Australia news LIVE: Record numbers of renters, buyers under financial stress; Corruption watchdog pick pulled over Labor links

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Australia news LIVE: Record numbers of renters, buyers under financial stress; Corruption watchdog pick pulled over Labor links


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Earlier, Greens senator Barbara Pocock spoke about the push for a change of policy on negative gearing.

The party is considering withholding support for the government’s Help to Buy scheme which was a centrepiece of Labor’s election campaign.

“We believe … the system at the moment is really stacked against those first-time buyers and renters and Labor’s answer in this … scheme is a housing lottery for a lucky few, and it will actually drive up housing prices,” Pocock told RN Breakfast this morning.

She said there needed to be conversation about pushing back on tax handouts and big property investors.

“We need to look at freezing rents and building that public housing to help those first-time buyers and renters.”

Home Affairs Minister O’Neil was also questioned about the report on ABC radio this morning, and said there was no need for a royal commission.

Former director general and Defence chief Dennis Richardson’s report detailed a systematic failure of due diligence that could have prevented taxpayers from paying multiple companies linked to alleged serious crimes through often rushed contracts over a decade up to late 2022.

Peter Dutton and Clare O’Neil cross paths during a division in the House of Representatives.Credit: AAP

“I don’t think we need a royal commission because we’ve just had a person of unbelievable integrity, look into this,” she told Radio National.

The minister said there were other bodies including the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the fedreal police that could have responsibilities with the matter.

“Instead of going through what is a very expensive and long process of a royal commission, we’ve found Dennis Richardson, this person of unimpeachable integrity, to get into the department himself and to tell us what went wrong and what we need to do to fix it,” O’Neil said.

She said Richardson gave the government a “clear plan of action” to prevent some of the problems aired in the report.

“These problems are a little bit more difficult because they go to those issues of culture in the organisation,” she said.

In other news, an official inquiry’s confirmation that companies suspected of criminal activity were paid millions to deliver Australia’s offshore detention system has sparked a sharp political attack from the government on opposition leader and former Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton.

Former director general and Defence chief Dennis Richardson’s report, revealed exclusively in this masthead and 60 Minutes on Sunday night, detailed a systematic failure of due diligence that could have prevented taxpayers from paying multiple companies linked to alleged serious crimes through often rushed contracts over a decade up to late 2022.

Former ASIO director general and defence department chief Dennis Richardson.

Former ASIO director general and defence department chief Dennis Richardson.Credit: 60 Minutes

“Over time I don’t think proper scrutiny was put on the contracts and I think it was a case of a lack of communication between different parts of the Department of Home Affairs, and between other parts of government and Home Affairs,” he said.

The Richardson report was triggered by reporting in this masthead and followed two separate and damning inquiries into problems in the immigration system by former Victoria Police chief commissioner Christine Nixon and former Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson.

Richardson directed his criticism at senior public servants rather than politicians in his findings about the shortcomings of contract management in the multi-billion dollar Pacific Solution program.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil in her Parliament House office.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil in her Parliament House office.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

But responding to the review’s release, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil used its findings to criticise her predecessor.

“This is an extraordinary report that should have been commissioned by the former government during their decade in power,” she said in a statement.

“This report exposes Peter Dutton as a hypocrite who was overseeing a system that was funnelling millions to alleged drug smugglers and arms dealers, all while he marketed himself as a tough guy on our borders.”

“This is the third report by an unimpeachable expert that shows the extent of Peter Dutton’s failures.”

O’Neil said Dutton needed to explain why he allowed the flawed contracting arrangements to continue for years.

Former deputy prime minister and nationals leader Barnaby Joyce says he made a “big mistake” mixing alcohol and prescription medication.

It comes after footage emerged of him lying on a popular Canberra street swearing on the telephone after a parliamentary sitting day last week.

Speaking from Danglemah this morning, Joyce confirmed he was on medication which made the effects of alcohol stronger.

“Obviously, I made a big mistake, there’s no excuse for it … it was a very eventful walk home wasn’t it?,” he told Seven’s Sunrise this morning.

An image from video footage of Barnaby Joyce on the footpath in Braddon, Canberra on Wednesday.

An image from video footage of Barnaby Joyce on the footpath in Braddon, Canberra on Wednesday.Credit: Nine

“I’m on a prescription drug, and they say certain things may happen if you, if you drink, and they were absolutely, 100 per cent right.”

Nationals party leader David Littleproud earlier described Joyce’s actions as “not normal”, and the incident is expected to be discussed at a scheduled meeting of Nationals MPs this morning without Joyce present.

Asked if he needed support from his party members over this incident, Joyce said he was not looking for sympathy or an excuse and refused to speculate if he would be reprimanded after the Nationals meeting this morning.

“That’s not my decision really is it, you know, I’m not going to sort of enter into a long dialogue about, you know, what other people may want to do,” he said.

Companies linked to suspected arms and drug smuggling, busting sanctions on Iran, corruption and bribery won massive government contracts amid systemic failures to adequately vet the businesses being paid to run the nation’s multibillion-dollar asylum seeker offshore processing regime.

An inquiry into the Home Affairs department conducted by former ASIO director general and Defence chief Dennis Richardson also blamed senior public servants for the failure to use intelligence that could have prevented taxpayers from paying multiple companies linked to alleged serious crimes through often rushed contracts over a decade up to late 2022.

“Intelligence and other information, which was readily available, was not accessed,” Richardson concluded in his report.

“As a consequence, integrity risks were not identified.”

The inquiry was launched last year after revelations by this masthead and 60 Minutes about millions of dollars in suspect Home Affairs payments to allegedly corrupt firms and foreign officials as part of the Pacific Solution policy.

Continue reading the investigation here.

Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus wanted to install a legal figure with Labor links to the second-highest position in the new anti-corruption commission before the committee vetting the appointment baulked and helped kill the proposal.

The Albanese government nominated NSW Supreme Court Justice Stephen Rothman to become a deputy commissioner of the National Anti-Corruption Commission late last year, prompting the Greens to accuse Labor of risking the reputation of the non-political body, which may investigate the government and its political opponents.

The committee confirmed it was “not satisfied” with the information provided by Mark Dreyfus’ department to support the attorney-general’s pick.

The committee confirmed it was “not satisfied” with the information provided by Mark Dreyfus’ department to support the attorney-general’s pick.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Rothman was a Labor candidate for the seat of Wentworth in 1984, contested Labor preselection for the seat of Dobell in 2003, and was a founding member of the International Centre on Trade Union Rights.

A senior legal source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to frankly discuss the issue, claimed it was inappropriate for Labor to pick Rothman – appointed to the court by the NSW Labor government in 2005 – given his widely known party and union connections in NSW political and legal circles.

The full exclusive is here.

In other international news, Israel’s neighbours and key mediators have warned of disaster and repercussions if its military launches a ground invasion in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah.

Israeli airstrikes killed at least 44 Palestinians – including more than a dozen children – in Rafah, hours after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he asked the military to plan for the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people ahead of an invasion.

A Palestinian man sits in his house, which was destroyed in an Israeli strike, in Rafah, Gaza.

A Palestinian man sits in his house, which was destroyed in an Israeli strike, in Rafah, Gaza.Credit: AP

He gave no details or timeline.

The announcement set off panic. More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are packed into Rafah, which borders Egypt.

Learn more about the situation here, from AP

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Monday, February 12. I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day

Here’s what you need to know before we get started:

Let’s get into it.

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