The Guardian 2024-02-12 00:01:25


Australia politics live: Barnaby Joyce confesses to ‘big mistake’ over Canberra footpath incident

Barnaby Joyce has spoken to the Seven network this morning explaining what happened, amid calls he should be dropped from the shadow frontbench.

Joyce said it was obvious he “made a big mistake” and while there was “no excuse for it”, “there is a reason”:

I’m on a prescription drug, and they say certain things may happen to you if you drink, and they were absolutely 100% right. They did.

Joyce said a taxi driver eventually came to his aid (there has been criticism of the person who filmed Joyce, for not offering assistance).

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, has told Brisbane radio 4BC Joyce would be offered support, but he would not be demoted over the incident:

There’ll be further conversations with Barnaby to make sure we put the environment around him that he needs to make sure whatever challenges he’s got.

Asked by Seven if he needed support, Joyce said:

I’m not looking for sympathy and I’m not looking for an excuse.

Energy efficient homesLandlords should reveal efficiency to help renters cut bills, report says

Landlords should reveal homes’ energy efficiency to help Australia’s renters cut power bills, advocates say

Acoss report says $2bn federal fund and coordinated policies would reduce costs, protect against heat-related illness and reduce emissions

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Governments should require landlords to reveal the energy performance of homes put up for sale or lease as part of a policy blitz aimed at helping low-income households cut power bills and improve their comfort, according to a report by the Australian Council of Social Service.

The report, released on Monday, also calls for a $2bn federal fund and coordinated policies across all levels of government to assist less-advantaged residents tap emerging technologies. They should also follow Victoria by banning new gas connections.

“There are about 1.8m low-income households in Australia who cannot afford to escape extreme temperatures because they’re stuck in inefficient homes that are expensive to warm or cool,” said Acoss’s energy program director, Kellie Caught.

“Funding upgrades to make homes electric, solar and climate resilient will reduce poverty, protect against heat-related illness, bring down the cost of power and create local jobs while turbocharging Australia’s emissions reduction targets.”

The report noted so-called split incentives – where landlords had little incentive to help tenants reduce their energy bills – were impediments holding back renters from improving the efficiency of their homes. Of the 2.4m private rental properties, more than 270,000 housed people on the lowest 20% of incomes.

The average energy performance of Australia’s 8m dwellings was also just 1.7 stars compared with the 7 stars – out of a possible 10 – required of new residences. Australian homes contribute more than 11% of national greenhouse emissions.

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Energy efficiency is often neglected in policy and media discussions even though it is one of the cheapest ways to cut energy usage and emissions, as recognised by the International Energy Agency, among others.

While the Albanese government has set up the $1.3bn Household Energy Upgrades Fund (Heuf), it won’t overcome financial barriers for people on low incomes or lend to Community Housing Providers or First Nations community-controlled housing, Acoss said.

Jenny McAllister, the assistant minister for climate change and energy, said “the community sector worked hard over the last decade of climate denial and delay to bring attention to the importance of energy efficiency”.

“Small changes can make an enormous difference in the comfort and cost of cooling or heating a home,” McAllister said. “A total of $600m of commonwealth and state funding will make an enormous difference to the wellbeing and energy bills of at least 60,000 families living in social housing across the country.”

Alan Pears, a senior RMIT industry fellow, said the Acoss report was comprehensive and reasonable.

“The challenge is to mobilise governments to act,” Pears said. “My review of EU progress in housing retrofits showed they have also struggled to drive ‘deep’ upgrades, which are really what’s needed to deliver health benefits.”

Apartment refits, though, created additional barriers, given the mix of owners and renters. Many blocks also often had one external facade, with a lot of glazing and little or no shading, making summer energy performance “a major issue”, he said.

CoreLogic, a property data group that has worked with CSIRO to develop artificial intelligence for improving energy efficiency, said a mandatory performance disclosure “should not be difficult [to introduce] as this is standard practice in many other parts of the world, such as the UE/UK energy performance certificates”.

“From a market readiness perspective, however, there are some barriers that impact timing,” a CoreLogic spokesperson said. “These include: lack of market capacity and a nationally standardised processes to assess existing properties and create energy performance certificates for existing homes at scale.”

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Barnaby JoyceAlbanese calls on Coalition to explain footpath incident

Albanese calls on Coalition to explain Barnaby Joyce footpath incident

Prime minister says ‘there needs to be an explanation’ after former deputy prime minister was seen lying on a Canberra street swearing into his phone

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The prime minister has called for the Coalition leadership to explain the actions of former deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce, who was last week filmed lying on a Canberra footpath having a phone conversation.

Guardian Australia understands Joyce won’t attend the Nationals party room meeting scheduled for Monday.

On Friday, Daily Mail Australia published night-time footage of Joyce lying face up on the pavement with his feet on a planter box having a phone conversation and uttering profanities.

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Questioned about Joyce’s behaviour at a press conference, Anthony Albanese said on Sunday that people deserved an explanation for what had occurred.

“Well, I think people will certainly make their own judgments on that. People will see that footage, they will look for an explanation that … has some credibility, and they’ll look for leadership from the leader of the Liberal party and the leader of the National party about this,” Albanese said.

“I think people will also think to themselves, what would the response be if that was a minister in my government being seen to be behaving in that way?

“I think that there just needs to be an explanation of what occurred.”

On Friday Joyce told Guardian Australia he was walking from parliament to his accommodation late on Wednesday, when he fell over next to a planter box on Lonsdale Street in Braddon.

He said he was on the phone with his partner, Vikki Campion.

“If I knew someone was filming me I probably would have got up quicker before I walked home. I was swearing at myself,” Joyce said.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton told Sky News on Sunday he would talk with Joyce later in the week, as would Nationals leader David Littleproud.

“It’s pretty rough when people are walking past somebody who might need support,” Dutton said.

“I understand a chalk mark has been drawn on the footpath. It could only happen in Canberra where all those Greens and Labor staffers are.

“I will have a chat with Barnaby later this week and as you said David Littleproud spoke with Barnaby and is going to speak to him again this week and that is where the situation is at the moment.”

The shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, warned against “jumping to conclusions” when he was questioned about the incident while appearing on ABC Insiders.

“Look, people love to jump to conclusions on these things. And I’m certainly not doing that. And I don’t think anyone should. I think the primary issue for us is Barnaby’s welfare. And we will remain focused on that. I certainly will remain focused on that,” Taylor said.

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WoodsideOil and gas company dramatically expands exploration spend despite net zero pledge

Woodside dramatically expands oil and gas exploration spend despite net zero pledge

Australia’s largest oil and gas producer stands accused of distracting from credible action to cut emissions by greenwashing its fossil fuel plans

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Australia’s largest oil and gas producer, Woodside Energy, has expanded its focus on fossil fuel exploration and increased its direct greenhouse gas pollution since announcing it had an “aspiration” of reaching net zero emissions.

Woodside’s spending on looking for new oil and gas reserves was $160m in 2019 and dipped to $96m in 2021 – a year affected by the Covid-19 pandemic – before rising to $418m in 2022, according to a report by the Australian Conservation Foundation.

The jump was largely due to the company taking over BHP’s global oil and gas assets in mid 2022, and came after the company said it aspired to reach net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner.

The goal covers only its “scope 1” and “scope 2” emissions – those from its operations and in generating the electricity it uses. Woodside said in 2022 it had cut them by 11%, compared with the average between 2016 and 2020.

The conservation foundation’s report, released on Monday, said the claimed emissions cut was based on the company buying contentious carbon offsets, mostly investing in land-based conservation projects. The carbon pollution released into the atmosphere from its operations increased by 3%.

The report said the aspirational target did not cover 92% of Woodside’s contribution to the climate crisis because it ignored the “scope 3” emissions released when the company’s customers, mostly in north Asia, burned the oil and gas it extracted and produced.

