The Guardian 2024-02-16 06:01:11


Dutton says reports of WA boat arrival ‘disturbing’; Barnaby Joyce denies drinking problem

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, is commenting on an ABC report that 30 people have arrived in Australia by boat in remote northern WA.

We have not verified the reports yet, but are working to do so.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was asked about it at a press conference just before and said he had not been advised about it, saying he was travelling to the press conference by car.

Dutton says the reports are disturbing, and the PM could have taken a call in the car on his way to find out what is going on.

He said:

People smugglers can peak out a weak leader, a weak prime minister and a weak minister and this is what they have done, we have warned about this for some time.

He calls on the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, to stand up to provide an explanation on whether the government has “lost control” of the borders.

Retired teacher slams decades-old ATO robotax debt demand

‘I was distressed’: retired teacher slams decades-old ATO robotax debt demand

The 78-year-old says the demand for $307 came out of the blue and caused ‘sleepless nights’

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A 78-year-old retired teacher is one of a growing number of Australians who felt pressured into paying a recently resurrected tax debt that was decades-old after what he described as weeks of “misinformation, obfuscation and sleepless nights”.

The retiree, who provided full documentation to Guardian Australia but asked for his name not to be published, said he felt compelled to pay after becoming distressed by correspondence warning him he had an outstanding $307 debt from 2004.

“It is a fact that I was and am distressed,” he said.

“After weeks of misinformation, obfuscation and sleepless nights I’ve given in and paid. Whether or not it was a genuine debt, the brutal way in which it was recovered is still robotax.”

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A campaign by the Australian Taxation Office to pursue old debts has drawn parallels with the flawed robodebt compliance program, which used automated processes to assert that welfare recipients owed money.

Over the past several months, Guardian Australia has documented numerous cases of people being abruptly advised they have old debts that will be extracted from future tax refunds and credits.

Those affected include retirees, executors of deceased estates and tens of thousands of other taxpayers who have received the debt notices despite filing years of returns, and receiving rebates, long after the debts were apparently accrued.

“As a taxpayer I have submitted returns every year and dutifully kept copies of my paperwork for the minimum five years required by the ATO,” the retired teacher said.

“I do not have any paperwork from 19 years ago nor do I remember specifics about my tax affairs from 2004.”

The tax campaign was triggered by a change in policy at the ATO after it received advice from the Australian government solicitor in 2022 that it could no longer ignore old debts that had been invisible to taxpayers for years.

“The ATO has no discretion under the law to write these amounts off even though some of them might be quite aged and must offset any future refund against these amounts no matter how small, except in limited circumstances,” an ATO spokesperson said in response to questions.

“A client can request these amounts be taken off hold so they can pay them.”

The federal government has distanced itself from the tax initiative, arguing that decisions related to the debts were a matter for the ATO.

The debts are often linked to old business activity statements, GST payments and PAYG instalments, and there is a cohort who were surprised to learn they accrued large tax debts and fines while living overseas.

Issues around historical PAYG instalments – payments that are typically made in the lead up to tax time for an anticipated debt – are complicated by ATO procedures that gave people credit even when they missed, or were unaware, an instalment was due.

While the missed instalment would appear as a credit on their tax statement, it triggered the creation of a separate debt that many taxpayers say they didn’t know about.

The old debts are considered to be on-hold, which means they are not immediately due and are usually scraped from future refunds.

Australia’s tax ombudsman has warned that a legislative fix might be required, given people relying on a refund to pay rent or other necessities could be pushed further into hardship.

While the on-hold designation means that older Australians who no longer lodge tax returns might never need to pay, several retirees told Guardian Australian they were uncomfortable having the debt hang over their heads, especially as it could be demanded at a later date.

Some debts were inadvertently taken off hold after people called the ATO to discuss the matter after being perplexed by communication the tax office has conceded caused “unnecessary distress”.

When a debt is taken off hold, the ATO sends a demand notice accompanied by a warning that “each day your debt isn’t paid it may increase”, according to letters viewed by Guardian Australia, referring to interest charges.

“After the ATO has hidden a claimed debt from me for 19 years it gave me two weeks to pay an amount I am unable to verify or disprove,” the retired teacher said.

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Taylor Swift Melbourne concert live updates: fans flock to the MCG for biggest Eras tour show yet

Hello it is culture editor Steph here, with an enormous coffee (this thing goes until 11pm???!) and a guest post.

