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Kidnapped Australian aid worker Katherine Jane Wilson, who goes by the name Kerry, with her father Brian.Australian aid worker Kerry Jane Wilson has been released unharmed after four months being held hostage in Afghanistan.
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Dr Wilson was snatched at gunpoint in late April by gun-toting men posing as Afghan intelligence officers from the office of her charity in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Since then there has been little news of the 60-year-old from Perth.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed the news on Monday morning, offering thanks to Afghan authorities who helped free the charity worker and Australian officials who had provided support to Dr Wilson’s family.

“I confirm that Kerry Jane Wilson, who was abducted in Afghanistan in April this year, has been released, and she is now safe and well. I am relieved for Kerry Jane, and her family with whom I have remained in close contact.

“I deeply appreciate the work of the authorities in Afghanistan whose support and assistance facilitated her release, as well as Australian consular staff who continue to provide assistance to Ms Wilson and her family.”

Ms Bishop did not comment on how Dr Wilson’s freedom was secured, in particular whether any ransom was paid. The Australian government does not make or facilitate ransom payments in hostage situations to avoid encourage further kidnappings.

But it was understood at the time Dr Wilson was taken that her abductors were likely local criminals interested in making money rather than hardcore extremists such as Taliban.

“To protect those who remain captive or face the risk of kidnapping in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the Government will not comment on the circumstances of Kerry Jane’s release. Her family has asked for privacy,” Ms Bishop said.

Dr Wilson’s kidnappers talked their way into her compound by posing as Afghan intelligence officers and then snatched Dr Wilson at gunpoint in the early morning raid.

Dr Wilson is a dual Australian-British national who was living in Kabul and had been in Afghanistan nearly 20 years. She was due to fly to Perth to visit her father Brian days after she was abducted.

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Chris Teoh and Ivan Hinton-Teoh from Australian Marriage Equality, with LDP Senator David Leyonhjelm. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen “Without a free vote from the Coalition we will struggle on the issue of marriage equality”: Alex Greenwich. Photo: Wolter Peeters
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Marriage equality campaigners will target Liberal MPs, particularly newly-elected politicians, to keep alive any hope of a vote on same-sex marriage during this term of Parliament, while refusing to concede that any reform is now likely years away.

Australian Marriage Equality called for an immediate “reset” in Canberra and for Liberal MPs who support marriage equality to pressure Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to allow a free vote in the absence of a plebiscite.

Another two groups, including Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays – known as PFLAG – welcomed news that the plebiscite was now all-but doomed, despite government ministers warning it remains the only path to marriage equality over the next three years.

AME chairman Alex Greenwich said he could “guarantee” there would be action on same-sex marriage in the new Parliament but set his sights on an unlikely outbreak of bipartisanship and MPs on the right of politics coming out publicly with calls for a free vote.

“It is clear that without a free vote from the Coalition we will struggle on the issue of marriage equality,” he conceded.

“We need a reset, we need a rethink and we need people to come together and work out in a respectful way how they are going to get through this impasse. Support among many many new MPs is very strong and I know that whether they are members of the Liberal Party or the Labor Party, or indeed the Greens or Nick Xenophon Team, they want an opportunity through this Parliament to show that support.”

AME, which claims 84 of 150 lower house MPs have publicly stated support for marriage equality, has been torn over whether to gear up to fight a plebiscite or concentrate on shooting down the idea, with founder Rodney Croome, an opponent of a plebiscite, leaving the group last month.

Mr Greenwich said a plebiscite would have reflected public support for same-sex marriage identified in polling.

But PFLAG spokeswoman Sharyn Faulkner thanked Senator Xenophon’s party for standing in the way of the plebiscite in the Senate, along with Derryn Hinch, the Greens and likely Labor.

“We are grateful that more and more politicians are seeing a plebiscite for what it really is – a platform for hate and a delaying tactic,” she said.

“Our gay sons and lesbian daughters have made it very clear they don’t want millions of other people passing judgment on their relationships, and we stand by them.”

