The Guardian 2024-02-15 18:01:11


Hundreds more detainees could be released in sequel to NZYQ high court ruling

Hundreds more immigration detainees could be released in sequel to NZYQ high court ruling

Attorney general applies to have case heard by high court to end legal uncertainty on detainees who refuse to cooperate on deportation

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The Albanese government has asked the high court to rule on a major case that could extend the NZYQ ruling on indefinite detention to release hundreds more long-term detainees, including refugees and asylum seekers.

At stake is whether people in immigration detention must be released if their refusal to cooperate has prevented them being deported.

The attorney general, Mark Dreyfus, has applied to remove a federal court appeal and have it heard by the high court to settle the legal uncertainty. The commonwealth will argue for the right to continue detaining those who refuse to cooperate.

In November, the high court unanimously ruled that immigration detention is unlawful where there is “no real prospect” of it becoming practical to deport the person “in the reasonably foreseeable future”.

In that case the solicitor general, Stephen Donaghue, had warned that up to 340 people in long-term detention may have to be released as a result. So far 149 people have been released.

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Many of the remainder have been kept in detention because the government’s legal advice states the NZYQ decision does not require their release if deportation is being frustrated by a lack of cooperation, such as refusing to meet government officials from their country of origin or obtaining a travel document.

The federal court has issued contradictory judgments on that point, ordering the release of Ned Kelly Emeralds on 30 November but refusing release in the case of a plaintiff known by the pseudonym ASF17.

In both cases the government argued deportation had been frustrated – in ASF17’s case because he refused to meet with Iranian authorities to get travel documents.

According to the judgment of Justice Craig Colvin on 11 January, ASF17 submitted that he had “no obligation to cooperate and that he has good reasons for not” doing so.

ASF17 had said he “fears for his life if he is removed to Iran” because he is bisexual, Christian, a Faili Kurd and because he had opposed “the mistreatment of women by the government in Iran”.

Justice Colvin ruled that ASF17’s continued detention was lawful, refusing his application to be released.

“Where ongoing detention is to arrange removal from Australia as soon as practicable, that lawful purpose is served for so long as there is a practicable way that the person may be removed, even if it requires cooperation from the detainee for it to be achieved,” he said.

ASF17’s lawyers signalled an intention to appeal to the full federal court, prompting Dreyfus to apply on Thursday to have the matter removed to the high court for final determination.

On Thursday the Coalition targeted the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, for a fourth straight day in question time over the handling of the NZYQ court case and subsequent releases from immigration detention.

The Coalition’s attacks have been fuelled by documents tabled in Senate estimates detailing the criminal offending of those released, and the fact that seven have been charged with breach of visa conditions and 18 with breach of state or territory offences since release.

In an unsuccessful motion to suspend standing orders on Wednesday, the opposition leader Peter Dutton accused Giles of “failing to know where released detainee criminals are”.

In question time on Wednesday and Thursday, Giles said that “the location of every individual in this cohort is known” because they are “continuously monitored” through conditions including ankle bracelets or a requirement to report their address to authorities.

He cited evidence from the Australian federal police at Senate estimates that there wasn’t “any difficulty knowing where they are”.

Dutton’s motion called on “the prime minister to dismiss this incompetent minister who has proven entirely inadequate to the task of keeping Australians safe” – reiterating a demand he made in November. The motion was defeated 87 to 53.

Earlier on Wednesday the leader of the house, Tony Burke, said the Coalition’s question time tactics were designed to avoid talking about the fact the “the government is making sure that people earn more and keep more of what they earn in tax reform”.

Burke said “of course” Giles retains his and the prime minister’s confidence, describing Giles “a serious immigration lawyer looking after these issues”.

In response to the motion, the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, noted Dutton had lifted a bar to allow NZYQ, the original high court plaintiff, to apply for a visa and had failed to deport him.

On Thursday Dutton continued to call for Giles’ resignation over his handling of the NZYQ case.

“You need somebody who can make tough decisions and can act in our national interest and keep Australians safe,” Dutton told 2GB Radio.

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Greens are targeting tax breaks for investors to make buying a home affordable for renters, Max Chandler-Mather says

Greens are targeting tax breaks for investors to make buying a home affordable for renters, Max Chandler-Mather says

Australia’s tax system basically forces house prices up, often far in excess of wages, the party’s housing spokesperson says

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The Greens plan to reduce house prices through their demands to axe tax concessions for investors to make buying more affordable for renters, the party’s housing spokesperson, Max Chandler-Mather, has said.

In an episode of the Guardian’s Australian Politics podcast, to be released on Saturday, Chandler-Mather argues projected price reductions in the order of 2.5% are “not much” and preventing further rises of 10 or 20% would be desirable.

The Greens say they will use their balance of power in the Senate to push for Labor to pare back negative gearing and capital gains tax discounts in return for supporting the government’s Help to Buy shared equity scheme.

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.

Costings of the Greens’ policies by the independent Parliamentary Budget Office in April 2023 suggested they might cause “house prices [to] fall and rents [to] rise” although the extent of the impact would “be influenced by how many renters would be able to switch to owning property”.

Asked if the Greens wanted cheaper house prices so that more renters can become owner-occupiers, Chandler-Mather replied: “Yeah, absolutely.”

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Chandler-Mather said that modelling including by the Grattan Institute “pointed out changes might see a 2.5% drop in house prices”. “Now that’s not much, right … in the context of big house prices.

“But it is a lot when you consider the fact, well, that means that house prices don’t go up by another 10 or 20% next year.”

In 2016 the Grattan Institute estimated abolishing negative gearing and halving the capital gains tax discount to 25% would leave house prices roughly 2% lower than otherwise, favouring would-be homeowners over investors.

Chandler-Mather said “the problem with our housing market is we have a tax system that basically continues to force house prices up, often far in excess of wages”.

“Since about 2000, house prices have gone up more than double wages every year.”

“That’s crazy. So slowing that down, at the very least, is a good thing. Because when you’re saving up for a deposit and house prices are increasing faster than you can even save up for a deposit that … is one of the most demoralising things you can possibly experience.”

