The Guardian 2024-02-07 12:01:14


Airline’s decision to reduce flight capacity may have led to RBA rate hike, inquiry finds

Qantas decision to reduce flight capacity may have led to RBA rate hike, inquiry finds

The ACTU inquiry into price gouging chaired by Allan Fels strongly criticised the lack of competition in Australia’s domestic aviation industry

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Qantas’ decision to reduce its domestic flight capacity and increase air fares in 2022 may have contributed to inflation and led the Reserve Bank to raise interest rates, a union inquiry into price gouging has found.

Former Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) chair Allan Fels, who led the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ commissioned inquiry, was scathing of the effects a lack of competition in aviation was having on consumers.

“The duopoly in the aviation sector in Australia is dominated by Qantas and there is price gouging by Qantas,” he said.

Fels found that in 2022, when Australia’s freshly reopened internal and international borders triggered a surge in travel demand, airlines were responding to high fuel prices related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and made decisions that rippled through the economy.

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In May 2022, Qantas cut its domestic capacity by 10%, Fels noted.In an announcement to the ASX in June, the airline said it was “adjusting its domestic capacity levels for much of FY23 to assist with the recovery of sustained high fuel prices”.

The airline cut capacity a further 5% in July and August, Fels said, followed by another planned cut of 10% in October.

“Qantas said at the time that ‘the customer impacts from these schedule changes are expected to be minimal, with capacity being removed mostly from high frequency routes’,” Fels said.

In 2022, the ACCC warned airlines against deliberately slowing their return to full service capacity so they could “keep air fares high”. Government data from the time found cheapest available return domestic air fares were at levels not recorded since March 2004.

In December 2022, average return air fares between Sydney and Melbourne on budget carriers averaged $500. Australians facing the high air fares turned to overnight trains and coaches as cheaper interstate travel options, with services selling out.

Qantas would go on to post a record $2.47bn profit for 2022-23.

On Wednesday, Fels’ report found that airlines’ reduction in supply at a time of Australians’ increasing appetite for domestic travel may have had an inflationary impact.

“Qantas’ ability to reduce supply while increasing prices and suffering no material loss of market share, may have affected CPI (inflation) in December 2022, and therefore may have impacted the Reserve Bank’s inflation expectations and rate increases,” Fels said.

“Qantas fare increases over the three months to December 2022 were large enough to produce a sizable increase in the ‘holiday travel and accommodation’ contribution to inflation,” Fels said

Fels found that Qantas’ fare increases possibly accounted for up to 25% of that category’s increase in the December quarter as it appeared in the ABS CPI measure. That quarter, the ABS identified the recreation and culture category, which includes domestic and international travel, as the group that contributed the most to inflation.

“A quarter of [that category’s] inflation that month was mainly due to Qantas aggressively raising air fares although Virgin may have also contributed,” Fels said.

At the beginning of 2022, interest rates were 0.1%. In May 2022, the Reserve Bank raised the rate by 0.25%, setting off a run that saw it rise to 3.85% by May 2023.

In a statement, Qantas said “the temporary spike in fares post-Covid reflected reductions in capacity to improve operational resilience following the challenging restart of the industry once borders opened”.

“These reductions coincided with a period of high demand and the imbalance pushed up fares across all airlines. At the same time, fuel prices increased by more than 60%, driving fares higher again,” Qantas said.

Virgin was approached for comment.

Fels also noted that throughout 2022, rates of cancellations and flight disruptions soared to record highs, as airlines struggled to return to pre-Covid operations due in part to shortages of staff who had left the industry during the pandemic, Covid waves and strong demand.

In 2017-19, Qantas’ cancellation rate was 2%, which increased to 4.4% in 2022-23, Fels said, noting a similar increase in Virgin’s disruptions.

“Qantas’ service delivery returning from the pandemic shut down became so derided the term ‘Joyced’ (a reference to then CEO Alan Joyce) entered into popular Australian usage to ‘describe being severely inconvenienced at an airport by flight cancellations or luggage going astray’,” Fels said.

Fels also noted how the Albanese government’s controversial decision to reject Qatar Airways’ push to almost double its flights to Australia kept international air fares higher.

“Quite clearly it was acting in the interests of Qantas,” Fels said of the government.

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Drip pricing, excuse-flation and rockets and feathersThe strategies supermarkets use to make you pay more

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Drip pricing, excuse-flation and rockets and feathers: the strategies supermarkets and other businesses use to make you pay more

An ACTU inquiry into price-gouging referenced several strategies to extract extra dollars from consumers. Here are some you might be hearing about

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A relentless period of price increases has left many Australians irritable, especially when they see the impressive profits recorded by some of the same companies that charge inflated prices.

The ACTU inquiry into price-gouging referenced several pricing practices major businesses use to extract extra dollars from consumers, using methods that would not work in more competitive markets.

Those practices, once the domain of marketers and strategists, have turned into phrases and idioms used by the wider community fed up with price increases for just about everything.

Here are the phrases on prices that you might be hearing more often.

Drip pricing

This occurs when a company only advertises part of a product’s price, with more charges revealed as you progress through the buying process. It’s common in airline and accommodation bookings. Slowly but surely, the competitive price that caught your attention turns out to be far less appealing – but you are so deep into the process you often buy it anyway.

Excuse-flation

As the Allan Fels-led inquiry put it, “excuse-flation” is the practice of using general inflation as a camouflage for bumping up prices. It is closely related to “greed-flation” and consumers put up with it because the cover story sounds legitimate, with blame usually attributed to the pandemic, Ukraine conflict, or the most opaque reason of all – supply chain disruptions.

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Confusion pricing

This is the practice of using complex pricing structures and plans to completely perplex a consumer and make it difficult to compare pricing to a rival product. Remind me, how much data, text and call time do you get with your mobile plan, bundled into your home internet plan?

Rockets and feathers pricing

When costs rise, they go up like a rocket, but when they fall, they drift slowly to the ground like a feather. The inquiry referenced this scenario when describing how the prices paid to farmers for produce fell quickly, while supermarket prices for the same products did not. It could also be applied to mortgage rates, which rise quickly when the cash rate increases, but fall with less haste after rate cuts.

Loyalty taxes

Some products and services set initial prices low, but then sharply increase as the years roll on when it is more difficult for consumers to detect the changes or renegotiate terms. The inquiry pointed towards banks, insurers and energy companies as some of the major culprits of using a customer’s loyalty against them.

Price discrimination

This practice allows companies to charge vastly different prices for near identical products and services, evident among medical specialists and in prices charged by banks that offer better rates to customers likely to leave. The inquiry noted there was a growing concern that digital platforms, drawing on detailed customer data, can maximise profits because they know how much someone is willing to pay for a particular item.