Lobby group “just.equal” also called on the ALP to publicly declare its hand and a kill off  the plebiscite.

Spokesman Ivan Hinton-Teoh claimed a blocked plebiscite did not mean marriage equality was stalled.

“I expect that when a plebiscite is knocked on the head, the Government will look again at a free vote, and even if a free vote isn’t allowed only a handful of Liberals need to cross the floor for marriage equality to pass,” he said.

“In the absence of a plebiscite I believe there is a parliamentary path forward for marriage equality.”

Education Minister Simon Birmingham, a leading figure on the Left of the Liberal Party warned that a plebiscite remained the “only way” for change to happen.

“A plebiscite is the only way [supporters] will see that change occur over the next three years,” said.

NSW Senator David Leyonhjelm, who supports marriage equality and introduced a private member’s bill in 2014 to make it law, nonetheless called on the Greens and others not to vote down a plebiscite.

“It is now the quickest path to same-sex marriage.  My concern is for the thousands of people who want to marry. For their sake, our job now should be to get it passed. Arguments about the ideal process and symbolic posturing are not helping,” he said.

“If it’s left to the Greens, Saudi Arabia will have marriage equality before we do.”

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has declared budget repair the “massive moral challenge” of the new Parliament, challenging Labor, the Greens and the crossbench to tackle the nation’s ballooning debt “head-on” while echoing Kevin Rudd’s stark warning about climate change a decade ago.
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And Fairfax Media has obtained a leaked copy of a “backbenchers brief” that sets out the details of the so-called omnibus savings bill, which largely contains measures that Labor agreed to, or indicated it could agree to, during the election campaign.

The leaked document reveals the omnibus bill is designed to save $6.1 billion over four years and includes 24 measures – up from the 21 that had initially been foreshadowed.

As MPs returned to Parliament on Monday after a four-month break, the Coalition partyroom meeting signed off on 26 different pieces of legislation, including the omnibus bill, that will be presented to the Parliament.

But amid talk of a “battle plan” to ramp up pressure on the opposition to pass the government’s legislative agenda, fully 23 of the 26 bills were first proposed in the previous parliament, including the pair of industrial relations bills that triggered the double dissolution election and media ownership reforms. Some are as much as three years old.

Mr Turnbull told the Coalition partyroom that budget repair was now about “more than economics. It is more than fiscal matters”.

“This is a fundamental moral challenge. How long are we prepared as a nation, as a generation, to load more and more debt on to the shoulders of our children and grandchildren? How long are we prepared to live beyond our means, to live effectively on the credit card of the generations that come after us?”

“We have a task and this Parliament has a task. Every member and every Senator, regardless of their party, regardless of whether they are part of the Government or the opposition or the crossbenches, has a responsibility to face this reality.”

Mr Rudd once claimed that tackling climate change was the “great moral challenge” of the age but in a decision that subsequently proved to be pivotal in the unmaking of his prime ministership, he subsequently dumped the then Labor government’s promise to introduce a carbon pollution reduction scheme – and lost his job months later.

The leaked backbench brief states the omnibus bill “is part of a concerted strategy to demonstrate immediate and tangible progress towards fiscal repair”.

“Strengthening the nation’s finances is key to the government’s economic plan. Working to balance the budget will restore the the buffers that protect Australia against the economic shocks and uncertainties that might otherwise threaten our future success.

“This bill contains 24 savings measures announced in our last term that the opposition assumes passage of in its election costings.”

Labor has held off on committing to backing the omnibus bill, insisting it will only commit one way or another once the government releases the actual legislation.

The actual bill could be released as soon as Tuesday.

The three new measures foreshadowed for the omnibus bill appear to be abolishing the National Health Performance Authority, ceasing social security payments for people in psychiatric confinement who have been charged with an offence and creating a single appeal path under the military rehabilitation and compensation act. None of these measures are new.