We did debate whether or not we were overdoing it with the Taylor Swift coverage – but the Eras tour juggernaut has become one of the biggest cultural moments of our time, AND it’s particularly huge news for Australia, AND sometimes having fun is good.

Besides, liveblogging so-called “things-that-aren’t-news” has a rich history at the Guardian. Once we tried to live blog a leap second; another time, on a fairly hot day, we cracked an egg on the pavement outside and liveblogged what happened to it (not much).

We’re not sure how this will go. The MCG is a notorious reception black hole during big events, and while Telstra have promised to optimise their capacity “by adjusting the configuration of cells and the balance of traffic between them”, we have absolutely no idea what that means – so we’re sending a satellite phone as back-up.

This technology is usually used by the Guardian in war zones and bushfires. Whoever ends up with it will have to pull out its very long antenna and aim it at the sky in order to send us text messages by rapping out numbers repeatedly on a keypad, just like in the old days.

MelbourneAirport faces busiest day since pre-pandemic ahead of Taylor Swift concerts

Melbourne airport faces busiest day since pre-pandemic ahead of Taylor Swift concerts

Surging prices reached $1,630 for a one-way Qantas business ticket from Sydney after airline added 64 extra flights to cope with increase in traffic for Eras tour

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Melbourne airport is facing its busiest day since before the pandemic and one-way domestic prices are surging in excess of $1,500 as Swiftie mania descends on the capital city.

The pop superstar Taylor Swift has already touched down for the Australian leg of the sold-out Eras Tour, but the journey is just beginning for thousands of interstate fans making the trek to Melbourne ahead of her Friday night concert.

A spokesperson for Melbourne airport said 117,000 passengers were expected to move through terminals on Friday – a post-Covid record. There were 775 take-offs and landings scheduled, also a record number.

“Airlines such as Qantas and Virgin Australia have added extra flights from key domestic destinations, and there are also extra flights operating from New Zealand to allow people to get to the concerts this weekend,” the spokesperson said.

“February is typically the quietest month for travel, so to be breaking records today is extraordinary.”

Social media users have reported an “electric” atmosphere on domestic flights to Melbourne, with a video of flight attendants dancing to Shake it Off going viral and an entire flight from Perth bursting in to an impromptu rendition of Cruel Summer.

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Qantas added 60 additional flights in June last year to gear up for concert demand, including 24 additional flights between Sydney and Melbourne.

In early February, a further four return flights were added between Melbourne and Auckland, Brisbane and Perth.

The airline carrier is gearing up to carry 35% more passengers into Melbourne from its domestic and trans-Tasman network over the concert period compared with the same time last year.

It came amid a 350% surge in bookings between New Zealand and Melbourne at the time of presale compared to the same time last year.

For Swifties lucky enough to secure a last-minute ticket to Friday’s concert, the next battle will be facing last-minute one-way flight costs – in excess of $1,000 – to make it to Melbourne in time.

There were just a handful of options left from Sydney to Melbourne on Jetstar’s website as of Friday morning, with prices ranging from $317 to $1,048 one way.

Virgin was similarly pinched, with just half a dozen flights available that would get superfans to the MCG from Sydney by 6.30pm – costing from $551 to $859 economy one way.

Qantas had half hourly flights available for the popular route from midday and flights every 10 to 15 minutes through from five to 7pm – but it would cost you. The cheapest option was $648 for economy, surging up to $1,630 for a business seat one way.

The Melbourne airport spokesperson said due to the surging number of arriving passengers, staff had been working with ground transport operators to keep up with demand.

Skybus had put on an extra six buses on Friday to assist with transfers to the city, while additional customer service staff were stationed around terminals to help arriving passengers.

It comes amid controversy over Swift’s heavy emitter status due to her penchant for private jet travel.

More than 6,000 enthusiastic fans watched flight VJT993 carry Swift from Honolulu to Melbourne on Thursday evening – becoming the globe’s most tracked aeroplane.

Swift claims to have bought double the amount of carbon credits required to offset her travel for the Eras Tour.

But according to Carbon Market Watch, she comes first in the list of celebrities with the highest Co2 emissions from flying, with her private jet usage amounting to an estimated 8,300 tonnes of carbon emissions in 2022. The figure is 1,800 times the average person’s annual emissions.

