The Guardian 2024-02-07 00:43:46


Greens move to debate support for Israel in House of Representatives; PM criticises Dutton’s ‘vague commitment’ on tax reform

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, is attempting to suspend standing orders in the House of Representatives to move that Australia “end its support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza”.

The assistant foreign affairs minister, Tim Watts, explained the government’s position on the conflict, and accused the Greens of seeking to “divide” and play domestic politics.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, accused the Greens of antisemitic conduct “at the state level”, a possible reference to controversial comments by NSW MP Jenny Leong highlighted on social media, and the federal level.

Dutton questioned why the prime minister was not leading the government response, and criticised Labor and the Greens for swapping preferences.

It’s being voted on now and will be defeated. The full text of the motion is that the house:

(1) notes that since the House resolution of October 16, 2023 concerning Israel and Gaza, which supported the State of Israel’s looming invasion of Gaza by stating that the House ‘stands with Israel’, the following have occurred:

(a) an appalling and increasing toll of deaths and injuries caused by the State of Israel’s bombing and invasion of Gaza;

(b) a growing humanitarian catastrophe caused by the State of Israel’s blockade, bombing and invasion of Gaza; and

(c) the State of Israel is the subject of recent International Court of Justice orders in South Africa’s case regarding the prevention of genocide; and therefore

(2) does not support the State of Israel’s continued invasion of Gaza and calls for an immediate and permanent ceasefire; and

(3) calls on the Australian government to end its support for the State of Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

‘Unacceptable’Minister vows action over premature deaths of hundreds of homeless people

Premature deaths of hundreds of homeless Australians ‘completely unacceptable’, housing minister says

Comments from Julie Collins come in response to Guardian Australia investigation and as advocates push for new ways to monitor crisis

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The federal housing minister, Julie Collins, has described hundreds of premature homelessness deaths as “completely unacceptable” amid a sector-wide push for the establishment of a reporting scheme to shine a light on the crisis.

Guardian Australia this week published the findings of a 12-month investigation of 627 homelessness deaths, finding a three-decade life expectancy gap and an average age of death of 44, and widespread systemic failings across the housing, health and justice systems.

The findings triggered immediate action from the homelessness sector. The Council to Homeless Persons wrote to the Victorian attorney general, Jaclyn Symes, urging new rules to mandate the reporting of homelessness deaths to the coroner.

The council’s letter, citing the Guardian investigation, described the premature deaths as “unacceptable” and said mandatory coronial reporting would allow governments to understand the true scale of the crisis.

“Without accurate statistics we are swimming against a rising tide of deaths plaguing our most vulnerable,” Deborah Di Natale, the council’s chief executive, wrote. “More Victorians will die unnecessarily unless we understand what is fuelling these tragedies.”

In Western Australia, Jesse Noakes, a longtime housing advocate and campaigner with Stop Evicting Families, said the state government should create a mandatory coronial reporting scheme and cease its dismissal of the pioneering work of Prof Lisa Wood, an academic whose team monitors homelessness deaths in Perth. The government has questioned the accuracy of Wood’s research on rough sleeper deaths in Perth.

“If they don’t like Lisa’s numbers they should start keeping their own, and make every homeless death a reportable death subject to coronial inquest like deaths in custody,” he said. “The state has just as much responsibility for people dying on its streets as in its jails.”

National Shelter and the Australian Alliance to End Homelessness also called for better reporting mechanisms to track and understand deaths, while the independent senator David Pocock said it should trigger a doubling of the Housing Australia Future Fund to boost social and affordable housing supply.

“This week we learned, thanks to some profound investigative work by the Guardian, that homeless Australians are dying on our streets at an average age of 44 years old, younger than most of the people in this place and little more than half the life span of the average Australian,” he told the Senate.

“This is a disgrace in a country like Australia, but it’s also a by-product of how we’ve come to treat housing as a country: less as a fundamental human right, as something that everyone in our community should be able to afford, and more as a wealth creation vehicle.”

The AAEH had urged the former government in 2021 to take a lead role in monitoring and reporting on homelessness deaths, but it declined to act, setting Australia apart from other western nations that routinely report on homelessness deaths.

Collins, the housing and homelessness minister, said she was in discussions about better data collection with the states and territories.

She said the Guardian investigation would inform those discussions. “The shocking number of Australians who have passed away while experiencing homelessness is completely unacceptable,” she said.

Collins did not commit to leading the creation of a homelessness deaths reporting scheme but said the government had given $2bn to states and territories to build 4,000 new social homes, provided $67.5m in additional homelessness funding and was continuing work on a national housing and homelessness plan and national housing and homelessness agreement with the states and territories, which is due to be finalised this year.

Jason Russell, a former firefighter who slept rough in Sydney and Melbourne over a period spanning 25 years, said shining a light on the deaths of people experiencing homelessness was crucial, to understand their circumstances and to reduce stigma.

“If they’re going to leave this world with nothing, can’t we just give them a little bit of dignity? Can’t we at least keep a tally? We have tallies for how many people die from cigarettes,” he said. “You don’t know their journey, we all end up dying … but the way we die, alone, passed out – a sick dog gets more attention than someone who is homeless.

“We’re not asking for front-page news. It’s just a tally.”

Russell now advocates on homelessness issues for the Council to Homeless Persons.

He said rough sleeper deaths were commonplace during his period of homelessness, beginning in Sydney in the mid-1990s.

“A lot of them were dying at night,” he said. “I was terrified to sleep … I lost count of the number of spots I was in where you’d wake up and someone was dead.”

The Greens’ housing spokesperson, Max Chandler-Mather, said the homelessness deaths were an “indictment on the spending choices of Labor and Liberal governments”.

“The shortage of public and affordable housing in Australia is over 750,000 and still under Labor’s housing plan the shortage will get worse,” he said. “Until Labor agrees to invest in public housing the way governments used to, we’ll never fix this crisis.”

The Victorian government said it extended its “deepest thoughts and sympathies to the loved ones of those who have died whilst experiencing homelessness”. A spokesperson said it was investing record amounts in the supply of social housing.

The WA government said it was improving data collection through investments in the “By Name List” and the “Zero Project”, lists of individuals experiencing homelessness.

A spokesperson said the state’s focus was on providing housing and that it had delivered unprecedented funding for housing and homelessness measures.

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A right to disconnectWhat would new rules mean for employees and bosses?

A right to disconnect: what would new rules mean for employees and bosses?

Albanese government is considering right to disconnect amendment to address the ‘Trojan horse for wage theft’

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A phone call after you’ve left work. An email you need to check on a Sunday. A stream of texts over the weekend about a new project.

Increasingly, Australians are seeing their work seep into their home life – and now the federal government is making moves to tighten how much bosses can contact employees out of working hours.

A suite of reforms will be debated in federal parliament this week, as the government introduces its final industrial relations reforms on the gig economy and casual employment. The Greens are pushing to insert the proposed new right to disconnect into the reforms.

The minister for employment and workplace relations, Tony Burke, has spent the week in conversations with the Greens and independent senators David Pocock and Jacquie Lambie, who both held reservations about the legislation.

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The right to disconnect has been legislated in countries like France and Germany for years, but in Australia it has been included in a handful of enterprise agreements, including for police and teachers.

While business groups say legislating the right to switch off is unnecessary and could lead to the loss of jobs, some unions support it while others want more movement on unpaid overtime.

Jessica Heron, an industrial lawyer with Maurice Blackburn, said Australian industries have traditionally adopted the right to disconnect through enterprise bargaining agreements.

“That has required a unionised workforce, which, typically comes with more rights and entitlements than an un-unionised workforce,” she said. “But how it’s policed is going to be completely different for each industry.”

