Australia news LIVE: Rates, inflation and tax combination hit Australian economy; Consultant replaces Scott Morrison as Liberal Party candidate in Cook

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Australia news LIVE: Rates, inflation and tax combination hit Australian economy; Consultant replaces Scott Morrison as Liberal Party candidate in Cook


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Singapore’s prime minister has defended paying Taylor Swift to exclusively perform in the country, after some other countries in South-East Asia were unhappy about the call.

My colleague Matthew Knott reported Singapore reportedly offered Swift up to $3 million for each show performed in Singapore in exchange for not performing elsewhere in South-East Asia during the tour.

At a press conference alongside Anthony Albanese, the Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was asked about the payment.

Here’s what he said:

We negotiated our agencies negotiated an arrangement iwth her to come to Singapore to perform, and to make Singapore the only stop in South-East Asia. And there was certain incentives provided to her from our tourism development fund … and a deal was reached. 

It has turned out to be a very successful arrangement, I don’t see that as being unfriendly, sometimes one country makes a deal, sometimes another country does.”

Swift is playing six shows at Singapore’s 55,000-seat National Stadium, meaning Swifties across the region have needed to travel overseas or miss out.

Former prime minister Paul Keating has launched an extraordinary attack on ASIO boss Mike Burgess, accusing him of trying to undermine the Albanese government’s efforts to stabilise relations with China and claiming the spy boss should have been sacked after the last federal election.

In a fiery statement that renewed his attacks on Foreign Minister Penny Wong, Keating accused Prime Minister Anthony Albanese of being at odds with South-East Asian leaders as the Prime Minister hosts a high-profile ASEAN special summit in Melbourne.

Keating said the summit, which concludes tomorrow, “makes clear is that Australia and Australian policy is at odds with the general tenor of ASEAN’s perceived strategic interests – that is, interests which relate to China and the United States and relations between them”.

Former prime minister Paul Keating.

Declaring that Albanese should have fired Burgess, Office of National Intelligence chief Andrew Shearer and Home Affairs Department Secretary Michael Pezzulo when he came to power, Keating said: “These people display utter contempt for the so-called stabilisation process that the Prime Minister had decided upon and has progressed with China.

“And will do anything to destabilise any meaningful rapprochement. Burgess runs the primary goon show while Shearer does all in his power to encourage Australia into becoming the 51st state of the United States.“

Describing Burgess as the government’s “resident conjuror”, Keating pointed to a story in this masthead revealing that China was the nation referred to by Burgess in a speech last week for running a spy network in Australia known as the A-team.

“The kabuki show runs thus: Burgess drops the claim, then out of nowhere, the Herald and The Age miraculously appear to solve the mystery – the villain, as it turns out, is China after all,” Keating said.

“The anti-China Australian strategic policy establishment was feeling some slippage in its mindless pro-American stance and decided some new China rattling was overdue.”

Referring to a speech yesterday in which Penny Wong warned of the risk of conflict in the Indo-Pacific and alluded to destabilising actions by Beijing, Keating said: “It doesn’t take much to encourage Penny Wong, sporting her ‘deeply concerned’ frown, to rattle the China can – a can she gave a good shake to yesterday.”

“Yesterday Anwar Ibrahim, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, dropped a huge rock into Wong’s pond by telling Australia not to piggyback Australia’s problems with China onto ASEAN,” Keating continued.

“Anwar is making it clear, Malaysia for its part, is not buying United States hegemony in East Asia – with states being lobbied to ringfence China on the way through.”

Keating last year launched a strident attack on the Albanese government for sticking with the AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine pact and accused Wong of not being serious about foreign affairs by “running around the Pacific Islands with a lei around your neck”.

Returning to Anthony Albanese and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who were asked about concerns from countries with ASEAN about China’s actions in the contested South China Sea and how they were managing those differences.

The leaders of Australia and Singapore were also asked to provide an update on how negotiations were going with China on a code of conduct for the country in the South China Sea.

It comes as the leaders of nine South-East Asian nations are in Melbourne this week for a special ASEAN-Australian summit, which will be dominated by discussion of the fierce competition between the United States and China for influence in the region.

Anthony Albanese in Melbourne.

Anthony Albanese in Melbourne.Credit: Joe Armao

“ASEAN countries have a common position on the South China Sea, but we also have different national perspectives … the positions are different because our situations are different,” Lee told reporters in Melbourne today.

“Some ASEAN countries don’t even … face the South China Sea, some countries like Singapore don’t have claims in the South China Sea, but we have an interest in freedom of navigation and application of international law … because it’s a vital artery for international trade,” Lee said.

Lee said on the code of conduct it was a common position of ASEAN members that one needed to be negotiated with China, and those were taking place.

“They have reached a point … where our first complete read-through of the code of conduct, but to negotiate and settle the code I believe will take some time,” Lee said.

“The issues are not easy to resolve and really, negotiating a code of conduct that inevitably raises issues of what the ultimate outcomes are going to be … so negotiating the code will take some time.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said Australia believed strongly in freedom of navigation through the South China Sea, and that a large percentage of Australian trade went through that sea.

“It’s an important waterway, and we support freedom of navigation, we also support the application of international law and our position on China remains very consistent.

“We will cooperate where we can, and disagree where we must, but we will always engage in our national interest.”

He said the recent progress between the two countries was a positive step, and said it was always good when there was dialogue.

“We are hosting this summit [ASEAN] in the context that we live in close proximity to the fastest growing region in the world in human history, that present an enormous opportunity … but it relies upon international laws being respected, relies upon trade being encouraged in a fair and transparent way.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has tweaked his front bench, unveiling a new assistant treasurer nearly a year after former MP Stuart Robert quit politics in a wider-than-expected frontbench shake-up.