The price-gouging inquiry describes all of the practices as “exploitative” that rely on a platform of weak competition to succeed. They reflect an imbalance between consumers and business but are not unlawful.

“However, there is a case for governments exercising much closer scrutiny over these practices and for such scrutiny to be a regular part of the policy agenda,” the inquiry concluded.

Jana Bowden, a professor of marketing at Macquarie University, said the pricing strategies were now common across categories and accepted by consumers as normal patterns of purchasing behaviour.

“Should we be accepting of that? Not really, but they are hard to avoid,” Bowden said.

“They do require consumers to be much more hyper aware of their decision-making process and in many cases, being ready to back out of a purchase and being prepared to do more research.”

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Price increasesLack of competition allows supermarkets, banks and airlines to gouge Australians, report finds

Lack of competition allows supermarkets, banks and airlines to gouge Australians, report finds

The biggest price increases occur where businesses have the greatest market power, says inquiry commissioned by the ACTU

  • Drip pricing, excuse-flation and rockets and feathers: the strategies supermarkets and other businesses use to make you pay more
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Australians are continuously overcharged and subjected to “profit push” pricing by major corporations enjoying scant competition, resulting in higher inflation and intensifying cost-of-living pressures.

The findings of the ACTU-ordered price gouging inquiry have been published amid renewed scrutiny on the pricing practices of dominant businesses that enjoy a large share of the market, including supermarkets, banks, airlines, and electricity companies.

Chaired by former watchdog Allan Fels, the inquiry found that some of the highest price increases occur in sectors where a few players have disproportionate market power over consumers, supply chains and their workforce.

The inquiry found a surge in corporate profits after the initial stages of the pandemic could not be explained by increasing sales or output, and occurred against a background of high corporate concentration across Australian industry.

“What we have seen over recent years is a dramatic increase in costs paid by consumers,” the report said.

“We have heard stories of real hardship and sacrifice to make ends meet.”

Any contribution of excessive profits to inflation raises questions over Australia’s policy response to rising prices, which has almost solely relied on interest rate hikes to quash demand.

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This exposes a potential policy gap, according to the report, given that even unreasonably high prices are not unlawful and government policies are not designed to tackle profiteering.

Food and housing costs, including electricity, are the two biggest contributors to inflation calculations, and are sectors that are both “insufficiently competitive”.

The report found that exploitative business pricing practices were used to “enable the extraction of extra dollars from consumers” in a way that would not be possible in more competitive markets.

“The fact that there is a quite widespread lack of competition in Australian markets means that pricing practices that might be accepted in very competitive markets are unduly exploitative of consumers in that setting,” the report found.

The inquiry, designed to analyse the extent of price gouging across multiple sectors, found:

  • a lack of competition in banking, prompting a recommendation that account numbers should be as portable as mobile telephone numbers to help customers switch;

  • the price of electric vehicles in Australia is excessively high because of unwarranted import restrictions;

  • there are policies that make it difficult for a third major airline to compete with Qantas and Virgin on domestic routes, such as restrictive slot allocations at airports;

  • remittance fees for sending money to Pacific countries are among the highest globally, affecting individuals and island nations;

  • there should be a regulatory review of the high degree of price discrimination in the retail electricity and gas markets;

  • Australia should ban non-compete clauses in employment contracts, which have a “chilling effect” on workers moving between employers.

The report also focused heavily on the supermarket sector which it described as among the “most concentrated in the world”.

It found that Coles and Woolworths were able to increase profit margins in their food and grocery segments during the inflationary period because of low competitive forces and an ability to avoid passing on wholesale cost reductions to shoppers.

The findings are in keeping with Guardian Australia analysis that has consistently showed that the major supermarkets increased their profit margins even as living costs surged.

“Market power is exercised over farmers and many other suppliers. In addition, the gain in profits from this is not passed on, certainly not promptly or fully, to consumers because of market power and a lack of competition in the product market,” the report said.

Major supermarkets have consistently defended their pricing decisions, arguing that they must balance the needs of customers, suppliers and their large workforces and that any expansion of margins was a result of improved productivity.

The supermarket sector is now subject to a Senate inquiry and a separate year-long probe by the competition regulator amid renewed political scrutiny on their pricing practices.

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As it happenedAustralia should pay whistleblowers, Fels says

Asked about anti-competition practicers, the former competition tsar said Australia should adopt the US policy of paying whistleblowers.

One way of making it more effective would be to strengthen whistleblower protection. Cartels nearly always are only detected, it is almost always secret agreements if there is a whistleblower.

The rewards for being a whistleblower are very, very slight. And the harms are pretty miserable as a rule.

The United States these days, the bastion of Conservative governments, even of the Democrats, it pays whistleblowers rewards. I think we should bring that here.

Watchdog lambasts Australian Border Force and home affairs deportation procedures

Watchdog lambasts Australian Border Force and home affairs deportation procedures

Ombudsman’s scathing report finds agencies have ‘little acknowledgement’ of impact of detention on detainees’ health

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The Australian government has failed to set up an appropriate process to deport people held in immigration detention, a scathing report by the independent watchdog has found.

The commonwealth ombudsman found the Australian Border Force and home affairs department’s processes do not contain “timeframes for steps” towards deportation “or otherwise adequately reflect the significant impact of any delay upon a person’s liberty”.

In a report released on Wednesday, the government watchdog lambasted the government agencies for having policies and procedures that contained “little acknowledgment” of the effect each day spent detained can have on a person’s physical and mental health.

It accused the federal government of failing to learn the lessons of a series of adverse court findings about delays in deportation, proposing a new process “to achieve the quickest removal process possible” with more planning and milestones.

The report comes after the high court ruling in November that indefinite detention is unlawful, triggering months of political debate after 149 people detainees were released into the community.

The ombudsman’s investigation was prompted by the case of Egyptian man, Tony Sami, who was indefinitely detained between 2013 and 2023 after his visa was cancelled after a conviction on “a number of offences involving fraud or dishonesty”.

Sami exhausted all avenues of appeal against his visa cancellation, but remained in detention because Egyptian authorities would not issue him a travel document unless he provided contact details of relatives in Egypt, none of who could be identified.

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In a judgment in late 2022, federal court justice Mortimer said evidence of efforts to remove Sami consisted of “little more than a series of emails and somewhat random inquiries” with “not one skerrick of evidence suggesting any planning to a timeframe” for his removal.

Justice Mortimer added there seemed to be “no objective basis for their timing, conducted it would seem entirely at the discretion of the officer responsible for a given removal”.