During the Senate education and employment legislation committee last year, teachers from the Independent Education Union of Australia said the technological shift over the past few years meant teachers were always contactable by parents, which was leading to burnout.

Teacher Abigail Butler, from the Independent Education Union of Australia, said the pressures – which were in part driven by constantly needing to be contactable – meant she was thinking of changing careers.

“We are humans as well, we need sleep and we need time with our families,” Butler said.

In 2022 Queensland public school teachers voted overwhelmingly on a deal that would give them the right to disconnect from work, unless there is an urgent or exceptional circumstance.

The vice-president of Queensland’s Teacher Union, Leah Olsson, said it was triggered by members feeling pressure to reply to parents and management at all hours.

Since then, some teachers had put out-of-office replies in their email signatures, saying emails would only be checked within certain times. Some schools used their newsletters to communicate expectations around when teachers will be contactable.

“It just puts a clear boundary in place to let people know that teachers and school leaders won’t be responding, or will only be responding within these times,” Olsson said.

“It really reflects a growing recognition of the importance of work-life balance, and also to the need to be able to protect the wellbeing of our workers, especially in this digital age.”

In 2019 Victoria police adopted the right to disconnect – also with caveats. If the situation is deemed to be an emergency or an individual’s safety is threatened, superiors are allowed to contact officers, although they are meant to be paid for out-of-hours contact.

“The intent is to support a culture of rest and separation and to aid overall health and wellbeing,” a Victoria police spokesperson said.

“The change has been well received among our workforce, with feedback overwhelmingly positive.”

‘$100bn a year in lost wages’

For the past 15 years, the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work (CFW) has been tracking the amount of unpaid overtime across the country and says, on average, workers do 5.4 hours of unpaid work each week – or 280 hours of unpaid overtime a year.

“That’s in excess of $100bn a year in lost wages across the whole economy,” economist and director at CFW Jim Stanford said.

“The problem of unpaid overtime is not new but it’s taking new forms. The boundary between your work and your life is getting fuzzier and fuzzier.

“Increasingly, because of technology, it takes the form of being asked to perform work-related tasks when you aren’t anywhere near work – at home, out and about, even when you’re on leave, because you can’t escape your mobile phone, your email and your WhatsApp.”

On Radio National on Tuesday morning Burke said it was “unreasonable” workers were expected to work out of office hours and not get paid.

“The starting point of workplace relations law in Australia is meant to be that when you work, you are being paid to work,” he said.

Burke said it was completely reasonable for employers to send emails or contact people for shifts, and the government didn’t “want to get in the way of that”. Instead of legislating punitive measures against employers, such as fines, the government is looking at instead protecting workers from penalties if they don’t engage.

Mark Morey, secretary of Unions NSW, said that to have its full effect, the right to disconnect must be accompanied by “a ban on unpaid overtime for people earning less than $150,000”.

“Technology is more than a disruption to personal and family time. It’s the Trojan horse for wage theft. Implementing an unpaid overtime ban alongside a right to disconnect would have a powerful legal effect but also establish healthy new work norms and culture.”

But Andrew McKellar, chief executive officer of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the amendment, which has not been presented yet, could impact women’s participation in the workforce.

“This sort of heavy-handed legislation risks taking Australia back to a rigid working environment that is undesirable for parents, especially women,” McKellar said. “This rigidity also undermines the case for working from home, which appeals to many employees with family responsibilities.

“This is adequately dealt with by existing laws. It’s not necessary to prescriptively enshrine conditions of employment in this way.”

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Taylor SwiftFans being targeted by ticket scammers disguised as social media ‘friends’, Victoria police warn

Taylor Swift fans being targeted by ticket scammers disguised as social media ‘friends’, Victoria police warn

Victorian fans have already lost more than $260,000 to ticket scammers in relation to the 2024 Eras tour of Australia before the Melbourne concert

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Victorian police have warned that a lucrative social media scam is targeting Taylor Swift fans online who are yet to secure highly sought after tickets.

Victorian “Swifties” have already lost more than $260,000 to ticket scammers in relation to the Eras tour, which arrives in Australia this month.

Scammers were hacking accounts and targeting the hacked profile’s friend list, police said, deceiving desperate fans into a hurried purchase which appeared to be from someone they trust.

There have been more than 40 reports of the social media takeover scam since 30 January this year alone.

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The Eras tour broke records last June when more than 4 million people tried to secure at least one of the 450,000 tickets on offer across five shows, taking place in Melbourne on 16 and 17 February, and Sydney on 23-25 February 2024.

Since then, Victorian police have received at least 250 reports of ticketing scams, amounting to a loss of more than $260,000.

“Capitalising on demand for tickets, scammers are targeting fans with fake ticket sales through social media, often hacking accounts of individuals and then using the profiles to sell fake tickets to the victim’s friends,” police warned in a statement on Wednesday.

Scammers will typically advertise the ticket “at cost price” and state a reason they can no longer attend, rushing people into transferring the money and adding an extra fee to change the name on the ticket.

They will send a fake screenshot, seemingly confirming the ticket transfer, before blocking the scam victim once the money has been received.

The consumer advocacy group Choice also warned of the social media takeover scam last month. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) deputy chair, Catrina Lowe, has said she was working with law enforcement to combat the scam, expressing concern it would only grow worse as the tour approached.

As of 24 January, the ACCC’s Scamwatch had received 273 reports Australia-wide of Swifties being scammed for tickets on social media, with people losing more than $135,000.

The scam was most prevalent in New South Wales, with 114 reports and $54,000 lost, and in Victoria, with 96 reports and more than $53,000 lost – the two states where Swift is performing.

Detective sergeant John Cheyne from the cybercrime squad reminded people to only buy from authorised sellers, such as Ticketek.

“I’ve spent my whole life trying to put it into words – do your research, and don’t let your pennies make their crown,” police said, in a Taylor Swift lyric-filled statement.

“So make the friendship bracelets because karma will be the breeze in your hair next weekend.”

Police urge those buying secondhand tickets on social media to do their research and independently contact their friend to verify the tickets are genuine.

“Always look for secure payment options and never give your credit card details to the seller.”

People who have fallen victim to the scam should contact their bank “as soon as possible”, and also alert the platform they were scammed on.

Last November, National Bank Australia issued a warning for Swifities to be on the lookout for scams in the lead up to the tour. Commonwealth Bank asked its customers to alert them immediately if they had been scammed.

Ticket scamming for high-profile artists is becoming an issue worldwide. In the UK, concert ticket scams soared by 529% between March 2022 and February 2023, with victims losing an average £110 on tickets to leading acts such as Harry Styles, Coldplay and Lewis Capaldi.

Experts said scammers target events where demand for tickets is likely to exceed supply

Scams can be reported via Scamwatch, or by filing an online report to police.

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African diaspora ‘a community under siege’ as teenager faces murder charge over fatal stabbing of 70-year-old

Queensland’s African diaspora ‘a community under siege’ as teenager faces murder charge over fatal stabbing of 70-year-old

Premier condemns alleged racist responses as authorities and advocates say communities should not be blamed over the alleged actions of individuals

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“We are a community under siege at the moment, because of that tragic incident,” says Beny Bol, a refugee from South Sudan and a leader among Queensland’s African diaspora.

Police have charged a 16-year-old boy with murder in relation to the stabbing death of Ipswich woman Vyleen White in a shopping centre car park in front of her six-year-old granddaughter. Four other boys have been arrested and face charges related to her allegedly stolen vehicle.

The incident has stirred visceral reactions; an outpouring of grief in Brisbane’s outskirts. In some cases that grief has given way to vitriol – directed at people of African descent.

