Australia politics live: new anti-doxing laws to cover range of ‘malicious purposes’ for releasing personal information, Dreyfus says | Australia news

Hate speech to be included in religious discrimination reforms

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Asked about the timing of hate speech laws, Mark Dreyfus appeared to confirm they will be included in and accelerate religious discrimination reforms.

He said:

We’ve already been working on the hate speech provisions. It is our intention to bring them forward with the religious discrimination bill that we plan to bring forward. The prime minister has asked me to accelerate the work on this hate speech part of that package.

Asked if leaking the contents of the WhatsApp group to Nine newspapers would qualify as doxing, Dreyfus equivocated:

We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for the use of people’s personal information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place affecting hundreds or thousands of people very, very quickly has been made possible. Legislation has struggled to keep up. That’s part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we’ve embarked on. And clearly though all of those things that needing to be looked at.

We also asked whether doxing laws would protect only religion and race, or other attributes such as sexuality and gender identity.

He replied:

Doxing is a broad term, but I think it’s generally understood to be the malicious release publicly of personal information of people without their consent. It takes different forms, it’s clearly got different malicious purposes, depending on the context. But that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with when we prepare this legislature.

Attorney general Mark Dreyfus.
Attorney general Mark Dreyfus. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

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Key events

Andrew Messenger

Andrew Messenger

Queensland Greens MP Amy McMahon will hopefully return to state parliament “as soon as possible” following a horror car crash on Monday night, according to her colleague.

Broadly we’re hopeful that she’ll make a full recovery. Anyone who’s seen the photos of the accident will know it was a very serious crash,” Greens MP Michael Berkman told ABC radio on Tuesday morning.

The South Brisbane MP was driving from a free community barbeque to another event with a Kangaroo Point neighbourhood watch ground on Monday evening when the crash occurred, Berkman said.

At about 6.30pm a Hyundi I30 collided with her Toyota Prius as she turned right from Baines Road onto Main Street, Kangaroo Point, police said. Both drivers were taken to Princess Alexandra Hospital, with McMahon reportedly suffering head and suspected spinal injuries but in a stable condition. The other driver suffered minor injuries, police said.

Berkman said McMahon was conscious and speaking last night, and didn’t suffer any serious or life-threatening injuries.

Tuesday is the Queensland parliament’s first sitting day, and McMahon was expected to have spoken in a debate on a Greens bill to ban new coal and gas developments scheduled for this evening.

Anyone who knows Amy would know that her first priority would be for everyone just to get on with the job of doing what we’re here to do. I’m sure she’ll be eager to get back to work and fiercely fight for our community as soon as she’s able. But the team and I will just carry on as well as we can, it’s not not that distant memory that I was in here as the sole member of the Greens,” Berkman told the ABC.

I hope we’ll have it back here as soon as possible.”

The forensic crash unit is investigating the crash.

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Tamsin Rose

Tamsin Rose

The New South Wales government will look at increasing fines for companies “doing the wrong thing” after friable asbestos was found in a park in Surry Hily.

The premier, Chris Minns, said:

Clearly, this is completely unacceptable and the government is currently investigating certain actions that we will take in the weeks ahead firstly to raise the fines that are imposed on companies that do the wrong thing. Cabinet will be looking at that in the next couple of weeks.

He said communication between councils, the Environmental Protection Agency and the government needed to be improved as the asbestos crisis continued to unfold.

Air travel “much less reliable”: ACCC

Elias Visontay

Elias Visontay

Domestic air travel “has become much less reliable” with delays and cancellations more common than before the pandemic, despite passenger numbers and airfares returning to and often exceeding pre-Covid figures, the consumer watchdog has found.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, in its first domestic airline monitoring report released since its directive was reinstated late last year, has noted that that

Despite evidence of falling airfares and stability in overall passenger volumes and capacity, service reliability remains a significant concern…Unfortunately for passengers, air travel has become much less reliable. The rates of cancellations and delays have settled at levels well above long-term averages,” the report found.

Over the past 12 months, cancellation rates were consistently above the long-term average of 2.2%. In December 2023, the rate was at 5%. Meanwhile, on-time performance was also poor at 63.6% in December, compared to the long-term average of 81.1%. At the same time, it found that “best discount economy airfares have not yet fallen to pre-pandemic levels”.