The federal government and opposition have traded blows for the last week over budget repair, starting with a speech by Mr Turnbull in which he called on Labor to back the omnibus bill and backed in by Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance Minister Mathias Cormman.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten attempted to turn the tables on the government in a speech at the National Press Club in which the Labor leader proposed $8 billion in savings over four years, and $80 billion over a decade, that largely consisted of ALP election policies.

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Protesters assembled outside the gates of the Australian embassy in Dili in February, demanding negotiations over the Timor Sea boundary. Photo: Wayne Lovell, Timor PhotographyAustralia has rejected the jurisdiction of an international tribunal on which East Timor is relying to deliver a greater slice of oil and gas revenue.
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East Timor remains incensed by claims Australia spied during negotiations for a Howard-era treaty to share oil and gas deposits in the Timor Sea.

The tiny nation has invoked a never-before used “conciliation commission” under the international law of the sea in a bid to end a bitter impasse over drawing a maritime boundary.

Former prime minister and independence hero Xanana Gusmao told the opening hearing of the commission on Monday that East Timor was not asking for favours or special treatment, just its rights under international law.

“So many East Timorese people have fought and died for our sovereignty,” Mr Gusmao said.

He said he was “shocked and appalled” when told Australia had bugged the tiny nation’s cabinet office in 2004. Australia has prevented a former intelligence agent known as “Witness K” from appearing at a separate case brought by East Timor.

But at a hearing at the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Australian officials denied the spying allegations and said East Timor should respect existing treaties to divide undersea resources.

“We’re here today because Timor Leste wants a different deal,” Foreign Affairs deputy secretary Gary Quinlin told the hearing.

Australia argued the commission had no jurisdiction to conduct hearings on maritime boundaries, and said the existing treaties are in full compliance with international law.

The conciliation was invoked in April after Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull knocked back a plea from his East Timorese counterpart, Rui Maria de Araujo, asking for fresh negotiations.

International law specialist Don Rothwell said the conciliation process was “completely new territory”.

Participation is compulsory, but the outcome is not-binding – a point Australia has been quick to emphasise.

But Professor Rothwell said the commission was not merely a legal process, but an attempt to find an acceptable solution for both sides.

Australia has committed to participate in the conciliation, even if it loses the challenge to jurisdiction. The conciliation commission is made up of five international legal experts.

The existing treaties, signed soon after East Timor achieved independence, divide undersea resources and Australia said the deal had “benefited both our countries”, with East Timor since accumulating a fund worth more than $16 billion.

But East Timor’s lawyers told the hearing a 2006 treaty – known as “Certain Maritime Arrangements in the Timor Sea”, or CMATS – had failed and outlived its usefulness.

The CMATS treaty created a 50-50 split of the rich “Greater Sunrise” field, and put off negotiations on a final maritime boundary for 50 years.

East Timor now argues the resources should be under its control – while Australia claims the field sits mostly within its territory.

La Trobe University’s Bec Strating, who has written extensively on the dispute, said the conciliation appeared an effort by East Timor to create public pressure.

“Timor Leste has increasingly viewed permanent maritime boundaries as a core aspect of sovereignty and independence,” Dr Strating said.

But she said a public relations campaign in Australia was unlikely to sway the Turnbull government’s approach.

“If the Australian public can’t get them to change policy on Nauru and offshore detention, what hope do they have on Timor Leste,” she said.

Labor pledged at the last election it would enter into “good faith” negotiations on the maritime boundary and shadow foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said on Monday: “We need this dispute settled in fair and permanent terms.”​

Dr Strating said the conciliation process did not address the central problem of a power imbalance between the countries.

“Australia has the upper hand in this. Australia doesn’t urgently need oil and gas revenues. Timor Leste does,” Dr Strating said.

East Timor’s petroleum fund shrank for the first time last year, the balance falling by $321 million after a drop in global oil prices and an increase in government spending.

Swinburne University Timor specialist Mike Leach warned if the jurisdictional challenge went against East Timor, the tiny nation could move to terminate the CMATS treaty.

