Australia news LIVE: Treasurer vows to safeguard superannuation; AUKUS rift in Labor after Keating comments

Key posts

  • Labor rift widens after Keating’s submarine spray
  • Thorpe grills Burney on Indigenous sovereignty in private Voice meeting
  • State, federal governments split over winter gas shortfalls fix
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Former senator says Keating made a mistake personally attacking PM

Staying with the AUKUS deal, a former Labor senator said he was among those concerned about the cost of the submarines and the future of the nuclear-powered vessels.

Doug Cameron has spoken out about the deal on RN Breakfast this morning and said many people, including himself, were concerned about the costs and where the money to pay for the machines would come from.

“They’re concerned about the cost $368 billion and that’s on top of $250 billion dollars of tax cuts to predominantly high-income areas,” the former senator said this morning.

Former senator Doug Cameron said Paul Keating made a mistake with personal attacks against the prime minister.Credit:Louise Kennerley

“There’s a concern about the effectiveness of nuclear submarines in coming decades. There’s concern about the capabilities of defence to properly monitor, minimise and contain costs.”

Cameron said it was legitimate for MPs and others in the Labor Party to be concerned about where money would come to fund social services, including health, education and the NDIS.

“I’m not surprised that there is concern about, and it’s legitimate for these concerns to be raised in a debate take place,” he said.

But he said he didn’t agree with Paul Keating’s personal attacks against the prime minister, defence minister or foreign minister.

“I think Paul Keating made a mistake in personally attacking the prime minister and defence minister … They are genuinely acting and what they think is the national interest is just that there are different points of view.”

Labor rift widens after Keating’s submarine spray

A brawl has erupted within Labor over the deal to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines from the United States and United Kingdom, as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and senior cabinet ministers pushed back on Paul Keating’s strident criticisms of the AUKUS pact.

Albanese said his predecessor’s jibes did nothing “other than diminish him, frankly”, while Foreign Minister Penny Wong, whom Keating lambasted in an appearance at the National Press Club, said his views on China and other foreign policy questions “belong to another time”.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, campaigning in Melbourne in the Aston by-election, dismissed Paul Keating’s criticism of the nuclear-powered submarine deal.Credit:Joe Armao

But the former prime minister’s attack on the government struck a nerve in Labor ranks, as Rudd and Gillard era government cabinet minister Peter Garrett weighed into the debate to say the AUKUS deal “stinks” and two powerful blue-collar unions condemned the nuclear-powered project as a dangerous waste of money.

Read more on the rift here. 

Thorpe grills Burney on Indigenous sovereignty in private Voice meeting

Senators Lidia Thorpe and Pauline Hanson grilled Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney in a private referendum meeting on Thursday ahead of a crucial month for the campaign to create a Voice to parliament.

The One Nation and former Greens senators were joined by independent senator David Pocock at a meeting of the powerful referendum working group, which is finalising its recommendation on the words Australians will be asked in a referendum and the lines that will be added to the constitution.

Senator Lidia Thorpe used the meeting to ask Linda Burney about the impact of the Voice to parliament on First Nations sovereignty. Credit:Rhett Wyman

The group did not make a final decision on whether to accept a compromise wording of the constitutional alteration proposed by Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, which some Voice proponents believe will help win conservative votes and foster greater bipartisanship.

More on the Voice to parliament debate is available here.

State, federal governments split over winter gas shortfalls fix

A rift has opened between the eastern states over fresh warnings of winter gas shortfalls, with opinions split over the need for reservation schemes or new gas fields, while the Albanese government approaches a critical decision on imposing unprecedented export controls on gas producers.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has warned gas demand in Victoria – by far the country’s biggest consumer of residential gas – could outstrip supplies as soon as this winter if cold weather drives up heating usage at the same time as a slump in output from wind farms or breakdowns at coal-fired power stations.

The energy market operator is warning that gas supply could run short as gas fields in Bass Strait are rapidly drying up.Credit:Rob Homer

As gas fields in Bass Strait, which have traditionally supplied the bulk of east-coast gas demand, are rapidly drying up, AEMO said there would be a risk of shortfalls across the nation’s south-east on days of peak winter demand until 2026.

The full story on gas shortages is available here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Friday, March 17. I’m Caroline Schelle, 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:

  • Treasurer Jim Chalmers has vowed to retirement savings of all Australians, as key crossbench MPs called for a royal commission into programs put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. He is due to address questions on savings and productivity in an interview this morning.
  • Senators Lidia Thorpe and Pauline Hanson grilled Indigenous Affairs Minister Linda Burney in a private referendum meeting ahead of a crucial campaign month for the Voice to parliament.
  • The eastern states have split over how to fix potential winter gas shortfalls, and there’s a debate over the need for reservation schemes or new gas fields.
  • The prime minister and foreign minister returned fire at Paul Keating for his comments on the AUKUS pact which he aired earlier this week.
  • In NSW, Premier Dominic Perrottet will not use his signature kids future fund if he still leads government after the March 25 election because he already has long-term savings accounts for his children.
  • Heading overseas, with the US releasing footage purportedly showing a Russian aircraft dumping fuel on an American drone over the Black Sea.
  • The UK has banned TikTok from all government phones over spying capability.
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