The ACCC found a raft of reasons contributing to the lack of reliability. Some were within airlines’ control, such as efforts to manage systemic issues, pilot shortages and training bottlenecks. The ACCC also flagged the shortage of air traffic controllers as wreaking havoc across the country. “A single disrupted flight can often have an impact that cascades down the schedule to another 2–3 flights due to aircraft and crew arriving late or not at all,” it said.

The report follows senate estimates hearing that two air traffic controllers who didn’t show up for work at Sydney airport on Monday caused flight delays and cancellations across the country. You can read more about Airservices Australia’s controller shortage here:

Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, has told Senate estimates an exposure draft to create a parliamentary workplace enforcement body should be ready later this month.

An independent parliamentary standards body with the power to sanction MPs was a key recommendation of the Jenkins report, Set the Standard. It would be given powers to investigate complaints of misconduct against parliamentarians and to determine the appropriate reprimand or punishment for it. Such sanctions could include fines, temporary suspensions from parliamentary business and even the possibility of being sacked for serious breaches.

The Jenkins report, published in November 2021, recommended such a body be operational within 12 months but that start date has been pushed back a few times and is now slated for October 2024.

Upon questioning by Greens senator, Larissa Waters, Gallagher said she hoped an exposure bill would be ready this month and that the body would be up and running by 1 October 2024.

I think people can see that the commitment is there. But we are taking the time to get it right. This body’s going to last forever. So it’s only right that we put in the work to get it right.

She said she expected it might be harder to negotiate multi-partisan support because it dealt with reprimands and punishments against elected officials and people are “naturally cautious” about that.

Gallagher added:

I haven’t had any pushback, I think the discussions I’ve had, you know, everyone is committed to it, but they want to ensure that it’s fair. And I think that’s entirely reasonable.

Looks like the party room meetings are beginning to come to an end.

We will have those updates very soon.

Parliament will start at noon today, where there will be the Closing the Gap address by prime minister Anthony Albanese.

The Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a breakfast in the Great Hall of Parliament House, Canberra this morning to mark the 16 anniversary of the National Apology to the Stolen Generations. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

‘Dying race’: Katter calls for tax system that encourages people to have children

Fresh from his victorious battle against the trough (parliamentary staff dining room) not accepting cash, Bob Katter is now taking aim at the tax system.

Katter wants a “split income” taxation model, which he says would exempt families from paying income tax.

Why?

Because he believes Australians are “a dying race as no one could afford to have families and the current tax models we’re favouring dual income, career-minded individuals, rather than someone wanting to raise children”.

The average income being about $100,000, tax on that is $25,000. Each individual in a [double income no house] household is left with $75,000 disposal income.

Now a family of five. There might be a stay-at-home parent (if they can afford it). So an average income of $100,000 is also $75,000 after tax, however, that’s split five ways – so really each individual has $15,000.

So where would you rather be? With a disposable income of $75,000 or a disposable income of $15,000?

So it’s pretty simple, if you’re the sole income earner for a family of five (or however many children), you’re income should be split among your dependants before tax is calculated. That means $100,000 five ways – income $20,000 each – you’re paying virtually no tax.

And being Katter, his idea goes places. In this case, the 1950s. (Katter does not seem to comprehend that some women did not want to have children, could not have children, or just made different choices and that there are many ways to receive satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment in life outside of children).

I was among the first generation where women were supposed to have careers. Well, they’re careering off into nonexistence. A lot of them, very sadly, are old people now. They sit at home, they have no kids to love and no kids to love them, no grandkids to love and no grandkids to love them. It’s very sad because society cheated them and lied to them.

Independent MP Bob Katter. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

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Sydney housing prices driving young families out of city, research shows

Sydney is on track to become “the city with no grandchildren” as high housing costs drive young families to the regions and interstate, AAP reports.

NSW Productivity Commission research found Sydney lost twice as many people aged from 30 to 40 as it gained between 2016 and 2021.

The driving factor for the exodus was unaffordable housing costs, highlighting the need for greater housing density across the city, the research found.

“Sydney is losing its 30- to 40-year-olds; if we don’t act, we could become known as the city with no grandchildren,” Productivity Commissioner Peter Achterstraat said.

