Australia news live: Woodside and Santos in mega-merger talks; heatwave brings bushfire warnings

Key events

Bill Shorten was asked about the anxiety parents of children with autism – and adults with autism – may be feeling following the changes announced yesterday.

He said he understands the anxiety, “but there is no need to be”.

Shorten also said he “regret[s] some of the coverage” that focus on those with autism and say “what they’re getting is unfair or inappropriate”.

I completely accept that we are learning a lot more about people who are neurodivergent and we’re learning a lot more about autisim in the last number of years.

What I would say to those parents who’ve got a package of support under the NDIS is if your child needs to be on the NDIS, they’ll remain on the NDIS.

He said there has been a “breakthrough” with the states, and the Commonwealth itself, accepting that more services are needed for “people with disabilities which aren’t so profound and severe they need to be on the NDIS, but still deserve early intervention”.

I’m a complete disciple of early intervention. The more we can help kids in their formative first 1,000 days and their years before school and the early years of school, I think we can help a lot of kids with developmental delay do better.

Short message – if your child really needs the NDIS, it’s getting to stay that way for them. Full stop.

‘Some of them are just providing rubbish services’

Bill Shorten said the “vast majority” of service providers in the NDIS are excellent but over the last nine years many unregistered providers have come onboard:

Many of them are very good and they give choice and control to people.

But some of them are just providing rubbish services, overcharging, treating people on the scheme as human ATMs and we want to stop that.

And the other thing which is frankly very distressing to see is when you see some service providers put the words NDIS in front of an aluminium bath chair or a protein shake or a particular service and charge more than if they hadn’t put the words NDIS in front of it. It’s like a wedding tax – we want to get rid of that.

NDIS minister sends warning to ‘shonky’ providers

Bill Shorten just spoke to ABC News Breakfast after a landmark review into the disability scheme was handed down yesterday, urging fixes to ensure its sustainability for decades to come.

The review recommends the scheme return to its original intended purposes, providing support to those with complex needs and “functional impairment rather than medical diagnosis”.

You can read more on the review from Sarah Basford Canales below:

Speaking this morning, Shorten said the NDIS is “here to stay”:

Our commitment is with these changes – and they’ll take a while to work through and we’ll have to talk to a lot of people to make sure we do it properly – that the experience on the NDIS will be more humane and less bureaucratic, and we’ll send a clear message to the minority of shonky providers the good old days of under-servicing and overcharging and looking after yourself and not the people – well, they come to an end.

Cyclone gathers force

Tropical cyclone Jasper strengthened to a category four intensity overnight and is moving through the north-east Coral Sea.

According to the latest Bureau of Meteorology update, the cyclone is 1,250km east-north-east of Cairns:

Over the weekend, Jasper is likely to weaken while also turning to a westward track, towards the Queensland coast.

While the timing of a coastal impact remains highly uncertain, the highest risk of a cyclone impact lies between Cooktown and Mackay, including Cairns and Townsville.

As Jasper approaches the coast there is a risk of reintensification and the potential for severe impacts.

Good morning

Emily Wind

Emily Wind

Happy Friday! Many thanks to Martin for kicking things off – I’m Emily Wind and I’ll be with you on the blog today.

See something that needs attention? You can get in touch on X/Twitter @emilywindwrites or send me an email:

With that, let’s get started.

Bushfire warnings as temperatures soar

Multiple states are on high alert for bushfires with scorching conditions forecast ahead of the weekend.

A trifecta of dangerous weather conditions has prompted extreme to catastrophic danger alerts to be issued for parts of South Australia.

The Country Fire Service has warned Friday will be “one of the most significant fire weather days in several years”.

Temperatures are forecast to soar into the mid-40s in some parts with strong winds and dry lightning adding to the fire risk.

The CFS has declared catastrophic fire danger ratings for the mid-north, Flinders, Yorke Peninsula, Riverland and eastern Eyre Peninsula districts.

Extreme fire danger ratings have been issued for the Mount Lofty Ranges, north-east Pastoral, west coast, upper south-east and Murraylands regions.

Electricity outages are also possible as equipment is set to disconnect to minimise the risk of sparking a blaze.

In NSW a total fire ban has been issued for the lower central west plains, southern Riverina, northern Riverina and south-western regions due to the hot conditions.

NSW residents are entering their third day of above-average temperatures on Friday, with the heatwave not expected to ease until next week.

Parts of Queensland, West Australia, the Northern Territory and the ACT have also copped soaring temperatures that are expected to intensify at the weekend.

Catie McLeod

Catie McLeod

Sydney residents furious at Rozelle interchange chaos

Tensions over the bungled opening of the $3.9bn Rozelle toll road interchange have boiled over at a fiery public meeting attended by more than 300 residents of Sydney’s inner west.

The meeting was held at Balmain town hall last night after 11 days of traffic chaos on the streets near the labyrinthine “spaghetti” junction which has been called the world’s most complex underground road project.

Comprised of more than 16km of tunnels, the Rozelle interchange is part of the sprawling WestConnex private toll road system. It connects the M4-M8 link with the Anzac and Iron Cove bridges and a future western harbour tunnel.

As a result of the new junction, 10 lanes of traffic now have to merge into four lanes on the Anzac Bridge.

It has blown out commutes for inner west residents who had already put up with years of road closures and tunnelling noise during the project’s construction and say they are now “locked in” on the Balmain peninsula.

“Disaster is one word for it,” one local, Penny Govan, said as she arrived at the meeting.

The Inner West’s mayor, Labor’s Darcy Byrne, convened the “urgent” meeting to hear suggestions as to how to solve the commuter chaos.

Read the whole piece here:


Martin Farrer

Martin Farrer

Good morning and welcome to our rollings news coverage on this happy Friday. I’m Martin Farrer and these are some of our top overnight and breaking news stories.

Andrew Forrest has continued his transformation from titan of carbon-heavy industry to green evangelist by launching a scathing attack on the oil and gas industry and imploring businesses to stop burning fossil fuels. Speaking at Cop28 in Dubai, where he arrived by a ship powered by green hydrogen, Forrest has told Guardian Australia about his worldwide ad campaign shaming oil and gas companies by portraying them as ostriches with their heads in the sand on climate science. And he says that if other companies don’t change they will have “blood on their hands”.

Andrew Forrest speaks during a panel discussion at the Ukraine pavilion at the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai
Andrew Forrest speaks during a panel discussion at the Ukraine pavilion at the Cop28 climate conference in Dubai. Photograph: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

The bosses of Woodside and Santos, Australia’s two biggest listed oil and gas companies, are in talks about merging to create a single company that would be worth about $80bn. But pushback against the industry and especially the difficulty companies have in obtaining community approval for large schemes such as Santos’s Barossa gas project in Northern Territory, are among the reasons the merger might make sense and give strength in numbers. We’ll have the latest.

Disability advocates have urged federal and state governments for an “ironclad commitment” that no one will be phased out of the national disability insurance scheme and on to new proposed support services before they are properly in place. This follows yesterday’s landmark review that found that the scheme supporting 600,000 Australians needs urgent fixes to ensure its ongoing financial sustainability.

And multiple states are waking up to bushfire warnings today as a heatwave spreads through Australia – more on that soon.


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