Footage released by police at the weekend showed four black males allegedly with White’s car, described as “people of interest” that police wished to locate. Police have not spoken publicly about the nationalities of the individuals that were subsequently arrested in connection with the incident.

Bol, the president of the Queensland African Communities Council, told Guardian Australia that incidents targeting African people had become worrying. He has told workers at the African centre in Redbank Plains, near where the stabbing occurred, to stay away after some said they had experienced abuse while heading to work on Monday.

“Over the last 24 hours I’ve received a large number of reports of people … who are being physically attacked while going to work or shopping,” Bol said.

“I’ve had a story of a young African girl who went to the shop and saw someone throw something at her [and say] ‘you’re monkeys, go back to where you came from’.

“The commentary on social media I can’t even talk about it, the level of stress that’s causing to the community, that’s unacceptable. Children are refusing to go to school because of the fear, too many people have been abused.”

The premier, Steven Miles, addressed concerns at a press conference on Tuesday.

“There’s no place for this to be viewed through a racial lens,” Miles said.

“There’s just no place for that kind of response or racism in our state and I would condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”

Division and unity

The Town Square Redbank Plains shopping centre was busy again by Tuesday. The underground car park where White was stabbed was open, but empty.

Guardian Australia visited the centre and spoke to several people with concerns about crime.

Some blame concerns about safety on the area’s African community.

Guardian Australia spoke to some people who expressed views similar to those in newspaper columns, and by some far-right politicians, who believed cultural issues were at play.

On Tuesday, the Courier Mail published an opinion piece by an associate editor that sought to blame migrants and made unsupported claims that “it seems a disproportionate number of crimes are committed by minorities who have failed to take note of the culture into which they’ve come”.

Bol bristles at the suggestion. He wants to make clear that the entire community – including people of African descent – were appalled by and had condemned the crime.

Bol said the justice system held individuals to account but that members of the African community were being collectively blamed for the alleged actions of some young people.

“We don’t want any other family to go through the same thing again. We are all united to make sure our hearts are out there for the family of the victim. We need to prevent those things from happening in our community.

“It’s sad to see there are members of our Australian community that fail to see the benefit of our multicultural democracy. We’ve seen around the world countries where … institutions have failed to accommodate diverse cultural institutions. We cannot be divided on race and religion.”

‘We all live together’

Online commentary, including on the pages of prominent Queensland anti-crime lobby groups, has veered from calls for the boys to be deported to those suggesting they should be killed.

Responding to concerns about threats made towards members of the African community, Det Acting Supt Heath McQueen said Ipswich police had spoken with community leaders who “condemned what has occurred here”.

“Categorically, vigilantism has no place in our society … there is no place for that, I stand before you today and I’ve told you we’ve identified the person of interest for this offence.

“What we don’t want is any more community behaviour causing any more fear or angst on any person. We all live together collectively in the community and that’s what we aim to achieve.”

Asked about comments from White’s husband, Victor, saying crime laws were “weak as water”, Miles said: “I completely understand how Victor is feeling, he’s grieving and is sad and angry … It’s an awful crime.

“But nobody can seriously stand up and say they could have prevented this further.

“I’ve heard some politicians get very close to saying that they guarantee they could have prevented this murder. That’s a pretty incredible statement to be trying to make.”

A vicious cycle

Rob White, a professor of criminology at the University of Tasmania, speaking generally, said the trend was towards fewer crimes being committed by migrant and refugee communities.

“Each crime needs to be examined on a case-by-case basis rather than commentators relying on gross generalisations about whole communities,” White said.

“Specific individuals are guilty of crime – communities are not. They need to be held to account, and suitable and appropriate sanctions and remedies applied.”

White said that “moral panics” – especially targeting visible minorities and First Nations people – could simultaneously encourage racist attacks, and generate resentment and resistance within those communities.

“This is a vicious cycle in which no one is the winner it further entrenches fear of crime and fear of the ‘other’ in the wider Australian community.”

Esther Gayflor came to Australia in 2004 as a refugee from the Liberian civil war. She works as a disability support worker and had shopped regularly at Town Square Redbank Plains for several years, even before 2016 when it was renovated.

“This is affecting me both ways,” she said.

“It shouldn’t have happened. I think for the families.

“At work we’ve been separated now. People talk about it in the individual groups [of Africans and non-Africans]. And I prefer that we talk about it as a community.”

“We are all grieving. We are all feeling the impact. But we’re meant to be together as colleagues to talk about it, not to point the finger.”

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Influencers spruik flavoured nicotine pouches to vape-addicted youths

‘All good to take to school?’: Australian influencers promote flavoured nicotine pouches to vape-addicted youths

Exclusive: TikTok users and Australian websites promote likely harmful products as a way to quit vaping – but TGA warns they can only be supplied with a prescription

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Australian social media influencers are promoting highly controversial and likely harmful flavoured nicotine pouches in viral videos claiming they are an effective tool to quit vaping, as public health experts warn the increasingly popular products could become the next youth epidemic.

The teabag-like sachets are placed between the gum and lip and are similar to snus, which is popular in Scandinavia. But unlike snus, which contains tobacco, nicotine pouches contain nicotine extracted from tobacco or synthetic nicotine and are promoted as “tobacco free”.

The pouches – which the World Health Organization warns are a growing “public health concern” – are being heavily publicised on platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, with at least one post by an Australian-based fitness influencer garnering more than 2m views.

According to Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) the products require a prescription to be legally supplied in Australia. One website that ships the pouches directly to consumers maintains they are legal in Australia.

The nicotine pouches are being sold on several websites in Australia with flavours similar to vapes, such as “bubblegum,” “lemon spritz” and “frozen cloudberry”. The products are manufactured by tobacco companies such as Philip Morris International’s Zyn brand and British American Tobacco’s Velo brand.

It comes ahead of a federal ban on non-prescription vapes, which the health minister, Mark Butler, promised would halt the tobacco industry’s attempt to create a “new generation of nicotine addicts”.

A ‘healthier alternative’?

Videos from several young Australians proposing the pouches as an alternative to vaping have routinely garnered tens of thousands of views and hundreds of comments, with many asking where the products can be bought and one asking, “Are they all good to take to school?”

Stefan Kohut, 19, is an Australian fitness influencer with 13,700 followers on TikTok. He promotes the platform Snussaholic with a link to the website that sells Zyn, Velo and other nicotine pouches in his bio – and he has published 13 videos promoting the product.

In a video posted on 30 November with 340,000 plays Kohut explains how nicotine pouches are used.

Kohut says it is “just my personal take not advice”, but notes nicotine pouches were the reason he hadn’t vaped in four weeks.

In another video posted 23 January with more than 30,900 plays, Kohut says nicotine pouches offer a “healthier alternative” to vaping or smoking, while in another posted on 8 January with 12,600 plays, he says Snussaholics gave him an “affiliate code” to offer his followers a 15% discount: “for everyone trying to get off vapes snussaholic is where it’s at”.

An affiliate code is customised so that the merchant can track where a customer came from and the referrer – often influencers – may get a commission.

Kohut warns: “if you’re under 18 these aren’t for you. Or if you don’t vape, or you don’t smoke, or you’re not trying to get off anything like that these aren’t for you.”

Sydney-based fitness influencer Zahki Kapusta, 24, has more than 15,000 followers on TikTok.

His 30 December video, “Become your best self and quit vaping in 2024”, has reached more than 2m plays. In the video, Kapusta advocates nicotine pouches as an effective tool to quit vaping, saying of the three times he’s quit, using the pouches “took the least amount of effort and was the easiest mentally”. “The first time … I quit cold turkey which I still reckon is the best way to do it but by far this is going to suck the most.”

