Australia news live: Chalmers says China ambassador’s speech ‘concerning’ as Dutton warns of threat

China ambassador’s speech ‘concerning’

Australian treasurer Jim Chalmers has told ABC Radio National this morning that the Chinese ambassador’s language in his address to the National Press Conference last night was “concerning”.

He was followed by opposition leader Peter Dutton who said “we’ve got to be very frank about the threat that is there” and warned against a repeat of what occurred when people doubted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine.

More on this story shortly …

Key events

Paul Karp

Paul Karp

Kevin Rudd also praised the way prime minister Anthony Albanese and foreign minister Penny Wong are dealing with the China relationship.

He told Radio National the government has “got the balance right by rejecting China’s list of demands, ignoring it and getting on with the quiet business of de-escalating the relationship”.

Rudd said the pair had avoided the “political bait” of China’s 14 demands, rejecting them on principle. He reiterated the demands “never will be” met by a democratic Australian government and called for “our Chinese friends to move on”.

Asked about Peter Dutton’s comments about appeasement, Rudd accused the Liberal leader of being the “architect of Australia’s megaphone diplomacy to Beijing” that hadn’t solved anything, but rather was aimed at “domestic political posturing”. Rudd also charged the Coalition of failing to stop the lease of the Port or Darwin and to construct submarines.

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Paul Karp

Paul Karp

‘We’re on a 27-year slide into difficult strategic circumstances,’ Kevin Rudd says of China

Australia’s former prime minister Kevin Rudd has commented on the Chinese ambassador’s warning that Beijing will use “all necessary means” to achieve the reunification of Taiwan.

Rudd said this was the “standard position” from China in the last 25 years but what had changed was Xi Jinping had set a timeframe that reunification should occur by the centenary of the people’s republic of China, 2049. This means “we’re on a 27-year slide into difficult strategic circumstances” for China, Taiwan, the US and its allies, Rudd told Radio National.

The former PM said he was “deeply concerned” about possible use of armed forces in the late 2020s or early 2030s, “when China believes it has a bigger balance of power advantage against the US and Taiwan in that time” and “greater financial and economic resilience against Russia style sanctions”.

Asked about suggestions of re-education camps, Rudd said:

Regarding what China would then do if it was to bring Taiwan forcefully under Chinese sovereignty through military invasion, I think it is inevitable it would use … within Taiwan the same suppression tactics used in the mainland in 1949 and more recently in Hong Kong. That’s why all policy actions by the US and its allies should be directed towards maintaining the status quo over Taiwan, and that means increasing long-term deterrence.

Rudd said the best way to deter China was for the US to supply Taiwan with more weapons to help it achieve a “porcupine defence” and to attempt to “close the military gap” with China in east Asia and the west Pacific.

Asked if the US speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit was a mistake, Rudd said she had the right to visit Taiwan. But was it wise to do so?

He said:

From a Taiwanese perspective, is its own security better or worse after the visit? The analytical consensus here [in the US] is on balance it’s worse because China has been able to war game effectively for the first time what an invasion would look like and change the parameters for possible military action.

The visit also didn’t help the US stabilise its bilateral relationship. Rudd concluded:

Did she have the right? Yes. Was it wise? No.

Australian GPs ‘exhausted’

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners president Adjunct Prof Karen Price says the current generation of GPs are “exhausted” and warns the country doesn’t “have enough future doctors choosing this career path”.

Minister for health and aged care Mark Butler told the Australian Medical Association national conference in late July that the current situation was a “terrifying trend” with not enough future doctors opting for a career in general practice, leaving primary care “in worse shape than it’s been in the entire Medicare era”.

Price said on Thursday morning that the minister was “spot on” and the issue “must be front of mind for the new government”:

If primary care were a patient, it would be in dire need of an urgent trip to an emergency department due to multiple issues not being properly managed over many years.

Medicare rebates for GP consultations haven’t kept pace with the cost of providing high-quality care, and the full impact of the rebate freeze stretching from 2013 to 2019 is still being keenly felt.

Price said Medicare patient rebates had increased on 1 July this year by 1.6% which “equates to 65 cents for a standard consult”.

When you consider the most recent inflation figure of 6.1% and the enormous costs practices are shouldering while managing patients during a pandemic you can see what we are up against.

Guardian Australia has been investigating the difficulty in finding bulk-billing GPs, with the health minister saying the way bulk-billing statistics were put forward by the previous government was misleading.

For more on this story, read the latest report by Guardian Australia reporters Melissa Davey and Stephanie Convery:

ACT warns of scam health texts

ACT Health says it has been made aware of scam text messages claiming to be services such as HealthDirect or Medicare.

The messages tell recipients they have either been in contact with someone who has tested positive to Covid-19 and asks them to either order a free PCR test or click on a link to book a test.

Both are scams that redirect users to malicious websites.

📢 If you get a suspicious text message, report it to Scam Watch This helps warn people about current scams, monitor trends and disrupt scams where possible.