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The foundation’s corporate environmental performance analyst, Audrey van Herwaarden, accused Woodside of greenwashing by claiming it was reducing climate pollution while expanding its fossil fuel plans. “Net zero greenwashing poses a serious risk to humanity’s ability to tackle global warming, as it distracts from and delays concrete and credible action,” she said.

Woodside’s expansion plans include developing the Scarborough and Browse gas fields off the northern Western Australian coast and extending the life of its North West Shelf gas processing facility on the Burrup peninsula until 2070. Its “growth projects” also include oil developments in Senegal and the Gulf of Mexico.

A spokesperson for Woodside on Friday said the company’s climate-related plans, activities, progress and data were set out in a 2022 report and would be updated in its 2023 climate transition action plan scheduled to be released later this month.

The company’s chief executive, Meg O’Neill, has said it provided “reliable, affordable and lower-carbon energy”. The Australian gas industry says it is helping address the climate crisis by displacing higher-emissions coal, but it has not released evidence showing the extent to which this is the case.

According to Our World in Data, the share of electricity from coal-fired power in Japan – the biggest market for Australian gas – has not decreased as gas generation has increased significantly.

The consultancy Climate Analytics found gas became the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions growth globally last decade. While gas use is expected to continue for decades, a world energy outlook published by the International Energy Agency said global investment in oil and gas would need to be cut roughly in half by 2030 to put the world on track to reach net zero emissions by mid-century.

On Woodside’s reliance on carbon offsets, van Herwaarden said nature restoration projects were important but did not stop the damage to the climate from burning oil and gas.

An export group set up by the UN to advise on how to avoid greenwashing in net zero emissions pledges concluded serious climate commitments must prioritise deep cuts in absolute emissions by 2030, with carbon offsets – which allow companies and governments to pay for cuts elsewhere instead of reducing their own pollution – to be used only for reductions “above and beyond” that.

The group said offsets could not be used to justify fossil fuel expansion if governments and companies were serious about meeting the goals of the 2015 Paris agreement.

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Number of young Australians in psychological distress continues sharp rise

Number of young Australians in psychological distress continues sharp rise

Annual Hilda survey of 17,000 Australians shows ‘clear trend of younger people becoming lonelier and feeling more isolated as time goes on’

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Australians are experiencing a large up-tick of psychological distress, with loneliness rising sharply among young people during the pandemic, a new study has revealed.

The annual Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) report examines data gathered between 2001 and 2021, by tracking over 17,000 people in over 9,000 households.

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The latest report reveals how the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic shaped life in Australia.

“The data can tell us about the antecedents and consequences of life outcomes, such as poverty, unemployment, marital breakdown and poor health because we can see the paths that individuals’ lives took prior to those outcomes and the paths they take subsequently,” lead author Prof Roger Wilkins said.

Psychological distress rising

Initially, the incidence of distress remained relatively constant until 2011. Since around 2013, however, there has been a consistent upward trend in the proportion of Australians experiencing psychological distress, and in 2021 28.9% of females and 22.7% of males were in distress.

Across all age groups, there has been a general rising trend in the percentage of people in psychological distress, although the overall incidence of distress tends to be lower among older age groups, with the youngest age groups (15-24-year-olds) reporting the highest average distress scores in 2021.

Almost half (42.3%) of people aged 15-24 were psychologically distressed in 2021, up from 18.4% in 2011.

In the 15 years between 2007 and 2021, the percentage of females who were psychologically distressed was higher than the percentage of males. For males, the prevalence of psychological distress increased by roughly 51% between 2007 and 2021, whereas among females the prevalence of distress increased by about 63% over the same period.

For each additional $10,000 increase in annual disposable income, the likelihood of psychological distress declined on average by 0.1 and 0.2 percentage points for females and males, respectively.

Loneliness higher among younger people

Although the prevalence of loneliness in Australia has declined slightly over the 20-year period, it increased in younger Australians aged 15-24 over the Covid-19 period.

Between 2001 and 2009, the greatest proportion of lonely people was among those aged 65 and older. Since 2001, however, loneliness among this age group steadily declined, and in 2021, the 65 and over age group contained the lowest proportion of lonely individuals of all age groups.

With the exception of the 15-24 age group, all age groups had a lower proportion of lonely people in 2021 than in 2001.

“There is a clear trend of younger people becoming lonelier and feeling more isolated as time goes on,” co-author Dr Ferdi Botha said.

Loneliness increased in the first two years of the Covid pandemic, but for young people, a longer-term increase is apparent. It may be that this is connected to growth in smartphone and social media use, he said.

“If there aren’t actions taken or policies implemented to intervene, we may see loneliness and psychological distress increasing in the younger generations and this may lead to lower mental and physical wellbeing and other wider societal issues,” he said.

Marriage ‘significantly’ dips

Increasingly there have been fewer Australians tying the knot, with the trend now ‘significant’, according to the report. There has been a sharp decline in the proportion of married people mirrored by growth in de facto relationships.

For men, the proportion married declined from 56.3% in 2001 to 50.3% in 2021, while the proportion in a de facto relationship rose from 9% to 14.7%.

For women, the proportion of married declined from 54.5% in 2001 to 48.2% in 2021, while those in a de facto relationship rose from 8.9% to 14.3%. De facto couples are more likely to separate than married couples.

“We can see lower levels of education are strongly associated with a higher likelihood of separation in both marriages and de facto relationships,” Wilkins said.

“We see people who are unemployed or not in the labour force have a slightly elevated probability of experiencing a breakup in their romantic relationships compared to those who are employed.”

Household economic wellbeing

All family types have exhibited growth in median incomes between 2001 and 2021, with non-elderly couples without children faring somewhat better than other family types.

“Compared to 2001, household incomes are higher, in part because the average tax rate is slightly lower,” Wilkins said.

“Women are taxed a lower rate than men on average, but that is due to lower levels of income earned. Inequality has declined slightly with the arrival of COVID. It was at its lowest during 2020 and increased slightly in 2021, but was still lower than before the pandemic.”

Vaping and e-cigarettes

For the first time, the report includes data about vaping. The 2021 data shows 14.1% of individuals aged 15 and above had tried electronic cigarettes or vaping devices. Men were 2.2 percentage points more likely to use these products than women. Individuals who smoked tobacco also had a 19.3 percentage-point higher probability of vaping compared to people who didn’t smoke.

“Age is a significant factor in e-cigarette and vaping device usage with individuals between the ages of 15 and 19 predicted to have a 13.8 percentage-point higher probability of using these products than those aged 30 to 39,” Wilkins said.

“This means teenagers are far more likely to vape or use e-cigarettes than their parents or teachers.”

People in New South Wales were more likely to use e-cigarettes and vaping devices than people in the other states as well as people in the Australian Capital Territory.

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San Francisco 49ers v Kansas City Chiefs – live updates

49ers 0-0 Chiefs, 6:39, 1st quarter

Mitch Wishnowsky is on to punt. There’s another false start penalty that pushes them back five yards. Not great for San Francisco. Richie James catches the deep punt and takes it five yards to the Chiefs’ own 11.

The ads, music and Taylor SwiftSuper Bowl live – everything but the football

Aubrey Plaza is having a blast

As an actor, Aubrey Plaza might have matured out of her sullen brand of comedy, becoming a White Lotus standout and a Sundance mainstay, but as a hawker of goods, it’s a useful party trick to roll out. She’s here celebrating the 20th anniversary of Mountain Dew’s Baja Blast (how are you celebrating?) with a funny montage of different ways she can have fun. Including a neat cameo at the end.