Chandler-Mather said that “big decreases” were not desirable because of “people who don’t want to fall into negative equity”, owing more to the bank than their property is worth.

“But just moderating the system, calming it down, I think, is a good thing,” he said.

Chandler-Mather rejected the suggestion phasing out negative gearing could increase rents, arguing that “generally landlords are charging as much rent as they can get away with”.

The member for Griffith conceded that “some … might be charging a little bit less but in aggregate terms, that’s just not really how the rental market works”.

Chandler-Mather said the Greens still want the federal government to incentivise states and territories to freeze rents for two years, a call rejected by Labor premiers last year during housing future fund negotiations.

The Greens went to the 2022 election proposing to build 1m public houses over five years, allowing cheaper access to housing with payments to allow occupants to take up to 75% of the equity in the home.

Chandler-Mather said this was “broadly” still a “good idea” but there would be “some tweaks” to its housing offering before the next election.

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How Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon will celebrate their big day (hypothetically)

Guest list, playlist and wedding dress: how Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon will celebrate their big day (hypothetically)

Here’s how Australia’s wedding of the year may play out

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In a social media post on Thursday morning, Anthony Albanese shared a photo of himself and his partner, Jodie Haydon, with the latter showing off a new diamond ring. “She said yes,” the caption read.

The couple have since received messages of congratulations from around the world – from the New Zealand prime minister to Nigella Lawson. And the post signals that the first divorcee to become Australian prime minister may now become the first PM to get married while in office.

Here’s the where, when and how of Anthony Albanese and Jodie Haydon’s big day (all hypothetical, of course).

How did Anthony Albanese propose?

The couple shared a Valentine’s Day dinner on Wednesday night at Italian and Sons in Canberra’s inner north, where special menus were $135 a head. After returning to the Lodge, Albanese, 60, popped the question on one of the residence’s balconies. Albanese is understood to have specially designed the engagement ring.

“We are thrilled and excited to share this news and look forward to spending the rest of our lives together,” the newly engaged couple said in a joint statement. “We are so lucky to have found each other.”

Who is Jodie Haydon?

Haydon, 45, grew up on the New South Wales Central Coast, the daughter of schoolteachers and lifelong Labor voters. She works full time as women’s officer for the NSW Public Service Association and lives in Sydney’s inner west – or did, until moving into Kirribilli House.

How did the couple meet?

Albanese’s beloved NRL team the South Sydney Rabbitohs had a lot to do with it. In late 2019, Haydon attended a national union conference in Melbourne, where Albanese was keynote speaker. After he was given some ribbing about the Rabbitohs, she called out “Up the Rabbitohs”. The then opposition leader later introduced himself to her as the only other Rabbitohs fan in the room, according to a News Corp interview. She then contacted him via Twitter and the pair met for a beer at Young Henrys Brewery in Newtown. The rest is history.

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Will it be a church wedding?

It’s unlikely – he is a non-practising Catholic, plus a divorcee, plus he chose a civil affirmation when being sworn in as PM.

When will the wedding take place?

The next election is clearly a big consideration. If the couple were to wed before the next federal poll – a standard election of the House and half the Senate must be held before 24 May 2025. It could be held as early as 3 August 2024 but the prime minister has stressed he expects the government to run full term.

Where will it be?

It’s got to be in Australia and he’ll probably want to avoid any impression of taxpayer dollars going into the wedding, which nixes the Lodge and Kirribilli House – and leaves some other possibilities:

Young Henrys Brewery, Newtown: “We are delighted to hear of Albo and Jodie’s engagement, and we extend an offer to host the pending nuptials at our brewery at mates’ rates,” Richard Adamson, the Young Henrys co-founder, says. “Regardless of whether that offer is taken, we wish the couple all the best.”

Marrickville Golf Club: “We used to see a fair bit of him when he lived 500 metres from the golf club, but now that he’s become PM we don’t see him as much,” the club’s general manager, Mathew Ward, says. “It’d be wonderful to have him for a little barefoot wedding at the local.”

Willie the Boatman brewery, Marrickville: The home of “Albo” 5.5% pale ale – that’s the beer taken care of, at least.

South Sydney Rabbitohs club, Maroubra: Since it had a lot to do with the couple meeting.

Marrickville Town Hall: Seats 250 for a banquet dinner. Hiring the venue for a full Saturday costs $2,560.

Marrickville and District Hardcourt Tennis Club: “We’d be thrilled. If he loves Portuguese food, we’d be only too happy to host a wedding for the PM,” Ron Browne, the consulting manager, says. The small kitchen can handle dinner for 120 people – and there’s plenty of availability, provided Albanese, an avid tennis player, works around the regular locals.

Marrickville Bowling Club: It’s better known for barefoot bowls than weddings, but if Albanese could plan around competitive bowls and live music bookings, he could invite 350 people to the bowlo.

Old Parliament House, Canberra: Convenient, thematically and commute-wise, plus space for 500 guests.

What will the bride wear?

Something Australian – and elegant. “She looked divine in Paolo Sebastian in Washington,” the Vogue Australia editorial director, Edwina McCann, says. “She’s very much a fan of his work … He would do an extraordinary job.”

“She’s (Haydon) incredibly loyal to Australian designers and wears them particularly well,” McCann says. “The feedback from the industry is that she is a pleasure to work with, always very grateful and very respectful.”

Haydon wore dresses by Karen Gee when meeting the French president, Emmanuel Macron, to Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and to a Nato event in Spain. Carla Zampatti is another possibility.

There’s no official budget for this – Haydon’s outfits and styling are paid for out of her own pocket. A loaned or hired dress is not out of the question for the sustainability-minded bride, says one Labor insider.

What’s on the playlist?

The couple share a love of music – Albanese was a music ambassador for Record Store Day Australia and Haydon worked in a music store for years as a teen. “He might even DJ at his own wedding,” says one Labor insider. On the playlist might be Joy Division, Hunters and Collectors, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Bruce Springsteen, Pixies, the Jam, Midnight Oil and the Smiths.

And will Toto be there?

Surely Toto, Albanese’s cavoodle, will be invited. He’s described her as “loving, she’s loyal, she’s great company, and she’s always so happy to see me”.

