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Today’s headlines

ByNigel Gladstone

Hello,and thanks for reading our live news coverage today. Here’s a summary of the major headlines:

We’ll be back to report tomorrow’s news bright and early at 7am.

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No penalties for aged care providers who breach 24/7 nurse mandate

ByDana Daniel

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’selection promise to put a nurse in every aged care home around the clock is on shaky ground as senior bureaucrats reveal that there are no penalties for providers who fail to comply and the nurses’ union warns the promise is meaningless without enforcement.

Legislation to make it mandatory for all residential aged care homes to have a registered nurse “on site and on duty at all times” from July is being debated in the House of Representatives this week,but Australian Nursing and Midwifery Association President Annie Butler said it would be “completely unacceptable” if providers faced no penalties for failing to hire nurses.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised during the election campaign to ‘put nurses back in nursing homes’.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese promised during the election campaign to ‘put nurses back in nursing homes’.Alex Ellinghausen

“How meaningless is it going to be if you just unendingly don’t have to adhere to it?” she said.

Health department assistant secretary Melanie Metz told a recent Senate committee inquiry into the bill there were “no particular penaltiesattached to the requirements” to have a registered nurse on site 24/7 and experts say the requirement will not fix the aged care sector.

Monash University Professor Joseph Ibrahim said while “it’s a catchy soundbite to have a nurse in every nursing home”,the 24/7 nurse bill would not solve “the fundamental problem of there’s just not enough workers who know what they’re doing”.

“The consequences,politically,for the government are much more dire if they’ve got highly punitive measures,” the geriatric medicine specialist said.

The government is hoping to attract 4900 overseas-trained nurses to work across Australia’s health system as part of its plan tolift the cap on permanent migration by 35,000 places to 195,000 and is backing a push for higher wages in the Fair Work Commission.

Aged care providers struggle to recruit registered nurses to the sector,in part because they can earn higher wages in hospitals.

Read morehere.

Childcare ‘a mess’:Early learning educators demand better pay,conditions

ByNicole Precel

Thousands of early learning educators have packed Melbourne’s Federation Square to call for better pay and conditions,as the childcare sector struggles to cope with nationwide staff shortages.

More than 1000 childcare centres temporarily shut down across the country on Wednesday. About 20,000 families were affected in Victoria and 70,000 nationwide,with union officials saying the action was only the beginning.

Childcare professional Ruth Harper says the sector is struggling to attract and keep workers.

Childcare professional Ruth Harper says the sector is struggling to attract and keep workers.

United Workers Union early education director Helen Gibbons said the Melbourne protest was one of 16 across the country. She said the action was focused on long day care,which was federally funded.

Gibbons said early educators worked through the pandemic and felt “exhausted,undervalued and taken for granted by the previous[federal] government”. She said centres were turning away children because they didn’t have enough staff and most educators said the shortages were affecting the quality of care and education.

A July 2021 union surveyof 4000 current and former early educators found that 37 per cent of respondents said they wanted to leave the profession within 12 months. “They delivered on what they said,” Gibbons said.

UWU national president Jo Schofield said Wednesday’s action was only the beginning.

Early learning educators protested in Federation Square in Melbourne on Wednesday to call for better pay and conditions.

Early learning educators protested in Federation Square in Melbourne on Wednesday to call for better pay and conditions.Luis Enrique Ascui

“We ... won’t back down until we get the change we need,” she said.

Addressing the crowd in the square,Schofield said:“You care for and shape the future of Australia. What could be more important than that? Nothing.”

Read morehere.

Fake doctor examined dozens of patients over six months at busy Auckland hospital

ByEdward Gay

Auckland:A man who used fake documents to secure a job as a doctor at one of New Zealand’s busiest hospitals was only caught after a colleague recognised him as a fake student from university a decade earlier.

Yuvaraj Krishnan worked for six months as a doctor at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital until questions were raised about his medical qualifications. He was sacked on August 10.

Yuvaraj Krishnan pleaded guilty to being a fake doctor.

Yuvaraj Krishnan pleaded guilty to being a fake doctor.Stuff

On Wednesday,Krishnan appeared at the Manukau District Court,where his lawyer,Steve Cullen,entered a guilty plea to a charge of using a forged document to get an advantage. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Court documents show he used an annual practising certificate to obtain a pecuniary advantage,knowing the certificate to be forged.

According to court documents,Krishnan’s role was mainly in research,but he also ran outpatient clinics. He is believed to have examined up to 80 patients during his time at the hospital.

Doctors in New Zealand must hold an up-to-date medical practising certificate.

“The defendant was only discovered after a doctor recognised his name from a previous incident in 2012 when he was caught attending the University of Auckland without being accepted into the course,” the agreed summary of facts said.

“The defendant was trespassed from the university after that incident,having two years’ worth of tertiary education without authority.”

