A few more snippets from defence estimates:
- Defence has made a “planning assumption” that the government-funded scheme to sustain workers who have lost jobs under the French submarine plans will need to last six years from now. The sovereign shipbuilding talent pool is assumed to need an “initial funding envelope that will cover six years”, officials say.
- It’s unclear when the first nuclear-propelled submarine will be in the water. The defence secretary, Greg Moriarty, says “we haven’t provided an earliest date of entry” to government, but would “hope to have the first” one in the water earlier than the 2040s.
- The defence minister, Peter Dutton, phoned his French style on 15 September, the day before the Aukus announcement, and “conveyed the government’s decision”, Moriarty says.
- The chief of the defence force, General Angus Campbell, adds: “I spoke to my [French] style on the day of the trilateral announcement, 16 September, after the announcement.” Asked if a decision was made to only do this call after the announcement, Campbell says: “Yes, senator.”
New Zealand has announced 74 new situations of Covid-19 today, bringing the total number in the sudden increase to 2,832
All of those situations were in the North Island, with 68 in Auckland and 6 in Waikato.
Covid-19 response minister Chris Hipkins said while situations were mainly in Auckland for now, more situations popping up outside the vicinity were a matter of when, not if.
According to the Ministry of Health, 87% of eligible New Zealanders (those aged 12 and over) had had at the minimum one measure, and 72% had had both.
Hipkins also announced that some restrictions would lift in the Waikato at midnight tonight: residents would be able to meet other households outdoors, in gatherings of less than 10.41 people are hospitalised with Covid-19, and five are in ICU.
Record high petrol price and the highest construction costs for new homes in 21 years have pushed consumer prices higher, the Australian Bureau of Statistics tells us.
The headline index figures were mostly inline with the expectations of economists, coming in at an annual speed of 3% in the September quarter, and 0.8% higher for the July-September period alone.
The focus, though, will likely be on the CPI’s inner measures, the trimmed average and weighted median gauges, that strip out volatile movements such as the winding back of free child care during this period a year ago that would distort price changes.
Both of these two measures ticked up to an annual increase of 2.1%, the first time they have been in the 2-3% range that the central bank is targeting since the September quarter in 2015.
Contributing to the higher inflation was the 3.3% jump in the cost of new abodes, the biggest increase since the September quarter of 2000. Blame supply disruptions for much of that jump.
Those bottlenecks, caused in part by Covid pandemic effects, have also pushed automotive fuel prices to record levels. The 7.1% jump in prices surpassed a similarly improvement in the June quarter, with the maximum average daily unleaded petrol price across Australia hitting a record $1.65.
Given electricity prices have been plunging thanks to the spread of replaceable energy supplies, perhaps it’s time to consider that switch to electric vehicles if you haven’t already made the change.
The shift in inflation into the RBA’s 2-3% stirred investors who pushed the Australian dollar up about one-third of a US cent to above 75.3 US cents.
Bond markets also pushed yields on Australian debt higher.
Both moves indicated markets are anticipating the RBA will have to lift its cash rate a bit sooner than they were expecting just prior to the release of today’s CPI data.
An update on jobs for workers who have been affected by the dumping of the French submarine contract.
Defence officials say, so far, 286 employees of Naval Group Australia and Lockheed Martin Australia have applied for new jobs under a government program. So far, however, only 13 formal offers have been made to those applicants for new jobs (11 of those people have accepted). Defence officials are at pains to say these people have not lost their jobs as in addition (in playing down the fact acceptance levels are so low so far).
“There’s a course of action that they will work by,” Tony Dalton, a deputy secretary at defence, says. “We are nevertheless working with both companies on a change-out plan.”
Australian Open: Victorian premier Daniel Andrews held a quick doorstop press conference, where it appears he’s closed the door on allowing unvaccinated tennis players into the state.
Andrews was adamant his government will not be providing any exemptions for unvaccinated players, saying he didn’t want to add to the workload of frontline workers:
Let’s be very clear about this, I agree with what Alex Hawke has to say about unvaccinated players not being allowed in. What I want to make very clear is that the state of Victoria will not be applying for any exemptions for unvaccinated players.
He also fired shots at the federal government, saying their position had changed, after immigration minister Alex Hawke had earlier said unvaccinated players would be barred from Australia.
“Our health advice is that when we open the borders, everyone that comes to Australia will have to be double-vaccinated.”
But soon after, federal health minister Greg Hunt contradicted him, saying it was up to the state to apply for exemptions to allow unvaccinated people into the country for work.
If a state is seeking an exemption for somebody to come in for a workplace program or a similar event and they are not vaccinated, they can come in if that state seeks it.
They are subject, however, to two weeks of quarantine and that’s without fear or favour. It is thoroughly a matter for the state or states working with Tennis Australia.
Andrews was not impressed:
The federal government manages the border and to the extent that anything the federal government says on this is clear, because their position has gone 180 from what [the] immigration minister said, which at the time, I agreed with.
Defence estimates hearing has been focusing on what options are on the agenda to help bridge the gap between the current life of the Collins class submarines and the delivery of the new nuclear-powered submarines.
The secretary of the defence department, Greg Moriarty, says Australia will work with the US and the UK over the next 18 months to clarify how soon we can get the first submarine. “We will of course be talking to them about how we can look at other options,” Moriarty says, citing additional visits by US and UK boats to our area and increasing the co-crewing on US and UK boats.
Labor’s Penny Wong contends that the plan is to extend the life of the Collins class submarines “for as long as possible and hope that can go for long enough for us to get the time to get a nuclear submarine in the water”.
She indicates it is a “pretty risky” plan.
Moriarty: “The chief minister has said this is a high-risk program … he was upfront when he announced it.”
Wong is back to the uncertainty over shipbuilding jobs (yesterday we heard the government had so far budgeted funding for 300 workers for three months as part of the “jobs guarantee”, but Simon Birmingham said the funding would be extended once details of need was clear).
There’s no intention that workers will be abandoned.
Treasury provided limited advice on net zero
Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy gave little away as to what the modelling about the net zero plan will show. It seems only his meaningful department only provided limited advice to DISER, the bothersome acronym for the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
We provided some advice around the issues or writing the opening statement, in particular around the risks that the country faces around domestic and international investors in managing climate risks,” Kennedy told Senate estimates, implying his staff did none of the modelling itself.
In other words, how would investors view a government plan that is effectively business as usual, with no new money and no attempt to review the 2030 targets that the Paris Climate Accord agreed should be reviewed every five years with an aim of lifting them.
More generally, Kennedy, who became Secretary in September 2019, admitted that his department has not been doing any modelling of climate change impacts on the economy for some time:
We haven’t done it at the minimum for the last few years.”
National child abuse prevention strategy announced
Defence estimates has been told the Aukus partnership is backed by two memorandums of understanding – both of which have not been released.
Vice Admiral Jonathan Mead – the chief of the nuclear submarine taskforce – says one MOU is specific to Aukus and one focuses on submarine capability.
Mead says he went to the US around August to work on the drafts. These were trilateral talks among officials from the US, the UK and Australia. Mead led the Australian delegation and “about 15” officials went across. Australia’s team included Defence, Dfat, an official from ANSTO, specialists on non-proliferation and international law, navy lawyers and navy submariners.
Mead says those set of talks were held “over many days” and the two MOUs “were further developed and agreed to by the three parties”.
The defence secretary, Greg Moriarty, corrects the language about those August drafting talks: “Agreed to by officials.”
Queensland Covid update
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