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Australia news live: high court reshuffle ends first-ever female majority bench; US praises Albanese diplomacy | Australia news

First ever female majority high court comes to an end

The resignation of the chief justice, Susan Kiefel, and the appointment of Robert Beech-Jones in her place means the end of the first-ever majority female high court bench.

As we reported earlier, Kiefel will retire as high court chief justice and be replaced by Stephen Gageler on 6 November. Beech-Jones will fill the vacancy created by Kiefel.

Last September, the majority of judges on Australia’s high court became women for the first time in history after the appointment of Jayne Jagot to the bench.

Jagot was the 56th justice of the high court and seventh woman appointed to the court.

At the time, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said Jagot was appointed on merit and would not guarantee that a female majority would continue.

– with Paul Karp

Key events

Daniel Hurst

Let’s bring you a few more comments from Kurt Campbell, a senior White House official, who briefed reporters on developments in the Indo-Pacific region this morning.

The focus of the call was an agreement between Japan, South Korea and the US to quickly consult each other “to coordinate our responses to regional challenges, provocations, and threats that affect our collective interests and security”.

Beijing last night likened this agreement to Aukus and the Quad – both of which include Australia – as examples of US-led “attempts to stoke division and confrontation and revive the Cold War mentality”. China’s foreign ministry said the region “should not be turned into a boxing ring for major power rivalry, still less a battlefield of a cold war or hot war”.

Responding to these criticisms, Campbell said:

The three leaders met peacefully, they talked constructively and they engaged openly and transparently. At the same time that we were meeting in Camp David, Russian and Chinese warships were plying waters very close to Japan. And earlier today North Korea has tested a new cruise missile.

I just want to underscore that we believe that there are many reasons why the three countries have chosen to work more closely together, but it is undeniable that the security environment in Asia is not only more complicated but more worrisome to each of us.

We have the unprovoked illegal war in Ukraine, we have provocations on a regular basis form North Korea … and of course we’ve seen a number of steps on the part of China that are provocative: a massive military buildup, and a number of steps that have caused anxiety – not just in Japan and South Korea but in the region as a whole.

So I think this was an effort to work together in ways constructively, peacefully to preserve the operating system, the democratic engagement that we all share – between the United States, Japan and South Korea – and I think we stand by that and we think it’s appropriate.

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

Renters call for cap at Victorian inquiry

Most of the renters speaking at the Victorian inquiry on rental and housing affordability today have backed a rent cap.

They say it would help with affordability and future planning, knowing there was a ceiling on how much they would have to pay.

Wren Pleasant, a teacher who has rented for 16 years, added:

A direct rent cap is only a short-term solution. What must be done in the long term is that rental increases be constrained relative to inflation and lending rates on an ongoing permanent basis.

The second thing to be done is an increase in housing stock via public housing.

Susan Kiefel retires as a trailblazer

Returning to news that the first-ever majority female high court bench is coming to an end.

As we reported earlier, the resignation of the chief justice, Susan Kiefel, and the appointment of Robert Beech-Jones in her place means the end of the high court’s first-ever female majority.

The majority was reached when Jayne Jagot was appointed to the bench last September.

It’s also worth noting that Kiefel herself became the first woman to lead the high court when she was appointed in 2016.

At the time, the then president of the Law Council of Australia, Stuart Clark, said Kiefel “was already a trailblazer for women in the legal profession” before her elevation to chief justice.

You can read more from her initial appointment in 2016 here:

Sydney lord mayor calls on NSW government to back gas bans

Tamsin Rose

Tamsin Rose

The Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, has called on the NSW government to back councils who want to ban gas connections for new homes, warning there were tough decisions ahead in the fight against climate change.

She said banning new connections was one important way councils can reduce emissions:

The state has the jurisdiction but I think what councils do is they take action to encourage state governments to do what they should do.

I will continue to say to the government that we have to do everything we can to address global boiling.

The premier, Chris Minns, has repeatedly ruled out a statewide ban.

