The Guardian 2024-03-06 16:31:37


Nikki Haley quits Republican race as Mitch McConnell endorses Trump for president

Nikki Haley has announced she is withdrawing from the Republican presidential campaign.

Haley made the announcement as she delivered remarks in Charleston, South Carolina. She said her decision to run for president was “grounded in my love for our country”, adding:

I am filled with the gratitude for the outpouring of support we’ve received from all across our great country, but the time has now come to suspend my campaign.

She said she would not stop “using my voice for the things I believe”, adding:

Our world is on fire because of America’s retreat. Standing by our allies in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan is a moral imperative. But it’s also more than that. If we retreat further, there will be more war, not less.

‘No regrets’Haley drops out of Republican race

‘I have no regrets’: Nikki Haley drops out of Republican presidential race

Former South Carolina governor was the last prominent Republican candidate standing opposite Donald Trump

  • Super Tuesday key takeaways: protest vote, low turnout and far-right machinations

Nikki Haley ended her presidential primary bid on Wednesday after being defeated in 14 Super Tuesday contests, ceding the 2024 Republican nomination to Donald Trump.

The former South Carolina governor, who became Trump’s UN ambassador and the first prominent woman of color to seek the Republican nomination for president, declined to immediately endorse Trump as his other Republican rivals did. Instead she challenged the former president to earn the support of her voters.

“The time has now come to suspend my campaign,” Haley said, announcing her decision in a short speech in Charleston, South Carolina. “I said I wanted Americans to have their voices heard. I have done that. I have no regrets.”

Haley has endured a long string of losses, which began with Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and her home state of South Carolina. On Tuesday, when voters in 15 states cast ballots in contests known as Super Tuesday, Haley lost every state apart from Vermont. She had previously only won in Washington DC.

Among Trump’s prominent primary rivals, Haley was the last candidate left standing, so her withdrawal ensures that Trump will capture the Republican nomination.

The WSJ reported that Haley won’t announce an endorsement on Wednesday, but will encourage Trump to earn the support of Republican and independent voters who backed her.

The move leaves Trump clear to claim the Republican nomination for a third election running – even though he faces 91 criminal charges, attempts to remove him from the ballot for inciting an insurrection, and civil court rulings requiring him to pay more than $400m over allegations of financial fraud and defamation.

The prospect of the Republican nominee for president being a convicted felon draws ever closer.

Haley was governor of South Carolina from 2012 to 2017, before resigning in the aftermath of Trump’s shock win in the 2016 presidential election, in order to be appointed US ambassador to the UN. Despite her popularity in South Carolina when she was governor, Haley was unable to carry her home state, sealing her fate in the Republican primary.

In a surprise move, Haley resigned her role as US ambassador to the UN in 2018. Widely thought to have ambitions to run for president after Trump departed the scene, she denied speculation linking her to a place on his ticket.

Trump did not leave the scene – even after inciting the deadly attack on Congress on 6 January 2021, in an attempt to overturn his defeat by Joe Biden.

When the 2024 race kicked off in earnest, Haley sought to position herself as a fresh alternative to Trump. She made steady inroads in polling, benefiting particularly from strong debate performances while Trump refused to take the stage. For a stretch of the election cycle, as the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, saw his much-hyped campaign stall then go into freefall, polls suggested Haley was becoming the most viable second choice for Republican voters.

The 51-year-old made electability a centerpiece of her message, arguing she was the only Republican who could beat Biden in a general election. On the campaign trail, she liked to remind voters: “Republicans have lost the last seven out of eight popular votes for president – that’s nothing to be proud of.”

Allies argued that her support for Ukraine in its war with Russia and her relatively nuanced stance on abortion – she called for a “consensus” rather than backing a proposal to ban the procedure after a specific number of weeks – would help the party appeal to independents and suburban women alienated by Trump.

Haley also emphasized her relative youth, asking Republicans to put their faith in a “new generation” of leaders. She made a splash with a call for “mental competency tests” for politicians over 75, a group pointedly including Biden and Trump.

The former governor leaned heavily on her biography, presenting herself as the “proud daughter of Indian immigrants” raised in the south, an upbringing she said provided a unique perspective on US race relations. On the campaign trail, Haley often received loud applause when she told Republicans: “America is not a racist country.”

In a campaign trail routine, she often sought to play up the possibility that she could be the first woman elected to US president, only to insist that she did not believe in “identity politics”.

But Haley also had to navigate a tricky relationship with Trump, a former boss she once promised not to challenge. Veering between mild criticism and dutiful praise, she attempted to shine as a figure of the party establishment without alienating the party’s populist base.

She could not quite squeeze DeSantis out of second place in Iowa – both a long way behind Trump, the winner – but she did see him leave the race before New Hampshire became the second state to vote. She notched her best performance in the New Hampshire primary, but she still fell 11 points short of Trump in the second state to vote.

Ultimately, though, Haley simply could not convince enough Republicans it was time to dump Trump.

Explore more on these topics

  • US elections 2024
  • Nikki Haley
  • Republicans
  • US politics
  • Donald Trump
  • South Carolina
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Who’s running in 2024? The Republican and Democratic candidates

Who’s running for president in 2024? The Republican and Democratic candidates

Trump and Ryan Binkley are the remaining Republican hopefuls seeking to best Joe Biden or one of his long-shot challengers in the 2024 election

  • Nikki Haley suspends presidential campaign, telling Donald Trump he must earn Republican votes – live
  • Key issues in the 2024 US election

The 2024 election promises to be historic as a slate of Republican candidates seek to unseat the sitting president, Joe Biden. After the pandemic changed the way Americans campaigned and voted four years ago, and three years after thousands of rioters waged violent protest at the nation’s Capitol to upend the last election’s results, the US will face new obstacles in carrying out the democratic process.

Here is the list of candidates in the primary elections as of Super Tuesday.

Republicans

Former president Donald Trump is the top contender for the Republican party nomination, even as he faces several legal hurdles, including federal charges over obstructing justice and violating the Espionage Act. Trump, a longtime businessman, unsuccessfully ran for re-election as president in 2020, and refused to accept the outcome of the results. Trump most recently said he is pro-life, and would continue his hardline immigration stance in a second term if elected. He has also renewed attacks on trans people, especially athletes, and his anti-China agenda.

  • Trump won big in Iowa, with 51% of votes – full Republican results

  • In New Hampshire, Trump beat Haley by 10 points – full New Hampshire primary results

  • Trump wins Nevada caucuses in effective one-horse raceNevada primary results in full

  • Trump beat Haley in her home statefull South Carolina primary results

  • Trump defeats Haley in Michiganfull Michigan primary results

  • Trump swept to victory in states across the US on Super Tuesdayfull primary results

Back to top

Democrats

Joe Biden is the likely Democratic nominee for the 2024 presidential election. He announced his campaign for re-election on 25 April 2023, exactly four years after he announced his previous, successful presidential campaign. While approval for Biden remains low, hovering just above 40%, political experts say he is the most likely candidate to defeat Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. Biden has served in politics for over five decades and is running on a platform that includes abortion rights, gun reform and healthcare. At 81, he is the oldest president in US history.

  • Biden took 96.2% of the vote in a write-in campaign in New Hampshire – full primary results

  • Biden easily won first Democratic contest in South Carolina – full primary results

  • Biden won the Democratic votefull Nevada primary results

  • Biden won but sheds support over Gazafull Michigan primary results

  • Biden swept to victory in states across the US on Super Tuesdayfull primary results

Back to top

Dean Phillips, a three-term Democratic congressman from Minnesota, is challenging Biden, saying the next generation should have the opportunity to lead the country. Phillips is the heir to a distilling company and once co-owned a gelato company. He entered public office spurred by fighting back against Trump.

Back to top

Cenk Uygur announced the longest of long-shot campaigns in October. Now 53, the outspoken host of the progressive Young Turks TV show has no experience in elected office – though he did run for Congress in California in 2020 – but perhaps more importantly he was born in Istanbul, Turkey. Most legal scholars would say that makes him ineligible to be president, under article II, section I, clause 5 of the US constitution, which says only “natural born citizens” can hold the office. Uygur says otherwise, and promises to prove it in court. He also says Democrats need to ditch Biden or face losing the White House to Trump.

