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China’s ambassador to Australia ready to ‘bring the relationship back on the right track’

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, says diplomats between the two countries are in talks on next steps for cooperation.

Xiao has told a webinar hosted by the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney:

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We’re ready together with the Australian side to bring the relationship back on the right track.

Xiao notes this month marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between two countries. He says the “difficulties” in the relationship encountered in the past few years were unfortunate. He says regardless of different views of why and how those difficulties emerged, those difficulties are not in the interest of either country.

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Xiao says last month’s bilateral meeting between Xi Jinping and Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali was “very successful”. The ambassador described it as positive, constructive and productive, and it set the direction for the future development of the relationship.

He says China and Australia are now working on the follow-up to that bilateral meeting between the leaders. That includes comparing notes between the two sides.

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He says diplomats are examining the areas in which the countries can cooperate, the areas where they have differences, and the concerns from each sides, and looking for solutions to those concerns.

Key events

Filters BETA

The day that was, Wednesday 7 December

We will leave the live blog there for the night.

Here’s what made the news today:

  • Australia’s economy expanded at an annual rate of 5.9% in the September quarter, the Australian Bureau of Statistics said. At a quarterly level, GDP grew 0.6%.

  • China’s relationship with Australia could be heading back “on the right track”, with China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, saying diplomats are in talks on next steps for further cooperation.

  • Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest, has taken over CWP Renewables, expanding the billionaire’s clean energy portfolio to 2.4GW.

  • Rideshare company Uber will pay a $21m fine after admitting it overestimated fees for services and advertised a possible cancellation fee that it never charged. The court imposed a lower fine than the $26m the company had originally agreed to pay.

  • Minister for women, Katy Gallagher, said the commonwealth needs to lead reforms of sexual assault law.

  • The US will increase rotational presence of navy and army personnel in Australia. It will see more US air, land and sea forces in Australia.

  • Public hospital performance is at a record low, according to the Australian Medical Association.

We will be back with you tomorrow with all the latest. Until then, have a good evening.

Luke Henriques-Gomes

Luke Henriques-Gomes

Former Department of Human Services chief continues evidence at robodebt inquiry

The former Department of Human Services boss Kathryn Campbell has told a royal commission she relied on her staff and another department to ensure what became the robodebt scheme was legal.

Campbell, who continued her evidence to a royal commission into the scheme on Wednesday, faced sustained questioning about her role in February 2015 advising the former social services minister Scott Morrison about a proposal for what became robodebt.

Under questioning from the senior counsel assisting, Justin Greggery KC, Campbell was asked about her involvement in an executive minute for Morrison that outlined what would become the robodebt scheme, along with other welfare compliance policies.

Kathryn Campbell
Former Department of Human Services boss Kathryn Campbell during Senate Estimates in April 2022. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s former ambassador to Australia also optimistic on relationship

As we reported here on the blog earlier, China’s current ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, has told an event China is ready to work with Australia to bring the relationship “back on the right track”.

Fu Ying, who served as China’s ambassador to Australia from 2004 to 2007, has now addressed the same webinar hosted by the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.

She said she was similarly optimistic about the trajectory in the relationship after the meeting between Xi Jinping and Anthony Albanese.

Fu, who is now vice-chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee of China’s 13th National People’s Congress, described the discussions as constructive and said the two leaders sent a clear signal about the need for improving the relationship.

She said China had no intention of forcing Australia to make a choice against any other country.

But she said China also disagreed with the idea of dividing the world into power blocs, saying humanity has not forgotten the trauma of “hot and cold wars”.

Fu said while both China and Australia needed to adjust to the new realities in the world, they should take a long term view about power relations. She said that was a point stressed by Xi when meeting Albanese last month.

She said it was imperative to rise above disagreement and respect each other and seek mutually beneficial, arguing this would lead to steady growth of the relationship.

Fu Ying
Fu Ying, a former Chinese ambassador to Australia. Photograph: Wu Hong/EPA

Interesting questions coming out of an ABC interview with Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, this afternoon. I’ll try to get the best bits.

