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The Aukus pact is “already on trial” and its defenders cannot afford to assume it will survive changes in government in the three countries over three decades, a federal government backbencher and former military officer has warned.

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Luke Gosling sets out the case for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and the UK in a Lowy Institute paper to be released today.

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But he has also conceded that “long-term political support cannot be taken for granted” and says supporters must continue to build the case “if the fissures in today’s public opinion are to be arrested”.

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The paper mentions China more than 20 times, including looking at its military build-up, but Gosling accuses Aukus critics of taking “the bait of foreign propagandists when they assume that it [the Aukus pact] targets one specific country”.

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The MP insists nuclear-powered submarines are “a country-agnostic capability that can respond along a broad spectrum of contingencies ranging from great-power war to insidious grey-zone threats”. He says Australia “has no fixed enemies, only permanent interests”.

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The Australian government plans to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines, starting with the purchase of at least three Virginia class boats from the US in the 2030s before Adelaide-built SSN-Aukus boats enter into service from the 2040s.

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Gosling calls for future Australian governments to consider building more nuclear-powered submarines from the 2050s, even after Australia has eight.

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On Monday the government announced it had reached an agreement with the Greens to significantly water down vaping legislation. The original legislation would have only allowed people to buy vaping products from a pharmacy if they had a prescription from their doctor or another authorised health professional.

\n But to secure support from the Greens in the Senate, the government has agreed to a number of amendments, the key one being to allow people to buy vapes at pharmacies without a prescription.

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It is a significant step-back, given that the original bill and prescription-only model was backed by peak medical bodies, health organisations and tobacco control experts. The original legislation also had strong public support.

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University of Sydney public health expert Associate Prof Becky Freeman said she wants to know what will be done to ensure pharmacists will be truly independent from the vaping and tobacco industries if the amendments pass:

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\n

That means we need measures to ensure that there is no advertising of these products allowed to pharmacists, that there’s no wining and dining of pharmacists to try and get certain vape products into pharmacies, and we need to ensure that vapes remain a therapeutic product and not a consumer good that’s just available to anyone going to a pharmacy.

\n

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She added that, if the amendments pass, vapers would not have to see a doctor for a prescription, so important opportunities for conversations about quitting vaping and health monitoring will be lost.

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Morning and welcome to today’s live news coverage from Canberra I’m Martin Farrer and here are some of the big stories as we start the day, before Amy Remeikis takes over.

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A timely reminder that Australia needs to get its act together on climate and energy comes today with Unesco warning the government it must set more ambitious emissions targets or the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on the “in danger” list of world heritage sites. The report, published in Paris late last night, says Australia should be asked to submit a progress report by February. After that, the committee “could consider the inclusion of the property on the list of world heritage in danger” at its 2026 meeting.

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Experts have been lining up to criticise the Albanese government’s decision to water down the legislation that was originally billed as a crackdown on vaping. Public health specialists say an opportunity has been missed and it looks as though the government will cop a lot of flak for the backtracking today. But with a deadline of the start of July to fix a vaping policy bearing down on them, Labor has ignored the pleas of doctors and watered down its plans to win the support of the Greens. More analysis and news coming up.

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It’s not surprising that the cold weather in eastern Australia has led to a spike in demand for gas. But the supply of gas is coming under strain and the problem will worsen without the urgent addition of more backup resources. Unusually calm weather has hampered renewable supply as well, according to Rick Wilkinson, the chief executive of consultants EnergyQuest, and Victoria will “need a backup” to handle peak winter gas demand from 2026.

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And a Labor MP has written a paper warning that Aukus supporters must continue to build the case for nuclear submarines to counter “fissures” in public opinion. More on that, too, in a tick.

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Key events

Cait Kelly

Cait Kelly

More Victorians are struggling to pay their energy debts, with old energy debt from previous retailers doubling in a year, a new report from Consumer Action Law Centre has shown.

In 2023, 7,087 people from across Victoria called Consumer Action’s financial counsellors on the National Debt Helpline (NDH) and 849 callers (or 12% of all) presented with energy bills as one of their top three financial difficulty areas, compared to 10.5% in the previous year.

CEO Stephanie Tonkin:

Average energy debt of callers has increased to $2,626, with the highest debt recorded at $34,102. As the cost-of-living crisis deepens, we are seeing the highest number of large energy debts in the six years since we first began publishing this report.

What is clear is that low-income households are being priced out of an essential service, necessitating structural reforms that support all Victorians to access affordable energy.

People shouldn’t have to choose between putting food on the table and keeping their lights on, or racking up debt they may never pay off. Access to this essential service must be protected regardless of income.”