Back to top

Failed 2020 presidential candidate Marianne Williamson, who also unsuccessfully ran for a seat in the US House of Representatives in 2014, became the first Democratic candidate to announce she is running for president as a challenge to Joe Biden. Williamson, an author of self-help books, launched her long-shot bid with campaign promises to address climate change and student loan debt. She previously worked as “spiritual leader” of a Michigan Unity church.

  • Marianne Williamson ended her campaign to for the Democratic presidential nomination on 7 Feb.

  • Marianne Williamson ‘un-suspends’ campaign after Michigan primary

Back to top

Third party

Robert F Kennedy Jr, known for his work as an environmental lawyer and his anti-vaccine views, said he was running for president to end the “chronic disease epidemic”. Kennedy, who compared vaccine mandates during the Covid-19 pandemic to “Hitler’s Germany”, has promoted other baseless conspiracy theories such as telecom networks being used to control people. He is the nephew of John F Kennedy, the former Democratic president, who was assassinated in office, and is the son of 1968 Democratic presidential candidate Robert F Kennedy, who was assassinated on the campaign trail.

Back to top

Back to top

The progressive activist Cornel West announced in a video posted to Twitter that he is running for president as a member of the People’s party, a third party headed by a former campaign staffer for Bernie Sanders. West is currently a professor of philosophy at Union Theological Seminary and previously worked at Harvard but resigned, saying the school had an “intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of deep depths”.

Back to top

Dropped out

Binkley, a Texas businessman, is a long-shot candidate who is also a pastor at Create church. The self-proclaimed far-right fiscal conservative criticized both Democrats and Republicans for not being able to balance the federal budget, and said he would focus on health costs, immigration reform and a national volunteer movement.

Back to top

Burgum, the governor of North Dakota, announced his campaign in an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on 6 June 2023. Viewed as a surprise, long-shot candidate, he touted his experience as a career businessman and leaned on his small-town roots in an announcement video titled Change. As governor, Burgum signed into law a near-total abortion ban, which makes the procedure illegal after six weeks, and only permissible in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency up to that point. He supported Donald Trump for president in 2016 and in 2020.

Back to top

The former New Jersey governor has emerged as one of the harshest Republican critics of Donald Trump, whom he endorsed for president in 2016 after dropping out of that race. Christie says he broke ties with the former president after the January 6 insurrection at the US Capitol, claiming that he hadn’t spoken to Trump since then. Christie, a lawyer and a lobbyist who served as a US attorney appointed by George W Bush, announced he was running for president a second time on 6 June 2023 in New Hampshire during a town hall.

Back to top

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was predicted to be the strongest contender for the GOP nomination against Donald Trump, consistently polling second among Republican primary voters. He made his formal announcement on Twitter, during a Spaces event attended by roughly 300,000 users that was riddled with technological glitches, on 24 May 2023. DeSantis, who has served as Florida’s governor since 2019 and handily defeated the Democratic challenger, Charlie Crist, in 2022, previously represented Florida’s sixth congressional district as a member of the US House from 2012 to 2018. As governor, DeSantis has signed a slate of laws banning minors from receiving gender-affirming care and restricting education on sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, and he has become an outspoken critic of the Chinese Communist party.

Back to top

The rightwing political commentator and radio talkshow host announced his run for president on Fox News as a guest on the now-canceled Tucker Carlson Tonight on 20 April 2023. In 2021, Elder joined a list of Republicans seeking to replace Gavin Newsom, the Democratic governor of California, in a failed recall. The Los Angeles resident was an outspoken critic of the state’s mask mandates, calling them “a joke”.

Back to top

Haley, who got her start in politics as a member of South Carolina’s general assembly, was governor of South Carolina from 2011 to 2017. She ended her second term early to serve as US ambassador to the United Nations under Donald Trump before announcing her resignation in 2018. She became the first Republican to announce a run against Donald Trump, even though she previously said she would not run against him. Haley has vowed to “fix” the US immigration system by “stopping illegal immigration” and described herself as pro-life, but said a federal abortion ban was unrealistic. Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, would be the first US president of Asian descent, as well as the first woman.

  • Haley loses to ‘none of the candidates’ in Nevadafull primary results

  • Haley wins surprise Vermont victory on Super Tuesdayfull primary results

Back to top

Former US Representative Will Hurd, of Texas, entered the crowded primary field as a moderate and critic of Donald Trump. Hurd announced his campaign in an interview on CBS. He followed that with a video posted online in which he called Trump a “lawless, selfish, failed politician” and laid out an agenda to curb “illegal immigration”, inflation, crime and homelessness. Hurd, who worked for nearly a decade in the CIA, served three terms in the House, from 2015 to 2021. He left office as the only Black Republican in the chamber.

Back to top

Hutchinson is the former governor of Arkansas, a post he held from 2015 to 2023. The relatively unknown politician announced his candidacy in an interview on ABC days after Trump was indicted in a Manhattan court, saying the ex-president should drop out of the race. Hutchinson is a businessman and lawyer who was appointed by Ronald Reagan to serve as a US attorney. He also served a stint in the US House of Representatives, winning a congressional seat in 1996 when he replaced his brother, Tim, who ran for Senate.

Back to top

Johnson is a businessman who ran unsuccessfully for governor of Michigan in 2022 after providing fraudulent nominating signatures for that campaign. Originally from Illinois, Johnson founded dozens of companies, and lives in Michigan with his family. He has billed himself as Donald Trump “without the baggage” and has taken similar policy positions on curbing US debt and cracking down on the FBI.

Back to top

Mike Pence officially launched his campaign for president on 7 June 2023, in a rare instance of a former vice-president challenging the president with whom he shared a ticket a few years ago. Pence joined a crowded Republican field in which he has consistently polled third, even before he officially announced his candidacy, though he trails far behind DeSantis and Trump. Pence was angling for a wide base among evangelical Christians and had vowed to ban abortion if he were elected. He denounced the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, and had used it as a talking point against Trump, who turned against him after he publicly refused supporters’ calls to overturn the results of the election.

Back to top

The biotech entrepreneur and political newcomer announced his campaign in a video describing attacks on the “culture of free speech in America” and again on Fox News in an interview with now-fired Tucker Carlson. He is the author of Woke, Inc., a book that lobbies against “ESG” – a framework of corporate governance that encourages companies to consider the environment and social justice issues. Ramaswamy, who was the youngest candidate vying for the Republican nomination, had lobbied in favor of raising the national voting age to 25. Ramaswamy would have beeen the first president of Asian and Indian descent. He had also vowed to pardon federally indicted Donald Trump.

Back to top

Suarez, the mayor of Miami, was the first major Hispanic candidate seeking the Republican party nomination this election cycle. The son of Miami’s first Cuban-born mayor, Suarez had said he would broaden support for Republicans among Latino voters. He was the third candidate from Florida to join the crowded primary field, alongside frontrunners Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis. Suarez, who was first elected in 2017, filed paperwork to run the day after Trump appeared in a Miami court over federal charges and made his formal announcement on Good Morning America the day after that.

Back to top

In May, Scott became the second politician from South Carolina to run for the Republican nomination. He has served as a senator from South Carolina since 2013, when he was appointed by Republican challenger Nikki Haley to fill a vacancy. Scott, who is one of three Black members of the Senate and is the only Black Republican senator, said in his announcement speech that “America is not a racist country”. Scott joined fellow Republicans in opposing the Respect for Marriage Act in 2022. Scott served as a member of the House from 2011 to 2013 and before that spent stints in South Carolina’s general assembly and Charleston’s county council. During his 2010 campaign for the House of Representatives, Scott told Newsweek that homosexuality was a morally wrong choice.

Back to top

Super TuesdayPredictable outcome guarantees stark choice in November

Super Tuesday’s predictable outcome guarantees stark choice in November

Biden and Trump are each on their way to tie up respective nominations, as down-ballot races promise retributive runoffs

Super Tuesday brought few surprises in the presidential race: Joe Biden and Donald Trump won state after state, pushing their delegate totals closer to what they each need to secure their party’s nomination.

Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and UN ambassador, did beat Trump in Vermont, her first state-level victory over the former president – and had previously won the District of Columbia – though she reportedly decided on Wednesday to drop out, with her team scheduling a press conference for the morning.

But a protest campaign designed to pressure the Biden administration to change its approach to the Israel-Gaza war is gaining strength, with support from nearly 250,000 voters across seven states, even before the full number of protest votes had been tallied.

After 100,000 voters chose “uncommitted” over Biden on their primary ballots in Michigan, the protest spread quickly to Alabama, Iowa, North Carolina, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Colorado. At least 50,000 voters chose “no preference” in Massachusetts, and more than 87,000 in North Carolina.

In Minnesota, which has a large Muslim population, nearly 50,000 “uncommitted” votes had been counted as of late Tuesday night, putting “uncommitted” in second place after Biden, and far ahead of challengers like Dean Phillips and Marianne Williamson.

“It is not enough to simply use the word ‘ceasefire’ while Biden funds bombs that kill civilians every day,” the Vote Uncommitted Minnesota spokesperson, Asma Nizami, said in a statement, noting that the Minnesota effort had been organized “with just $20,000 and one week of campaigning”.

In Minneapolis, Ruth Schultz said she only voted in Minnesota’s primary as a way to join the uncommitted campaign and show how many registered Democrats disagreed with Biden’s current Israel policy.

“I want to see President Biden take a stronger stance for peace,” Schultz said.

“Their message is clear that they think this is an intolerable situation and that we can do more,” Minnesota’s governor, Tim Walz, told CNN on Tuesday night. “And I think the president is hearing that.”

There was no “uncommitted” option available to Democratic voters in California, the largest Super Tuesday state.

In notable down-ballot races, the California Democrat Adam Schiff, who managed the first Trump impeachment, advanced to the November runoff in the battle to fill Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat, as did Steve Garvey, a Republican former Major League Baseball player with no political experience. Garvey’s profile among conservative voters benefited from millions of dollars in attack ads paid for by Schiff’s campaign, which the progressive congresswoman Katie Porter, who came in third, criticized as an undemocratic tactic meant to secure Schiff a Republican opponent with no chance of winning statewide in November.

Schiff, who has maintained a staunch pro-Israel stance throughout his campaign, and whose position on a temporary ceasefire is in step with the Biden administration, was interrupted by pro-ceasefire demonstrators during his victory speech on Tuesday night.

In the race for governor of North Carolina, Mark Robinson, the Black lieutenant governor Trump dubbed “Martin Luther King on steroids”, won the Republican nomination. Robinson, who has referred to LGBTQ+ people as “filth”, has a history of sexist and inflammatory comments, particularly about Jews. The Democratic nominee is Josh Stein, the North Carolina attorney general who would be the state’s first Jewish governor.

In Texas, the attorney general, Ken Paxton, has been roiling the state legislative primaries with his own personal retribution election: he endorsed challengers to run against incumbents who voted for his impeachment last year, and a large number of the challengers have won and are taking the incumbents to a runoff, including David Covey, the Trump- and Paxton-endorsed challenger to the Republican speaker of the Texas house, Dale Phelan.

Polls have repeatedly found Americans are worried about political extremism as Trump runs for a second term, with three-quarters of Democratic voters saying they believed the outcome of the 2024 election would be very important to the future of democracy in the US.

In Vermont, Haley’s showing appeared to have been boosted by some Democrats who saw a vote for a Republican alternative as a way of pushing back against Trump.

“I’ve never seen democracy threatened by fascism so much in my entire life,” Wyatt Waterman, a Democrat who voted for Haley, told Vermont Public Radio. “This is not how I want to leave it for the generations following us, so I’m taking what time and resources I have to stand up to this tyranny.”

In remarks on Tuesday, the DNC chair, Jaime Harrison, called the 2024 election a “battle to defend our democracy and protect our fundamental freedoms”, and warned that Trump “is running a campaign of revenge and retribution”.

George Chidi, Rachel Leingang and Lauren Gambino contributed reporting

Explore more on these topics

  • Super Tuesday
  • US elections 2024
  • Joe Biden
  • Donald Trump
  • US politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Tobacco giant makes largest donation to Nationals in over a decade amid vaping crackdown

British American Tobacco makes largest donation to Nationals in over a decade amid vaping crackdown

The $55,000 donation grants access to National party politicians via a policy forum membership scheme

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

British American Tobacco has publicly donated to an Australian political party for the first time in more than a decade, as the Albanese government prepared to introduce vaping reforms.

The $55,000 donation in the 2022-23 financial year was disclosed by Laneway Assets, the body that collects membership fees for the Nationals, the disclosure return form published by the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) shows.

It is the largest donation British American Tobacco has made to the party in 20 years.

The last time British American Tobacco donated to the party was in the 2011 financial year, as the federal government prepared to introduce plain-packaging reforms to reduce the appeal of cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The latest donation came as the federal government in 2023 announced the most significant tobacco and vaping control measures in the country in a decade, including reforms targeting the importation and sale of vapes.

A British American Tobacco Australia spokesperson said the donation was made in the form of “an annual membership to engage proactively on solutions to combat the rapidly growing unregulated nicotine market”.

The top-tier, $55,000 “foundation” membership to the party’s national policy forum gives members access to Nationals ministers and politicians at policy events, luncheons and budget dinners.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

Tobacco company Philip Morris Limited also donated $75,000 to the Nationals on 10 May 2023, one week after the health minister, Mark Butler, announced the vaping reforms. This is $20,000 more than the amount donated by Philip Morris Limited the year before, and in excess of the $55,000 required for foundation level membership.

It brings the total Philip Morris Limited has given the Nationals since the 1999 financial year to $570,000, of which $304,000 has been donated in the past decade.

Tobacco company funding to the Nationals in the 2022-23 financial year reached $130,000, comprising almost a fifth of the receipts disclosed in the Laneway Assets disclosure form, totalling $628,950.

The Electoral Act requires that donations totalling more than $13,200 be disclosed.

There has been growing concern about the potential influence of harmful industries in politics.

When the Senate debated the Public Health (tobacco and other products) Bill in December, Independent senator David Pocock called on politicians and political parties to stop accepting donations from tobacco companies and to revoke access given to tobacco industry representatives to enter Parliament House.

“There is obviously no transparency around who holds sponsored passes to access Parliament House,” Pocock said at the time. “But we know big tobacco do wander these halls, presumably to find choice moments to bump into their mates and to give them copies of the latest talking points.

“I find it disgraceful that an industry that has caused so much despair in our community could be allowed to curry favour with politicians by making donations. I’m certain they don’t make these donations with the expectation that they’ll get nothing in return.”

Guardian Australia contacted the spokesperson for the leader of the Nationals, David Littleproud, for comment but did not receive a response.

Previously asked by Guardian Australia if he had met with tobacco and vaping industry representatives and lobbyists, Littleproud, said: “We’ve met with everybody.”

In response to allegations that tobacco companies are influencing Nationals policy and big tobacco donations are part of that influence, Littleproud said: “That’s a pure, petty political statement.”

The chair of the Centre for Public Integrity, Anthony Whealy, said: “Our donation system at the federal level is broken and is in urgent need of reform.

“Where you have large donations, they are clearly – in the main – attempts to gain access, or gain influence over government decisions,” he said.

“These are not what I would call donations made for democratic purposes, but donations made to try and influence decisions. And so it’s yet another example of the way in which our system is failing.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Tobacco industry
  • Lobbying
  • Australian politics
  • National party
  • Vaping
  • Health (Australia news)
  • Health (Society)
Share

Reuse this content

How to drive competition without wielding a hammer

Fixing Australia’s supermarkets: how to drive competition without wielding a hammer

Short of breaking up Coles and Woolworths, retail experts call for regulation of wholesale supply deals and help for new entrants to access sites

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Albanese government has ruled out breaking up Australia’s dominant supermarkets after likening such a measure to the old Soviet Union’s command and control economy.

