Australia politics live: Coalition to attack Albanese over Payman crossing the floor; Julian Assange lands in Saipan | Australian politics

Key events

Andrew Messenger

The Queensland government plans to establish a new Greater Glider Forest Park as part of a $200 million plan to reform the state’s timber industry.

Premier Steven Miles will today announce he will ban logging in between 50,000 and 60,000 hectares of high value ecosystem within the ‘Eastern Hardwoods’ region in Wide Bay, north of Brisbane.

In addition, a new park to protect the Greater Glider will be established in the South East Queensland bioregion.

The state government will also appoint an advisory group to develop a 30-year plan for the sector. It will include representatives from the timber industry, forestry experts, the conservation sector, First Nations peoples, the Australian Workers’ Union, construction sector and outdoor recreational groups.

It will spend $200 million on a new “Queensland sustainable timber industry framework”, designed to serve the industry for the next three decades. It

Queensland’s timber industry is the backbone of the housing and building sectors,” Miles said.

That’s why I’m doing what matters to support timber workers and the industry to continue building our state, while also increasing our protected area estate.

The terms of reference released today map out our priorities as a government – that is, timber supply security, environmental protections, jobs and diverse employment opportunities.”


Some quick Assange FAQs

We’ll have a dedicated blog for all Julian Assange news from today’s court appearance up and running very soon, but first we’ll answer some questions we’ve received.

Why Saipan?

It’s the capital of the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a United States territory in the Pacific Ocean. Julian Assange will be appearing in a US court, without having to step foot on the US mainland. It’s only about 3,000km from Australia and in the same time zone, so you can safely assume it’s a location that has been chosen very carefully by Assange’s legal team.

When is it happening?

Assange’s hearing is scheduled for 9am, which is also 9am on Australia’s east coast.

What will happen?

All going to plan, Assange will plead guilty to violating the espionage act and receive a sentence of 62 months. The time he has spent in the UK’s Belmarsh prison will be credited to his US sentence, meaning he should be allowed to go free.


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Good morning

Hello and welcome to your Wednesday politics live blog. Thank you to Martin for starting us off – you have Amy Remeikis with you for most of the day now.

It’s a four-coffee and chocolate-for-breakfast morning as we wait for Canberra to warm up.

Ready? Let’s get into it.


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University wage theft on track to exceed $380m, study says

Caitlin Cassidy

Caitlin Cassidy

Australia’s university wage theft tally is on track to exceed $380m, new research shows, prompting calls from unions for an urgent parliamentary inquiry into underpayments of staff.

The research, released by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) today, found $203m has been paid to or is in the process of being repaid to staff across 30 institutions, affecting more than 100,000 individuals.

A further $168m worth of provisions for underpayments has been set aside by nine universities in recently released annual reports, while the union estimates a further $10m across three universities is yet to have been disclosed.
NTEU national president, Dr Alison Barnes, said wage theft at public universities had spiralled into a “national disgrace”.

Vice-chancellors and senior executives must be held to account for the industrial-scale wage theft that has become the shameful hallmark of Australian universities.

University staff will not accept any more empty platitudes – it’s time for vice-chancellors to finally face proper scrutiny for this awful behaviour. Wage theft is a crime. Who has lost their job? Who is going to jail?

Barnes will be joined by ACTU secretary, Sally McManus, at Parliament House today to jointly call for the parliamentary inquiry.

Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

Shortly after the vote on Tuesday, Payman told reporters it was one of the most difficult decisions she’s had to make but she did so “for humanity”.

The 29-year-old senator, who fled Taliban-ruled Afghanistan to Australia with her family shortly after she was born, added she was “bitterly disappointed” her colleagues did not feel the same.

“I was not elected as a token representative of diversity, I was elected to serve the people of Western Australia and uphold the values instilled in me by my late father. Today I have made a decision that would make him proud and make everyone proud who err on the side of humanity.”


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Coalition to attack Albanese over Fatima Payman crossing floor

Sarah Basford Canales

Sarah Basford Canales

The Coalition looks set to use Labor senator Fatima Payman’s decision to cross the floor yesterday afternoon as an attack on Anthony Albanese’s strength as a party leader.

Payman crossed the floor in the upper house on Tuesday after a Greens motion to recognise Palestinian statehood was put to a vote.

The major parties, and some crossbenchers, joined to vote against the motion, which lost 52 to 13.

Payman joined the Greens and independent senators Lidia Thorpe and David Pocock, in a break with the party’s rules to vote as a collective bloc on caucus decisions. It is the first time a Labor member has broken ranks to cross the floor since 2005 and the first time since 1986 while Labor has been in power. Payman faces potential suspension or expulsion, though a government spokesperson said there is “no mandated sanction” in these circumstances.

The Liberal senator Michaelia Cash told Sky News on Tuesday night it was Albanese’s “weak leadership” that led to these events.

Cash said:

What Senator Payman did today was actually a challenge to Prime Minister Albanese’s leadership …

You’ve got to look at why Senator Payman did this and it is the weak leadership that Anthony Albanese has shown since the terrorist attacks on October the 7th last year. It is little wonder that Senator Payman thought she had licence to cross the floor.


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And in our Full Story podcast episode today, our foreign affairs and defence correspondent Daniel Hurst tells Nour Haydar what led up to the breakthrough in the long-running legal case and what happens now.


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From a plea deal to a 2am prison call – how Assange was freed

Our chief reporter in London, Daniel Boffey, and Guardian Australia’s Daniel Hurst have put together a read on how the deal to free Assange came about.


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WikiLeaks (and flight tracking sites) have confirmed that Julian Assange’s plane is on the ground on the Pacific island of Saipan, where he is due to face a US judge in a couple of hours to enter his guilty plea and receive a sentence.

Guardian correspondent Helen Davidson is also on the ground in Saipan, and will bring all the latest news from the Assange court hearing as it happens.


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Good morning and welcome to our rolling politics coverage. I’m Martin Farrer with some of the best overnight stories making news – but very soon Amy Remeikis will be along to helm proceedings from Canberra.

Peter Dutton’s refusal to commit the Coalition to a 2030 emissions reduction target came after ambiguous comments in a newspaper interview were reported as a shift. Guardian Australia understands Dutton never intended to declare a new position, but misspoke during an interview with The Australian newspaper just over two weeks ago. He decided to go quiet for three days and then come out swinging, rather than reveal it was inadvertent.

Also in politics, the Coalition is likely to attack Labor today over Senator Fatima Payman’s decision yesterday to cross the floor to back a Greens motion on recognising Palestinian statehood. More on that soon.

Julian Assange arrived in Bangkok overnight (pictured) and in a few hours is due to appear in a court on the US-controlled island of Saipan, where he is expected to be sentenced on one espionage charge before making his way back to Australia. His plane landed on the remote island just minutes ago. In the meantime there’s more reaction as human rights advocates in the UK said the country’s next government must push the US for reassurance it will not pursue journalists again for publishing classified information.

The headteacher of the top Sydney school embroiled in a row over becoming co-educational has written to parents and alumni expressing disappointment with a group of people within the school’s community “whose behaviour is inconsistent with our school culture and our values”. The head of Newington College, Michael Parker, said in his email that a “campaign of deliberate negativity” had “undeniably impacted the broader community’s understanding of who we are and what we stand for” although he did not specifically mention the opposition to the coed plan. More coming up.


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