RE: Has @VictorianCHO been silenced?@DanielAndrewsMP: “At the end of the day, anyone who knows Brett Sutton knows that he’s not silenced…if he’s got something to say he’ll say it.”

“If he chooses to make public comments that’s a matter for him.”

— ABC Melbourne (@abcmelbourne) December 7, 2022

Windfall royalty charges on coal buoy Queensland’s finances

Queensland is back in the black after taking a cut on coal exports but wants compensation before it agrees to cap domestic prices, AAP reports.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, is reportedly considering demanding Queensland and NSW impose their own price caps on coal to ease pressure on household and business power bills.

That comes as Queensland treasurer, Cameron Dick, revealed on Wednesday that windfall royalty charges on coal producers will help keep the state’s budget in the black for three of the next four years.

He’s forecast a surplus of almost $5.2bn in 2022/23 in his mid-year budget update, against a $1bn deficit predicted six months ago.

That’s on the back of almost $10.7bn in coal royalty payments flowing into state coffers; more than double the amount predicted in June when windfall royalty rates were introduced.

Royalties, along with higher payroll tax and GST returns, will keep the balance sheets in the black over the forward estimates, except for a $458m deficit in 2023/24.

The treasurer says a coal price cap won’t hit the royalty income from exporters but he’s wary about its impact on profitable public-owned electricity generators:

We need to have a look at the final proposal and the detail from the federal government before we can form a view about what that actually looks like when it comes to compensation or support for Queensland if we are to do something that impacts, in a financial sense, on our state.

Dick expects to take $21.5bn in coal royalties over the next four years but admits Treasury’s forecasts are conservative.

The Queensland Resources Council, a coalmining lobby group, has launched an advertising campaign warning that higher royalty payments will deter investment.

QRC chief executive, Ian Macfarlane, claimed that due to the policy, “in 10 to 20 years time, there will be no jobs in coal mining”.

“They are taking so much that they are killing the golden goose,” he said.

“The resources industry in Queensland underpins the Queensland economy yet it is being absolutely trashed by the Queensland government.”

The treasurer is unapologetic about taking a bigger cut from coal producers, saying it will be partly used to fund decarbonisation plans, critical minerals mining and regional infrastructure.

Coal royalties are worth fighting for; Queenslanders deserve their fair share and they will receive it.

The windfall profits made by coal companies are also a win for the people who own these mineral resources, the people of Queensland.

While coal prices are expected to fall from the second half of 2023, the windfall rates will take total income from coal to almost $21.55bn over the next four years.

The net debt forecast has been slashed by $400m to $110.7bn for 2022/23 and is expected to peak around $700m lower at $129.3bn in four years’ time.

Queensland’s economic growth is forecast to be around 2.5% until 2023/24.

The state’s 4% unemployment rate is expected to rise marginally to 4.25% and the current 5.75% inflation rate is expected to fall to 2.75% by 2023/24.

piles of coal ready to be transferred to nearby ships
Queensland’s Hay Point and Dalrymple Bay coal terminals. Photograph: OZSHOTZ/Alamy

China’s ambassador to Australia ready to ‘bring the relationship back on the right track’

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

China’s ambassador to Australia, Xiao Qian, says diplomats between the two countries are in talks on next steps for cooperation.

Xiao has told a webinar hosted by the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney:

We’re ready together with the Australian side to bring the relationship back on the right track.

Xiao notes this month marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between two countries. He says the “difficulties” in the relationship encountered in the past few years were unfortunate. He says regardless of different views of why and how those difficulties emerged, those difficulties are not in the interest of either country.

Xiao says last month’s bilateral meeting between Xi Jinping and Anthony Albanese on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali was “very successful”. The ambassador described it as positive, constructive and productive, and it set the direction for the future development of the relationship.

He says China and Australia are now working on the follow-up to that bilateral meeting between the leaders. That includes comparing notes between the two sides.

He says diplomats are examining the areas in which the countries can cooperate, the areas where they have differences, and the concerns from each sides, and looking for solutions to those concerns.

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

Australia’s ambassador to China says problems between the two nations can be managed

The Australian ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, is speaking about the relationship between the two countries.

He tells a webinar that both Beijing and Canberra are now better aware of where the “firm lines” in the relationship are.