— ACT Health (@ACTHealth) August 10, 2022

China ambassador’s speech ‘concerning’

Australian treasurer Jim Chalmers has told ABC Radio National this morning that the Chinese ambassador’s language in his address to the National Press Conference last night was “concerning”.

He was followed by opposition leader Peter Dutton who said “we’ve got to be very frank about the threat that is there” and warned against a repeat of what occurred when people doubted Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would invade Ukraine.

More on this story shortly …

Qeensland windfarm project wins federal funding to fast-track connection to grid

Queensland could soon host one of the southern hemisphere’s largest wind projects as the federal government commits to fast-tracking its connection to the national energy grid.

The state’s Southern Downs renewable energy zone will receive a $160m federal investment for new infrastructure to connect power generated from windfarms to the grid.

Powerlink, run by the state government, will use the funds to build and operate 65km of high-voltage overhead transmission lines and two new switching stations.

Climate change minister Chris Bowen said the agreement between state and federal governments would deliver more renewable energy to households and businesses in south Queensland and the east coast.

We are delivering on our Powering Australia plan which includes a major boost to renewable energy supplies to help create jobs and reduce emissions across the nation.

The best way to put downward pressure on energy prices is to ramp up investment in renewables, transmission and storage.

The investment is the first account between the federal Clean Energy Finance Corporation and a Queensland government-owned company. It is expected to help establish one of the largest wind projects in the southern hemisphere.

BREAKING: Australia’s largest renewable energy zone will be delivered right here in Queensland.

We’ve signed a landmark deal with the Australian Government to fast-track the connection of Australia’s largest wind farm precinct to the National Electricity Market.@MickdeBrenni

— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) August 10, 2022

– from AAP

Calls for Albanese government to back international carbon offsets

Adam Morton

Adam Morton

The Climate Change Authority has recommended that the Albanese government open the door to greater use of international carbon offsets to meet national and business climate change goals.

The authority – an advisory body that faced deep cuts under the Coalition and is about to be newly empowered under Labor – today released a review of the use of international offsets, which some businesses and organisations buy voluntarily to meet self-imposed emissions targets.

It found the carbon market in Australia was “fragmented, inefficient and complicated” and called for a national strategy to help fix it. It said it would be in Australia’s interest for the government to play a leading role in developing a “robust, liquid, high-integrity, trusted and effective global carbon market”.

Carbon offsets, also known as carbon credits, are bought by governments and businesses as an alternative to making emissions cuts. Each carbon credit is said to represent one tonne of carbon dioxide that has either been stopped from going into the atmosphere or sucked out of it.

The authority’s recommendations are likely to be controversial due to concerns about the integrity of some international credits and plans by some companies to rely on access to cheap offsets to meet emissions reduction targets, rather than cut their own pollution.

The authority said the international carbon market was still evolving in the wake of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. It suggested a national carbon market strategy would help clarify the separate roles played by Australian carbon credits and much cheaper international offsets.

But the authority’s chief executive, Brad Archer, said using offsets should not be seen as a substitute for a “plan to decarbonise”:

We need to be reducing emissions wherever we can, as quickly as we can, where that makes sense to do it, but there’s always going to be a need for offsets.

The climate change minister, Chris Bowen, said the government would formally respond to its recommendations in due course but its immediate focus was on the “integrity and growth of the domestic carbon market”.

Critics including the Australian National University’s Prof Andrew Macintosh – a former chair of the government’s emissions reduction assurance committee who used to be responsible for the integrity of the system – have released academic papers arguing that most credits do not actually represent real or new emissions cuts. The clean energy regulator, which is responsible for the system, has rejected this.

Labor has commissioned a review of the Australian system headed by the former chief scientist, Prof Ian Chubb. It is due to report back by the end of the year.

Damian Carrington

Damian Carrington

Australian scientists say the world’s largest ice sheet can still be saved if the Paris climate change agreement succeeds.

The East Antarctic sheet is due south of Tasmania and holds the vast majority of Earth’s glacier ice. Sea levels would rise by 52 metres if it all melted. It was thought to be stable, but is now showing signs of vulnerability, the scientists said.

The EAIS is far larger than the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS), which hosts the so-called “doomsday” Thwaites glacier, which has lost significant stability. Total loss of the WAIS would cause 5 metres of sea level rise.

Sea level is rising faster today than for at least 3,000 years, as mountain glaciers and the Greenland ice cap melt, and ocean waters expand as they heat. Even a few metres of sea level rise will redraw the map of the world, with profound consequences for millions of people in coastal cities from New York City to Shanghai.

The Greenland ice sheet, which could deliver 7 metres of sea level rise, is on the brink of a tipping point after which accelerated melting would become inevitable, scientists warned in 2021. While the full impact of melting ice is felt over centuries, researchers warned that the level of carbon emissions over the next few decades will lock in future sea level rise.

