Australia news LIVE: Bowen says Coalition’s nuclear option would cost $387b; Taiwan warns Albanese of China’s ‘hidden agenda’

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  • Competition between airlines ‘important’, but Qatar can increase patronage: O’Neil
  • ‘All over the shop’: Yes campaign takes aim at No side division
  • Beware China’s ‘hidden agenda’: Taiwan’s warning to Albanese
  • Coalition’s nuclear option would create $387b ‘burden’: Bowen
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Competition between airlines ‘important’, but Qatar can increase patronage: O’Neil

Australia’s home affairs minister says the federal government was still supportive of “competition” between airways to reduce fares for travellers in the shadow of the Qatar Airways’ decision.

A Senate inquiry into Transport Minister Catherine King’s decision to reject Qatar Airways’ bid for more flights in Australia is due to begin this week. Qantas’ controversial former chief executive Alan Joyce is expected to speak at the hearing.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil said the issue had been discussed “ad nauseam” and the government had allowed other international airlines to increase their flights, such as Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.

“I absolutely agree competition is good and it is important that we do everything that we can to keep airfares as low as possible for Australians… the government has made decisions to allow other companies to fly in out of the country,” she told Nine’s Today.

“I would say to Qatar with great respect, there are many opportunities for them to bring more people in and out of the country.

“They can increase flights around our nation and bring more people in on the flights they are already bringing into the country.”

King is going on two weeks’ leave, arranged months ago, after a torrid fortnight of political scrutiny over her Qatar decision, inflamed by widespread resentment of Australian airline Qantas, which has been accused of having outsized influence on government decisions, which King has denied.

Last week, King claimed public interest immunity for withholding documents from parliament, stating the documents would “disclose the nature of bilateral relations with Australia’s foreign partners”.

Senator Jacqui Lambie.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie told Today she believed King had “not consulted and done [her] homework” when she decided to block Qatar’s bid for more flights.

“You just don’t make a decision like that off-the-cuff,” she said.

“That is ridiculous. That is a fairly big decision to make without consulting. We don’t have a reason for that.”

Mortgage market at ‘inflection point’ as banks look to lock in loans

The mortgage market faces a turning point, experts say, as new fixed mortgage rates have stayed below variable rates for several months and predictions grow that the cash rate has peaked.

National Australia Bank and Westpac last week became the latest banks to reduce some of their fixed rates, with both lenders dropping certain two-year rates, following cuts from the Commonwealth Bank in August.

Chief executive of mortgage broker Finspo, Angus Gilfillan, said new fixed interest rates had crossed a pivotal threshold, dipping below new variable rates for the first time since January 2022.

“The current situation suggests an inflection point, where the market no longer expects interest rate rises to occur in the medium term,” he said.

While the average new variable rate has increased 2.5 percentage points to 5.95 per cent over the past year – exceeding the 1.75 percentage point increase in the Reserve Bank cash rate over the same period – Gilfillan said average new fixed rates increased by a more modest 1.7 percentage points to 5.8 per cent.

Fixed rates, which have traditionally played a small part in Australia’s home loan market, tend to reflect the money market’s view on the future path of the cash rate.

“Fixed rates are historically higher than variable rates when rate hikes are expected on the horizon,” Gilfillan said.

‘All over the shop’: Yes campaign takes aim at No side division

Leading Yes advocates and senior Albanese government ministers have seized upon a split between the No campaign’s two most prominent figures over treaties and Australia Day as huge crowds mobilised for the biggest display of support yet for a constitutionally enshrined Voice to parliament.

Warren Mundine, who founded the Recognise a Better Way group opposing the Voice, on Sunday backed a change to the date of Australia Day and said that voting down the referendum would make it easier for Indigenous people to secure treaties.

Warren Mundine said he disagreed with fellow No campaigners on treaties and the date of Australia Day.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Both positions were strikingly at odds with those of other high-profile No campaigners including opposition Indigenous affairs spokeswoman Jacinta Nampijinpa Price.

Mundine told ABC’s Insiders that he supported treaties with local Aboriginal groups to protect Indigenous heritage and culture, but said he opposed any form of national treaty with First Nations people.