The event is hosted by the Australia-China Relations Institute at the University of Technology Sydney.

Fletcher says “our difficulties have not gone away” but each side can start talking abut them.

He says the problems are not trivial things and go to matters of sovereignty, security and dignity as viewed by each government.

But he says there is no need to focus exclusively on those problems:

Problems need to be recognised and addressed and if possible progressed but, if not, managed so they don’t become damaging.

Fletcher says in the wake of last month’s meeting between Xi Jinping and Anthony Albanese, the Australian embassy in Beijing is considering “next steps”.

He says priorities for further talks include regional hotspots in Asia, the international order and the multilateral system including nuclear non-proliferation, human rights, the World Trade Organization, development including in the Pacific, and environment including climate change.

Fletcher says Australia has positions it wishes to put to China, and Australia wants to understand China’s positions, too. Australia wants to “encourage them to see things more from our perspective”.

He cites further areas for talks as new frontiers in renewable energy and public health.

Graham Fletcher
Australian ambassador to China, Graham Fletcher, turned away by court officials as he tried to enter the trial of Chinese Australian journalist Cheng Lei in Beijing in March 2022. Photograph: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Catch up with all the afternoon news with our latest update.

New Zealand opposition on NZ election 2024

New Zealand’s opposition leader, Christopher Luxon, is up on Afternoon Briefing next discussing the NZ election next year, and National’s improvement in the polls.

He said the National Party has come back from a difficult place, and the current government is “really struggling to get things done and New Zealanders are over it.”

They sense that the country is totally, utterly, completely heading in the wrong direction and they really want a government to step up and turn the country around and get things done and delivered and deliver outcomes for the New Zealand people, that is how we get to improve their daily lives.

Asked if there is any similarity between Australia turfing out the Morrison government in May, Luxon said it is different.

This is a government that does a lot of spin, no delivery, there is a lot of economic mismanagement frankly going on at the moment in our country, there is a lot of centralisation of control, a huge amount of identity politics and we’ve just lost that ambition, the aspiration, the positivity and the confidence to do well in the world so we’ve been playing a small negative game over the last years and New Zealanders can sense that and that is why they are saying look, this country is heading in wrong direction, they want to government to turn it around and get things done for the New Zealand people.

McCarthy says the Nationals should stop and reflect on what they are saying no to, when it comes to an Indigenous voice to parliament, noting that a number of Nationals disagree with the party’s position.

She said while senator Jacinta Price’s position was well known, it was surprising a number of Nationals so quickly arrived at the no position:

I think what was surprising was that so many of the Nationals bought it straightaway without really having the conversation with Linda Burney in particular as the minister responsible and also Senator Pat Dodson. People that they work aside for the last two terms at least. These are very, very strong people who have been in Aboriginal is for many decades and Pat Dodson who is known as a father of reconciliation, I thought it was quite surprising and quite naive really that the Nationals leader hadn’t had that conversation with them?

Government on Indigenous voice to parliament

The assistant minister for Indigenous Australians, Malarndirri McCarthy, is on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing discussing the Indigenous voice to parliament.

After meeting with the ministers for Indigenous Australians in the states this week, McCarthy says there is in-principle support for the work the federal government is doing heading towards the referendum:

We have the two groups, the working group is obviously the group that does advise suddenly the minister and a special for reconciliation and Mark Dreyfus, attorney general, so that working group will meet again next week along with the engagement group which is a larger group of over 60 organisations and individuals from across the country and will be about the communication process and how we actually reach across the country to both Indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

It was important to be able to speak to the Indigenous affairs ministers about those two working groups but also, the legal group that’s looking at this as well, that’s assisting with both Senator Dodson and Mark Dreyfus and this was about bringing up to speed each minister and also, recognising the next year is going to be an important year for our country.

Spike in NSW ambulance call-outs due to triple zero operators, union says

Highest priority NSW ambulance call-outs have spiked, with unions blaming the blowout on a change to triage questions asked by triple zero operators, AAP reports.

The most urgent of emergencies, classified P1A by the service, increased 72.8% in the second half of this year compared to before the Covid pandemic, according to the Bureau of Health Information (BHI).