Sydney lord mayor, Clover Moore, has called on the state government to back councils who want to ban gas connections for new homes as she warns there were tough decisions ahead in the fight against climate change.
Sydney lord mayor Clover Moore has called on the state government to back councils who want to ban gas connections for new homes. Photograph: Tamsin Rose/The Guardian

Asked about the potential impact on people and small businesses, Moore said:

We have to make really hard decisions when we’re dealing with global warming. We need to put the planet and the future first, as far as I’m concerned, and we need to think about the sort of world we’re creating for our children.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Sydney city council’s move to ban gas only an investigation

After the Victorian government’s decision last month to end new gas connections for homes and government buildings, fans and critics have been on the watch for other jurisdictions to follow suit.

Sydney city council, with its high-profile mayor, Clover Moore, is potentially among the next places to move. (In the Sydney region, Waverley council has banned gas for new homes and Parramatta has nixed it for new buildings in its centre, but not the whole local government area.)

Anyway, eight of the 10 Sydney councillors last night voted on a motion requiring the city’s CEO Monica Barone to “investigate the opportunities and challenges” with amending city planning control to require new buildings be all-electric.

Barone will report back to the council on the options available and there is no date for any change.

Environmental groups, such as 350 Australia, view the motion’s passage as a move that “kickstarts the process to require new homes and businesses across the municipality to be all-electric and gas-free”.

They point to new research commissioned by 350 Australia that finds each new household in Sydney could save an average of $430 a year on their energy bills by ditching gas.

That may well be true – and any greenhouse gas emissions avoided will be a plus – but the council is discouraging people from taking a ban for granted.

Before that happens, the community is going to be consulted, assuming that’s the option the council takes up.

Josh Taylor

Josh Taylor

Amazon simplifies Prime cancellation process in line with Europe

Amazon has simplified the cancellation process for its Prime subscription service in Australia, after consumer groups raised concern it took twice as long to cancel compared with users in Europe.

Last year, the Consumer Policy Research Centre (CPRC), reported that after a finding by the European Commission that Amazon had breached the unfair commercial practices directive, Amazon reduced the Prime unsubscribe process for European users from four clicks to two.

As of April this year, however, Amazon had not brought in the same process in Australia, forcing Australians to navigate four convoluted steps, with the wording and location of the cancellation button changing between each screen.

But on Tuesday, speaking at a parliamentary hearing on the influence of international digital platforms, Amazon’s director of public policy in Australia, Michael Cooley, said Amazon had now reduced the process in line with Europe.

He said:

We take on feedback from our customers, from regulators, from stakeholders, and where it makes sense we make changes and we listened to that feedback, which is what we’ve done in Australia.

The competition regulator has flagged it wants new powers to crack down on online services that make it difficult for people to unsubscribe.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Daniel Andrews won’t back rent freeze

Daniel Andrews has also rebuffed Guardian Essential polling that showed three in four Australians believe rents should either be capped to inflation or frozen until economic conditions improve.

He said it was “not surprising that people who rent” like the idea of rent caps. When told the poll included non-renters, Victoria’s premier went on to say the proposal did not have support from all states and territories:

I’ve just come from a national cabinet meeting last week. I’m not at liberty to go through all the back and forth … but I can tell you this, if we would have put a rent freeze or rent cap on here [in Victoria] we’ll be the only one to do it … If you go and put a 10% rent cap in everyone’s rent, rent will go up by 9.9%. That’s just logic.

If you put a rent freeze in, and we’re the only ones to do it, then a lot of capital – money that pays for new developments, more housing – will leave Victoria at a rapid rate.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Victorian premier admits business case for Commonwealth Games flawed

Daniel Andrews goes on to say the costing documents, which are now subject to an investigation by the auditor-general, are “hardly the greatest piece of work”:

That’s very clear. It’s very, very clear. Because the estimate’s a long way from what the costs were going to be … the Auditor General is looking at that [and] will provide findings, recommendations, learning opportunities for improvement.