Ring carrier, flower pup, bouquet carrier – it’s all possible. Just ask Wedding Paws, which specialises in “making your pets a part of your special day”. Should the PM wish to outsource Toto management on the day, they have a range of dog wedding packages from $575, including on-site pet-sitting and attire – floral headdresses, bow ties and “best dog” collars optional.

This will be Albanese’s second wedding?

Albanese has an adult son, Nathan, with his former wife and the former NSW deputy premier, Carmel Tebbutt. Her state seat at the time, Marrickville, overlapped with his federal seat of Grayndler. The couple married in 2000 and separated in 2019, a moment that Albanese said “came as a surprise” to him.

Who’s on the guest list?

Will the PM go big and stately – inviting everyone from King Charles to President Biden and the Dalai Lama – or will the couple keep things low key? Our money is on the latter.

“He wouldn’t have to invite the whole cabinet but he might, for optics,” says one Labor insider. “But then it could turn into a cast of thousands.”

High on the list are MPs Richard Marles, Penny Wong, Don Farrell, Tim Ayres and chief of staff Tim Gartrell, plus the NSW premier, Chris Minns, and his wife, Anna, and his tennis pal Peter Fitzsimons and TV host Lisa Wilkinson. And, will Kyle Sandilands’s wedding invitation be reciprocated?

And what’s on the menu?

“Neither of them want fireworks and Russian caviar. They’re working class, they don’t have fancy taste,” a former Labor staffer says.

The food might celebrate his Italian heritage – and it’s likely the caterer will be local to Marrickville, possibly someone who has supported his campaigns.

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‘She said yes’Albanese announces engagement to partner

Australian PM Anthony Albanese announces engagement to partner Jodie Haydon

Albanese and Haydon, who met at a business dinner in Melbourne in 2019, shared the announcement on social media the morning after Valentine’s Day

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Australia’s prime minister, Anthony Albanese, has announced his engagement to his partner, Jodie Haydon.

Albanese revealed the news posting a picture of the pair with Haydon showing off the new diamond ring on social media on Thursday morning.

“She said yes,” the prime minister wrote.

It is believed that – depending on the timing of the event – this will be the first time an Australian prime minister has got married while in office.

Speaking later on Thursday, the prime minister said he “put a lot of planning” into the proposal.

However, he would not be drawn on questions about the details of any wedding preparations.

“We will now have those discussions between us, which I think people will understand, and sort out those details, but we just want to live in the moment at this point,” he said.

The two shared a Valentine’s Day dinner on Wednesday night at Italian & Sons in Canberra’s inner north. The restaurant offered set menus for the special occasion for $135 per person.

Later on, after returning to the prime minister’s residence, Albanese popped the question to Haydon while on a balcony.

Guardian Australia understands Albanese specially designed the engagement ring.

“We are thrilled and excited to share this news and look forward to spending the rest of our lives together,” the newly engaged couple said in a joint statement. “We are so lucky to have found each other.”

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The foreign affairs minister, Albanese’s longtime ally Penny Wong, congratulated the two on social media.

“Love is a beautiful thing. I’m so happy for you both!” Wong said in a post on X.

Other Labor colleagues, including the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, and the housing minister, Julie Collins, also welcomed the news.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, told 2GB that he congratulated Albanese in the chamber on Thursday, adding Haydon is a “lovely person”.

“I wish them every happiness and it’s obviously a special relationship that they’ve got and I wish them every success,” he said.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Christopher Luxon, also offered his well wishes: “Congratulations Anthony – very happy for you and Jodie.”

Celebrity cook Nigella Lawson also sent her congratulations.

Albanese and Haydon met at a business dinner in Melbourne in 2019. Haydon, who lives at the Lodge with Albanese in Canberra and works as women’s officer for the NSW Public Service Association, has joined the prime minister on a number of formal state visits including a state dinner at the White House with the US president, Joe Biden, and the first lady, Jill Biden.

“I must say, I only have one regret about tonight, which is – I’m not quite sure how I top this for date night with Jodie at any time, anywhere in the future,” Albanese said during the state dinner toast.

“It’s all downhill from here, my darling.”

Haydon, who had a career in the superannuation industry spanning two decades before her latest role in the public service union, told News Corp the two first met in late 2019. Albanese was a keynote speaker and the MC had made a joke about the NRL team the South Sydney Rabbitohs – Albanese’s favourite team.

Haydon, from the crowd, had interjected “up the Rabbitohs”. Later in the event, Albanese introduced himself to the fellow Rabbitohs supporter.

Haydon said she later messaged him on social media, kicking off the start of their relationship.

“I slid into his DMs,” she told News Corp. “He had a public profile and I didn’t, so I knew that we both followed the same footy team, we both had a love for the inner west and I think I said in that direct message ‘hey, we’re both single’.”

The pair’s relationship has overcome some challenges already beyond the realm of politics. Albanese faced a near-death experience in January 2021 when a Range Rover driving on the wrong side of the road plunged into him as he was driving in Marrickville.

The accident, which Albanese said made him “more determined” to win the prime ministership, was also the moment Haydon realised her strong feelings for him.

She told 7News Spotlight she saw Albanese’s damaged car before seeing him at the hospital and thinking the worst.

“I remember thinking at the time, ‘this can’t end well’,” Haydon said. “And that overwhelming sense of ‘what if I lose him?’ And I knew then that, yeah, I love him. And I love him deeply.”

Haydon later gushed on the program about his “compassion and kindness”.

“He respects me being independent but also he is kind and thoughtful,” she said.

Albanese was previously married to Carmel Tebbutt, a former New South Wales deputy premier. They have a 23-year-old son, Nathan.

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Map and full list of NSW locations where it has been found

Sydney asbestos sites: map and full list of locations where it has been found

Hundreds of sites are being investigated amid the growing asbestos crisis across NSW. This map shows contaminated parks and other locations

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Asbestos-contaminated landscaping materials have potentially been used at hundreds of locations across Sydney and at least one in regional New South Wales.

The premier, Chris Minns, has said the Environment Protection Authority is examining the sites as it undertakes its largest investigation ever.

The escalating crisis started in early January when a child took home a piece of bonded asbestos from a playground at Rozelle parklands in the city’s inner west.