The ombudsman, Iain Anderson, said an investigation into how the department and border force were responding to the Sami ruling was launched in September 2023 after the watchdog was left unconvinced they were adequately reviewing their practices.

While the ombudsman believed justice Mortimer’s comments should have prompted an urgent review of the department and border force’s procedures, it found there was “no review, report, assessment, or other documented consideration of the Sami decision”.

“My office found Home Affairs’ and ABF’s removals policies and procedures make little acknowledgment that for every passing day, until the person is removed from Australia, the person is being deprived of their liberty,” Anderson said.

“Home Affairs and ABF did not capture learnings following Mr Sami’s case and they made no changes to their policies and procedures as a result of this decision.”

Responding to the ombudsman’s report, the department said there were various “difficulties” causing delays to Sami’s removal.

The department said the Covid-19 pandemic and efforts to obtain a travel document from the Egyptian authorities were two examples behind the delays.

“The department and ABF are acutely aware of the impact detention can have on an individual, and regularly review detention cases to ensure status resolution processes are progressing as quickly as possible,” the department’s response said.

The ombudsman said the court decisions in both Sami and NZYQ provided the government an opportunity to “improve and expedite the removal process, including to ensure that removal is progressed in an active and timely manner so that people are not unlawfully deprived of their liberty”.

The watchdog offered three recommendations, including having a prioritised process for those in indefinite detention, reviewing policies and procedures against every relevant judicial and tribunal decision as well as reviewing all significant cases by taking into account the entirety of the detention and removal period.

The department agreed with the report’s recommendations, but claimed that it already “makes every effort to remove such non-citizens as soon as reasonably practicable”.

“However the complexities of each individual’s circumstances means that removal planning timeframes do vary, and where individuals do not cooperate with the Department’s removal planning, some cases can become protracted.”

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Haley loses to ‘none of the candidates’ in Nevada primary as Biden seals easy win

Haley loses to ‘none of the candidates’ in Nevada primary as Biden seals easy win

Haley suffers embarrassing result with Trump not on ballot and contesting delegate-selecting caucuses on Thursday instead

  • What’s next in the US primary election: key dates

Nikki Haley suffered an embarrassing defeat in Nevada’s Republican presidential primary contest, when she was beaten by the “none of these candidates” option, despite Donald Trump’s absence from the ballot.

Joe Biden, meanwhile, secured another primary victory after his nearest challenger, Marianne Williamson, registered only in the low single digits. The AP called the results about two hours after polls closed on a soggy and subdued election day in Nevada.

The “none of these candidates” option beat Nikki Haley in the state’s Republican presidential primary contest, the AP projected, an embarrassing result for the former UN ambassador who was the only major candidate on the ballot.

The race is essentially meaningless in the nominating process, however, as the big event for Republicans is on Thursday, when the GOP will hold caucuses with Donald Trump on the ballot that will determine the actual delegates sent to the Republican national convention.

Haley did not make much of an effort to campaign in Nevada, saying that the process was “rigged” for Trump.

Perhaps due to voters’ confusion about the dual elections, and the availability of early and mail-in voting options the primaries, in-person turnout on Tuesday appeared low.

About 15,700 people voted at the polls, according to the secretary of state’s office, while about 151,000 voted early. There was no clear barometer to measure turnout, however, given that these were Nevada’s first presidential primaries after decades of holding caucuses. State legislators voted in 2021 to change how voters choose their presidential candidates, arguing that the primary format was more accessible.

“We’re a 24/7 economy and people need efficiency when they’re working,” said Cisco Aguilar, Nevada’s secretary of state. “They can get that efficiency through a primary process.”

In Las Vegas’s eastside, one polling location in a high school had just 23 people show up to vote, while about 15 election workers milled around, waiting. A handful of people shuffled inside to drop off ballots. Among them were Virginia Christiansen, 71, and Jerry Christiansen, 77, who voted for Biden. “I’ve got no complaints about him,” said Jerry, a retired carpenter who had helped build the high school. “I don’t see why he’s not getting credit.”

In a key swing state that was crucial to Biden’s election in 2020, the primary will be an imperfect measure of how activated voters are.

“I want to thank the voters of Nevada for sending me and Kamala Harris to the White House four years ago, and for setting us one step further on that same path again tonight,” said Biden after the AP called the primary for him. “We must organize, mobilize, and vote. Because one day, when we look back, we’ll be able to say, when American democracy was a risk, we saved it — together.”

Harris similarly signaled toward the November general election. “We look forward to returning to Nevada often as we move towards the general election,” she said.

A pro-Biden Super Pac recently reserved a record $250m in advertising across seven battleground states, including Nevada, with an eye on mobilizing disaffected younger voters and Latino and Black voters.

In Henderson – just south of Las Vegas – Molly, a floppy dalmatian who was certified as a therapy dog, was there to help voters experiencing election day stress. “She’s here to be pet,” said Paul Beaton, a business license supervisor with the city and Molly’s owner.

A slow trickle of voters came through the city hall polling location, damp from the heavy rains outside, and some dampened in spirit.

“I’m not completely thrilled but I think [Biden’s] the lesser of two evils,” said Donny Lord, 45. “I think overall he’s doing the bare minimum of what he could be doing.”

Economic woes were top of mind for many voters. On election morning, union organizers – who have been key to mobilizing Democratic voters in the state – said they were most focused on campaigning for higher wages for stadium workers ahead of the Super Bowl this weekend. “There will be plenty of time to talk about politics,” said D Taylor, president of the Unite Here union, at a press conference on Tuesday morning.

The state’s powerful Culinary Workers Union, which is also helping organize workers at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, where the Super Bowl will be held, is planning a mass voter mobilization effort in the later this year, ahead of the general election.

“From union workers in Las Vegas to teachers in Reno, Nevadans across the Silver State have set the stage to defeat Donald Trump and Maga Republicans once again this November,” said the Democratic National Committee chair, Jaime Harrison, in a statement after polls closed. “Nevada’s first-in-the-west primary is emblematic of Democrats’ commitment to uplifting voters of color, engaging the diverse coalitions that are the bedrock of the Democratic party, and making it easier for everyone to make their voices heard.”

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Donald TrumpFraud trial rattled by witness’s possible perjury deal

Trump’s fraud trial rattled by witness’s possible perjury deal

Judge asks lawyers for details of potential agreement between ex-Trump executive and district attorney

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A potential perjury deal with a key witness could shake up the verdict in Donald Trump’s $370m New York fraud trial, a new court document reveals.

Arthur Engoron, the judge presiding over the case, sent an email to the trial’s lawyers on Monday asking them to give him more information about a supposed perjury deal that Allen Weisselberg, a former Trump Organization executive, is making with the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg.

