By Anna Patty
Thanks for joining us today. If you’re just catching up, here are some of our main headlines:
- Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continued to defend the AUKUS submarines deal on Wednesday, including the cost of the nuclear-powered vessels. He rejected Paul Keating’s criticism of the plan as “wrong” while maintaining his respect for his achievements as a Treasurer and former Prime Minister and accepting his right express his views.
- Another former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, also questioned whether a “sick” British economy can sustain the AUKUS agreement.
An airborne fungus has shut down 70 per cent of Lord Howe Island as authorities race to save its unique ecosystem. Tourists will be banned immediately from walking through the World Heritage-listed parks preserve area.
- The Australian share market has fallen sharply again, hitting a 10-week low after the banking crisis spread to Europe amid fears about the solvency of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse.
Gambling addicts who withdrew up to $20,000 from their superannuation through a Morrison government stimulus scheme used much of the cash to bet on sports and helped drive record profits for foreign-owned betting firms now being targeted by Labor and the Nationals. The first major study of the $38 billion COVID-era early superannuation release program found gambling spending rose by an average of $300 for those who accessed the scheme.
- Concerns of a looming gas shortage along the state’s east coast have been raised as demand outstrips supply, with shortages a possibility over the coming winter months.
- Consumer finance provider Latitude Financial has been hacked, and believes more than 300,000 identity documents may have been compromised.
- In NSW, former Premier Gladys Berejiklian appeared for the first time on the state election campaign trail in Penrith, one of the party’s seats that are at risk.
- Overseas, the Kremlin planned a “political takeover” of Moldova according to a leaked document.
Australian share market plunges, hitting a 10-week low
By Anna Patty
The Australian share market has fallen sharply again, hitting a 10-week low after the banking crisis spread to Europe amid fears about the solvency of Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse.
Equity strategist Julia Lee from State Street Global Advisors said the banking crisis that started last week was behind the recent bout of risk aversion. “It’s seen interest rate expectations in developed markets plummeting,” she said. “The risk of doing too little, too late may be one of the lessons left from the GFC.”
Our business team reports that the Australian sharemarket managed to claw back some of its losses after plunging at the open on Thursday as a fresh banking crisis at global giant Credit Suisse sent jitters across the global banking sector.
After sinking more than 2 per cent this morning and wiping more than $40 billion from the index, the S&P/ASX 200 closed down 1.5 per cent, or 103.4 points, to 6965.5 points, weighed down primarily by energy and materials stocks.
Read the full coverage here.
Fungus outbreak shuts down most of Lord Howe Island
By Olivia Ireland
An airborne fungus has shut down 70 per cent of Lord Howe Island as authorities race to save its unique ecosystem.
Tourists will be banned immediately from walking through the World Heritage-listed parks preserve area.
The Lord Howe Island Board announced on Monday that the permanent park preserve will be closed after myrtle rust – a member of the fungal complex – was discovered on February 3.
The board said the rust had the potential to change the way the island’s mountains and forests looked, alter ecology and affect world heritage values.
Read the full story here.
PM defends submarine spending as a good investment in defence and the economy
By Anna Patty
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continued to put his case for Australia’s plan to spend up to $368 billion on nuclear-powered submarines.
Speaking on Radio 2GB this afternoon, he said the investment was under 10 per cent of the Defence budget and would achieve a “quantum leap” in Defence Force capacity.
“I think that it’s the right thing to do. It is an investment in our security, and nothing is more important than looking after our national security. That’s a precondition for a successful economy,” he said.
Asked if he would consider imposing a national defence tax, Albanese said a levy was not under consideration.
“We’re prepared to make difficult decisions and there will be some more that we’ll have a conversation with the Australian people about in the lead up to the next election in particular,” Albanese said.
Ideology is critical for understanding AUKUS v China
Understanding the ideological clash between democratic allies and China’s neo-authoritarianism is critical to understanding the motivations of the AUKUS partners, Australia, Britain and the United States.
Security expert Lydia Khalil explains how Australians need to appreciate, too, how much ideology drives China’s strategic actions.
Read her full analysis here.
Gambling addicts drained super funds to bet thousands during COVID
By Paul Sakkal
Gambling addicts who withdrew up to $20,000 from their superannuation through a Morrison government stimulus scheme used much of the cash to bet on sports and helped drive record profits for foreign-owned betting firms now being targeted by Labor and the Nationals.
The first major study of the $38 billion COVID-era early superannuation release program found gambling spending rose by an average of $300 for those who accessed the scheme, prompting fresh calls for a crackdown on the growing sports betting sector. Some long-time addicts spent much more than $300.
Labor MP Peta Murphy, who is chairing a government-commissioned inquiry into online betting, said spending on digital gambling spiked during lockdowns, illustrated by a 60 per cent increase in Sportsbet’s 2020 revenue.
“We said from day one the Morrison government policy allowing people to raid super to get through COVID was incredibly problematic. This data shows we were right,” Murphy said.
Witnesses who gave evidence at the inquiry, which will inform future government reforms, said the combination of easy access to gambling apps, the proliferation of ads online and on TV, and lump sums of cash led to greater betting outlays.
Keating is a ‘big guy’ entitled to his opinion: Albanese
By Anna Patty
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese praised Paul Keating as a great former prime minister and as a “big guy” entitled to his own opinion – but “wrong” about the AUKUS agreement.
Speaking to journalists this afternoon in Wantirna with Mary Doyle, Labor’s candidate in the Aston byelection, and Immigration Minister Andrew Giles, Albanese said Keating had his respect as a great treasurer and former prime minister. And he had no interest in getting into a public fight.
“Paul Keating is a big guy. He is entitled to his opinion. I think on those issues he is wrong,” Albanese said.
“I’m acting in the national interest by investing in Australia’s capability. But I’m also investing in our relationships.
“Australia is back in the international community around the table.”
Keating launched an extraordinary attack on the Albanese government yesterday over its adoption of the AUKUS pact, accusing it of making the worst foreign policy decision by a Labor government since the attempted introduction of conscription in World War I.
US tells TikTok’s Chinese owners sell up or get banned
By Echo Wang and David Shepardson
Washington: The Biden administration has demanded that TikTok’s Chinese owners divest their stakes in the popular video app or face a possible US ban, the company says.
The move, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, is the most dramatic in a series of recent steps by US officials and legislators who have raised fears that TikTok’s US user data could be passed on to China’s government. ByteDance-owned TikTok has more than 100 million US users.
Read the full story here.
Watch Live: Anthony Albanese
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will be talking to the media in Wantirna with Immigration Minister Andrew Giles and Mary Doyle, Labor’s candidate in the Aston byelection.
Gas supply risk to remain this winter
By Anna Patty
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) says its natural gas production will meet customer demand until 2027 in central and eastern Australia, but supply risks this winter remain.
AEMO chief executive Daniel Westerman says the short-term gas shortfall risks and long-term supply gaps, due to declining production in southern Australia.
“The risk of gas shortfalls each year from winter 2023 to 2026 in all southern jurisdictions remains under extreme weather conditions and periods of high gas-powered electricity generation, with those risks further exacerbated if gas storage levels are insufficient,” Westerman said.
“Overall, the gas supply adequacy challenges reported in the 2022 [Gas Statement Of Opportunities report] remain, driven by the continued decline of production in the Gippsland region, along with pipeline capacity limitations, including capacity to transport gas to the southern states.
“While production capacity commitments have increased for 2023 compared to the 2022 GSOO and several key infrastructure projects are on track for delivery, there is forecast to be a 16 per cent reduction in production capacity this winter compared to 2022 in Victoria, which increases supply pressure in the southern regions.”
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