November 27, 2020

National cabinet endorses national vaccination policy – as it happened

8.04am GMT08:04

What happened today, Friday 13 November

7.53am GMT07:53

The rise of rightwing extremism has coincided with the emergence of social media “echo chambers” and easily formed online communities of interest, the head of home affairs has said.

Michael Pezzullo, the secretary of the department, appeared before a parliamentary hearing into social cohesion and nationhood this afternoon.

He was asked about recent testimony from the head of Asio that rightwing extremism now made up 30% to 40% of its priority counter-terrorism investigations. Labor committee chair Kim Carr wanted to know whether Pezzullo thought the trend coincided with the rise or rightwing populist groups in the US and Europe.

The secretary of the department of home affairs Michael Pezzullo.

The secretary of the department of home affairs Michael Pezzullo. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Pezzullo observed that virtual communities of interest were replacing the previous concept of communities being anchored in a physical “place”.

“You can have an international community of scientists or an international community of neo-Nazis,” he said.

Pezzullo said there had also been “a rise of – I’ll describe it very neutrally as a certain type of politics; I’m not going to describe it as right or left or populist or otherwise”.

He also pointed to socioeconomic factors that may be at play with “typically younger men who are disaffected, disassociated and disconnected socioeconomically, haven’t gone into the sort of employment streams that perhaps earlier generations would have”.

More broadly, and without specifying rightwing extremism, Pezzullo said:

Domestically it would seem to me that the groups that are of most concern are those that would either promote or seek others to adhere to a philosophy or an ideology of extra-constitutional action, and worse of course extremist action, and worst of all violent action rather than moderating legitimately held differences of political, ideological, economic views through our democratic process.

Earlier civil libertarians told the same committee that everyone was guilty of retreating into bubbles online of people with the same views.

Civil Liberties Australia representatives said populists had already tried to whip up “us-and-them” narratives about themes such as welfare cheats, African gangs, an “elite” ABC and “a bloated public sector”.

at 8.00am GMT

7.29am GMT07:29

The Morrison government is moving to curb public sector pay rises during economic downturns, as part of a new policy that will allow for higher increases when private sector wages are rising strongly.

The government has also announced a review of performance bonus arrangements for senior executives in the commonwealth public sector.

Ben Morton, the assistant minister to the prime minister and cabinet, said the government would abolish the existing 2% cap on public sector pay rises (meaning higher pay rises may be possible down the track).

But the catch is that the new wages policy will include a different type of cap: commonwealth public sector wage rises will no longer be allowed to exceed wage rises in the private sector.

During times of limited wages growth – such as now – that may mean lower increases for public servants, too.

Morton said the change would “ensure that wage increases for commonwealth public sector employees will be in step with their fellow Australians” – and also that public servants had a direct stake in delivering policies for economic growth.

By removing the existing 2% cap, the wages of Australian government employees can grow as private sector wages grow – even when private sector wages growth exceeds 2%, but importantly it won’t be able to exceed it, even when it dips below 2%.

The new rule doesn’t kick in straight away: existing enterprise agreements will run their course and then be renegotiated at the end of their current life.

The new limit for annual wage increases in new commonwealth industrial instruments will be the annual seasonally adjusted Wage Price Index (WPI) – Private sector, for the most recently published June quarter.

The most recent figures show that was running at 1.7% in the year to June 2020.

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