While Bragg’s office is not involved with the fraud trial – which is being prosecuted by the state attorney general’s office – the district attorney’s office is overseeing a separate hush-money case against Trump. The New York Times reported on 1 February that Bragg’s office was in the early stages of negotiating a deal with Weisselberg.

Should he take the deal, Weisselberg would admit to committing perjury during his October testimony in the fraud trial. In exchange, he would not have to be a witness against Trump in the hush-money trial, which is scheduled for March.

In his fraud trial, Trump is accused of inflating the value of his assets on government financial statements. In the hush-money case, Trump is accused of falsifying business records, reporting hush-money payments to the former adult film star Stormy Daniels as legal fees. Trump’s fraud trial is a bench trial, meaning there is no jury, and Engoron is the sole decider of the case.

Weisselberg, who served as chief financial officer for the Trump Organization, is a key figure in both cases, having been intimately involved with Trump’s finances for decades.

On the witness stand in October, Weisselberg abruptly ended his testimony when Forbes published a story saying he lied on the stand. He had been mostly evasive in his testimony, saying he had not been involved in evaluating Trump’s triplex apartment in Trump Tower. On financial statements, Trump said the apartment was 30,000 sq ft when it is, in fact, closer to 11,000 sq ft.

Though Weisselberg testified that the triplex apartment had not concerned him, Forbes reported it had records from when the magazine worked with Weisselberg to calculate Trump’s net worth. Weisselberg had repeatedly tried to convince the magazine that the triplex was 30,000 sq ft, despite the magazine having evidence that it was 11,000 sq ft.

In his email, Engoron said he wanted to know whether Weisselberg “is admitting he lied under oath in my courtroom at this trial”. “Although the Times article focuses on the size of the Trump Tower Penthouse, his testimony on other topics could be called into question.”

Engoron said he might use such a perjury admittance to “invoke falsus in uno”, meaning he would judge Weisselberg’s entire testimony as not credible. Engoron asked lawyers from the attorney general’s office and from Trump’s team to detail “anything you know about this that would not violate any of your professional ethics or obligations” along with how the lawyers think Engoron should “address this matter, if at all, including the timing of the final decision”. He gave them a 7 February deadline.

The judge initially said he would aim to deliver a verdict by 31 January, though the email implies there will probably be even more time to wait until a final judgment is reached.

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

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 the presiding US district judge Tanya 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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South Africa stun Australia with historic win to set up ODI series decider

South Africa’s women stun Australia with historic win to set up ODI series decider

  • Marizanne Kapp stars in first ever defeat of hosts
  • Australia’s batting collapse and catching costs them dear

Australia have been stunned by South Africa for a second time in as many weeks, with five dropped catches and a disastrous batting collapse costing the hosts during a rain-affected women’s one-day loss.

Four days after an elbow injury forced her to retire hurt in the series opener, Marizanne Kapp starred with bat and ball to help the Proteas to their first-ever ODI defeat of Australia.

The 84-run loss on Wednesday night at North Sydney Oval, where Australia had not lost an ODI since 2009, sends the three-match series to a decider at the same venue this Saturday.

Playing with hamstring tightness, Ash Gardner (35) partnered with Kim Garth (42 not out) on a rescue mission that gave the hosts hope, after they fell to 71-8 chasing a DRS-adjusted 234 for victory.

But not even the allrounders’ 77-run partnership – the highest ninth-wicket partnership in WODI history – could pull Australia back from their disastrous start with the bat as they were bundled out for 149.

When Megan Schutt (1) was trapped lbw in the 30th over of the match condensed to 45 overs apiece by rain, the Proteas were home.

Dropped twice, Kapp (75) made the Australians pay for their sloppy fielding on her way to a second half-century from two starts this ODI series.

Kapp hoisted the hosts to 6-229 at the end of 45 overs with the Proteas, who won the second of three T20Is last month, managing just 105 from 50 overs in the first ODI.

In the fifth over of Australia’s chase, Kapp (3-12) set a staggering batting collapse in motion by dispatching of captain Alyssa Healy (4) and Beth Mooney (0) in the space of three deliveries.

Swinging the ball with ease, Kapp breezed through middle stump to dismiss the talismanic Mooney, before she trapped Phoebe Litchfield (14) lbw as the young gun attempted a block.

The ICC’s top-ranked ODI side found themselves in strife at 3-34.

Kapp’s teammates soon joined in on the carnage with debutant quick Ayanda Hlubi (2-41) dismissing Ellyse Perry caught behind for two as the veteran attempted to bat through a stomach bug.

Hlubi had a second ODI wicket when Georgia Wareham chopped on and became the second of three Australians to go without scoring.

Nadine de Klerk took two wickets for just one run in her first over, dispatching Tahlia McGrath (22) – the only batter who had made a start at that point – caught behind.

When Alana King chipped de Klerk to point, Australia were 8-71 and appeared in danger of undercutting their lowest-ever total in an ODI – 77 – made in 1993 and 2004.

Gardner and Garth helped the hosts save face and was ably assisted by the Proteas’ decision to rotate the dangerous Kapp out of the attack.

But the Proteas closed in on a famous win when Gardner clipped Eliz-Mari Marx (2-22) to wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta.

Earlier, King dropped Kapp on 37 off her own bowling before Healy fumbled the veteran allrounder aground on 45 after Kim Garth’s ball was edged right to her.

The pair of drops came after Perry missed Anneke Bosch on 1 in the deep, with the South African No.3 going on to revitalise the Proteas from 1-0 after three balls to add 43 to her score.

Wareham then dropped Sune Luus (19) to add to the Australians’ frustrations in slippery conditions.

Apparently immune to the catching woes, Annabel Sutherland caught both Bosch and Luus at long on from Gardner’s bowling (2-31) before they could build too much on their starts.

King came up with a second drop at short fine leg in the penultimate over, spilling Chloe Tryon (37no), who went on to add three more boundaries and bolster South Africa’s score.

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South Africa stun Australia with historic win to set up ODI series decider

South Africa’s women stun Australia with historic win to set up ODI series decider

  • Marizanne Kapp stars in first ever defeat of hosts
  • Australia’s batting collapse and catching costs them dear

Australia have been stunned by South Africa for a second time in as many weeks, with five dropped catches and a disastrous batting collapse costing the hosts during a rain-affected women’s one-day loss.

Four days after an elbow injury forced her to retire hurt in the series opener, Marizanne Kapp starred with bat and ball to help the Proteas to their first-ever ODI defeat of Australia.

The 84-run loss on Wednesday night at North Sydney Oval, where Australia had not lost an ODI since 2009, sends the three-match series to a decider at the same venue this Saturday.