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He says “you might be more likely to get addicted [to pouches rather than nicotine gum], but “the barrier to entry is pretty limited … you have to get it in the post.”

Kapusta has posted seven videos since 21 November featuring the use of nicotine pouches, some of which advocate them as a way to quit vaping, and in some cases using hashtags referencing the nicotine pouch “#zyn”, or slogans such as “quitvaping” and “#nicotine”.

Until recently his TikTok bio promoted a website called “snusitout.com”, whose homepage has stated that while “nicotine pouches have already gained popularity in the United States and Europe, they’re just starting to gain recognition in Australia … We’re committed to providing Australian nicotine users with healthier choices for their nicotine satisfaction.”

Kapusta told Guardian Australia he is “not affiliated with Zyn, Phillip Morris or any other company that produces/sells these products … The intention of my video was to share the method I used to quit vaping with the use of nicotine supplements. Not to promote them,” he said.

“I am in no way encouraging individuals that do not already use nicotine to start.”

Following Guardian Australia’s inquiries, the link to snusitout was removed from Kapusta’s Linktree page .

Snusitout’s website has been updated following Guardian Australia’s enquiries, removing the reference to “nicotine satisfaction” and now states “we’re committed to providing Australian smokers an aid in the cessation of smoking.”

‘Exceptionally high’ levels of nicotine

The World Health Organization warns some nicotine pouches contain “exceptionally high” levels of nicotine, an addictive chemical shown to effect the nervous and cardiac systems, leading to a faster heart rate and increased blood pressure. A British Medical Journal study found half the nicotine pouches it tested contained tobacco-specific compounds that can damage DNA and in the long term lead to cancer.

The WHO says sales of nicotine pouches are growing rapidly and that they are part of the industry’s efforts to expand its portfolio of novel and emerging nicotine and tobacco products.

The University of Sydney tobacco control expert Prof Becky Freeman said the websites marketing of nicotine pouches as a way to quit vapes and cigarettes was “very insincere”, while tobacco companies marketed nicotine pouches as a “stopgap measure” in places where vaping was not allowed.

She said the extra step of flavouring the oral nicotine, with many of the same sweet candy flavours as vapes, is the reason they have “taken off” among young people in the United States The Generation Vape study she leads has heard increasing anecdotes of nicotine pouch use in Australia.

“We waited too long to see what would happen with vaping, and all of a sudden, we had a youth epidemic on our hands,” she said.

Prof Emily Banks, an epidemiologist with the Australian National University and leading tobacco control expert, said there were registered safe and effective products for helping people quit such as nicotine gum, patches and inhalers.

“Addiction itself is a health issue … you only feel normal when you’ve got the product,” Banks said.

The TGA said it was aware of some nicotine pouches being advertised and supplied in Australia, adding it was monitoring the situation and taking enforcement action where it breaches the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

The TGA says nicotine pouches can only be supplied with a prescription, or if they meet certain conditions such as being expressly indicated for quitting smoking and included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

“No nicotine pouches have been approved by the TGA for use in Australia. The quality, safety or effectiveness of these goods as an aid in the withdrawal from tobacco smoking is not yet known, and their widespread marketing and use in the community is potentially harmful,” it said.

A BAT (British American Tobacco) Australia spokesperson said “the websites named by the Guardian Australia are in no way associated with BAT Australia, BAT as a global entity or any of our trading partners”.

“These websites …should be shut down by the TGA immediately,” the spokesperson said.

Snusitout’s website argues that nicotine pouches “are legal in Australia”. It acknowledges that they fall under the TGA’s poison standard unless they are prescribed by a doctor, are within tobacco prepared and packed for smoking, or “prepared for oromucosal” or transdermal administration to “aid in smoking cessation”.

Snussaholic’s website state its products are not a smoking cessation tool and advises consumers to “consult a healthcare professional before using nicotine pouches”.

Guardian Australia sought comment from Kohut, Philip Morris International, and the websites Snussaholics and snusitout.com.

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Shrinking moon sees hours-long quakes and landslides

Don’t shoot for it: shrinking moon sees hours-long quakes and landslides

As the core of Earth’s only natural satellite cools, it causes shriveling, creating ripples tens of meters high across its surface

The constancy of the moon in the night sky belies a more volatile reality, researchers said in new Nasa-funded research.

As the core of the Earth’s only natural satellite cools, the moon is shrinking, causing it to shrivel. That creates ripples tens of meters high, called thrust faults, across the moon’s surface.

In turn, those thrust faults can be the site of hours-long moonquakes and landslides, which could imperil people and robots as humans continue to explore the moon.

“Our modeling suggests that shallow moonquakes capable of producing strong ground shaking in the south polar region are possible from slip events on existing faults or the formation of new thrust faults,” said Tom Watters of the Smithsonian Institution, lead author of new research published in the Planetary Science Journal.

In particular, researchers focused on the lunar south pole, a region seen as strategically important because scientists believe there may be permanently shadowed regions with deposits of water ice. The lunar south pole has already been identified as the focus of Nasa’s Artemis III crewed moon mission scheduled for September ​​2026.

The moon’s changing surface was captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera, which detected thousands of “relatively small, young thrust faults widely distributed in the lunar crust, and seismic devices left on the moon’s surface by astronauts decades ago”. The new research matched these faults with seismic data.

“The global distribution of young thrust faults, their potential to be active, and the potential to form new thrust faults from ongoing global contraction should be considered when planning the location and stability of permanent outposts on the Moon,” Watters said in a statement published by Nasa.

Watters later told CNN he does not want to “alarm anyone” or “discourage exploration”, but to warn future explorers.

He said: “The moon is not this benign place where nothing is happening.”

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Shrinking moon sees hours-long quakes and landslides

Don’t shoot for it: shrinking moon sees hours-long quakes and landslides

As the core of Earth’s only natural satellite cools, it causes shriveling, creating ripples tens of meters high across its surface

The constancy of the moon in the night sky belies a more volatile reality, researchers said in new Nasa-funded research.

As the core of the Earth’s only natural satellite cools, the moon is shrinking, causing it to shrivel. That creates ripples tens of meters high, called thrust faults, across the moon’s surface.

In turn, those thrust faults can be the site of hours-long moonquakes and landslides, which could imperil people and robots as humans continue to explore the moon.

“Our modeling suggests that shallow moonquakes capable of producing strong ground shaking in the south polar region are possible from slip events on existing faults or the formation of new thrust faults,” said Tom Watters of the Smithsonian Institution, lead author of new research published in the Planetary Science Journal.

In particular, researchers focused on the lunar south pole, a region seen as strategically important because scientists believe there may be permanently shadowed regions with deposits of water ice. The lunar south pole has already been identified as the focus of Nasa’s Artemis III crewed moon mission scheduled for September ​​2026.

The moon’s changing surface was captured by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter camera, which detected thousands of “relatively small, young thrust faults widely distributed in the lunar crust, and seismic devices left on the moon’s surface by astronauts decades ago”. The new research matched these faults with seismic data.

“The global distribution of young thrust faults, their potential to be active, and the potential to form new thrust faults from ongoing global contraction should be considered when planning the location and stability of permanent outposts on the Moon,” Watters said in a statement published by Nasa.

Watters later told CNN he does not want to “alarm anyone” or “discourage exploration”, but to warn future explorers.

He said: “The moon is not this benign place where nothing is happening.”

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Parklea private prison in spotlight after second suspected suicide in as many months

Parklea private prison in spotlight after second suspected suicide in as many months

Exclusive: NSW government is deciding whether Sydney jail should be returned to public hands in 2026

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A second inmate has died in a suspected suicide at Sydney’s Parklea correctional centre in as many months, adding to pressure on the New South Wales government as it considers the future of the troubled private prison.

