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Andrews defends renaming of Maroondah hospital to honour Queen

Adeshola Ore

Adeshola Ore

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has defended the renaming of the Maroondah hospital to honour the Queen following opposition from Indigenous groups and leaders about the scrapping of the Aboriginal language name.

In a pre-election pledge, the Andrews government on Sunday vowed to rebuild the hospital in Melbourne’s east at a cost of more than $1bn and rename it to pay tribute to the Queen. But the renaming has sparked backlash from some Indigenous groups and leaders.

‘Maroondah’ is a Woiwurrung word that means ‘throwing’ and ‘Maroon’ means ‘leaves’.

What is Labor thinking changing the name of a hospital from an Aboriginal word to the name of a foreign monarch representing colonisation?

This is not what decolonisation looks like.

— Samantha Ratnam – Leader of the Victorian Greens (@SamanthaRatnam) September 19, 2022

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Andrews said the entire council area used the Aboriginal name “Maroondah”:

I think it’s a fitting tribute to someone, in Queen Elizabeth II, who was a great supporter of our health system and a great supporter of healthcare.

The announcement came after Victoria’s opposition promised a $400m upgrade to Maroondah hospital if it won the election in November.

Andrews and deputy premier Jacinta Allan on Monday announced that the state government would remove eight additional level crossings in the marginal electorate of Brunswick in a bid to ease traffic congestion and improve road safety. The inner-city electorate is currently held by the Greens on a 2% margin, following the redistribution of electorate boundaries.

Maroondah Hospital is the only hospital I can think of in Victoria with an Aboriginal name. Inclusive healthcare starts from the signage on.

The funding and expansion is much needed, but I hope such a beloved and inclusive name can remain. https://t.co/afVOY9eNea

— Dr Neela Janakiramanan (@NeelaJan) September 18, 2022

Key events

An update on the trains dispute in NSW

From AAP:

The rail union and NSW government are returning to the industrial umpire in a bid to break their long-running stalemate over the safety of a new intercity train fleet and wages and conditions for workers.

The Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) will meet with the government at the Fair Work Commission (FWC) on Monday for a second day of conciliation talks.

The talks come after the union on the weekend dropped plans to shut down Opal Card readers this week, following a government threat to launch court action over it.

“There won’t be anything this week,” a union spokeswoman told AAP.

The RTBU had planned to leave station gates open as it did last month, but to also deactivate Opal Card readers, preventing commuters tapping on to pay for trips.

The measure reportedly could have cost the government more than $1 million a day.

As part of its campaign, the union recently took Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink to the FWC in a bid to keep negotiating a new enterprise agreement and changes to Korean-built trains that have been mothballed for years, with the union saying they are not safe to operate.

Premier Dominic Perrottet declared negotiations were over at the end of August and threatened to terminate the enterprise agreement if there was further industrial action, after weeks of union disruptions to train services.

RTBU NSW secretary Alex Claassens has said the union is doing everything it can to reach a speedy resolution but says the government “is stalling the process at every opportunity”.

Transport minister David Elliott has been contacted for comment.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Pricier properties predicted to fall more in relative terms: RBA

As in our earlier posts, the RBA’s head of domestic markets, Jonathan Kearns, has been commenting on how higher interest rates will affect property markets.

Among the comments from Kearns was the prediction that more pricey properties will fall more in relative terms than other segments of the market. Here is the article too:

CoreLogic’s research director Tim Lawless has confirmed that the data for most cities so far backs up Kearns’s view. The upper 25% of the market showed prices across the combined capitals peaked in January and values had fallen 7.4%.

Data from @Corelogic backs up the RBA speech this morning that stated higher-priced properties are seeing values fall relatively more than other sections, with the exception, so far, of Hobart. (This marks the top and lower quarters vs the middle half.) pic.twitter.com/pzfmUSg9Xk

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) September 19, 2022

Lawless says:

In contrast, the lower quartile of the market peaked much later, in July, and housing values are down a much smaller 0.2% by the end of August.