For more on this story read the full report by the Guardian’s environment editor Damian Carrington.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Inflation forecasts

Australia’s RBA and Treasury (and so the Albanese government) are forecasting inflation to peak at just under 8% by the end of 2022, with commercial banks (but not investors) tipping the RBA’s cash rate to peak around the same time.

The US provided some indication overnight that higher official interest rates are taking the steam out of price rise, with inflation in July coming in at 8.5%, down from 9.1% in June. Prices were unchanged on a monthly basis.

The impact on financial markets has been notable, with Wall Street up 1.6% to 2.9%, depending on your index.

The prospect of fewer interest rate rises to come – based on the latest inflation numbers, at least – also sent the US dollar tumbling. That sent the Australian dollar bolting over the 70 US cent mark, rising about 1.6 cents to 70.8 US cents.

One month doesn’t make a trend, of course, with much hinging on what happens to oil and food prices. Vladimir Putin and wild weather are tough to predict.

Still, there may be some short-term reassessment of inflation prospects in Australia, too. Before the release of US data, investors were still predicting a steady march higher of the RBA’s cash rate. That may ease back a bit.

Prior to the slightly weaker US July inflation data, investors were tipping a 3-in-4 chance the RBA will lift its cash rate 50 basis points to 2.35% at its Sept meeting. Presumably these odds will be pared back to the extent Australia’s inflation trajectory will be lower too.

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) August 10, 2022

A side note: the ABS yesterday set a timetable for when it will finally start releasing monthly consumer price index data – rather than just quarterly ones.

From October, the stats bureau will start providing monthly numbers that will “be an important tool for policy makers, academics and businesses”, said David Gruen, the Australian statistician (who knew there was such a title?). (Media types might also find them useful.)

A caveat, though:

One important point of distinction with the monthly Indicator is that, while it will include prices for all the items in the CPI basket, not all these prices will be updated each month.

So it won’t be quite apples and apples, for now at least.

What’s not clear is when the equivalent wage price index will have a monthly readout (so we can see how much our real wages are falling). The next iteration of that will land on 17 August, when the June quarter WPI lands.

NSW teachers could be offered higher-paid roles

Top teachers in NSW could be offered higher-paid roles under a plan being considered to stop the best educators leaving the classroom.

Education minister Sarah Mitchell said creating a stronger career path for classroom teachers which better rewards excellence was key to modernising the education system and attracting more people to the profession.

NSW has some of the best teachers in the world, but they often leave the classroom and move into management roles to secure higher pay and career progression.

This model is not “performance pay”, this is about expanding the career options for teachers and keeping our best in the classroom.

Teachers in NSW start on a salary of $73,737, which increases to a maximum of $117,060 if they gain accreditation as “highly accomplished” or lead teacher, while assistant principals get $126,528.

The announcement comes a day before the nation’s education ministers meet to discuss the ongoing issue of chronic teacher shortages.

NSW teachers’ unions are at loggerheads with the Perrottet government over pay and staff shortages they say have led to unmanageable workloads.

Public school teachers have walked off the job three times this year, and NSW Teachers Federation president Angelos Gavrielatos says the crisis is putting the state’s education future at risk, with some 3800 teachers needed by 2027.

The unions want a pay rise of 5% to 7%, while the NSW government has offered 3%.

– from AAP

NSW building commissioner’s resignation letter to be released

The NSW building commissioner’s resignation letter which reportedly exposes his “problematic” relationship with a former government minister is set to be released today.

The government has passed the controversial letter on to the state’s anti-corruption body.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said during question time yesterday that he had read David Chandler’s letter and it would be provided to the upper house on Thursday.

This is a letter related to an employment matter.

Out of an abundance of caution the letter was provided to the ICAC for information.

Labor successfully managed to force the government to release the letter from Chandler, who tendered his resignation in June and will finish in November.

All emails, texts and instant messages sent in the past eight months between then fair trading minister Eleni Petinos, her current and former staffers, former deputy premier John Barilaro and Chandler will also be released.

– from AAP

More wet weather on way for NSW

New South Wales residents have been warned by the Bureau of Meteorology to expect fresh rains with flood warnings current.

Good morning

And welcome to Thursday’s Guardian Australia live blog.

Chinese ambassador to Australian Xiao Qian addressed the National Press Club yesterday with a surprisingly candid speech. Over the course of 90-minute address Xiao drew a line in the sand on Taiwan while indicating that a thawing in relations between China and Australia on trade relations may be possible – and the terms under which China would re-engage.

The speech will be expected to add to heightened tensions as Xiao made clear that China was intent on reunification between Taiwan and the mainland, saying it would use “all necessary means”. When asked what “all necessary means” meant, Xiao responded by saying: “Use your imagination.”

I’m Royce Kurmelovs, taking the blog through the day. With so much going on out there, it’s easy to miss stuff, so if you spot something happening in Australia and think it should be in the blog, you can find me on Twitter at @RoyceRk2 where my DMs are open.

With that, let’s get started …