While the government’s position will disappoint some of Coles and Woolworths’ fiercer critics, meaningful reform doesn’t necessarily require a hammer, according to industry and supply chain experts.

Supplier access

Last year, in New Zealand, a scandal known as “Weet-Bixgate” erupted. It referred to a decision by Sanitarium to cut supplies of its well-known breakfast cereal to The Warehouse, which competes with the country’s two dominant supermarkets, Foodstuffs and Woolworths-owned Countdown.

The decision, which Sanitarium blamed on supply constraints, caught the attention of the country’s commerce commission, and raised questions over why the food company prioritised supplies to the majors.

The Warehouse had been significantly undercutting its bigger rivals on the price of Weet-Bix leading up to the decision.

“It’s a really good example of the challenges of trying to get scale in this market,” The Warehouse’s chief product officer, Tania Benyon, told Guardian Australia.

“We can generally access products but not necessarily at a competitive price. And that’s really the crux of our issue because we need access to fair pricing in order to be able to grow.”

“There’s a structural unfairness.”

The issue, which Benyon said would also affect non-duopoly grocers in Australia, shows strong reforms could be required to ensure wholesale deals are not stifling competition in the grocery sector.

Wholesale supply arrangements would need to be consistent with what would typically be negotiated in a competitive market.

Amid a public uproar, Sanitarium promptly reinstated supplies to The Warehouse “albeit with a price increase”, according to Benyon.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

A Sanitarium spokesperson said: “We are not in a position to comment in relation to the New Zealand market.”

Products such as Weet-Bix are seen as staple foods for many Australian households, making them prized items for supermarkets given their availability can influence where a person shops.

While many stores sell smaller Weet-Bix packages, the big two supermarket chains dominate the supply and sale of the larger 1.2kg value packs, which they sell at identical prices.

The Sanitarium spokesperson said the company was committed to making Weet-Bix, and larger value packs, available across a broad spectrum of Australian retailers.

Property squeeze

Large German retailer Kaufland invested several hundred million dollars in Australia before abruptly cancelling its plans in early 2020 due to difficulties setting up.

The decision robbed Australia of a new and formidable entrant that could have put pressure on Coles and Woolworths.

Kaufland built up a property portfolio of sites in Adelaide, Melbourne and south-east Queensland as it planned for its opening, although Australia’s most populous city, Sydney, was notably absent.

Jeremy Prestoe, head of NSW asset management services at real estate agency Knight Frank, said it was very difficult for a new entrant to compete with incumbents when it comes to land access.

“You’ve got to first find distribution sites, which is a challenge, followed very quickly by having well-placed supermarket space. Being able to find thousands of square metres for parking is virtually impossible in metropolitan Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane,” said Prestoe.

“The only way that they could contemplate an opportunity in Australia would be an acquisition or a merger or a significant joint venture with a major investor who is prepared to wait 10 years to make any money.”

It has taken Aldi more than two decades to build a 10% market share after opening its first Australian store in 2001, although the property market has tightened considerably during that period.

The task of generating more competition is made all the more difficult by the large market share of the majors.

Metcash, which operates IGA, said in its parliamentary submission that in the 1980s the combined market share of the two biggest supermarkets was less than 40%, compared with their current share of about 70%.

Prestoe said there might need to be a coordinated effort from government agencies to help non-duopoly supermarkets access sites, otherwise Coles and Woolworths can use their dominance to shut others out.

“The majors could take a ‘loss leader’ to keep the others out, which is what happens when you have a duopoly. They can take a site and settle for making money there in 15 years’ time because they don’t want the other guy there.”

Proactive approach

The major supermarkets are subject to a Senate inquiry, which will hold its first public hearing on Thursday, and a 12-month probe by the competition regulator.

There is also a review of a voluntary code of conduct, designed to govern how the food retailers deal with suppliers, amid concerns they are too scared of retribution to complain.

A Woolworths spokesperson said the market, found by the competition regulator to be “workably competitive” in 2008, is now much more so.

“Being price competitive is critical in trying to win our customers’ shopping basket and the vast majority of consumers will shop across different retailers, so being competitive is key to attracting customers to shop with us,” the spokesperson said.

Coles has consistently defended its business and pricing practices and has described competition as “fierce”.

“We are focused on keeping the price of food and groceries low for our customers, while paying our hardworking farmers and producers fairly,” a spokesperson said.

Farming groups have accused the big supermarkets of using their power to distort the market, leading to elevated prices for shoppers and low prices for producers.

An ACTU-led inquiry recommended that a competition and prices commission be created to investigate potential cases of price-gouging, with the results publicised.

Sanjoy Paul, an associate professor in the UTS Business School who works on supply chain risk and resilience, said there needed to be proactive, rather than reactive, investigations.

“There is a scope for proactive investigations, because complaints are not reported regularly,” said Paul.

“We need to talk to suppliers to get the real stories of competition behaviour in Australia.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Retail industry
  • Coles
  • Woolworths
  • Supermarkets
  • Business
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

How do you like them apples?Why supermarkets could be charging more for granny smiths

How do you like them apples? Why Australians could be paying more for granny smiths

Growers group says supermarkets are marking up price of granny smiths by well over 100%, more than double that of other varieties

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Are Australians paying too much for green apples?

Ahead of the first parliamentary inquiry hearing into supermarket prices on Thursday, one farming group claims that unfair practices are so widespread that the major supermarkets are even inflating the price tag of a specific variety of apple.

Michael Crisera, from the member-based Fruit Growers Victoria, said Coles and Woolworths were marking up the price on granny smith apples by well over 100%, more than double the rate of other varieties.

“They seem to do that with certain lines of fruit, including different varieties of apples and pears,” Crisera said.

“They are keeping the profit margin up.”

Markups refer to the differences between what supermarkets pay suppliers and the price they charge shoppers.

While the major supermarkets reject the organisation’s claim, Crisera said the pricing decision was likely linked to generally lower sales of granny smith apples compared to its bigger-selling counterparts, including gala and pink lady varieties.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

While the supermarkets tend to sell less of the tart-tasting apple, they do so at higher profit margins according to fruit growers, which purportedly shows that retail prices are not determined by supplier costs.

A Coles spokesperson said it highly valued its relationships with farmers.

“There are many factors which contribute to the retail shelf price of produce, including transport, labour, packaging, operating and supply chain costs which are all considered when determining how we can provide the best value for customers at the checkout,” the spokesperson said.

A Woolworths spokesperson did not directly address a question on apple markups, but previously said: “We are very aware of the pressures facing many Australian families and we are working to balance the needs of our customers, our team and our suppliers in the context of economy-wide inflationary pressure.”

Once the topic area of investors and analysts, profit margins are now a community discussion point as a series of regulatory and parliamentary probes test whether the major chains are using their market share to raise prices higher than necessary.

Farming groups have accused the majors of distorting the market, leading to elevated prices for shoppers and low prices for producers.

The apple price calculations were conducted by Fruit Growers Victoria, which surveyed eight Victorian suppliers to determine wholesale prices. It then collected fortnightly pricing data from the supermarkets over the course of 2023, to compare the difference.

The organisation’s data found that granny smith apples generally had the highest markups, followed by gala and pink lady apples.

Retail prices at the major supermarkets tended to rise and fall in unison.

The association said low buying prices of granny smith apples had affected the viability of growers, with most receiving between 50 and 60 cents a kilo, which it said was below the cost of production.

The peak national body for vegetable growers, Ausveg, said in its submission to the Senate inquiry the situation was so dire that one-third of growers had indicated they were considering walking away from their businesses.

“Furthermore, many of the tactics that supermarkets employ when they deal with suppliers may be considered manipulative and unconscionable, often resulting in significant additional costs to suppliers who already carry the vast majority of risk associated with growing and supplying produce,” Ausveg said.

The major supermarkets have consistently defended their dealings with farmers, describing many of the relationships as multi-generational.