Playing with hamstring tightness, Ash Gardner (35) partnered with Kim Garth (42 not out) on a rescue mission that gave the hosts hope, after they fell to 71-8 chasing a DRS-adjusted 234 for victory.

But not even the allrounders’ 77-run partnership – the highest ninth-wicket partnership in WODI history – could pull Australia back from their disastrous start with the bat as they were bundled out for 149.

When Megan Schutt (1) was trapped lbw in the 30th over of the match condensed to 45 overs apiece by rain, the Proteas were home.

Dropped twice, Kapp (75) made the Australians pay for their sloppy fielding on her way to a second half-century from two starts this ODI series.

Kapp hoisted the hosts to 6-229 at the end of 45 overs with the Proteas, who won the second of three T20Is last month, managing just 105 from 50 overs in the first ODI.

In the fifth over of Australia’s chase, Kapp (3-12) set a staggering batting collapse in motion by dispatching of captain Alyssa Healy (4) and Beth Mooney (0) in the space of three deliveries.

Swinging the ball with ease, Kapp breezed through middle stump to dismiss the talismanic Mooney, before she trapped Phoebe Litchfield (14) lbw as the young gun attempted a block.

The ICC’s top-ranked ODI side found themselves in strife at 3-34.

Kapp’s teammates soon joined in on the carnage with debutant quick Ayanda Hlubi (2-41) dismissing Ellyse Perry caught behind for two as the veteran attempted to bat through a stomach bug.

Hlubi had a second ODI wicket when Georgia Wareham chopped on and became the second of three Australians to go without scoring.

Nadine de Klerk took two wickets for just one run in her first over, dispatching Tahlia McGrath (22) – the only batter who had made a start at that point – caught behind.

When Alana King chipped de Klerk to point, Australia were 8-71 and appeared in danger of undercutting their lowest-ever total in an ODI – 77 – made in 1993 and 2004.

Gardner and Garth helped the hosts save face and was ably assisted by the Proteas’ decision to rotate the dangerous Kapp out of the attack.

But the Proteas closed in on a famous win when Gardner clipped Eliz-Mari Marx (2-22) to wicketkeeper Sinalo Jafta.

Earlier, King dropped Kapp on 37 off her own bowling before Healy fumbled the veteran allrounder aground on 45 after Kim Garth’s ball was edged right to her.

The pair of drops came after Perry missed Anneke Bosch on 1 in the deep, with the South African No.3 going on to revitalise the Proteas from 1-0 after three balls to add 43 to her score.

Wareham then dropped Sune Luus (19) to add to the Australians’ frustrations in slippery conditions.

Apparently immune to the catching woes, Annabel Sutherland caught both Bosch and Luus at long on from Gardner’s bowling (2-31) before they could build too much on their starts.

King came up with a second drop at short fine leg in the penultimate over, spilling Chloe Tryon (37no), who went on to add three more boundaries and bolster South Africa’s score.

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Right to disconnect from work laws set to pass parliament after deals with crossbench

Right to disconnect from work laws set to pass Australian parliament after deals with crossbench

Adam Bandt says changes to industrial relations bill mean ‘when you clock off, you’ll be able to switch off’

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Labor’s so-called “closing loopholes” bill is set to pass parliament after deals with the crossbench, including inserting a Greens amendment creating a right to disconnect from work for employees.

On Wednesday the Greens announced the Albanese government had accepted the right to disconnect, which will prevent employees being punished for refusing to take unreasonable work calls or answer emails in their unpaid personal time.

The closing loopholes bill makes changes to the definition of casual employment, and gives power to the Fair Work Commission to create minimum conditions in the gig economy and the road transport industry.

Labor won the final two Senate votes for the bill from the independents Lidia Thorpe and David Pocock. Shortly after 6pm on Wednesday the government won a procedural vote guaranteeing the bill will come to a final vote in the Senate by Thursday afternoon.

The Jacqui Lambie Network, United Australia party and One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts voted with the Coalition but a furious shadow workplace relations minister, Michaelia Cash, acknowledged Labor now had the votes to ram the bill through.

Cash accused Labor of being elected on a “lie” of transparency, claiming it had “trashed” the Senate’s ability to review the legislation.

Lambie said it was a “kick in the guts for democracy” as the government had taken a “shortcut” to pass “some of the biggest [industrial relations] changes in years”.

Earlier, the Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said his party had decided to back the bill after it won the right to disconnect, meaning that “when you clock off, you’ll be able to switch off”.

“Unless you are getting paid for it … you should be able to ignore those calls and those messages that come in,” he told reporters in Canberra.

The Greens workplace relations spokesperson, Barbara Pocock, said the new right applies to “all employees” but the amendment “won’t disturb all kinds of changes where people are paid to be on call or where their job description requires it or where there’s an emergency”.

Barbara Pocock said the amendment would allow “reasonable contact” including “if there is a particular need like a change in your working conditions you need to know about, [a change] in your place or time of work”.

She said employees who believed they were being contacted unreasonably would first take the issue up with their employer and, if it is not resolved, can then go to the Fair Work Commission for a stop order, punishable by a fine if the employer does not comply.

“The right to disconnect has to be enforceable,” she said. “A worker has got to have some backup when they say ‘that’s not OK to contact me seven times on a Sunday’, as a nurse recently said to me, [in an instance of] unpaid contact.”

Barbara Pocock said the changes would be phased in over six months, to give employers time to “adapt, listen and learn”, with a longer phase-in for small business.

In December David Pocock and the Jacqui Lambie Network combined to help pass the same job, same pay provisions of the closing loopholes bill but delayed the gig economy, road transport industry and casual work provisions until 2024.

In a Senate committee report on Thursday, David Pocock warned the gig economy changes go “far beyond the scope of capturing the gig platform courier drivers and would impact sectors like personal and aged-care providers”.

In a statement, David Pocock confirmed that the government had agreed to tighten the rules for when the Fair Work Commission can order minimum conditions for “employee-like” gig economy workers.

He said “the changes the crossbench has negotiated make it a much simpler, fairer bill that preserves choice and flexibility”.

“If you want to remain a casual you can, but if you want to convert to permanent there is now a better process for doing so while still preserving a businesses right to refuse on fair and reasonable grounds.”

“As a result of our changes, existing independent contractors can now elect to keep their arrangement unchanged.”

Thorpe reached a deal with Labor in return for changes to casual provisions making it a workplace right to request to convert to permanent work.

“This is to protect casuals from being punished by their employer for requesting conversion to full or part-time employment,” she said.

Anthony Albanese defended the right to disconnect earlier on Wednesday.