“Many young families are leaving Sydney because they can’t afford to buy a home, or they can only afford one in the outer suburbs with a long commute.”

He said Sydney needs hundreds of thousands of new homes over the next two decades and that building them in inner-city areas has social and economic benefits.

“Building more in the places people want to live is a key piece to solving the housing jigsaw puzzle.”

The Productivity Commission research found 45,000 extra dwellings could have been built between 2017 and 2022 without extra land being released by raising building heights.

Achterstraat called for a fresh discussion on heritage restrictions on housing close to the city centre and the role this can play in keeping prices high.

“We can preserve the gems of Sydney’s heritage without inadvertently freezing young people out.”

Apartments in the Homebush area of Sydney. Photograph: Jessica Hromas/The Guardian

Meanwhile housing continues to be one of the biggest issues facing the parliament, with another fight set over the government’s “help to buy” shared equity scheme. The Coalition have once again deployed the no-and-moan strategy, which means they say no to a policy at the outset and then spend a lot of time moaning about the policy.

That leaves the Greens and the crossbench in the hot seat and the Greens want changes to negative gearing and capital gains tax. The government has given that a hard no, so the cycle of housing policy fight continues.

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Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

Parliamentary calendar to remain unchanged despite pushback

The finance minister, Katy Gallagher, says the 2024 parliamentary sitting calendar won’t change after the opposition suggested it wasn’t “family friendly” as it coincided with a number of public and school holidays.

This morning in Senate estimates, Gallagher is appearing alongside the Jenkins Report Implementation Team and officials from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

It’s a little bit insider baseball but ensuring the parliamentary calendar is family friendly is a recommendation of the Jenkins report to make Parliament House a safer, more respectful workplace.

The Liberal senator Jane Hume quizzed the head of the Jenkins report team, Christy England, on whether she was consulted about the sitting calendar. She said she wasn’t.

Hume pointed out the last time politicians had to sit on the Thursday before Good Friday was 2008. She said that’s because it’s difficult for staff, particularly those returning to Western Australia, to get flights home the evening before the public holiday.

Gallagher responded the sitting calendar isn’t new – it was presented and agreed to by the Senate at the end of last year. The finance minister said changes had already been made, such as not having Friday sitting days and axeing evening divisions, but added it wasn’t possible to accommodate sitting weeks around every school holiday across the country.

Gallagher said she’d discuss with Hume about getting staff home before Good Friday.

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What happens in the party room stays in the party room

The party room meetings are under way. We will bring you those updates when they start breaking up.

The parties hold their all-in meetings on Tuesdays (Monday is for cabinet, senior teams, separate Liberal and National party meetings and so on) and afterwards hold an “on background” briefing which details the minutes which were taken at the meeting.

It’s where you’ll often see “party room sources” used. No names are given about MP contributions, instead journalists have to work it out by speaking to people afterwards.

As we have discussed it is a weird Canberra quirk – what happens in party room stays in party room, except for the parts they release themselves.

Party central: Parliament House in Canberra. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

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Israel needs ‘to act with appropriate caution’, Birmingham says

The Liberal senator Simon Birmingham spoke to Sky News this morning where he was asked if he shared the “concerns” about Israel’s planned military offensive on Rafah. Birmingham responded:

Birmingham:

Well, it is important that Israel act with regard for international humanitarian law and be very mindful of the huge humanitarian toll that is occurring in Gaza. Obviously, there is massive displacement of individuals, and we still wish very clearly to support Israel, to see Hamas disabled and believe that the best pathway to ceasefire would be for Hamas to release the remaining hostages and the rescue of two hostages in the last day or so …

Q: Do you support the invasion, though, on Rafah of if that’s what it takes, a military operation?

Birmingham:

Well, it’s not a matter of whether I can sit here and say I support this action or that action. Israel needs to act with regard to international humanitarian law. They need to act with appropriate caution in terms of how they handle displaced people and ensure humanitarian support is there for them, and ultimately, they need to ensure that they are conducting these operations in ways that effectively target Hamas and the disablement of Hamas leadership and infrastructure.

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Hate speech to be included in religious discrimination reforms

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Asked about the timing of hate speech laws, Mark Dreyfus appeared to confirm they will be included in and accelerate religious discrimination reforms.