They also describe the sector as competitive, noting the presence of Aldi, IGA, Costco, Amazon’s long-life grocery range, and numerous specialty outlets as evidence of a well-functioning market.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Supermarkets
  • Coles
  • Woolworths
  • Business
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Republican lashes out as UK reporter asks about conspiracy theories

Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out as UK reporter asks about conspiracy theories

Extremist tells Emily Maitlis ‘you’re a conspiracy theorist’ and dismisses interviewer over ‘Jewish space lasers’ question

Far-right Republican congresswoman, Trump ally and potential vice-presidential pick Marjorie Taylor Greene told a British interviewer to “Fuck off”, when asked about her frequent repetition of conspiracy theories.

Emily Maitlis, formerly a senior journalist at the BBC and now a presenter of the News Agents podcast, spoke to Greene at Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday celebration at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, as the former president closed in on the Republican nomination.

“Could you tell me why so many people that support Donald Trump love conspiracy theories, including yourself?” Maitlis asked.

Greene said: “Well, let me tell you, you’re a conspiracy theorist and the left and the media spreads more conspiracy theories. We like the truth. We like supporting our constitution, our freedoms and America first.”

Raising a famous instance of the congresswoman’s eager conspiracy theorising, concerning what she thought was to blame for starting forest fires, Maitlis said: “What about Jewish space lasers? Tell us about Jewish space lasers.”

“No,” Greene said. “Why don’t you go talk about Jewish space lasers and really, why don’t you fuck off? How about that?”

“Thank you very much,” Maitlis said, as Greene walked away.

Greene might have been advised to expect tricky questions. A highly experienced interviewer, in 2019 Maitlis memorably confronted Prince Andrew about his links with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a royal disaster so complete it has now been dramatised, Gillian Anderson starring as Maitlis.

Greene’s brief exchange with Maitlis started more civilly than it ended.

Maitlis asked what message Greene thought Republican voters were sending to Nikki Haley, the last challenger to Trump for the presidential nomination who suffered a near-Super Tuesday wipeout.

“Well, we’ve been encouraging her to drop out and support President Trump,” Greene said. “And I think tonight is the clear message that that President Trump is the clear frontrunner. He’s the winner in our Republican primary and it’s time for Nikki Haley to drop out and support him.”

Asked if she was on Trump’s list of potential vice-presidential picks – as she previously told the Guardian she was – Greene said: “That’s the question everyone asked and no, I don’t think Nikki Haley should be on the list. But of course, President Trump will choose who he wants for VP.

“He’s got a long list. I serve President Trump in any way he’d ask me, but I can assure you it won’t be Nikki Haley.”

Maitlis then asked about Trump, Greene and conspiracy theories. Things went downhill from there.

Explore more on these topics

  • Republicans
  • US politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Republican lashes out as UK reporter asks about conspiracy theories

Marjorie Taylor Greene lashes out as UK reporter asks about conspiracy theories

Extremist tells Emily Maitlis ‘you’re a conspiracy theorist’ and dismisses interviewer over ‘Jewish space lasers’ question

Far-right Republican congresswoman, Trump ally and potential vice-presidential pick Marjorie Taylor Greene told a British interviewer to “Fuck off”, when asked about her frequent repetition of conspiracy theories.

Emily Maitlis, formerly a senior journalist at the BBC and now a presenter of the News Agents podcast, spoke to Greene at Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday celebration at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, as the former president closed in on the Republican nomination.

“Could you tell me why so many people that support Donald Trump love conspiracy theories, including yourself?” Maitlis asked.

Greene said: “Well, let me tell you, you’re a conspiracy theorist and the left and the media spreads more conspiracy theories. We like the truth. We like supporting our constitution, our freedoms and America first.”

Raising a famous instance of the congresswoman’s eager conspiracy theorising, concerning what she thought was to blame for starting forest fires, Maitlis said: “What about Jewish space lasers? Tell us about Jewish space lasers.”

“No,” Greene said. “Why don’t you go talk about Jewish space lasers and really, why don’t you fuck off? How about that?”

“Thank you very much,” Maitlis said, as Greene walked away.

Greene might have been advised to expect tricky questions. A highly experienced interviewer, in 2019 Maitlis memorably confronted Prince Andrew about his links with the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a royal disaster so complete it has now been dramatised, Gillian Anderson starring as Maitlis.

Greene’s brief exchange with Maitlis started more civilly than it ended.

Maitlis asked what message Greene thought Republican voters were sending to Nikki Haley, the last challenger to Trump for the presidential nomination who suffered a near-Super Tuesday wipeout.

“Well, we’ve been encouraging her to drop out and support President Trump,” Greene said. “And I think tonight is the clear message that that President Trump is the clear frontrunner. He’s the winner in our Republican primary and it’s time for Nikki Haley to drop out and support him.”

Asked if she was on Trump’s list of potential vice-presidential picks – as she previously told the Guardian she was – Greene said: “That’s the question everyone asked and no, I don’t think Nikki Haley should be on the list. But of course, President Trump will choose who he wants for VP.

“He’s got a long list. I serve President Trump in any way he’d ask me, but I can assure you it won’t be Nikki Haley.”

Maitlis then asked about Trump, Greene and conspiracy theories. Things went downhill from there.

Explore more on these topics

  • Republicans
  • US politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Two men acquitted of paying off Saudis in huge defence deal

Two men acquitted of bribing Saudis in huge British defence deal

Jury acquits Jeffrey Cook and John Mason after lawyers argue payments were authorised by UK and Saudi governments

Two men have been acquitted of paying bribes totalling millions of pounds to high-ranking Saudis after they argued that they had been unfairly prosecuted.

Jeffrey Cook and John Mason had been accused of bribing a Saudi prince and his associates to secure and maintain a huge defence deal for a British company. But on Wednesday, a jury acquitted them after lawyers argued the payments had been authorised by the British and Saudi governments.

Tom Allen, the KC representing Cook, had told jurors that a wide array of British politicians, officials and military figures had long known about, and approved, the payments to the Saudis.

His client, he said, had been “hung out to dry”, as the UK Ministry of Defence had in effect authorised the exact type of payments that the two men were being prosecuted for.

The acquittal is a defeat for the Serious Fraud Office, which brought a prosecution against the two men, after an investigation that lasted nearly a decade.

In court, the SFO had alleged Cook and Mason had been at “the very heart of the operation” to pay £9.7m to a group of leading Saudis between 2007 and 2010. It said the payments had been made to Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, a son of the late King Abdullah, and his associates to ensure that a British firm, GPT Special Project Management, continued to receive lucrative contracts from a Saudi military unit.

Miteb, who was once seen as a contender for the throne, had been appointed to lead the unit, the Saudi Arabian national guard (Sang), by his father.

The payments related to a decades-long deal worth at least £1.6bn, under which the British government installed and maintained communications equipment for the unit. In turn, the British government paid GPT to be the key contractor to deliver the deal.

Cook, 67, was GPT’s managing director, while Mason, 81, partly owned a firm that directed the payments to the Saudis via offshore bank accounts.

In their successful defence, Cook and Mason had accepted that they were involved in making the payments between 2007 and 2010. However, they argued that they should be acquitted on the grounds that for years the British government had approved and facilitated the payments to members of the Saudi royal family and other senior Saudis in military contracts.

This was done, they said, to ensure that British firms won the contracts from the Saudis instead of companies from rival countries such as France and the US.

Allen, the KC representing Cook, said the payments were “known and authorised” by the highest levels of the British and Saudi governments, “and by that I mean senior civil servants in the MoD and Whitehall, diplomatic figures, political figures, ministers, and secretaries of state”.

A first trial had been halted by Mr Justice Bryan in July 2022 after it emerged that the MoD had failed to hand over important evidence to the lawyers involved in the case.

Cook was convicted of a different offence, misconduct in public office, as he received kickbacks of £45,000 and two cars – a Nissan Micra and a Honda Civic – between 2004 and 2008 for work relating to GPT. This was unrelated to the Saudi deal. He was at that time working for the MoD and had yet to join GPT. He will be sentenced at a later date.

The SFO began its investigation after it received a cache of evidence from a whistleblower. Ian Foxley, a senior GPT executive, claimed to have discovered that substantial payments were being paid to offshore accounts without any justification.

The SFO’s prosecution was marked by delay and protracted legal arguments. Before it could come to court, it needed the consent of the attorney general and was three years before Geoffrey Cox, the then attorney general, agreed in 2019 to the prosecution.

