Australia news LIVE: ‘Blak sovereignty’ leaders switch to Yes vote as Voice referendum looms; Transport Minister called to front Qatar inquiry

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  • Taipan helicopters to be permanently grounded, Marles confirms
  • PM says Voice will change Australia for the better
  • ‘Blak sovereignty’ leaders switch to Yes, isolating Lidia Thorpe
  • Alan Joyce faces jail threat if he fails to appear at inquiry
  • Malaysian minister wants to bring Bali bombing accused home
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Taipan helicopters to be permanently grounded, Marles confirms

In breaking news, Defence Minister Richard Marles says Taipan helicopters will be permanently grounded after a deadly crash in the Whitsundays in July.

Aircrew Captain Lyon, Lieutenant Nugent, Warrant Officer Laycock and Corporal Naggs died in the crash.

“It is … really the only decision that makes sense,” Marles told Nine’s Today Show this morning.

The MRH-90 Taipan helicopter has been plagued by technical difficulties since entering service in 2007.

“We have made clear that we wouldn’t be flying these aircraft again until the investigations were completed, that we understood what happened and made any rectifications that needed to occur.”

The defence minister said there were four investigations into the crash happening, and one will take 12 months to reach a conclusion.

“We were planning to retire the Taipans at the end of next year anyway and so there is no world in which we should be flying these helicopters again,” he said.

Marles said the government made the decision today, saying “in many ways it was inevitable”.

“There is now no scenario where we would be flying these helicopters again and that’s why we’re making the decision we made today,” the minister said.

PM says Voice will change Australia for the better

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says Australia can change for the better with a Yes vote for the Voice to parliament at the October 14 poll.

“You never change a country for the better through fear, you change it through hope and optimism and compassion and justice,” Albanese old ABC radio Sydney this morning.

“That’s what this referendum is about.”

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese at a Yes event in Sydney last night. Credit: James Brickwood

He was asked why another advisory body should be created when others hadn’t worked in the past.

“This is a body that won’t provide funds, that won’t run programs that will just give advice to the government, and that experience of past bodies, and issues that have arisen has been factored in by Indigenous Australians when they’ve made this request,” the prime minister said.

Albanese said consulting Indigenous people about matters that impacted them ensured better outcomes.

He pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said there was potential for “quite catastrophic” outcomes when the virus hit Aboriginal communities when decisions were being made in Canberra or other cities.

“What happened when people went to Indigenous communities, spoke them and gave them some empowerment over the way the vaccines were rolled out and the health outcomes … that’s when it turned around,” Albanese said.

‘Blak sovereignty’ leaders switch to Yes, isolating Lidia Thorpe

Key opponents of the Indigenous Voice have switched sides in the final weeks of the referendum to back the Yes case after rising fears that a No victory would align them with Opposition Leader Peter Dutton or One Nation leader Pauline Hanson.

The moves reveal the concerns among “progressive No” activists who initially rejected the Voice in favour of stronger action – such as a treaty first – but have moved away from the hardline stance taken by Indigenous senator Lidia Thorpe.

Senator Lidia Thorpe spoke to huge crowds at the Treaty Before Voice Invasion Day rally on January 26.Credit: Alexi J Rosenfeld

But Thorpe said the Blak Sovereignty movement, which she leads, was “growing exponentially” and would continue to oppose the Voice, saying she would not switch sides despite calls from Prime Minister Anthony Albanese for her support.

With early voting opening on Monday, the Yes campaign is trying to win back voters who have been swayed by conservative critics who say the Voice goes too far and “progressive No” leaders such as Thorpe who see the Voice as a retreat on sovereignty and treaty.

Thorpe’s case has lost ground, however, among some Indigenous people who have shifted to the Yes side as polling day draws closer.

Find out more about the switch here. 

Alan Joyce faces jail threat if he fails to appear at inquiry

Back in Australia, Transport Minister Catherine King will be called to front the parliamentary inquiry into Qatar Airways’ rejected bid for more Australian flights.

It comes after her office was accused of hindering her own department’s attempt to find out if she had met former Qantas chief Alan Joyce about the application.

Amid speculation over whether Qantas has an outsized influence on government, the Coalition launched the Senate inquiry earlier this month into King’s decision to block Qatar’s application to add 21 flights a week to Australia.

Liberal senator Simon Birmingham urged King to front up to the inquiry when called.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Experts say the extra flights would have brought down airfares and added up to $1 billion a year to the Australian economy.

Inquiry chair and opposition transport spokeswoman Bridget McKenzie said Joyce, who is overseas, would be “summonsed on touchdown” to face the Senate committee, and that he and King were among the few who could shed light on the decision after senior bureaucrats were gagged from going into detail about their advice due to a public interest immunity claim by King.

Joyce will be summoned by the committee to attend a hearing at a later date after he declined an invitation due to “personal commitments”.

“And he will be required to attend to the committee’s questions,” McKenzie said, adding that an MP had been jailed in the 1950s for refusing a summons.

Continue reading about what happens if Joyce fails to attend. 

Malaysian minister wants to bring Bali bombing accused home

In overseas news, Malaysia is attempting to repatriate two alleged accomplices to the 2002 Bali bombings in a deal that would expose the uncertainty of authorities about what to do with Hambali, the so-called bin Laden of South-East Asia.

Mohammed Farik bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir bin Lep are among about 30 prisoners remaining at Guantanamo Bay, the US military’s detention camp in Cuba established two decades ago to detain terror suspects which is slated to close.

Accused Bali bombing accomplices and Malaysian nationals Mohammed Farik bin Amin and Mohammed Nazir bin Lep.

Alongside Indonesian-born alleged plotter Hambali, they were charged in 2021 as accessories to the nightclub bombings in Bali, which killed 202 people including 88 Australians, and an explosion at the JW Marriott hotel in 2003 which left 12 dead.

However, with the accused militants still to be brought to trial before a US military commission amid interminable delays, the Malaysian government is bidding to bring its two citizens home.

Read more on this issue here. 

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day. It’s Friday, September 29, and in Victoria, it is a public holiday for the Grand Final.

Here’s what you need to know before we get started:

  • The federal government is expected to release the final report of the disability royal commission today, and shows a split over the future of special schools.
  • A veteran public servant who played a key role in develop of the AUKUS defence pact is a frontrunner to be appointed to the challenging post as ambassador to China.
  • Transport Minister Catherine King and Alan Joyce will be called to face the parliamentary inquiry into Qatar Airways’ rejected bid for more Australian flights.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was attended an event to support the Yes in Sydney, alongside Rachel Perkins (left) and Ray Martin. Credit: James Brickwood

  • Key opponents of the Indigenous Voice have switched sides in the final weeks of the referendum to back the Yes case, isolating independent senator Lidia Thorpe.
  • In other Voice news, a new report found federal agencies need the advisory body to get better results from new spending on basic services.
  • The Home Affairs chief gave big tobacco access to a top official after a lobbyist friend’s request, and spoke to a consulting boss about privatising the COVID quarantine system.
  • And overseas, after a nearly three-decade bid for independence, the unrecognised republic of Nagorno-Karabakh at the centre of a geopolitical fight is no more.

Let’s get into it.

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