Australia news LIVE: Coalition to oppose Labor’s superannuation changes; engineered stone ban delayed by states and territories

Key posts

  • Prime minister has crafted a political wedge he can use again
  • Albanese’s superannuation power play sets up election brawl
  • ‘Revolutionary changes’ in agriculture for North Korea amid food shortages
  • Russians tighten noose on Ukraine’s Bakhmut
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Prime minister has crafted a political wedge he can use again

Staying with superannuation, with analysis from chief political correspondent David Crowe below.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has made a big call on a small change to superannuation that is cleverly designed to keep most Australians happy while driving his opponents into a conservative ditch.

The result is a solid policy move to increase tax and a sharp political move to wedge Opposition Leader Peter Dutton.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese left his future tax options open. Credit:Alex Ellinghausen.

Albanese and his cabinet ministers could have gone much harder to scale back the tax concessions on super after releasing Treasury figures showing that 39 per cent of the benefits go to the top 10 per cent of people by income.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers had made a strong case for change, but ministers were rightly worried about imposing budget changes they had not told voters about at the election. Any sudden change left Albanese exposed to claims of a broken promise.

The decision in cabinet on Tuesday morning was a brilliant way to square the circle.

Read more on this here.

Albanese’s superannuation power play sets up election brawl

Turning now to the latest on the superannuation, as the federal government nears a deal to lift taxes on superannuation that exceed a $3 million threshold.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese gained early support for the plan to double the tax on earnings on balances above $3 million out of concern that almost 40 per cent of the tax breaks on super go to people in the top 10 per cent by income.

Treasurer Jim Chalmers and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese during Tuesday’s press conference at Parliament House.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen

But the Coalition accused the prime minister of confusing people saving for their retirement and breaking an election promise because Albanese said last May he had no intention of making any super changes.

“We’re not going to be party to Labor breaking an election promise,” said Coalition treasury spokesman Angus Taylor.

With federal ministers worried about a breach of faith with voters, Albanese emerged from a cabinet meeting on Tuesday to say the change would affect only 80,000 people and would not take effect until 2025.

The full story courtesy of my colleagues in Canberra is available here.

‘Revolutionary changes’ in agriculture for North Korea amid food shortages

North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un is urging government officials to engineer a “fundamental transformation” in agricultural production, amid outside worries about the country’s worsening food insecurity.

Foreign experts say North Korea is experiencing a serious shortfall of food in the aftermath of COVID-19 border restrictions and a reported push for greater state control over grain supply. Although the experts say they’ve seen no signs of mass deaths or famine due to the shortfall.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un speaks during a meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party at its headquarters in Pyongyang, North Korea on Monday.Credit:KCNA/AP

During a ruling Workers’ Party meeting on Monday, Kim expressed his government’s determination “to bring about a revolutionary turn in the agricultural production without fail,” according to the official Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday.

“Nothing is impossible as long as the strong leadership system is established in the whole party and there is the united might of all the people,” he was quoted as saying.

Read more on the situation here. 

Russians tighten noose on Ukraine’s Bakhmut

In the latest on the war in Ukraine, where Russian forces have pressed forward to encircle and capture the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.

The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces described the situation as “extremely tense”.

Taking Bakhmut, the scene of some of the war’s bloodiest battles, would be Russia’s first major prize in more than six months and open the way to seizing the last remaining urban centres in the Donetsk region, one of four Moscow claims to have annexed in its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin instructed the FSB security service on Tuesday (Ukraine time) to bolster security in the four regions – currently only partially controlled by his forces – and also to counter what he described as growing espionage and sabotage operations against Russia by Ukraine and the West.

He was speaking after a Russian regional governor said a drone had crashed near a natural gas distribution station on Tuesday in an apparent failed attack near the town of Kolomna, just 110 km southeast of Moscow.

Ukraine does not publicly claim responsibility for attacks inside Russia. If it was behind the Kolomna incident, it would be its closest attempted drone strike to the Russian capital since Russia invaded Ukraine just over a year ago.

More on the conflict in Ukraine is available to read here.

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thank you for joining me this morning.

It’s Wednesday, March 1. I’m Caroline Schelle, and I’ll be anchoring our live coverage for the first half of the day.

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

  • Following the announcement yesterday that the federal government would lift taxes on superannuation funds of $3 million, it is close to securing a deal on the move in the Senate
  • The slide in home prices in Australia appears to have turned, with values rising in some cities
  • Meanwhile, workplace ministers have delayed a decision on banning the use of engineered stone to a meeting in the next six months
  • In health news, women are paying three times as much for newer birth control pills because the most recent options aren’t subsidised
  • Traditional owners want greater guarantees that uranium mining will never return to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory
  • To overseas news, where the North Korean ruler ordered ‘revolutionary changes’ because of food shortages
  • Russian forces have pushed forward to capture an eastern Ukrainian city as President Vladimir Putin warns of espionage
  • And a clash between the US and China over TikTok has escalated
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