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Australia news LIVE: Fate of Home Affairs boss Michael Pezzullo to be decided in report; Job cuts as RBA war on inflation cuts

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One in three adults headed for Xmas debt

This Christmas, one in three Australian adults is forecast to go into debt.

The cost-of-living crisis is leaving more people in financial stress as they head into the festive season.

More than 12.8 million adults or 62 per cent are ending their year worried about their finances compared to about 50 per cent last year, according to research for The Salvation Army.

It found 31 per cent of adults are seeking to use a credit card to pay for Christmas expenses, up from 18 per cent last year.

The number of Australians planning on spending money they don’t already have through buy-now, pay-later services has also doubled to 15 per cent.

The charity is expecting a surge in the number of people seeking support this year and the Salvation Army’s Andrew Hill is asking for the public to donate to its annual Christmas Appeal.

“People are really struggling this year, meaning Christmas will make things even tougher,” he said.

“People are at breaking point – and it hurts.”

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One in four Aussie adults will struggle to put food on the table this Christmas while about one in three will find it difficult to pay for utilities or rent.

For those who will reach out for help this Christmas, Mr Hill expects almost half will be doing so for the first time.

The charity is aiming to raise $25 million this festive season to support those in need.

AAP

Government announces $600 million ‘cyber shields’

Almost $600 million will be put towards erecting six “cyber shields” around Australian infrastructure and businesses, to protect them from data attacks and to secure networks.

Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil on Wednesday unveiled the seven-year cyber strategy.

The layers to protect against cyberattacks include using safe technology, empowering businesses and individuals, protecting critical infrastructure, working with partners in the region and ensuring Australia maintains a sovereign capability.

Combined, they will make it harder for actors to target critical infrastructure and allow the government to bounce back faster when they do slip through.

“We have reason to believe that things are going to get worse and that we are going to face increasing risk,” O’Neil said, launching the policy in Sydney.

“We can’t have a situation where we have data flying around the country, where we have critical infrastructure starting to fail.”

Of the funding, $290 million will go towards supporting small and medium businesses fight cybercrime, while $144 million will help strengthen critical infrastructure and $130 million will boost regional cooperation and capabilities.

There will also be $5 million to create customer standards for smart devices and software to protect consumers.

The Tech Council has backed the strategy, branding it a comprehensive and multipronged approach to tackling the increasing threat.

“Improving cybersecurity is vital to Australia’s economy, our national security and to the lives of Australian citizens,” chief executive Kate Pounder said.

AAP

Warning to vaccinate as COVID-19 cases surge

A new wave of COVID-19 cases is hitting the nation, as experts warn people to remain vigilant and stay up to date with their vaccines as we enter the festive season.

Associate Professor James Trauer, head of the epidemiological modelling unit at Monash University, says there is a surge of COVID-19 infections spreading through the community.

“Vaccination remains our most important defence against COVID, even though the virus shouldn’t ruin Christmas this year,” he said on Wednesday.

COVID-19 is now an endemic virus, which means it cannot be eliminated and is continuously transmitted.

Surges in coronavirus cases were generally caused by new variants, which meant it was “more difficult than ever to predict” when these waves would peak, Trauer said.

“Our most important protection against the effects of COVID is immunity, which can be enhanced through vaccination,” he said.

With a marked decline in testing, the daily number of cases does not paint a clear picture of the spread of the virus, though, researchers can still use hospital admission numbers and wastewater surveillance to monitor COVID-19 waves.

The severity of coronavirus cases has decreased and fewer Australians are being admitted to the intensive care unit because of high levels of population immunity, however Health Minister Mark Butler emphasised that the virus “hasn’t gone away”.

“The booster rate is not what we saw in the first few years of the pandemic,” he said.

“I’m particularly concerned that older Australians get out there and get their booster.”

New COVID-19 vaccines, which target common variants of the virus, will be made available from next month.

“They’re the cutting edge most up-to-date vaccines, but thankfully the vaccines that are currently in pharmacies and in general practice are … also very, very effective at protecting you from severe disease or death,” Butler said.

AAP

This afternoon’s headlines

By Caroline Schelle

Thank you for your company reading our live coverage this morning.

I’m heading off and handing over to Sarah Keoghanwho will be anchoring the blog for the rest of the afternoon.

If you’re just joining us, here’s what you need to know:

  • Former federal Liberal political staffer Bruce Lehrmann has settled his defamation case against the ABC over a Press Club broadcast.
  • Opposition Leader Peter Dutton condemned a planned Victorian school strike to protest Israel’s attacks in Gaza and declined to support a ceasefire in the conflict.
  • The employment minister has reached a deal to close a loophole that allows big companies to hire labour hire firms and undercut the wages they pay other workers under enterprise bargaining agreements.
  • Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil also confirmed that the government considered releasing the man at the centre of the High Court ruling on indefinite detention.
  • NSW Energy Minister Penny Sharpe says more than a gigawatt of new renewable energy projects announced under a joint state and federal scheme will bridge a reliability gap.
  • In Victoria, human remains have been found after a former military jet crashed into Port Phillip Bay near Mount Martha on Sunday afternoon with a pilot and cameraman on board.