And of course, we’ll wait to see what the auditor-general reports. But clearly, when an event is supposed to cost between $2.5-3bn and ends up costing at least $6bn and perhaps $7bn.

(After that remark, Andrews ended his train of thought – just in case you were also wondering why his sentence seems incomplete).

Andrews would not, however, say if the people who worked on the costings were working on other government projects.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

Commonwealth Games business case to be investigated by Victoria’s auditor general

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, says the business case for the axed Commonwealth Games was “hardly the greatest piece of work” and will be investigated by the state auditor general.

The government at the weekend revealed Victorian taxpayers would pay $380m for the state’s cancelling of the games. It also released the original business case and costings for the event, which shows the event blew out from an estimated $2.5bn in April 2022 to $6.9bn in July 2023.

The business case also revealed an estimated cost-benefit analysis of between 0.7 and 1.6, meaning for every dollar invested by the government it would receive a return between 70c and $1.60.

Experts have said the cost-benefit analysis should have been a “red flag” that the event should not have proceeded. But Andrews disagrees:

There are always different considerations that come to bear to when it comes to [a cost-benefit analysis]. And again, they are basically estimates. You’re trying to estimate what the benefits will be of something that hasn’t happened yet. So there’s always a qualitative … element to add to that. But again, I’m sure that the the auditor general can go to those issues and indeed the business case.

What constitutes costs [and] benefits for the purposes of calculating the cost-benefit ratio has long been an argument on a national level, even at an international level, whether it’s a sporting infrastructure or events – right the way through to much more tangible things like roads and bridges. There’s an entire industry out there who have views on these things.

First ever female majority high court comes to an end

The resignation of the chief justice, Susan Kiefel, and the appointment of Robert Beech-Jones in her place means the end of the first-ever majority female high court bench.

As we reported earlier, Kiefel will retire as high court chief justice and be replaced by Stephen Gageler on 6 November. Beech-Jones will fill the vacancy created by Kiefel.

Last September, the majority of judges on Australia’s high court became women for the first time in history after the appointment of Jayne Jagot to the bench.

Jagot was the 56th justice of the high court and seventh woman appointed to the court.

At the time, the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, said Jagot was appointed on merit and would not guarantee that a female majority would continue.

– with Paul Karp

Christopher Knaus

Christopher Knaus

St Vincent de Paul Society calls for improvement to casual workers’ rights

The St Vincent de Paul Society has called on the government to urgently act to improve the rights of casual employees, underemployed workers and the long-term unemployed.

In a statement, the society says “the type of casual employment that exists in Australia is shared by no other developed country”, because it lacks guaranteed hours or continuing employment, entitlements and higher minimum rates of pay than non-casuals.

The national president, Mark Gaetani, said:

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that casual and insecure employment disproportionately impacts vulnerable groups, including women, young people, people on visas and people living with disability.

Insecure employment is prevalent in sectors where employees have been chronically underpaid, such as in retail, hospitality, health, child and aged care.

The society wants the government to implement commitments made to address wage suppression and undervalued jobs, implement the Labor party’s national platform to review mutual obligation requirements and employment programs, and implement pathways to assist the underemployed and the long-term unemployed.

Tamsin Rose

Tamsin Rose

Albanese welcomes marathon runner for the voice Pat Farmer to Sydney

Former parliamentarian and marathon runner Pat Farmer has been welcomed to Sydney by the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, this morning as part of his 14,400km run around Australia for the voice.

They were joined by Tanya Plibersek and the lord mayor, Clover Moore, and campaigners. Albanese congratulated Farmer on his efforts so far and called on Australians to get behind the voice to parliament.

He said:

He is indeed an inspiration to all those who are thinking, ‘will I spend an extra Sunday knocking on doors? Will I spend an extra hour making phone calls? Will I go the extra yard to have conversations with my neighbours and friends?’ Think about this: it’s going be easier than running 14,000km.

The Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, is outside the Opera House with Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, and Minister, Tanya Plibersek, to welcome Pat Farmer. He’s been running around Australia for the Voice. #auspol #Voice pic.twitter.com/n0AZAwJzFO

— Tamsin Rose (@tamsinroses) August 22, 2023

Jason Clare: university student safety ‘is not good enough’

Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

The education minister, Jason Clare, says student safety on campuses has “not been good enough” and more needs to be done to protect students from sexual harm.

Speaking at the AFR Higher Education Summit on Tuesday, Clare pointed to a priority recommendation of the university accord interim report to renew trust in the sector by improving university governance.

In particular, who is appointed to university governing bodies, how we ensure that staff are properly paid, and how we make sure that staff and students are safe on campus.

I think I have made it pretty clear that what we have done so far, particularly when it comes to the safety of students, is not good enough.

Earlier this month, the federal government appointed a working group to provide recommendations on university governance including the safety of students on campuses.

The most recent national survey, carried out in 2021, found 275 students were being sexually assaulted in a university context every week.

The CEO of Our Watch, Patty Kinnersly, has been made an expert advisor for her background in preventing sexual harm. The group is due to provide recommendations later this year.

White House: Australia ascended to ‘absolute peak as a close partner’ of US

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

A senior White House official has praised the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, for “deft” diplomacy across the Indo-Pacific region and says Australia “has probably ascended to the absolute peak as a close partner of the United States”.

Kurt Campbell, the Indo-Pacific coordinator on the national security council, was speaking during a call with media focused on the recent trilateral summit at Camp David between the leaders of the US, Japan and South Korea.

Campbell said:

We also believe that the links and ties that Australia has with each of these countries [Japan, South Korea and the US] is also deepening. We have worked extraordinarily closely with Australia.

Australia has probably ascended to the absolute peak as a close partner of the United States. I think Prime Minister Albanese has deftly handled his diplomatic engagement with south-east Asia, with India, he has remade ties with China, and he has also worked extremely closely with Japan, South Korea and the United States.

So we’re grateful for an actively engaged on Australia on the global scene and we appreciate the support they have expressed for the trilateral summit last weekend.

Guardian Australia had submitted a question about Campbell’s recent remarks that “when submarines are provided from the United States to Australia, it’s not like they’re lost – they will just be deployed by the closest possible allied force” – and what that indicated about Australian sovereign control.

But the moderators did not put the question to him.

Stephen Gageler appointed chief justice of high court

Stephen Gageler has been appointed the 14th chief justice of the high court.

Gageler will start as chief justice on 6 November upon the retirement of the current chief justice, Susan Kiefel.

A joint statement from the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, and the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, reads:

Justice Gageler has an outstanding reputation as a jurist. He is highly respected for his leadership abilities and deep knowledge and understanding of constitutional law. Justice Gageler is currently the most senior puisne justice of the high court. He has served on the high court with distinction since 2012. Prior to this, Justice Gageler was the commonwealth solicitor general.

Justice Robert Beech-Jones has also been appointed to the high court, filling the vacancy created by the appointment of Gageler as chief justice. He will also start on November 6.

The Kiefel high court (from left): Michelle Gordon, Patrick Keane, Virginia Bell, Chief Justice Susan Kiefel, Stephen Gageler, Geoffrey Nettle and James Edelman.
The Kiefel high court (from left): Michelle Gordon, Patrick Keane, Virginia Bell, Susan Kiefel, Stephen Gageler, Geoffrey Nettle and James Edelman. Photograph: High Court of Australia

Andrew Messenger

Brisbane’s $2.7bn stadium rebuild not a requirement to host 2032 Olympics: AOC head

The multibillion-dollar Gabba stadium rebuild was not a requirement of the IOC for Brisbane to hold the 2032 Olympics, according to the head of Australia’s Olympic Committee.

The Senate’s rural and regional committee is today holding a hearing on Australia’s preparedness to host the Olympics in Brisbane.

The Australian Olympic Committee’s CEO, Matt Carroll, has been grilled by opposition senators about previous comments he made about the Gabba only requiring a “coat of paint” to host the Games.

The Queensland government plans to demolish and rebuild the Gabba, a plan which will cost $2.7bn and require the controversial demolition of the heritage-listed East Brisbane state school.