Explore more on these topics

  • Military
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Serious Fraud Office
  • Foreign policy
  • Middle East and north Africa
  • Defence policy
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Only one harm reduction group and 28 betting companies consulted over NT gambling bill

Only one harm reduction group and 28 betting companies consulted over contentious NT gambling bill

Alliance for Gambling Reform criticises closed consultation process for draft bill regulating $50bn industry, accusing territory of being ‘out of its depth’

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Northern Territory government – which regulates Australia’s $50bn online wagering industry – consulted just one harm reduction group before introducing laws welcomed by the gambling giants whose advice was sought during their drafting.

The Racing and Wagering Act 2024, which was tabled last month and could be voted on in coming weeks, would allow the chief minister to direct the NT gambling regulator and its director in “the exercise of their powers and the performance of their functions”.

The government had also initially considered increasing maximum fines to 10,000 penalty units, which was about $1.75m, before reducing the cap by 75% to about $445,000 in the bill.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The government sought feedback on its draft bill from all 28 online gambling companies licensed in the NT, including international giants Bet365 and Sportsbet.

It did not approach anyone based outside the NT, including regulators, gambling researchers, academics, treatment centres or financial counsellors.

Most online gambling companies were licensed in the NT due to historically lower tax rates, but operate nationally. Their conduct is policed by six members of the NT racing commission.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform has criticised the NT government’s closed consultation process, accusing the territory of being “out of its depth” and undermining the push to establish a national regulator, as recommended by a federal parliamentary inquiry.

The government said the legislation would bring maximum fines in line with other jurisdictions.

Gambling critics have long argued the fines were so low as to have little regulatory impact.

“The 10,000 [penalty units] figure was proposed as a starting point, partly in recognition of the size of the online wagering industry,” an NT department of industry, tourism and trade spokesperson said.

“However, following advice from the department of the attorney general and justice, the maximum was reduced to 2,500 penalty units to align with other statutory bodies.”

The spokesperson said the government sought feedback on the bill from all licensed gambling companies, the racing commission, the racing appeals tribunal, the NT civil and administrative tribunal, government agencies, lawyers for the gambling industry, and one gambling support group – Amity Services.

The government declined to answer questions about why it did not hold an open consultation process and why it only consulted one local counselling service, given the national inquiry documented “powerful evidence” of harm caused by the online gambling industry.

Carol Bennett, the chief executive of the Alliance for Gambling Reform, said the timing of the bill was “interesting”, given the Albanese government was expected to respond to the federal inquiry’s recommendations within weeks.

That inquiry, led by the former Labor MP Peta Murphy, called for a new national regulator to take responsibility away from the Northern Territory and be “responsible for all licensing and regulation”.

The inquiry’s final report said that “concerns were raised [during hearings] about perceived regulatory capture by online wagering providers in the Northern Territory”.

Bennett said the online gambling industry was too big and affected the livelihoods of too many Australians to be regulated by one territory.

“This is way beyond their remit and this is something the federal government should be stepping in to take control of immediately,” Bennett said. “They are way out of their depth”.

“This effectively enables the Northern Territory government to propagate what is an opaque regulatory process already. It would allow the government to decide what probity assessments the regulator makes.”

When contacted for a response to Bennett’s criticism, a spokesperson for the NT government said it “takes regulation of the online wagering industry seriously and the new Racing and Wagering Bill demonstrates this by substantially increasing penalties and strengthening harm reduction measures”.

The spokesperson also said earlier legislation allowed a minister to direct the gambling regulator, and rejected claims this undermined its independence.

“An example of this was the direction to the commission a few years ago, to establish licence conditions that prohibited wagering on the outcome of lotteries,” the spokesperson said.

Explore more on these topics

  • Gambling
  • Northern Territory
  • Northern Territory politics
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Labor pledges 12% boost on publicly funded paid parental leave

Labor pledges 12% superannuation on publicly funded paid parental leave

Plan designed to help close retirement savings gap between women and men is expected to cost $250m a year from July 2025

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Parents will receive 12% superannuation – or about $106 a week – on their publicly funded paid parental leave from July 2025, under a major initiative to be announced by the Albanese government.

The decision, expected to cost at least $250m a year to the federal budget, responds to calls from the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, unions and the crossbench to pay super on PPL as a way to help close the retirement savings gap between women and men.

The minister for women, Katy Gallagher, and social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, made the announcement ahead of Gallagher addressing the National Press Club on Thursday setting out the inaugural gender equality strategy.

Under the plan, eligible parents with babies born or adopted after 1 July 2025 will receive an additional 12% on their government-funded parental leave paid into their super account.

Based on the current rate of paid parental leave of $882.75 per week, parents would be eligible for at least an extra $106 per week paid into their super accounts. Around 180,000 families receive government-funded paid parental leave payments each year.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The government has said the full cost of the measure will be revealed on budget night, but it is expected to be at least $250m a year, given the Treasury estimated in 2020 that it would cost $200m a year when the super rate was 9.5%.

Excerpts from the Working for Women gender equality strategy state that “to achieve gender equality, unpaid and paid care responsibilities need to be more equally shared, and care needs to be valued and celebrated”.

“The government will prioritise policies that support families to make choices that work for them,” it says.

“Equality cannot be achieved without addressing who takes on, and who is expected to take on, caring responsibilities.

“Nor can it be achieved without valuing the substantial contribution unpaid and low-paid care makes to families, the community and – notably – the Australian economy.”

In its first budget in October 2022 the Albanese government increased paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks by 2026, but disappointed super funds by refusing to recommit to pay super, a policy it dropped ahead of the 2022 election.

When Labor announced a reduction in tax concessions for big superannuation balances over $3m, the crossbench – including the Greens and senator David Pocock – pushed it to pay super on paid parental leave. The government responded that it would like to do so, when affordable.

Legislating super on paid parental leave was listed by the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce in October 2023 as an “immediate action” to improve gender equality.

Gallagher said: “The data is clear – that when women take time out of the workforce to raise children it impacts their retirement incomes with women retiring, on average, with about 25% less super than men.

“Paying super on government parental leave is an important investment to help close the super gap and to make decisions about balancing care and work easier for women.”

Rishworth said: “Paying superannuation on PPL is another key step to prioritise gender equality, better value care work and improve women’s workforce participation.

“It helps normalise taking time off work for caring responsibilities and reinforces PPL is not a welfare payment – it is a workplace entitlement just like annual and sick leave.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said “greater economic inclusion for women is at the centre of the Albanese government’s agenda”.

“Paying super on PPL is part of our efforts to ensure women earn more, keep more of what they earn, and retire with more as well.”

In 2020, the Treasury said the measure would have “a small impact on narrowing the retirement income gap”, but warned the benefit to retirees also results in “reduced age pension income due to the age pension assets test”.

Women in Super has previously argued that it is “unfair and discriminatory” that super is paid on sick leave, annual leave and long service leave but not paid parental leave, given that 95.5% of primary carers who access paid parental leave are women.

Explore more on these topics

  • Superannuation
  • Australian economy
  • Australian politics
  • Labor party
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Labor pledges 12% boost on publicly funded paid parental leave

Labor pledges 12% superannuation on publicly funded paid parental leave

Plan designed to help close retirement savings gap between women and men is expected to cost $250m a year from July 2025

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Parents will receive 12% superannuation – or about $106 a week – on their publicly funded paid parental leave from July 2025, under a major initiative to be announced by the Albanese government.

The decision, expected to cost at least $250m a year to the federal budget, responds to calls from the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce, unions and the crossbench to pay super on PPL as a way to help close the retirement savings gap between women and men.

The minister for women, Katy Gallagher, and social services minister, Amanda Rishworth, made the announcement ahead of Gallagher addressing the National Press Club on Thursday setting out the inaugural gender equality strategy.

Under the plan, eligible parents with babies born or adopted after 1 July 2025 will receive an additional 12% on their government-funded parental leave paid into their super account.