Super Bowl predictionsPicks for 49ers v Chiefs, MVP and winners

Super Bowl 2024 predictions: Picks for 49ers v Chiefs, MVP, score and winners

Will Patrick Mahomes win his third NFL title with Kansas City? Or will Brock Purdy help San Francisco capture the championship in Las Vegas

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What the Kansas City Chiefs need to do to win

Run the ball. The Niners’ run defense has been poor all season. Over the past two months, they’ve sunk to near unplayable levels of suckitude. For all the flaws of this version of the Chiefs’ offense, one thing they’ve been able to do is plow forward with the run. Thanks to the unique style of Isiah Pacheco, a running back who runs like a llama that’s escaped from its pen, they’re able to grind out tough yards. If KC can run the ball early, they’ll be able to establish the flow of the game and limit the exposure of their undermanned receiving corps. OC

Catch the ball? The Chiefs let home-field advantage slip away because of a case of the butterfingers. But to Patrick Mahomes’s immense credit, he never gave up on his receivers – who have come through for him so far in the playoffs. Rookie Rashee Rice has emerged as a downfield threat, while Travis Kelce – beset by injuries most of this year – played about as close to a perfect game as a receiver could play in the AFC Championship. Both are due for big nights again against the Niners suspect secondary, especially if Pacheco gets untracked. AL

The defense handled two of the league’s best quarterbacks – Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson – in the Chiefs’ previous two games, mostly thanks to an excellent secondary. If that stays the same on Sunday, Mahomes and Pacheco, who is averaging 84.7 yards a game this postseason, should be able to close matters out. TL

Andy Reid has to scheme up the offense to allow Rice to make explosive plays. The rookie had an ample amount of catches in KC’s win over the Ravens but Baltimore stopped him ripping deep into their backfield. The Chiefs will struggle in a shootout if Rice isn’t in the game as hitting Kelce over and over in the middle of the field is too predictable. GS

What the San Francisco 49ers need to do to win

Win the turnover battle. I know. It’s basic. But expecting to contain Mahomes for four full quarters is an impossibility. He’s going to find a way to get points on the board. The Niners offense needs to remain patient, rather than pressing early. If Brock Purdy plays a clean game, then it will be over to San Francisco’s defensive dynamos – Nick Bosa, Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw – to force a turnover that will flip the game. OC

Feed Christian McCaffrey. The Niners are at their best when their offense flows through McCaffrey, as dangerous running the ball between the tackles as he is catching it in space. With Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo expected to bring the blitz from every direction, McCaffrey will play an important role in relieving the pressure on Purdy, who’ll be playing in his biggest game to date. The quicker CMC can get going, the more opportunities it will open up for Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle and San Fran’s other playmakers. AL

Get the version of Purdy who wins game with the kind of crazy plays that beat the Lions, rather than the kind of crazy plays that go straight to opposing defenders. Purdy will YOLO-ball at some point, Niners fans will just hope it works. TL

The defense need to tighten up. A good if not great unit has crumbled in the playoffs amid talk of poor effort from the team itself. If the big game cannot motivate them to start at least trying to stop the run then Pacheco will give the Chiefs an excellent platform to build from. GS

Key player for the Chiefs

Nick Bolton, linebacker. If you tot up their performances in the playoffs, the Chiefs’ defense ranks first in EPA per play, a measure of down-to-down effectiveness. Much of that hinges on the quality of the team’s cornerback room and the schematic wizardry of Spagnuolo. But no offense puts stress on opposing linebackers like the Niners. Leo Chenal has been the standout ‘backer for KC this year. But Bolton is more of the all-around, coverage-first type. He will have to be at his best to tip the balance in the Chiefs’ favor. OC

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, wide receiver. His drops and neutral zone infractions sabotaged the Chiefs in critical moments during the regular season. For Kansas City to have a fair chance at beating San Francisco in a Super Bowl, MVS can’t afford to make any mistakes. AL

Patrick Mahomes, quarterback. I’d love to come up with some nerd metrics about why a special teams player will ultimately decide this game. And, yes, we know he doesn’t really have any receivers. But when you’ve got Michael Jordan, why worry about anyone else? TL

Harrison Butker, kicker. In lieu of the blindingly obvious, Butker. He is as clutch as they come with a perfect record of seven field goals from seven tries in the playoffs. If the game goes down to the wire, Butker will not hesitate to tie a ribbon on another KC crown. He did it last year. GS

Key player for the 49ers

Brock Purdy, quarterback. There are two scenarios for this game: A tight, cagey contest where one turnover will decide the thing; a track meet with two offenses trading haymakers. In either scenario, the pressure will be on Purdy to deliver. The Niners cannot afford to turn the ball over and hand an extra possession to the Chiefs. OC

Nick Bosa, defensive end. There’s no doubt Bosa can pile up sacks with the best of them. His problem is that in his zeal to crash the backfield, he can overshoot the play and open up opportunities for the quarterback to escape or the running back to make people miss at the next level of defense. With an improved job of setting the edge, Bosa could keep Mahomes contained in the pocket and give the Niners’ linebacking corps the better crack at keeping the Chiefs QB and his running backs from breaking off big plays. AL

Fred Warner, linebacker. The Chiefs have used their run game well this postseason and the Lions shredded the Niners early on the ground in the NFC Championship Game. So Warner will need to be the near his usual All-Pro self to keep the Niners competitive. TL

Christian McCaffrey, running back. Kansas City’s defense is sublime but they are yet to face a running back as devastating as the newly minted offensive player of the year. There is seemingly no end to his talent. San Francisco have an excellent shot, regardless of Purdy’s level, with McCaffrey hogging the handoff. GS

One bold prediction

A pick-six decides the game. Let’s root for the most fun scenario: The ball is put into a quarterback’s hands with two minutes to go in a one-score game. It’s a legacy drive. Both defenses are ultra-aggressive, filled with star playmakers. A mistake, or a great defensive play slams the door shut on a come-from-behind win. There have been 15 pick-sixes in Super Bowl history. If a team snags one on Sunday, it will lift them to the championship. OC

Kadarius Toney enters the chat. The Chiefs’ rotation receiver has been sulking all postseason about being a healthy scratch, even though his bloopers more than justified the move. But don’t be surprised if Reid has a change of heart and figures out a way to get Toney involved on a few gadget plays or in the return game. AL

Vegas becomes the permanent home of the Super Bowl by 2034. As the NFL becomes even more entwined with gambling, it decides Vegas is the ideal home for the big game. There’s no shortage of hotel rooms and entertainment either, and the stadium is walkable from most accommodations – something that can’t be said for every Super Bowl host. TL

Usher has promised he will roller-skate in the half-time show. Cue the world collectively mouthing OMG when one of his backing skaters clatters into another and an epic domino rally ends with Usher stacking it in the biggest of spots. Janet Jackson had it bad, but Usher gets it worse. GS

Which of these teams is most likely to be here next year?