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“The only way” to resolve the issue: Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull defends the same-sex marriage plebiscite. Photo: Penny Stephens 
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Labor is set to keep the Turnbull government guessing about its position on the same-sex marriage plebiscite, with the opposition unlikely to make a decision before it sees the proposed question.

The Nick Xenophon Team on Monday joined the Greens in committing to vote down the plebiscite in the Senate, making Labor the government’s only hope of honouring its election commitment.

Meanwhile, conservative and moderate wings of the Coalition have rallied behind Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull for his rigid defence of the Abbott-era plebiscite, insisting it is “the only way” to resolve the issue.

Addressing Labor’s new shadow ministry, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten railed against the “vile, negative campaign” that a plebiscite would unleash, and reiterated that Labor would continue to push for a free vote in the Parliament.

MPs did not discuss the issue at a Labor caucus meeting on Monday, but sources from the Left and Right factions indicated there was very little, if any, resistance to blocking the plebiscite.

One shadow minister suggested Labor could yet be persuaded to wave the plebiscite through if it approved of the wording – for example, if the question referred to “marriage equality”.

It is also understood that consideration is being given to the view that Labor will be judged harshly for delaying gay marriage indefinitely and denying the public a chance to have a say.

Senate powerbroker Nick Xenophon delivered a potentially fatal blow to the plebiscite on Monday, confirming his party would vote to block the bill. “We believe this is an issue that ought to be determined by the Parliament,” he said, adding that all four NXT parliamentarians support marriage equality.

While the government has the support of One Nation’s four senators plus David Leyonhjelm, Jacqui Lambie and Bob Day, that will not be sufficient to get the plebiscite through the Senate if Labor ultimately votes to block it.

Marriage equality campaigners have called for a “reset” in the debate, pinning their hopes on three options: Mr Turnbull changing tack and granting his party a free vote, Liberal MPs crossing the floor, or some sort of multi-partisan settlement brokered between the parties.

All signs coming from the government indicate that none of those will happen. Education Minister Simon Birmingham, a prominent supporter of same-sex marriage, warned a plebiscite was “the only way” to achieve reform in the next three years.

The only person to address the issue of same sex marriage in a Coalition party room meeting on Monday was conservative Liberal MP Andrew Hastie, who wanted to “publicly applaud” Mr Turnbull’s strident defence of the plebiscite.

“As Labor take the low road, we as the Coalition must – to quote the Steve Winwood 80s classic – bring a higher love,” he told his colleagues.

But even ardent same-sex marriage supporters within the government such as Warren Entsch showed no signs of budging.

“We made a commitment on the plebiscite and we are sticking to it,” he told Fairfax Media after the meeting. “If we don’t do this, the debate will be about a broken promise rather than about same-sex marriage and this will be the 19th time this [same-sex marriage] goes down the gurgler.”

Transport and Infrastructure Minister Darren Chester, another supporter of change, told Sky News he had promised his electorate a public vote and the plebiscite was now “the only pathway” to same-sex marriage.

On the Labor side, prominent same-sex marriage advocate Louise Pratt said the plebiscite was a tool used by those opposed to change, and should not proceed.

“I don’t want young lesbian and gay people to have to go door to door asking for their civil rights,” the WA senator told Fairfax Media. “It’s the job of the Parliament to deal with this question.”

– with Tom McIlroy and Heath Aston

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Better fuel regulation has had a perverse effect in Sydney and Melbourne. Photo: SuppliedA crackdown on poor fuel quality has inadvertently driven up dangerous ozone levels and is causing an estimated 300 deaths a year across Sydney and Melbourne, a federal government-commissioned report has found.
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The report’s expert authors have called on authorities to act to reverse the phenomenon, and environmental advocates say more must be done to prevent vapours escaping at petrol bowsers, which increases harmful ozone production.

The independent review of fuel quality laws, commissioned by the Department of the Environment, analysed the impact of changes to fuel standards since the introduction of current laws in 2000.

It found that fuel regulation had led to less pollutants and improved health outcomes in both Melbourne and Sydney – with the exception of ozone formation and exposure.