Based on the current rate of paid parental leave of $882.75 per week, parents would be eligible for at least an extra $106 per week paid into their super accounts. Around 180,000 families receive government-funded paid parental leave payments each year.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

The government has said the full cost of the measure will be revealed on budget night, but it is expected to be at least $250m a year, given the Treasury estimated in 2020 that it would cost $200m a year when the super rate was 9.5%.

Excerpts from the Working for Women gender equality strategy state that “to achieve gender equality, unpaid and paid care responsibilities need to be more equally shared, and care needs to be valued and celebrated”.

“The government will prioritise policies that support families to make choices that work for them,” it says.

“Equality cannot be achieved without addressing who takes on, and who is expected to take on, caring responsibilities.

“Nor can it be achieved without valuing the substantial contribution unpaid and low-paid care makes to families, the community and – notably – the Australian economy.”

In its first budget in October 2022 the Albanese government increased paid parental leave from 18 weeks to 26 weeks by 2026, but disappointed super funds by refusing to recommit to pay super, a policy it dropped ahead of the 2022 election.

When Labor announced a reduction in tax concessions for big superannuation balances over $3m, the crossbench – including the Greens and senator David Pocock – pushed it to pay super on paid parental leave. The government responded that it would like to do so, when affordable.

Legislating super on paid parental leave was listed by the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce in October 2023 as an “immediate action” to improve gender equality.

Gallagher said: “The data is clear – that when women take time out of the workforce to raise children it impacts their retirement incomes with women retiring, on average, with about 25% less super than men.

“Paying super on government parental leave is an important investment to help close the super gap and to make decisions about balancing care and work easier for women.”

Rishworth said: “Paying superannuation on PPL is another key step to prioritise gender equality, better value care work and improve women’s workforce participation.

“It helps normalise taking time off work for caring responsibilities and reinforces PPL is not a welfare payment – it is a workplace entitlement just like annual and sick leave.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, said “greater economic inclusion for women is at the centre of the Albanese government’s agenda”.

“Paying super on PPL is part of our efforts to ensure women earn more, keep more of what they earn, and retire with more as well.”

In 2020, the Treasury said the measure would have “a small impact on narrowing the retirement income gap”, but warned the benefit to retirees also results in “reduced age pension income due to the age pension assets test”.

Women in Super has previously argued that it is “unfair and discriminatory” that super is paid on sick leave, annual leave and long service leave but not paid parental leave, given that 95.5% of primary carers who access paid parental leave are women.

Explore more on these topics

  • Superannuation
  • Australian economy
  • Australian politics
  • Labor party
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

ACCC to call for power of mandatory disclosure in investigations

Competition watchdog to call for power of mandatory disclosure in investigations

ACCC chief Gina Cass-Gottlieb wants legislaltion changed to enable it to force businesses to give up data without the need for government backing

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The competition watchdog should have its powers increased so it can initiate its own inquiries with mandatory disclosure clout, says Gina Cass-Gottlieb, the head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The ACCC can now launch its own investigations, such as a probe into exorbitant foreign exchange transfer fees. However, the agency only has compulsory information collection powers if specifically directed by the government such as for its current probe into supermarket behaviour.

“There are a range of businesses that won’t provide information on a voluntary basis and particularly won’t go to the effort of producing very detailed data [or] internal documents on a voluntary basis,” Cass-Gottlieb told Guardian Australia.

The ACCC had been calling on the government to change its controlling act – originally legislated 50 years ago and renamed the Competition and Consumer Act in 2010 – for some time. Such an amendment only remains “under consideration” even though the power to self-start inquiries would be “proportionate and valid”, she said.

Cass-Gottlieb will unveil the ACCC’s compliance and enforcement priorities for the 2024-25 year in a speech on Thursday. Dealing with cost of living pressures and the push towards net zero emissions top the agenda based on complaints it received by the agency.

“We make a decision [on priorities] in terms of the areas that we see have the most capacity for harm in terms of consumers, businesses and to the state of competition,” she said.

Australia’s relatively small economy means many sectors are dominated by a couple of major competitors. Still, the Reserve Bank has said it sees little evidence the recent inflation spike has been driven by firms using their market clout to increase profit.

In the case of the year-long supermarket inquiry, launched in January, Cass-Gottlieb said ACCC would examine each of the steps from the farm gate to the supermarket shelf of Coles, Woolworths and others. The profit margins of processors, wholesalers and traders would be among those looked at closely.

Essential services such as energy were also getting scrutinised. The ACCC has, for instance, set up an encrypted portal specifically for people to provide anonymous disclosures about the gas industry.

“We are the agency to monitor and enforce the new mandatory gas code,” Cass-Gottlieb said, adding the energy supply support “very important” sectors of the economy in eastern Australia.

Monitoring the emerging decarbonisation field was also vital. “Many consumers are choosing products on the basis that they are investing in sustainability and reducing emissions and reducing impacts on our environment,” she said.

When firms made false claims about the sustainability of their products, not only were consumers cheated. Companies that were doing the right thing also faced “unfair competition” from companies that made unsubstantiated climate-friendly claims.

Cass-Gottleib said the ACCC had tapped the experience of the UK and New Zealand to head off potentially anti-competitive behaviour by firms providing electric vehicle charging. “We have an eye to ensuring that these new markets and new services are not the subject of anti competitive agreements, which will result in consumers seeing less innovation, less choice, and higher prices,” she said.

The agency was also working with state and federal governments to ensure safety standards were in place for products such as lithium-ion batteries after it released a report last year on the risks.

Penalties were on track to set record highs in the current 2023-24 year. This tally was led by the $438m fine imposed against on former vocational college Phoenix Institute of Australia Pty Ltd (Phoenix) and its marketing arm Community Training Initiatives Pty Ltd (CTI) “for acting unconscionably and misleading consumers”, Cass-Gottlieb will say in her Thursday speech.

“We are seeking higher penalties so that contravening our act does not just result in a penalty at a level that’s seen as a cost of doing business,” she said. The fines need to be large enough to deter companies similar actions in the future.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)
  • Australian economy
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Asbestos-contaminated mulch found at 75 sites across city, watchdog finds

Asbestos-contaminated mulch found at 75 sites across Sydney, watchdog finds

Focus turns to criminal investigation after NSW Environment Protection Authority completes its trawl through the supply chain

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Mulch contaminated with asbestos has been found at 75 sites across greater Sydney, with the New South Wales environmental watchdog turning focus to its criminal investigation following the completion of contact tracing.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will on Thursday announce it has finished tracking mulch through the complex supply chain after asbestos was first discovered by a parent in mulch at a park in the inner west more than two months ago.

The state’s environment minister, Penny Sharpe, has pledged to tighten regulations following the probe, which remains a criminal investigation with “multiple lines of inquiry still live”, according to the government.

More than 130 investigators from the watchdog have spent the past two months tracing mulch, mostly supplied by Greenlife Resource Recovery, to contractors and landscapers who spread the material across the city.

Asbestos has since been found in the landscaping materials in parks, schools, hospitals, infrastructure projects and in a handful of suburban back yards, prompting concern from the residents and costly remediation and testing bills for companies involved.

Guardian Australia in recent weeks has revealed shortcomings in the state’s waste regulation system, including claims by a former EPA officer that the contamination crisis was “destined to happen” after a decade of regulatory failure.

The Guardian has also revealed that multiple samples of asbestos-contaminated mulch tested as part of the inquiry were also found to contain “construction and demolition waste” and “foreign materials”, in contravention of state rules.

Sharpe said the government would work on reform while the EPA continued its work.

“While the EPA works on its criminal investigation, the government will move to tighten regulations and make further changes as required,” she said.

“Asbestos is illegal in any product and should not be there. The discovery of asbestos in mulch has led to the biggest investigation in the EPA’s history.”

Most of the asbestos has been found in bonded form and deemed lower risk than friable asbestos, which has been discovered in a handful of locations including several inner-city parks.

The EPA estimated about 6,500 tonnes of mulch had been tracked down, assessed and tested over the past eight weeks, with more than 1000 samples analysed.

The EPA investigation is being supported by an asbestos taskforce that the government set up a month after the crisis began unfolding.