An investigation by the transport department found bonded asbestos in recycled mulch at 17 locations in and around the park built on top of the Rozelle interchange.

Since then, more sites have been confirmed to have asbestos including transport infrastructure projects, a primary school and a hospital.

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All but one sample has been bonded asbestos – meaning it is mixed with a harder substance such as concrete and is considered less immediately dangerous because the toxic particles are less likely to become airborne.

All of the mulch found to be contaminated has been supplied by the landscaping products manufacturer Greenlife Resource Recovery. Greenlife has said it “maintains that mulch leaving GRRF’s facility has tested negative for asbestos”.

The following map shows where asbestos has been found so far:

Where has asbestos-contaminated mulch been found in Sydney and NSW?

  • Rozelle parklands – 17 locations in and around the park

  • Two sites along the Prospect Highway project between Prospect and Blacktown

  • Electricity substation at Dulwich Hill railway station

  • Electricity substation at Canterbury railway station

  • Electricity substation at Campsie railway station

  • Belmore railway station in a landscaped area near the car park

  • Punchbowl railway station in the railway corridor

  • Nowra Bridge

  • Regatta Park in Emu Plains

  • Liverpool West public school

  • Campbelltown hospital

  • Belmore Park in Haymarket

  • Victoria Park in Camperdown

  • Harmony Park in Surry Hills (friable asbestos)

  • The Parramatta light rail project at Telopea

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Map and full list of NSW locations where it has been found

Sydney asbestos sites: map and full list of locations where it has been found

Hundreds of sites are being investigated amid the growing asbestos crisis across NSW. This map shows contaminated parks and other locations

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

Asbestos-contaminated landscaping materials have potentially been used at hundreds of locations across Sydney and at least one in regional New South Wales.

The premier, Chris Minns, has said the Environment Protection Authority is examining the sites as it undertakes its largest investigation ever.

The escalating crisis started in early January when a child took home a piece of bonded asbestos from a playground at Rozelle parklands in the city’s inner west.

An investigation by the transport department found bonded asbestos in recycled mulch at 17 locations in and around the park built on top of the Rozelle interchange.

Since then, more sites have been confirmed to have asbestos including transport infrastructure projects, a primary school and a hospital.

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

All but one sample has been bonded asbestos – meaning it is mixed with a harder substance such as concrete and is considered less immediately dangerous because the toxic particles are less likely to become airborne.

All of the mulch found to be contaminated has been supplied by the landscaping products manufacturer Greenlife Resource Recovery. Greenlife has said it “maintains that mulch leaving GRRF’s facility has tested negative for asbestos”.

The following map shows where asbestos has been found so far:

Where has asbestos-contaminated mulch been found in Sydney and NSW?

  • Rozelle parklands – 17 locations in and around the park

  • Two sites along the Prospect Highway project between Prospect and Blacktown

  • Electricity substation at Dulwich Hill railway station

  • Electricity substation at Canterbury railway station

  • Electricity substation at Campsie railway station

  • Belmore railway station in a landscaped area near the car park

  • Punchbowl railway station in the railway corridor

  • Nowra Bridge

  • Regatta Park in Emu Plains

  • Liverpool West public school

  • Campbelltown hospital

  • Belmore Park in Haymarket

  • Victoria Park in Camperdown

  • Harmony Park in Surry Hills (friable asbestos)

  • The Parramatta light rail project at Telopea

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ReportLargest EPA probe ever into mulch with hundreds of sites potentially contaminated

Sydney asbestos crisis: largest EPA probe ever with hundreds of sites potentially contaminated

More than 130 people working on criminal investigation into mulch supplied by Greenlife Resource Recovery. The company denies any wrongdoing

  • Map and full list of locations where asbestos has been found
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An investigation into the growing New South Wales asbestos scandal has become the state environmental watchdog’s biggest-ever probe with hundreds of sites potentially contaminated including parks, schools, train stations and suburban back yards.

A surge workforce of public servants and firefighters will assist the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as it expands its criminal investigation into mulch found to contain asbestos across Sydney and regional NSW.

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The investigation is supported by an asbestos taskforce announced by the NSW environment minister, Penny Sharpe, on Thursday – more than a month after asbestos was first discovered in mulch at the Rozelle parklands.

Greenlife Resource Recovery supplied the mulch that has since been found to contain both bonded and friable asbestos across Sydney.

More than 130 EPA investigators are working to “contact trace” mulch through the supply chain from Greenlife to contractors and then landscapers.

Greenlife has insisted it is not responsible for the contamination and that multiple rounds of testing by independent laboratories showed their mulch was free from asbestos before it was distributed to customers.

Sharpe said on Thursday the state had a “zero tolerance approach” to asbestos.

“The challenge that we have as a result of the discovery of asbestos in a range of different places – around 22 sites at this point – is that we need to understand how it got there,” she said.

“It is illegal for it to be there and we are now part, and the EPA is part, of a very important environmental criminal investigation into who has done the wrong thing.”

The EPA chief executive, Tony Chappel, said it was a “complex, large supply chain” and while multiple suppliers were being looked at as part of the probe, so far only mulch from Greenlife had been found to contain asbestos.

“It is a very major investigation, probably the largest in the EPA’s history and we’re aiming to bring it to a rigorous conclusion as quickly as possible,” he said.

“The entire supply chain is under intense scrutiny now and we are looking at multiple other suppliers as well … but to date, all of our positive detections are connected through a common thread of this supplier.”

So far, more than 100 businesses have been caught up in the chain and hundreds of sites have been identified as having received potentially contaminated mulch. Among those are several private homes that are understood to have had landscaping work done.

More than 200 sites have been tested and 10% of samples have returned a positive result for asbestos.

Asked why the EPA was not cordoning off all sites flagged as having potentially contaminated mulch while testing was done, the premier, Chris Minns, said it would be beyond the resources of the government.

“I’m sorry to say but the truth of the matter is the number of properties would be very large right across Sydney,” he said.

“Not every place, not every [contact traced] park has tested positive to asbestos but to lock every single park up or school or hospital would be beyond our resources right now.”

Sharpe said Greenlife was the “common thread throughout this entire issue”.