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Taylor SwiftWill the Melbourne show really be her biggest concert attendance ever?

Will Taylor Swift’s Melbourne show tonight really be her biggest concert attendance ever?

The US singer is playing some of the world’s largest stadiums and arenas – but it is likely her shows at the MCG in Australia will draw her biggest crowds yet and break the record for her highest attended concert.

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When the Eras tour moved through 17 states in the US last year, Taylor Swift toppled attendance records almost everywhere she went. She played in enormous sporting stadiums and arenas to anywhere between about 50,000 to 70,000 people (her biggest show on the Eras tour so far was in Pittsburgh, with 73,117 people).

But it’s likely that Swift is about to set a new personal record in Australia, where she will perform to her biggest audience ever. The Melbourne Cricket Ground, where she will be performing on 16, 17 and 18 February, is predicting 260,000 people over three nights – an average of 86,000 a night.

The MCG can fit far more than 86,000 people – its official capacity is 100,024, and Ed Sheeran played to a record crowd of 109,500 people in a single night there last year.

The reason for the sizeable difference between Sheeran and what is predicted for Swift comes down to the size of her enormous stage on the Eras tour. Her stage is actually three separate parts that change shape through hydraulics, along with a long ramp – estimated to be about 80 metres long by the MCG – that juts into the standing area.

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Swift’s stage will be positioned at the city end of the MCG, which means some stands will be blocked from being used by concertgoers. But Sheeran’s unique circular revolving stage was placed in the middle of the turf, which meant all of the seats could be used.

The MCG show will each host more than what is predicted at Sydney’s Accor Stadium, where she played her previous biggest concert ever (about 76,000 people in 2015 on her 1989 tour). Accor is anticipating 300,000 at her four shows in Sydney, which works out to be 75,000 people a night.

This means the MCG will set a new record for attendance at a single Swift show that may not be toppled even in Europe when she heads there later this year.

Most of the venues she’s playing in Europe have an official capacity of about 50,000-85,000 before her stage is factored in. The only show that may pose a challenge to the MCG is one of her eight shows in Wembley Stadium in London in June and August; the stadium can officially house up to 90,000 seated and another 25,000 standing.

But Wembley’s actual capacity varies with the artist and their stage. To give a sense of what Swift might achieve in London, the Weeknd set a record for a concert with an end-stage set-up (where the audience is only in front of the stage) last year with 87,000 people. But Adele (who tends to perform with little more than a piano) performed to 98,000 in Wembley in a single night in 2017. Given the size of Swift’s stage, it is likely that, even after her final shows in the US and Canada in November and December this year, the MCG will remain her biggest ever show.

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ABC warns staff of agenda-driven criticism after News Corp pounces on Aboriginal land comment

ABC warns staff of agenda-driven criticism after News Corp pounces on Aboriginal land comment

Amanda Meade

Newsroom director decries The Australian’s ‘constant’ swipes at individual ABC employees. Plus: a mushroom misstep

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When the ABC Indigenous affairs editor, Bridget Brennan, said “always was, always will be Aboriginal land” in a live cross on News Breakfast on Australia Day, the Murdoch media pounced, labelling the comment controversial, divisive and partisan.

The Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman was reporting from an Indigenous ceremony and trying to explain what the day meant for First Nations people.

Inevitably, the ABC managing director, David Anderson, was asked about the statement this week at Senate estimates, giving The Australian a follow-up story: ABC probes ‘always was, always will be’ broadcast.

Brennan’s boss, ABC news director Justin Stevens, fired off a note to staff, saying the corporation’s journalists were working in an environment that is “increasingly agenda-driven and sometimes clearly hostile”.

He said the attacks were often targeted at women, culturally diverse and First Nations staff. (Just ask RN Breakfast and Q+A host Patricia Karvelas, who is subjected to repeated criticism by sections of the media.)

“The volume and nature of the Australian’s constant criticism of individual ABC employees is disproportionate and unfair, and looks to be agenda-driven,” Stevens said in a note seen by Weekly Beast. “Criticism of anything we publish can be directed at me and the ABC News leadership rather than targeting individual journalists in this way.”

The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Gunn, defended the paper’s reporting.