Queensland MP Luke Howarth, a close ally of Dutton’s, has been appointed to the role of shadow assistant treasurer and opposition spokesman for financial services.

NSW Liberal MP Melissa McIntosh has been appointed to the role of opposition spokeswoman for Western Sydney and will have junior portfolio responsibilities for energy affordability, too.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced a shake-up to his frontbench.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton announced a shake-up to his frontbench.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

A number of other appointments have been made, including NSW senator Andrew Bragg to a new role as assistant opposition spokesman for homeownership, and home affairs spokesman James Paterson has added the role of cabinet secretary vacated by Marise Payne.

South Australian MP James Stevens will be opposition assistant spokesman for government waste reduction, Queenslander Paul Scarr will be opposition assistant spokesman for multicultural engagement and NSW senator Hollie Hughes will be opposition assistant spokeswoman for mental health and the NDIS.

Defence spokesman Andrew Hastie and his assistant, Phil Thompson, have expanded responsibilities for defence industry and defence personnel.

Dutton said the changes were important “because they reflect the skill and the depth of capacity and capability that we have within our ranks”.

Anthony Albanese and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were questioned about trade restrictions on Australian products in China.

A journalist asked whether China shouldn’t be allowed to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), if it continued to impose those conditions.

Lee told reporters the CPTPP said Singapore welcomed China’s application to join the partnership if it meets the required standards.

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, is welcomed by Anthony Albanese in Melbourne.

Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, is welcomed by Anthony Albanese in Melbourne.

“It is not for me to comment on trade restrictions and issues between Australia and China. I am aware that there are issues with lobster, beef and … wine,” the Singaporean prime minister said today.

Lee said he was aware that some restrictions had lifted, and that it was expected the remaining restrictions could be worked out within the year.

“I hope Australia and the other members will be able to work things out with China, but these are bilateral issues which they have to resolve so that a consensus decision on membership can be made in due course.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said membership to the agreement is based on a country’s ability to demonstrate that it can meet, implement and adhere to rules.

Apologies for the delay, but readers can tune into Anthony Albanese and Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong press conference in Melbourne.

Watch below:

Anthony Albanese is speaking alongside Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in Melbourne, on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit.

Australia’s prime minister announced a series of grants to support businesses in the two countries to reduce their carbon footprint.

“Australia and Singapore achieve more when we work together, which is why I’m pleased to announce today the first group of Australian and Singapore companies to receive grants under our innovation program,” Albanese said.

“These projects will drive development of cutting-edge fuels and technologies to support the green transition.”

He also said there was progress on a green shipping lane between Singapore and Australia, as well as “cross-border electricity trading”.

Prime Minister Lee said he was happy that Singapore and Australia had made progress on the deal they signed 18 months ago for the green economy.

Private health insurers have flagged the biggest premium increases in years after the federal government approved an average industry premium rise of 3.03 per cent, which will come into effect from April.

Australia’s largest private health insurer, Medibank, announced its average premium will rise 3.31 per cent as of April 1 this year, following approval by the Federal Health Minister.

Medibank points out that this is below inflation and wage growth and remains below the 10-year historical industry average of 3.8 per cent.

Australia’s largest healthcare provider Medibank, announced that its average premium will rise 3.31 per cent as of April 1.

Australia’s largest healthcare provider Medibank, announced that its average premium will rise 3.31 per cent as of April 1.Credit: Steven Siewert

Medibank executive Milosh Milisavljevic said: “We know many households are doing it tough at the moment, and our focus has been to balance the impact of rising health costs with the need to keep premiums affordable for our customers,” Mr Milisavljevic said.

ASX-listed NIB said premiums will rise by an average of 4.1 per cent as of April 1.

NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon, said health claims inflation has moved back to long-term trends, and it’s crucial that insurers would be able to price for this.

In case readers missed it, a former top bureaucrat warned that eradicating fire ants must be escalated to the highest level of governments around Australia.

Helen Scott-Orr, a former federal inspector-general of biosecurity who reviewed the national eradication program being led by the Queensland government in 2021, told the hearing in Brisbane yesterday that the funding allocated so far was insufficient.

Fire ants forming a raft in floodwaters in south-east Queensland in January.

Fire ants forming a raft in floodwaters in south-east Queensland in January.

The pest was a threat, not just to livestock and crops, but to public health, safety and expenditure, which demanded a whole-of-government response, Scott-Orr said.

“The key thing is getting engagement at a high level and getting senior decision makers to realise this isn’t just about agriculture … it’s all the urban effects,” Scott-Orr said.

Catch up on the news here.

In business news, Apple was hit with a €1.8 billion ($3 billion) penalty from the European Union over an investigation into allegations it shut out music streaming rivals, including Spotify, on its platforms.

The European Commission also ordered the California-based firm to stop preventing music streaming apps from informing users of cheaper deals away from Apple’s App Store. The larger than expected fine is the first to be handed out to Apple by the EU.

The larger than expected fine is the first to be handed out to Apple by the EU.

The larger than expected fine is the first to be handed out to Apple by the EU.Credit: AP

Shares fell as much as 3.1 per cent in New York to their lowest level since November.

“For a decade, Apple abused its dominant position in the market for the distribution of music streaming apps through the App Store,” EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said.

“They did so by restricting developers from informing consumers about alternative, cheaper music services available outside of the Apple ecosystem.”

Here’s more on this news, from Bloomberg.

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