Read morehere.

Money,not pandemic,the main cause of Victoria’s triple-zero crisis

ByAisha Dow

The story of the breakdown of Victoria’s triple-zero ambulance system is complicated. This has been exploited by those wanting to seed confusion about what went wrong and how it could have been avoided.

They’ll say ambulance services across the nation are struggling to get to people on time during the pandemic. That’s true and that’s also threatening lives,but it has little to do with the issue at hand.

Victorians have endured long waits for ambulances through triple-zero delays.

Victorians have endured long waits for ambulances through triple-zero delays.Wayne Taylor

The problem is tens of thousands of triple-zero calls in Victoriawere not answered when they should have been.

When Victorians called because a loved one was critically ill or injured,there was no one free at the Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority (ESTA) to answer them. Seconds stretched into minutes and there still was no answer.

Many Victorian callers were instead stuck on the line with a person froma national Telstra call centre,untrained to give advice,and,in any event,not allowed to. They certainly couldn’t dispatch an ambulance.

When the system is working as it should,our encounters with these people should be fleeting and forgettable.

They ask us whether we want police,fire or ambulance,as well as our state and town,and then transfer us to the right service. But many thousands of Victorians waited more than a minute to be transferred because ESTA was too short-staffed.

Read morehere.

The Wrap:ASX hits seven-week low as investors brace for further rate hikes

ByAngus Thomson

Welcome to your five-minute update of the trading day and how the experts saw it.

The numbers:The Australian sharemarket fell to a six-week low on Wednesday,closing down 97.20 points,or 1.4 per cent,at 6729.30 points.

Health care and IT were the only industry sectors to finisher higher as energy,materials and utilities all weighed heavily on the local bourse. Around 70 per cent of stocks on the ASX 200 finished the day in the red.

The lifters:Virgin Money closed 4.1 per cent higher;ResMed climbed 3.1 per cent;and Fisher&Paykel gained 2.8 per cent as the health care sector finished modestly higher.

The laggards:Chalice Mining led the decliners,shedding 12.6 per cent;Insignia Financial fell 7.1 per cent;and Viva Energy lost 6.4 per cent after going ex-dividend.

The ASX is lower in early trade.

The ASX is lower in early trade.Louie Douvis

The lowdown:The Australian sharemarket opened lower on Wednesday after Wall Street kicked off its holiday-shortened week with losses across the board.

The ASX 200 index shed 1.4 per cent in Wednesday’s trade as materials and energy stocks lost ground aftera promising start to the week. On Tuesday,the ASXlost 0.4 per cent after the Reserve Banklifted interest rates to their highest level in seven years.

The Australian dollar softened overnight and was fetching 67.19 US cents at 4.45 pm AEST.

IT and healthcare stocks were the best-performing sectors,with medical equipment companies ResMed and Fisher&Paykel both among the day’s biggest gains.

Read morehere.

Domestic airfares soar by more than 50 per cent as airlines cut flights

ByAmelia McGuire

Domestic airfares have soared to the highest in almost two years as airlines struggled with staffing shortages and the soaring cost of jet fuel,a report by the consumer watchdog shows.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s latestAirline Competition in Australia report says the cheapest economy airfares cost 56 per cent more in August than in April,when they were at an 11-year low,as the number of travellers recovered to almost pre-pandemic levels.

Prices have jumped even as passengers faceddelays and flight cancellations across the country as carriers failed to cope with the bounceback in demand.

The cost of domestic flights has increased by 56 per cent from July to August,with passengers finding it harder to find a new seat in the event of a cancellation.

The cost of domestic flights has increased by 56 per cent from July to August,with passengers finding it harder to find a new seat in the event of a cancellation.Flavio Brancaleone

“After about 18 months of historically low airfares,the cost of domestic flying has risen sharply in response to strong demand,temporary capacity reductions and very high jet fuel prices,” ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb said in a statement on Wednesday.

“In these circumstances,more than ever,the level of competition between airlines is incredibly important to maintain pressure on ticket prices and service levels across the industry.”

About 4.7 million travellers flew domestically in July,the highest number since the start of the pandemic and just 11 per cent less than in July 2019. In June,the number of domestic passengers reached 97 per cent of the June passenger numbers in 2019.

Increased demand coupled with reduced capacity meant that 82 per cent of flights in peak periods were full. This has made it harder for passengers to find seats on a new flight in the event of a cancellation,the consumer watchdog noted.

The ACCC monitors the prices,costs and profits of Australia’s domestic airline industry and provides quarterly reports to inform policy for the next three years,following a directive by former treasurer Josh Frydenberg in 2020.

The regulator also confirmed it was investigating Qantas after customers reported difficulties in using flight credits,but did not comment further as the investigation was ongoing.

Read morehere.

