as social distance.
There were scuffles and several arrests last month as police broke up a protest at the shrine.
A website for the Friday protest tells participants: “Daniel Andrews must resign and lockdowns must end. Restore our freedoms now.”
My colleague Ben Butler has the full Asic story:
The chairman of the corporate regulator, James Shipton, stood aside on Friday while Treasury investigates payments of more than $118,000 made to KPMG for tax advice he received.
Fringe benefits tax of more than $78,000 was also charged on the advice, bringing the total cost to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to almost $200,000.
Treasury is also investigating a $750 a week relocation payment made over two years to Asic’s head of enforcement and deputy chair, Daniel Crennan QC.
More from Senate estimates, via AAP:
A senior official engaged in negotiations over the Aboriginal flag has described talks with the artist as complex and delicate.
The National Indigenous Australians Agency is locked in discussions with Harold Thomas and the flag’s licensees.
NIAA chief executive Ray Griggs acknowledged use of the Aboriginal flag remains a divisive issue and has pledged to resolve the negotiations in a timely, fair and reasonable way.
“These discussions are complex and delicate, and based on goodwill and trust,” he told Senate estimates on Friday.
“Mr Thomas has asked for these discussions to remain confidential at this point and NIAA intends to respect this.”
The government is negotiating to potentially buy the commercial rights from Thomas and the flag’s non-Indigenous licensees in a move that would allow the design to be freely used.
A parliamentary inquiry has recommended the government establish an independent body with custodial oversight of its use if the artist is willing to part with its copyright.
Re a chartered flight from Laos with 41 vulnerable Australians that was cancelled because it was not allowed to land in Cairns, Morrison said that was a matter for the Queensland government.
Morrison press conference summary
Let’s summarise what Morrison announced out of national cabinet:
- New reopening plan
- Federal hotel quarantine review to be released today
- Coag review to be released today
- Recommendations of both have been adopted by national cabinet
- National cabinet to keep exploring alternatives to hotel quarantine including quarantine for international students on campus, and mining workers at mining camps
- Morrison aims to get 26,000 Australians stuck overseas back to Australia by Christmas, but depends on Victoria reopening
- All states and territories bar WA have committed to reopening by Christmas.
- Still 2,800 vulnerable Australians overseas
- Just over 200 active cases of Covid-19 in Australia, and no one in the ICU
- Morrison open to broader review of executive bonuses paid at government-owned businesses.
That’s the end of the press conference. It’s a bit delayed on ABC because of the US presidential debate. I will pass on the new roadmap when PMO provides it to us.
Morrison is asked if he is equally outraged about the ASIC chair standing aside amid the findings that he was overpaid as he was about Australia Post’s Cartier watches scandal.
Morrison said Shipton has stood aside.
He’s then asked whether he was engaging in the politics of envy around the watches scandal. Morrison said he does not agree.
“I don’t think what we learned yesterday would have passed any test with the Australian public when it comes to a company that is owned by the government,” he said.
Morrison said he’s open to a wider review of public servant executive bonuses, but thinks there wouldn’t be a board member or CEO of a government agency that didn’t get his message yesterday.
“I think they got it with a rocket.”
Prof Paul Kelly is asked about the commonwealth’s responsibility in aged care and the Covid-19 deaths in aged care.
Kelly says the government is “taking on board” the royal commission’s findings and will report in early December.