It’s the Chiefs. The Niners are about to get dinged by the salary cap, meaning they’ll lose some key contributors this offseason. The Chiefs have a weaker roster, but they have Mahomes – and the most talented, young defense in the league. OC

The Chiefs. Mahomes and Reid are the new Brady and Belichick. You bet against them at your own risk. AL

The Chiefs will be competitive for the next decade with Mahomes under center. But they also play in the AFC, which is stuffed with quarterback talent, so getting to the Super Bowl via that route will be much tougher than through the NFC. And with Purdy still on a cheap contract the 49ers should be able to hold on to some of their stars, even if their salary cap situation isn’t great. TL

The 49ers. Both feel likely but Kyle Shanahan’s team edge it owing to six starting Chiefs defenders potentially hitting the open market via free agency. Spagnuolo will no doubt craft another solid unit but compensating for the potential loss of tackle Chris Jones, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and linebacker Drue Tranquill among others would be tough. Another year of Purdy’s rookie deal should keep the 49ers cruising above the rest in the slightly weaker NFC. GS

The Most Valuable Player will be …

Travis Kelce. If the Chiefs have a chance, they need Kelce and Mahomes to overcome the structural and skill concerns surrounding the players around them. The duo have reached a Brady-Gronk-type level in the playoffs: everyone knows where the ball is going, and it’s still tough to stop them. The Chiefs need Kelce to deliver a dominant outing, even with the Niners allocating as many resources as possible to slow him down. OC

Mahomes. Three would put him in league with Montana and Brady and crank the greatest of all-time debate up to 11. AL

The MVP has been a quarterback or wide receiver for the last seven Super Bowls. It was Mahomes last year, so let’s go receiver this time around. And as everyone loves a bit of Narrative, why not have MVS for MVP as Marquez Valdes-Scantling, a punchline for much of the season, goes for 128 yards and two touchdowns. TL

Brock Purdy. When San Francisco clinch the Super Bowl the narrative will be complete. A hero’s journey only legends have trodden before him: David, Luke Skywalker and now, Mr Irrelevant. Expect multiple touchdown passes, an interception on an attempted haymaker and a few dangerous scrambles. Not as talented as Mahomes but a vital cog in a hi-tech machine akin to the Chiefs team that beat the 49ers in 2020. The doubters will mercifully have to pipe down, at least until the summer. “But he’s just a game manager,” they say. Isn’t that a quarterback’s job? GS

The final score will be …

49ers 24-27 Chiefs. This is one of those heart-mind picks. The Niners are a better all-around team. The Chiefs have an exceptional defense, but few answers to the specific strain the Niners’ offense puts on opponents. But they also have the most talented player walking the Earth at the game’s most valuable position. This is a Mahomes pick. The Chiefs shouldn’t be here; they’re a flawed team, with the worst offensive group Mahomes has worked during his career. But he’s still Mahomes – and it’s tough to pick against the quarterback continuing his dynastic run. OC

49ers 24-30 Chiefs. Purdy plays well, but the Chiefs D gets the better of him in the end. AL

49ers 14-31 Chiefs. It would be fun to see the Niners win, just because they haven’t claimed a title this century/millennium while the Chiefs are already a modern dynasty. But this won’t be close: the Niners were lucky to get past the Packers and would have lost to the Lions if it wasn’t for a few doses of fortune. In both games, the defense was unimpressive and the result turned on plays that could have gone either way. The Ravens wiped the floor with San Francisco over Christmas, and the Chiefs will do the same on Sunday. TL

49ers 33-28 Chiefs. Heart or head? Well, ego trumps both. The 49ers were my preseason darlings and you just have to stick, don’t you. (I also have to try to claw back credibility for suggesting the Ravens would miss the playoffs.) Shanahan is going to cook up something truly special to get his first ring. Next year’s trilogy fight is going to be spicy. GS

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Former president gets access to sealed documents on witness threats in Mar-a-Lago case

Trump gets access to sealed documents on witness threats in Mar-a-Lago case

Prosecutors allegedly turn over exhibit on threats made against potential witness to Trump’s lawyers after judge ordered them to

Special counsel prosecutors have produced to Donald Trump a sealed exhibit about threats to a potential trial witness after the federal judge overseeing his prosecution for retaining classified documents ordered the exhibit turned over despite the prosecutors’ objections, people familiar with the matter said.

The exhibit was a point of contention because it detailed a series of threats made against a witness who could testify against the former president at trial, and the matter is the subject of a criminal investigation by a US attorney’s office. Prosecutors had wanted to withhold it from Trump’s lawyers.

But the presiding US district judge Aileen Cannon ordered the exhibit that prosecutors in the office of special counsel, Jack Smith, had submitted “ex parte” – or without showing it to the defense – to be transmitted to Trump’s lawyers after reviewing its contents and deciding it did not warrant that protection.

The prosecutors complied with the order before a Saturday deadline without seeking a challenge – though the justice department would typically be loath to disclose details of an ongoing investigation, especially as it relates to the primary defendant in this case, legal experts said.

The justice department may have decided it was not appealing the order because the exhibit itself is part of a motion from prosecutors asking the judge to reconsider two earlier rulings that would have the effect of making public the identities of dozens of other witnesses who could testify against Trump.

At issue is a complicated legal battle that started in January when Trump filed a motion to compel discovery, a request asking the judge to force prosecutors to turn over reams of additional information they believe could help them fight the charges.

The motion to compel was partially redacted and submitted with 70 accompanying exhibits, many of which were sealed and redacted. But Trump’s lawyers asked that those sealed filings be made public because many of the names included in the exhibits were people already known to have worked on the documents investigation.

Prosecutors asked the judge to deny Trump’s request to unseal his exhibits, using broad arguments that they would reveal the identity of potential witnesses, two sub-compartments of what is described as “Signals” intelligence, and details about a separate probe run by the FBI.

The special counsel’s team also asked to submit their own set of sealed exhibits when they filed their formal response to Trump’s motion to compel. The government’s exhibits involved memos of interviews with witnesses and likely testimony from witnesses, according to the three-page filing.

Cannon in February issued two rulings: one on Trump’s request and one on prosecutors’ request.

With Trump, the judge found that personal identifying information of witnesses and the information about “Signals” intelligence should remain under seal, but everything else could be public. And with prosecutors, she granted their request to file their own exhibits under seal.

The twin rulings appear to have caught prosecutors by surprise. They have previously been successful in keeping materials that could reveal witness identities confidential, and they formally asked Cannon to reconsider those orders.

A motion for reconsideration is significant because if Cannon denies the challenge, it could pave the way for prosecutors to seek an injunctive appeal at the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit using a writ of mandamus – essentially, an order commanding Cannon to reverse her decision.

Cannon has previously drawn scrutiny from the 11th circuit. Before Trump was indicted, she upended the underlying criminal investigation by issuing a series of favorable rulings to Trump before the appeals court ruled she never had legitimate legal authority to intervene.

As part of prosecutors’ motion for reconsideration, they asked to submit alongside their court filings a third set of exhibits under seal and ex parte. Cannon agreed, pending her personal review of their contents. On Friday, she ruled they should not be ex parte – and should be turned over to Trump, as well.

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Former president gets access to sealed documents on witness threats in Mar-a-Lago case

Trump gets access to sealed documents on witness threats in Mar-a-Lago case

Prosecutors allegedly turn over exhibit on threats made against potential witness to Trump’s lawyers after judge ordered them to

Special counsel prosecutors have produced to Donald Trump a sealed exhibit about threats to a potential trial witness after the federal judge overseeing his prosecution for retaining classified documents ordered the exhibit turned over despite the prosecutors’ objections, people familiar with the matter said.

The exhibit was a point of contention because it detailed a series of threats made against a witness who could testify against the former president at trial, and the matter is the subject of a criminal investigation by a US attorney’s office. Prosecutors had wanted to withhold it from Trump’s lawyers.

But the presiding US district judge Aileen Cannon ordered the exhibit that prosecutors in the office of special counsel, Jack Smith, had submitted “ex parte” – or without showing it to the defense – to be transmitted to Trump’s lawyers after reviewing its contents and deciding it did not warrant that protection.

The prosecutors complied with the order before a Saturday deadline without seeking a challenge – though the justice department would typically be loath to disclose details of an ongoing investigation, especially as it relates to the primary defendant in this case, legal experts said.

The justice department may have decided it was not appealing the order because the exhibit itself is part of a motion from prosecutors asking the judge to reconsider two earlier rulings that would have the effect of making public the identities of dozens of other witnesses who could testify against Trump.

At issue is a complicated legal battle that started in January when Trump filed a motion to compel discovery, a request asking the judge to force prosecutors to turn over reams of additional information they believe could help them fight the charges.