“What we’re simply saying is, someone who’s not being paid 24 hours a day shouldn’t be penalised if they’re not online and available 24 hours a day,” he told reporters in Canberra.

On Tuesday Burke said it was “unreasonable” workers were expected to work out of office hours but it was reasonable for employers to send emails or contact people for shifts. The government didn’t “want to get in the way of that”, he said.

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Teen who believed her cancer was cured by ‘miracle from God’ ordered by court to continue chemotherapy

Teen who believed her cancer was cured by ‘miracle from God’ ordered by NSW court to continue chemotherapy

Judge found girl had ability to refuse treatment, but ‘sanctity of life’ was also a consideration

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A teenage girl who believed she had been cured of cancer because of a “healing miracle from God” has been ordered by a New South Wales supreme court judge to continue chemotherapy treatment.

The girl was 16 when she was diagnosed with a form of cancer in the bone last year.

She started chemotherapy treatment the next month and when an MRI scan was undertaken some months later, the cancer could no longer be seen, according to a NSW supreme court decision published last week.

According to the decision, her treating doctor said that despite the scan not showing cancer, the girl certainly was not cured, that there was “100% likelihood” of the tumour progressing over the next several months to two years.

He described the cancer as highly malignant and aggressive, and said that when this regrowth occurred the tumour would probably be resistant to further treatment, and he predicted that she would die as her disease would be incurable.

But the court heard the girl, whose identity is suppressed and is known by the acronym AC, resisted further treatment because of her Christian beliefs. Her parents supported her decision.

“When the scans came back clear, I remember the doctors telling me they were not expecting not to be able to see it on the scans,” the girl said, according to evidence presented to the court.

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“I know it might be hard for other people to understand, but in my mind, the only way to explain these results was that they were in answer to our prayers and a complete healing miracle from God.

“I do not want to continue with chemotherapy because I believe I no longer have cancer due to the miracle that has taken place … I believe that God has healed me. I don’t require any further treatment.”

The girl’s treating hospital commenced legal action in a bid to have the court find that she had the ability to refuse treatment, despite her age, or to order her to continue chemotherapy.

Judge Michael Meek said there was evidence before him that the girl believed if the cancer returned “it would represent God’s will, and her belief of death is that she would be returned to Jesus, her ‘lord and saviour’, and she would have ‘eternal life in heaven’.”

“The fact that AC describes herself as a Christian having a personal relationship with Jesus, has prayed (and no doubt continues to pray) about her circumstances, accepts God’s will and believes in eternal life with God is, in light of what I have briefly outlined above, entirely conventional within the Christian faith,” Meek said.

Meek found the girl did have ability to make a decision about refusing treatment, but that he had nevertheless considered that he should make a court order authorising it to continue.

“Events bearing upon the inestimable sanctity of life and its intersection with faith beliefs tend to give rise to some of the most palpable forensic debates and challenging legal decisions,” he said.

“The sanctity of life is an important consideration to be not merely accorded respect but appropriately weighed, as is the medical evidence, AC’s religious beliefs, AC’s autonomy of decision-making, and her right to bodily integrity.”

The hospital treating the girl, and the name of her treating doctor, were also suppressed by the court.

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Federal government approval the final hurdle for Queensland development

Federal government approval the final hurdle for mega Queensland coalmine

Queensland government approves Winchester South mine despite report warning of potential ‘climate change consequences’

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The Queensland government has approved a mega coalmine project which environmentalists say poses “unacceptable threats” to Queenslanders’ human rights.

The project now goes for federal approval, where it could become the biggest coalmine given the green light since the Albanese government came to power.

Whitehaven’s Winchester South coalmine would be located in the state’s Bowen Basin, near the town of Moranbah, and mine an estimated 15m tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal each year for 28 years.

Queensland’s coordinator general recommended the approval of the mine last year despite conceding it “has the capacity to limit human rights” due to “climate change consequences that may arise from the project”.

According to the company’s environmental impact statement, the project would contribute 583m tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution – more than Australia’s national annual greenhouse gas emissions – including 14.2m tonnes of on-site emissions and 567m tonnes of scope three emissions created when it is burned overseas. Approximately 58% of the mine’s coal is for steel production, while the other 42% would be exported to Asian countries for use in producing electricity.

The mine would also clear 2,000 hectares south-east of Moranbah of habitat of endangered and threatened species such as koalas, the Australian painted snipe, the ornamental snake and the squatter pigeon, according to the coordinator general’s report.

The decision comes after Queensland’s premier, Steven Miles, doubled the state’s emissions reduction target to 75% by 2035 – making it one of the most ambitious in the country.

Dr Coral Rowston, the director of Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland, said it was “contradictory” for the Queensland government to approve the mine so soon after bolstering its emissions reduction target.

“The Winchester South coalmine … poses unacceptable threats to ecosystems and Queenslanders’ human rights,” she said.

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“Let’s hope federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek can fix the Miles government’s poor decision making and reject this koala-killing, climate-destroying coalmine.”

At a Queensland media club event on Tuesday, Miles was asked how feasible it was that the state would reach its emissions targets if Winchester South was to join the Vulcan South coalmine in being approved this year.

Miles said he would legislate the emissions target, with the state remaining accountable for emissions produced in Queensland.

“The vast bulk of Queensland is coal is coking coal … We don’t have an alternative for steelmaking. We will one day but we need to deal with wind turbines and solar panels and batteries and all the things we need for this transformation,” he said.

“So there will continue to be a role for our resources industry.”

Dave Copeman, the director of the Queensland Conservation Council, said the approval of the Winchester South mine was “a disappointing day for Queensland”.

He urged the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to refuse its operation.

“It is the biggest greenfield coalmine coming up for approval in Australia,” Copeman said.

“As an open cut mine, once they start extracting coal, it will be too late to reduce the methane that will be released into the atmosphere continuously for generations, turbocharging climate change.”

A spokesperson at the Department of Environment confirmed the mine had been approved.

“This project was comprehensively assessed through an environmental impact statement managed by the coordinator general, who issued an evaluation report in November 2023, which recommended the project proceed subject to the conditions and recommendations in the report,” they said.

“This EA application was publicly notified and five submissions were received by the department – all of which were considered in the assessment process.”

Guardian Australia has contacted Whitehaven Coal for comment.

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the coalmine was a “test” for the federal environment minister after the Queensland government gave it the green light.

“We need new environment laws that stop new coalmines from further damaging our climate and nature, which is why the Greens are fighting for a climate trigger [to assess projects],” she said.

“We urge the government to work with us so coalmines like this are stopped in their tracks.”