The 53-year-old man died at Parklea on Saturday morning half an hour after prison officers found him unresponsive in his cell and tried to revive him, a spokesperson for operator MTC Australia said.

As with all deaths in custody, there would be a coronial inquest and an investigation by Corrective Services NSW and the police, MTC said.

The man’s death follows that of another inmate at the privately run jail in Sydney’s north-western suburbs in January. He was also believed to have killed himself.

The Minns government is deciding whether to renew MTC’s contract to run the mixed-security men’s prison and remand centre. Labor has already vowed to return on of the state’s largest prisons – Junee correctional centre – to public ownership in 2025.

The corrections minister, Anoulack Chanthivong, said “one death in custody is too many” but it was “important not to speculate” until the coroner had investigated.

“My thoughts are with the deceased man’s family and any victims who may be reliving their trauma,” he said.

The Greens’ justice spokesperson, Sue Higginson, said there could be more deaths at Parklea without urgent reforms.

“Correction facilities … are places where human beings are sent to be punished with little hope of recovery or redemption. That does not serve anyone,” she said on Wednesday.

Higginson has called for the removal of ligature points from all prison cells as “an effective way to curtail preventable deaths”.

In 2022, the former Coalition government allocated $6m to refurbish cells in NSW public and private prisons including to remove ligature points, with a focus on cells holding prisoners deemed at high-risk of self-harm or suicide.

A spokesperson for CSNSW declined to say whether the man who died on Saturday had been identified as high-risk before his death.

The spokesperson said Parklea was “the first point of entry into custody for many inmates” who were “often withdrawing from drugs, experiencing heightened feelings of shame and guilt and presenting with previously undiagnosed physical and mental health issues”.

MTC Australia is the local arm of a private contractor that manages prisons in the US. Its Parklea contract is due to expire in 2026.

MTC took over operating Parklea in 2019. Since then, there have been 14 coronial inquests into deaths at the facility. Two have been finalised and it was found the deaths were due to “unnatural” causes.

A parliamentary inquiry in 2018 found the problems at the prison had “escalated to the point of crisis” under the management of its former operator GEO Group and the governance of corrective services.

Guardian Australia understands the government’s preference is to return every prison to public ownership and that it will explore the cost of not renewing the contract for Parklea. MTC declined to comment.

Chanthivong said the government had begun the “hugely complex undertaking” of reversing the privatisation of Junee and the “the work we’re doing now will inform any future decisions” about other private jails.

Thirty-one of the state’s 34 prisons are currently managed by the government. Clarence correctional centre near Grafton has been operated by Serco since it opened in 2020.

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Israel confirms deaths of 31 hostages as Hamas responds to truce proposals

Israel confirms deaths of 31 hostages as Hamas responds to truce proposals

Qatar says Hamas ‘generally positive’ about proposals, while pressure grows on Netanyahu government over handling of crisis

Israel has said it has informed the families of 31 people held in the territory since 7 October that their relatives are dead. The news came as the Qatari prime minister said Hamas had given a “generally positive” response to proposals for a deal trading a break in the fighting and release of Palestinian prisoners for the return of more hostages.

The number of the dead equates to more than a fifth of the remaining 136 hostages being held by in Gaza, according to available intelligence collated by the Israeli military, and comes amid pressure on Benjamin Netanyahu’s government over its handling of the hostage crisis.

Qatar’s Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, whose country is acting as a mediator between the two sides, said on Tuesday that Hamas’s response to proposals drawn up by the US and Israel and tabled more than a week ago “inspires optimism”, but he said he would not go into details.

The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, speaking with the Qatari PM on his fifth tour of the region since the 7 October attacks, said he would discuss Hamas’s response with Israel on Wednesday.

“There’s still a lot of work to do be done, but we continue to believe that an agreement is possible, and indeed essential,” Blinken said.

A statement from Hamas referred to “a comprehensive and complete ceasefire, ending the aggression against our people”. Israel has previously ruled out a permanent ceasefire and it is believed it was proposing a pause in the fighting of 40 days.

The kernel of the negotiations turns on whether there are guarantees, implicit or explicit, that an extended ceasefire will become permanent, and whether the number of Palestinian prisoners likely to be released meets the demands of Hamas for a near emptying of jails. The future status and presence of Israeli forces inside Gaza during the ceasefire has also been contentious.

The news that 31 hostages have died first emerged from a confidential internal Israeli review leaked to the New York Times. The fate of a further 20 people is also in question amid unconfirmed intelligence that they may also have died during their captivity, the report said.

The figure of 31 was later confirmed by the Hostage and Missing Families Forum, which represents families of the captives. “According to the official data we have, there are 31 victims,” it said in a statement.

The disclosure that so many of the remaining hostages are dead – a higher number than previously disclosed – seems certain to intensify scrutiny of the Netanyahu government’s handling of the crisis, which has provoked fury among many hostage families.

While about half of those taken captive during the attack were released last year after a hostages-for-ceasefire deal under which Palestinian prisoners being held in Israeli jails were also freed, negotiations for a second deal have dragged on for weeks.

The circumstances of the hostages’ deaths remain unclear, with the Israeli authorities suggesting that many occurred on 7 October during Hamas’s incursion into southern Israel, in which 1,200 people were killed.

The issue has been complicated by the piecemeal emergence of information about those taken hostage on 7 October in the intervening months, with the families of some of those who had been understood to have been taken alive being told later they had been killed.

It is not known if the Israel Defense Forces review meant that Hamas was holding the bodies of all of those understood to be dead in order to bargain with them in the future.

Under the continuing negotiations for a second, lengthy ceasefire, being mediated by Qatar and Egypt, women, sick people, children and elderly captives would be released in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, with bodies expected to be exchanged later if the first phase is successful.

More than 240 hostages were initially believed to have been captured by Hamas last October, but the precise number has been constantly adjusted.

While senior Israeli officials have said one of the goals of the war is to secure the release of hostages through military pressure, Hamas has said on several occasions that hostages have died during Israeli strikes, claims that have not been independently verified.

During the course of a conflict that has killed more than 27,000 Palestinians in Gaza, the IDF has so far rescued one hostage, while three others – men who had escaped their captors in northern Gaza – were killed by Israeli soldiers as they approached an Israeli position.

Blinken’s visit also comes amid growing concerns in Egypt about Israel’s stated intentions to expand the combat in Gaza to areas on the Egyptian border that are crammed with displaced Palestinians.

Meanwhile, it was disclosed that the Israeli military had begun investigating dozens of incidents where Israeli soldiers may have broken the IDF’s own rules of conduct or violated international law governing conflict, mostly in incidents involving significant civilian casualties or the destruction of civilian infrastructure.

Israel’s defence minister has said Israel’s offensive would reach the town of Rafah, on the Egyptian border, where more than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge and are now living in increasingly miserable conditions.

UN humanitarian monitors said on Tuesday that Israeli evacuation orders now covered two-thirds of Gaza, driving thousands more people every day towards the border areas.

Egypt has warned that an Israeli deployment along the border would threaten the peace treaty the two countries signed more than four decades ago.

Egypt fears an expansion of combat to the Rafah area could push terrified Palestinian civilians across the border, a scenario it says it is determined to prevent.

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Labor MPs play down impact of Australia’s pause in funding in Gaza

Labor MPs play down impact of Australia’s pause in funding for UNRWA in Gaza

Backbenchers tell constituents that it would not affect funding for the current year – but did not mention freeze on $6m in emergency top-up funding

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Labor backbenchers have privately played down the impact of Australia’s pause in funding to a key UN agency delivering aid to Gaza, with one MP denouncing “misinformation underpinning some online media and email campaigns”.