The motion to compel was partially redacted and submitted with 70 accompanying exhibits, many of which were sealed and redacted. But Trump’s lawyers asked that those sealed filings be made public because many of the names included in the exhibits were people already known to have worked on the documents investigation.

Prosecutors asked the judge to deny Trump’s request to unseal his exhibits, using broad arguments that they would reveal the identity of potential witnesses, two sub-compartments of what is described as “Signals” intelligence, and details about a separate probe run by the FBI.

The special counsel’s team also asked to submit their own set of sealed exhibits when they filed their formal response to Trump’s motion to compel. The government’s exhibits involved memos of interviews with witnesses and likely testimony from witnesses, according to the three-page filing.

Cannon in February issued two rulings: one on Trump’s request and one on prosecutors’ request.

With Trump, the judge found that personal identifying information of witnesses and the information about “Signals” intelligence should remain under seal, but everything else could be public. And with prosecutors, she granted their request to file their own exhibits under seal.

The twin rulings appear to have caught prosecutors by surprise. They have previously been successful in keeping materials that could reveal witness identities confidential, and they formally asked Cannon to reconsider those orders.

A motion for reconsideration is significant because if Cannon denies the challenge, it could pave the way for prosecutors to seek an injunctive appeal at the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit using a writ of mandamus – essentially, an order commanding Cannon to reverse her decision.

Cannon has previously drawn scrutiny from the 11th circuit. Before Trump was indicted, she upended the underlying criminal investigation by issuing a series of favorable rulings to Trump before the appeals court ruled she never had legitimate legal authority to intervene.

As part of prosecutors’ motion for reconsideration, they asked to submit alongside their court filings a third set of exhibits under seal and ex parte. Cannon agreed, pending her personal review of their contents. On Friday, she ruled they should not be ex parte – and should be turned over to Trump, as well.

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NatoSecretary general says Trump remarks may put US and EU lives at risk

Nato chief says Trump remarks may put US and EU lives at risk

Jens Stoltenberg says Nato ‘ready and able to defend all allies’, after Trump invited Russia to attack member countries

The Nato chief, Jens Stoltenberg, has said any attack on the western military alliance would be met with a “united and forceful response”, after Donald Trump invited Russia to attack member countries that he perceived as not meeting their financial obligations.

Stoltenberg said in a statement: “Any suggestion that allies will not defend each other undermines all of our security, including that of the US, and puts American and European soldiers at increased risk. I expect that regardless of who wins the presidential election, the US will remain a strong and committed Nato ally.”

He said Nato remained “ready and able to defend all allies”.

Trump told a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday night that he would “encourage” Russia to attack any of the US’s Nato allies that he felt were not paying their fair share.

The White House described the remarks as “appalling and unhinged”.

The former president has voiced misgivings about aid to Ukraine as it defends itself from the invasion launched by Russia in February 2022 – as well as to the existence of Nato, the 31-nation alliance that the US has committed to defending when necessary.

On Saturday, Trump claimed that during an unspecified Nato meeting he had told a fellow head of state that the US under his leadership would not defend any countries who were “delinquent”.

“One of the presidents of a big country stood up and said: ‘Well, sir, if we don’t pay, and we’re attacked by Russia, will you protect us?’ I said: ‘You didn’t pay, you’re delinquent?’” said Trump, adding: “No, I would not protect you. In fact, I would encourage them to do whatever the hell they want. You got to pay. You got to pay your bills.”

The Polish defence minister, Władysław Kosiniak-Kamysz, wrote on X: “Nato’s motto ‘one for all, all for one’ is a concrete commitment.”

He added: “Undermining the credibility of allied countries means weakening the entire Nato. No election campaign is an excuse for playing with the security of the alliance.”

The president of the European Council, Charles Michel, wrote on X that “reckless statements” on Nato’s security and solidarity only served the interests of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. “They do not bring more security or peace to the world,” Michel said. “On the contrary, they re-emphasise the need for the EU to urgently further develop its strategic autonomy and invest in its defence. And to keep our alliance strong.”

The EU internal market commissioner, Thierry Breton, told the French TV channel LCI that Trump’s comments on military spending by Nato members were not new. “We have heard that before … Nothing new under the sun,” he said.

Breton added that European leaders understood that the EU needed to separately boost its own military spending and capacities and defence of sovereignty. “We cannot flip a coin about our security every four years depending on this or that election, namely the US presidential election,” he said.

Breton told LCI that Trump’s account of the meeting with Nato leaders was incorrect. “There’s maybe a little problem with his memory – it was actually a female president, not of a country but of the European Union,” Breton said, referring to the European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and a conversation she had with Trump in 2020.

In London, Peter Ricketts, a member of the House of Lords who previously served as the permanent representative to Nato in Brussels, wrote on X: “Not very plausible that the president of a ‘big’ European country would ask him that (or call him sir!). Trump seems to think that Nato is like a country club: you pay 2% of your GDP to the US which then provides defence services. Deeply corrosive of trust among Nato allies.”

Jan Lipavský, the Czech Republic’s minister for foreign affairs, said: “Nato is currently in the strongest position it has ever been, both because of the strong transatlantic link and because of the domestic deterrence and defence tasks that European allies are performing. Faced with the biggest threat since the end of the second world war, we are increasing defence budgets and acquiring new capabilities, many of which originate in the US.”

The White House spokesperson Andrew Bates, when asked about Trump’s comments, said: “Encouraging invasions of our closest allies by murderous regimes is appalling and unhinged – and it endangers American national security, global stability and our economy at home.”

The Nato treaty contains a provision that guarantees mutual defence of member states if one is attacked.

Nato countries agreed in 2014, after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, to halt the spending cuts they had made after the cold war and move towards spending 2% of their GDP on defence by 2024.

As of 2022, Nato reported that seven of what are now 31 Nato member countries were meeting that obligation, up from three in 2014. Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has spurred additional military spending by some Nato members.

During his 2016 campaign, Trump alarmed western allies by warning that the US under his leadership might abandon its Nato treaty commitments and come to the defence only of countries that meet the alliance’s 2% target.

In campaign speeches, Trump has remained sceptical of organisations such as Nato, often lamenting the billions that the US spends on the military alliance whose support has been critical to Ukraine’s fight against Russia’s invasion.

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Australia paid companies linked to suspected drug and weapons smuggling to run regime, review finds

Australia paid companies linked to suspected drug and weapons smuggling to run offshore detention, review finds

Home affairs minister Clare O’Neil says scathing report shows offshore processing ‘used as a slush fund by suspected criminals’

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Contractors suspected of drug smuggling and weapons trafficking were handed multimillion dollar contracts due to a lack of due diligence in the administration of Australia’s offshore detention regime, a scathing report has found.

The home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, has seized on the findings of the inquiry to claim that the now opposition leader, Peter Dutton, oversaw “an offshore processing regime being used as a slush fund by suspected criminals” when he was the responsible minister.

Despite the damning findings, the former defence chief Dennis Richardson in his report concluded that the Australian government “may have had no option but to enter into contracts with these companies” due to the high risk environments of offshore processing.

The inquiry report was released on Monday, ahead of the home affairs department’s appearance at Senate estimates.

Richardson found that “proper due diligence was lacking when it came to contracts with relatively small companies”. He noted “relevant agencies had active inquiries or investigations underway relating to regional processing issues”.

Richardson found the department had contractual relations with:

  • A company whose owners were suspected, through the ownership of another company, of seeking to circumvent US sanctions against Iran, and with extensive suspicious money movements suggesting money laundering, bribery and other criminal activity;

  • Companies under investigation by the Australian federal police (AFP)

  • A company whose chief executive was being investigated for possible drugs and arms smuggling into Australia, “although, at the time it would have been unrealistic to have expected those responsible for contract and procurement to be aware of this”; and

  • An enterprise suspected of corruption.

