Australia news live: fears of further collapse after huge Sydney fire; NSW to consider ‘breach of trust’ fines in wake of PwC scandal | Australia news

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Daniel Hurst

Biden’s official reiterates ‘deepest regrets’ for cancelled Australia visit

Joe Biden’s top Indo-Pacific adviser has reiterated that the US president offered Anthony Albanese his “deepest regrets” about the postponement of his planned trip to Australia.

Biden attended the G7 summit in Hiroshima, Japan, last weekend, but postponed trips to Papua New Guinea and Australia (where a Quad summit was to be held in Sydney) to oversee negotiations on the US debt ceiling.

Kurt Campbell, the coordinator for Indo-Pacific affairs at the White House National Security Council, is addressing a webinar organised by the United States Studies Centre.

Campbell said Biden had felt that he could not postpone the entire trip to the region, because that would be “catastrophic”. Campbell acknowledged that the region was looking at whether the US could be “a steady predictable force”.

Campbell said the determination was to still go to the G7 and to try to “resurrect as much as possible”. That included the holding of a Quad meeting in Hiroshima with Australians in the chair. (The Quad brings together the US, Australia, Japan and India.)

Biden reached out to Albanese to express his “deepest regrets, really sincerest concerns about the consequences of this postponement”, Campbell said.

But Campbell said the leaders were able to have a “consequential” Quad meeting in Hiroshima, and Australia and the US “signed a blockbuster agreement on climate and the provision of critical minerals”.

Campbell also said Biden and Albanese also took steps to ensure “all elements of Aukus, both pillar 1 and pillar 2” were “on track”.

Linda Burney commemorates the Stolen Generations on National Sorry Day

As well as the sixth anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart, today is also National Sorry Day, commemorating the Stolen Generations.

Today marks National Sorry Day and the 6th anniversary of the Uluru Statement from the Heart. It is such an honour to be on Country in such an amazing part of the world, and to be reminded of where the statement came from.

— Linda Burney MP (@LindaBurneyMP) May 25, 2023

The minister for Indigenous affairs, Linda Burney, told ABC Radio she felt “mixed emotions.”

Twenty-six years ago the Bringing them Home report was tabled, and I’ll never forget the apology by Kevin Rudd 15 years ago, I was actually in the chamber.

Even now the emotion wells up in you to think that these people in our lifetime were taken and had terrible experiences and the trauma is intergenerational.

It’s also a story of survival, resilience and this country coming to terms with an awful part of its history.

Marles accuses Dutton of ‘making stuff up’ after claims government turning off gas supply

In their regular spot opposite each other on Nine News’ breakfast show, the deputy prime minister, Richard Marles, hits back that Dutton is “making stuff up here.”

At the end of last year, our intervention was about getting more gas into the east coast energy market. That’s what we were doing. Peter opposed it. That’s in the here and now. He can bang on about batteries. At the end of day, when there was an opportunity to act he opposed.

Marles emphasised that the interventions into the energy market meant that even though energy prices are going up, they are lower than what they would have been otherwise.

Dutton says Labor is reducing gas in energy sector too early

Opposition leader Peter Dutton is this morning calling for more gas to be put into the grid to reduce energy costs following the news this morning that power bills could rise by up to 25% in some states.

Dutton told the Today Show:

We want to see more gas in the system. What the government is doing here is turning off the old system before the new one is ready. That’s what’s driving up prices … and I think the government’s completely underestimating how much families and small businesses are hurting at the moment.

The government’s attacking the gas sector at the moment and reducing the amount of gas into the sector, the system, at a time when there is more demand. If you have got more demand for any commodity and you’re restricting supply, the price spikes.

We’re in favour of renewable energy. But it needs to be firmed up during the hours of darkness when the solar panels won’t work and you have got the baseload cost.

So, whether you have 65 [or] 85% of renewables, you have to firm that up. The trouble is they are turning off coal and gas way too early before the latest technology battery lasts for an hour. So, when the new battery comes, that is great. It’s not here yet.

Precarious walls left after Sydney blaze may need to be demolished

Superintendent Adam Dewberry from NSW Fire and Rescue is doing the rounds of the breakfast news shows sharing the latest on the Sydney inferno.

He’s told ABC News Breakfast those two walls still in precarious positions will likely need to be demolished:

Our priority is to get people back into their residence and also to get communities and the businesses reopened.

We still have a problem with two walls in precarious positions and could come down without notice, bringing tons and tons of bricks down and causing projectiles and causing injury, damage or even death. That’s why our exclusion zone is so tight.

It looks like making it safe will include a demolition of the walls down it a level where it is safe.

Dewberry says planning is currently occurring between authorities and local council.

We’ve heard from Fire and Rescue NSW that there is still the potential for further collapse around the seven-storey Sydney building which went up in flames last night.

The emergency organisation have shared the moment a huge part of the building’s facade came down yesterday evening:

SURRY HILLS | Wall collapses as major fire engulfs seven-storey building. New video footage, released by FRNSW, shows the moment a wall from an engulfed building in Surry Hills came crashing down onto the street below.

