The Guardian 2024-02-11 00:01:06


Coalition vows political fights over right to disconnect, vehicle emissions standards

Opposition leader Peter Dutton says, if elected, he would overturn new legislation giving workers the right to disconnect.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday, Dutton also described additional changes around multi-employer bargaining and allowing casuals to transition into permanent work as “outrageous”.

The Opposition leader says these changes were being made “at the behest of the Greens and now the union movement as well.”

If you think it’s okay to outsource your industrial relations or your economic policy to the Greens, which is what the Prime Minister is doing, then you are going to see the continuation of the productivity problem in our country.

QueenslandTeal candidates hard to find as Climate 200 seeks to spark community action

Teal candidates hard to find in Queensland as Climate 200 seeks to spark community action

With less than nine months before an election, lobby group is yet to find an independent candidate who aligns with their values

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Less than nine months out from the Queensland state election, not a single ‘teal’ candidate has emerged to attract funding from influential lobby group Climate 200.

Experts say it’s increasingly unlikely credible teal challengers will emerge ahead of the October poll, given the time needed for an independent to build name recognition in the electorate.

The teals burst on to the scene at the 2022 federal election when Climate 200 donated to six successful candidates, who campaigned heavily on the issues of climate change and political integrity.

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Of the 23 community-selected independents the lobby group helped fund during that campaign, none were from Queensland.

Since then, Climate 200 has financially supported five Victorian candidates and five candidates in the NSW state elections respectively.

However, Guardian Australia understands Climate 200 isn’t yet aware of any Queensland independent candidates that align with their values and have sought financial backing before the state election.

“Successful independents generally have an existing profile in the electorate, like former mayors, councillors or prominent business people,” Griffith University political scientist Dr Pandanus Petter said.

“You’d want at least a year to get started. And if they lose one election, they might stick around for another one and keep trying to build up their profile.”

‘Someone needs to go first’

Established by Melbourne philanthropist Simon Holmes à Court in 2019, Climate 200 does not select candidates but offers financial support to them once a community has gotten behind them.

Climate 200 executive director Byron Fay says there weren’t any successful Queensland independent candidates last federal election because there wasn’t the same level of “community mobilisation” as seen in Sydney and Melbourne.

“In all seats where the independents were successful last election, except for in Goldstein, an independent had run in the election before and received between 5% and 15% [of the vote],” he said.

“These things often build and someone needs to go first.

“Queensland … is starting from scratch in many ways.”

Climate 200 held one its first Queensland events last month at the Marcoola Surf Life Saving Club on the Sunshine Coast in the federal electorate of Fairfax. The group has also held events in Brisbane and the Gold Coast federal seat of McPherson, where former LNP minister Karen Andrews will retire.

The focus on Fairfax and McPherson is no accident, with Climate 200 saying most of the lobby group’s 1,200 Queensland donors come from those LNP-held electorates.

Climate 200 says there have also been “clusters” of interest from community groups in the federal electorates of Moncrieff and Fadden on the Gold Coast, as well as Fisher on the Sunshine Coast and Wide Bay.

Kylea Tink, the independent federal MP for North Sydney, who received almost half of her funding from Climate 200, spoke at the Marcoola event and said some of the estimated 140 attenders had travelled six hours to be there.

“A community really has to decide that [having an independent MP] is what they want,” she said.

“In the worst-case scenario, they push the local member … to do more listening and less talking.”

Merilyn Keene, a member of community group Fairfax Matters, told Guardian Australia she wants to “see if it’s possible to do democracy a bit differently”.

“I’ve lived here for 30 years and have never really felt that my vote could make any difference with regards to a more progressive agenda,” she said.

“I know there are more people in my circle that care about climate change and more immediate action.”

Recent natural disasters could spark political change

Paul Williams, associate professor of politics at Griffith University, said “the teals are whistling dixie if they think they’re going to march into Queensland”.

The notion has been made more difficult by a “Greenslide” in Brisbane at the last federal election, he said.

“In a state like Queensland, where the Greens are already doing their job, there is no rationale for the teals. A lot of these upper-income, double-degree holding white-collar workers are already voting Green,” he said.

But Petter said “anything is possible” and the teals could have some success.

“[The only state independent MP] Sandy Bolton [in Noosa] isn’t [funded by Climate 200] but she built up her profile from mayor,” he said.

“But we don’t have as many seats as Sydney does with the same teal profile of people previously voting for the Liberal party strongly, with enough Labor people changing their votes and pushing the independent candidate over the line,” he said.

Guardian Australia has obtained polling from UComms, commissioned by Climate 200 last October, that suggests a drop in support for the LNP in the seat of Fairfax, from 45% at the 2022 federal election, to 38%.

Fay says Queensland’s recent string of natural disasters over summer could also spark further interest in political change.

“We’re seeing increasing fires, floods, droughts in Queensland and so climate impacts are certainly front of mind, but other issues like integrity and transparency in politics are really important to people,” he says.

“I think people are feeling like they’re not getting good representation [and] are looking for other alternatives.”

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Greyhound racingAustralian greyhounds being adopted to US in increasing numbers as welfare advocates call for greater transparency

Australian greyhounds being adopted to US in increasing numbers as welfare advocates call for greater transparency

More than 500 dogs sent to US for rehoming as local industry breeds more dogs than needed and demand for homes outstrips supply

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Greyhound welfare advocates are calling for more transparency after figures emerged that at least 500 dogs have been sent to the US for rehoming as the racing industry continues to breed far more dogs than are needed.

Australia is one of seven countries where commercial greyhound racing is legal – New Zealand, Mexico, Ireland, the UK, US and Vietnam (where no races occur) also allow the sport.

Australia’s greyhounds are increasingly being sent to the US to be adopted as pets not just because of demand but due to a shortage of homes down under and overbreeding, according to animal welfare advocates.

“These programs come about because the industry is massively overbreeding greyhounds,” Andrea Pollard, president of the Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds (CPG), said.

Greyhounds are a rare breed in the US due to the racing industry slowly dwindling. Only two greyhound racetracks remain in use, both in West Virginia.

In January, Ginger, a retired greyhound, became the 500th from New South Wales to be adopted to the US. The five-year-old dog made the journey as part of Greyhound Racing NSW’s (GRNSW) rehoming program – Greyhounds As Pets (GAP).

The Coalition for the Protection of Greyhounds said it was concerned about the lack of transparency around GAP’s operation in the US. Greyhounds need a passport issued by Greyhounds Australasia to travel overseas but according to the CPG, its not properly legally enforced.

“In the past we’ve seen greyhounds being sent without those passports and ending up in countries like China or Macau,” Pollard said. Pollard’s own greyhound, Hope, was exported without a passport to Macau 10 years ago before being rescued and returned to NSW.

“There’s a lot of spin and good news stories [about this] but there’s not always detail and transparency behind it,” she said. “While 500 sounds like a good number, there’s still thousands of greyhounds looking for homes in very dire situations in Australia.”

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Natalie Panzarino, president of Greyhound Rescue in Sydney, said the length of the flight and the safety of the dogs during and after their journey to the US, is worrying.

A greyhound died last year en route to the US under the program, but GRNSW said the cause of the death was not travel related.

“What we would really like to see is more homes here looking for these beautiful animals,” Panzarino said.

In 2024, there have already been seven greyhound track deaths and 1,149 track injuries, with the most – 444 injuries – occurring in NSW. The state was responsible for the most deaths in 2023, with 42 dogs dying, and for the most injuries at 4,212.

Industry body Greyhound Racing NSW’s Rob Macaulay has defended the rehoming program, which works with overseas partners.

“I challenge them to find an organisation that does rehoming better than we do.”

To want GRNSW’s US rehoming program “to fail because it furthers an anti-racing goal is perverse”, Macaulay said.

“I would like [people] to support us … because greyhounds are wonderful animals and they love people and people love them. And when they end up on somebody’s sofa post-retirement then everything is good.”

Susan Lemon is the president of Greyhounds Unlimited in Texas, the not-for-profit rehoming organisation through which Ginger was adopted.

“We assess the greyhounds based on information supplied … our own observations, and the specific requirements of potential foster homes to ensure suitable matches.”

After adoption, we “maintain regular communication with the family, conducting periodic follow-ups to ensure the placement is successful”, Lemon said.