At Senate estimates on Monday, home affairs officials took on notice questions seeking to identify these contracts and companies, citing ongoing investigations.

“Intelligence and other information, which was readily available, was not accessed,” Richardson concluded in the report. “As a consequence, integrity risks were not identified.

“With proper due diligence, Home Affairs could have considered alternative suppliers, and, if this was not possible, the implementation of mitigating measures.”

Richardson said he had seen no “evidence of any ministerial involvement in the regional processing contract or procurement decisions, and the secretary of home affairs said he never discussed such decisions with the minister for home affairs”.

“We did not come across any matter of deliberate wrong-doing or criminality.”

Richardson recommended improved due diligence activities – especially checks of information held by the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre and the AFP.

The government agreed with this recommendation, but only agreed in principle with a further call for the finance department and the Office of National Intelligence to “develop a protocol for lawfully sharing law enforcement and intelligence information with Commonwealth entities, to inform procurement and contracting decisions in high risk environments”.

“This is an extraordinary report that should have been commissioned years ago, under the former government,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil said that the Richardson report, and separate reports by Martin Parkinson and Christine Nixon, “expose Mr Dutton as a hypocrite who was overseeing a migration system that was enabling mass exploitation and abuse, and an offshore processing regime being used as a slush fund by suspected criminals, all while trading on his reputation as a tough guy on the border”.

Guardian Australia has previously reported that MTC Australia received $422m for garrison services on Nauru despite a string of scandals in the US.

In Senate estimates the Greens senator, Nick McKim, described the report as “scathing” and “incendiary”.

The Department of Home Affairs’ secretary, Stephanie Foster, said Richardson had identified “significant shortcomings” but “they have been addressed”.

Foster noted that Richardson had expressed “confidence in the existing contract” with MTC Australia.

A Guardian investigation revealed that MTC has been accused of “gross negligence” and “egregious” security failures in its operation of private prisons, including failings alleged to have allowed the gang-rape of a woman in detention, the murder of two retirees by escaped prisoners, and the months long solitary confinement of a US citizen wrongfully held in immigration detention.

In another contract considered by the review, the former Australian government continued to pay millions of taxpayer dollars to a businessman convicted of corruption to provide offshore processing services on Nauru, even after he had pleaded guilty to bribing Nauruan government officials.

In August 2020 Mozammil Gulamabbas Bhojani was convicted of paying more than $120,000 in bribes to two Nauru government officials, including an MP and government minister, for favourable deals on phosphate mining contracts for his Radiance International group of companies.

But, at the same time, the Radiance International group owned an accommodation block – the Budapest Hotel – in Anabar, in Nauru’s north, which Bhojani’s company was leasing to the Australian government for its offshore processing regime on Nauru.

The Radiance International contract for refugee “accommodation services” – worth $17.5m – continued to be paid until May 2022, nearly two years after Bhojani was convicted and handed a suspended jail sentence for the foreign bribery offences in the same country.

In August the AFP conceded it gave incorrect information to the Senate when it said it had briefed Dutton on a foreign bribery investigation into Radiance and Bhojani. Dutton consistently said he was never briefed on the Bhojani matter.

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Primary school closed after asbestos found in mulch

Sydney primary school closed after asbestos found in mulch

Students to be taught remotely for two days after discovery of bonded fragments at Liverpool West school

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Bonded asbestos fragments have been found in mulch at a south-west Sydney primary school, with students to start the week from home.

The New South Wales Environment Protection Authority on Sunday confirmed the presence of bonded asbestos in mulch used at Liverpool West public school.

The EPA identified the school as a priority site for testing after asbestos was found in mulch supplied by the same manufacturer at the Rozelle interchange and other sites across Sydney.

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Recycled mulch containing bonded asbestos forced the closure of several parts of Rozelle parklands in the city’s inner west last month, as well as other areas associated with the road interchange underneath the site.

The EPA chief executive, Tony Chappel, on Sunday said the results were concerning and his organisation would work around the clock to ensure the safety of the school community.

“On Friday afternoon (9 February), I was advised the school was a potential site,” Chappel said in a statement.

“As a result, our officers and a licensed asbestos assessor were sent out first thing Saturday morning to test and this afternoon, we were notified that one sample contained a single piece of bonded asbestos.”

He said the site would be secured urgently, and cleaned up and replaced on Monday.

“We understand that finding asbestos at a school is extremely concerning for families and we are working as quickly as possible to get to the bottom of this situation,” he said.

Students will not attend school on Monday or Tuesday, as the school has enacted its asbestos protocol. This means students will be taught remotely.

As part of its investigation the EPA has conducted more than 100 tests at sites across Sydney, with 13 returning a positive result for bonded asbestos, which NSW Health advises is a low risk to public health.

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Workforce Australia job agencies forced to return millions in taxpayer funds after surge in faulty claims

Workforce Australia job agencies forced to return $8.5m in taxpayer funds after huge surge in faulty claims

Exclusive: Money returned to department by privatised employment services agencies doubled in 2022-23 amid apparent crackdown

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Australia’s outsourced job agencies have been forced to hand back more than $8.5m in government payments in one year – more than double the previous 12 months – after an apparent crackdown on faulty claims.

Under Australia’s employment services system, providers are funded with so-called “outcome payments” for placing their clients into employment or courses and they can claim reimbursements for money spent assisting jobseekers prepare for work.

The Workforce Australia scheme, which is under review by the Albanese government, is expected to cost more than $9.5bn over the next four years, amid sustained criticism that the privatised system is ineffective and prone to waste and rorting.

Data obtained by Guardian Australia shows in the past four financial years, the government has recovered $17,490,143 from employment services providers, with $8,558,253 of that recovered in 2022-23 alone.

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And while a majority of recouped payments have generally been returned to the department at the job agencies’ initiative, only 18% of the funds clawed back in 2022-23 was returned proactively.

Asked why there had been an uptick over that year in funds recovered, a Department of Employment and Workplace Relations spokesperson said the recoveries vary “year to year” depending on “program monitoring activities”.

The spokesperson said the most common reason for recovery was because the provider supplied “inadequate documentary evidence” when claiming payments or had wrongfully made a claim.

They said the money was recovered after the random sampling of expenditure and more targeted investigations.

“The department has also over time invested in more sophisticated assurance and program monitoring tools,” the spokesperson said.

Separate data shows between 2020-21 and 2023-24, the department received 88,785 complaints to the hotline about job providers. While the number has trended down, complaints still account for 7.5% of all calls.

The top reasons for the complaints were for inappropriate or inadequate service, dissatisfaction with their consultant or unprofessional behaviour.

Fewer jobseekers have interacted directly with outsourced employment consultants since the Coalition introduced Workforce Australia in 2022, with many now completing their job search obligations through an online portal.

The National Employment Services Association chief executive, Kathryn Mandela, said there were “varied circumstances” that “contribute to an automated or manual claim for payment being made in error”, including administrative mistakes and system errors .

“The current employment services payment, compliance, assurance and performance systems imposed by government on providers of employment services create a significant administrative burden,” Mandela said.

“Over 50% of frontline’s staff time, is consumed with meeting government administrative requirements.”

In December, Guardian Australia reported a jobseeker’s allegations that her provider, APM, claimed it referred her into work that she got herself, which could trigger publicly funded incentive payments. In other instances, out-of-work Australians have said their providers offered them cash incentives to lie about their employment status.

Jeremy Poxon, the policy officer for the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, said they believed “providers [were] incorrectly or inappropriately claiming payments on a far larger scale than the Department’s recovery figures reflect”.

“Providers currently funnel millions of public funds through their own companies, related entities and in-house training courses and programs,” he said.

“The failed ParentsNext program is a perfect example, where providers claimed the Participation Fund to refer participants to their own courses.

“[Providers] should not be permitted to refer participants on their caseload to training programs.

“Ultimately, the government needs to stop outsourcing employment services to private entities that will always bend or break their rules to suit their business interests.”

A parliamentary review ordered by the Albanese government found in November that the full privatisation of Australia’s employment services system had failed. It called on the government to re-establish a commonwealth job agency and overhaul the mutual obligations regime. The government is yet to respond to its findings.

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Workforce Australia job agencies forced to return millions in taxpayer funds after surge in faulty claims

Workforce Australia job agencies forced to return $8.5m in taxpayer funds after huge surge in faulty claims

Exclusive: Money returned to department by privatised employment services agencies doubled in 2022-23 amid apparent crackdown

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

Australia’s outsourced job agencies have been forced to hand back more than $8.5m in government payments in one year – more than double the previous 12 months – after an apparent crackdown on faulty claims.

Under Australia’s employment services system, providers are funded with so-called “outcome payments” for placing their clients into employment or courses and they can claim reimbursements for money spent assisting jobseekers prepare for work.

The Workforce Australia scheme, which is under review by the Albanese government, is expected to cost more than $9.5bn over the next four years, amid sustained criticism that the privatised system is ineffective and prone to waste and rorting.

Data obtained by Guardian Australia shows in the past four financial years, the government has recovered $17,490,143 from employment services providers, with $8,558,253 of that recovered in 2022-23 alone.

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

And while a majority of recouped payments have generally been returned to the department at the job agencies’ initiative, only 18% of the funds clawed back in 2022-23 was returned proactively.

Asked why there had been an uptick over that year in funds recovered, a Department of Employment and Workplace Relations spokesperson said the recoveries vary “year to year” depending on “program monitoring activities”.

The spokesperson said the most common reason for recovery was because the provider supplied “inadequate documentary evidence” when claiming payments or had wrongfully made a claim.

They said the money was recovered after the random sampling of expenditure and more targeted investigations.

“The department has also over time invested in more sophisticated assurance and program monitoring tools,” the spokesperson said.

Separate data shows between 2020-21 and 2023-24, the department received 88,785 complaints to the hotline about job providers. While the number has trended down, complaints still account for 7.5% of all calls.

The top reasons for the complaints were for inappropriate or inadequate service, dissatisfaction with their consultant or unprofessional behaviour.

Fewer jobseekers have interacted directly with outsourced employment consultants since the Coalition introduced Workforce Australia in 2022, with many now completing their job search obligations through an online portal.

The National Employment Services Association chief executive, Kathryn Mandela, said there were “varied circumstances” that “contribute to an automated or manual claim for payment being made in error”, including administrative mistakes and system errors .

“The current employment services payment, compliance, assurance and performance systems imposed by government on providers of employment services create a significant administrative burden,” Mandela said.

“Over 50% of frontline’s staff time, is consumed with meeting government administrative requirements.”

In December, Guardian Australia reported a jobseeker’s allegations that her provider, APM, claimed it referred her into work that she got herself, which could trigger publicly funded incentive payments. In other instances, out-of-work Australians have said their providers offered them cash incentives to lie about their employment status.

Jeremy Poxon, the policy officer for the Australian Unemployed Workers Union, said they believed “providers [were] incorrectly or inappropriately claiming payments on a far larger scale than the Department’s recovery figures reflect”.

“Providers currently funnel millions of public funds through their own companies, related entities and in-house training courses and programs,” he said.

“The failed ParentsNext program is a perfect example, where providers claimed the Participation Fund to refer participants to their own courses.

“[Providers] should not be permitted to refer participants on their caseload to training programs.

“Ultimately, the government needs to stop outsourcing employment services to private entities that will always bend or break their rules to suit their business interests.”

A parliamentary review ordered by the Albanese government found in November that the full privatisation of Australia’s employment services system had failed. It called on the government to re-establish a commonwealth job agency and overhaul the mutual obligations regime. The government is yet to respond to its findings.

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World marathon record holder dies in car crash in Kenya at age 24

World marathon record holder Kelvin Kiptum dies after car crash in Kenya

  • Runner set the world record at Chicago Marathon in October
  • Sebastian Coe ‘shocked and deeply saddened’ at the news

Tributes have been paid to the world marathon record holder, Kelvin Kiptum, after his shock death, alongside his coach, in a road accident on Sunday.

The 24-year-old, who won the London Marathon in April before setting the world record in Chicago in October, was reported by police to have lost control of his vehicle while driving in Kaptagat, south-west Kenya, at 11pm local time.

His coach, Gervais Hakizimana, also died in the crash, while a third person is said to have been rushed to hospital.

Kenya’s prime minister, Raila Odinga, was among those to pay his respects, writing on X, formerly Twitter: “Devastating news as we mourn the loss of a remarkable individual, Kelvin Kiptum, world record holder and Kenyan athletics icon. Together with his coach, they tragically passed on in an accident tonight. Our nation grieves the profound loss of a true hero.”

Those sentiments were shared by Kenya’s minister for sports, Ababu Namwamba, who added on X: “Devastatingly sickening! Kenya has lost a special gem. Lost for words.”

Meanwhile the president of World Athletics, Sebastian Coe, said he was “shocked and deeply saddened to learn of the devastating loss of Kiptum and Hakizimana. “An incredible athlete leaving an incredible legacy, we will miss him dearly,” he added.

Local county commander Peter Mulinge told the Nation newspaper that Kiptum had lost control of his vehicle and hit a tree before landing in a ditch.

“This was a self-involved accident where one Kelvin Kiptum, the world marathon record holder, was driving his vehicle with two passengers,” Mulinge added. “Kiptum and Hakizimana died on the spot and the third person was rushed to Racecourse hospital in Eldoret.”

Last week Kiptum’s world record of 2hr 0min 35sec, which took 34sec off Eliud Kipchoge’s old mark, was ratified by World Athletics. The 24-year-old had also recently announced plans to become the first athlete to run an official marathon in under two hours, in Rotterdam in April.

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Greens to stall Labor housing bill in campaign to limit negative gearing

‘Pressure works’: Greens to stall Labor housing bill in campaign to limit negative gearing

System is ‘stacked against renters and first-home buyers’ and government must change its position on negative gearing and capital gains tax, Greens say

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The Greens are threatening to impede passage of the government’s “help-to-buy” housing scheme, as they seek to force Labor into winding back tax breaks on investment properties.

The treasurer, Jim Chalmers, on Sunday said the government had no plans to change negative gearing, as attention shifted to other areas of tax reform after the government’s amendments to stage-three income tax cuts.

However, the Greens say they will use their balance of power in the Senate to force Labor into paring back negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts in exchange for their support in the Senate on the government’s housing bill.

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Labor’s help-to-buy scheme, which is expected to be up and running this year, would help 10,000 prospective buyers a year by the government taking equity of 30% (for an existing build) or 40% (of a new-build) in their homes, meaning smaller deposits and loans for the owner’s share.

It faces a potential impasse in the Senate after the Coalition ruled out its support, requiring Labor to team up with the Greens and two additional crossbenchers.

Greens housing spokesperson, Max Chandler-Mather, said the existing policies made it easier for property investors to buy multiple properties rather than allowing first home buyers to get their foot in the door.

“The system is stacked against renters and first home buyers,” Chandler-Mather said.

“Pressure works. Labor changed their position on stage-three tax cuts and now they need to change their position on negative gearing and capital gains tax.”

Negative gearing allows investors to claim tax deductions on rental property 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.

The Greens are believed to be proposing limiting negative gearing to a single investment property. The party is also proposing to replace the capital gains tax discount to a more modest concession linked to the consumer price index.

Chandler-Mather and Greens leader, Adam Bandt, said the revenue raised from such changes should be re-directed to more public housing.