“The Australian’s coverage of the ABC is not agenda driven,” Gunn told Weekly Beast. “The report in question is a straightforward and accurate news report of a Senate estimates hearing.”

‘Editorially justified’

The Australian may be disappointed to learn the public broadcaster’s ombudsman, Fiona Cameron, has investigated the Brennan comment – after receiving 25 complaints – and found the ABC did not breach its standards for due impartiality and diversity of perspectives.

In a report published on Friday, Cameron said Brennan’s statement could have been “more explicitly referenced as the widespread and deeply felt perspective of her community, to avoid any suggestion that it was a statement of her personal opinion”.

“On balance, and in the context of live television, we accept the ABC submission that this was not a statement of Ms Brennan’s personal opinion but rather the view of the community [of] which she is a part and that the comments were editorially justified in the circumstances outlined,” she said.

Question time

All credit to Nine’s Luke McIlveen for the self-deprecating comment he made at a town hall meeting with journalists after he was appointed executive editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

The former Murdoch and Daily Mail editor said words to the effect of: ask me questions. I hope I do a better job than the last 10 questions – and drew a laugh from the tough crowd.

He was referring to the historical article “Ten Questions with Luke McIlveen” which had been making the rounds of the newsrooms, with journos aghast at the editor’s mocking of the former SMH writer David Marr and praising of radio shock jock Ray Hadley.

Jury duty

Sky News Australia’s headline new show for 2024 is The Jury, described as an attempt to “combat political correctness” and give “the average Australian a voice”.

Hosted by Danica De Giorgio, the show will have its third outing in front of a studio audience – and a jury of 12 – on Sunday.

Previous shows have debated “NDIS cost-effectiveness” and “should Australia reduce its immigration rate?”.

Weekly Beast understands the topic for this Sunday night – “Does Australia need the ABC/public broadcaster?” – was a bit tricky to pull off as it’s not easy to get an ABC supporter on Sky News.

The network’s after-dark lineup is not a big fan of the ABC.

“Wondered if you would be keen to represent the ‘yes’ case! Chris Kenny representing no!”, one pitch from a producer asked an ABC fan. “We’d need you to be in Sydney for the shoot. Would only take an hour.”

The pitch reminded us of the last time Kenny, an associate editor at the Australian and avowed ABC critic, pleaded for someone to appear on his Sky News “documentary” about the ABC to mark its 90th birthday. Kenny said at the time it was easy to get critics of the ABC on Sky but he couldn’t find any supporters of Aunty prepared to talk to him. It was former ABC broadcaster Quentin Dempster who fronted up last time, but we haven’t heard back from Sky about who will plead the case on Sunday.

Perpetual error

Channel Nine has distanced itself from a potential misstep by producers of an upcoming documentary about the mushroom lunch that left three people dead and a fourth fighting for his life.

Erin Patterson has been charged with murdering three people at the lunch in her home in the rural Australian town of Leongatha on 29 July and the proceedings are ongoing. She has consistently denied the charges and maintains her innocence.

The production company Perpetual Entertainment published a blurb on its website complete with a title that experts say had the potential to run foul of Australian contempt laws, material which we have decided not to repeat.

The University of Sydney’s Prof David Rolph, an expert in media law, told us: “Where a matter is before the courts, the principle of sub judice contempt apply. It is risky to publish material about a criminal case which will be tried by a jury. Even if the material talks in terms of allegation, there is still a risk that a fair trial may be prejudiced.”

When we contacted Pepetual Entertainment, they said the website blurb was a mistake and it was immediately taken down.

“We are in production of a documentary called The Deadly Mushroom Mystery that details the events surrounding that fatal lunch,” they said.

“Obviously it cannot be broadcast in Australia at the moment whilst the trial is pending.

“I am having that error corrected now.”

Nine sources said the broadcaster had no hand in producing or naming the program and it would not be broadcast in Australia before a criminal trial was over.

A spokesperson for Nine said questions about the content or title should be directed to the production company.

Hairy moment

We’ve seen plenty of videos of TV reporters being harassed by passers-by as they do stand-ups to camera but this wholesome interaction between Channel 9’s Darwin reporter Georgie Dickerson and a woman devoted to fixing her hair was charming.

Climate coverage win

The Walkley Foundation says it has “listened to the many journalists” and decided to add a new award category for coverage of science and the environment to the mid-year Walkleys.