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Federal government approval the final hurdle for Queensland development

Federal government approval the final hurdle for mega Queensland coalmine

Queensland government approves Winchester South mine despite report warning of potential ‘climate change consequences’

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The Queensland government has approved a mega coalmine project which environmentalists say poses “unacceptable threats” to Queenslanders’ human rights.

The project now goes for federal approval, where it could become the biggest coalmine given the green light since the Albanese government came to power.

Whitehaven’s Winchester South coalmine would be located in the state’s Bowen Basin, near the town of Moranbah, and mine an estimated 15m tonnes of thermal and metallurgical coal each year for 28 years.

Queensland’s coordinator general recommended the approval of the mine last year despite conceding it “has the capacity to limit human rights” due to “climate change consequences that may arise from the project”.

According to the company’s environmental impact statement, the project would contribute 583m tonnes of greenhouse gas pollution – more than Australia’s national annual greenhouse gas emissions – including 14.2m tonnes of on-site emissions and 567m tonnes of scope three emissions created when it is burned overseas. Approximately 58% of the mine’s coal is for steel production, while the other 42% would be exported to Asian countries for use in producing electricity.

The mine would also clear 2,000 hectares south-east of Moranbah of habitat of endangered and threatened species such as koalas, the Australian painted snipe, the ornamental snake and the squatter pigeon, according to the coordinator general’s report.

The decision comes after Queensland’s premier, Steven Miles, doubled the state’s emissions reduction target to 75% by 2035 – making it one of the most ambitious in the country.

Dr Coral Rowston, the director of Environmental Advocacy in Central Queensland, said it was “contradictory” for the Queensland government to approve the mine so soon after bolstering its emissions reduction target.

“The Winchester South coalmine … poses unacceptable threats to ecosystems and Queenslanders’ human rights,” she said.

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“Let’s hope federal environment minister Tanya Plibersek can fix the Miles government’s poor decision making and reject this koala-killing, climate-destroying coalmine.”

At a Queensland media club event on Tuesday, Miles was asked how feasible it was that the state would reach its emissions targets if Winchester South was to join the Vulcan South coalmine in being approved this year.

Miles said he would legislate the emissions target, with the state remaining accountable for emissions produced in Queensland.

“The vast bulk of Queensland is coal is coking coal … We don’t have an alternative for steelmaking. We will one day but we need to deal with wind turbines and solar panels and batteries and all the things we need for this transformation,” he said.

“So there will continue to be a role for our resources industry.”

Dave Copeman, the director of the Queensland Conservation Council, said the approval of the Winchester South mine was “a disappointing day for Queensland”.

He urged the environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, to refuse its operation.

“It is the biggest greenfield coalmine coming up for approval in Australia,” Copeman said.

“As an open cut mine, once they start extracting coal, it will be too late to reduce the methane that will be released into the atmosphere continuously for generations, turbocharging climate change.”

A spokesperson at the Department of Environment confirmed the mine had been approved.

“This project was comprehensively assessed through an environmental impact statement managed by the coordinator general, who issued an evaluation report in November 2023, which recommended the project proceed subject to the conditions and recommendations in the report,” they said.

“This EA application was publicly notified and five submissions were received by the department – all of which were considered in the assessment process.”

Guardian Australia has contacted Whitehaven Coal for comment.

The Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young said the coalmine was a “test” for the federal environment minister after the Queensland government gave it the green light.

“We need new environment laws that stop new coalmines from further damaging our climate and nature, which is why the Greens are fighting for a climate trigger [to assess projects],” she said.

“We urge the government to work with us so coalmines like this are stopped in their tracks.”

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Senators reject Greens bill to insert new measure into environmental laws

Senators reject Greens bill to insert climate trigger into environmental laws

Committee says safeguard mechanism will help cut emissions and ban on projects emitting more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 not needed

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A Senate committee has recommended the parliament vote down a bill that would insert a climate trigger into Australia’s national environmental laws.

The bill, introduced by the Greens, would for the first time require the environment minister to consider the climate impact of a major development during the assessment process under Australia’s environmental laws.

It proposes a ban on developments that emit more than 100,000 tonnes of CO2 a year and a requirement for ministerial approval for any projects that would emit between 25,000 and 100,000 tonnes of C02 annually.

“Labor face a huge test this year – will they fix our broken environment law to stop new coal, gas and native forest logging projects or not?” the Greens environment spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young said.

“In 2024, it is ludicrous that the environment minister can give environmental approval to projects that wreck our climate and destroy our forests.”

But government and coalition members of an upper house committee considering the bill have recommended it be rejected.

This was despite recognising “the significant and profound impact of climate change on the environment, including past and future emissions of greenhouse gases” and “the need for significant reductions of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions”.

“While the committee commends the objectives and intention of the bill, the committee notes a number of significant recent developments since this bill was introduced,” the report states.

It said this included last year’s passage of reforms to the safeguard mechanism, which would “result in emissions reduction from both existing and new industrial facilities”. The report said the bill, by contrast, would only deal with emissions from new facilities and risked duplicating work already being done under the safeguard mechanism.

The committee also said planned reform this year of Australia’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act would ensure that the projected emissions from proposed developments were “transparent prior to their environmental assessment”.

In additional comments, Coalition members of the committee said they believed a climate trigger “would actually deliver the reverse outcome – that is, it would significantly complicate (and compromise) the task of emissions reduction in Australia”.

In a dissenting report, the Greens said it was critical the parliament pass the bill to close a “glaring loophole” in Australia’s laws. They wrote it was disappointing to see the majority report rule out supporting a climate trigger, a position that ignored the “deep and inherent link between our climate and the environment”.

“The safeguard mechanism is but one measure required to address the threats of climate change on Australia’s communities, environment, economies. The safeguard mechanism does not consider the impact of fossil fuels and global warming on our natural environment”.

The environment minister Tanya Plibersek said the government had already made changes to strengthen Australia’s climate laws.

“Our strong new climate laws, developed with the Greens and independents, allow the minister for climate change and energy to stop coal and gas projects adding to Australia’s emissions,” she said.

The government will formally respond to the senate committee report.

A climate trigger in Australia’s national laws has long been called for by some environment groups as part of an overhaul of Australia’s failing system of environmental protections.

New polling commissioned commissioned by the Climate Council found there was strong support for climate change to be factored into Australia’s nature laws.

The survey of 1,201 people found 73% agreed that Australia’s national environmental laws should be designed to protect the environment from the impacts of climate change. Support among Labor voters was 83%.

“Australians get it, our national environment law should protect our precious natural places from climate change, as one of the biggest threats they face,” the council’s chief executive Amanda McKenzie said.