“One supplier supplied to around 30 different distributors who have now distributed it further down the chain and we think it could be over 100 [users],” she said.

Sharpe added: “I want them to throw the book at anyone who’s done the wrong thing.”

Earlier this week, Greenlife said the EPA had tested nine mulch samples and three soil samples taken from its facility in January and the results showed the materials were “free of asbestos contamination”.

A spokesperson said independent laboratories had tested Greenlife’s mulch more than 20 times between March and December 2023 and found it was free of asbestos.

“[Greenlife] stands by its statements and maintains that mulch leaving GRRF’s facility has tested negative for asbestos,” they said.

The taskforce will be led by the chair of the NSW Asbestos Coordination Committee, Carolyn Walsh.

Earlier this week, dozens of parks across the City of Sydney were partially closed after asbestos was confirmed to have been found in three and potentially contaminated mulch was traced to another 32 sites.

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Victoria’s largest public health service faces criminal charge over Indigenous woman’s hospital death

Victoria’s largest public health service faces criminal charge over Indigenous woman’s hospital death

WorkSafe Victoria has charged Monash Health for allegedly exposing a patient to health and safety risks while in its care

Victoria’s largest public health service is facing a criminal charge over the death of an Indigenous woman who took her own life while receiving mental health treatment at Dandenong hospital in 2022.

WorkSafe Victoria on Thursday announced it had charged Monash Health for allegedly exposing a patient to health and safety risks while in its care.

The workplace safety watchdog said the charge related to a patient who killed herself while receiving treatment at the hospital’s mental health unit in February 2022.

Guardian Australia first reported on the death of Ashleigh-Sue Chatters, a 28-year-old Palawa woman, in 2022. Chatters was admitted to Dandenong hospital’s psychiatric unit in Melbourne after calling police. She took her own life there four days later on 25 February.

“Monash Health is facing a single charge under section 23(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act for failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than employees were not exposed to health and safety risks,” the workplace safety watchdog said in a statement.

A Monash Health spokesperson said the health service “takes its responsibility of protecting all patients in its care with the utmost seriousness”.

“As this matter is before the courts, Monash Health is unable to comment further at this time,” the spokesperson said.

The matter is listed for a filing hearing at the Melbourne magistrates court on 13 March.

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Former US president again threatens to sacrifice Nato allies to Russia

Donald Trump again threatens to sacrifice Nato allies to Russia

The ex-president said that ‘if they’re not going to pay, we’re not going to protect’ at rally in South Carolina

Donald Trump has doubled down on his threat to undermine Nato, repeating his threat not to protect countries he believes do not pay enough to maintain the alliance and claiming such nations “laugh at the stupidity” of the US.

On Wednesday night, at a rally in South Carolina, Trump said: “I’ve been saying, ‘Look, if they’re not going to pay, we’re not going to protect, OK?’ And [Joe] Biden who said, ‘Oh, this is so bad. This is so terrible that he would say that.’ No … nobody’s paying their bills.

“One of the heads of the countries said, ‘Does that mean that if we don’t pay the bills, that you’re not going to protect us?’ That’s exactly what it means. I’m not going to protect you.”

The next day, the former president and probable Republican nominee spoke to reporters outside court in New York City, where he attended a hearing in his criminal trial on charges regarding hush money payments to an adult film star.

“Nato countries have to pay up,” Trump said. “They have to pay their bills. The United States is in for $200bn and they’re in for $25bn. Their economy, when you … add up the countries that make up Nato, it’s about the same size as our economy. So we’re in for $200bn, they’re in for $25bn and it’s much more important for them because we have an ocean in between [us and Russia].”

The source of Trump’s figures was not immediately clear. Members of Nato have pledged to pay at least 2% of GDP on defence each year. Nato estimates say Poland spends most, at 3.9%, with the US second on 3.5%.

On Thursday, Trump continued: “So the Nato countries have to pay up. They’re not paying up, they’re not paying what they should and they laugh at the stupidity of the United States of America, where we have a guy that gives $60bn every time somebody comes and asks for it. We shouldn’t be doing that. They’re laughing at us. They think we’re the stupid country because of our leadership.”

The US Senate this week approved $60bn aid for Ukraine (which is not a Nato member) in its fight against the Russia invasion, a move welcomed by Biden. But Republicans who control the US House are unlikely to approve the bill.

Last week, Trump caused outrage and alarm when he said he would encourage Russia to attack Nato members he deemed financially delinquent.

Biden expressed outrage, telling reporters at the White House on Tuesday: “Can you imagine a former president of the United States saying that? The whole world heard it. The worst thing is, he means it. No other president in our history has ever bowed down to a Russian dictator. Let me say this as clearly as I can: I never will.

“For God’s sake, it’s dumb, it’s shameful, it’s dangerous. It’s un-American. When America gives its word it means something, so when we make a commitment, we keep it. And Nato is a sacred commitment.”

Bloomberg News reported that Trump allies preparing for a possible second term “have discussed essentially a two-tiered Nato alliance, where article five – which requires common defense of any member under attack – would apply only to nations that hit defense-spending goals”.

In Brussels, Jens Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary general, said Trump threatened to “undermine the credibility of Nato’s deterrence”.

On Thursday, Stoltenberg told reporters that defence investment among member nations was “on the right track”.

“We are 31 democratic nations on both sides of the Atlantic,” Stoltenberg said. “And as long as this alliance has existed, there have been different views and discussions.”

Saying he was “confident that Nato will remain the strongest and most successful alliance in history”, Stoltenberg added: “I expect the United States to continue to be a staunch ally.”

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Hospitality policy revised after public servants spend thousands on fine dining

‘Just appalling’: hospitality policy revised after public servants spend thousands on fine dining

Federal education department staff spent up to $171 a head at expensive restaurants to hold meetings

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The federal education department has revised its hospitality policy after revelations public servants spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to hold meetings in fine dining restaurants.

A Senate estimates committee hearing heard one of these meals cost $171 a head.

The shadow minister for education, Sarah Henderson, told Senate estimates on Thursday it was “extraordinary” the department’s staff had been allowed to claim expensive meals on expenses, likening the practice to “restaurant rorts”.

