Claim PM’s pledge will ‘never be delivered’

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has been accused of breaking his promise over power bill prices. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

It was a return to old favourites from newly promoted Melissa McIntosh as she stepped up to the dispatch box to quiz Chris Bowen on Labor’s power price promise during Question Time on Tuesday.

“Will the minister admit this promise will never be delivered?” she asked.

Labor went to the last election with the commitment to cut bills by $275 by 2025 but households and small businesses have been slugged with successive price hikes since.

On Tuesday, the Australian Energy Market Regulator released its draft default marker offer determination, suggesting some price relief could be on the way for some households.

Energy Minister Chris Bowen conceded there was ‘more work to do’ with power bill prices. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

The Energy Minister said it was a “welcome development” but conceded there was “much, much more work to do”.

“Nobody should underestimate the cost-of-living pressures that the Australian people are under and the need to be constantly vigilant to do more to help Australians with those prices,” he said.

Ms McIntosh tried to convince the Speaker Mr Bowen wasn’t being relevant to the question, but not directly referencing the $275 promise, but was promptly told to sit back down.

Mr Bowen took a shot at the Coalition for not voting for the caps on coal and gas.

More medicines relief on its way

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has signalled there will be more relief for Australians trying to access affordable health care in the upcoming budget.

Anthony Albanese was responding to a dixer (or, a question for his own side) from Swan MP Zaneta Mascarenhas when he made the comment.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said there would be more cost of living relief in the May budget. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“Making health care more affordable is one of the key elements of this government’s plan, making it more accessible is part of our plan for a better future,” he said.

“That’s why we’ve rolled out 58 urgent care clinics right around the country.

“That’s why there’ll be more included in our Budget coming up in May.”

Mr Albanese listed off a shopping list of other measures he said has helped Australians with the cost of living, such as a tripling the bulk billing incentive and 60-day prescriptions.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Mr Albanese have clashed on housing. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Dutton, Albo in housing spat

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton kicked proceedings off with a question to the Prime Minister about the January rise in visa-holders coming to Australia, linking it to the number of new homes and units built in the same month.

The Prime Minister immediately placed the blame back on the Coalition, reading off a series of old quotes from Mr Dutton advocating for an increase in migration

“In his first Budget reply, because there was no policy there at all, he said this: ‘I brought in record numbers of people,’ boasting, he was, Mr Speaker,” Mr Albanese said.

The PM also took aim at the deputy leader, Sussan Ley, and shadow immigration spokesman Dan Tehan, insisting the Coalition had left behind a “failed migration system”.

“We are getting on with fixing it with a minister who actually has a migration policy,” he said.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was rolling out the zingers during QT on Tuesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Albo rolls out his zinger box

You’d be forgiven for thinking Labor MPs were attending a session of the Canberra comedy festival instead of question time on an otherwise boring Tuesday afternoon.

Mr Albanese lined up his best zingers and jokes for a pre-planned question from his own side about Mr Dutton’s push for Australia to adopt nuclear power.

“Today (he) went to the party room and he said, there are a few details that were outstanding, just four,” he said, raising his hand.

“Safety, disposal, cost and location. So apart from safety, disposal, apart from the cost and apart from where they are going to go, it is all sorted out!

“Good news, team, good news. Other than that, everything is ready to go.”

Treasurer Jim Chalmers, like much of the Labor, smacked his thigh as he bent over with over the top laugher.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton remained stony faced. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Mr Dutton, on the other hand, remained stony faced. Following question time, the Liberal leader claimed his comments had been taken out of context.

“For the PM to come in again today to show how weak he is as a leader should come as no surprise to anyone,” he said.

Mr Albanese’s zingers weren’t just saved for Mr Dutton.

Greens MP Stephen Bates was also targeted when he asked if the Prime Minister would consider supporting the Greens ‘big stick’ legislation to break up supermarket powers.

“Will your government stand on the side of Australians and take on the big supermarket corporations or will you just trot out your weak excuses about the Soviet Union and let the giant supermarkets continue to ride rough shot over Australians?”