“We need a national environment law that can stop dangerous, polluting projects and say yes to important renewable and clean industry projects that are done right.”

Legislation for new national environmental laws is due to be introduced to the parliament this year.

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At least 24 killed in two bombings at election offices

At least 24 killed in two bombings at election offices in Pakistan

Party office and that of an independent candidate hit in Balochistan province on day before vote, leaving dozens injured

Two bomb blasts, at the election offices of a political party and an independent candidate in south-west Pakistan, have killed at least 24 people and wounded more than two dozen others, a day before parliamentary elections are to be held.

In the first attack, in Pishin, a district in Balochistan province, at least 14 people were killed, officials said. The wounded were transported to a nearby hospital, some listed as in a critical condition.

Later on Wednesday, a bombing at the elections office of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party in Qilla Saifullah, also in Balochistan, killed at least 10 people, local authorities said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, which were condemned by the caretaker interior minister, Gohar Ejaz.

The bombings came despite the deployment of tens of thousands of police and paramilitary forces across Pakistan to ensure peace after a recent surge in militant attacks in the country, especially in Balochistan.

The outlawed Balochistan Liberation Army has been behind attacks on security forces in Balochistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. On 30 January, a separatist Balochistan Liberation Army group attacked security facilities in Balochistan’s Mach district, killing six people.

In recent years, Pakistan has struggled to rein in surging militancy, especially in the former stronghold of the Pakistan Taliban. Militants have presence in Balochistan, and have targeted civilians in recent years.

The gas-rich province has been the scene of a low-level insurgency by Baloch nationalists for more than two decades. Baloch nationalists initially wanted a share of the provincial resources, but later they initiated an insurgency for independence.

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Parents charged with two-year-old daughter’s murder over alleged failure to seek medical care

Queensland parents charged with two-year-old daughter’s murder over alleged failure to seek medical care

Charges come after 14-month investigation into case of Diana Hanbury, who was declared dead upon presentation at Mackay Base hospital

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The parents of a dead Mackay child have been charged with murder under Queensland’s new reckless indifference laws after allegedly failing to seek medical care for the two-year-old.

Legislation passed in 2019 expanded the definition of murder to include “reckless indifference to life”, particularly for vulnerable people such as children.

Diana Hanbury was declared dead by medical staff after presenting at Mackay Base hospital on 29 December 2022.

Detectives from the specialist Mackay child protection and investigation unit charged a 37-year-old man and a 38-year-old woman more than a year later. They were expected to face Mackay magistrates court on Thursday.

Det Supt Darrin Shadlow said police had charged the child’s parents with murder under the reckless indifference legislation after an “extensive investigation” by detectives from Mackay and Brisbane.

“That investigation entailed speaking with numerous civilian witnesses, a lot of locals have come forward with information which has been valuable, as well as medical specialists,” he said.

“So that protracted investigation has culminated with today’s arrest of the parents of their child.”

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Shadlow said police will allege the baby girl was sick “for some time” before her mother took her to hospital when it was too late.

Medical staff attempted to resuscitate her, but it’s alleged she was already dead when they arrived. Shadlow said hospital staff were the ones to inform police of the alleged murder.

He said the investigation had taken so long because it was “complex”, including a large amount of CCTV, many witnesses and “a number of medical experts”.

The parents have also been charged with failure to have a birth registered.

In an appeal for public assistance last year, police asked for information from anyone who had attended a range of businesses earlier on the day the young girl died.

The reckless indifference legislation was introduced after a string of high-profile killings of children, in which the perpetrator was convicted only of manslaughter due to the difficulty of proving intent.

The change removed the requirement to prove a person intended to cause serious harm or death to another; instead, the charge requires it be proven they had knowledge that death is probable. It’s been used a handful of times since 2021.

In Queensland, murder carries a mandatory minimum non-parole period of 20 years for most cases. The only punishment a court can impose for an adult is a life sentence.

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Former pop star must stay in prison, UK parole panel decides

Former pop star Gary Glitter must stay in prison, parole panel decides

Panel said it was not satisfied releasing former singer, jailed for sexually abusing girls, was safe for public

Paul Gadd, known as the former pop star Gary Glitter, has lost a hearing to be freed from prison, where he is serving a sentence for sexually abusing girls.

Gadd, 79, was automatically released from prison in February 2023, halfway through a 16-year sentence – but was recalled just six weeks later for allegedly viewing downloaded images of children.

A hearing of the Parole Board, the independent body that carries out risk assessments on prisoners to determine whether they can be safely released, has concluded Glitter should not be released at this time. His sentence expires in February 2031.

After a private hearing last month, the board published its decision on Wednesday: “After considering the circumstances of his offending, the lack of progress made while in custody and on licence, and the other evidence presented at the hearing, the panel was not satisfied that release at this point would be safe for the protection of the public. Rather, the panel considered that Mr Gadd was appropriately located in custody, where outstanding levels of risk could be addressed.”

Gadd’s probation officer said he could not be safely managed in the community. The panel found that “greater internal controls and open and honest disclosure by Mr Gadd would be needed to manage his risks safely in the community”.

The summary of the Parole Board panel’s decision said: “It found on the evidence that at the time of the offending, and while he was on licence, Mr Gadd had a sexual interest in underage girls. There was also concern about the lack of victim empathy which he had continued to show.”

While his behaviour in prison had been generally good, he had not taken part in any programmes to address his offending because he continued to deny having a sexual interest in children.

Gadd was first jailed in 1999 for four months for possessing thousands of child abuse images. In 2002, he was expelled from Cambodia amid reports of sex crime allegations, and in March 2006 he was convicted of sexually abusing two girls, aged 10 and 11, in Vietnam and spent two-and-a-half years in jail.

The offences for which he was jailed in 2015 – sexually abusing three schoolgirls between 1975 and 1980 – came to light as part of Operation Yewtree, the Metropolitan police investigation launched after the Jimmy Savile scandal.

Gadd was automatically released from HMP The Verne, a low-security prison in Portland, Dorset, in February last year after serving half of a fixed-term determinate sentence.

Richard Scorer, a lawyer representing one of Gadd’s victims, said: “This is the right decision and in our view the only decision that the Parole Board could have made. Everything we know about Gadd/Glitter indicates that he remains a risk to children and has never shown any remorse.

“Releasing him would have been utterly wrong and we are glad the Parole Board has done the right thing. We only hope that Glitter will now serve this full sentence – it is completely unfair that our client has to endure this Glitter parole circus over and over again.”

He will be eligible for another parole hearing in about a years’ time. If the Parole Board does not recommend him for release in future, he will walk free when his sentence expires in February 2031, when he would be 86.

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