For Sydney, where prices had started to turn lower before other capitals, housing values were down 7.5% across the upper 25% over the past three months, while the lower quartile was down 2.8%.

Mind you, the top end of the market has further to fall. From the trough in prices during the Covid pandemic to the recent peak, dwelling values across Sydney’s upper quartile had surged by 33.9% compared with a 17.5% rise in the lower 25% of the market.

CoreLogic’s data also showed house prices across the capital cities had risen just shy of 30% from the trough to the peak, compared with unit values’ 13.2% increase.

Australia signs economic pledge with Indonesia

Australia and Indonesia have pledged to increase economic cooperation ahead of a G20 finance ministers meeting, AAP reports.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers met with Indonesian finance minister Mulyani Indrawati in Canberra on Monday to sign the memorandum of understanding.

The agreement will facilitate the exchange of departmental officials from both nations, with dialogue and cooperation to focus on areas such as tax policy and financial regulation.

Australian treasurer Jim Chalmers (L) and Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Parliament House in Canberra, 19 September 2022.
Australian treasurer Jim Chalmers (L) and Indonesian finance minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Parliament House in Canberra, 19 September 2022. Photograph: Lukas Coch/EPA

Clean energy, climate financing and pension systems were also on the agenda. Chalmers said in his opening remarks:

That’s why we deepen and renew the MoU today, so we can continue sharing policy experiences in key reform areas and build capacity in both our departments.

Chalmers also flagged facilitating further investment from Australia’s $3.4 trillion superannuation pool into Indonesia.

G20 finance ministers are due to meet in Washington DC in October.

Australian skiers seeing fresh powder into Spring

The cold Australian winter has seen huge snow dumps for Australian ski fields, and it looks as though the good run is continuing for Mount Hotham in Victoria.

Australia’s Cameron Smith banks $6m from first LIV Golf win in Chicago

Australia’s British Open champion Cameron Smith has claimed his first LIV Golf victory on the lucrative Saudi Arabia-backed circuit.

Smith said:

I think I had to prove to probably myself and some other people that I am still a great player, you know I am still out here to win golf tournaments.

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

Coal-fired power plant near Lake Macquarie sold to Czech investment group

So it’s not yet the case of vale Vales Point, it seems.

The formerly state-owned coal-fired power plant near Lake Macquarie in the NSW Hunter Valley region, has been sold by its Australian owners Delta Electricity to what it calls “a family office investment group from the Czech Republic”, Sev.en Global Investments.

No price was given, but News Corp is reporting the sale was worth more than $200m. Not for a 1,320-megawatt clunker that was offloaded by the NSW government for just $1m in 2015?

Add in the $130m-odd in dividends to Delta’s owners, Trevor St Baker and Brian Flannery, since then.

And unlike other plants sold off, such as AGL’s Liddell and Bayswater, Delta didn’t have to pick up the rehabilitation costs of Vales, Renew Economy has reported.

It’s also reported this morning that Sev.en plans to extend the life of the plant beyond its touted closure date of 2029. That, among other things, would likely increase the rehab costs for the ash ponds and other nasties that result from burning fossil fuels.

We’ve asked the NSW government and also Delta about those plans.

In the meantime, Tim Buckley, a seasoned energy analyst and now director of Climate Energy Finance, said the plant’s sale to Sev.en, owned by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, is “the worst of all outcomes”.

“There is absolutely no accountability” for the new owners, Buckley says.

Who’s actually going to hold them to account?

We’ve been fleeced twice. First, with the $1m sales and secondly on the clean-up costs.

He noted the Foreign Investment Review Board would have to clear the sale but given the group has secured other generation assets in Australia, namely half of InterGen in 2019, there may not be much of a hurdle to clear.

Buckley said the NSW government could intervene and use its powers to limit pollution to put a stopper to Vales Point’s extension. (New clout sought by the NSW Environment Protection Authority could help that, as we reported here.)