Mr Albanese responded: “I’ve been waiting to get a question about the Soviet Union and I’ve got one from the Queensland Greens. Who would have had that on their bingo card?

Emotions flow as Senate honours Linda White

In a break of hostilities, members from across the upper house on Tuesday shared condolences following the death of the Senator Linda White

Senator White, who was elected to the Senate at the May 2022 election, died on February after a brief illness.

Leading the tributes from her Labor colleagues, Foreign Minister and Leader of the Government in the Senate, Penny Wong described Senator White’s death as a “great injustice”.

“Linda’s regrettably brief time as a senator and the contribution she made to Australian public life beyond this chamber may not be widely known, but it is widely felt,” Senator Wong said.

Senator Linda White Condolences
Senator Penny Wong offered condolences for Labor senator Linda White. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman
Senator Linda White Condolences
Linda White was hailed as a “champion of social and economic justice” by Senator Simon Birmingham. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

“Linda didn’t seek the limelight but through her dedication and commitment she lit paths that so many followed.”

Opposition Leader in the Senate Simon Birmingham said Ms White had been taken far too soon.

“While Linda White’s time as a senator for the state of Victoria may have been all too short, she made her presence felt here, and she particularly made it felt in continuing her work and her advocacy as a champion of social and economic justice,” Mr Birmingham said.

“It is clear that Linda White had so much more to contribute.”

PM pays tribute to “dear friend” Linda White

In an address to the Labor caucus earlier on Tuesday, Mr Albanese paid tribute to his “dear friend” Senator White.

“What will long outlast our sadness is our pride in all that she was and all that she did,” Mr Albanese told assembled MPs.

AustraliaÕs Preparedness to Host Commonwealth Oly
Senator Linda White died on February 29 following a short illness. Picture NCA NewsWire / Aaron Francis

“A formidable supporter of working Australians, in particular women, she inspires us and reminds us about what we are here for: to use our time to make life better for working Australians.”

“I will miss her enormously as a generous colleague and source of advice but most importantly, as a dear friend.”

‘Unsurprising’: Bowen reacts to Keating-Wang meeting

Paul Keating’s meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi is “singularly unsurprising,” Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen says.

The former prime minister will meet with the top diplomat in Sydney on Thursday following Mr Wang’s meeting with counterpart Penny Wong.

The meeting has been criticised as problematic by Coalition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham.

“It is quite pointed and somewhat insulting towards Senator Wong for the Chinese embassy to have sought this meeting, given just how publicly critical Paul Keating has been of Penny Wong and of the Albanese government in their foreign policy,” he said.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen remarked that the mooted meeting was “unsurprising”. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

But speaking with reporters on Tuesday, Mr Bowen said the meeting was entirely appropriate.

“(Mr) Keating is deeply respected across Asia as the man who first pointed out that Australia would seek its security in Asia, not from Asia,” he said.

“Wang Yi’s visit is important. It’s a symbol of a stabilisation of the relationship which this government has fostered and which China has reciprocated.

“Minister Wang Yi will be meeting with serving current ministers, and it’s singularly unsurprising he would meet with a former prime minister, particularly one such as former prime minister Paul Keating who has championed deeper ties with Asia.”

Mr Wang’s visit to Australia is the first by a Chinese foreign minister since 2017.

Social Media Platforms -  Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, X, LinkedIn, Reddit, TikTok, Threads
Australia’s online safety watchdog has put social media giants on legal notice.

Instagram, Google and X warned by e Safety

Australia’s online safety regulator has issued a warning to social media giants over concerns about a rise in the spread of violent and extremist material on their platforms, airing warnings about the use of generative AI to facilitate terrorist activity.

The eSafety Commission has issued legal notices to Google, Meta, X, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Reddit, requiring each company to report how it’s responding to the risk of terrorism and online radicalisation.

Each company will have 49 days to respond or potentially face millions of dollars in penalties.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said the regulator was concerned that terrorists were weaponising generative AI platforms to spread disinformation and violent material.

She cited reports that show users of an ISIS forum have also been identified as ­comparing the AI attributes of Google’s Gemini, ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Copilot.