Asked whether treaties would be more likely to eventuate under a Yes or No vote, Mundine said: “I have serious problems if it is a Yes vote because these people are looking at putting on top of the First Nation native title and land rights stuff another body of bureaucracy.

“We don’t need another body of bureaucracy; we need to recognise the traditional owners.”

Asked if there was a contradiction between his view and that of other No campaigners, he said: “That’s correct. I always stand strong on this. I know people on my side don’t agree with me on these two issues: treaties and the changing of the date.”

Yes campaigners estimated that a total of 200,000 marched in rallies in the nation’s capital cities and regional centres across the country.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese with Noel Pearson in Summer Hill on Saturday.Credit: Steven Siewert

High-profile Yes advocate Noel Pearson responded to Mundine’s comments by saying: “It’s absolutely clear that the No campaign does not have a plan for the future; they’re all over the shop.

“There is no consistency between what their different spokespeople are saying.”

Beware China’s ‘hidden agenda’: Taiwan’s warning to Albanese

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is being urged to lobby Chinese President Xi Jinping not to invade the self-governing island of Taiwan when he makes a landmark visit to Beijing this year rather than pursue a narrow focus on repairing Australia’s trade relationship with China.

Warning that Beijing uses bilateral meetings to try to “divide and conquer” other nations, Taiwan’s chief representative in Australia pleaded with local officials not to be “lazy” by falling into the trap of uncritically accepting Beijing’s claims about Taiwan’s territorial status.

Douglas Hsu, Taiwan’s chief representative in Australia. Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Veteran diplomat Douglas Hsu, who assumed his role in Canberra last month, said Albanese could help prevent conflict by telling Xi that Australia will not accept any “unilateral change to the status quo by force” in the Taiwan Strait.

“You have to use this kind of opportunity to send the message loud and clear to Xi Jinping himself that we care about peace and stability in the region,” Hsu said in an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

“I think the message is quite clear: we care about the peace and stability in the region, and any irrational behaviour in the region is not allowed.”

Albanese’s visit, expected in November or December, will be the first trip by an Australian prime minister to China in seven years.

Read the full interview here.

Coalition’s nuclear option would create $387b ‘burden’: Bowen

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen says the opposition’s push for nuclear reactors to help cut emissions would cost $387 billion, based on departmental costings the government says are 20 times higher than its renewables investment fund.

The Albanese government is taking the fight to the Coalition over the latter’s campaign to end the moratorium on nuclear energy in Australia as Bowen attempts to corner Opposition Leader Peter Dutton over his claim that nuclear poses a cheaper and more reliable power source than converting the national energy grid to wind and solar.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has challenged Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s assertion that nuclear technology provides a cheap form of energy.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“Peter Dutton and the opposition need to explain why Australians will be slugged with a $387 billion cost burden for a nuclear energy plan that flies in the face of economics and reason,” Bowen said in reference to the figure produced by the Department of Climate Change, Energy, Environment and Water.

“After nine years of energy policy chaos, rather than finally embracing a clean, cheap, safe and secure renewable future, all the Coalition can promise is a multibillion-dollar nuclear-flavoured energy policy.”

Dutton has said coal-fired power plants could be supplanted by small modular reactors, using the existing transmission connections in place at those sites. He argued in a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs in July that “new nuclear technologies can be plugged into existing grids and work immediately”.

Read the full article here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Monday, September 18. I’m Ashleigh McMillan, 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:

  • Taiwan’s chief representative in Australia is urging Prime Minister Anthony Albanese not to be “lazy” by falling into the trap of uncritically accepting Beijing’s claims about Taiwan’s territorial status.
  • Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen says the Coalition’s push for nuclear reactors to help cut emissions would cost $387 billion, as the Albanese government takes the fight to the opposition over its campaign to end the moratorium on nuclear energy.
  • Today is the last day you can enrol to vote or update your details with the Australian Electoral Commission ahead of the Voice to parliament referendum on October 14.

Supporters of an Indigenous Voice to parliament march in Sydney on Sunday.Credit: Steven Siewert

  • Tens of thousands of supporters of an Indigenous Voice to parliament marched in Melbourne and Sydney on Sunday in the largest Yes event since the official referendum campaign started.
  • NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey has warned of further cuts in Tuesday’s budget, with new polling showing 49 per cent of voters would support a reduction in spending if it improved the budget position.

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