“Absolutely, we have a policy in place that allows for the return of any greyhound that isn’t compatible with the family we placed them with. As per our adoption contract terms, adopters are required to return the greyhound to us immediately if they are unable to keep it for any reason.”

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Samantha MurphySearch for Ballarat woman turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Search for missing Ballarat woman Samantha Murphy turns to dashcam footage as police ‘scale back’ on-the-ground operation

Mother-of-three, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home about 7am last Sunday to go for a run

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Police have expanded an appeal for dashcam or CCTV footage as they investigate the disappearance of the Victorian woman Samantha Murphy.

Murphy, 51, was last seen leaving her Eureka Street home in Ballarat East about 7am last Sunday to go for a run.

As they announced an on-the-ground search that has canvassed large areas of Ballarat would be scaled back over the weekend, police called on members of the public to submit any CCTV or dashcam footage covering the Ballarat East, Mount Helen and Buninyong areas last Sunday.

“Even if the footage does not depict Samantha, detectives are keen to review all footage in the areas between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, 4 February,” they said in a statement on Saturday.

“Police previously urged everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas, particularly around the Canadian Forest, to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past six days however would now like to collect all footage.”

Despite extensive searches in the area over the past six days, no sign of Murphy has been found.

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Police, with assistance from a number of other agencies, searched in the Canadian Forest area where Samantha was known to regularly run.

Following further information about possible run routes, the search moved to the nearby Mount Helen area to the east of Geelong Road on Wednesday.

The local community has also helped with the search, many on foot, others riding bicycles, on horseback or in four-wheel drives, with residents picking through scrub on the roadsides throughout the day or after finishing work.

Police said in a statement they continued to be in regular contact with Murphy’s family regarding the search and the status of the investigation.

“The investigative stage of the investigation continues and as any new information comes to hand identifying areas of interest, the search will be scaled up,” they said.

Police said the missing persons squad would continue to work with local police, as they had done since the early stages of Murphy’s disappearance.

The specialist detectives will manage the investigation into her disappearance and will work alongside local police, who will continue to lead the search when required. As of Friday, homicide detectives are not involved in the case.

Police again released two images of Murphy in the hope someone recognises her and can provide any information about her movements since Sunday.

On Thursday, the mother-of-three’s distraught eldest daughter, Jess, called for help to bring her mother home.

“I know she’s out there somewhere, so if you could please continue to search for her to give us something to work with, we’d really appreciate it,” she said.

Murphy’s husband, Mick, said: “People just don’t vanish into thin air. Someone has got to know something.”

Insp Bob Heaney said this week that Murphy’s movement’s last Sunday morning were in line with what she’d normally do.

“Samantha’s very fit – both physically and mentally – she would cover up to 14 to 15km on her runs,” he said.

“She’s normally due back from her run within a couple of hours and alarm bells went up when she didn’t return from that run.”

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As smart devices move in, experts fear Australians are oversharing

Is my home spying on me? As smart devices move in, experts fear Australians are oversharing

Digital rights advocates warn little is known about how collected data is used – and that privacy laws are playing catch-up

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Take a look around your home and chances are you have one, or at least you have considered the convenience of having one.

They are the devices and appliances that can be remotely controlled – otherwise known as smart devices – which over the past decade have become core features of the modern home. Think of the TVs that allow you to flick through various streaming services, the smart fridges that can have their temperatures moderated and contents checked from afar, the robot vacuum, air purifiers, or one of the big tech companies’ virtual helpers to play music or dim the lights.

But as the technologies gather, share, aggregate and analyse the data collected, that convenience has come at a cost: privacy. Experts say consumers should be aware of how much personal information they are trading, and what that information is used for.

“I think it’s very concerning, particularly because we don’t have up-to-date privacy legislation in Australia, and for that matter, it’s a big problem globally as well,” says Katharine Kemp, an expert in law and data privacy at the University of New South Wales, who warns that little is known about where the collected data ends up.

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“We don’t know the full extent of the ways that information is used because we still have privacy policies that are worded very broadly,” she says.

There are obvious advantages to smart devices, Kemp says, including creating a more environmentally conscious home. But she doesn’t think that is the main objective of the companies selling the products.

“I think the main objective of the smart devices is to collect more information and sell us more things,” she says.

“There is an intricate advertising technology ecosystem which feeds on this kind of data because it targets advertising on the basis of people’s behaviour and attributes.

“If you think more broadly about who would be interested in information about our private behaviour and our attributes, then potentially there are going to be insurance companies or even, in some cases, foreign governments.”

While anonymised data about what is in your fridge or what you watch on TV may seem harmless in isolation, Kemp says this data can be matched under a unique identifier to create a more detailed profile.

“[Data brokers] collect and buy data from other sources, they analyse it or cross-reference it in certain ways and they sell it to other people,” she says.

“We’ve got a law in Australia that says that organisations must not collect information about you from third parties unless it is unreasonable or not practicable to collect it directly from you, but that law is not enforced.”

Sam Floreani, the head of policy at Digital Rights Watch, shares similar concerns, but says some smart devices are seemingly more innocuous than others, with many using the data for positive means, such as informing health initiatives.

“It’s not a given that data collection is necessarily evil in and of itself,” she says. “It comes back to what the underlying incentive is, and whether that’s a profit motive or based on invasive surveillance practices.”

Earlier this month, Dyson released a study that tracked the indoor air quality across 3.4m homes in 39 countries. The study, which is not nationally representative, found all 39 recorded above the average safe standards for indoor air pollution.

The company, which adhered to privacy laws and de-identified the data after consumers opted into taking part of the study, said it was a world first at this scale.

“We have this philosophy and engineering of solving problems that others ignore … the better you understand the problem, and the more factual and quantified data you have around it, the better you can design engineering solutions to solve those problems,” says James Shale, an engineer at Dyson.

Other collections of data have drawn widespread alarm, including the suggestion in 2017 that the maker of the Roomba robotic vacuum, iRobot, might begin to sell floor plans of its customers’ homes to Amazon, Apple, and Google. The company’s planned acquisition by Amazon was abandoned last month after being vetoed by the EU.

Or the sex-toy maker We-Vibe, which faced a data collection lawsuit after it was found to have tracked the use of its “smart vibrator” without users’ knowledge. The company settled and agreed to compensate its customers up to C$10,000 (A$11,200) each.

Australia’s current privacy laws do require consent, however Floreani says customers are not always properly informed.

“The consent model is tricky because it does rely on individuals to fully understand and be able to make choices about their data, which a lot of people just don’t have the time or the expertise to do, so you end up consenting,” she says.

Kemp says the definition of consent under Australia’s privacy laws includes implied consent, which she says is one example of where the laws are not stringent enough – or where laws do already exist, such as banning organisations from collecting data from third parties, they need better enforcement.

The federal government plans to overhaul the laws , after a wide-ranging review into the Privacy Act last year that made a series of recommendations. In its response to the report, the government noted the need to bring the laws into the “digital age”, and that this would include consideration on improving the consent law and rights in relation to personal information, as well as increasing the enforcement powers of the privacy watchdog.

“The government has agreed in principle to a number of proposals and noted others, so to a very large extent we still don’t know what the government will propose and what will ultimately pass through parliament,” Kemp says.

Convenience vs privacy

For others, the trade-off in privacy has been worth it to an extent, particularly where it has improved accessibility.

“When I turn on my air conditioner, I have to ask someone what it is set to, but there are a number of people buying smart air conditioners that connect to these things and say ‘turn my air conditioner to 22 degrees’, says Chris Edwards, head of Vision Australia.

Vision Australia has found the devices have played a crucial part in reducing social isolation for the vision-impaired community.

“We had a person that loved cooking new recipes, but with their loss of vision, they lost that,” he says. “They learned how to just ask Alexa for a recipe and it gave them that information but also the confidence to be able to cook, as well as simply read books through Alexa.”

Still, he doesn’t think that convenience should come at the expense of privacy.

“I think one of the challenges, like with a lot of these things, is that there’s not very many people [who] read the privacy policy connected with these devices,” he says.

‘It’s just too tempting’

Kemp says there were earlier concepts of what was known as “closed loop smart homes”, which would collect data purely for the purposes of their residents.

“[That] didn’t eventuate because there was this discovery that behavioural advertising services could be so lucrative,” she says. “It’s just too tempting for all of those organisations that have the technological capacity to collect that information and use it for their own commercial purposes.”

But it could be restricted with a change in privacy laws, Kemp says.

“There are very limited ways people can restrict the impact of smart devices at the moment,” she says. “We would be a lot better off if the privacy laws set stricter standards on how companies should behave.”

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Why are public pools in regional NSW facing closure?

Leaks, chipped tiles and ageing pumps: why are public pools in regional NSW facing closure?

Cowra council loses $400,000 a year to keep its public pool open, and it’s not alone. But with no other safe swimming places, can they afford to close?

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There’s a heatwave in central western New South Wales and the only swimming pool in Cowra is packed.

It’s a scene replicated across regional NSW during the long hot summer holidays. From Cowra to communities like Walgett in the north of the state and Kempsey on the mid-north coast, the public pool is a safe and relatively inexpensive place of respite from the heat.

But they are becoming increasingly expensive to run.

Despite the Cowra pool’s high visitor numbers, the local mayor, Ruth Fagan, says the council is losing about $400,000 a year to keep the doors open. The flood-damaged pool leaks, the tiles are chipped, and chemicals are hand-mixed to reach the right balance in an outbuilding right on the flood plain.

It’s a price worth paying to keep a safe swimming area open, Fagan says. While Cowra is located on the banks of the Galari/Lachlan River, the strong currents and stronger floods make swimming in the river inadvisable.

“We have people who can dive in and are happy and comfortable in the water, but they wouldn’t be able to save themselves if they were washed away – they can’t swim the length of the pool, or even half the length of the pool,” she says.

“We don’t want to raise fees, because what’s the point of having a pool that nobody uses?”

Fagan says local governments have to balance the cost of insurance, pool chemicals, energy and maintenance, all of which are rising faster than council rates.

In Kempsey, Mayor Leo Hauville says the Macleay Memorial Pool cost $59 a head for each pool user – more than 11 times the adult admission price of $5 – to operate.

“We had a recommendation from council that the pool be closed by April,” he says. “The main issue is that there’s ageing piping, pumps need updating, and it has to be done properly and with good quality material.”

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Kempsey residents strongly rejected the decision to close the pool, presenting council with a petition with nearly 700 signatures. That decision has now been reversed. Hauville says the cost-per-head has dropped to $20 thanks to an increase in swimmers. It’s a significant improvement, but still leaves council in the red. It is now considering a 43% special rate variation to cover the costs of council infrastructure, including the pool and repairs to roads.

“The bottom line is, we are finding it very difficult to manage financially,” Hauville says. “If you put that money into such a service, you’ve got to have people using it … You need community engagement.”

At Walgett, about 650km north-west of Sydney, the public pool was reopened in December after being closed when council was told it needed $2m in repairs. The Walgett shire council received a $375,000 grant in October to fund temporary fixes, but the mayor, Jasen Ramien, says that has only bought the town about 18 months to find the money for a permanent fix.

“I’ll be very surprised if we get three years out of it in its current condition, with the simple factors of when it was built, and finding the funding,” he says.

About 150 people have visited the pool every day since it reopened, Ramien says.

The council has also had to hire more staff to meet insurance requirements, adding to the already high costs of maintaining the facility. It’s an uphill battle for a council already struggling to cover the basic needs of ratepayers across the shire.

“We need a pool open where children can be monitored, where there are lifeguards on duty,” he says. “We need these children in a controlled environment, not only for safety but for the health risk. In hot weather we have large blooms of blue-green algae in our waterways.

“[But] because of the amount of people that live in the area, we struggle with the amount of rates we can charge and receive from residents. We’ve struggled to keep day-to-day essentials like running water in the taps.”

The state government says funding community pools is a responsibility of local government.

“Local councils are responsible for their financial sustainability, including monitoring their finances and making sure they are appropriately managing their expenses,” a spokesperson for the NSW office of local government told Guardian Australia. “Swimming pools are one of many assets councils are required to manage.”

However, they say the government “appreciates the critical role that swimming pools play for communities right across NSW, particularly in the regions”.

The Royal Life Saving Society Australia says closing community pools is a safety issue. Drowning research conducted by the organisation says inland rivers and lakes are the deadliest places for swimmers.

Its CEO, Justin Scarr, says inland waterways are “inherently dangerous” even for strong swimmers, and 40% of public swimming pools will reach critical refurbishment milestones before 2030.

“The cost of a single drowning in those communities far exceeds any subsidy for opening a pool,” he says. “We have to fully value the benefit of pools.”

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Former Dutch prime minister dies hand in hand with his wife

Duo euthanasia: former Dutch prime minister dies hand in hand with his wife

Dries and Eugenie van Agt, both 93, died as number of couples in Netherlands choosing joint end to life grows

A Catholic former Dutch prime minister, Dries van Agt, has died by euthanasia, hand in hand with his wife Eugenie. They were both 93.

Their deaths last Monday are seen as part of a growing trend in the Netherlands for “duo euthanasia”.

Although still rare, euthanasia of couples was first noted in a review of all cases in 2020, when 26 people were granted euthanasia at the same time as their partners. The numbers grew to 32 the following year and 58 in 2022.

According to the Dutch media, Van Agt – prime minister between 1977 and 1982 and the first leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal party – may have been a Catholic but always chose his own path, along with his wife of 70 years, whom he always called “my girl”.

The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian group that Van Agt set up in his later, more left-leaning years, announced the news of their deaths “together and hand in hand” last week. Director Gerard Jonkman told broadcaster NOS that both were very ill but “couldn’t go without one another”. Van Agt had never fully recovered from a brain haemorrhage in 2019.

Elke Swart, spokesperson for the Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, which grants the euthanasia wish of about 1,000 people a year in the Netherlands, said any couple’s requests for assisted death were tested against strict requirements individually rather than together.

“Interest in this is growing, but it is still rare,” she said. “It is pure chance that two people are suffering unbearably with no prospect of relief at the same time … and that they both wish for euthanasia.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands since 2002 for six conditions, including unbearable suffering, no prospect of relief and a long-held, independent wish for death.

A second specialist must confirm the wish, and most cases are carried out by the family doctor at home.

Although couples amount to a tiny percentage of the deaths by euthanasia – 8,720 cases, or 5.1% of all Dutch deaths in 2022 – Fransien van ter Beek, who chairs the NVVE pro-euthanasia foundation, said that many people express this wish. She added: “But it does not happen very often because it is not an easy path.”

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Former Dutch prime minister dies hand in hand with his wife

Duo euthanasia: former Dutch prime minister dies hand in hand with his wife

Dries and Eugenie van Agt, both 93, died as number of couples in Netherlands choosing joint end to life grows

A Catholic former Dutch prime minister, Dries van Agt, has died by euthanasia, hand in hand with his wife Eugenie. They were both 93.

Their deaths last Monday are seen as part of a growing trend in the Netherlands for “duo euthanasia”.

Although still rare, euthanasia of couples was first noted in a review of all cases in 2020, when 26 people were granted euthanasia at the same time as their partners. The numbers grew to 32 the following year and 58 in 2022.

According to the Dutch media, Van Agt – prime minister between 1977 and 1982 and the first leader of the Christian Democratic Appeal party – may have been a Catholic but always chose his own path, along with his wife of 70 years, whom he always called “my girl”.

The Rights Forum, a pro-Palestinian group that Van Agt set up in his later, more left-leaning years, announced the news of their deaths “together and hand in hand” last week. Director Gerard Jonkman told broadcaster NOS that both were very ill but “couldn’t go without one another”. Van Agt had never fully recovered from a brain haemorrhage in 2019.

Elke Swart, spokesperson for the Expertisecentrum Euthanasie, which grants the euthanasia wish of about 1,000 people a year in the Netherlands, said any couple’s requests for assisted death were tested against strict requirements individually rather than together.

“Interest in this is growing, but it is still rare,” she said. “It is pure chance that two people are suffering unbearably with no prospect of relief at the same time … and that they both wish for euthanasia.”

Euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legal in the Netherlands since 2002 for six conditions, including unbearable suffering, no prospect of relief and a long-held, independent wish for death.

A second specialist must confirm the wish, and most cases are carried out by the family doctor at home.

Although couples amount to a tiny percentage of the deaths by euthanasia – 8,720 cases, or 5.1% of all Dutch deaths in 2022 – Fransien van ter Beek, who chairs the NVVE pro-euthanasia foundation, said that many people express this wish. She added: “But it does not happen very often because it is not an easy path.”

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Treasurer says government not considering changes to negative gearing and capital gains

Treasurer says government not considering changes to negative gearing and capital gains

Property investors won’t lose tax deductions, Jim Chalmers says

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Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the federal government is not considering changes to negative gearing and capital gains, as pressure mounts on politicians to address housing affordability.

Property investors are under the spotlight as the tax reform debate shifts to wealthier Australians.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and opposition leader Peter Dutton are both facing pressure to revisit tax breaks on investment properties ahead of the next federal election due by September 2025.

The Greens are proposing limiting negative gearing rules to a single investment property. But Chalmers says any changes are off the table.

“That’s not something that we’re proposing, not something that we are considering, not something that we are working up,” he told Sky News on Sunday.

Negative gearing allows investors to claim deductions on losses, while the capital gains tax discount halves the amount of excise paid by people who sell assets that have been owned for 12 months or more.

Asked if he had ever sought advice on changing the tax breaks, Chalmers said he had discussed all aspects of the tax system with the treasury department.

The opposition used question time this week to pressure the Albanese government to rule in, or rule out, further changes to taxation following its rejigging of the stage three tax cuts.

The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday the Coalition had “every indication” negative gearing was on the government’s agenda despite its denials.

“We know they’re considering this. Their answers in the parliament on this this week were very wishy-washy,” he said.

Pressed on what tax policies the Coalition will take to the next election, Taylor declined to rule anything in or rule out but suggested tweaks to capital gains tax or GST were not a priority.

“Raising the GST is certainly not my focus and it’s not going to be something that we’ll be doing work on,” Taylor said.

Former NSW premier Dominic Perrottet has called for negative gearing reforms to be considered as part of a wider debate about how tax changes could address housing affordability.

  • Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

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Australia braces for Taylormania as Eras tour rolls in

‘The hype is so real’: Australia braces for Taylormania as Eras tour rolls in

Thousands of extra staff, closed-off streets, Taylorgating: Melbourne and Sydney are getting ready for the juggernaut that is Taylor Swift

Earlier this week at the Grammys, host Trevor Noah – perhaps bravely – made a Taylor Swift joke. “As Taylor moves around the room, the local economy around her improves,” he said, gesturing at her. “Look at that.”

It wasn’t entirely a joke. It’s been estimated Swift’s Eras tour generated US$5bn in the US economy; the US Federal Reserve even singled her out for stimulating the national tourism industry. “If Taylor Swift were an economy,” said Dan Fleetwood, the president of QuestionPro, the research company that made that estimate, “she’d be bigger than 50 countries.”

Her impact can already be felt in Australia, where Sydney and Melbourne are busy preparing for her arrival next week. It is expected that Swift’s seven concerts in the two cities – three in Melbourne and four in Sydney – will generate $140m, according to state government modelling.

More than 85% of the hotels and motels in Melbourne city are booked during her first two shows; a similar capacity is expected in Sydney. Qantas added an extra 11,000 seats on flights to both cities. Australian bead sales are reportedly through the roof, as Swifties prepare friendship bracelets to exchange at her shows. (Some fans have reportedly been outraged that they can only bring as many friendship bracelets as they can wear on their arms, but this was Swift’s team’s call.)

‘It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before’

At the Melbourne Cricket Ground, where it is expected that Swift will play to the biggest crowds of her career – about 86,000 every night – construction is well under way on three huge merchandise marquees, which officials hope will alleviate pressure inside.

Swift’s Eras tour has shattered attendance records at venues everywhere from Nashville to Brazil. Her Australian shows are unlikely break national attendance records – Ed Sheeran set a new record at the MCG with 109,500 last year – as her large stage and long runway will leave less space for fans.

Still, the Eras tour remains one of the biggest operations the MCG has staged. The adjacent Brunton Avenue will be closed for more than a week as trucks deliver parts of Swift’s stage then cart it out afterwards. More than 12,000 sq metres of turf is on hand to repair the damage to the ground ahead of AFL season. More than 5,000 MCG staff will be working at each concert.

“We’ve never had staffing numbers like that before,” says Josh Eltringham, the MCG’s venue and event services general manager, who has been working on the Swift concerts for 18 months. “The amount of infrastructure that’s coming, you only have to look out at the marquees – we’ve never had those before because the demand and hype is so real. It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before and, I think, anything we’ll ever see again.”

In Sydney, about 300,000 Swifties are expected at Accor Stadium over the four nights. Concertgoers are being urged to leave their cars at home, with extra pressure being placed on parking infrastructure as 100,000 more people are expected over the same nights at nearby Blink 182 shows.

Both cities are putting on extra trains and buses, though only Sydney is offering free public transport as part of ticket purchase. Final numbers are yet to be settled on but Transport for NSW has confirmed hundreds of extra train and bus services will run to the area each night.

“The four-night concert series is expected to be one of the biggest at the precinct to date and we want Swifties to enjoy the experience,” said the TfNSW executive director of customer journey management, Craig Moran, who asked concertgoers to “plan ahead, leave plenty of extra travel time and, most importantly, be prepared for crowds and queues for transport, especially after the concert”.

The battle to stop ‘Taylorgating’

While some Swifties around the world have gone to great lengths to get good spots – including some in Argentina who used an elaborate timetable to line up for five months – Accor Stadium and the MCG hope to deter ticketholders from turning up too early. The MCG is instructing ticketholders not to line up outside the stadium before 2.30pm on the day of each concert and said any overly early attendees will be moved into nearby Yarra Park. Gates at both stadiums will open about 4.30pm.

Earlier this week the Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, announced that there were plans to prevent what she called “Taylorgating” at the MCG – fans without tickets gathering outside to experience the concert anyway. Outside the MCG and Accor, police, emergency services and security staff will be on hand to manage Taylorgaters, who will be moved on if they are drinking or setting up tents. Both venues have pleaded with people to stay away, stressing that there will be no screens outside the venues broadcasting what is happening inside.

But there is a sense that everyone involved knows they’re fighting a losing battle: on Sunday, Allan said: “We know there’s also the experience of being around the event.”

If the first night in Melbourne is too chaotic or unsafe, MCG management will work with police to reassess what they do at the next show, Eltringham said.

“I hope some do [listen to us],” he added. “Of course some people won’t and we’ll be prepared for that.”

In Sydney and Melbourne, extra merchandise stands have been set up outside the stadiums. It might seem like a lot of faff, but Swift merch is particularly coveted. At her shows in the US, where it is estimated she made US$300m in merch sales, there were reports of people camping out for days, hiding under delivery trucks and spending thousands just to buy certain items – like a particular blue sweatshirt that was only on sale at her shows and became hugely popular.

“A band hoodie is going to always set you back $100 – but what she does [that is unique] is she makes everything limited edition and that traps you into thinking you’re going to miss out,” says Dr Georgia Carroll, the world’s only dedicated Taylor Swift academic. “It’s not a trick, it is clever marketing – but you end up spending a lot of money if you do want to be one of the fans that has everything.

Spending as ‘fan identity’

While the Eras tour was moving through the US, one estimate suggested that while every US$100 spent on a live performance would typically result in US$300 in ancillary spending on things like hotels, dining, merch and transport, Swifties were spending US$1,300.

Part of this stems from their devotion to her, but also her practice of releasing multiple versions of one item: there are more than 20 versions of her album Midnights available to buy, for instance, with extra tracks and different covers.

“If any other artist sold eight different vinyl versions of the same album, people would think they were ripping us off. When it is Taylor, it’s like, ‘amazing, I’ll buy them all’. It’s part of the fan identity in a way that nobody else has really mastered,” says Caroll.

To Accor and the MCG staff, however, it is about keeping people safe and showing them a good time. Eltringham had sage advice for Swifties: stay hydrated and remember to eat breakfast.

“We see a lot of excited people who forget to look after themselves – they get here and then they start feeling ill and they miss the show,” he said. “So my message to people who are coming is: look after yourself.”

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A ‘raft of unanswered questions’ remain as Australia’s first clinic opens

A ‘raft of unanswered questions’ remain as Australia’s first psychedelic therapy clinic opens

Costing $24,000 for nine months, some experts say more evidence is needed on effectiveness of MDMA and psilocybin treatments

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Australia’s first psychedelic therapy clinic opened its doors this week, charging patients $24,000 for nine months of treatment.

But even the Melbourne clinic admits there are still many unknowns about the approach.

Since July, psychiatrists have been authorised to prescribe MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, for treatment-resistant depression.

Australia became the world’s first country to legalise the medical use of psychedelics when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced in February 2023 that the substances would be down scheduled, contrary to its previously stated position. In commentary published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, some neuropsychologists and neuroscientists said they feared the decision was driven by the influence of lobby groups instead of health experts and evidence.

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

But the decision has allowed Clarion Clinics to open the first dedicated facility for prescribing the drugs, headed by psychiatrist and chair of the department of psychiatry at Monash University, Prof Suresh Sundram.

Clarion received more than 250 expressions of interest from patients in its first week, Sundram said. But he acknowledges that while there is some evidence from clinical trials to support the TGA’s decision, gaps remain in the medical understanding of the treatment.

It would be fair to say that there’s still a lot that we need to learn and understand about these agents and how they work, what patients are suitable and what conditions are amenable to these sorts of treatments,” he said.

“We are taking a very cautious approach to this because of the aforementioned lack of data about who is suitable … there’s so much that’s not known as yet.”

What does psychedelic therapy look like?

To access the therapy at Clarion Clinics, patients need to meet the clinical diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder or treatment-resistant depression, and have already tried an approved treatment which has not worked.

Patients complete an online medical screening and, if they are on medication, may need to wean off it before being prescribed either MDMA or psilocybin.

They then meet with Sundram and undergo psychiatric and physical assessments. If they are deemed eligible for treatment, they are enrolled in the program.

The therapy begins with preparatory sessions in which patients are asked about their illness and how they see it potentially being treated. The process of taking the medication is explained to them.

Then the dosing session occurs, with the patient arriving early in the morning, taking the medication after an introduction, and spending the duration of the experience – a few hours, depending on the person and the two medicines – with two therapists.

After the medication wears off, the patient debriefs with the therapists. They come back the next day for an integration session in which the previous day’s experiences and therapeutic insights are further discussed.

Patients usually complete one psychotherapy session each week for four weeks before their second dose.

“Everybody gets focused on the dosing sessions, but actually the dosing sessions are only two days … and then the rest of the time over the six months initially, and then the nine months altogether, is the psychotherapy,” Sundram said.

“The medicines are there just to assist and facilitate the therapy – they themselves are not therapy. It’s a mechanism, which allows the patient to be able to think through and to experience, memories, issues, problems that in conventionally, they wouldn’t be able to do.”

The unknowns

The chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ steering group on psychedelic assisted therapy, Dr Richard Harvey, said the TGA’S surprise announcement left the group with only five months to develop guidelines to help psychiatrists prescribe and provide the therapy safely, in what remains a “rather unknown and undefined area”.

Harvey says the evidence has not shifted since the steering group carried out a systematic review of psychedelic treatments for the TGA.

That review found more research was needed before the drugs could be safely recommended, Harvey said.

“The evidence for the MDMA [in treating] PTSD is marginally better than the evidence for psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, that is the one that has the slimmest [amount of evidence to support it],” Harvey said.

Prof Susan Rossell, a cognitive neuropsychologist from Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health, is the lead researcher on Australia’s biggest research trial of psilocybin’s effectiveness for treatment-resistant depression.

“The psilocybin is what really concerns me,” she said.

“There actually isn’t a good evidence base for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. It’s growing and it’s promising, but it’s not as clearcut as the [evidence supporting] MDMA.”

Rossell said of the couple of thousand of cases in the world that have had psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in major depressive disorder, some people improve, some don’t and they may experience anxiety about what to do next if psychedelic treatment was their last resort. About 10-20% of patients experience a “bad trip,” she said.

“It could actually leave them with a post-traumatic stress disorder, which they didn’t have in the first place. And this is one of the reasons why when I was saying safety of screening people [is paramount] – really making sure that, that we don’t let people in who are vulnerable.”

It’s thought psilocybin doesn’t suit people who have histories of extensive trauma, she said.

Dr Adam Bayes, a psychiatrist and researcher of psychedelics at the Black Dog Institute, said the TGA decision “makes the case for doing more research and understanding these medicines even more powerful.”

Bayes said data is needed to answer the “raft of unanswered questions” including which patients are most likely to respond to the treatment; whether treatments can be combined; and length of efficacy .

Bayes said in trials patients have to come off all their medications, which is not possible for many patients with severe depression – so the question of whether it is also possible to stay on a medication and have psilocybin is important.

It is hoped the patients who receive treatment at Clarion can help answer some of these questions. Sundram said patients on entry would be asked for their consent to collect evaluation data to potentially publish results in scientific journals.

A $24,000 price tag

On its website, Clarion Clinics states the full treatment package costs a maximum of $24,000 with possible reductions through Medicare.

The psychotherapy component accounts for approximately 85% of the cost, Sundram said.

Although there is no subsidy through Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme , the clinic estimates a quarter of the cost could be reimbursed through existing items such as psychiatric assessment and psychotherapy sessions, depending on individual circumstance.

Rossell says the high cost “… speaks to the fact that the lobby groups didn’t really think this through” when they pushed the TGA to approve the treatments.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is never going to put psychedelic assisted psychotherapy on any of their schedules until the right research has been published,” she said.

In her research, Rossell said there are health economists tracking patients to tell the PBS how much the trial has saved. “That’s the research that will be needed to make it cheaper for people.”

Only a “relatively small number” of people will be able to afford the current treatment offered by Clarion, Harvey said.

“But there are many other treatments that people can explore – and should have explored before they came to this option,” he said.

“This is not the first line treatment for people with either PTSD or treatment-resistant depression. People should not take away the message that ‘you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD – it’s going to cost you $25,000 for your treatment’.”

  • Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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A ‘raft of unanswered questions’ remain as Australia’s first clinic opens

A ‘raft of unanswered questions’ remain as Australia’s first psychedelic therapy clinic opens

Costing $24,000 for nine months, some experts say more evidence is needed on effectiveness of MDMA and psilocybin treatments

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

Australia’s first psychedelic therapy clinic opened its doors this week, charging patients $24,000 for nine months of treatment.

But even the Melbourne clinic admits there are still many unknowns about the approach.

Since July, psychiatrists have been authorised to prescribe MDMA, commonly known as ecstasy, for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder, and psilocybin, found in magic mushrooms, for treatment-resistant depression.

Australia became the world’s first country to legalise the medical use of psychedelics when the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced in February 2023 that the substances would be down scheduled, contrary to its previously stated position. In commentary published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, some neuropsychologists and neuroscientists said they feared the decision was driven by the influence of lobby groups instead of health experts and evidence.

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

But the decision has allowed Clarion Clinics to open the first dedicated facility for prescribing the drugs, headed by psychiatrist and chair of the department of psychiatry at Monash University, Prof Suresh Sundram.

Clarion received more than 250 expressions of interest from patients in its first week, Sundram said. But he acknowledges that while there is some evidence from clinical trials to support the TGA’s decision, gaps remain in the medical understanding of the treatment.

It would be fair to say that there’s still a lot that we need to learn and understand about these agents and how they work, what patients are suitable and what conditions are amenable to these sorts of treatments,” he said.

“We are taking a very cautious approach to this because of the aforementioned lack of data about who is suitable … there’s so much that’s not known as yet.”

What does psychedelic therapy look like?

To access the therapy at Clarion Clinics, patients need to meet the clinical diagnosis for post-traumatic stress disorder or treatment-resistant depression, and have already tried an approved treatment which has not worked.

Patients complete an online medical screening and, if they are on medication, may need to wean off it before being prescribed either MDMA or psilocybin.

They then meet with Sundram and undergo psychiatric and physical assessments. If they are deemed eligible for treatment, they are enrolled in the program.

The therapy begins with preparatory sessions in which patients are asked about their illness and how they see it potentially being treated. The process of taking the medication is explained to them.

Then the dosing session occurs, with the patient arriving early in the morning, taking the medication after an introduction, and spending the duration of the experience – a few hours, depending on the person and the two medicines – with two therapists.

After the medication wears off, the patient debriefs with the therapists. They come back the next day for an integration session in which the previous day’s experiences and therapeutic insights are further discussed.

Patients usually complete one psychotherapy session each week for four weeks before their second dose.

“Everybody gets focused on the dosing sessions, but actually the dosing sessions are only two days … and then the rest of the time over the six months initially, and then the nine months altogether, is the psychotherapy,” Sundram said.

“The medicines are there just to assist and facilitate the therapy – they themselves are not therapy. It’s a mechanism, which allows the patient to be able to think through and to experience, memories, issues, problems that in conventionally, they wouldn’t be able to do.”

The unknowns

The chair of the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists’ steering group on psychedelic assisted therapy, Dr Richard Harvey, said the TGA’S surprise announcement left the group with only five months to develop guidelines to help psychiatrists prescribe and provide the therapy safely, in what remains a “rather unknown and undefined area”.

Harvey says the evidence has not shifted since the steering group carried out a systematic review of psychedelic treatments for the TGA.

That review found more research was needed before the drugs could be safely recommended, Harvey said.

“The evidence for the MDMA [in treating] PTSD is marginally better than the evidence for psilocybin for treatment-resistant depression, that is the one that has the slimmest [amount of evidence to support it],” Harvey said.

Prof Susan Rossell, a cognitive neuropsychologist from Swinburne’s Centre for Mental Health, is the lead researcher on Australia’s biggest research trial of psilocybin’s effectiveness for treatment-resistant depression.

“The psilocybin is what really concerns me,” she said.

“There actually isn’t a good evidence base for psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy. It’s growing and it’s promising, but it’s not as clearcut as the [evidence supporting] MDMA.”

Rossell said of the couple of thousand of cases in the world that have had psilocybin-assisted psychotherapy in major depressive disorder, some people improve, some don’t and they may experience anxiety about what to do next if psychedelic treatment was their last resort. About 10-20% of patients experience a “bad trip,” she said.

“It could actually leave them with a post-traumatic stress disorder, which they didn’t have in the first place. And this is one of the reasons why when I was saying safety of screening people [is paramount] – really making sure that, that we don’t let people in who are vulnerable.”

It’s thought psilocybin doesn’t suit people who have histories of extensive trauma, she said.

Dr Adam Bayes, a psychiatrist and researcher of psychedelics at the Black Dog Institute, said the TGA decision “makes the case for doing more research and understanding these medicines even more powerful.”

Bayes said data is needed to answer the “raft of unanswered questions” including which patients are most likely to respond to the treatment; whether treatments can be combined; and length of efficacy .

Bayes said in trials patients have to come off all their medications, which is not possible for many patients with severe depression – so the question of whether it is also possible to stay on a medication and have psilocybin is important.

It is hoped the patients who receive treatment at Clarion can help answer some of these questions. Sundram said patients on entry would be asked for their consent to collect evaluation data to potentially publish results in scientific journals.

A $24,000 price tag

On its website, Clarion Clinics states the full treatment package costs a maximum of $24,000 with possible reductions through Medicare.

The psychotherapy component accounts for approximately 85% of the cost, Sundram said.

Although there is no subsidy through Medicare or the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme , the clinic estimates a quarter of the cost could be reimbursed through existing items such as psychiatric assessment and psychotherapy sessions, depending on individual circumstance.

Rossell says the high cost “… speaks to the fact that the lobby groups didn’t really think this through” when they pushed the TGA to approve the treatments.

The Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme is never going to put psychedelic assisted psychotherapy on any of their schedules until the right research has been published,” she said.

In her research, Rossell said there are health economists tracking patients to tell the PBS how much the trial has saved. “That’s the research that will be needed to make it cheaper for people.”

Only a “relatively small number” of people will be able to afford the current treatment offered by Clarion, Harvey said.

“But there are many other treatments that people can explore – and should have explored before they came to this option,” he said.

“This is not the first line treatment for people with either PTSD or treatment-resistant depression. People should not take away the message that ‘you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD – it’s going to cost you $25,000 for your treatment’.”

  • Crisis support services can be reached 24 hours a day: Lifeline 13 11 14; Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467; Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800; MensLine Australia 1300 78 99 78; Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636

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90m-year-old climbing galaxias fish may have been wiped out by school building works

Sydney’s 90m-year-old climbing galaxias fish may have been wiped out by school building works

The species can climb waterfalls and reaches back to Gondwanaland – but there are fears polluted runoff has proven fatal

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A “miracle fish” may have been snuffed out in its Sydney habitat by bungled construction work at a nearby government high school, local environmentalists fear.

The climbing galaxias (Galaxias brevipinnis) belongs to a species line reaching back to Gondwanaland. It was only identified in the Manly Dam region in Sydney’s north – the fish’s most northerly known location in Australia – in 1998.

The fish breathes through its skin and uses large pectoral and pelvic fins as suction cups to scale even waterfalls. Elsewhere, fish’s larvae rely on reaching the sea to start feeding but this population had somehow survived becoming landlocked by the dam.

Heavy rain last month, however, triggered an overflow of sediment from the Forest high school works site into Curl Curl Creek, the last Sydney waterway populated by the climbing galaxias. More then two weeks on, the creek remains turbid, conditions that will probably limit the fish’s ability to catch mayflies and other insects.

“I’d hate to think that on our watch, after 90 million years, that this is going to be the final end to it,” said Malcolm Fisher, deputy chair of the Save Manly Dam Catchment Commitee (SMDCC).

“We can’t say for sure if it’s survived or not,” Fisher said. “But it’s a hell of a blow, you’d have to think, seeing the state of that water.”

Northern Beaches council has also warned more silt run-off was possible. It told the SMDCC treasurer, Ann Collins, on 25 January – more than a week after the first event – a nearby sediment basin “appeared to be at capacity and would not be able to cope with another large rain event”, according to correspondence seen by Guardian Australia.

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The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority said it had sent staff on 19 and 22 January who confirmed siltation of the creek and its source, the Forest high school. Initial investigations singled out the school works, although additional sources of silt may be found.

“We advised the contractor and the NSW Department of Education to take immediate action to prevent water pollution,” a spokesperson said. “The colouration of the water may be around for some time until it naturally flushes, as the silt is from fine clay.”

The EPA “has not been monitoring the climbing galaxias population”, the spokesperson said, with the council the appropriate body to conduct any monitoring. However, “at this stage, it appears no aquatic life has been impacted by the incident”.

For its part, the education department said its works weren’t to blame for the siltation even though it was the only party asked by the EPA to take action.

“The contractor ADCO, responsible for The Forest high school construction site at Allambie Heights, carried out site inspections following a notification from the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) about suspected silt run-off at Manly Dam,” a department spokesperson said.

Fisher said the education department had despoiled the nearby Manly Creek several years ago with its Manly Vale public school work.

“There is absolutely no other source for all that siltation in Curl Curl creek to come from other than the Forest high school’s cleared site,” he said.

Environment advocates, though, doubt the EPA or other authorities such as the Northern Beaches council will actually measure any changes, including investigating whether the nocturnal fish have survived.

“How do they know there’s no impact to those creeks?” the SMDCC’s treasurer, Ann Collins, said. “We should have some measures of what it looks like – or what the content of all the different chemicals and stuff are – on a regular basis.”

The Curl Curl Creek was graded as the highest level of environmental importance, and its protection should be a priority for both local and state governments. “There’s actually only three or four in the whole of the northern beaches,” Collins said.

“There’s no management plan to actually make sure [the fish] stays there,” she said. “You just feel like you’re beating your head against [a wall].”

The fish has caused a stir previously, including being the focus of “a major conflict between conservationists and developers” in 1999, the Australian Museum says on its website. That was just a year after its discovery by the scientist Andrew Lo.

His son, Nathan Lo, a professor of evolutionary biology at Sydney University’s school of life and environmental sciences, says there’s good cause to be worried about the fate of the fish.

“We know very little about the biology of the fish, and that silt runoff would not normally occur in these kinds of environments,” Lo said. “[It] could stress not only the climbing galaxias but other aquatic environments.”

“For that reason, runoff events should be avoided since they might impact the survival of the population,” he said.

Reintroducing the species was possible but any new population would have to develop a capacity to survive being cut off from the sea. In addition, “it would probably be a costly exercise to reintroduce, so it’s better to stop runoff events like that in the first place”, Lo said.

The Manly Dam bushland region is home to at least six threatened mammal species, including the eastern pygmy possum, a recent diversity survey found. It also hosts the critically endangered Seaforth mintbush among 1,120 plant species, and the endangered Duffys Forest ecological community.

Collins notes a nearby facility wants 75 more car parking spaces, which will result in tree loss including some in the Duffys Forest ecological community. Such work would create another siltation threat.

So too would plans for 24 luxury aged-care homes nearby, as would new mountain bike trails sought by the local council and riders.

“What was already very, very rare seems to be in the way of every other development that comes along,” Fisher said.

Collins said it was time governments drew a line if the climbing galaxias and other rare species are to survive there.

“Like, no, you have to think differently,” she said. “You can still do your things but you have to do [them] in a different way.”

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An autistic boy faced terror charges unprecedented for an Australian child. How did it happen?

An autistic boy faced terror charges unprecedented for an Australian child. How did it happen?

Lawyer of boy known as Thomas Carrick who was targeted in undercover police operation says impact of ‘entire saga’ on him and his family has been enormous

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The lawyer of an autistic teenage boy who was charged with terrorism offences after being targeted during an undercover police operation says “the entire saga” has had an enormous impact on the child and his family.

Last week, Guardian Australia revealed the case of a boy known as Thomas Carrick, who was charged with terror offences after his parents contacted police asking for help with the 13-year-old’s fixation on Islamic State.

Thomas was charged with two offences in October 2021 but was granted a permanent stay two years later.

His lawyers, Sam Norton and Nick Jane, had not seen a case like it. A child had never been charged with the offences Thomas faced.

“It’s important to understand that [he was] on incredibly strict bail conditions for two years and the AFP tried to have his bail revoked multiple times in circumstances where they never charged him with further alleged offending,” Norton said.

“The impact on him and his family of the entire saga has been enormous.”

The Australian federal police has declined to answer questions about the case, as has the attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, who has portfolio responsibility for the AFP and the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP). The AFP confirmed, however, that a “range of reviews” on the matter were being considered.

Court documents regarding the case reveal details about the steps taken by police during the operation and the seriousness of the allegations against Thomas.

The documents paint a picture of a boy with complex needs and troubling behaviours for whom finding a friend was a notable achievement, and the vast counter-terror operation which swallowed him whole.

The documents also show authorities firmly believed the operation was necessary to quell a potentially deadly threat.

The case will again come under scrutiny this week, with the AFP scheduled to appear before Senate estimates on Tuesday.

Thomas was first reported to authorities by his primary school principal. Several months later, in April 2021, his parents went to a Victorian police station, and told officers they wanted help dealing with his fixation on Islamic State.

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Over the following three months, he was provided therapeutic support as part of the contact his parents had with police, but also allegedly behaved in several ways that would later result in him being charged.

This allegedly included pledging allegiance to Islamic State on Twitter (now X), watching videos prepared by Islamic State on how to make a bomb and other extremist propaganda, engaging with a possible Islamic State recruiter online, and making references in a meeting with a Victoria police psychologist and the force’s Countering Violent Extremism unit to the 9/11 attacks as “cool”, wanting to build a bomb to detonate at Flinders Street station or a government building, and wishing to commit a school shooting.

On 29 July 2021, Thomas started speaking with an undercover operative online. The Joint Counter Terrorism Team, consisting of Victoria police, AFP and Asio officers, had decided the undercover operation could run in parallel with therapeutic efforts to change Thomas’s behaviour, a decision which was later heavily criticised by a children’s court magistrate.

The operative chatted with Thomas on 55 of the next 71 days, and 1,400 pages of online chats between the pair were later included as evidence in court.

In October 2021, Thomas was charged with being a member of a terror organisation between 16 April 2021 (the date his parents had approached police) and 6 October 2021 (the date he was arrested).

He was also charged with advocating terrorism between 19 September 2021 and 6 October 2021.

The commonwealth offences carried maximum penalties of 10 and five years respectively.

What followed was two years of pitched court battles between the CDPP and the boy’s lawyers. Only a selection of the decisions relating to those hearings have been made public.

Less than a month after Thomas was charged, the CDPP appealed children’s court judge Jack Vandersteen’s decision to grant him bail in the Victorian supreme court.

Its lawyers argued that Vandersteen should have found there was an unacceptable risk that Thomas would endanger the safety of a person or commit an offence if he was released on bail.

A detective senior constable told the court that Thomas’s family had disowned him, that Thomas was “into” knives, that he had talked about slitting the throat of a girl and talked about blowing up the school and specific teachers, and shared a belief that Thomas would eventually contact a genuine jihadist and “take up what is offered to him”, Justice Lex Lasry wrote in his judgment.

But the court also heard Thomas was unfit to be interviewed by police after his arrest because doctors had found he was too “suggestible”.

Thomas’s father said he had not disowned him; he wanted him home, and said that his son’s autism was the problem, and that his son lacked social skills and had a low IQ (the most recent court decision relating to the case lists his IQ as 71 but earlier decisions say it was as high as 74).

Lasry noted that youth justice prepared a report that said Thomas could be subject to supervised bail.

“Whilst the respondent’s adherence to extremist ideology and support for terrorist acts had persisted despite protective intervention from his parents, school, the police and child protection services, he had not taken any practical step to carry them out and the evidence supported a conclusion that the nature and frequency of interventions if bail were granted would enable the risk to be minimised to an acceptable level,” Lasry found.

In April 2022, the CDPP applied to have Thomas’s charges uplifted from the children’s to the supreme court, arguing they were too serious and complex.

Vandersteen noted that Thomas was subject to onerous bail conditions but that his compliance had been “excellent”.

He said the court could handle the serious charges, and disagreed the matter was complex, saying most of the brief “relates to typed conversations between [Thomas] and the [undercover operative]”.

Thomas’s bail was cancelled in July 2022 after Thomas was found to have breached his conditions by attempting to send an email and conducting Google searches on an iPad.

The searches included topics such as “10 ways to cover up a murder”. Police also alleged Thomas had bullied a fellow student, made threats about a student to a teacher, and seized a school workbook alleged to contain relevant images and notations.

Thomas was not allowed to use the internet, but police found Thomas had a handwritten note referring to his home internet IP address and password.

A month earlier, police had made another application for bail to be revoked, after alleging he had breached bail by conducting searches and having certain material on his computer while at school. The application was refused.

Thomas spent three months in detention, until a bail application was made by his lawyers before Vandersteen in October 2022.

Vandersteen noted that the prosecution had been ordered by the court to provide all relevant documents relating to the case, a process known as full disclosure, by 13 October.

But a lawyer appearing on behalf of the chief commissioner of Victoria police said they would fail to meet the court order, and would need another three to four weeks.

Vandersteen noted that disclosure “may lead to an application for a permanent stay”; a possibility which eventuated a year later, meaning that Thomas may have been cleared of the charges sooner had police complied with the court order.

Youth justice recommended supervised bail, and Jane argued on Thomas’s behalf that the breaches of bail had occurred in the context of Thomas struggling with social isolation, not having his academic needs met, and wanting to move schools.

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The CDPP argued the factors being relied upon for the grant of bail – Thomas’s autism, youth and oppositional defiance – were the very factors that lead to the greatest risk.

The court heard there was evidence that if Thomas was not listened to, he would obtain a weapon and take action against someone, adding that he had clear views on violence and violence against members of the community, including having seemingly made a threat to rape a police officer who had been involved in the case.

“Youth Justice assess TC [Thomas] ‘as highly vulnerable to negative peer influence in custody due to his age, his complex mental health and disability diagnosis’,” Vandersteen found.

“In custody TC has been seen by staff to emulate the bad behaviour of others. TC has stated he does not want to engage in this behaviour in the future.”

Bail was granted on strict conditions. A year later, Thomas was cleared of all charges.

“The community would not expect law enforcement officers to encourage a 13-14-year-old child towards racial hatred, distrust of police and violent extremism, encouraging the child’s fixation on ISIS,” magistrate Lesley Fleming said in granting the permanent stay application.

“The community would not expect law enforcement to use the guise of a rehabilitation service to entice the parents of a troubled child to engage in a process that results in potential harm to the child.

“The conduct engaged in by the JCTT and the AFP falls so profoundly short of the minimum standards expected of law enforcement offices [sic] that to refuse this [stay] application would be to condone and encourage further instances of such conduct.”