Communications minister probed about why gambling ads aren’t banned

Staying with Michelle Rowland, who was asked why the Australian government couldn’t ban gambling advertisements online.

The communications minister told reporters in Canberra it was often proposed, but the relationship between the gambling industry and sport has “very much changed”.

“We know that the impact of gambling ads is felt right across the community and the committee made some very important recommendations in that regard,” Rowland said.

Michelle Rowland is speaking at the National Press Club.

Michelle Rowland is speaking at the National Press Club.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

“I am consulting closely with a wide range of stakeholders because we need to understand the impacts in this area, but also what changes need to be made in order for it to be more robust in future.”

Rowland said the last time there were reforms on the issue, there was an increase in gambling advertising.

“We need to ensure that we get the policy settings right. But I can assure you that we are at all times guided by the principles of harm minimisation.”

Rowland says platforms need to address online hate

Returning to Australian political news, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland is taking questions at the National Press Club in Canberra.

This masthead reported the minister announced a review of the Online Safety Act and an expansion of rules that social media firms must follow to avoid penalties.

During her speech Rowland said there was a surge of Islamophobia and antisemitism on online platforms.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland at the National Press Club.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland at the National Press Club.Credit: ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

She was questioned on whether that meant social and online platforms weren’t taking that issue seriously, and if a voluntary code would be sufficient.

“That is why we are addressing this gap in the framework by updating the expectations to include what the platforms are doing in relation to their own policies about minimising the impact of hate speech,” Rowland said.

She said it was a gap in the framework, and one several jurisdictions are grappling with.

“It’s one that I look forward to taking measures on as part of this updating of the basic online safety expectations.”

Anti-immigrant party could win most seats in the Netherlands

Dutch political leaders sought support from undecided voters in frantic campaigning on Tuesday, on the eve of a general election that will change the face of the country’s politics after 13 years of leadership by Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Pollsters were predicting a knife-edge vote with four parties across the political spectrum vying to become the largest bloc in the 150-seat lower house of parliament.

Geert Wilders has attracted strong voter support, according to polls.

Geert Wilders has attracted strong voter support, according to polls.Credit: AP

Long-time MP Geert Wilders, famous for his anti-immigrant rhetoric, is polling strongly.

Rutte’s fourth and final coalition resigned in July after it failed to agree on measures to rein in migration. Rutte subsequently said he would not seek re-election, but he remains in power as caretaker prime minister until a new coalition is formed — a process that could take months.

Learn more here.

Israel’s cabinet approves ceasefire deal with Hamas for hostages

By Rob Harris

And overseas, Israel’s cabinet has approved a deal that will clear the way for the release of some of the hostages that Hamas militants took to the Gaza Strip during an October 7 assault on Israel.

Israel and Hamas have been inching closer to a deal where the terrorist organisation would swap dozens of hostages for Palestinian prisoners and a partial pause in fighting.

A US official had said the deal would include a four or five-day ceasefire, the first pause in six weeks of an Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv.

Families and friends of about 240 hostages held by Hamas in Gaza call for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home during a demonstration in Tel Aviv.Credit: AP

It is not immediately clear when the ceasefire deal will take effect.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would continue its war against Hamas, even if a temporary ceasefire is reached with the militant group to release hostages.

Get the latest information from our dedicated live blog.

Join the conversation

Shane Wright’s opinion piece on why his beloved dog doesn’t need another taxpayer-funded park is sparking much debate with subscribers.

@Glenn Newton says: “Lucky Scully with ready access to a pine plantation to run in as a dog should, May he run on for a long time. I don’t think Scully would begrudge others less lucky in urban and suburban areas having some where to also run a bit free, albeit not as free as in a pine plantation.”

@Claire writes: “Problem is not everyone lives by a beach with an off leash area like I do, and with the strict laws we have these days about roaming dogs, where else can you exercise these animals?”

Shane Wright’s dog, Scully, enjoying a run in nature.

Shane Wright’s dog, Scully, enjoying a run in nature.

@Cloverali says: “With homes getting smaller and smaller and dog ownership getting bigger and bigger, dog parks are a necessary part of community infrastructure.”

But @Flinton has a different take: “What a waste, dog owners should and mostly do pay their own way and also their doggy expenses. So there’s no reason to continue finding dog parks, drinking fountains or dog sanitation.”

What do you think? Let us know using this link.

Human remains found in Mount Martha plane crash search

By Lachlan Abbott

In breaking news, human remains have been found after a former military jet crashed into Port Phillip Bay near Mount Martha on Sunday afternoon with a pilot and cameraman on board.

Victoria Police said today they discovered bodies inside the wreckage found off the shore of Mornington on Monday evening.

Cameraman James Rose (left) and pilot Stephen Gale (right) were on board the plane that crashed on Sunday.

Cameraman James Rose (left) and pilot Stephen Gale (right) were on board the plane that crashed on Sunday.

“They are believed to be the missing occupants of the plane, a 56-year-old Brunswick man and a 30-year-old Surrey Hills man,” the statement said.

Stephen Gale, a pilot, engineer, inventor and aspiring filmmaker, and James Rose, a talented cameraman and drone operator, were reported missing after two light S-211 Marchetti planes collided mid-air about 12 kilometres west of Mount Martha, in Melbourne’s south-east.

More details available here.

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