In a perverse effect, a reduction in nitrogen dioxide through improved fuel standards “is contributing to increased ozone production” which has resulted in adverse health outcomes, the report found.

Exposure to daily changes in ozone pollution in Melbourne caused an estimated 465 deaths in the year 2000, rising to 636 in the year 2015 – or 171 additional deaths last year, according to the scenarios modelled.

In Sydney, 617 such deaths were attributed to ozone in the year 2000, rising to 744 last year – an increase of 127 estimated annual deaths.

In the same period, estimated deaths attributable to substances such as nitrogen dioxide and PM2.5, or very fine pollution particles, fell substantially – indicating that laws governing fuel standards are otherwise improving health outcomes.

The modelling showed higher ozone levels also led to more emergency department visits by children with asthma, the report said.

“These increases are thought to be due to the significant decreases in NO2 [nitrogen dioxide]. NO2 is involved in both the formation and removal of ozone from the atmosphere,” it said.

Air quality concern relating to ozone involves high levels at ground level, rather than ozone layer depletion in the stratosphere.

Ground-level ozone particularly affects the elderly, children and people with lung conditions. It can irritate the nose, airways and lungs, and cause coughs, worsened asthma and pain in the chest, ears, eyes, nose and throat.

It is formed when sunlight combines with a chemical mix in the air. Warm, sunny cities with moderate winds are most likely to experience elevated ozone production, and Sydney and Melbourne often experience the highest levels in Australia, the department says.

Environmental Justice Australia researcher James Whelan said ozone concentrations should be reduced through better vapour recovery measures at petrol stations, which would limit the emission of so-called volatile organic compounds.

Dr Whelan said these compounds, released when motorists filled up at the bowser and trucks delivered fuel to stations, were a precursor to ozone production. However Australia was lagging badly behind the United States and Europe in regulating them, he said.

A spokeswoman for Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said the government was considering its response to the independent report. She pointed to a review of legislative instruments made under the act, which was announced in May.

The report was prepared by consultants Marsden Jacobs Associates and Pacific Environment. The scenarios were hypothetical but reflected relevant baselines and air quality changes.

The report recommended that “additional time and resources be dedicated by governments to investigating options to reduce ozone concentration”.

Environment Protection Authority Victoria policy and regulation manager, Dan Keely, said that state has adopted national rules on fuel standards to minimise evaporative emissions.

However an EPA review of Victorian vehicle emissions regulations in 2013 did not support mandatory vapour recovery at service stations, he said.

A NSW EPA spokeswoman said NSW was the first Australian state to introduce recovery of vapours from petrol storage tanks and 96 per cent of petrol stations had complied.

NSW was also the only state requiring metropolitan service stations that dispense more than 3.5 million litres of petrol a year to capture vapours from fuel tanks when vehicles were refuelled at the pump. The rule comes into effect in January next year.

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Attorney General George Brandis said the plebiscite was the “only way”. Photo: ABC LatelineAttorney-General George Brandis, charged with designing the plebiscite on same-sex marriage, has demanded Labor “get out of the way” and support a public vote on marriage equality.
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Senator Brandis also said the majority of the LGBTI people with whom he had spoken to recognised the “surest” and “most direct” course to marriage equality was a plebiscite, given the government’s election commitment.

“I very much hope that the Labor Party gets out of the way on this and Bill Shorten doesn’t succumb to the temptation to play politics with the issue,” he told the ABC’s Lateline program on Monday.

“Mr Shorten needs to know that if the Labor Party decides to stop the plebiscite bill, then they will have stopped gay marriage for the foreseeable future.”

The Attorney-General made the statement after a day of intense political bickering over the planned plebiscite, which now stands to be opposed by the Greens, the Nick Xenophon Team and possibly Labor.

If Labor does join in blocking the bill, it will fail to pass the Senate – and in all likelihood put same-sex marriage on the backburner for the next three years.

Labor is calling on the Turnbull government to dump the $160 million plebiscite, which it says will unleash a campaign of homophobia and hatred, and instead allow a free vote in Parliament. Based on MPs’ public statements, such a vote would see same-sex marriage legalised.