For its part, Sev.en suggests it’s in the market for more of these ageing coal-fired power plants. It says on its website:

We are convinced that the combination of our firm rooting in the world of traditional energy, together with a deep expertise and willingness to share our knowhow, could bring big advantages to energy markets in transition.

We understand our role in an energy market as a bridge between the energy of today and tomorrow.

More on Origin Energy decision to quit Beetaloo Basin gas project

We brought you the news earlier about Origin Energy quitting the Beetaloo Basin gas project. My colleague Ben Butler has the full story:

Origin Energy will sell its stake in its Beetaloo Basin gas project at a loss and review all its other exploration permits in a move that will distance it from an environmental controversy and end its association with sanctioned Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg.

Chief executive Frank Calabria said gas remained “a core part of our business” but getting out of gas exploration would free up money to “grow cleaner energy and customer solutions, and deliver reliable energy through the transition”.

More flood warnings for Victoria

The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a warning for the Barwon River, with possible flooding at Geelong tomorrow morning.

Fines for Victorian public transport mask dodgers

More than 100 fines have been issued on Victorian public transport and in excess of 181,000 warnings given as part of a Covid-19 mask compliance crackdown so far this September, AAP reports.

Under Victoria’s pandemic orders, public transport passengers must wear a fitted face mask covering their nose and mouth unless they have a valid exemption.

The fine for failing or refusing to wear a fitted mask on public transport is $100 for an adult. A government spokesperson said:

Our focus remains on educating Victorians rather than handing out fines, which is why we’ve given out almost 160,000 masks to passengers on public transport.

With an increase in cases over the winter period, public transport operators are continuing to ensure mask compliance and additional masks have been made available to customers travelling on our public transport network.

Recorded announcements reminding passengers to use a mask have been in place since December 2020. It is still mandatory to wear a face mask on public transport in NSW, Queensland, Western Australia, the ACT and South Australia.

On Sunday, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton said while Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions had dropped, people should remain vigilant.

In a series of tweets, Sutton said new variants were causing concern in immunological circles because of immunity evasion and there may be another peak closer to the end of the year.

What shouldn’t be in dispute is that 50 COVID deaths in Australia a day is huge as a cause. And that Long COVID is emerging as a v. significant ongoing burden of illness for thousands & thousands of people. So we need to focus on doing everything reasonable to address this. End

— Chief Health Officer, Victoria (@VictorianCHO) September 18, 2022

National cabinet recently agreed to scrap mask mandates for domestic flights amid falling Covid-19 case numbers.

The Victorian government also lifted its work-from-home recommendation at the end of winter, with health minister Mary-Anne Thomas citing improving case numbers.

Plane missing in Victoria between Corryong and Mt Beauty

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is searching for a recreational plane with at least one person onboard, which went missing yesterday in north-east Victoria.

AMSA says it is coordinating an air search for a light aircraft missing in the area between Mt Beauty, Corryong and Tallangatta Valley.

Josh Butler

Josh Butler

Liz Truss could soon visit Australia, Albanese says

Prime minister Anthony Albanese has flagged his British counterpart Liz Truss could soon visit Australia, and remarked that the new King Charles was “less tired” than he expected him to be.

Albanese is in London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, which will be held tonight (Australia time). Speaking to ABC Melbourne radio this morning, the Australian PM reflected warmly on his first meeting with Truss over the weekend. He said:

It was a good gathering. I visited her in what is the foreign secretary’s residence down in Kent. And we had a good discussion about the range of issues and about the relationship that we have between Australia and the UK.

Of course, we’ve come to an economic and trade agreement that is due to go through our parliaments, we had a discussion as well about the potential visit by Prime Minister Truss to Australia.

Albanese also met Charles for the first time as King. He said he found the new monarch to be “less tired than is reasonable to have expected frankly, given the extraordinary schedule”.

And what must be, of course, a very emotional time for him as well as physically tiring. But he was very focused. And it was a very positive meeting. And it was a great honour to have the first face to face meeting with King Charles.