When the Walkleys categories were reviewed last year, recommendations for a separate science and environment were rejected, sparking dismay among climate and environment reporters.

Now journalists covering medical and advanced science, innovation, climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, deforestation and air, earth and water pollution, across all forms of media, will be able to enter.

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ABC warns staff of agenda-driven criticism after News Corp pounces on Aboriginal land comment

ABC warns staff of agenda-driven criticism after News Corp pounces on Aboriginal land comment

Amanda Meade

Newsroom director decries The Australian’s ‘constant’ swipes at individual ABC employees. Plus: a mushroom misstep

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

When the ABC Indigenous affairs editor, Bridget Brennan, said “always was, always will be Aboriginal land” in a live cross on News Breakfast on Australia Day, the Murdoch media pounced, labelling the comment controversial, divisive and partisan.

The Dja Dja Wurrung and Yorta Yorta woman was reporting from an Indigenous ceremony and trying to explain what the day meant for First Nations people.

Inevitably, the ABC managing director, David Anderson, was asked about the statement this week at Senate estimates, giving The Australian a follow-up story: ABC probes ‘always was, always will be’ broadcast.

Brennan’s boss, ABC news director Justin Stevens, fired off a note to staff, saying the corporation’s journalists were working in an environment that is “increasingly agenda-driven and sometimes clearly hostile”.

He said the attacks were often targeted at women, culturally diverse and First Nations staff. (Just ask RN Breakfast and Q+A host Patricia Karvelas, who is subjected to repeated criticism by sections of the media.)

“The volume and nature of the Australian’s constant criticism of individual ABC employees is disproportionate and unfair, and looks to be agenda-driven,” Stevens said in a note seen by Weekly Beast. “Criticism of anything we publish can be directed at me and the ABC News leadership rather than targeting individual journalists in this way.”

The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Michelle Gunn, defended the paper’s reporting.

“The Australian’s coverage of the ABC is not agenda driven,” Gunn told Weekly Beast. “The report in question is a straightforward and accurate news report of a Senate estimates hearing.”

‘Editorially justified’

The Australian may be disappointed to learn the public broadcaster’s ombudsman, Fiona Cameron, has investigated the Brennan comment – after receiving 25 complaints – and found the ABC did not breach its standards for due impartiality and diversity of perspectives.

In a report published on Friday, Cameron said Brennan’s statement could have been “more explicitly referenced as the widespread and deeply felt perspective of her community, to avoid any suggestion that it was a statement of her personal opinion”.

“On balance, and in the context of live television, we accept the ABC submission that this was not a statement of Ms Brennan’s personal opinion but rather the view of the community [of] which she is a part and that the comments were editorially justified in the circumstances outlined,” she said.

Question time

All credit to Nine’s Luke McIlveen for the self-deprecating comment he made at a town hall meeting with journalists after he was appointed executive editor of the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age.

The former Murdoch and Daily Mail editor said words to the effect of: ask me questions. I hope I do a better job than the last 10 questions – and drew a laugh from the tough crowd.

He was referring to the historical article “Ten Questions with Luke McIlveen” which had been making the rounds of the newsrooms, with journos aghast at the editor’s mocking of the former SMH writer David Marr and praising of radio shock jock Ray Hadley.

Jury duty

Sky News Australia’s headline new show for 2024 is The Jury, described as an attempt to “combat political correctness” and give “the average Australian a voice”.

Hosted by Danica De Giorgio, the show will have its third outing in front of a studio audience – and a jury of 12 – on Sunday.

Previous shows have debated “NDIS cost-effectiveness” and “should Australia reduce its immigration rate?”.

Weekly Beast understands the topic for this Sunday night – “Does Australia need the ABC/public broadcaster?” – was a bit tricky to pull off as it’s not easy to get an ABC supporter on Sky News.

The network’s after-dark lineup is not a big fan of the ABC.

“Wondered if you would be keen to represent the ‘yes’ case! Chris Kenny representing no!”, one pitch from a producer asked an ABC fan. “We’d need you to be in Sydney for the shoot. Would only take an hour.”

The pitch reminded us of the last time Kenny, an associate editor at the Australian and avowed ABC critic, pleaded for someone to appear on his Sky News “documentary” about the ABC to mark its 90th birthday. