The Guardian 2024-02-09 12:01:08


Coalition to present bill to make airlines compensate affected passengers

Coalition to present ‘pay on delay’ bill to make airlines compensate affected passengers

Senators say bill will ‘clean up Australia’s airline industry through ensuring concrete protections for passengers’ hit by flight delays

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Coalition will move to force the Albanese government to bring in an airline passenger compensation scheme that would make carriers pay delayed customers, in a bill dubbed “pay on delay”.

On Friday, opposition transport spokesperson and Nationals senator, Bridget McKenzie, and Liberal senator Dean Smith gave notice of their intention to move “a bill for an Act to require the transport minister to make rules prescribing carriers’ obligations, and for related purposes” when parliament returns later this month.

“Australians deserve an aviation industry where planes take off and arrive on time, and their bags arrive with them,” McKenzie and Smith said in a statement.

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

“The Pay on Delay Bill is designed to clean up Australia’s airline industry through ensuring concrete protections for passengers to, from and within Australia and its territories in the event of flight delays, cancellations, or denials of boarding.”

The move seeks to address soaring levels of dissatisfaction with airlines over increasing delays and cancellations. In November 45% of flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane were cancelled or delayed.

The Coalition also appears to be responding to Qantas’ recent claim, made in its defence against legal action from the consumer watchdog, that it doesn’t sell tickets to any particular flight, but rather a “bundle of rights” that includes alternative options in the event of cancellations.

“The Bill will clarify a passenger’s ticket is on a particular flight, to a particular destination, at a particular time,” McKenzie and Smith said.

“The Albanese government has failed to ensure travelling Australians are not taken advantage of by our airlines and instead have spent the past 18 months running a protection racket for Qantas who represent more than 60% of the Australian airline industry,” the pair said.

There have been mounting calls to introduce a compensation scheme modelled on the laws already in place in the European Union and other countries, which would see airlines forced to pay cash to passengers who are delayed as a result of the airline’s operations, and not weather related issues.

Such schemes also force airlines to compensate passengers for missed connections, and stipulate payments must be made within days of the delay or cancellation.

In Europe, passengers whose flights arrive at their final destination with a delay of more than three hours are entitled to between €250 (AUD$485) and €600 (AUD$1,165) each, depending on the distance of the trip. Longer delays mean passengers can opt to be fully refunded within seven days. If a delay means a passenger misses a connecting flight on the same reservation, the airline must also pay compensation.

The Coalition appears to be upping the pressure on the transport minister, Catherine King, to consider such a scheme, as the government prepares its long-term aviation policy to be outlined in the much anticipated white paper to be released in the middle of the year.

Qantas, in its submission to the aviation green paper process – the precursor to the white paper, warned a compensation scheme would be a “backwards step”, and would inflate the costs of air fares instead of reducing flight disruption.

The Coalition haven’t put forward a specific model for an Australian scheme.

While the government has batted away criticism in recent months that it has taken decisions that favour Qantas over the travelling public, other politicians have voiced their support for a compensation scheme to crackdown on airlines inconveniencing passengers.

Independent MP for Kooyong in Melbourne, Monique Ryan, in November called for a scheme similar to the one in place in the UK and EU as a matter of urgency.

“Airlines like Qantas are acting less like national treasures and more like the mafia of the sky,” she said.

Ryan also suggested that a compensation scheme could address allegations of slot misuse levelled against Qantas and larger airlines, who deny claims they are scheduling more flights than they intend to operate out of airports, especially Sydney, before strategically cancelling them with the goal of blocking competition from launching rival services.

“Not only would this protect consumer rights, it would reduce cancellations and delays. Airlines won’t be so interested in cancelling or delaying flights if they have to pay up to $100,000 in compensation per flight,” Ryan said.

Consumer advocate Choice, as well as the Australian Lawyers Alliance have also called for a compensation scheme, while the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission also suggested it in its submission to the government’s aviation green paper last year.

A spokeswoman for King said the issue would be addressed through the white paper process. “The minister has repeatedly referred to the need for increased consumer protections.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Australian politics
  • Bridget McKenzie
  • Airline industry
  • Qantas
  • Coalition
  • news
Reuse this content

Michele Bullock in the hot seatFive key takeaways, from inflation to the new $5 note

Michele Bullock in the hot seat: five key takeaways, from inflation to the new $5 note

Appearing before the economics committee, Australia’s new RBA governor is circumspect when questioned on the direction of interest rates, but leaves the door ajar for further rises

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The Reserve Bank governor, Michele Bullock, has said that Labor’s redesigned stage-three tax cuts will not have a material impact on inflation.

During three hours of questioning, in her first appearance before the parliamentary economics committee, Australia’s first female governor was circumspect when questioned over the direction of interest rates, although she left the door ajar for further rises.

These are five important takeaways from her responses to the committee on Friday.

1. Tax cut changes aren’t inflationary

The RBA has long included the stage-three tax cuts in its forecasts, and does not see Labor’s recently announced changes as having any significant impact on its fight to lower inflation.

“The point with the stage-three tax cuts is that they’re staying within the fiscal envelope,” said Bullock.

“It’s a redistribution, and we don’t see that that’s going to have any material impact at all on inflation or our forecasts.”

Labor’s changes will pass parliament after the Coalition agreed to the reform that redistributes benefits to low and middle-income earners.

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

2. Interest rates could go higher

The RBA left its interest rate unchanged at 4.35% earlier this week, raising hopes that borrowing costs have peaked.

While inflation has been falling, it remains well above the 2% to 3% band the RBA is targeting.

On Friday, Bullock refused to rule out further rate hikes, even as parts of the wider investment community have already priced in interest rate cuts this year.

“At this stage, the board hasn’t ruled out a further increase in interest rates, but neither has it ruled it in,” Bullock said.

Like her predecessor, Bullock acknowledged the pain caused by increasing borrowing rates, but said high inflation was worse.

“The board understands that rising interest rates have put additional pressure on households that have mortgages,” Bullock said.

“But the alternative of lower interest rates and high inflation for a prolonged period would be even worse for these households, as well as all the households without mortgages.”

Inflation last ran hot in Australia in the 1980s, with an annualised rate of more than 8%, before the start of the recession in late 1990 led to a quick drop.

3. Rates could fall before inflation target reached

Australia’s inflation rate has retreated to a two-year low of 4.1%, although it sits well outside the RBA’s intended destination, the midpoint of the target band which is 2.5%.

Bullock said that doesn’t mean inflation needs to hit that target before rates are cut.

“Do we have to be in the band at 2.5% before we think about doing that? No, I don’t believe we do,” Bullock said.

“But we do need to be very confident that we’re going to get there as we start to remove the restrictive nature of policy.”

4. RBA is neutral on price gouging claims

The RBA previously dismissed any role that profiteering played in fuelling inflation, citing data that it said showed corporate profits were unremarkable outside the mining and energy sectors.

Bullock, who became governor in September, took a more neutral stance on Friday.

“I’m not sure we’re in a position to make a judgment on that, all we can really observe is what’s happening with prices,” Bullock said in response to questions on whether price-gouging was lifting inflation.

She said that if people believe businesses are able to increase prices because they are not under competitive pressure, then it’s a worthy issue to investigate.

“If a lack of competition is impeding that, then that’s an important thing for the ACCC to be looking at,” said Bullock, referring to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

An ACTU report by the former competition watchdog Allan Fels released this week found that Australians are continuously overcharged by major corporations enjoying scant competition, resulting in higher inflation and intensifying cost-of-living pressures.

Australia’s major supermarkets are subject to state and federal parliament inquiries, and a 12-month investigation by the ACCC.

5. Australians to have say over $5 note design

The Reserve Bank will be taking public feedback on a redesign of the $5 note over the coming months.

Bullock told the parliamentary committee the central bank wants to “honour and celebrate the culture and history of First Nations peoples” with the banknote’s appearance.

“As a first step in determining the design we will be asking members of the public over the course of March and April to share with us what they think should be on our $5 banknote,” Bullock said.

“In recent weeks, we’ve also begun visiting First Nations community organisations in key regional and remote locations across Australia and the Torres Strait, and we’re doing that to engage with local communities about the theme nomination process.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Reserve Bank of Australia
  • Interest rates
  • Inflation
  • Australian economy
  • news
Reuse this content

Industrial relationsWill Labor’s new laws make a real difference for workers?

Breaking the ‘permanent casual’ oxymoron: will Labor’s new laws make a real difference for workers?

Experts say pathway to sick and holiday pay a ‘huge win’ for Australia’s 2.5 million casual workers but industry groups are not convinced

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

For five years, Sandy has been part of the class of workers who, despite working 30 to 40 hours a week, go without sick or holiday pay.

In that time, the 47-year-old casual employee says he has only taken one day off – when his mother had a heart attack. Home ownership has also remained out of reach due to the difficulty getting a loan from the bank as a casual.

“This is the gift of casualisation,” he says.

But that could soon change for Sandy and thousands of others. On Thursday, the Albanese government passed its second tranche of workplace reforms, which included a pathway for casuals to convert to a permanent role if they wish to do so.

The laws were backed by unions but opposed by some employer groups that claimed they would make it more unattractive to hire casuals and hamper flexibility for workers.

Prof John Buchanan, a industrial relations expert at the University of Sydney, says the broader reforms – which also include improved rights for gig economy workers – are a “huge win” for employees and signalled to employers they must be more accountable.

He says the casual conversion laws may help break the oxymoron of the “permanent casual”, which has become entrenched in Australia’s workplaces.

“What employers had done was they said, ‘Well, we want to call you a casual because that means we can sidestep big obligations around leave pay, and in some cases, long service leave, and avoid redundancy rights’, so [the changes] are a pretty big deal,” he says.

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

There are 2.5 million casual workers in Australia, accounting for almost a quarter of the workforce, while an estimated 850,000 of those have regular work arrangements, according to the industrial relations minister, Tony Burke.

The new laws will ensure workers who are hired as casuals but work regular or predictable shifts are offered to switch to a permanent role. They will be able to apply for conversion after six months of regular working arrangements, and after 12 months if hired by a small business.

Employers will be able to refuse an employee request for conversion on “fair and reasonable operational grounds”.

And to win support for the new laws, Labor agreed to amendments from the independent ACT senator David Pocock that mean employers won’t be required to provide detailed reasons for denying a worker’s request. Workers will have the option to appeal against the decision at the Fair Work Commission.

Employers also won’t be required to proactively offer workers to convert to a permanent role after 12 months of regular working arrangements.

Fiona McDonald, an expert in industrial relations at the Australia Institute, is concerned the amendments have slightly weakened the ability for casual workers to enforce their new rights.

“It remains to be seen whether it will operate effectively,” she says.

“There is a power imbalance in that … it’s difficult for casuals who have no certainty of ongoing work … They may be worried that they’d lose their jobs if they put in a request that they thought might be refused.”

She added that unionised workforces in larger businesses would probably have more success.

Sandy, who did not want his surname used, says he has lost count of how many times he has asked his employer for a permanent role. Each time, the pathology courier says he has been told it would mean his regular 30 to 40 hours a week would be cut, so he has stuck to his casual position.

“Anyone who comes to them asking for [permanent] employment, they basically try to discourage them one way or another,” Sandy says.

He is heartened he will have the backing of the new laws when he next asks, saying job security and entitlements are worth the trade-off in his casual loading. But he’s still worried about the response.

“They are a large company, I’m worried they’ll still find a way to say no,” he says.

McDonald stresses the importance of an amendment put forward by the Greens to exclude teachers and lecturers on fixed-term contracts from the new definition.

“It’s quite clear now that you’re either a casual worker or a fixed-contract worker,” she says.

Shortly after the new legislation was announced, the Australian Industry Group chief executive, Innes Willox, described the casual conversion rules as “a radical new restriction on the ability to engage casual employees to work regular and predictable hours”.

On Wednesday, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry released a joint statement from its CEOs saying the changes would make hiring casuals unattractive and stymie flexibility for workers. It says the broader reforms were “rushed and flawed” and would harm small businesses.

Buchanan and McDonald describe those claims as overblown.

“The point of the legislation is to target the misuse of casual status, where employers use casual status because it’s cheaper when the [worker] should be employed as permanent,” McDonald says.

Explore more on these topics

  • Industrial relations
  • Australian trade unions
  • Business
  • features
Reuse this content

Swift parrotLeonardo DiCaprio calls on Australia to save critically endangered bird

Leonardo DiCaprio calls on Australia to save critically endangered swift parrot

Hollywood star tells social media followers ‘the only way to protect the swift parrot …. is to end native forest logging’

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Global superstar Leonardo DiCaprio has called for an end to native forest logging in Australia to protect the habitat of the critically endangered swift parrot.

The Hollywood actor and conservationist highlighted the plight of Guardian Australia’s bird of the year, telling his 62 million Instagram followers that destruction of the parrot’s breeding habitat in Tasmania continues, despite experts estimating just 750 swift parrots remained in the wild.

“The Australian government has promised that it will prevent any new extinctions. Conservationists continue to encourage them to uphold their zero extinction commitment,” DiCaprio wrote.

“The only way to protect the swift parrot, and hundreds of other threatened Australian forest species, is to end native forest logging across Australia and Tasmania.”

The swift parrot is a migratory species that spends winters in Victoria and New South Wales and summers nesting in forests scattered across the island state of Tasmania depending on where its main food sources, blue and black gums, are flowering.

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

A CSIRO-published guide in 2021 estimated the population had slumped to about 750, down from 2,000 a decade ago. Peer-reviewed studies have found it could be extinct in 10 years if no action was taken to improve its protection, and that forestry is the greatest threat to its survival.

Recent research by scientists at the Australian National University found the rate of decline was accelerating and without drastic conservation action there could be a mean population of just 58 birds by 2031.

DiCaprio’s post pointed to last week’s court victory for the Bob Brown Foundation which secured a temporary injunction on logging in an area of forest south of Hobart.

Re:wild, a conservation organisation backed by DiCaprio, brought the swift parrot’s decline and the court case to the actor’s attention.

“Leonardo DiCaprio has put Tasmania on the map big time, and the plight of the swift parrot is now well and truly global,” Bob Brown said.

“We are delighted to see Leonardo’s full endorsement of our campaign to end native forest logging and save the critically endangered swift parrots. We are inviting Leonardo to Tasmania to see this beautiful island, its forests and wildlife for himself.”

Brown said last week the foundation was “taking on what we believe is the illegality of the destruction of rare species habitat across Tasmania”.

The foundation has launched similar challenges to logging in swift parrot habitat in forest in other parts of the state.

The federal environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said that like everyone, she wanted to see swift parrots thrive for generations to come.

“That’s why last year I released the national recovery plan for the swift parrot to protect and revive this iconic species,” she said.

“And it’s why we are reforming our laws to ensure that native forest logging is regulated by national environment laws for the first time ever.”

Plibersek said the government was spending half a billion dollars on saving native species and eradicating feral animals, including specific programs for the swift parrot.

The Tasmanian government was asked for comment.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Birds
  • Endangered species
  • Wildlife
  • Conservation
  • Bob Brown
  • news
Reuse this content

Artistic duo ‘vindicated’ in Sydney as prosecutors drop charges

Artistic duo in Sydney cannabis laws protest ‘vindicated’ as prosecutors drop charges

Case against Alec Zammitt and Will Stolk, who projected pro-cannabis images onto Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge, abandoned after nearly two years

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

An artistic duo who have spent nearly two years embroiled in legal proceedings related to a Sydney protest over cannabis laws have had all charges against them dropped.

The pair, who have been under bail conditions for nearly two years, were awarded $2,750 each by a magistrate on Friday for some of the legal fees they had incurred.

Artists Alec Zammitt and Will Stolk, along with a group of activists under the banner “who are we hurting?”, staged a protest in Sydney on 20 April 2022 advocating for reform around New South Wales driving legislation for medicinal cannabis patients.

The group projected pro-cannabis lights and imagery onto the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge as part of their protest, using high-powered lasers at 4.20am, coordinated from inside a hotel room. Police went to the hotel and interrogated Zammitt for about 40 minutes, he told Guardian Australia. Stolk was also questioned.

In court on Friday the prosecution withdrew its charges, and lawyers for the duo pushed for costs.

Zammitt’s lawyer, James Clements, argued that it was only Zammitt and Stolk who were treated as suspects in the matter. Two women were also in the room at some point and there was a photographer outside, the court heard.

Clements argued the pair admitted guilt under the influence of a threat from Chief Insp Gary Coffey, the officer in charge. At a previous hearing in August last year, the magistrate, Daniel Reiss, deemed evidence from the prosecution as inadmissible under s84 of the evidence act, as it was deemed Zammitt was influenced by the threat of “oppressive conduct”.

At the time, the magistrate provided the prosecution with more time to gather evidence and form a stronger case. On Friday the prosecution withdrew all charges but did not provide a reason why.

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

Speaking to Guardian Australia before the court hearing, Zammitt said that when police were questioning him, they threatened to arrest his then-girlfriend and take the group back to the station “for multiple days” while an investigation was conducted.

“I was under the threat of innocent people being held in custody for what he said would be multiple days, so I said OK, it was me,” Zammitt said.

At court on Friday, Sgt Adrian Walsh said the prosecution did not just rely on the interviews at the hotel, which were deemed inadmissible, to prove guilt. He presented an article from Cannabiz, quoting Stolk in the Daily Telegraph, who had said: “We’re charged with projecting an image onto the Opera House for commercial gain – there was nothing commercially to be gained out of the protest.”

Walsh argued this equalled an admission, which Clements later refuted. The magistrate said, after being played a YouTube video from the morning of the protest, that the activists were “all making admissions left, right and centre” and were “all clearly working together”.

There was a moment where the magistrate questioned where the concept of “420” came from, joking “I think it’s Hitler’s birthday” but not suggesting there was a connection.

It is understood the phrase can be traced to a group of five Californian high school students in 1971 who began meeting at 4.20pm to smoke marijuana.

Clements had requested $7,325 in legal fees for Zammitt, while Stolk’s lawyer asked for $8,024.50. In the end, they were each awarded $2,750.

In his ruling, the magistrate noted the “difficulty in determining” the cost application because the court didn’t see all of the evidence and wasn’t given a reason for the prosecution withdrawing.

Ultimately, Reiss said he was satisfied the police proceedings had been conducted in an improper manner “in the absence of a full body of evidence”. He also noted the officer in charge took appropriate follow-up actions and that the investigation needed to be viewed in the context of being “on the lower end” as a fine-only offence.

The magistrate said the admissions made by Zammitt and Stolk “may well have been to shield the two women, but did accurately reflect the admissions in relation to themselves”.

Jeremy Buckingham from the Legalise Cannabis party, who was in court supporting the duo, said the magistrate’s ruling was “vindication” for them and condemned the attempted prosecution as “absolutely outrageous” and a “disproportionate response”.

Buckingham said he planned to raise “whether or not this was an appropriate use of taxpayers’ money” in parliament and directly with the police minister, Yasmin Catley, and the attorney general, Michael Daley.

“So many of the freedoms and the rights we have have been won by activists not complying with the broken laws of the time and through non-violence and civil disobedience, which is what [Stolk] and [Zammitt] did,” he said outside court.

Zammitt said that even the original amount they had asked for wouldn’t “begin to cover the pain and suffering and the loss of income that we’ve sustained of going through the whole process”, but “at least the judge saw fit to give us some of the money back”.

“Hopefully we’ll get these laws changed soon,” he added, pointing to NSW driving laws for medicinal cannabis patients as the most pressing issue.

Zammitt previously said he was passionate about the issue due to the “unjust victimisation” that cannabis users face.

Explore more on these topics

  • New South Wales
  • Cannabis
  • Sydney
  • Law (Australia)
  • Australian police and policing
  • Sydney Opera House
Reuse this content

WA firefighters accidentally dump sewage water on community near Perth

‘At the time it felt lovely’: WA firefighters accidentally dump sewage water on community near Perth

State premier says ‘in emergency situations sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan’ after mistake when fighting Bullsbrook blaze

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Investigators are probing how firefighters came to douse parts of a West Australian town in sewage wastewater while battling a bushfire.

Residents in Bullsbrook, about 35km north-east of Perth, have been warned to empty water tanks and not eat anything from their gardens after water bombers drew from the wrong ponds at a wastewater treatment plant on Wednesday when battling a blaze that was threatening homes and schools.

Officials are probing why the ponds were not marked as no-go zones in department logbooks.

“Department of Fire and Emergency Services (Dfes) maintains an extensive log of no-go zones for water sources throughout the state,” a spokesperson said on Friday. “A review of the status of all available water sources in the state will be conducted.”

Dfes said one of the ponds contained a safe water supply “however it was later discovered the two other nearby ponds contained wastewater”.

A Hazmat warning was issued for an area including the local high school which remained closed for cleaning on Friday.

Bullsbrook resident Natalie Bennett said her family was hosing down their roof when they were showered by helicopters passing overhead on Wednesday.

“When they flew over us leaking [water], at the time it felt lovely as it was so hot,” she told Guardian Australia.

Bennett said she was horrified to receive a text on Thursday at 2am local time about potential exposure to hazardous bacteria.

“Regardless of the grossness and possible danger from the Hazmat, we are eternally grateful to all the fireys who saved our homes, the school and the doctor’s surgery. It would not have been possible without the choppers’ fast turnaround.”

The WA health minister, Amber-Jade Sanderson, said the sewage water was not dropped directly on homes and the risk of contamination was “very low”.

“Obviously this is a mistake, it was found early, and an emergency meeting was called and public health have been called in and are involved in remediating that issue,” she said on Thursday.

“There’s a range of advice for people, including if you have a water tank, you should empty that water tank. If you have fruit and vegetables, don’t pick them in the next 48 hours and wash them well.”

The state premier, Roger Cook, said there may have been some drift spray that could have impacted the local community and the department was reacting with an “abundance of caution”.

“Our priority is to keep people safe and get the fires out and in emergency situations sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan, but the water which was contaminated was dropped on a bushland area,” Cook said on Thursday.

Dfes said firefighters had been advised to monitor their health and see a doctor if symptoms developed.

A United Professional Firefighters Union of WA spokesperson said firefighters who were working on the blaze from the ground were not informed of the mistake until 7pm on Wednesday.

“They were already at home having dinner with their families. If it is not a problem, then why have officials put out a Hazmat warning?” the spokesperson said.

The union was investigating if any of its personnel were feeling unwell.

Emergency WA said on Friday afternoon the Bullsbrook bushfire was “contained and controlled”.

Explore more on these topics

  • Western Australia
  • Bushfires
  • news
Reuse this content

No laughing matter: the context missing from a Sky News report on Steven Miles and youth crime

No laughing matter: the context missing from a Sky News report on Steven Miles and youth crime

Amanda Meade

A combination of persistent questioning on crime and an inexperienced premier sparked a media feeding frenzy in Queensland. Plus: end of an innings for Peter Lalor

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Steven Miles gave his first address to the Queensland Media Club as premier on Tuesday, announcing the government’s housing policy in front of the state’s business and government leaders.

With the fatal stabbing of 70-year-old Vyleen White dominating the news cycle Miles, understandably, got a lot of questions about youth crime, which he answered.

Sky News’s Brisbane bureau chief, Adam Walters, asked the premier why “there wasn’t a single reference to youth crime” in his housing speech.

The new Labor leader, who succeeded Annastacia Palaszczuk in December, answered “it was a speech about housing” and “I figured I’d get a question”, which prompted laughter from the room. The premier had, after all, just answered several questions about crime – and none about housing from the media.

When Walters asked again about the “absence of any reference to youth crime in your speech” Miles smiled wryly and then giggled, seemingly amused at the tone and the persistence of the questioner.

This exchange with Walters, who has a habit of asking long-winded questions, was fashioned into a story about how the premier laughed when he was asked questions about crime.

Sky News also ran part of the earlier exchange but not the laughter of the audience.

Cue the negative stories which rolled out across News Corp, the Daily Mail and social media.

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

The Nationals senator Matt Canavan told Andrew Bolt that Miles “needs to explain himself”. Sky host Chris Kenny said “I’ve always said this bloke is a clown and this only confirms my view”.

“Mr Miles is under heavy fire after he was filmed giggling at a press conference after being asked about whether the state needed more police to respond to youth crime,” reported news.com.au.

An attempt by Miles to deny the “sensational headlines” didn’t stop the narrative.

Peter Dutton told Ray Hadley that Miles was “not fit for the job” after he was seen laughing at “one of the most emotional and serious issues” in Queensland. Sky News said the federal opposition leader had “savaged” Miles after he “laughed off a question about the state’s crippling youth crime crisis”. A more experienced leader would have avoided reacting to Walters but the claim he laughed at youth crime was disingenuous.

Bum rap

A single letter to the editor of the Gold Coast Bulletin has provided acres of content for media outlets this week and there is one tiny reason: shots of women in bikinis.

When community activist Ian Grace pleaded with the mayor, Tom Tate, for women to cover up and not wear the thong which went “up the bum”, editors could not hide their glee.

Almost every network and tabloid covered the story with lines including “Australians have been divided over a call to ban G-string bikinis on Australian beaches”.

The West disconnects

The West Australian newspaper has been campaigning hard all week against the government’s right to disconnect bill with front page treatment of the issue on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Friday’s front page, after the senate passed the bill on Thursday, quoted a business leader saying the disconnect laws were “a load of shit”, except the paper was coy, printing only “s…” on page one.

Thursday’s editorial argued “the whole thing smacks of a solution in need of a problem” and claimed militant unions would seek to exploit the new provisions.

“Many employers are choosing to formalise that right, through workplace policies, or through clauses in EBAs giving workers the ‘right to disconnect’,” the editorial said.

But what the paper is yet to point out is that Kerry Stokes’s West Australian newspaper has the same clause in its own EBA. Apart from the inclusion of a quote from Burke saying he was “particularly impressed by the right to disconnect model which is specifically contained within The West Australian newspaper’s own enterprise agreement” The West has not addressed the elephant in the room.

The West’s enterprise agreement says an employee is under no obligation to engage in work-related communication outside work.

The editor-in-chief of the West Australian, Anthony De Ceglie, did not reply to a request for comment.

Farewell to Holt Street

The Australian’s chief cricket writer, Peter Lalor, a 30-year veteran of the paper, has taken a redundancy from News Corp. Friday is his last day.

The award-winning journalist and author has covered Test cricket in all parts of the world for the newspaper and has written a history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a biography of Ron Barassi, a bestselling true crime book and co-authored a biography of Phillip Hughes.

Lalor, who is facing some health challenges, asked for a redundancy and was granted one, sources told Weekly Beast. Lalor will continue to work with Seven’s cricket coverage and on radio.

Lalor’s departure comes on the heels of Gideon Haigh’s exit from the Oz. Haigh told The Age he left because he had been siloed as a cricket writer.

When Haigh left the masthead’s popular podcast Cricket, Et Cetera, which he co-hosted with Lalor, it was dropped.

His departure means The Australian’s once-healthy sports department now has just two reporters: Will Swanton and Jess Halloran.

The Australian’s associate editor based in Melbourne, Ellen Whinnett, has also taken a redundancy.

Editor-in-chief Michelle Gunn has been approached for comment.

A beautiful set of numbers

Ross Gittins is the longest continuous columnist in the 192-year history of the Sydney Morning Herald so when he reached the milestone of 50 years of service the newspaper unleashed the festival of Gittins.

The economics editor has been writing three columns a week since the early 1980s and has made a name for himself by filing copy which has “uniquely explained economics in understandable everyday language”.

“But Gittins is more than a journalist,” the Herald editorial said. “He is an Australian institution and we are proud, privileged and lucky to have him.”

The effusive coverage included a video of school teachers and students talking about Gittins’ impact on education and a slide show featuring 32 photographs of the journalist over the years.

Gittins deserves all the praise for his remarkable career and his unmatched dedication to serving the readers of the SMH, but the amount of editorial space the editors dedicated to the topic did not go unremarked.

In total the SMH lavished praise on its writer over 10 pages: the front page (really two front pages because of a big ad), a news “anniversary special” which ran from pages eight to 13 with no advertising, an editorial, two pages of letters from readers and a cartoon.

But wait, there is more. The SMH editor, Bevan Shields, had the glass news conference room inscribed with the words The Ross Gittins Conference Room.

The key to this devotion to Gittins may lie in his popularity with readers: his columns are usually very well read.

“The most-read opinion piece for 2023 was a Gittins column on the sneaky removal of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset, known to tax aficionados as the LAMIngTOn’,” an email from Billy Cantwell, deputy opinion editor, told readers.

ABC targeted over drag event

A segment of the ABC’s Mardi Gras coverage has had to be hastily rearranged after Christian groups, the Liberal senator Alex Antic and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) campaigned against it.

The ABC cancelled the plans to film Drag Queen Story Time with preschoolers at Sydney’s Rockdale Library after what it said was a “hateful and offensive response”.

“The ABC is the official host broadcaster for the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras,” the broadcaster said. “As part of this partnership the ABC showcases the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community, aligning with its Charter obligation to reflect all Australians.”

Weekly Beast understands the segment will go ahead but will be filmed in a safe, undisclosed location.

Flag stoush

Victoria police released an unusually lengthy, and pithy, statement this week after reports in some media that a couple had been arrested for “inciting a riot” by wearing the Australian flag near an Invasion Day protest in Melbourne.

A Melbourne couple told Sky News last week that they were threatened with arrest because they were wearing flags on their hats on Australia Day.

The couple’s story was gold for the culture warriors who claim Australia Day has been cancelled.

But police labelled the stories “nonsensical” and “fanciful”.

“Victoria Police is disappointed that some media outlets think it is acceptable to criticise our hardworking police officers without first fact checking and giving us the right of reply,” the police said. “Particularly when we staff a 24-hour media unit.

“The actions of police are routinely scrutinised by the media and rightly so. We own our mistakes if and when we make them. We don’t shy away from them. But we will not tolerate our police officers being subject to fanciful stories that have not been fact checked. We will not cop that.”

But the stoush is not over yet. Bolt has called for the release of the bodycam footage.

Explore more on these topics

  • Nine Entertainment
  • The weekly beast
  • News Corporation
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Australian media
  • comment
Reuse this content

No laughing matter: the context missing from a Sky News report on Steven Miles and youth crime

No laughing matter: the context missing from a Sky News report on Steven Miles and youth crime

Amanda Meade

A combination of persistent questioning on crime and an inexperienced premier sparked a media feeding frenzy in Queensland. Plus: end of an innings for Peter Lalor

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

Steven Miles gave his first address to the Queensland Media Club as premier on Tuesday, announcing the government’s housing policy in front of the state’s business and government leaders.

With the fatal stabbing of 70-year-old Vyleen White dominating the news cycle Miles, understandably, got a lot of questions about youth crime, which he answered.

Sky News’s Brisbane bureau chief, Adam Walters, asked the premier why “there wasn’t a single reference to youth crime” in his housing speech.

The new Labor leader, who succeeded Annastacia Palaszczuk in December, answered “it was a speech about housing” and “I figured I’d get a question”, which prompted laughter from the room. The premier had, after all, just answered several questions about crime – and none about housing from the media.

When Walters asked again about the “absence of any reference to youth crime in your speech” Miles smiled wryly and then giggled, seemingly amused at the tone and the persistence of the questioner.

This exchange with Walters, who has a habit of asking long-winded questions, was fashioned into a story about how the premier laughed when he was asked questions about crime.

Sky News also ran part of the earlier exchange but not the laughter of the audience.

Cue the negative stories which rolled out across News Corp, the Daily Mail and social media.

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

The Nationals senator Matt Canavan told Andrew Bolt that Miles “needs to explain himself”. Sky host Chris Kenny said “I’ve always said this bloke is a clown and this only confirms my view”.

“Mr Miles is under heavy fire after he was filmed giggling at a press conference after being asked about whether the state needed more police to respond to youth crime,” reported news.com.au.

An attempt by Miles to deny the “sensational headlines” didn’t stop the narrative.

Peter Dutton told Ray Hadley that Miles was “not fit for the job” after he was seen laughing at “one of the most emotional and serious issues” in Queensland. Sky News said the federal opposition leader had “savaged” Miles after he “laughed off a question about the state’s crippling youth crime crisis”. A more experienced leader would have avoided reacting to Walters but the claim he laughed at youth crime was disingenuous.

Bum rap

A single letter to the editor of the Gold Coast Bulletin has provided acres of content for media outlets this week and there is one tiny reason: shots of women in bikinis.

When community activist Ian Grace pleaded with the mayor, Tom Tate, for women to cover up and not wear the thong which went “up the bum”, editors could not hide their glee.

Almost every network and tabloid covered the story with lines including “Australians have been divided over a call to ban G-string bikinis on Australian beaches”.

The West disconnects

The West Australian newspaper has been campaigning hard all week against the government’s right to disconnect bill with front page treatment of the issue on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Friday’s front page, after the senate passed the bill on Thursday, quoted a business leader saying the disconnect laws were “a load of shit”, except the paper was coy, printing only “s…” on page one.

Thursday’s editorial argued “the whole thing smacks of a solution in need of a problem” and claimed militant unions would seek to exploit the new provisions.

“Many employers are choosing to formalise that right, through workplace policies, or through clauses in EBAs giving workers the ‘right to disconnect’,” the editorial said.

But what the paper is yet to point out is that Kerry Stokes’s West Australian newspaper has the same clause in its own EBA. Apart from the inclusion of a quote from Burke saying he was “particularly impressed by the right to disconnect model which is specifically contained within The West Australian newspaper’s own enterprise agreement” The West has not addressed the elephant in the room.

The West’s enterprise agreement says an employee is under no obligation to engage in work-related communication outside work.

The editor-in-chief of the West Australian, Anthony De Ceglie, did not reply to a request for comment.

Farewell to Holt Street

The Australian’s chief cricket writer, Peter Lalor, a 30-year veteran of the paper, has taken a redundancy from News Corp. Friday is his last day.

The award-winning journalist and author has covered Test cricket in all parts of the world for the newspaper and has written a history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, a biography of Ron Barassi, a bestselling true crime book and co-authored a biography of Phillip Hughes.

Lalor, who is facing some health challenges, asked for a redundancy and was granted one, sources told Weekly Beast. Lalor will continue to work with Seven’s cricket coverage and on radio.

Lalor’s departure comes on the heels of Gideon Haigh’s exit from the Oz. Haigh told The Age he left because he had been siloed as a cricket writer.

When Haigh left the masthead’s popular podcast Cricket, Et Cetera, which he co-hosted with Lalor, it was dropped.

His departure means The Australian’s once-healthy sports department now has just two reporters: Will Swanton and Jess Halloran.

The Australian’s associate editor based in Melbourne, Ellen Whinnett, has also taken a redundancy.

Editor-in-chief Michelle Gunn has been approached for comment.

A beautiful set of numbers

Ross Gittins is the longest continuous columnist in the 192-year history of the Sydney Morning Herald so when he reached the milestone of 50 years of service the newspaper unleashed the festival of Gittins.

The economics editor has been writing three columns a week since the early 1980s and has made a name for himself by filing copy which has “uniquely explained economics in understandable everyday language”.

“But Gittins is more than a journalist,” the Herald editorial said. “He is an Australian institution and we are proud, privileged and lucky to have him.”

The effusive coverage included a video of school teachers and students talking about Gittins’ impact on education and a slide show featuring 32 photographs of the journalist over the years.

Gittins deserves all the praise for his remarkable career and his unmatched dedication to serving the readers of the SMH, but the amount of editorial space the editors dedicated to the topic did not go unremarked.

In total the SMH lavished praise on its writer over 10 pages: the front page (really two front pages because of a big ad), a news “anniversary special” which ran from pages eight to 13 with no advertising, an editorial, two pages of letters from readers and a cartoon.

But wait, there is more. The SMH editor, Bevan Shields, had the glass news conference room inscribed with the words The Ross Gittins Conference Room.

The key to this devotion to Gittins may lie in his popularity with readers: his columns are usually very well read.

“The most-read opinion piece for 2023 was a Gittins column on the sneaky removal of the Low and Middle Income Tax Offset, known to tax aficionados as the LAMIngTOn’,” an email from Billy Cantwell, deputy opinion editor, told readers.

ABC targeted over drag event

A segment of the ABC’s Mardi Gras coverage has had to be hastily rearranged after Christian groups, the Liberal senator Alex Antic and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) campaigned against it.

The ABC cancelled the plans to film Drag Queen Story Time with preschoolers at Sydney’s Rockdale Library after what it said was a “hateful and offensive response”.

“The ABC is the official host broadcaster for the 2024 Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras,” the broadcaster said. “As part of this partnership the ABC showcases the diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community, aligning with its Charter obligation to reflect all Australians.”

Weekly Beast understands the segment will go ahead but will be filmed in a safe, undisclosed location.

Flag stoush

Victoria police released an unusually lengthy, and pithy, statement this week after reports in some media that a couple had been arrested for “inciting a riot” by wearing the Australian flag near an Invasion Day protest in Melbourne.

A Melbourne couple told Sky News last week that they were threatened with arrest because they were wearing flags on their hats on Australia Day.

The couple’s story was gold for the culture warriors who claim Australia Day has been cancelled.

But police labelled the stories “nonsensical” and “fanciful”.

“Victoria Police is disappointed that some media outlets think it is acceptable to criticise our hardworking police officers without first fact checking and giving us the right of reply,” the police said. “Particularly when we staff a 24-hour media unit.

“The actions of police are routinely scrutinised by the media and rightly so. We own our mistakes if and when we make them. We don’t shy away from them. But we will not tolerate our police officers being subject to fanciful stories that have not been fact checked. We will not cop that.”

But the stoush is not over yet. Bolt has called for the release of the bodycam footage.

Explore more on these topics

  • Nine Entertainment
  • The weekly beast
  • News Corporation
  • Australian Broadcasting Corporation
  • Australian media
  • comment
Reuse this content

News companies argue ex-SAS corporal’s case ‘fundamentally flawed’

Ben Roberts-Smith defamation appeal: news companies argue ex-SAS corporal’s case ‘fundamentally flawed’

Roberts-Smith, 45, is seeking to overturn June defamation trial judgment that found he engaged in war crimes in Afghanistan

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

News companies defending a defamation appeal launched by Ben Roberts-Smith over reports he engaged in war crimes in Afghanistan have told a court the ex-SAS corporal’s case is “fundamentally flawed”.

The appeal by Roberts-Smith, 45, seeks to overturn his June defamation loss against Nine newspapers and the Canberra Times over 2018 reports on war crimes during the Victoria Cross-recipient’s Afghanistan deployments.

The 2,600-paragraph judgment, handed down by Justice Anthony Besanko, found Roberts-Smith engaged in or was complicit in the unlawful killings of four unarmed prisoners.

  • Sign up to receive Guardian Australia’s fortnightly Rural Network email newsletter

Roberts-Smith denies his involvement in any war crimes and has not been criminally charged.

Opening the media outlets’ federal court appeal case late on Friday, Nicholas Owens SC said it was important for the judges to assess the trial evidence in its entirety.

“The fundamental flaw in the arguments advanced by the appellate in this court lies in the failure to make what we say, with respect, is any serious attempt to place particular pieces of evidence that they have seized upon in the context of the evidence as a whole,” Owens said.

Responding to claims advanced by Roberts-Smith’s counsel about “particular” problems with some trial evidence, Owens said his client’s response ranged from denying such problems to “accepting completely that there is a valid point to be made”.

“Our real point is that’s only the beginning of the analysis,” Owens said.

Using the definition of “squirter” as an example, he said there was a “whole lot” of evidence about it at trial, such as whether the term meant a person leaving a compound, moving away from a target area, or moving around a compound.

“It’s not really a binary choice,” the barrister said.

Accounts of witnesses, including Afghans, called by the news companies at trial were found to be honest, while there were findings of “high improbability” on the other side’s evidence, Owens said.

The case was not like a detective story, he said, arguing instead that the only dispute in relation to several killings was their surrounding circumstances.

At the appeal, Roberts-Smith’s barrister Bret Walker SC had attacked evidence that his client was seen ordering the execution of a prisoner moments after a weapons cache was uncovered in the village of Chinartu in October 2012.

Walker has also claimed problems with evidence purporting to show Roberts-Smith kicked handcuffed prisoner Ali Jan off a cliff before ordering his execution.

The appeal continues before justices Nye Perram, Anna Katzmann and Geoffrey Kennett on Monday.

Explore more on these topics

  • Ben Roberts-Smith
  • Australian media
  • Afghanistan
  • Australian military
  • news
Reuse this content

Regulators criticise PwC refusal to hand over report into tax leaks

‘Deadly serious’: Australian regulators criticise PwC refusal to hand over report into tax leaks

Consultancy’s global executive says report suggests there’s no evidence confidential information was used for commercial gain

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

PwC has faced furious rebuke from politicians, the country’s tax office and a regulator for repeatedly refusing to share a report it used to argue that a damaging tax leaks scandal was isolated to Australia.

The report, by law firm Linklaters, was cited by PwC’s global executive to assure regulators there was no evidence that confidential details about multinational tax laws received by the firm’s international partners were used for commercial gain.

The report was commissioned after a former PwC partner, who was advising the Australian government on the draft laws, shared confidential information with his colleagues over several years. That information was then sold to tech companies in the US, giving them time to prepare them for new, tougher laws.

After being criticised by “furious” ministers and referred to the Australian federal police, PwC cited the report to assure regulators its global partners did not commercialise the government secrets.

PwC’s global executive also said the report found six partners outside Australia should have raised questions about whether a colleague was providing them with government secrets.

Australian senators and regulators want to know who those six partners are.

The chair of a parliamentary inquiry into the scandal that saw PwC Australia divest its entire government consulting division for just $1, Liberal senator Richard Colbeck, said the firm’s refusal to share the report was unacceptable.

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

Colbeck, who has previously sought the assistance of parliamentary oversight bodies in the US and the UK to obtain the report, said Australians deserved to know who “the dirty six” were and that the firm’s non-disclosure would be formally condemned by the Australian Senate.

“If we don’t see the report, it ain’t going to be pretty,” Colbeck told the inquiry. “We are deadly serious about this. Deadly serious.”

PwC Australia’s chief executive, Kevin Burrowes, said he had repeatedly sought a copy of the report from the firm’s international executive but was denied on each occasion.

“I’ve formally requested the Linklaters report again from PwC International Limited and that request was refused on the basis that the information contained in that report is privileged and confidential to PwC International Limited,” Burrowes told the inquiry, before apologising.

Burrowes has been unable to tell the inquiry the names or locations of the international partners investigated by Linklaters.

The Australian Tax Office (ATO), which has repeatedly expressed frustration about PwC Australia’s use of legal professional privilege claims to stymie its investigations, has not seen a copy of the report. An ATO deputy commissioner, Rebecca Saint, indicated the matter was being discussed with international partners.

“There is a great deal of interest in what has happened in Australia, internationally,” Saint told the inquiry.

“There is absolutely a lot of interest. We have certainly been working closely with others.”

The ATO’s second commissioner, Jeremy Hirschorn, said the firm was being obstructive.

“We share the frustrations of this committee that an organisation, which claims to be cooperative, is deliberately hiding behind the difference between their local firm and the international firm,” Hirschorn told the inquiry.

The regulator that exposed the scandal, the Tax Practitioners Board, has repeatedly requested the document to inform its investigation of PwC Australia. The TPB has nine ongoing inquiries into the firm.

“We have asked for the report and the response we got was, ‘PwC Australia don’t have a copy of it and are not able to give it to us’. I would have appreciated a copy of it, quite clearly,” said the TPB’s chair, Peter de Clure.

The Greens senator Barbara Pocock told the inquiry that PwC’s refusal to provide the report was “a running sore of dishonesty”.

“PwC is disdaining the parliament, that is what you are doing,” Pocock said.

Explore more on these topics

  • PwC
  • Australian politics
  • news
Reuse this content

Man shot and injured by protective services officer

Flinders Street incident: man shot and injured by protective services officer

A man allegedly attacked people with broken glass before he was shot once by PSO working with police at the scene in Melbourne

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A protective services officer working with police has opened fire on a man who went on a rampage with a broken bottle in the centre of Melbourne.

Several people were reportedly injured after being slashed with a broken bottle on the busy Princes Bridge in the CBD at around 5.30pm on Friday evening.

Police and protective services officers (PSOs) arrived on the scene and were confronted by the man with broken glass.

When OC spray failed to subdue the man, one PSO opened fire and the alleged assailant was struck once, police said. He was taken to hospital with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Protective services officers are armed and uniformed officers who have the power to apprehend, arrest, search and fine people in public places such as railway stations.

The incident was not terror related, police said, and there was no ongoing danger to the public.

Armed crime squad detectives will now investigate the incident as per standard protocol when a firearm is discharged.

Victraffic confirmed that Swanston Street was closed in both directions at the bridge because of a police incident.

Multiple videos posted online showed police and paramedics at the scene.

Police did not detail if any of the officers were hurt or provide information on the injuries to any bystanders.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Melbourne
  • Victoria
  • news
Reuse this content

Man shot and injured by protective services officer

Flinders Street incident: man shot and injured by protective services officer

A man allegedly attacked people with broken glass before he was shot once by PSO working with police at the scene in Melbourne

  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A protective services officer working with police has opened fire on a man who went on a rampage with a broken bottle in the centre of Melbourne.

Several people were reportedly injured after being slashed with a broken bottle on the busy Princes Bridge in the CBD at around 5.30pm on Friday evening.

Police and protective services officers (PSOs) arrived on the scene and were confronted by the man with broken glass.

When OC spray failed to subdue the man, one PSO opened fire and the alleged assailant was struck once, police said. He was taken to hospital with what were believed to be non-life-threatening injuries.

Protective services officers are armed and uniformed officers who have the power to apprehend, arrest, search and fine people in public places such as railway stations.

The incident was not terror related, police said, and there was no ongoing danger to the public.

Armed crime squad detectives will now investigate the incident as per standard protocol when a firearm is discharged.

Victraffic confirmed that Swanston Street was closed in both directions at the bridge because of a police incident.

Multiple videos posted online showed police and paramedics at the scene.

Police did not detail if any of the officers were hurt or provide information on the injuries to any bystanders.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Melbourne
  • Victoria
  • news
Reuse this content

Middle East crisis live: Destruction in Gaza a ‘war crime’, says top UN diplomat; starving people there ‘eating grass’, charity says

Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights said on Thursday that widespread destruction by the IDF of civilian infrastructure in Gaza “amounts to a grave breach of the Fourth Genevea Convention, and a war crime”.

Türk criticised the “extensive destruction of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly”.

Publication of Jewish creatives WhatsApp group led to death threats, MP says

Publication of Jewish creatives WhatsApp group led to death threats, MP says

Josh Burns says one family is in hiding after contact information from a private group chat encouraging action over coverage of Israel and Palestine were leaked

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

The publishing of a Jewish creatives WhatsApp group chat and the contact details of alleged participants has led to death threats and forced one family into hiding, Labor MP Josh Burns has said.

Writer and commentator Clementine Ford on Thursday published a link on her Facebook page to the log of a group chat of over 600 Jewish writers and artists. The Age, which first reported the story, alleged the link also contained a spreadsheet of links to social media accounts and another file that contained the photos of over 100 Jewish people.

Ford was not the only person to have shared a copy of the log, but she said it was to provide her 239,000 followers with an insight into “how coordinated efforts are to silence Palestinian activists and their allies” via a transcript of the leaked chat.

“This is a group of ‘creatives’ working to silence voices calling for Palestinian liberation,” she said.

Both the Bitly link and the host site for the document had removed the log at the time of reporting, on privacy grounds.

Burns, who is the federal MP for Macnamara, said it was “very distressing” to see people’s contact information be posted online

“This is beyond the sort of trivial social media posts that some people are putting up,” he said. “This has resulted in really serious consequences where people have received death threats.”

Burns said he had been in contact with a family who had to go into hiding after receiving an “avalanche of threats” and had to switch off devices and move to a different location.

“They were completely shattered by this whole experience, where … a sort of lynch mob of people were attacking them,” he said.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry’s co-chief executive, Alex Ryvchin, said there was “shock and disbelief” that a list of the names of Jews was being drawn up.

“We call on our fellow Australians to resist the harassment and bullying, and when asked to sack or blacklist Australian Jews, to say not in our time and not in our country,” he said.

A spokesperson for Victoria police confirmed it is investigating earlier reports of the personal details of people who belong to a private social media chat group appearing to have been released online.

Guardian Australia has not verified the other documents, but has seen the purported log of the chat, which are believed to be the same as those posted by Ford and others, albeit without the social media details of the members of the group.

The chat includes members of the group, similar to the Lawyers for Israel group, encouraging contacting Ford’s publisher and others in the media over coverage of Israel and Palestine and the response to the leaked WhatsApp chats for Lawyers for Israel and its alleged campaign to oust journalist Antoinette Lattouf from a casual on-air role at the ABC.

Guardian Australia has contacted Ford.

The president of the Australian Palestine Advocacy Network, Nasser Mashni, said APAN was concerned by purpose of the WhatsApp group saying it appeared to be focused on targeting and “attempting to silence” people speaking out on Palestine.

“Palestine supporters from a range of backgrounds have been targeted for months, sometimes leading to job losses, sometimes resulting in threats to people’s physical safety.”

One of the former members of the group, journalist Ginger Gorman, said in a statement published on X she joined the group after the 7 October attack on the understanding it was a Jewish creative group about human rights. She said she muted the group and only viewed it occasionally, and missed what she said was bullying and harassment in the group and the targeting of public personalities.

She said once she became aware, she left the group before it was mentioned in the media. She said she condemned the bullying and harassment of anyone.

“Now that I am aware of what was happening in this group, I want to apologise to those who were victimised or targeted. You didn’t deserve this,” she said.

But Gorman said she and her family were the target of online abuse and threats due to being a member of the group.

“Personally, I support all calls for a ceasefire. Innocent civilians should not be targeted and killed,” she said.

Burns defended the members of the group organising together to express their views.

“There’s been a number of groups where some have been really focused on defending the Jewish community against attacks. And I don’t think it’s true to say that they have been focused on shutting down Palestinian voices,” he said.

“We have to be very careful about attributing some sort of sinister motivation with democratic activity.”

He said encouraging letter-writing is different to publishing someone’s personal information in a public arena and defended the group chats.

“I don’t have any issue with people in any organisation and any who were involved in any part of this conversation or any other conversation to associate with one another,” he said.

“That’s one of the fundamental rights of being an Australian is to be able to freely associate with your fellow citizen, and to come together and express your view.”

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told Radio 3AW it had been a real tragedy that there had been rising social disharmony, and while people had strong views about the conflict it was unacceptable that people do not feel safe in their communities.

“It’s not the Australia I want to see,” he said.

“The great thing about our country is we can be a microcosm for the world. And by and large we are a peaceful country – we live in harmony.

“The great thing is that people whether they be Catholic or Jewish, or Hindu, or Buddhist or Muslim, live side by side and enriched by the diversity which is there and that’s a sort of Australia but I want to see.”

Lattouf’s unlawful dismissal case with the ABC returns to the Fair Work Commission on Tuesday.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Privacy
  • Israel-Gaza war
  • Australian politics
  • Australian media
  • news
Reuse this content

Rugby star found not guilty of sexually assaulting woman in Bondi hotel

Kurtley Beale trial: rugby star found not guilty of sexually assaulting woman in Bondi pub

Jury returns verdicts hours after starting deliberations in trial of ex-Wallaby accused of sexually assaulting woman at Beach Road hotel in December 2022

  • Follow our Australia news live blog for latest updates
  • Get our morning and afternoon news emails, free app or daily news podcast

A jury has found rugby star Kurtley Beale not guilty of sexual intercourse without consent over an incident in the bathroom of a Sydney pub in 2022.

The former Wallabies playmaker was also cleared of two counts of sexual touching without consent after a jury returned its verdicts on Friday having deliberated for just over two hours.

Beale’s wife sobbed as the jury delivered the not guilty verdicts to all of the charges while the rugby star hung his head in apparent relief.

Beale would be making an application for costs, his lawyer told the court.

Beale was charged in January 2023 after the woman told police he touched her buttocks and forced her to perform oral sex in a toilet cubicle at Bondi’s Beach Road hotel the previous month.

The jury rejected the woman’s account that Beale followed her into the cubicle of the toilet, removed his penis from his pants and forced it into her mouth.

The woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said during the trial she was using the men’s toilets to avoid queues at the women’s when Beale entered and locked the cubicle.

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

Earlier, when giving directions, Judge Graham Turnbull told the jury to deliberate for as long as necessary to consider the facts of the case.

“You must be satisfied of the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt,” he told them on Friday.

Beale did not give evidence in the trial, but Turnbull told jurors not to draw any inference from that fact or speculate on what might have been said if he had.

The jury was also told to accept that Beale was a person of good character, having not previously been accused of any crimes.

Differing accounts given by the woman to those close to her, as well as in police statements, were closely scrutinised during the trial.

Beale’s lawyer, Margaret Cunneen SC, told the court the woman was “telling people what she thinks they should hear”.

The judge said people acted differently after sexual offences and urged the jury not to rely on stereotypes. “Trauma may affect people differently,” Turnbull said.

One of the charges of sexual touching rejected by the jury was an allegation that Beale placed his hands on the woman’s hips while they were still in the cubicle and turned her around while saying “come on” and words to the effect of “let’s have sex”.

The other sexual touching charge, for which Beale was found not guilty, asserted that the rugby player touched the woman on the backside before the pair were in the cubicle together.

The woman said she was with friends and her fiance at the venue when she felt a hand move down her buttocks on to “bare skin”.

“I turn around and realise it’s Mr Beale,” she earlier told the jury.

During the trial, Cunneen labelled the alleged victim “manipulative” and asserted she had concocted the alleged rape as a way of gaining sympathy from her fiance.

The crown prosecutor Jeff Tunks invited the jury to accept the woman’s version of events that Beale engaged sexually with her despite her repeatedly telling him “no”.

Explore more on these topics

  • New South Wales
  • Rugby union
  • Sydney
  • news
Reuse this content

Eiffel Tower crowned as world’s tallest matchstick building after record U-turn

Eiffel Tower crowned as world’s tallest matchstick building after record U-turn

Guinness World Records initially said 7.2-metre structure made from more than 700,000 matches broke rules

A man has been awarded the Guinness world record for creating the tallest structure using matchsticks, after his Eiffel Tower replica was initially rejected.

Richard Plaud, from France, said he had been on an “emotional rollercoaster” this week, after spending 4,200 hours building his model from more than 706,000 matches and 23kg of glue. “For eight years, I’ve always thought that I was building the tallest matchstick structure,” he said.

However, Guinness World Records initially told him the 7.2-metre (23.6 ft) structure did not qualify because he had not used matches that were commercially available.

Plaud started off by using commercial matches, cutting the head off each. Tired of this tedious process, he asked the manufacturer if he could buy just the wooden sticks without the head, prompting Guinness to refuse his record.

Mark Mckinley, a director at Guinness World Records, said: “We’re really excited to be able to approve it … We’re happy to be able to admit that we were a little bit too harsh on the type of matches needed in this attempt, and Richard’s attempt truly is officially amazing.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Guinness World Records
  • Paris
  • France
  • Europe
  • Sculpture
  • Art
  • news
Reuse this content