Australia news LIVE: Coalition takes primary vote lead from Labor; HECS fee relief could be in place by July

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Australia news LIVE: Coalition takes primary vote lead from Labor; HECS fee relief could be in place by July


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Former competition boss Rod Sims has warned of a $1 billion blow to journalism if Google and Facebook spurn the federal code that requires them to pay for Australian media content, amid fears that some digital giants want to abandon the scheme.

Three years after the landmark code was put in place, former treasurer Josh Frydenberg also backed the policy as a “blueprint for future negotiations” on commercial deals to invest in public interest journalism.

Josh Frydenberg (left) and Rod SimsCredit: Wolter Peeters

The federal government is seeking new commitments from the digital giants to negotiate with Australian media companies on a second round of funding deals, while also bringing TikTok into the scheme because of its growing social media power.

Here’s the full story. 

Earlier, independent MP Helen Haines spoke about her private member’s bill that she hopes will restore “transparency, accountability and enforceability” to how public funds are distributed.

Haines, who represents Indi in Victoria, told RN Breakfast this morning that pork barrelling needs to end and says there was nothing enforceable on how grants were distributed.

She said ministers could override departmental advice and recommendations, and there was no clear, transparent selection data for projects that were publicly available.

Independent MP Helen Haines.

Independent MP Helen Haines.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“They’re aspects of my bill that I want to see pass because we have to do a whole lot better than this,” Haines said.

The MP said a minister would have to explain to parliament why they overruled their department on a grant, and why it was necessary.

“There may be excellent reasons why. But right now, we usually don’t find out about these things unless there’s a referral to the [auditor] and that’s not good enough. I think in many ways this would protect a minister actually,” she said.

Under her proposal the bill would set up a joint parliamentary committee to act as an oversight mechanism in parliament.

Former ABC boss Mark Scott has spoken about the end of Ita Buttrose’s tenure at the national broadcaster, saying she was a “champion” for the network.

“I think you’ve got to say that Ita was a champion of the ABC, she was a very experienced media leader.”

Here’s what he said about Buttrose on ABC Radio National this morning:

She was quite, I think, courageous at times to standing up for the ABC and that’s what you need a chair to be able to do at times; there’ll always be critics of the ABC, many will be genuine, some won’t be well-meaning. There’ll be times the organisation needs to be defended and I think she’s done a good job on that, over time.”

He said with the advent of digital news, the ABC was “in the sights” of other media organisations.

“It’s a competitor that other media organisations [want] to take down, but the ABC is not perfect.”

Staying with Murray Watt, who says the government is hopeful the stage three tax changes will pass through the Senate this week.

“I’d certainly think so,” he told ABC News this morning.

Watt said the opposition went through “various contortions” before settling on their position to support the changes, including opposing them and rolling them back.

“I can only assume that the opposition is going to stick to its most recent position, which is that they will support the tax cuts. And if that’s the case, then we’ll have the numbers to get them through the Senate,” Watt said.

“It’s absolutely vital from a cost-of-living perspective that we get these tax cuts through the Senate as quickly as possible.”

He said the cuts would help middle Australia and lower-income earners get some relief.

Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt has spoken about the Dunkley byelection in Melbourne’s south-east, to be held this weekend.

He said on ABC News that byelections were “always tough” for government.

“You know, where it would be reasonable to expect a swing against the government, like we see in every byelection,” Watt said this morning.

Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt in Canberra earlier this month.

Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt in Canberra earlier this month.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“Frankly, if we can manage to have a win and hold on to that seat, then we’ll be very happy.”

He said the byelection was triggered because of the death of much-loved local member Peta Murphy earlier this year.

“But in Jodie [Belyea], we’ve got a terrific local champion as well, and I wish her all the best for the weekend. But it’s going to be difficult. Byelections are always hard for governments, so if we can hang on there, we’ll be very happy.”

Staying with Nationals Leader David Littleproud, who has told Nine’s Today program that Barnaby Joyce won’t attend parliament this week.

It comes after Joyce fell off a planter box and was filmed lying on a Canberra footpath earlier this month, which he said occurred after he mixed prescription medication and alcohol.

Barnaby Joyce and Nationals leader David Littleproud during question time last week.

Barnaby Joyce and Nationals leader David Littleproud during question time last week.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Both Opposition Leader Peter Dutton and Littleproud had urged him to take time off after the incident and today, the Nationals leader said Joyce would be on leave.

He won’t be here this week. He’s notified me that he won’t be coming to Parliament.

He’s having the week off, which we gave him the opportunity to undertake with his family. And I respect that.”

Turning to Nationals leader David Littleproud, who is pushing for the competition watchdog to have divestiture powers to strip supermarket giants of some stores.

He believes if the watchdog has the powers, it would lead to greater competition.

Littleproud told Nine’s Today program this morning the powers could be used if the major chains were found to be doing the wrong thing in how they dealt with suppliers and consumers.

Nationals leader David Littleproud wants the supermarket chains broken up if they’re found to be price gouging.

Nationals leader David Littleproud wants the supermarket chains broken up if they’re found to be price gouging.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“When you have market concentration of over 74 per cent of the big three supermarkets in this country … families are making real decisions at the supermarket every day, they’re putting back fresh produce back up on the shelf because they can’t afford it,” he said.

He said prices being paid to farmers don’t represent what people were getting charged at the checkout.

“Something’s not right, and they’re taking advantage of a very [challenging] market at the farm gate,” Littleproud said.

“And I’ll just say, the prime minister … can’t be out of touch with this. This is an opportunity, and if the supermarkets are doing the right thing, then these penalties will never be used.”

Anger over youth vaping has triggered concerns in parliament about government policies that are meant to stamp out the sale of illegal nicotine, in a new sign of frustration with a federal government pledge to quash the black market.

Coalition MPs are warning about the “skyrocketing” sale of vapes to children and the rapid spread of illicit tobacco and vape stores in their local communities, despite federal Health Minister Mark Butler’s plans to restrict vaping to people with a doctors’ prescription.

Vape shops have proliferated despite the state and federal government’s crackdown on the importation and sale of vaping products.

Vape shops have proliferated despite the state and federal government’s crackdown on the importation and sale of vaping products.Credit: Edwina Pickles

The moves intensify a debate about whether Labor will succeed with its vow to ban the importation of single-use vapes when some tobacco store owners claim the new plan will only encourage the black-market trade in illegal vapes and tobacco.

More on this issue here.

Cash-strapped Australians paying off university debts could save $1000 by mid-year under a fee overhaul that Labor has declared a cost-of-living fix, as the government contemplates ambitious changes to reform the way HECS fees are repaid.

Education Minister Jason Clare on Sunday released the landmark Universities Accord report, suggesting sweeping reforms to double the number of university places over the next 25 years and to reach a point where four out of five Australians hold a degree.

The Albanese government’s Education Minister Jason Clare.

The Albanese government’s Education Minister Jason Clare.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Clare has not committed to adopting any specific proposal as he spends time considering the findings of the review.

Catch up on the full story here.

Voters have lifted the Coalition to its strongest position since the last federal election by boosting its primary vote from 34 to 37 per cent, despite backing Labor on its overhaul of personal income tax cuts for millions of workers.

The shift has weakened Labor’s core support from 35 per cent in December to 34 per cent and given the Coalition its first lead on the primary vote in the Resolve Political Monitor in this term of parliament.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has maintained his personal lead over Opposition Leader Peter Dutton, ahead by 39 to 32 per cent as preferred prime minister, but the gap has narrowed to its smallest margin since the election.

Here’s the full story.

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