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Hind Rajab, six, found dead in Gaza 12 days after cry for help

‘I’m so scared, please come’: Hind Rajab, six, found dead in Gaza 12 days after cry for help

Girl who pleaded with Red Crescent to rescue her found dead along with several relatives and two paramedics who tried to save her

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“I’m so scared, please come,” were some of the last words six-year-old Hind Rajab said in a telephone call to rescuers after her family’s car came under fire in Gaza City.

Trapped in the vehicle and surrounded by her dead relatives, for three hours she pleaded with the Red Crescent to save her.

But the aid agency lost contact with the ambulance dispatched to her aid on 29 January and its crew and Hind remained missing.

Now Hind’s family has said that she was found dead inside the car in the Tel al-Hawa area of Gaza City on Saturday morning.

“Hind and everyone else in the car is martyred,” her grandfather, Baha Hamada, told Agence France-Presse. “[Family members] were able to reach the area because Israeli forces withdrew early at dawn today.”

Hind’s mother, Wissam Hamada, added: “I will question before God on Judgment Day those who heard my daughter’s cries for help and did not save her.”

The Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS) said that it had located its bombed-out ambulance just metres away, and that its two paramedics, Yusuf Al-Zeino and Ahmed Al-Madhoun, had also been killed.

Footage shared by the PRCS showed what it said were the mangled remains of the ambulance that was struck.

Nebal Farsakh, PRCS spokesperson, said: “We have been in constant panic and fear over the last 12 days. We were unable to send anyone else to the area so we were uncertain regarding their fate. We wondered if they were dead or alive.

“Today, Hind’s family arrived at the location after the Israeli military withdrew from the area and they found her inside the car with her dead family beside her.”

Gaza City has been devastated by fighting between Israel and Hamas since the war broke out four months ago and Hind’s family had reportedly been hoping to seek shelter elsewhere.

The tragedy unfolded on 29 January, when Hind and her uncle, aunt and cousins attempted to flee approaching Israeli forces and their car came under fire. Hind’s mother and older siblings had reportedly set off on foot.

The PRCS initially spoke to Hind’s 15-year-old cousin, Layan Hamadeh, who told them that her parents and siblings had been killed, adding: “They are shooting at us. The tank is next to me.” But the call was cut off by what sounded like gunfire.

The PRCS released an audio recording of the call and some of Hind’s subsequent three-hour phone conversation with dispatchers in which she pleaded for help, saying: “Come take me. You will come and take me?”

The dispatcher, Rana al-Faqeh, said Hind told her she was afraid of the dark and asked for someone to come and rescue her.

Farsakh said the Red Crescent felt “helpless” as they waited for three hours for their ambulance to be given permission to access the location.

She said: “We contacted the ministry of health and they coordinated our safe access with the Israeli authorities. We were given the green light to move the ambulance.”

But she said the ambulance came under fire soon after it arrived at the location. “First [the paramedics] said the Israeli forces are putting laser lights on them … And then we heard a gunfire sound before we lost the connection. It was like a gunfire or explosion, we were not sure of what happened.”

The PRCS had been appealing for information about the paramedics and Hind for days, posting photos of the trio on their social media accounts. On Saturday, it posted photographs of the burnt-out ambulance it said its two paramedics had been travelling in.

Farsakh said the ambulance was found metres away from Hind’s family’s car. “We have very clear red cross emblems on top of all of our ambulances,” she said. “This is horrible because when we have waited so many hours, leaving Hind appealing to us, crying, saying please come pick me up, and then, unfortunately, although we have waited all of these hours to guarantee our safe access, it wasn’t a safe access.”

The PRCS accused Israel of deliberately targeting the ambulance. “The occupation deliberately targeted the Red Crescent crew despite prior coordination to allow the ambulance to arrive at the site to rescue Hind,” it said in a statement.

The Guardian has contacted the Israel Defense Forces for comment.

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Gabba shambles shows people power is hitting the 2032 Games

Analysis

Brisbane v the Olympics: Gabba shambles shows people power is hitting the 2032 Games

Ben Smee

The speed of recent pivots reveals there is genuine concern that people are uneasy about the Games amid rising housing and cost of living pressures

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Denver, Colorado, is the only place to ever cancel the Olympic Games. The city had won the right to host the 1976 Winter Games, but withdrew amid mounting local opposition.

“We ought to say to the nation and the world, ‘We’re sorry … we made a mistake. Take the Games elsewhere,” state representative Bob Jackson told the Associated Press in 1971.

These days, there is no get-out clause for an Olympic host, even in the case of major cost blowouts or a deadly pandemic. Under the terms of the host city contract principles for Brisbane 2032, the International Olympic Committee can withdraw the games in certain circumstances. The organisers have no such right.

This week, the IOC vice-president, John Coates, publicly advised the Queensland government to scrap its plans for a $2.7bn Olympic stadium to replace the ageing Gabba, and instead use existing facilities for the opening ceremony and athletics events in 2032.

The state had been reviewing its infrastructure plans, but Coates’s intervention points to a deeper concern that the mood in Brisbane was fast heading the way of Denver. He told the Courier Mail the Gabba rebuild risked turning people against the Games and acknowledged the Olympic movement was “on the nose” in Brisbane.

So how did we get here?

The decision by the new premier, Steven Miles, to review Olympic plans followed a series of political brawls and bungled announcements that had mired the first few years of games preparations.

Amid growing concerns that hosting the Olympics had become cost-prohibitive – even ruinous for some host cities – the IOC, with the strong influence of Coates, devised a “new norm” approach with the aim of making the event more sustainable. Host cities were encouraged to use existing infrastructure, rather than build new edifices.

After Brisbane became the “priority bidder”, the then-Queensland premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, unilaterally announced the centrepiece of the city’s plans would be the Gabba rebuild. Ted O’Brien, the former Morrison government special envoy for the Olympics, said this week the announcement “nearly killed” the city’s bid for the games when it “blind-sided” everyone.

“It flew in the face of everything we were pitching to the IOC about avoiding a big spend on venues and it also broke faith with the people of Queensland who had been assured the 2032 Games would not become a spendathon with taxpayer money,” he said.

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The state had told the IOC it would establish an independent coordination authority to oversee games projects; then backtracked and decided they’d be better managed by the state government; then said it would set up the oversight body after all.

The plan to redevelop the Gabba had always been – under the surface – more about cricket and Australian rules football than the Olympics. The ground is the traditional host of the first cricket Test of the Australian summer, but has lost the right in recent years due to concerns about outdated facilities and transport links.

But the need to find an interim home for both codes while the stadium was redeveloped also led the state government into problems. The government announced – apparently with little notice to anyone – that the Brisbane showgrounds would also be redeveloped to provide a temporary home ground for the Brisbane Lions, and for Test cricket. The only wrinkle was that the council and those codes would have to cough up and pay for most of it.

The Brisbane lord mayor, Adrian Schrinner, withdrew his support for the Gabba rebuild and resigned from a games delivery forum over the announcement. A week later, Palaszczuk resigned as premier.

Since taking over, Miles has sought to salvage the process, re-announcing the independent delivery authority, and ordering the review into infrastructure plans, including the Gabba.

Growing opposition

No significant public polling has ever sought to test the Brisbane community’s support for the Olympics, but the speed of recent pivots shows there is genuine concern that people are increasingly uneasy about the games.

One key reason is broader concern about housing and cost of living pressures. Miles this week announced a landmark housing policy that demands more homes be built. It had become increasingly hard to justify spending $2.7bn – likely more – while the number of people in crisis accommodation was growing, and while homes were becoming less affordable.

The idea of building a new stadium when builders and tradespeople are also scarce played to the same concerns – we need those people focused on addressing housing supply.

Neighbourhood concern has also been a significant factor. The fiercest opposition to the Gabba rebuild came from the Woolloongabba area – a suburb represented by Greens at local, state and federal levels – where parkland would be taken over by a warmup track, and a 127-year-old school was to be demolished.

If the Gabba plan is ditched, it would amount to a massive win for these campaigns – possibly the biggest win for the people v the Olympic movement since Denver.

But it should also serve as a clear warning to governments and Olympic organisers. If the next eight years are as shambolic as the past few, Brisbane may yet reach the point where we raise our hand and say “sorry, we made a mistake”.

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