“Holding a meeting should be in a meeting room with a cup of tea and a biscuit,” she said.

“These are [departmental] meetings … it’s just appalling.”

Among the expenditures were $1,840 at Ginger Indian Restaurant in Sydney, $509 at Black Fire Restaurant in Brisbane, $3,000 at Mabu Mabu in Melbourne, $1,209 at Courgette Restaurant in Canberra and $1,543 at Mezzalira restaurant, also in the ACT.

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Mezzalira’s spend averaged $171 a head, while Mabu Mabu and Courgette averaged about $120 per person.

Secretary of the department, Tony Cook, told Henderson he was in “furious agreement” with her.

“I agree with you entirely,” he said. “It should not have happened – we should not have been utilising taxpayers money in those sort of expenses.

“I think we have let taxpayers down.”

Cook said the education minister, Jason Clare, had personally spoken with him regarding the matter after it was publicised in the media at the end of January.

The expenditures, first revealed in questions on notice from a budget estimates hearing and later publicised by the Daily Telegraph, totalled $172,691 on events and catering in the first half of last year and $118,404 on accommodation and travel costs.

In total, $12,637 was spent on meetings in prestigious restaurants, with an average cost per person of $81.53.

Cook said the department’s hospitality policy had been formally revised since his meeting with Clare, placing a maximum spend of $77 per person for dinners and $55 for lunch, in line with the Australian Tax Office travel allowance rates.

“A majority of those restaurants would be completely out of our policy,” he said.

The new policy reads any decision to spend money on official hospitality or business catering must be “publicly defensible” and approval must only be given where “benefits outweigh the costs or are in the public interest”.

“It is expected that when organising business catering on behalf of the department, efforts will be made to provide hospitality at a lower cost than these limits,” it reads.

Assistant minister for education Senator Anthony Chisholm pointed the finger at the former government, weighing in: “It’s not unusual from time to time for politicians to have spent money.”

He reminded Henderson of a $4000 dinner held by Peter Dutton while the immigration minister was in the US that drew wide public condemnation.

Henderson said while it was legitimate for ministers to claim restaurant expenditures when meeting overseas counterparts, to hold department meetings outside meeting rooms amounted to a “complete rort of taxpayers money”.

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Hospitality policy revised after public servants spend thousands on fine dining

‘Just appalling’: hospitality policy revised after public servants spend thousands on fine dining

Federal education department staff spent up to $171 a head at expensive restaurants to hold meetings

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

The federal education department has revised its hospitality policy after revelations public servants spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to hold meetings in fine dining restaurants.

A Senate estimates committee hearing heard one of these meals cost $171 a head.

The shadow minister for education, Sarah Henderson, told Senate estimates on Thursday it was “extraordinary” the department’s staff had been allowed to claim expensive meals on expenses, likening the practice to “restaurant rorts”.

“Holding a meeting should be in a meeting room with a cup of tea and a biscuit,” she said.

“These are [departmental] meetings … it’s just appalling.”

Among the expenditures were $1,840 at Ginger Indian Restaurant in Sydney, $509 at Black Fire Restaurant in Brisbane, $3,000 at Mabu Mabu in Melbourne, $1,209 at Courgette Restaurant in Canberra and $1,543 at Mezzalira restaurant, also in the ACT.

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Mezzalira’s spend averaged $171 a head, while Mabu Mabu and Courgette averaged about $120 per person.

Secretary of the department, Tony Cook, told Henderson he was in “furious agreement” with her.

“I agree with you entirely,” he said. “It should not have happened – we should not have been utilising taxpayers money in those sort of expenses.

“I think we have let taxpayers down.”

Cook said the education minister, Jason Clare, had personally spoken with him regarding the matter after it was publicised in the media at the end of January.

The expenditures, first revealed in questions on notice from a budget estimates hearing and later publicised by the Daily Telegraph, totalled $172,691 on events and catering in the first half of last year and $118,404 on accommodation and travel costs.

In total, $12,637 was spent on meetings in prestigious restaurants, with an average cost per person of $81.53.

Cook said the department’s hospitality policy had been formally revised since his meeting with Clare, placing a maximum spend of $77 per person for dinners and $55 for lunch, in line with the Australian Tax Office travel allowance rates.

“A majority of those restaurants would be completely out of our policy,” he said.

The new policy reads any decision to spend money on official hospitality or business catering must be “publicly defensible” and approval must only be given where “benefits outweigh the costs or are in the public interest”.

“It is expected that when organising business catering on behalf of the department, efforts will be made to provide hospitality at a lower cost than these limits,” it reads.

Assistant minister for education Senator Anthony Chisholm pointed the finger at the former government, weighing in: “It’s not unusual from time to time for politicians to have spent money.”

He reminded Henderson of a $4000 dinner held by Peter Dutton while the immigration minister was in the US that drew wide public condemnation.

Henderson said while it was legitimate for ministers to claim restaurant expenditures when meeting overseas counterparts, to hold department meetings outside meeting rooms amounted to a “complete rort of taxpayers money”.

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Bystanders tackled suspected gunman in victory parade shooting, video shows

Bystanders tackled suspected gunman in Kansas City shooting, video shows

Police confirm three people arrested after one killed and at least 21 injured in attack during Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory parade

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Video footage has emerged that shows bystanders tackling a suspected gunman in the Super Bowl victory parade shooting, in which a local radio DJ was killed and at least 21 others were injured, including 11 children.

Police confirmed three people were arrested in connection with the shooting, which took place as the celebration for the Kansas City Chiefs was wrapping up near Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri.

Trey Filter, a Chiefs fan from Wichita, ran and tackled one of the suspected gunmen who appeared to be fleeing the scene. Filter knocked the man to the ground before another man joined to help him pin the suspect.

Filter’s wife, Casey, then picked up an assault-style weapon from the ground and moved it out of harm’s way.

“It was fight or flight,” Casey told News Nation’s Christopher Cuomo of her and her husband’s response.

“I turn, I see a flash, and I think to myself, ‘I hope that’s him,’” said Trey Filter. “All I recall was barely seeing the guy. And I couldn’t believe I caught him.”