In response to questions from Greens senator Penny Allman-Payne, Carol said the decision was for the government. The IOC did not “instruct the government” to undertake the rebuild, he said. The new Gabba was largely for long-term use for cricket and AFL games, he said.

The IOC does not dictate what a city should or should not build. The IOC’s position is: please don’t build new venues for the Olympics just for the Olympics.

The committee’s chair, senator Matt Canavan, put it to him that the Gabba rebuild wasn’t “necessary or sufficient” for a successful Olympics and would need to be justified by “broader benefits”.

“Certainly,” Carol said. He said the Olympics committee only requires a structure capable of holding the Olympics, but wouldn’t be drawn on whether that might be the Gabba with a new “coat of paint”.

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

Rental inquiry hears about climate crisis affecting housing

The climate crisis has been a big issue in the inquiry this morning, with renters talking about how their dwellings become unliveable in the depths of winter or the heat of summer.

Alison Cooke, 57, rents in Melbourne and says in summer her house gets so warm she has used bubble wrap and reflective screens to insulate the windows and on hot days, leaves so she can travel on trains to enjoy the air conditioning.

Cooke said:

I moved into that house almost five years ago. [The] first couple of summers were manageable, but the Christmas before last was a different story. That house was routinely climbing into the 30s, making [it] unbearable to be in there, despite trying to cool down the house … overnight when it was closed. I even went so far as to put reflective screens on the windows behind closed blinds, but that didn’t make any difference.

What I would like to see is heat safety as part of the rental rules, especially with climate warming. For our planet, our safety, our health, houses must be upgraded and retrofitted and the costs must not be placed on the owners in a way that is passed down to renters.

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

Renters suggest ‘liveability’ test for new leases

Renters are asking for set standards in rentals and the introduction of a “roadworthy” system, so when dwellings transfer to new leases it is checked for liveability.

Speaking to the Victorian inquiry on rental and housing adorability, renter Michelle Tyrrell, 42, a secondary school teacher in the west of Melbourne, said her home has a serious black mould issue.

They had to escalate the issues through VCAT before the mould was addressed. Despite the mould doctor treating it, it has remained – making their bed and clothes damp.

Tyrrell said:

I would like to see the equivalent of a ‘roadworthy’ for cars or building inspection for a house … for renting, each time a rental ends and a new lease begins.

The rental needs to pass a very serious liveability test.

The World Health Organization recommends indoor humidity to be 30-50%. I can’t find any standard or set code in Victoria, Australia. So this needs to be fixed.

I want insulation in walls and ceilings in Victoria and Australia and I want [there] to be compulsory … ventilation.

The inquiry is examining the challenges facing renters and factors causing the rental and housing affordability crisis in Victoria. More to come.

Jonathan Barrett

Jonathan Barrett

Coles CEO: consumers becoming ‘savvy shoppers’

More from the Coles chief executive, Leah Weckert, following the company’s 4.8% rise in full-year cash profit.

Weckert said consumers are becoming “savvy shoppers” and increasingly turning to things like meal planning:

Eating out, takeaway and coffee from the cafe are increasingly being seen as treats for a special occasion. They are looking to the supermarket to help them to do more with their budget.

She said there is more meal planning occurring and shoppers are “stretching out” the time between purchases of cleaning products and other non-food items.

Customers are still looking to be able to have a treat and a restaurant-quality meal that they do for the family, and they’re using the supermarkets to be able to access that.

What I would probably say is they’ve been really savvy shoppers. They know how much they have to spend and they know what they want to achieve out of it.

She said losses recorded from store theft have risen by 20% a year, linked to a combination of increased organised crime and shoppers under financial pressure.



https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/live/2023/aug/22/australia-news-live-economic-growth-intergenerational-report-jim-chalmers-anthony-albanese-china-aukus-indigenous-voice-to-parliament Australia news live: high court reshuffle ends first-ever female majority bench; US praises Albanese diplomacy | Australia news

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