Australian politics live: Labor accuses Coalition of $1bn cost blowout on business register reform | Australian politics

Labor accuses Coalition of budget blowout on business register reform

Josh Butler

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, has accused the former Coalition government of presiding over a $1bn cost blowout in plans to update a key government register.

The Australian Business Register, which is meant to reduce administrative burden on business in complying with government regulation, is undergoing a reform process to update outdated technology, including combining 30 databases into one central platform. On Tuesday, Jones said the process – which had been budgeted at $500m by the former government – had blown out to $1.5bn.

Jones claimed the former government had significantly underprovisioned funds for the reform.

They had known for at least a year now there was going to be significant cost overruns.

We’ve got to get the job done, but we’re going to have to find some ways to bring the cost in.

In warning of dire economic circumstances facing Australia, the new Labor government has claimed their predecessors left behind significant budget issues, with the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, and the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, saying their departments are conducting a “line by line” audit of Coalition spending.

Key events

Tory Shepherd

About 800% more water was used to irrigate rice last year than the year before, and about 250% more was used for cotton, a report by the Australian Bureau of Statistics has shown.

The increase in crop irrigation came after higher rainfall in 2020-2021 drew an end to three “exceptionally warm and dry years”, the ABS reported on Tuesday.

From the drier environment of 2019-20, water for cotton went from about 380,000 megalitres up to more than 1.3m megalitres last financial year. Rice went from 61,000 megalitres to more than 538,000.

That short-term gain in water for irrigation comes as the federal government prepares to hand down the latest audit of environmental water for the Murray Darling Basin, which is expected to show that only a fraction of the promised 450 gigalitres is likely to be delivered.

While the wet conditions of La Niña saw an increase in water storage last year, “in many parts of the country, groundwater levels remained below average”, according to the ABS.

A separate ABS report yesterday showed that as well as a “dramatic increase” in crops such as cotton and rice, there was also increased production in grapes (28%), mandarins (40%) and almonds (17%). These and other crops are at record levels, the ABS said, with nut crops flourishing thanks to “orchard expansions and extensive new plantings in recent years”.

Cotton and rice are often criticised for being “thirsty” crops, sucking up valuable water resources. As annual crops, their size can be controlled and increased or decreased each year depending on water availability.

That’s not true for crops such as almonds, which were singled out in last week’s shocking State of the Environment report. There has been a more than 900% increase in almond production in the Murray Darling Basin, that report found.

That growth has happened “despite their substantial water requirements in a geographical area with severe and catastrophic water security issues”. The almond industry says it is a high value, sustainable industry that uses only water already allocated for agriculture.

The Australia Institute’s water expert, Kate McBride, said the water use statistics show that the irrigation industry bounced back, and that it did so faster than the environment following dry conditions. She said:

That is, in part, because, in certain areas such as the Darling Baaka river system, mass extraction is allowed to occur before significant flows are delivered downstream.

McBride said the long-term health of river systems needed to be taken into account after major rain events, especially considering climate change will lead to more variable conditions and extended dry periods.

The federal government is set to table the much-delayed Water for the Environment Special Account report in this sitting period. It will give the latest update on the promised delivery of 450 gigalitres by the 2024 deadline.

Deputy speakers elected

The member for Newcastle, Sharon Claydon, and the member for Moore, Ian Goodenough, have been elected deputy speaker and second deputy speaker respectively.

No foreign interference identified in 2022 federal election

No foreign interference was identified during the 2022 federal election, the Australian Electoral Commissioner has been told.

In a statement, the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) said the board of the Electoral Integrity Assurance Taskforce had provided the formal advice to Australian Electoral Commissioner, Tom Rogers.

Rogers said taskforce agencies, which include the Australian Federal Police, Australian Signals Directorate, and Office of National Intelligence, did not identify any foreign interference, or any other interference, that “compromised the delivery of the 2022 federal election and would undermine the confidence of the Australian people in the results of the election”.

Rogers added:

The work of the taskforce plays a vital role in protecting and preserving Australia’s electoral integrity and I am pleased to be able to share this advice with all Australians.

Jolly good then.

Josh Butler

Assistant treasurer says he warned Coalition of under-budgeting business registry program

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, claims the former Coalition government was “fiddling the budget books” in search of a surplus when it budgeted less than $500m for a business registry program.