NSW Ambulance conducted 330,591 responses in the July to September quarter, of which a record 12,321 were P1As or immediately life-threatening.

The Australian Paramedics Association (APA) says the increase is partly due to triple zero operators now asking callers a binary yes or no question regarding whether the patient is having trouble breathing.

If the answer is yes, a P1A emergency is sent out, triggering a lights and sirens response from nearby paramedics.

The issue, according to the APA, is that not all such instances will be life-threatening and could instead be due to shock, anxiety or extreme intoxication.

“If you do indicate the patient you are calling about is having trouble breathing it will automatically be classed as a P1A call, which means a resource is going to be redirected from some other callers who might actually need more urgent care,” a spokeswoman said.

“That question is supposed to be sorting through what is a life-threatening cardiac or airway-oriented emergency and it’s failing to do that.”

NSW Ambulance acknowledged the increase in P1A calls was partly due to the update of its triage system but said the intention was to more accurately reflect a patient’s condition.

“The (Priority) 1A response code reflects our most life-threatening incidents which include patients presenting in cardiac arrest but it is not limited to this group,” it said.

“The triage system is designed to provide the highest acuity incidents with the most time-critical ambulance response.”

The APA wants a reassessment to prevent cases being misclassified.

The BHI report also found ambulances responding to the next highest priority emergencies, or P1s, achieved a target response time of less than 15 minutes in 38 per cent of cases, which was well below pre-pandemic levels.

Once patients arrive at hospital they face extended wait times, the report says.

Three-quarters of patients delivered by ambulance had their care transferred to emergency department staff within 30 minutes and one in 10 waited longer than 68 minutes.

Health minister Brad Hazzard, who will retire from politics at the next election, noted NSW emergency departments were actually performing better than anywhere else in the country.

Hazzard took his lead from another report released on Wednesday by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare showing the state’s EDs had the shortest wait times in the country.

“What is clear is that when a patient shows up at NSW public hospital, they are receiving the best and quickest care in the country,” Hazzard said.

Labor leader Chris Minns said if elected his government would put more funding into healthcare to ensure systems ran more smoothly.

“We’ll introduce safe staffing levels in NSW hospitals, starting with EDs,” Minns said.

“It will help with workloads, it will take pressure off nurses and ensure they can treat patients with the care they deserve and need.”

More from the assistant trade minister …

On whether our trading partners have been informed of potential policy directions when it comes to energy, assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, says it’s a constant dialogue:

We are in a constant dialogue with our major trading partners and our partners who rely upon Australian energy supplies about all of the issues around energy. Those reassurances have been constant and ongoing all the way through this year, and Australia is a trusted and reliable partner for many of these countries on these questions. It is not a new issue, and what we are seeing around the world as governments taking action over this set of issues. It is complex.

We have got to deal with supply, we have got to deal with price, we’ve got to make sure that Australia’s reputation as a trusted supplier of these resources is maintained and I am very confident that the measures that the government announces in due course after we have gone through a proper process will achieve all of those objectives.

Government welcomes wage growth

The assistant trade minister, Tim Ayres, is on ABC’s Afternoon Briefing discussing the national accounts.

He says it’s good to see wages growth:

It is a good thing to see some growth in wages. Of course a very significant part of that I think can be attributed to minimum wage rises that happened following the election of the Albanese government. But households are still doing it tough. Wages are still well behind the growth and the cost of living and of course we have seen a decade of historically low wages growth, so households have got a long way to go to catch up in real terms, and we are under no illusion this is a very difficult period for Australian household.

Turning to trade policy, Ayres won’t comment on what impact capping coal prices might have on trade, saying the government has not yet reached a position.

We are going through of course a careful, deliberate cabinet process in terms of where we are heading on energy prices, and the public will get to see some of that play out over the course of this week.

We have been very deliberate and very careful to make this a proper, effective process. We haven’t rushed to the press release, we’ve been working carefully with industry, the ministers with each of their departments and now in some consultation with the states and territories about how this is going to proceed but the overwhelming issue here is that energy price rises have had a significant impact on households and when we are talking about exports, a very significant impact on the capacity of gas dependent East Coast manufacturers, particularly those who are exposed to energy price volatility from the end of this year.