“I was just yelling, ‘F your gun!’ and I was just hitting him in his ribs. It was great. You know, America stuff,” Trey Filter told the New York Post.

“I didn’t expect to just have it at my feet,” Casey Filter said of the gun. “I just saw it and just moved it.”

Police could not confirm that the suspect was one of the arrested but were seeking to connect the dots. “We do have three persons detained and under investigation for today’s incident,” the city’s chief of police, Stacey Graves, told a press conference. “We are working to determine if one of the three are the one that was in that video, where fans assisted police.”

Graves added that “bad actors” were responsible for the violence as officials said they did not currently suspect a terrorist attack.

The community radio station KKFI said Lisa Lopez-Galvan, of Johnson county, was killed in the shooting. She was the co-host of Taste of Tejano, a Hispanic music program. Friends of the family later confirmed Lopez-Galvan’s death to the Kansas City Star.

Lopez-Galvan was reported to have died at a hospital while receiving surgery for a gunshot wound to her abdomen. She was in her mid-40s and had two children.

“She was the most wonderful, beautiful person,” said Lisa Lopez, a friend and an executive administrative assistant at the Star. “She was a local DJ. She did everybody’s weddings. We all know her. She was so full of life.” Lopez confirmed her friend was a huge Chiefs fan and had asked her that day for a copy of the newspaper to commemorate the Super Bowl victory.

“It is with sincere sadness and an extremely heavy and broken heart that we let our community know that KKFI DJ Lisa Lopez, host of Taste of Tejano lost her life today in the shooting at the KC Chiefs’ rally,” the radio station wrote on Facebook. “This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC Community.”

Police have not yet released victims’ names.

“I will legislate, I will fight and I WILL do everything in my power to change this State and City for the better”, said Manny Abarca, a legislator in Jackson county, on social media, adding he had known Lopez-Galvan for years and using the hashtag #GunReformNow.

Among the injured, 11 children are being treated at Children’s Mercy Kansas City, nine of them for gunshot wounds. All the children are expected to recover from their injuries, according to the hospital’s senior vice-president Stephanie Meyer, who issued an update on Wednesday evening. The minors in their care are between the ages of six and 15. An adult who is a parent of one of the children is also being treated there.

Joe Biden released a statement urging action on gun control, saying that for such an attack to occur during a Super Bowl parade: “cuts deep in the American soul”.

“Today’s events should move us, shock us, shame us into acting. What are we waiting for? What else do we need to see? How many more families need to be torn apart?” he said.

The president urged people to make their voices heard in Congress for action to ban assault weapons, limit high-capacity magazines and strengthen background checks.

Hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate the Chiefs’ Super Bowl victory on Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers ran for shelter as the gunfire began. Video footage showed a hectic scene near Union station as police and first responders rushed to lead people to safety.

Witnesses, in harrowing accounts, described fleeing from gunfire. A high school student told the Kansas City Star that he injured himself while running away from the shots. “The security guard was like, ‘Get over the damn fence right now, there’s a shooter.’ When I was hopping over the barricade, my foot hit [it] and my face nailed the concrete,” Gabe Wallace told the newspaper.

“I have no idea if my friends are OK,” he told the Star. “It’s terrible … I’m literally thinking, most of my friends are dead. That’s all that went through my mind, like, ‘Are my friends dead or not?’”

The violence drew widespread condemnation from sports figures and authorities alike. The NFL team issued a statement confirming that all of its players, staff and families were safe, calling the shooting a “senseless act of violence”.

The players expressed gratitude to the emergency personnel who responded. The Chiefs’ quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, posted to X that he was “praying for Kansas City”, while a teammate, Drue Tranquill, encouraged people to “pray that doctors and first responders would have steady hands and that all would experience full healing”. The tight end Travis Kelce said he was “heartbroken”, tweeting: “KC, you mean the world to me.”

The Chiefs guard Trey Smith posted on X: “My thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by today’s incidents – a huge thank you to the first responders who ran towards the sound of danger. You’re the ones who should be celebrated today.”

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Researchers find oldest platypus in the wild in Victoria

Oldest platypus found in the wild is ‘beyond all our expectations’, say researchers

Australian Platypus Conservancy says ‘it’s remarkable this animal is still doing as well as he is’

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The biologist who first tagged a one-year-old platypus back in 2000 was astonished when it was recaptured last year, aged about 24, making it the oldest platypus found in the wild.

The director of the Australian Platypus Conservancy, Geoff Williams, has been researching the egg-laying mammals for decades, but said long-term research into the species can be expensive and rare.

The discovery of the 24-year-old male is thanks to a program which commenced in 1994 with Melbourne Water. Hundreds of platypus have been captured and tagged in the Melbourne area, so for them to reappear a few year’s later was not out of the ordinary.

“But this one is just beyond all our expectations in terms of how old it was,” Williams said. “It’s remarkable that this animal is still doing as well as he is after all these years.”

The 24-year-old male is the focus of a study published this week, co-authored by Williams, into platypus longevity. The male platypus was first captured and tagged in November 2000 at Monbulk Creek in Melbourne, and estimated to be one-year-old. He was recaptured along the same river system last September, at about 24 years of age.

The previous record holder was a 21-year-old female platypus captured in the upper Shoalhaven river in New South Wales.

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Williams said that “not many” platypus are known to make it past 20 in the wild, but there is difficulty in developing a consensus on how long they live.

“It’s quite expensive and time-consuming to conduct [research] and consequently there have not been that many long-term studies,” Williams said. “Fortunately the [program with Melbourne Water] is probably the longest-running program of its type.

“The chances of picking up these [long] living animals is almost solely, at the moment, related to that program.”

While more research is needed, Williams said that population density and competition within a habitat played a large role in how long platypus survive.

During mating season, the males can become stressed if there is too much competition for the females. Williams said they can become “displaced, and pushed to the edge of the system” during any fighting.

“The more dense the population is, the more animals in the population, the [bigger] the struggle to be the dominant male and survive for a few years is,” he said.

Female platypus are also known to fight one another for food.

As the study notes, male platypus in the upper Shoalhaven River generally aren’t found beyond the age of seven due to the dense population and females making up 84% of the adult population.

