Australia news LIVE: PM to announce Voice referendum date today; Cost of Snowy 2.0 project doubles

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Key posts

  • Senior Australian of the Year takes aim at No campaign
  • Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin buried
  • This morning’s headlines at a glance
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Snowy 2.0 mega project costs double to $12b in six months

The cost of the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project has doubled within the last six months to be close to $12 billion, according to a new cost estimate, forcing the Albanese government to make a critical and costly decision about the project’s future.

The massive 2000 megawatt expansion of the Snowy pumped hydro scheme was announced by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in March 2017 with a completion date of 2021 and a price tag of $2 billion. By May this year that had blown out to $5.9 billion and a 2029 deadline.

Snowy Hydro’s pumped hydro project has been beset by delays.Credit: Jamila Toderas

But amid concerns it was falling behind schedule, an internal review was ordered by Snowy’s chief executive Dennis Barnes. Three sources familiar with the details of the review – who asked not to be named so they could speak freely – said the revised cost had now reached close to $12 billion.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen was due to receive advice from Snowy on Tuesday about the huge upwards revision in costs.

The board of the Commonwealth-owned company on Thursday will discuss the review and revised corporate plan, which is due to be published after the meeting.

This masthead was told the review will for the first time blame a failure to adequately account for geological conditions such as soft soil in Snowy 2.0’s design, which was produced under the former Coalition government, alongside inflation, wages and delays due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Find out more about the project delays here.

Senior Australian of the Year takes aim at No campaign

A prominent architect of the Indigenous Voice to parliament proposal has rebuked conservative political leaders and No campaign advocates for peddling “myths and misinformation” about the looming referendum.

Senior Australian of the Year and Voice co-architect Tom Calma said misinformation and disinformation had infected much of the public debate surrounding the Indigenous Voice and often came from people who were ill-informed or had malicious intent.

Indigenous leader Professor Tom Calma.Credit: Rohan Thomson

In January, after being named Senior Australian of the Year, Calma used his acceptance speech to warn of “pundits who are ill-informed or have malicious intent regarding the Voice” targeting senior Australians. Calma said he now felt his concerns had been realised.

“Misinformation and disinformation has been exponentially exploited especially by conservative political leaders at the national level conservative media, and No campaign advocates,” Calma says in a speech to be delivered today and provided to this masthead.

“While we have many older Australians who have negative or ill-informed attitudes of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples because they were denied a balanced history education, I am confident this will not be the case for future generations.”

Read more on this here.

Cardboard drones from Australia used in attack on Russian airfield

In case readers missed it, Australian-made cardboard drones have been reportedly used to help bomb a Russian airfield as the Ukrainian military steps up its attacks on Russian territory.

Ukraine claimed it struck five Russian fighter jets on the weekend in a kamikaze drone attack on the Kursk airfield in Russia, approximately 170 kilometres from the Ukrainian-Russian border.

SYPAQ’s drones, made largely of waxed cardboard and rubber bands, have been sent to Ukraine in flatpacks.

A prominent Telegram channel run by a former Russian fighter pilot, known as Fighterbomber, said that the drones used in the attack included the distinctive lightweight drones made by Australian engineering company SYPAQ in Melbourne.

“Tonight, [Ukrainians] used them in a swarm, mixing drones with warheads with empty drones,” the Telegram post read. “I don’t know exactly what engines were on the drones, but if they were electric-powered, then they were not launched from Ukraine.”

Find out more about the drones here. 

Russian mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin buried

A private burial was held for Yevgeny Prigozhin, ending a tumultuous journey from St. Petersburg street thug to Kremlin-financed mercenary leader, following a suspicious plane crash two months after his brief mutiny that challenged the authority of President Vladimir Putin.

His spokespeople said Tuesday a service took place behind closed doors, and directed “those who wish to bid their farewell” to the 62-year-old head of the Wagner private military contractor to go to the Porokhovskoye cemetery in his hometown.

Flowers are seen on the grave of Wagner Group’s chief Yevgeny Prigozhin after a funeral at the Porokhovskoye cemetery in St. Petersburg, Russia.Credit: AP

Their statement ended media speculation on where and when Prigozhin would be laid to rest, with his funeral shrouded in secrecy.

A wooden cross towered over his flower-covered grave. Nearby stood a Russian tricolor and a black Wagner flag. Russian media cited unidentified sources as saying Prigozhin was laid to rest on Tuesday without any publicity, per his family’s wishes.

Members of the Russian National Guard were stationed along the fence at the cemetery, steering visitors away after it closed for the day.

Continue reading about the mercenary leader’s funeral here. 

This morning’s headlines at a glance

Good morning, and thanks for your company.

It’s Wednesday, August 30. 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:

  • Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will announce for the date the Voice to parliament referendum today.
  • Voice co-architect Tom Calma said misinformation has infected much of the public debate and often came from people who were ill-informed or had malicious intent.
  • Markets including home appliance retailing and service stations have become more concentrated and less competitive over the past 15 years.
  • The cost of the massive Snowy 2.0 project has soared within the past six months, posing a critical and costly question for the nation’s clean energy future.

Anthony Albanese will announce the referendum date in South Australia today.Credit: Twitter

  • The nation’s energy market rule maker wants smart electricity meters installed in every household across the eastern seaboard by 2030.
  • The Greens will seek to unite with the Coalition in the Senate to extract key details about Deputy Prime Minister Richard Marles’ $3.6 million of private flights.
  • Climate change will affect the way the Reserve Bank sets interest rates and the stability of the entire financial system, the incoming governor has warned.
  • And turning to overseas news, a private burial was held for Yevgeny Prigozhin, ending a tumultuous journey from St. Petersburg street thug to Kremlin-financed mercenary leader.
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