ACT senator David Pocock is also backing the call to consider capping the number of investment properties you can negatively gear, saying that it is time for leaders to show political courage.

“It shouldn’t be easier to buy your second or third house than your first, but right now in Australia it is,” he said.

“We are staring down the barrel of the worst housing crisis in generations and it’s going to require some fundamental changes and more than a bit of political courage to fix.”

The latest figures from Treasury show the 1.1 million people who negatively geared their properties in 2020-21 received a tax benefit of $2.7bn. The benefits flowed mostly to wealthier Australians with 80% claimed by people with above median income, and 37% claimed by people in the top income bracket.

It is a similar scenario with the capital gains tax discount. Treasury estimates between $14.7bn and $19bn in forgone tax revenue will be lost over the next three years as a result of the policy. Wealthier Australians again benefited most, with 90% received by people with above median income, and 82% of received by people in the top income decile.

Chalmers told Sky News on Sunday that changes to negative gearing were “not something that we’re proposing, not something that we are considering, not something that we are working up””.

The opposition has been pressuring the Albanese government to rule in, or rule out, further changes to taxation.

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 this week were very wishy-washy,” he said.

The Greens have previously used their balance of power in the upper house to hold the government’s $10bn Housing Australia Future Fund hostage amid negotiations.

The months-long impasse ended last September after the Greens secured a further $1bn for public and community housing but failed to land a national cap or freeze to rental increases.

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Two ‘unexpected’ bodies recovered from Thames in search for Abdul Ezedi

Two ‘unexpected’ bodies recovered from Thames in search for Abdul Ezedi

Neither body belonged to 35-year-old suspected of Clapham chemical attack on woman and children, say police

Two male bodies have been recovered from the River Thames as police search for a suspect who severely injured a “vulnerable” woman and her two young daughters in a chemical assault.

Neither body was identified as that of Abdul Ezedi, who has been on the run since the attack on 31 January in Clapham, south London. He was last seen walking “with purpose” to Chelsea Bridge in west London and was captured on CCTV leaning over the railings of the bridge on the night of the attack.

After that, there was a visible change in his behaviour, resulting in a “loss of sight”, with no further CCTV footage of him coming off the bridge.

The bodies of two men were pulled from the river on Saturday, and both deaths are being treated by police as “unexpected pending further inquiries”.

It is understood they were found not as a direct result of the search operation for 35-year-old Ezedi.

While police are still calling for Ezedi to hand himself in and appealing to the public to call 999 if they see him, they now say it is likely that Ezedi – who was wounded in the attack, with “significant injuries to the right side of his face” – has died.

Asked whether police were prepared to say that Ezedi was dead, Det Supt Rick Sewart said: “I’m prepared to say that he’s gone into the water – and if he’s gone into the water, then that’s the most probable outcome.”

Ezedi is accused of pouring a corrosive alkaline substance on a 31-year-old woman, who was known to Ezedi, and her two children, aged three and eight.

The woman remains in a “critical but stable condition” in hospital, “very poorly and unable to speak”, police said. She may lose the sight in her right eye. Her children were also hurt in the attack.

Ezedi came to the UK hidden in a lorry in 2016 and was turned down twice for asylum before successfully appealing against the Home Office rejection by claiming he had converted to Christianity.

He was convicted of two sexual offences in 2018 but was allowed to stay in the UK because his crimes were not serious enough to meet the threshold for deportation.

Speaking about the river search for Ezedi, Jon Savell, a commander at Scotland Yard, said: “At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags. It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month, and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface.”

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US first lady in disbelief special counsel used son’s death to ‘score political points’

Jill Biden in disbelief special counsel used son’s death to ‘score political points’

In email to donors first lady adds to chorus of critics who have condemned Robert Hur for disparaging Biden’s memory

First lady Jill Biden has expressed disbelief that the author of the US justice department’s report clearing her husband of criminal charges over his handling of classified documents prior to his presidency would invoke the death of the couple’s son “to score political points”.

“Believe me, like anyone who has lost a child, Beau and his death [in 2015] never leave him,” she wrote late Saturday in an email to donors supporting Joe Biden’s re-election campaign, days after special counsel Robert Hur’s report asserted that the president could not remember when his and Jill Biden’s son died.

“If you’ve experienced a loss like that, you know that you don’t measure it in years – you measure it in grief. … So many of you know that feeling after you lose a loved one, where you feel like you can’t get off the floor. What helped me, and what helped Joe, was to find purpose. That’s what keeps Joe going, serving you and the country we love.”

The first lady, with her email, joined a chorus of critics who have condemned Hur for dedicating large portions of his report – which failed to produce an indictment – to Biden’s age and purportedly fading memory. That was “flatly inconsistent with longstanding [justice department] traditions”, former US attorney general Eric Holder said of Hur’s report.

Jill Biden’s email on Saturday avoided explicitly naming Hur, once chosen for the role of Maryland’s US attorney by Donald Trump, whom Joe Biden defeated in the 2020 election and is seeking a second presidency. But she wrote that she felt it was necessary “not just as Joe’s wife, but as Beau’s mother” to address “this special counsel” whom Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, had appointed to investigate the president.

“I hope you can imagine how it felt to read that attack,” Jill Biden wrote, seemingly directing herself to Hur. “We should give everyone grace, and I can’t imagine someone would try to use our son’s death to score political points.”

She went on to write that the day former Delaware attorney general Beau Biden died from brain cancer – 30 May 2015 – was “forever etched” on the hearts of her and the president.

“It shattered me,” Jill Biden said of her 46-year-old son’s death. “It shattered our family.”

The first lady also wrote: “I don’t know what this special counsel was trying to achieve.”

Jill Biden’s email made it a point to acknowledge her husband’s age. The Democrat is 81, which is just four years older than Trump, the Republicans’ presumptive 2024 White House nominee.

“Joe is 81, that’s true, but he’s 81 doing more in an hour than most people do in a day,” said Jill Biden, 72. “Joe has wisdom, empathy and vision.

“He’s learned a lot in those 81 years. His age, with his experience and expertise, is an incredible asset and he proves it every day.”

Garland appointed Hur in January 2023 to investigate Biden’s retention of classified documents from his time as Barack Obama’s vice-president. The documents in question included some found at his home and former thinktank.

The 388-page report took away the specter of Biden facing criminal charges over his document retention. But it gave Hur’s fellow Republicans a key attack line by saying Biden came off as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” who “did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died”.

Jill Biden’s defense of her husband received a boost Sunday from the president’s re-election campaign co-chairperson, Mitch Landrieu.

“I’m telling you, this guy is tough, he’s smart, he’s on his game,” Landrieu – a former White House infrastructure coordinator and ex-New Orleans mayor – said of Biden on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Landrieu, also a former lieutenant governor of Louisiana, added: “This kind of nonsense that he’s not ready for this job is just a bucket of BS that’s so deep your boots will get stuck in it.”

Trump, too, has drawn questions about his mental acuity by flubbing the names of prominent political figures and sounding unsure about whether the second world war occurred.

However, a notable NBC News poll recently found Trump, for the moment, held the edge with voters on the issue of having the necessary mental and physical health to be president – despite his facing more than 90 pending criminal charges, including for trying to subvert his 2020 electoral loss. And a separate ABC poll on Sunday showed 86% of Americans think Biden is too old for another term in the Oval Office.

The focus of the US’s recent political discourse on Biden and Trump’s mental fitness itself has prompted a debate on what constitutes a natural verbal stumble and what qualifies as a sign of cognitive decline.

Experts generally say that misremembering names and dates is not unusual, especially in environments that are stressful or rife with distractions, which public speaking appearances can be for politicos.

In Biden’s case, his interviews with Hur were held right after Hamas’s 7 October attack on Israel, which was a crisis for the president’s administration and for the rest of the world.

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