An email from Lisa Chesters, the federal MP for Bendigo, gives an insight into how Labor members are responding to concerns from constituents about the effect of the freeze on $6m in recently announced funding to UNRWA.

Australia, the US and the UK were among more than 10 donors to suspend funding to the agency after the Israeli government alleged that as many as 12 staff members were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel.

“You may be concerned about Australia’s recent decision regarding funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA),” Chesters wrote to a constituent.

“UNRWA does vital, lifesaving work, and is the only United Nations body with a mandate to provide relief and social services to Palestinian refugees in the region.”

The email said it was the Labor government “that doubled regular funding for UNRWA after coming into government, after it was slashed by the Liberal-National Party”.

“Please be assured that despite the misinformation underpinning some online media and email campaigns, Australia’s funding for the current financial year has already been disbursed to UNRWA,” Chesters wrote.

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That is a reference to the $20m in core funding that Australia had committed to UNRWA for the 2023-24 financial year. Government sources confirmed early last week that this core funding had already been distributed some time ago – and this was publicly reported.

The government had only ever said it would “temporarily pause disbursement of recently announced funding”, meaning the $6m it had announced as an emergency top-up in mid-January.

Chesters’ email is not specific in describing which campaigns she was describing as containing misinformation, but one petition circulating online hits out at “Australia’s announcement that it will be suspending all aid to UNRWA”.

Chesters added: “Our recent announcement committing to providing over $25m additional funds to refugee programs such as those run by Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are not affected by this pause.”

Guardian Australia is aware of a second Labor MP who has highlighted the pre-existing disbursement of the $20m in core annual funding in discussions about the UNRWA pause.

UNRWA has appealed for the urgent reinstatement of funding, arguing its operations may be forced to shut down by the end of February if funding remained suspended.

The Australian government has refused to spell out when it might reinstate funding, although one investigation led by a former French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, is due to publish an interim report in late March.

That review will focus on how to protect the organisation’s neutrality, its recruitment of staff and its response to allegations of misconduct.

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, on Tuesday responded to questions in the Senate about UNRWA by accusing both the Coalition and the Greens of “dividing the Australian community and weaponising this horrific conflict”.

The Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi, who led the questioning, described the decision to suspend funding as “catastrophic”.

“How appalling – suspending funding to the largest humanitarian agency for Palestinians while they are being killed, starved and displaced by the occupation,” Faruqi told the Senate.

“But there has been not so much as a slap on the wrist for Israel.”

Wong said UNRWA did “life-saving work” but she also said “the recent allegations against its staff are grave and need to be investigated”.

“Those facts are both true,” Wong said.

Wong said Australia had suspended funding “along with many of our like-minded partners”.

She portrayed the Australian government’s position as aiming to “advocate for the release of hostages, for the protection of civilian lives, for humanitarian access and for a pathway out of this conflict” but that the Greens and Coalition “would rather try to use this to pick off votes”.

“I’d remind the Greens we still have 130 hostages being held by Hamas. I remind those opposite [the Coalition] that there are 1.7 million people in Gaza who are internally displaced,” Wong told the Senate.

Faruqi, standing to ask a supplementary question, replied: “Minister, I did not need a lesson in gaslighting.”

The Israeli government, which has long been critical of UNRWA, has argued the agency’s problems go deeper than the allegations surrounding 7 October involvement, and it should have no future role in Gaza.

Aid agencies and Palestinian diplomats have appealed for the funding to be reinstated, citing the extreme humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza as Israel continues its military operation in the besieged territory.

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Labor MPs play down impact of Australia’s pause in funding in Gaza

Labor MPs play down impact of Australia’s pause in funding for UNRWA in Gaza

Backbenchers tell constituents that it would not affect funding for the current year – but did not mention freeze on $6m in emergency top-up funding

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Labor backbenchers have privately played down the impact of Australia’s pause in funding to a key UN agency delivering aid to Gaza, with one MP denouncing “misinformation underpinning some online media and email campaigns”.

An email from Lisa Chesters, the federal MP for Bendigo, gives an insight into how Labor members are responding to concerns from constituents about the effect of the freeze on $6m in recently announced funding to UNRWA.

Australia, the US and the UK were among more than 10 donors to suspend funding to the agency after the Israeli government alleged that as many as 12 staff members were involved in the 7 October attacks on Israel.

“You may be concerned about Australia’s recent decision regarding funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA),” Chesters wrote to a constituent.

“UNRWA does vital, lifesaving work, and is the only United Nations body with a mandate to provide relief and social services to Palestinian refugees in the region.”

The email said it was the Labor government “that doubled regular funding for UNRWA after coming into government, after it was slashed by the Liberal-National Party”.

“Please be assured that despite the misinformation underpinning some online media and email campaigns, Australia’s funding for the current financial year has already been disbursed to UNRWA,” Chesters wrote.

  • Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup

That is a reference to the $20m in core funding that Australia had committed to UNRWA for the 2023-24 financial year. Government sources confirmed early last week that this core funding had already been distributed some time ago – and this was publicly reported.

The government had only ever said it would “temporarily pause disbursement of recently announced funding”, meaning the $6m it had announced as an emergency top-up in mid-January.

Chesters’ email is not specific in describing which campaigns she was describing as containing misinformation, but one petition circulating online hits out at “Australia’s announcement that it will be suspending all aid to UNRWA”.

Chesters added: “Our recent announcement committing to providing over $25m additional funds to refugee programs such as those run by Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement are not affected by this pause.”

Guardian Australia is aware of a second Labor MP who has highlighted the pre-existing disbursement of the $20m in core annual funding in discussions about the UNRWA pause.

UNRWA has appealed for the urgent reinstatement of funding, arguing its operations may be forced to shut down by the end of February if funding remained suspended.

The Australian government has refused to spell out when it might reinstate funding, although one investigation led by a former French foreign minister, Catherine Colonna, is due to publish an interim report in late March.

That review will focus on how to protect the organisation’s neutrality, its recruitment of staff and its response to allegations of misconduct.

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, on Tuesday responded to questions in the Senate about UNRWA by accusing both the Coalition and the Greens of “dividing the Australian community and weaponising this horrific conflict”.

The Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi, who led the questioning, described the decision to suspend funding as “catastrophic”.

“How appalling – suspending funding to the largest humanitarian agency for Palestinians while they are being killed, starved and displaced by the occupation,” Faruqi told the Senate.

“But there has been not so much as a slap on the wrist for Israel.”

Wong said UNRWA did “life-saving work” but she also said “the recent allegations against its staff are grave and need to be investigated”.

“Those facts are both true,” Wong said.

Wong said Australia had suspended funding “along with many of our like-minded partners”.

She portrayed the Australian government’s position as aiming to “advocate for the release of hostages, for the protection of civilian lives, for humanitarian access and for a pathway out of this conflict” but that the Greens and Coalition “would rather try to use this to pick off votes”.

“I’d remind the Greens we still have 130 hostages being held by Hamas. I remind those opposite [the Coalition] that there are 1.7 million people in Gaza who are internally displaced,” Wong told the Senate.

Faruqi, standing to ask a supplementary question, replied: “Minister, I did not need a lesson in gaslighting.”

The Israeli government, which has long been critical of UNRWA, has argued the agency’s problems go deeper than the allegations surrounding 7 October involvement, and it should have no future role in Gaza.

Aid agencies and Palestinian diplomats have appealed for the funding to be reinstated, citing the extreme humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza as Israel continues its military operation in the besieged territory.