He said:

We’ve already been working on the hate speech provisions. It is our intention to bring them forward with the religious discrimination bill that we plan to bring forward. The prime minister has asked me to accelerate the work on this hate speech part of that package.

Asked if leaking the contents of the WhatsApp group to Nine newspapers would qualify as doxing, Dreyfus equivocated:

We see that with massive changes in digital technology that is throughout our society that the opportunities for invasions of privacy, the opportunities for the use of people’s personal information without consent, the opportunities for really malicious actions to take place affecting hundreds or thousands of people very, very quickly has been made possible. Legislation has struggled to keep up. That’s part of the reason behind this reform of the Privacy Act that we’ve embarked on. And clearly though all of those things that needing to be looked at.

We also asked whether doxing laws would protect only religion and race, or other attributes such as sexuality and gender identity.

He replied:

Doxing is a broad term, but I think it’s generally understood to be the malicious release publicly of personal information of people without their consent. It takes different forms, it’s clearly got different malicious purposes, depending on the context. But that’s something that we’re going to have to deal with when we prepare this legislature.

Attorney general Mark Dreyfus. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

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Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Dreyfus promises ‘stronger privacy protections’ in doxing ban

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has spoken about plans to ban doxing and strengthen protections against hate speech.

Dreyfus told reporters in Canberra:

The Albanese government is committed to protecting the safety of Australians and stronger privacy protections for individuals are essential. The increasing use of online platforms to harm people through practices like doxing, the malicious release of their personal information without their permission is a deeply disturbing development.

The recent targeting of members of the Australian Jewish community through those practices, like doxing, was shocking. But sadly, this is far from being an isolated incident. We live in a vibrant multicultural community, which we should strive to protect. No Australian should be targeted because of their race or because of their religion.

The Albanese government committed last year to stronger protections for Australians through reforms to the Privacy Act …

The prime minister has asked me to bring forward as part of that, several reforms to privacy[laws], some new provisions, to deal with this practice of doxing with the s use of people’s personal information without their consent. And we’ll also be bringing forward … some provisions that strengthen current laws that deal with hate speech.

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Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

RBA’s Kohler says inflation coming down but services prices still high

Marion Kohler, head of the RBA’s economic analysis department, is addressing the annual forecasting conference of the Australian Business Economists in Sydney this morning.

Coming so soon after the RBA’s first two-day board meeting, release of its quarterly economics update and two “grillings” of governor Michele Bullock, it’s not surprising if Kohler’s comments sound familiar.

The economy is slowing, inflation continues to fall and the jobs market should hold up reasonably well, is the gist of things. Kohler, though, does expand on a few points.

One is that services price inflation “remains high and broadly based”.

We are forecasting that services inflation will decline from here, but only gradually as demand moves into better balance with supply and domestic cost pressures moderate.

(Since we’re mostly a services economy we can’t rely on deflation exported from China to get inflation down to the 2%-3% range. My two-fen’s worth.)

The RBA looks at a bunch of measures – 10 in fact – to assess if the labour market remains tight or loose. By most measures, it’s still tilting to the “tight” side of the ledger with “hires rate” the “loosest” but pretty much in the middle of its scale.

Kohler said:

Looking ahead, we expect the labour market to slow in response to the softening in economic growth.

We expect much of the adjustment in the labour market to happen through a decline in average hours worked.

If the latter forecast is correct, that would be a better result than people losing their jobs. And any uptick should still see the jobless rate “remain at low levels relative to the past couple of decades”.

We get the January labour market figures on Thursday from the ABS, so we’ll see how the 3.9% unemployment tracks. In the meantime, investors are betting there’s about a one-in-six chance of a cut in the RBA’s key interest rate when the board next meets, on 18-19 March.

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Tony Burke says he has “no recollection” about criminal penalties being put into the legislation “at any time”.

Burke also spoke about some parliamentary tactics he says the opposition have been using to cut down on the time for debate:

The Opposition have a new strategy which is effectively to try to talk out the debate and to keep the debate going for as long as possible. They spent about 45 minutes this morning debating whether or not we would debate this today. Effectively, what they are doing is they are trying to fill up the parliamentary time so that we have less time talking about the tax cuts.

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