In comparison there is a small, isolated and low-density population at Monbulk Creek, where the new record holder lives.

The co-author of the study, Gemma Snowball from Ecology Australia, was the one to recapture the 24-year-old platypus last year. She said there are six capturing sites at Monbulk Creek, across roughly 4km.

“The channel is also fairly narrow, so about one to four metres wide across the stretch of the channel, which [could make it] potentially easier to defend females,” she said.

At this stage the new record holder hasn’t been given a name, but Snowball joked “we probably should name this old boy because we’re quite familiar with him now”.

The oldest living platypus in Australia is a 30-year-old female who was born in the wild but lives in captivity. She feeds normally and is healthy, aside from arthritis in one wrist, cataracts in both eyes and signs she may be becoming deaf.

Her longer lifespan can be attributed to leading a “much, much less stressful life,” Williams said.

Platypus are listed as a near-threatened species on a national level. They are endangered in South Australia and vulnerable in Victoria.

Snowball said one of the most important things to do to protect platypus habitats was keeping waterways clean, and cutting circular rubbish – such as bracelets or hairbands – before disposing of it.

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At least six Australian banks hit including Ubank and Bank Australia

At least six Australian banks hit by network outages including Ubank and Bank Australia

Defence Bank, Beyond Bank, People’s Choice and P&N Bank among others to warn smartphone apps and online transfers unavailable on Thursday

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Several Australian banks appeared to be hit with technical issues that caused outages and left customers unable to make online transfers or use mobile banking apps on Thursday.

Banks including Ubank, Bank Australia, Defence Bank, Beyond Bank, People’s Choice and P&N Bank had warnings on their website on Thursday evening that several features including online transfers, smartphone apps and the use of Osko – a secure payment service – were unavailable.

A network outage at Data Action, a software company which provides online banking services to many newer so-called “challenger banks”, appears to be the cause of the outages, reported iTnews.

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“Data Action is experiencing a network outage that is affecting banking services for our clients and their customers, who are having difficulty accessing internet banking or their mobile banking app,” a Data Action spokesperson told iTnews.

The spokesperson said the company had logged a series of incidents in the past 24 hours “and our teams are working hard to identify the causes and resolve these issues as quickly as possible”.

“We are in constant contact with our clients to keep them updated of any new information as it comes to hand. We’re so sorry for the frustration this is causing, and we are doing our utmost to fix it and restore full functionality for our clients and their customers,” the Data Action spokesperson said.

Guardian Australian contacted Data Action for comment.

The disruptions began earlier on Thursday.

Ubank, owned by NAB, first warned customers of issues around 12pm.

“We’re currently experiencing intermittent issues with our app and online banking. We understand this is frustrating and that some customers who are trying to perform their usual banking activities, like moving their money between accounts, are experiencing difficulties,” a Ubank message said.

By 5pm, the company said it was still working to fix its app and online banking.

“Like some other banks, we’ve identified the issue with a third-party vendor and are working with them to resolve it. This continues to affect our app, online banking and Osko payments. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause our customers,” Ubank said.

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Passengers hit out at cold conditions on Scottish train line

‘Polar express’: passengers hit out at cold conditions on Scottish train line

West Highland service regulars say they have to wear heavy coats, gloves, hats and scarves to stay warm

A train that runs through some of Scotland’s most celebrated Highland scenery has been labelled the “polar express” because it is so cold onboard that travellers bring extra clothing for the journey.

Passengers who use the West Highland line service between Oban and Glasgow believe temperatures in its carriages regularly plunge below zero, forcing regular users to bring extra insulated coats, gloves, furry hats and scarves.

Travellers told BBC Scotland that locals had nicknamed it in ironic reference to the animated Tom Hanks movie The Polar Express, about a mysterious train bound for the north pole.

Ann McLachlan, from Taynuilt, a village on the line east of Oban, said she and her husband, Terry Halcrow, took a “dangerously cold” journey on 18 January when the outside temperature was -10.4C (13.28F).

She told BBC Scotland Halcrow was wearing several layers of clothing and had been hunched over in an effort to remain warm. “Terry is a Shetland islander, he’s worked in the North Sea, he’s used to the cold, but he was absolutely frozen,” she said.

“Imagine instead of him that was a man or woman with a young child, or a frail elderly person. When we complained, ScotRail said they were sorry it hadn’t been an enjoyable experience – but this wasn’t a quality issue, it’s a health and safety issue.”

ScotRail, the nationalised company that runs most services in Scotland, said the Class 156 trains, most of which were built in the 1980s, used excess heat from their diesel engines to heat up carriages.

David Lister, the company’s safety, engineering and sustainability director, said that meant heating up the first services of the day could be “very challenging”. ScotRail is working on “longer-term solutions and funding options which could improve onboard temperatures for our passengers”, he said.

However, Neil McInroy, from Oban, said the freezing temperatures on the service were routine and not confined to the first of the day. “I’ve been on that train if I’ve been going away for the weekend, and I’ve had to put on all the contents of my bag, hats, jackets, jumpers, the lot.

“It’s a three-hour journey, you’re often on it for longer due to delays, and if it’s a cold carriage, that’s horrible. It’s pretty Baltic.”

He said he had met one couple in their 70s who said they were freezing; there was no trolley service on their train, so they were unable to warm up even with a mug of tea. “It wouldn’t be a nice start to their holiday. Oban is a gateway to the Highlands and the islands. It’s a really poor advert for Scotland,” he said.

Iain Cameron – an expert in Scottish snow cover who monitors the dwindling of the country’s last remaining snow patch, known as the Sphinx, each summer – said the same problem affected ScotRail trains through the Cairngorms and southern Highlands.

He said he had spent three hours freezing on the 07.43 from Stirling to Inverness in mid-January. “It was a sub-zero morning, but nothing out of the ordinary for mid-January. Luckily, I had my big down jacket on, but even this wasn’t enough,” he said.

“When you sit for three hours it’s very hard to get warm, regardless of how warm your jacket is. All the passengers on my carriage were wrapped up. One poor woman looked freezing, constantly rubbing her hands between Perth and Aviemore.”

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