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Protesters rally in support of Brisbane woman refusing to leave rental home of 22 years

‘Nowhere else to go’: protesters rally in support of Brisbane woman refusing to leave rental home of 22 years

Stephanie Cridland’s story of no-fault eviction one of many as renters’ advocates raise concerns amid growing housing crisis

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Stephanie Cridland has lived in the same Brisbane rental property for more than 20 years.

The 51-year-old lives with her dog and pet fish in an old Queenslander, but after receiving notice to leave last year she is concerned she’ll end up on the street.

Cridland’s dilemma prompted Greens candidate for Brisbane mayor Jonathan Sriranganathan on Tuesday to organise a snap anti-eviction protest outside Cridland’s rental. It is one of several protests organised by the party in recent years after a rental crisis. Women aged 55 and over are especially vulnerable, with the number finding themselves homeless up almost 40% between 2011 and 2021, according to ABS data.

Cridland, who has been paying $290 a week rent, has been looking for alternative accommodation since Christmas but cannot afford the higher rents.

She has lodged a case with the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal. “I’ve got nowhere else to go,” she said. “If I end up homeless, how do I look after a fish in a car?”

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Her sister, Imogen Bunting, is concerned Cridland will be forced to leave before she finds stable accommodation.

“We’d like to see an end to no-fault evictions and to make sure that particularly older women, who are the largest growing cohort of homeless [people], aren’t evicted, ” she said.

Cridland’s story is not unusual. In 2022 Guardian Australia reported on Bernie Maloney, a pensioner who inspired a civil disobedience campaign to stop forced evictions after he was asked to leave the Milton home he had been renting for a decade.

The Greens want rent caps and a ban on no-grounds evictions for fixed-term leases.

The Miles government has announced rental reforms in the past week, including a ban on rent bidding and an additional $390m in funding for homelessness services.

Sriranganathan said the changes were a “minor improvement” but more radical action was needed.

“The changes definitely don’t go far enough and they wouldn’t really help someone like Stephanie in this situation,” Sriranganathan told Guardian Australia.

“She has been evicted without grounds … What we really need to see is the complete freeze on rent increases and rules against kicking tenants out for no reason.”

Sriranganathan last month expressed support for East Brisbane resident Mina, who refused to move out of her rental after a landlord issued a notice to leave at the end of tenancy.

“It’s obviously a tough call, because if you refuse to move, you risk getting blacklisted,” he said.

“But there are lots of people who would rightly argue that being on a blacklist for a couple of years is still better than sleeping in a tent or car, especially during heatwaves and summer storms.”

Tenants Queensland and the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) have raised concerns about “arbitrary evictions” and rent increases, which they say have not been addressed by the state government.

The Tenants Queensland chief executive, Penny Carr, said under current laws tenants could be evicted from their home for no reason at the end of a lease.

The QCOSS CEO, Aimee McVeigh, said renting in Queensland had become unaffordable for frontline workers.

“Our own workforce is struggling to pay the rent … The Queensland government can, and should, stop erratic and unaffordable rent increases,” she said.

Brendan Coates, an economic policy program director at the Grattan Institute, said banning no-grounds evictions “would be a big step forward”.

“There is no place for ‘no-grounds’ evictions in the Australian rental market today,” he told Guardian Australia.

“The costs of having to move, against one’s will, are substantial and asymmetric. A landlord misses out on rent for a short period, whereas a family can incur moving costs upwards of $6,000, along with the non-financial costs of finding a new home.”

Coates said no-grounds evictions could also deter tenants from exercising their rights, including asking for repairs or contesting a rent increase.

Asked about a ban on no-grounds evictions, the housing minister, Meaghan Scanlon, said she was focused on making reforms “fair and balanced.”

“I acknowledge the sector wants those to go further. We will always talk to the sector around law reform,” she told the Queensland media club on Monday.

A former housing minister, Leeanne Enoch, said in 2021 that no grounds evictions for fixed-lease terms would be a “breach” of the state’s Human Rights Act.

“If a tenancy can’t end because the actual lease is ending, that would be a real disincentive for a lot of investors to keep their properties in the rental market,” Enoch said.

“In actual fact, that idea of including that proposal that an owner would not be able to end a tenancy at the conclusion of a lease is actually a breach of Queensland’s Human Rights Act.”

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Scheme will fail without ‘fundamental change’, scathing report finds

Closing the Gap will fail without ‘fundamental change’, scathing report finds

Agreed reforms have not been prioritised and landmark agreement on Indigenous outcomes is doomed without urgent changes, Productivity Commission says

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The Closing the Gap agreement on improving Indigenous outcomes will fail without fundamental changes, the Productivity Commission has warned, adding that successive governments have “failed to fully grasp” the challenges.

In a scathing report, the Productivity Commission has called for urgent changes to rescue the landmark agreement, accusing the federal government of “weak” action on key areas, not fulfilling its promises and a “disregard” for the suggestions of Indigenous communities. It says efforts to eliminate institutional racism in areas such as justice and health have “received little effort”.

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“Most critically, the Agreement requires government decision-makers to accept that they do not know what is best for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” the Closing the Gap review states.

“Change can be confronting and difficult. But without fundamental change, the Agreement will fail and the gap will remain.”

The Labor government has so far resisted revealing its next plans in Indigenous affairs policy, after the unsuccessful referendum for an Indigenous voice last October.

The prime minister Anthony Albanese, the Indigenous Australians minister, Linda Burney, and the National Indigenous Australians Agency have repeatedly dodged questions on whether the government will advance the Makarrata commission for agreement-making with Indigenous Australians, fuelling speculation Labor may be preparing to wind back its commitment to treaty and truth processes.

The Productivity Commission report states bluntly that the agreed reforms under Closing the Gap “have not been prioritised by governments”. The four key targets – shared decision-making, building the community-controlled sector, transforming government organisations and sharing access to data – are not being met.

“Although there are pockets of good practice, overall progress against the Priority Reforms has been slow, uncoordinated and piecemeal,” the report states. It accuses governments of paying little attention to the needs of individual communities, following a business-as-usual approach and having “no strategic approach” on how to meet the targets.

Institutional racism widespread

“This makes it near impossible for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and the broader Australian community, to use these plans to hold governments to account,” the Productivity Commission said.

The report accuses the federal government of “not adequately delivering” on commitments, with progress savaged as “weak”. It says governments “must share power” with community organisations and that they are not sufficiently meeting obligations to promote self-determination for Indigenous communities.

Indigenous people engaging with the inquiry claimed that institutional racism continued to be a widespread problem, with specific examples raised in the justice, health and child protection systems. The Productivity Commission said the public service needed to employ more Indigenous people, alongside systemic processes to root out racism inside those structures.

“The disparate actions and ad hoc changes have not led to improvements that are noticeable and meaningful for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” the report stated. “This raises questions about whether governments have fully grasped the scale of change required to their systems, operations and ways of working to deliver the unprecedented shift they have committed to.”

The report called for a fundamental shift in how governments respond to Indigenous issues, saying “business-as-usual must be a thing of the past” but that there was a “stark absence” of government plans to make those changes.

“The gap is not a natural phenomenon. It is a direct result of the ways in which governments have used their power over many decades. In particular, it stems from a disregard for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’s knowledges and solutions,” it stated.

“We are yet to identify a government organisation that has articulated a clear vision for what transformation looks like, adopted a strategy to achieve that vision, and tracked the impact of actions within the organisation (and in the services that it funds) toward that vision.”

Albanese said on Tuesday the government was committed to “making a practical difference on housing, on health, in education” and flagged the government “will be having more to say” in its response to the Closing the Gap statement’s tabling in parliament next week.