Encrypted messaging app Telegram has the highest prevalence of extremist material, according to a recent OECD report, with YouTube ranking second and Elon Musk’s X coming in third.

“It’s no coincidence we have chosen these companies to send notices to as there is evidence that their services are exploited by terrorists and violent extremists. We want to know why this is and what they are doing to tackle the issue,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“Transparency and accountability are essential for ensuring the online industry is meeting the community’s expectations by protecting their users from these harms.”

TikTok is likely to be next in the firing line as the only social media company in the world not signed up to a global pact to counter extremism.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said tech giants had a responsibility to protect users. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

‘Reckless’: Labor bites back over detainees

Labor has accused the Coalition of using a political dispute over former immigration detainees to spread “chaos” as the fallout from last year’s landmark NZYQ ruling intensifies.

On Monday, opposition immigration spokesman Dan Tehan claimed that an upcoming High Court challenge would usher the release of hundreds of “hardened criminals” into the community.

His comments refer to a critical hearing in April involving an Iranian asylum seeker who has refused to return to his birth country out of fear of persecution for his sexuality. The result will likely set a precedent for many other detainees.

After the Coalition seized on Monday’s question time to pressure the government over its detention regime, Labor frontbencher Malarndirri McCarthy rejected that public safety was at risk.

“I think it’s completely reckless of the opposition to use this to scare Australians. There is no need for that. We’ve had even the Border Force commissioner come out and say that this should not be played in terms of the politics of this issue,” she said.

“I would say to Australians that we are doing everything we can in accordance with the law.”

Defending the Coalition’s rhetoric on the detainee issue, Liberal senator Bridget McKenzie accused Labor of ignoring advice from the High Court.

“On this measure of national security, the government has reeled from bungle to bungle to bungle. This is only the latest in a long litany of months and months of them ignoring significant advice from the High Court,” she said.

Independent MP’s say they will pressure major parties to strengthen electoral reforms. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Pressure on Labor political ‘rort’

Independents and Greens MPs have challenged Labor to tighten its rules around big political donations.

A group of independents, including Kate Chaney, Jacqui Lambie, Lidia Thorpe, Zali Steggall, the Greens and David Pocock, will introduce a fair and transparent bill into both Houses of Parliament on Tuesday.

The bill proposes truth in political advertising rules, a ban on donations from industries deemed to be socially harmful, including alcohol, tobacco and gambling companies, and calls to ban donations from major party fundraisers in the definition of gifts.

It also supports a Labor election promise to lower the political donations disclosure threshold to $1000.

The government will soon introduce its own legislation to cap donations to parties and candidates, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Greens Senator Larissa Waters said the Teals bill had the numbers to pass if the Albanese government got on board.

“We rightly fear that they are sticking with a deal with the opposition,” Senator Waters told reporters on Monday.

“That’s not reform, that’s a rort.”

Asked why the bill excluded a cap on election spending, independent MP Kate Chaney, who will introduce the bill to the lower house, said the model had the benefit of simplicity and fairness.

“I don’t think there’s a problem if you get a large number of people donating a small number of money each, that’s actually democracy working,” she said.

“The problem is it’s really hard to come up with a cap that’s fair and doesn’t stop competition.”

Chris Bowen said households will see power relief in the coming months. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw

Race to lower power bills not over: Bowen

Energy Minister Chris Bowen says he’s not backing away just yet from a promise to slash power bills by $275.

Labor went to the last election with the commitment to cut bills but since then Australian households and small businesses have been slugged with successive price hikes.

But the draft Default Market Offer determination, released by the Australian Energy Market Regulator (AER) indicated the era of skyrocketing bills may be over.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Bowen called the news “encouraging” but conceded there was “much, much more to do”.

“The race isn’t won, nor would anybody, I think, sensibly suggest that it is,” he said.

Asked if the $275 power price promise could still be met, Mr Bowen said he was not giving up and took a swipe at the Coalition’s push to adopt nuclear power.

“Others might, by suggesting nuclear. We’re focusing on the task at hand – getting renewables into the system to reduce prices,” he said.

Mr Bowen said he would consider “any sensible cost of living relief” in the budget, due May 14.