Earlier this week, Sydney’s lord mayor, Clover Moore, accused the government and the EPA of a “massive” and “costly” regulatory failure over the saga.

City of Sydney councillors gathered at an extraordinary general meeting on Monday to discuss how contaminated mulch came to be used across numerous city parks. Moore revealed testing alone had already cost the council more than $200,000.

“The community has been badly let down by the regulatory process that governs the safety of recycled mulch,” she said.

“Costs of testing, disposal and remedial work are having and will have a substantial impact on our ratepayers, as is the fencing off and the loss of recreational space for our residents.”

Greenlife has repeatedly insisted it was not responsible for the contamination and that multiple rounds of testing by independent laboratories showed their mulch was free from asbestos before it was distributed to customers.

The EPA has ordered Greenlife to stop selling mulch while it investigates. Greenlife has launched a legal challenge against that prevention notice.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • New South Wales
  • Sydney
  • Asbestos
  • news
Share

Reuse this content

Sentencing of former army lawyer postponed after ‘substantial’ new evidence submitted

Sentencing of former army lawyer David McBride postponed after ‘substantial’ new evidence submitted

Defence lawyers consider adjusting guilty plea as new expert opinion expected to outline severity of harm McBride’s handing of documents to journalists could have caused

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The sentencing of former army lawyer David McBride has been postponed after his lawyers requested more time to consider “substantial” new evidence.

On Wednesday morning, the ACT supreme court vacated McBride’s sentencing date – slated for next Tuesday – after the defence called for more time. Justice David Mossop noted both parties had failed to adequately assist the court when the date was first set last November.

The commonwealth plans to file a new affidavit – much of it classified – containing the expert opinion of a senior military figure as part of its sentencing submission.

McBride’s solicitor, Mark Davis, said the new evidence is expected to outline the severity of the harm McBride’s actions could have caused the defence force had the documents he gave ABC journalists been publicly released.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

McBride pleaded guilty to three charges last November, including stealing commonwealth information and handing it to the media, after an ACT supreme court upheld a commonwealth intervention to withhold key evidence it deemed as having the potential to jeopardise “the security and defence of Australia” if released.

The documents McBride handed to the ABC formed the basis of its investigative series exposing war crimes in Afghanistan, titled The Afghan Files.

The new evidence could result in further hearings if McBride’s legal team and the commonwealth contest key facts.

Davis told Guardian Australia on Wednesday his client was considering whether the guilty plea should be adjusted and whether the case should return to hearings.

“Having come this far with McBride on a torturous journey, once again we’re back into the wilderness awaiting his fate,” Davis said.

“At the moment, we’re hoping to get it back on track as a sentence, but we don’t have endless funds like they have. We don’t have endless staff. And David doesn’t have endless energy for this.”

McBride said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon: I did not plead guilty to [the contents of the submission] and never will.”

“I want to be before a judge now and away from these petty games.”

Guardian Australia has contacted the commonwealth director of public prosecutions for response.

The ongoing case against McBride has captured the attention of whistleblower advocates, who argue prosecuting people who come forward is against the public interest.

Kieran Pender, a senior lawyer for the Human Rights Law Centre, said McBride’s case had a “chilling effect on everyday Australians speaking up about government wrongdoing”.

“Every day that the prosecution of whistleblowers drags on is another day of injustice and failure by Australia’s whistleblower protection laws,” he said.

The Greens senator David Shoebridge said the sentencing date’s postponement added “more delay and uncertainty” for McBride, who was first charged in 2018.

The case will go before a registrar on Thursday morning to determine a new sentencing date.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian military
  • Law (Australia)
Share

Reuse this content

‘No joy’ but some ‘healing’ for victim-survivors of alleged child abuse

‘No joy’ but inquiry brings ‘healing’ for victim-survivors of alleged child sexual abuse in Victorian schools

Board of inquiry’s report identified 109 alleged victims of four paedophile teachers at 24 schools dating back to the 1960s

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Glen Fearnett says he doesn’t have the words to express how he feels about an inquiry’s report into the alleged historic child sexual abuse that occurred at his primary school five decades ago.

“There’s no joy. There’s no happiness. There’s no celebration,” he tells Guardian Australia.

“But I’m not let down, it’s a good day. We’ve got this report, what happened to us is written down and documented. The evidence is there for all to see.”

Since mid-2021, Fearnett has been fighting for recognition from the Victorian government for the abuse he and other children allegedly suffered at the hands of paedophile teachers at Beaumaris primary school in the 1960s and 1970s.

Through his advocacy and that of other victim-survivors, the government established a board of inquiry into allegations of child abuse at the school in mid-2023.

Its report, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, identified 109 alleged victims of the four teachers at the centre of the allegations: Graham Steele, Darrell Ray, David MacGregor and “Wyatt”, a pseudonym used for legal reasons.

All four were teachers at Beaumaris primary in the 60s and 70s, though the inquiry was also expanded to examine 23 other schools where they worked.

Three of the alleged perpetrators – Ray, Wyatt and MacGregor – have been convicted of child sexual abuse offences. Steele was never prosecuted before his death in 2013.

About 120 victim-survivors and their loved ones shared their experiences with the board of inquiry. Most who gave evidence were aged between nine and 12 years old at the time of the alleged abuse.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

They recalled being sexually abused in the school library, office, sick bay and classrooms, in front of other students, at school camps or on trips away.

Victim-survivors spoke of how the alleged perpetrators made them feel “special”, or took an interest in their hobby, such as reading or sport, in an effort to manipulate them and isolate them from peers and other adults.

The board of inquiry said for many, the alleged abuse has had lifelong effects, including on their mental health and wellbeing, relationships, education and employment.

“For some people, the weight of trauma can be too heavy to bear, and their loss causes deep grief for those left behind,” the report said.

“Earl” attended Beaumaris primary school from the late 60s until the mid-70s. For legal reasons, the inquiry gave him and the teacher who abused him pseudonyms.

“The worst stuff happened to us when we went to footy, because we were with them from 8am in the morning until 8pm at night,” he says.

“I was lucky because my dad was an umpire, so sometimes he would drive me home. But I’ll never forget all the kids pushing and shoving to get into the car with us to avoid being alone with [the abuser].

“It was always the weaker ones that got left behind.”

Earl says his behaviour went “off the rails” after the abuse and he was eventually told to leave high school.

“I just went from a happy-go-lucky kid living in that beautiful cul de sac called Beaumaris to a really bitter young man among a hornet’s nest of paedophiles,” he says.

Earl kept the alleged abuse to himself for 50 years but found that the inquiry provided him with the closure he needed to move forward.

“I’ve got the rest of my life to live,” he says. “I’ll never forget it but I need to start to move on.”

It’s a similar feeling for Rick Turner, another Beaumaris primary alleged victim-survivor, who along with Fearnett, attended every day of the inquiry’s public hearings.

“I have found the whole experience very healing,” he says.

“A lot of people will say that today was symbolic and it doesn’t mean much but I think that sometimes that is important too.

“For what happened to be acknowledged, while it is triggering … we need to have these conversations to move forward.”

All three men back the inquiry’s recommendation for a statewide truth-telling and accountability process for victim-survivors from other state schools.

Turner says it’s key this occurs prior to a state apology, another recommendation that has already been accepted by the government.

“If they don’t understand what’s happened in other schools, I don’t see how they can meaningfully apologise for the harm that’s occurred,” he says.

The Sandringham MP, Brad Rowswell, whose electorate takes in Beaumaris, has called on the government to implement a statewide inquiry into historical child sexual abuse in government schools.

“Anything less than this is unacceptable,” he said.

In Australia, children, young adults, parents and teachers can contact the Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800; adult survivors can seek help at Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380. In the UK, the NSPCC offers support to children on 0800 1111, and adults concerned about a child on 0808 800 5000. The National Association for People Abused in Childhood (Napac) offers support for adult survivors on 0808 801 0331. In the US, call or text the Childhelp abuse hotline on 800-422-4453. Other sources of help can be found at Child Helplines International

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Australian education
  • Crime – Australia
  • Victorian politics
  • Rape and sexual assault
  • news
Share

Reuse this content