[Continued from previous post]

The Alfred has paused elective surgeries for a week because a high number of key clinical staff are off sick due to Covid-19.

AAP has been told it’s the hospital’s highest level of staff sick leave since early 2022.

But all emergency surgery at The Alfred is continuing, with the hospital responding to an increase in trauma cases.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital also confirmed on Wednesday that some elective surgery has been postponed, although planned category one and urgent category two surgeries will still go ahead.

The hospital has cited increased demand and staff illness as reasons for the changes.

“Unfortunately, due to these impacts, some patients may have their surgeries deferred,” a spokesperson told AAP in a statement.

“We are reviewing this on a daily basis and thank Victorians for their patience and support.”

Health minister Mary-Anne Thomas said the government was implementing its long-term plan to boost numbers in the healthcare workforce.

She urged Victorians to take their own steps to reduce the current strain on hospitals, including keeping up to date with COVID-19 vaccines and staying home when sick.

Victorian hospitals to feel Covid pinch for weeks

Victoria’s hospital system will continue to see increased pressure from Covid-19 for weeks to come, AAP reports.

Elective surgeries have been deferred at some of Melbourne’s largest hospitals as staff shortages put pressure on already busy services.

Victorian health minister Mary-Anne Thomas acknowledged staff furloughs were the most likely reason for surgery delays.

Thomas said she has received a briefing from the health department since being re-elected and while the current Covid-19 wave may have peaked, the flow-on effects will continue.

“Our latest data tells us that we’ve got around 550 cases in hospital at the moment,” she told reporters in Clayton on Wednesday.

“The good news on Covid is that the proportion of cases requiring hospitalisation has dramatically reduced in relation to the number of infections. The advice that I have is that we are plateauing.

“But what we know from previous waves is that … there’s a lag in hospitalisation from the peak of infection.

The next two weeks will continue to be challenging for healthcare workers and all Victorians, Thomas said.

About 550 COVID-19 cases are currently in hospital, she said.

[continued]

Violet Coco jailing condemned by Greenpeace

Greenpeace has condemned the 15-month sentence handed to climate activist Violet Coco in NSW.

Violet Coco is a member of the Fireproof Australia activist group.
Violet Coco is a member of the Fireproof Australia activist group. Photograph: Carly Earl/The Guardian

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said the right to peaceful protest is fundamental to democracy, and the laws were “rushed through in a chilling and knee-jerk response to ongoing peaceful protests”:

[They] are the latest in a suite of increasingly draconian measures introduced in Australia, designed to curtail peaceful public dissent.

What these laws fail to acknowledge is that climate activism does not exist in a vacuum. People are feeling compelled to take a stand only because of the fossil fuel industry’s wanton and knowing destruction of our right to a safe climate over the past 50 years.

While tactics and approaches to climate advocacy may differ, and there are legitimate differences of opinion on what forms of advocacy are most effective for winning hearts and minds, the fact remains that the inconvenience caused by the climate crisis – catastrophic floods, fires and storms destroying homes, livelihoods, and entire communities – staggeringly outweighs the inconvenience of one climate protester blocking one lane of traffic for 25 minutes.

What we must remember is that climate change isn’t happening to us, it’s being done to us. It’s being done to us by the executives of the fossil fuel corporations, and they know it. Just as Ms Coco knew that her act of protest would disrupt one lane of traffic, these executives know that their relentless pursuit of profit is disrupting the lives of billions of people and every species of life on our entire planet.

Meningococcal case reported in Victoria by schoolies-attendee to Maroochydore

An 18-year-old who attended schoolies in Maroochydore in Queensland is the latest case of meningococcal to be reported, the Victorian health department has said.

Victoria has reported 14 cases in 2022.

The health department is warning people who attended social venues in Maroochydore between 26 November and 2 December to be alert for symptoms and act immediately.

Those symptoms include: sudden onset of fever, headache, neck stiffness, joint pain, a rash of red-purple spots or bruises, dislike of bright lights, nausea, and vomiting.

 

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