Australia news live: crossbench MPs call on PM to undo India travel ban; RBA keeps interest rates at record low

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The chair of the independent Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC), which advises the federal government about endangered wildlife, has told a committee she is concerned about the government’s proposed changes to Australia’s environmental laws.

Helene Marsh appeared before the committee examining the government’s proposed national environmental standards bill on Tuesday afternoon.

She was asked by the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young if she was concerned that the parliament was preparing to debate legislation “that alters Australia’s environment laws without attached outcomes for improving protection for threatened species”.

“Yes I am,” Marsh responded.

Marsh said the TSSC had contributed extensively to the review of Australia’s environment laws, chaired by the former competition watchdog head Graeme Samuel.

She said she was disappointed that interim national environmental standards proposed by the government did not reflect those Samuel had proposed in his recommendations.

“We spent a lot of time with his team and we worked very closely on the standards and I don’t think that his standards are perfect but I think that legally enforceable outcome focused granular standards are really, really important,” Marsh said.

“And I am disappointed that the proposed interim standards don’t reflect the considerable amount of work that was done towards outcome-focused standards.”

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Crossbench MPs issue joint call to PM to undo India travel ban

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Ultra-low interest rates have lit a fire underneath the residential property market, with the RBA and regulatory bodies alert to runaway house prices.

“Given the environment of rising housing prices and low interest rates, the Bank will be monitoring trends in housing borrowing carefully and it is important that lending standards are maintained,” said the RBA governor, Philip Lowe.

The central bank also maintained its yield target on the three-year bond yield of 0.1%.

Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year, the RBA has cut the cash rate three times in a bid to support the economy.

It has also introduced support measures, including a term funding facility, which provides banks with cheaper debt funding to be passed on to households and businesses.

The RBA deputy governor, Guy Debelle, is set to speak on monetary policy during Covid-19 at Perth on Thursday and the RBA’s statement on monetary policy is due on Friday.

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RBA tips stronger economic growth but only modest lift in wages and inflation

Stubbornly low inflation has kept interest rates at a record low 0.1%, though Australia’s drop in unemployment and strong economic recovery prompted the Reserve Bank to revise its growth forecasts upwards.

Following its May meeting this afternoon, the RBA governor, Philip Lowe, said the economic recovery in Australia had been stronger than expected and was forecast to continue.

“This recovery is especially evident in the strong growth in employment, with the unemployment rate falling further to 5.6% in March and the number of people with a job now exceeding the pre-pandemic level,” he said in the post-meeting statement.

The RBA has revised its GDP growth figures higher, and now expects a 4.75% increase over 2021 and a 3.5% increase over 2022.

The bank also expects unemployment to continue to decline and hover around 5% at the end of this year, and around 4.5% at the end of 2022.

Once again, Lowe has ruled out a lift in the cash rate until the inflation target of between 2% and 3% has been reached.

“Despite the strong recovery in economic activity, the recent CPI data confirmed that inflation pressures remain subdued in most parts of the Australian economy,” said Lowe.

The latest consumer price index for the March quarter showed the annual inflation rate at just 1.1%.

“A pick-up in inflation and wages growth is expected, but it is likely to be only gradual and modest,” said Lowe.

The RBA expects inflation to pick up to 1.5% in 2021 and 2% in mid-2023.

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India coronavirus cases pass 20m

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RBA leaves interest rates on hold at 0.10%

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Rowena Orr QC appointed Victoria’s solicitor general

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Sydney police officer charged with assault

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The president of the National Council of Churches Bishop Philip Huggins has written to prime minister Scott Morrison asking him to be an “inspirational leader” on climate change and announce improved emissions reduction targets as soon as possible.

Huggins, president of the group of 18 churches that includes Anglicans, Roman Catholics and the Uniting Church, says Morrison needs to back US president Joe Biden by announcing improved targets well before the next major climate talks, known as Cop26, in Glasgow in November.

Huggins writes:

I faithfully urge you to make a humble and generous immediate announcement as to how Australia will help ensure UN Cop26 is the success it must be.

Huggins said he was part of a Cop26 planning workshop with the World Council of Churches, which is an umbrella organisation for about 500 million Christians around the world.

In April Morrison told a virtual climate summit, hosted by Biden, that Australia’s goal was to get to net-zero emissions “as soon as we possibly can” but it should not be done using taxes that he suggested would eliminate major industry.

Huggins says:

Can I urge that you include an Australian announcement not only to match that of the many nations already committing to net zero emissions by 2050, but also make vivid our commitment to real zero emissions asap?

Morrison is a Christian, but his Pentecostal faith is not represented among the members of the National Council of Churches.

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