Afternoon Update: national cabinet agrees to cap gas, coal prices; Covid cases rising; and South Koreans getting younger

<span>Photograph: Cindy Liu/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Cindy Liu/Reuters

Gas and coal prices will be capped, and relief is coming on energy bills. That’s what the federal government and the states have decided after today’s national cabinet meeting.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, announced a gas cap of $12 a gigajoule would be in place for 12 months, along with a mandatory code of conduct for the industry. There will be a temporary coal price cap of $125 a tonne and “nationally targeted bill relief”, under which the commonwealth will provide up to $1.5bn to the state governments to reduce power bills.

Parliament will have to be recalled briefly to pass the legislation – a quick in, vote and out, and then our politicians are done for the year.

Top news

The Star Casino in Pyrmont
The Star Casino has been fined $100m and found to be unsuitable to hold a licence in Queensland Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
  • Police allegations in Lehrmann trial referred | The federal integrity and corruption watchdog for law enforcement will investigate allegations of police misconduct in the Bruce Lehrmann trial. Yesterday, Guardian Australia revealed that the chief prosecutor complained that police officers pressured him not to prosecute the alleged rape of Brittany Higgins. Lehrmann has consistently maintained his innocence and pleaded not guilty to one charge of sexual intercourse without consent. He says no sexual activity occurred with Higgins.

  • Queensland fines Star casino $100m | The gaming group was also found unsuitable to hold a licence in the state. The Queensland government imposed a 90-day suspension of its casino licence, which will be deferred for 12 months until December 2023. In October, Star – which operates casinos in Brisbane and Gold Coast – was found guilty of a serious dereliction of its anti-money laundering responsibilities.

  • Covid cases rise nationwide | Daily infection rates are up 8.5% nationwide in the last weekly reporting period, at an average of 15,569 per day. Victoria has had an almost 50% jump in deaths, with 85 deaths this week and 27,790 new cases. New South Wales recorded 48 deaths and 40,194 cases. Queensland’s daily infections jumped 20.4%, with 15 deaths and 13,632 new cases. All other states and territories reported increases in new cases compared to the previous weekly reporting period.

  • Controversial Tasmanian windfarm approved | The Tasmanian government has approved a windfarm on Robbins Island in the state’s north-west, which environmental groups say could affect a disease-free Tasmanian devil colony and the critically endangered orange-bellied parrot.

  • Hyundai recall | An estimated 19,500 Hyundai cars have been recalled over concerns they may spontaneously ignite if moisture reaches an internal component. The recall affects Hyundai ix35 (EL) cars, built from 2014 to 2015, after a manufacturing defect was found in the circuit board in the anti-lock braking system (ABS).

  • Soft plastic fire risk in Melbourne | The Environmental Protection Agency has found about 3,000 tonnes of soft plastics – or roughly half a billion plastic bags – in six sites across Melbourne’s west and north, posing a fire risk. The plastics – coming in from across Australia – were left there after REDcycle suspended its recycling program a month ago. There was potentially a seventh site in Wodonga in regional Victoria, the authority said.

Baby girl in yellow cosmos flower field,Ulsan, South Korea
South Koreans will officially become younger as the officials change the way they calculate legal age. Photograph: Insung Jeon/Getty Images
  • South Koreans get younger | The country is scrapping its traditional method of counting babies as one when they’re born, shifting to the international standard of starting at zero. So from June 2023, all South Koreans will officially become either a year or two younger. How’s that for an end-of-year bonus?

  • Racism a public health issue | A global review has identified racism and xenophobia as “significant drivers of determinants of health” that affect millions worldwide. The authors of a series in medical journal, the Lancet, outlined the ways racism harms health – including directly affecting the body via stress responses, profoundly shaping living environments and limiting individuals’ opportunities to improve health.

  • Women sue Twitter over gender bias | Two women who lost their jobs at Twitter during mass layoffs after Elon Musk took over the company are suing, claiming that the company disproportionately targeted female employees for cuts. The new suit claimed that Twitter laid off 57% of its female workers compared with 47% of men. Musk laid off roughly half of Twitter’s workforce when he took over in October.

Full Story

Robodebt: a devastating failure of policy – with Lenore Taylor

The scheme that has been described as a shameful chapter in Australian history was supposed to balance the budget and save the government $1.5bn. But after robodebt was found to be unlawful, the government was forced to pay out $1.8bn in settlements to victims. How did it come to this? Listen to this 22-minute Full Story episode.

What they said …

Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami.
Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Shingo Yamagami. Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

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“Let me tell you that without coal and gas from Australia, I think Tokyo will go dark. So in that regard, we place high importance to maintain coal and gas, both in trade and investment relationship, between Japan and Australia.” – Shingo Yamagami, Japanese ambassador to Australia

One challenge to Australia’s transition away from fossil fuels will be the demand from major trading partners still dependent on its coal and gas for their own energy needs. It emphasises why it’s essential for the world’s major economies to transition to clean energy in sync.

In numbers

The results are from an Australian National University study, which also found that 30% of Indigenous adults experience very high psychological distress compared to 13% of non-Indigenous adults.

Before bed read

Guardian Australia staff were asked this week to declare who they’re backing among the final teams in the World Cup. I didn’t write in because I’m barely paying attention, but you don’t need a football brain to support a side. Our science writer, Donna Lu, certainly doesn’t – choosing France because of “champagne”. Or morning editor Nick Miller supporting Croatia because he once had a nice holiday in Dubrovnik.

I’ll tell you who I don’t want to win – England. How insufferable would that be?

Who are you backing (or not)?

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