Further to the earlier post on the Australian Business Registry (ABR), Jones told Guardian Australia he had previously warned the Coalition it had budgeted too little for the renovation of the online system.

The changes will combine 30 distinct systems into one registry, including processes for financial advisors, corporations, the Australian Business Number (ABN) system and company directors.

Jones said that after examining spending in his own portfolio area, he’d found several other underfunded programs – which he said he would share further detail on in future. But with work on the ABR upgrade already underway, he said the Labor government was trying to find cost savings or extra funding to meet the cost blowout.

Jones said:

It’s the equivalent of getting a builder in to renovate your house, he pulls the roof off and says ‘sorry mate, this is going to cost you three times more than the original’. It’s not like you can say ‘don’t worry about it’, you’ve got the roof off your house, you’ve got to fix it.

I’d like to get the number [$1.5bn] down, but they’re saying that’s what it’s going to cost.

Jones said he had identified several similar cost blowouts, separate to a “line by line” audit that the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, and the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, are running ahead of their October budget.

Benita Kolovos

Benita Kolovos

New Victorian Liberal candidate previously attacked LGBTQ+ rights

Newly preselected Victorian Liberal candidate Moira Deeming once claimed schools were actively trying to change children’s gender and sexual identity, while encouraging gay and transgender students to be “really narcissistic”.

In interviews posted on YouTube, the teacher and Melton councillor described transgender laws as “my number one issue”, casts doubt on Covid-19 vaccines and claims LGBTQ+ students get “all the attention” at school.

Deeming was endorsed on Saturday to replace outspoken Victorian upper house MP Bernie Finn ahead of the November state election. Finn was recently booted from the parliamentary Liberal party after he called for abortion to be banned, even for rape survivors.

The full story is here:

The NSW treasurer, Matt Kean, has weighed in to the ongoing furore surrounding Manly players in the NRL refusing to wear a pride jersey.

Someone tell those seven Manly 🦅 players the 🌈 isn’t contagious, but wearing it might make them better for showing #pride and #respect for different people. If there’s a #nrlpride round next year, I hope the mighty dragons 🐉 go red, white and rainbow!

— Matt Kean MP (@Matt_KeanMP) July 26, 2022

An incredible feat of web logging as always, Amy Remeikis. Onwards!

Nino Bucci stands ready to take you through to the early evening.

There are first speeches and a little bit more business to get through – we will also cover off the main events early tomorrow morning when the first official sitting day gets underway.

Mike Bowers is still out and about with his cameras at the ready, and Paul Karp, Josh Butler, Katharine Murphy and Tory Shepherd are all still at their keyboards filing on the day’s events. Blake Sharp-Wiggins and Rafqa Touma, our special guests from the Guardian brains trust, are also still working away. So make sure you check back to see what they are up to.

A very big thank you to everyone who has followed along with me today – it is an absolute honour to helm Politics Blog and the best part about it is all of you. So thank you. Make sure you get a rest and some switch off time (after 7.30) and I will see you back here in just over 14 hours.

Take care of you.

Just on that, Jim Chalmers will provide an economic update to parliament on Thursday.

He has been previewing that for some time – he and Katy Gallagher have spent the time since being sworn in going through the government accounts and information from Treasury and the departments on how much has been spent and where, and what the actual state of the budget is.

Labor accuses Coalition of budget blowout on business register reform

Josh Butler

The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, has accused the former Coalition government of presiding over a $1bn cost blowout in plans to update a key government register.

The Australian Business Register, which is meant to reduce administrative burden on business in complying with government regulation, is undergoing a reform process to update outdated technology, including combining 30 databases into one central platform. On Tuesday, Jones said the process – which had been budgeted at $500m by the former government – had blown out to $1.5bn.

Jones claimed the former government had significantly underprovisioned funds for the reform.

They had known for at least a year now there was going to be significant cost overruns.

We’ve got to get the job done, but we’re going to have to find some ways to bring the cost in.

In warning of dire economic circumstances facing Australia, the new Labor government has claimed their predecessors left behind significant budget issues, with the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, and the treasurer, Jim Chalmers, saying their departments are conducting a “line by line” audit of Coalition spending.

Anthony Albanese will be the guest on ABC’s 7.30 tonight.