The Coalition of Peaks, a partner to the agreement which represents dozens of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peak organisations, called on the governments to take the findings seriously. Its acting convener, Catherine Liddle, said governments nationwide “are still not meaningfully giving us a voice in the decisions that affect our lives”.

Liddle urged the government to announce a major funding injection in that response.

“We are calling for tangible commitments to fully fund the National Agreement on Closing the Gap, to make a meaningful difference to the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Liddle said.

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Live export saga enters second month as animals face another heatwave off coast

Live export saga enters second month as animals face another heatwave off Perth coast

If exporters fail to obtain permission to ship the animals to Israel, the livestock on board the MV Bahijah will have to be slaughtered

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A ship carrying almost 17,000 sheep and cattle is expected to be unloaded at Fremantle dock in the middle of a severe heatwave as exporters continue their fight to ship the animals to Israel.

For more than a month, the 15,000 sheep and 1,750 cattle have remained on board the Israeli-owned MV Bahijah after it aborted entering the Red Sea on its way to Israel for fear of attack by Houthi rebels.

It set sail on 5 January but 15 days later was ordered to return to Western Australia by government officials.

A bid to re-export the animals from Fremantle back to the Middle East, on a journey that would avoid the Red Sea but take nearly twice as long, was denied on Monday night by the federal Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

It was expected the MV Bahijah would be able to unload the livestock on Thursday as the exporters apply – for the third time – for a permit to sail to Israel. The complicated regulatory saga has concerned welfare groups and the farming industry.

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“I believe it [the decision] was based on an action by the animal rights movement in Israel to not allow the ship to unload once it got there,” said John Hassell, president of the WA Farmers Federation, Australia’s largest farm lobby group.

“Why are Australian government officials making a decision about a protest that is happening over in Israel?”

The regulator said that it was not satisfied “the importing country requirements relating to the livestock have been met” or that the arrangements for transport were appropriate to protect the health and welfare of the animals.

On 2 February, Israeli animal rights groups Let the Animals Live and Animals Now filed legal proceedings against its agriculture ministry, seeking an injunction to prevent the Bahijah livestock from being imported. That case is yet to be heard.

While the Australian farming industry has lambasted the federal department about the 10-days it took to refuse the re-export application, the government blamed the exporters.

Hassell said the exporter licence holders were Tamara Michalek, a 27-year-old Western Australia farmer, and Chloe Grant, 29, treasurer of the Young Livestock Export Network. It was unclear if they were exporting as T&T Rural Contracting or working under Bassem Dabbah Livestock Aus Pty Ltd.

An Asic search showed the directors of Bassem Dabbah Livestock were the Dabbah family, who own large slaughterhouses across Israel, one of which was the subject of a 2015 inquiry into horrific abuse on Australian cattle.

On Tuesday, the federal agriculture minister, Murray Watt, told a press conference that it took the exporter nearly 10 days to present a proposal to the department for consideration.

“Now the responsibility under the legislation rests with the exporter about what they should do with those animals,” he said. “It is a commercial decision for them.”

In the meantime, the Bahijah and its live cargo are stuck in limbo off the coast of Perth as a heatwave bears down on the city with consecutive 42C days forecast. The Bahijah crew must wait for another live export ship – the Al-Messiah, destined for the Persian Gulf – to be fully loaded before taking its berth on the dock.

The WA Farmers Livestock Council president, Geoff Pearson, said that he was working with Michalek and Grant to prepare 15,000 sheep and 1,750 cattle for re-export once onshore.

Last Friday, a further 750 cattle were removed from the ship and taken to quarantine facilities north of Perth.

He said the plan was to bring the remaining animals onshore on Thursday, where they can rest in quarantine facilities for at least 10 days as new export permit applications were considered.

“This is affecting everyone, the exporter, the licence holder, registered establishments, it is affecting industry,” Pearson said. “There are shipments in limbo for Israel, including the existing one.”

If the export permit is again refused, the animals will have to be slaughtered.

Live export in WA is normally a one-way street. Animals move from paddock to ship up until June, when the practice is prohibited to protect the animals from being shipped during northern hemisphere summer heat.

Hassell said that onshore “processing facilities”, where the livestock are stunned and killed, do not have the capacity to deal with an unexpected influx of animals.

“It [the rejection] has cost the industry reputation unfortunately, and it has cost the Israeli exporter/importers a huge amount of money,” he said.

A specialist veterinarian and spokeswoman for Vets Against Live Export, Sue Foster, said she was dismayed that the animals might have to suffer another journey.

“It is outrageous that anyone in the livestock industry would consider re-exporting animals that have already endured such prolonged and cumulative transport stresses,” Foster said.

“The government made an election promise to phase out the live export of sheep. Why hasn’t the phase-out started?”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, refused to answer questions on the phase out issue, instead referring questions to his minister.

Watt said the government was still considering an independent report on phasing out the live export of sheep.

“I have already publicly committed to release the report once the government has reached a decision and that commitment stands.”

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Ex-president is not immune from prosecution in 2020 election interference case, court rules

Appeals court denies Trump’s immunity claims in election interference case

Court rejects Trump’s claim he can’t be criminally prosecuted in case because it involved actions he took while president

A federal appeals court on Tuesday rejected Donald Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal prosecution on charges that he plotted to overturn the 2020 election results because it involved actions he took while president, declining to endorse such an expansive interpretation of executive power.

The decision by a three-judge panel at the US court of appeals for the DC circuit also categorically rejected Trump’s position that he could only be prosecuted if he had been convicted in a Senate impeachment trial first.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a President has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power,” the unsigned but unanimous opinion from the three-judge panel said.

“At bottom, former President Trump’s stance would collapse our system of separated powers by placing the President beyond the reach of all three Branches,” the opinion said. “We cannot accept that the office of the Presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

The panel gave Trump until 12 February to inform the DC circuit that he will seek a stay of the decision – which would otherwise resume pre-trial proceedings – by appealing to the US supreme court. Should he appeal, the case would not return to Chutkan until the supreme court issues a final decision.

Last year, Trump filed a motion to dismiss the federal election interference case brought by the special counsel Jack Smith, which charged the former president with seeking to reverse his 2020 election defeat, including by advancing fake electors and obstructing Congress on 6 January 2021.

The motion was rejected by the trial judge, prompting Trump to appeal to the DC circuit. The special counsel sought to bypass the potentially lengthy appeals process by asking the US supreme court to directly resolve the matter, but the nation’s highest court returned the case to the appeals court.

Trump’s defeat was largely expected after his appellate lawyer, John Sauer, consistently found himself on the defensive when he argued at oral arguments last month before the three-judge panel of Michelle Childs, Karen Henderson and Florence Pan.

At the hearing, Sauer was forced to contend with an incredulous Pan who noted that Trump’s interpretation would mean presidents could hypothetically self-pardon, sell military secrets or order the assassinations of political rivals and never have to face criminal accountability.

The panel also questioned whether Trump’s position in 2024 was a reversal from 2021 at his second impeachment trial, when his then lawyers urged the Senate to acquit him because the justice department should decide if Trump engaged in insurrection over the January 6 Capitol attack.

The attempt by Trump to toss the criminal charges on presidential immunity grounds has been consequential not so much because his lawyers believed they would succeed in actually dismissing the indictment, but because they recognized it was a way to potentially delay his trial date by months.

Trump has made no secret of the fact that his overarching legal strategy is to seek delays, because if he were to win the 2024 presidential election in November and the trial had not yet started or had not been completed, he could appoint as the attorney general a loyalist who would drop the charges against him.

And even if Trump failed to delay the trial until after the election, his preference is for them to occur as close to election day as possible because he could use that as political ammunition to claim the charges were political in nature, according to people familiar with Trump’s strategy.

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