(Australian Associated Press)
Major news expected across the states in 2019
After a selection process lasting more than four years, the federal government is set to decide the site for a new national radioactive waste management facility.
The project has divided the short-listed South Australian communities of Kimba and Hawker.
A royal commission into aged care quality and safety will be based in Adelaide.
The inquiry follows the 2017 delivery of a damning report on South Australia’s Oakden nursing home, in which it was declared “a shameful chapter in the state’s history”.
Controversial homebirth advocate and former midwife Lisa Barrett will stand trial charged with manslaughter over the deaths of two babies during homebirths in 2011 and 2012. The outcome of the case is likely to have implications for Australia’s home-birthing movement.
Medicinal cannabis advocate Jenny Hallam will stand trial charged with manufacturing and possessing the drug. Ms Hallam says her defence will be mounted on the basis that cannabis oil is a medical necessity and that the case highlights the continuing challenges people face in accessing the drug despite moves to allow its supply.
To drill or not to drill will be a big issue with the Great Australian Bight shaping up as the next major battleground for the conservation movement. Norwegian oil company Equinor plans to drill at least one exploration well though probably not until 2020. The company is currently preparing an environmental report which should be released this year (2019) but faces strong opposition from groups fearful of the impacts of any oil spill.
Former telecommunications worker Bradley Robert Edwards, 50, is expected to face a lengthy trial accused of the murders of Jane Rimmer, 23; Ciara Glennon, 27; and Sarah Spiers,18, in 1996 and 1997.
The bodies of Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon were found in bushland weeks after their deaths, but Ms Spiers’ body has never been found.
The judge-alone trial could run as long as eight months, not including the defence case, and follows what is believed to be Australia’s longest-running and most expensive police investigation.
VOLUNTARY ASSISTED DYING
The Labor state government is drafting a bill on voluntary assisted dying.
It follows a parliamentary committee inquiry that recommended restricting eligibility to those suffering grievously and irremediably from an advanced and progressive terminal, chronic or neurodegenerative condition that cannot be alleviated in an acceptable manner, where death is reasonably foreseeable.
The last-ditch freedom bid of convicted killer Susan Neill-Fraser is expected to hear from a former Victorian police officer over a contentious witness statement.
Neill-Fraser is serving 23 years’ jail for murdering partner Bob Chappell, 65, who disappeared from the couple’s yacht moored off Hobart in 2009.
Her bid to convince a judge there is fresh and compelling evidence to warrant a re-trial will hear from Colin McLaren who will give evidence over a statutory declaration signed by then-homeless teenager Meaghan Vass that said she was on the boat the night of the murder.
Landmark transgender reforms that would make mentioning gender on Tasmanian birth certificates optional are expected to be debated in the state’s upper house in March.
The legislation, passed in the lower house when Speaker Sue Hickey crossed the floor with her casting vote, isn’t supported by the state Liberal government who say it is poorly drafted.
Can the internally divided Labor government recover from its Christmas turmoil?
Chief Minister Michael Gunner fell out with several Labor MPs before Christmas over a leaked email in which resources and Aboriginal affairs minister Ken Vowles likened the government to a business “trading insolvent”.
He sacked Mr Vowles as a minister and axed him from caucus along with fellow MPs Jeff Collins and MP Scott McConnell, accusing them of “breaking Cabinet confidentiality”.
Recently-installed first Territory anti-corruption commissioner Ken Fleming will be keen to make his mark in 2019.
Territory politicians and public servants will be targets of the new Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Mr Fleming says he has already received “serious allegations of real corruption … it’s really concerning”.
An example of local corruption last year involved the Territory’s former top police officer John McRoberts being jailed for attempting to pervert the course of justice.
To get an idea of how bad things are in Darwin, take a walk through the CBD and note the dozens of vacant shopfronts, car parking spaces and lack of people.
The end of construction of the Inpex LNG project has led to people leaving in droves and the population is shrinking compared to rapidly-growing east coast cities.
It is hoped a $200 million federal Cities Deal, a new university campus, international students and and a new onshore gas industry with fracking will help but take years.
The NT government is broke, borrowing money to pay expenses and will owe $35 billion by 2029-30.
All eyes will be on Gladys Berejiklian as the NSW premier faces the fight of her life to win another term for the coalition government against a refreshed Labor party.
Voters head to the polls in March with cost of living and the government’s controversial $2 billion stadiums spend in the spotlight.
Opinion polls suggest Ms Berejiklian will face a tougher fight against new Labor leader Michael Daley than she would have against Luke Foley who resigned as opposition leader following a groping scandal.
A state coroner will delve into the disappearance of William Tyrrell more than four years after the toddler in the Spider-Man suit went missing on the mid north coast.
William vanished while playing in his grandmother’s front yard at Kendall in September 2014.
A judgement is due after actor Geoffrey Rush brought a defamation case against The Daily Telegraph and a journalist in the Federal Court in NSW. The tabloid accused the Oscar winner of behaving inappropriately toward a co-star during a Sydney Theatre Company production of King Lear in 2015 and 2016.
The high-profile case of ex-rugby league player Chris Dawson will continue working its way through the justice system. Dawson was charged in late 2018 with murdering his 33-year-old wife Lynette on the northern beaches in early 1982.
Voluntary assisted dying becomes available to suffering Victorians from June 19.
The controversial law passed state parliament in November 2017 and following a legislated 18-month implementation period, will be available under strict conditions to patients with less than six months to live who are in pain and choose to end their life with the backing of a doctor.
The body of 47-year-old Karen Ristevski was found in bushland in February 2017, eight months after she went missing from her suburban Melbourne home.
Husband Borce Ristevski is charged with her murder, but denies the allegation and will go before a jury in March for a trial expected to last up to five weeks.
Victoria Police’s recruitment of a gangland lawyer to report information on her clients has inspired a royal commission. The unidentified lawyer was used by police to secure convictions against big-name Victorian crooks including drug lord Tony Mokbel. Her actions could lead to appeals by people jailed using the information she fed to detectives.
And after a promise from the Labor government as it campaigned for re-election, Premier Daniel Andrews said a royal commission is needed to look at the cost of care, early intervention and workforce of the sector. Terms of reference are due to be finalised by February with hearings due to start thereafter.
The Adani coal mine has long been a thorn in the side of Queensland’s Labor government, which has tried to walk the line between supporting job creation in central Queensland and concern for the environment.
The state government will have to take a stronger stand in 2019, as the Indian coal miner has a fully financed, downsized project ready to go and create jobs and is advertising this in Brisbane.
Adani insists it has met all the criteria to start the project. Critics say Labor can’t be serious about protecting climate sensitive ecosystems like the Great Barrier Reef while also supporting the fossil fuel industry.
Queensland will be a major battleground in the upcoming federal election with the electorate likely to see repeat visits from Labor and Liberal candidates as well as the election caravans of colourful and polarising locals like billionaire Clive Palmer and One Nation’s Pauline Hanson.
The usual campaigns on high electricity prices, jobs and crime are already being dusted off from the last elections and rolled out.