Russia to buy rockets,artillery shells from North Korea,US intel shows

ByAamer Madhani

Washington: The Russian Ministry of Defence is in the process of purchasing millions of rockets and artillery shells from North Korea for its ongoing fight in Ukraine,according to a newly downgraded US intelligence finding.

Brigadier General Pat Ryder,the Pentagon press secretary,said Tuesday that “the information that we have is that Russia has specifically asked for ammunition.” He said the US has seen indications Russia approached North Korea,but said he had no other details,including whether money has changed hands or any shipments are in progress.

Russian Malka artillery systems fire from an undisclosed location in Ukraine.

Russian Malka artillery systems fire from an undisclosed location in Ukraine.AP

“It does demonstrate and is indicative of the situation that Russia finds itself in,in terms of its logistics and sustainment capabilities as it relates to Ukraine,” said Ryder,in the administration’s first public comments on the intelligence assessment. “We assess that things are not going well on that front for Russia.”

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said there were no indications that the arms purchase had actually occurred yet or that any North Korean munitions had made it onto the Ukrainian battlefield. Still,he said the talks alone were “just another indication of how desperate Putin’s becoming”.

“He was buying drones from Iran,now he’s going to buy artillery rounds from North Korea. It’s an indication of how much his defence industrial establishment is suffering as a result of this war and the degree of desperation that he’s reaching out to countries like Iran and North Korea for assistance,” he told reporters Tuesday.

US intelligence officials believe the Russians could look to purchase additional North Korean military equipment in the future. The intelligence finding was first reported by The New York Times.

Kirby said US intelligence suggests that Russia is in the market for on “the scale of millions of rounds” of ammunition from North Korea,but offered no additional details.

Asked why the information was declassified,Ryder it’s relevant to illustrate the condition of Russia’s ongoing military campaign in Ukraine. And,he said,it shows “they’re trying to reach out to international actors like Iran and North Korea that don’t have the best record when it comes to international stability”.
Read morehere.

‘Significant health challenges’:Long COVID’s impact on the nation to be probed

ByDana Daniel

A federal parliamentary inquiry will investigate the impact of long COVID and repeat coronavirus infections on the nation after Treasury revealed tens of thousands of workers a day were calling in sick during the winter peak.

The inquiry by the House of Representatives health committee,chaired by Labor MP for Macarthur and south-west Sydney paediatrician Dr Mike Freelander,will examine the health,social,educational and economic impacts of COVID-19.

Dr Mike Freelander will chair the inquiry into long COVID.

Dr Mike Freelander will chair the inquiry into long COVID.Dominic Lorrimer

“The committee recognises that both long COVID and repeated COVID infections are emerging as significant health challenges for Australia,” Freelander said.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said ahead of last week’s jobs and skills summit that long COVID was having an ongoing impact on the economy through labour shortages and “concentrated disadvantage and long-term unemployment”.

Treasury data released last month showed long COVID cost the nation’s economy 3 million working days in the first half of this year. About 31,000 Australian workers a day called in sick in June because of the condition,it showed.

Government study shows about 12 per cent of workers are sick with COVID-19.

Liberal MP for Lindsay Melissa McIntosh,the health committee’s deputy chair,shared her personal experience with long COVID while calling for people who had suffered the condition to share their stories with the inquiry.

“I’ve never had any respiratory issues in my life but since having COVID I do have some of that breathlessness,” she said. “And I did experience some of the feelings of having a foggy head after COVID and feeling quite run down.”

Read morehere.

‘World-leading’ family and domestic violence leave passes lower house

ByAngus Thompson

The government’s bill to make10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave a right for all Australian workers has passed the lower house.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke said the bill,which also extends the right to paid leave to casuals,was “world-leading”. “We are taking a step that hasn’t been taken in this way by other governments around the world,” Burke said.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke during question time on Wednesday.

Workplace Relations Minister Tony Burke during question time on Wednesday.Alex Ellinghausen

The business community has raised concerns about the effect of the legislation on smaller employers having to foot the bill for the workplace entitlement.

A Senate inquiry into the bill recommended a review of the legislation in 18 months to assess its impact on small businesses.

Burke said the review would deal with the full scope of the impact of the legislation.

Women's safety advocates have welcomed the introduction of a paid domestic violence and family leave bill.

“I would like us to take[this step],the government would like us to take it,and then in 18 months’ time for the review to see whether questions need to be raised about the scope,but we don’t want to take the scope further than we have,” he said.

“Everything we have so far has been based on that simple test of making sure workers are not choosing between their safety and their pay.”

Broede Carmody is the national news blogger for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Previously,he was a culture reporter and worked on the breaking news desk.

Nigel Gladstone is an investigative journalist at The Sydney Morning Herald.

Angus Thompson is a federal political reporter covering industrial relations for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

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