But Senator Brandis told Lateline that “the only way” the government could deal with the matter was through a plebiscite, which it had promised at the July 2 election.

He acknowledged that for many LGBTI people, a plebiscite was “not the preferred option”. But, he argued, “most of the people to whom I’ve spoken are sensible and pragmatic enough to know that the surest course, the most direct course now, to the outcome that they want and which I support is through a plebiscite”.

The Attorney-General will now come under pressure to release details about the plebiscite, including the proposed question and structure, before Labor makes a final decision. While the opposition hardened its rhetoric over the past week, it has left the door open to supporting the plebiscite, particularly if it regards the question as fair.

The government has hinted the vote could be held in February, but has not commented on whether both sides will receive public funding for their campaigns.

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Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop during the ecumenical service to mark the opening of the 45th Parliament on Tuesday morning. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Mr Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten before the Last Post Ceremony at the Australian War Memorial on Monday afternoon. Photo: Andrew Meares
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Senior ministers have defended Malcolm Turnbull’s government in the face of new poor polling results, as the Prime Minister’s net popularity fell below Opposition Leader Bill Shorten’s for the first time.

As MPs gather in Canberra for the ceremonial opening of Parliament on Tuesday, a Newspoll in The Australian showed Mr Turnbull’s net satisfaction rate had reached a new low, while support for the government has fallen since the July 2 election.

The Coalition and Labor are tied at 50-50, while Mr Turnbull’s satisfaction rating was at 34 per cent – the lowest level since he replaced Tony Abbott in September 2015.

His net satisfaction rate stands at minus 18 points, four points worse than Mr Shorten at minus 14.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce played down the poll before MPs took part in the traditional church service before the opening of Parliament.

“You will drive yourself crazy if you start worrying about polls at the start of the political term,” he told Channel 9.

“You just have to get into it, get stuck into it, get the hard decisions done. Do the things that take our nation forward.

“Make sure that we, number one… make sure that you do the hard work so that in 20 years’ time someone can go to a public hospital and expect that it is going to be free. If we don’t get it right it won’t be because we won’t have any money.”

Mr Joyce was it was always tough when a government returns and there are “big jobs to do”.

The poll found Mr Turnbull remained the preferred prime minister, 43 to 32 per cent against Mr Shorten. It was his smallest lead recorded against the Labor leader.

Asked if he was concerned by the Newspoll, Treasurer Scott Morrison said, “no, I’m not”.

“People elect us to get on with the job, that is what we are doing. We’ve got a raft of legislation coming in this week, there’s some 24 bills or thereabouts,” he said.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo said the government had been returned at the election to lead.

“Frankly there could not be a less relevant poll for the Parliament than the one immediately after the election,” he said

“I understand the excitement of the media about the first Newspoll after the election, but we just had an election and the Australian people cast their verdict and their decision was to re-elect the Coalition government.

“We’re back with a majority government and we’re going to be making decisions that implement the policies that we took to the last election.”

Labor’s deputy leader Tanya Plibersek said voters were questioning the re-elected Turnbull government’s priorities.

“The government is at war with itself,” she told ABC radio.

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Professor Andrew Blakers from the ANU in the solar lab at the university. Photo: Andrew Sheargold Associate Professor Kylie Catchpole, Professor Andrew Blakers and Fellow Dr Matt Stocks are among dozens of researchers at ANU whose jobs are in doubt if the government slashes ARENA funding. Photo: Elesa Kurtz
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Australia’s clean energy research efforts are heading for “the valley of death” if Parliament passes the Coalitions’s omnibus package of cuts, according to leaders in the sector.

Hundreds of researchers around Australia, including dozens at both the Australian National University and the University of NSW, will be faced with the dole queue if cuts to Australia’™s renewable energy research agency are passed by the Parliament, according to one of the sector’s pioneers.

