Labor looks to gas reserve

Resources Minister Madeleine King is considering an east coast gas reserve to address the energy crisis, as fossil fuel giants push for approval of more gas projects.

What we know:

  • Gas prices have skyrocketed from $10 a gigajoule a few months ago to as high as $800 a gigajoule this week (The Conversation); 
  • Businesses are warning they will collapse if soaring gas and electricity costs are not brought under control (ABC); 
  • King on Thursday called the heads of Shell and Origin to discuss how industry could voluntarily work with the government to reduce prices (The Australian $); 
  • The new resources minister flagged an east coast domestic gas reserve as an option, but said a trigger mechanism to force exporters to divert gas to domestic users would not work fast enough to be of use;
  • Santos chief Kevin Gallagher blamed skyrocketing prices on an insufficient number of project approvals (AFR $); 
  • Australia however already produces far more gas than it needs, but has tripled exports since 2015, sending 85% of its gas overseas;
  • International prices for gas have soared due to sanctions on Russian exports linked to the war in Ukraine;
  • New energy minister Chris Bowen accused the former Coalition government of leaving a “bin fire” on market regulation, and said Labor’s renewables plan would help but not in the short term (Renew Economy); 
  • The Greens have called for the government to subsidise households to ditch gas for electrical appliances.

Calls to end Collaery’s secret trial

Crossbenchers have called for new attorney-general Mark Dreyfus to end the prosecution of Bernard Collaery over his role in exposing Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste.

What we know:

  • Outgoing senator Rex Patrick has written to Dreyfus to call for the Commonwealth to “withdraw consent to the prosecution” of Collaery (The Guardian); 
  • Collaery has been enduring a secret trial over charges including an alleged conspiracy with Witness K, his client and a former spy, to communicate secrets to the Timor-Leste government (The Saturday Paper); 
  • Patrick also called for the release of cabinet documents detailing the motivations of the Commonwealth in negotiations with Timor-Leste, which resulted in Australian company Woodside laying claim to Timor Sea oil and gas (Michael West); 
  • Patrick also wrote to Foreign Minister Penny Wong, claiming that easing secrecy provisions on this case would improve relations with Timor-Leste at a time when Australia is trying to improve its regional relationships;
  • The senator’s call has been backed by other crossbenchers including Zoe Daniel, Rebekha Sharkie, David Pocock and the Greens;
  • Dreyfus has been publicly critical of the case and had pledged to seek an urgent briefing from his department about the matter if Labor won government.

Senate drops ABC and SBS inquiry

A Liberal-led parliamentary inquiry into the complaints handling processes of the ABC and SBS will not go ahead.

The environment and communications Senate committee officially dropped its inquiry on Thursday after the completion of an independent review commissioned by the ABC into complaints handling (Canberra Times). 

The ABC board has released details of its independent review, which will see the creation of a new position of ABC ombudsman.

“As a result of the ABC board adopting all of the review recommendations … the committee has decided not to proceed with its inquiry," said the committee’s chairman, Liberal senator Andrew Bragg.

ABC chairwoman Ita Buttrose previously described the Senate inquiry as “an act of political interference designed to intimidate”.


Roberts-Smith calls last witness

The evidence has concluded in the Ben Roberts-Smith case — one of the most complex and costly defamation trials ever conducted in Australia.

Roberts-Smith has taken media to court over the reporting of allegations of war crimes made against the former soldier in Afghanistan (ABC). 

On Thursday, Roberts-Smith’s final witness in the trial said he was unable to confirm or deny whether the war veteran was involved in the murder of an Afghan prisoner (SBS). 

The top-ranking SAS soldier was in charge of a mission to a Taliban compound known as Whiskey 108 in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province in 2009.

Publisher Nine Entertainment alleges two men emerged from a secret courtyard tunnel after the bombing, before they were taken prisoner and ordered shot by Roberts-Smith to give an Australian soldier his first kill in combat.

The witness said he had no personal knowledge of how two Afghan men came to be killed during the mission, and was not told men were found in the tunnel despite being in charge at the time.

The case has consumed $25m in legal costs, with more than 40 witnesses appearing over 12 months (The Age). 


Samoa accepts Australian offer

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has announced a new eight-year partnership with Samoa to help address human development, and an offer of a new maritime patrol boat.

Wong made the announcement in Samoa on Thursday, on her second visit to the Pacific since being sworn into office nine days ago (ABC). 

As part of its support Australia will next year donate a Guardian-class patrol boat to Samoa, after the country’s Nafanua II ran aground on a reef.

Wong will next head to Tonga to discuss aid for the archipelago’s recovery from a volcanic eruption.

In her meeting with Wong, Samoan Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataʻafa accused China of attempting to ram through a Pacific-wide trade, policing and security deal without enough time for consultation (SMH).

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi meanwhile arrived in Papua New Guinea on Thursday afternoon to announce plans to supply body armour sets and helmets for PNG’s security forces.

He will then travel to East Timor on Friday — the last stop on his tour of the region.

Australia has been attempting to match China’s increased funding for the Pacific, and will commit defence personnel to help PNG conduct its national election.


It’s very disturbing, terribly unfair and undemocratic.

Philip Benwell, chair of the Australian Monarchist League, criticises the Albanese government’s appointment of an assistant minister for the republic. Indeed, it’s almost as disturbing and undemocratic as a family of British elites claiming divine right to rule over a land half a world away (The Age).


Postscript: ‘Period Crunch’ Cereal Wants to Normalise Menstruation Talk at the Breakfast Table

I don’t know that menstruation-themed breakfast cereal is necessarily the answer to the generations of shame, stigma and sexism that colour societal attitudes towards sex and reproduction, but I don’t suppose it can do much harm — except maybe to the many pearl-clutching parents who I’m sure are absolutely losing it over the thought of their precious offspring eating a raspberry-flavoured uterus (Inside Hook).