Aukus pact ‘already on trial’ says federal MP

Daniel Hurst

Daniel Hurst

The Aukus pact is “already on trial” and its defenders cannot afford to assume it will survive changes in government in the three countries over three decades, a federal government backbencher and former military officer has warned.

Luke Gosling sets out the case for Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines with the help of the US and the UK in a Lowy Institute paper to be released today.

But he has also conceded that “long-term political support cannot be taken for granted” and says supporters must continue to build the case “if the fissures in today’s public opinion are to be arrested”.

The paper mentions China more than 20 times, including looking at its military build-up, but Gosling accuses Aukus critics of taking “the bait of foreign propagandists when they assume that it [the Aukus pact] targets one specific country”.

The MP insists nuclear-powered submarines are “a country-agnostic capability that can respond along a broad spectrum of contingencies ranging from great-power war to insidious grey-zone threats”. He says Australia “has no fixed enemies, only permanent interests”.

The Australian government plans to acquire eight nuclear-powered submarines, starting with the purchase of at least three Virginia class boats from the US in the 2030s before Adelaide-built SSN-Aukus boats enter into service from the 2040s.

Gosling calls for future Australian governments to consider building more nuclear-powered submarines from the 2050s, even after Australia has eight.

Melissa Davey

Melissa Davey

More reaction to the vaping decision:

The chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, Terry Slevin, said the PHAA supported the government legislation as originally put forward, “and that remains our strongly preferred model”.

But he said there had “been a wide diversity of views, and we know very well the industry has very aggressively lobbied on this”. Regardless, he thinks that if the amendments pass it will still be “a substantial step forward” for vaping reform:

Someone I spoke to earlier talked about the days when we were trying to get smoke-free zones in restaurants and pubs and clubs.

We got restaurants first, and we got pubs and clubs some years later, because tobacco control has always been a long, slow road.

There’s never been any perfect tobacco legislation passed. We make progress. We take steps forward. We argue for the best possible policy. We take wins when we can get them.

Health experts decry watering down of vaping bill

Melissa Davey

Melissa Davey

On Monday the government announced it had reached an agreement with the Greens to significantly water down vaping legislation. The original legislation would have only allowed people to buy vaping products from a pharmacy if they had a prescription from their doctor or another authorised health professional.

But to secure support from the Greens in the Senate, the government has agreed to a number of amendments, the key one being to allow people to buy vapes at pharmacies without a prescription.

It is a significant step-back, given that the original bill and prescription-only model was backed by peak medical bodies, health organisations and tobacco control experts. The original legislation also had strong public support.

University of Sydney public health expert Associate Prof Becky Freeman said she wants to know what will be done to ensure pharmacists will be truly independent from the vaping and tobacco industries if the amendments pass:

That means we need measures to ensure that there is no advertising of these products allowed to pharmacists, that there’s no wining and dining of pharmacists to try and get certain vape products into pharmacies, and we need to ensure that vapes remain a therapeutic product and not a consumer good that’s just available to anyone going to a pharmacy.

She added that, if the amendments pass, vapers would not have to see a doctor for a prescription, so important opportunities for conversations about quitting vaping and health monitoring will be lost.

Welcome

Martin Farrer

Martin Farrer

Morning and welcome to today’s live news coverage from Canberra I’m Martin Farrer and here are some of the big stories as we start the day, before Amy Remeikis takes over.

A timely reminder that Australia needs to get its act together on climate and energy comes today with Unesco warning the government it must set more ambitious emissions targets or the Great Barrier Reef could be placed on the “in danger” list of world heritage sites. The report, published in Paris late last night, says Australia should be asked to submit a progress report by February. After that, the committee “could consider the inclusion of the property on the list of world heritage in danger” at its 2026 meeting.

Experts have been lining up to criticise the Albanese government’s decision to water down the legislation that was originally billed as a crackdown on vaping. Public health specialists say an opportunity has been missed and it looks as though the government will cop a lot of flak for the backtracking today. But with a deadline of the start of July to fix a vaping policy bearing down on them, Labor has ignored the pleas of doctors and watered down its plans to win the support of the Greens. More analysis and news coming up.

It’s not surprising that the cold weather in eastern Australia has led to a spike in demand for gas. But the supply of gas is coming under strain and the problem will worsen without the urgent addition of more backup resources. Unusually calm weather has hampered renewable supply as well, according to Rick Wilkinson, the chief executive of consultants EnergyQuest, and Victoria will “need a backup” to handle peak winter gas demand from 2026.

And a Labor MP has written a paper warning that Aukus supporters must continue to build the case for nuclear submarines to counter “fissures” in public opinion. More on that, too, in a tick.

Read More: World News | Entertainment News | Celeb News
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