— Fire and Rescue NSW (@FRNSW) May 25, 2023

Voice referendum ‘not the plaything of politicians’, Indigenous affairs minister says

On the pushback against the voice from the right and left, Burney says she’s met with both the independent Senator Lydia Thorpe and the shadow minister for Indigenous Australians, Jacinta Price.

While Price’s position with the Nationals is a hard no to supporting the voice, Burney says the pair spoke about education in central Australia.

Thorpe’s position on the voice is still undecided, with her not advocating for a no or yes vote. Burney says she’d like her to support the alteration bill but ultimately it’s up to her.

The important thing is not about the left or the right of politics. What’s important is the Australian people this is their referendum, this is their decision. It is not the plaything of politicians.

Linda Burney: voice referendum chance to power ‘the wheel of history’

Indigenous leaders are returning to Uluru today six years since the Uluru Statement from the heart was delivered. The statement underpins the voice to parliament, which the nation will vote on in a referendum before the end of the year.

The minister for Indigenous Australians, Linda Burney, is in the Red Centre but she says she is not concerned by a recent poll by the Nine newspapers which indicate the yes campaign is losing support.

Burney tells ABC Radio:

Individuals that know that this is their time to put their shoulder on the wheel of history and give it a shove.

The momentum is just enormous. We are at Uluru – I am looking at Uluru right now with the sun coming up as I was speaking to you – and I feel buoyed and I feel confident.

I know that we’ve still got six or seven months to run and I am sure that the Australian people will rise rise to this occasion.

Read more from our Indigenous affairs editor Lorena Allam, who is also on the ground at Uluru:

Stephanie Convery

Stephanie Convery

Evacuated dental hospital near site of Sydney blaze becomes emergency services hub

While the light rail that runs past the charred husk of the burnt out building on Randle Ln is running this morning, many of the roads are blocked off by police tape, including a usually very busy section of Elizabeth St, which will likely have an impact on morning traffic.

The total area cordoned off around the building is about six blocks. A hand-scrawled sign on the usually packed Elizabeth St bus stop directs people to the nearby Eddy Ave.

The Sydney Dental Hospital – a short distance away from the burnt out building – was evacuated yesterday. It’s now being used as a hub for the emergency services gathered at the site. Water pours past it in the street, downhill, where the media is gathered.

Sydney fire ‘pretty much out’ but concern walls may still collapse

Staying on the Sydney inferno, Superintendent Adam Dewberry from NSW Fire and Rescue says the the fire is “pretty much out” after firefighters worked up until 2am this morning to ensure hot spots were out.

However, Dewberry told the Today Show there is still serious concern more walls could collapse without notice.

There’s else a lot of work to be done. The building opposite has been damaged by that extreme heat. Firefighters were able to cut that fire off from spreading into the building across the road. But the main priority is that wall. There are two walls that are in a precarious position.

Dewberry says there is a “very good chance” they are likely to fall “without notice.”

We are talking about tonnes and tonnes of bricks that could come down and become projectiles that is why we have such a tight exclusion zone, not allowing anyone in, including firefighter[s], until we get the engineers in.

Stephanie Convery

Stephanie Convery

Morning update on Sydney blaze

The charred remains of the heritage listed multi-story brick building on Sydney’s Randle Lane are visible from the Central station underpass this morning.

About three complete storeys of the six storey building collapsed yesterday during the inferno that took hold about 4pm and quickly engulfed the building. The partially collapsed structure is strewn across Randle St, and a police line prevents members of the public from getting too close.

Water pours out from underneath an adjacent building abutting the light rail. A police officer tells me the apartment blocks nearby are still empty as the building is structurally unsound, and spot fires are still being put out.

NSW to consider ‘breach of trust’ fines in wake of PwC scandal

New South Wales is the first state to consider introducing fines for betrayal of trust for companies that leak sensitive government tax information to clients following the PwC tax scandal.

The state’s finance minister, Courtney Houssos, is telling ABC Radio the fines would be in the multimillions:

I’m working with the chief commissioner for state revenue to implement a change to our policy that will ensure that severe penalties will apply to advisors and also to organisations who seek commercial advantage by sharing confidential tax related information.

We’re looking at multimillion dollar fines for both the individuals involved and also for the organisations.

We think that when you are provided with confidential tax information by the government, that any breach of that trust should be tightened and there should be very, very serious consequences for that.

Natasha May

Natasha May

Good morning! Natasha May stepping up to the plate to serve you the rest of today’s live news coverage.

Australia needs stronger anti-slavery laws, review warns

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

Australia should toughen up its laws against modern slavery, including by imposing fines on businesses that lie about actions they are tacking to tackle the problem, a government-ordered review has found.

The Modern Slavery Act, which took effect in 2019, aims to push businesses to tackle a range of risks in their supply chains, including human trafficking, servitude, worker exploitation, child labour, forced marriage, debt bondage and deceptive recruiting.

Big businesses are required to report steps they are taking to address the problem in statements posted on a government-run register – but the reporting obligations have long been criticised for lacking teeth.