Albanese, an avowed supporter of an Australian republic, has kept quiet about his political views in that sphere since the Queen’s death, saying it was not the time for such conversations. But the PM did recount what he said was a “famous story” in his family, of his mother – while pregnant and about to deliver the baby Albanese – wanting to see Queen Elizabeth on her 1963 visit to Australia.

My mother was a republican, but also liked the Queen. I think you can have different views but have respect for Queen Elizabeth and the role that she had. When I was about to be born, my mother in 1963, the royal visit, my mother insisted on the way to the hospital to give birth to me, going via the city, George Street, to see all the festival paraphernalia.

Well apparently my family used to tell that story about my mother insisting that while she was in labour on the way to the hospital. And that’s a story that is fairly famous in my family, so my mother did have regard for Queen Elizabeth. I think the fact that Queen Elizabeth was such a strong woman was a role model as well for so many people.

Andrews defends renaming of Maroondah hospital to honour Queen

Adeshola Ore

Adeshola Ore

The Victorian premier, Daniel Andrews, has defended the renaming of the Maroondah hospital to honour the Queen following opposition from Indigenous groups and leaders about the scrapping of the Aboriginal language name.

In a pre-election pledge, the Andrews government on Sunday vowed to rebuild the hospital in Melbourne’s east at a cost of more than $1bn and rename it to pay tribute to the Queen. But the renaming has sparked backlash from some Indigenous groups and leaders.

‘Maroondah’ is a Woiwurrung word that means ‘throwing’ and ‘Maroon’ means ‘leaves’.

What is Labor thinking changing the name of a hospital from an Aboriginal word to the name of a foreign monarch representing colonisation?

This is not what decolonisation looks like.

— Samantha Ratnam – Leader of the Victorian Greens (@SamanthaRatnam) September 19, 2022

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Andrews said the entire council area used the Aboriginal name “Maroondah”:

I think it’s a fitting tribute to someone, in Queen Elizabeth II, who was a great supporter of our health system and a great supporter of healthcare.

The announcement came after Victoria’s opposition promised a $400m upgrade to Maroondah hospital if it won the election in November.

Andrews and deputy premier Jacinta Allan on Monday announced that the state government would remove eight additional level crossings in the marginal electorate of Brunswick in a bid to ease traffic congestion and improve road safety. The inner-city electorate is currently held by the Greens on a 2% margin, following the redistribution of electorate boundaries.

Maroondah Hospital is the only hospital I can think of in Victoria with an Aboriginal name. Inclusive healthcare starts from the signage on.

The funding and expansion is much needed, but I hope such a beloved and inclusive name can remain. https://t.co/afVOY9eNea

— Dr Neela Janakiramanan (@NeelaJan) September 18, 2022

Greens to introduce bill for 26 weeks of paid parental leave

The Greens will introduce the Fairer Paid Parental Leave bill to deliver 26 weeks of leave paid at replacement wage capped, with super paid on leave, and “use it or lose it” incentives for partners to encourage shared parenting.

Larissa Waters, the Greens leader in the Senate and spokesperson on women, said that fairer paid parental leave is a “no brainer” and that the government could afford it if they scrapped the controversial stage three tax cuts.

Australia has one of the weakest parental leave schemes in the developed world, especially for fathers. There was unanimous support from the jobs and skills summit participants for that to change.

If the government is serious about increasing women’s workforce participation, it needs to do more than to nod sagely while a panel of expert women says these things. Labor needs to actually act.

Barbara Pocock, the Greens spokesperson on employment, said:

As chair of the parliament’s first Senate select committee on Work and Care I know that the evidence on paid parental leave is overwhelming: we need it, and we need more of it. As an economist I know that without kids – and the care put into raising them – there is no economy. It is that simple.

Having children is hard labour and it should be recognised with decent recovery time and paid leave. It has been known for more than a century that economies benefiting from women’s work should ensure recovery and bonding time when they have a baby.