Deep cuts to the funding of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency, contained in the Turnbull government’s omnibus “œbudget repair” bill before the Parliament this week, is an “existential threat” to clean energy innovation in Australia, Professor Andrew Blakers says.

Professor Blakers of the ANU is a world leader in renewables research and he says many of his colleagues nationwide will lose their jobs if the government gets its bill through Parliament and advances that would deliver major economic benefits to the country would be lost.

The ANU and the University of NSW are world leaders in solar energy research with PERC solar cells, now the commercial standard globally with more than $9 billion in sales, invented by Professor Blakers and his colleague Martin Green at the NSW institution.

ARENA was established in 2012 by the Gillard government and abolished by the Abbott government in 2014.

The agency received a stay of execution in March 2016 but Coalition policy now wants to strip $1.3 billion of funding from ARENA and merge its funding role with the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, which expects to see a financial return on money it invests in research.

The Clean Energy Council has published a briefing paper that likens de-funding ARENA to “plunging into the clean energy valley of death”.

ARENA chief executive Ivor Frischknecht told Fairfax that existing commitments would be met even if Parliament agreed to back the Coalition’s cuts.

“The proposed reduction in ARENA’s uncommitted funding will not affect existing commitments,” Mr Frischknecht said.

“Projects currently receiving ARENA funding will continue to receive funding and ARENA will continue to oversee ongoing contract management and knowledge sharing outcomes for these projects.”

The office of Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg did not respond before deadline on Tuesday to a request for comment and Labor says it has not arrived at a position on the ARENA cuts.

Professor Blakers said the decision, if passed, may mean the end of Australia’€™s clean energy research effort and said both sides of politics would shoulder the blame.

“€œThere is an existential threat to renewable energy research, innovation and education in Australia,” Professor Blakers said.

“€œIf ARENA is dismantled, then many people would lose their jobs including dozens at ANU.

“œIn the longer term, Australia’s leadership in solar energy would vanish.

“After the fiasco involving CSIRO climate scientists, we now have a potential fiasco in mitigation of climate change.”

The research leader called on the Labor Party not to just “waive through” the proposed cuts.

“œIt appears that the ALP might waive through a change to the ARENA Act, which would allow the end of ARENA granting,” Professor Blakers said.

“€œFor 30 years there has been a renewable energy funding agency in one form or another in Australia.

“€œThis has led to phenomenal success in generation of technology and education.

“The worldwide silicon solar cell industry owes its existence in large measure to Australians who were supported by grants from government renewable energy agencies.

“Billions of dollars of benefits have accrued to Australia.”

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George Wright is stepping down. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen The architect of Labor’s stronger than expected 2016 election campaign, George Wright, has quit his post as ALP secretary and will return to the corporate world through a senior post at BHP Billiton.
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Victorian Labor general secretary Noah Carroll is considered the early favourite to succeed Mr Wright and engineer the next federal campaign for Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Mr Wright received Mr Shorten’s blessing in standing down after five and a half years in charge of the party – a comparatively long stint compared to some of his predecessors.

In a statement, Mr Shorten said Mr Wright leaves “with honour”.

Mr Wright, who worked on the landmark “Your Rights At Work” campaign at the ACTU, endured the humiliating 2013 election loss to the Tony Abbott-led Coalition, a campaign in which relations between party headquarters and Kevin Rudd’s travelling party were severely tested.

He took the reins of the federal party from Karl Bitar in 2011.

“After two federal election campaigns, two ALP national conferences and numerous by-elections it is time for me to spend more time with my family in my home town of Melbourne,” Mr Wright said on Tuesday.

Mr Wright will take up a senior corporate affairs role with BHP Billiton in Melbourne.

He thanked the Labor leaders he has worked for.

Mr Shorten said Mr Wright had been “central to the work of rebuilding Labor”, growing the party’s membership and engaging with supporters and volunteers in new and better ways.

“I have worked alongside George in various capacities for 22 years – he’s someone whose advice I’ve always valued. He’s a man who stays calm under pressure and, even in the toughest of times, never loses his sense of humour.”

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