In a report tabled by the government in parliament late yesterday, Prof John McMillan said the consultations he oversaw had found “a widely endorsed view” that there was “no hard evidence that the Modern Slavery Act in its early years has yet caused meaningful change for people living in conditions of modern slavery”.

McMillan has made 30 recommendations, including requiring businesses that have annual revenue of $50m or more to report the steps they are taking on the issue. That means the rules will cover a larger number of businesses, because the current reporting threshold is $100m of annual revenue.

McMillan also recommended making it a penalty for failing to submit modern slavery statements, failing to take specified remedial action, or making a statement “that knowingly includes materially false information”. He wrote:

Proposed legislative changes largely target what are seen to be the three main weaknesses in the present Act – the standard of modern slavery reporting is variable, the reporting obligation is not properly enforceable, and the process is at risk of being drowned by a sea of large and incompatible statements.

The foreign affairs minister, Penny Wong, and the acting attorney general, Katy Gallagher, said the government would consider the recommendations, but noted that many of them were in line with Labor election commitments.

WA premier: ‘unthinkable’ US-style school shooting nearly occurred

Mark McGowan, state premier, said it was “unthinkable” that a US-style school shooting could have happened at a WA school.

He told reporters yesterday during a visit to the school:

We are very lucky no one was killed. The bullets went close. It’s a terrible, terrible thing and it could have been so much worse.

This is extraordinary stuff. This is the sort of thing you see occurring in the deep south of America.

McGowan said work was already under way to dramatically reform the state’s gun laws.

Boy charged with multiple offences after allegedly shooting at Perth classroom

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with multiple offences after he allegedly drove to a school in Western Australia and shot at a classroom as scared students hid in fear, AAP reports.

The incident at Atlantis Beach Baptist College north of Perth on Wednesday is understood to be the first firearms episode at a school in Western Australia.

Police arrested the boy at the scene at about 11.50am after he allegedly fired three rounds, with two shots hitting a classroom.

Western Australia police on Thursday charged the teen with a count of driving without authority, three counts of possessing an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm to cause fear, possessing a prohibited weapon and acting unlawfully with intent to harm.

The boy was expected to face the Perth children’s court this morning.

Police inspect a classroom that was hit with two rounds from a gun allegedly fired by a 15-year-old boy at Atlantis Beach Baptist College in Perth.
Police inspect a classroom that was hit with two rounds from a gun allegedly fired by a 15-year-old boy at Atlantis Beach Baptist College in Perth. Photograph: Aaron Bunch/AAP

Officers took the teen into custody without incident on Wednesday, seizing two rifles, a .243 and .22 calibre, allegedly found in a car at the scene.

The weapons are understood to be registered to the boy’s father.

Authorities praise Sydney residents for quick evacuation as fire raged

Fire and Rescue NSW Supt Adam Dewberry praised people living in apartments and other buildings near the scene of the huge fire in Sydney yesterday for evacuating promptly when multiple fire alarms went off.

He also said quick-thinking firefighters prevented the flames from destroying adjacent buildings by hosing them down and stopping the fire from spreading.

There were some fires that spread into the apartment buildings … firefighters were able to extinguish those and prevent them further penetrating into the buildings and causing significant damage.

A wall collapses during the fire in Sydney.
A wall collapses during the fire in Sydney. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AP

Supt Dewberry said it was believed the two buildings involved in the blaze were vacant.

It was an incredibly intense fire and the age of the building, the type of construction with lots of timber frames and floors, and with that, very well seasoned and dry timber.

Our firefighters have done a wonderful job to get on top of this fire.

Supt Dewberry said there were no reports of injuries to members of the public and only one firefighter suffered a minor burn to his arm.


Good morning and welcome everyone to our live coverage of the Australian news day. I’m Martin Farrer and I’ll be bringing you the best of the overnight stories before my colleague Natasha May steps up to the plate shortly.

Firefighters and police will today begin their investigation into the huge blaze in Sydney that destroyed a seven-storey building next to the city’s Central station yesterday. More than 120 firefighters with 30 fire trucks battled the blaze at a heritage-listed former hat factory in Surry Hills which broke out at around 4pm, sending fiery debris crashing to the ground in Randle Street. Fire and Rescue NSW Supt Adam Dewberry told ABC News it was incredible no one was hurt in one of the city’s biggest fires in years.

Also this morning, we have an exclusive interview with Greens leader Adam Bandt. He tells our chief political correspondent, Paul Karp, that the government can’t count on his party’s support for its “weak” changes to petroleum resource rent tax. In stinging remarks, Bandt says it is not clear the changes will bring in any additional revenue and the policy was “written by the gas lobby” so “it’s not worth the napkin it was written on after a long lunch”. More on this one coming up.

A 15-year-old boy has been charged with multiple offences after he allegedly drove to a school in Perth, Western Australia and shot at a classroom as scared students hid in fear. Police last night charged him with a count of driving without authority, three counts of possessing an unlicensed firearm and ammunition, discharging a firearm to cause fear, possessing a prohibited weapon and acting unlawfully with intent to harm. The boy was expected to face the Perth children’s court this morning.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency/news feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor.

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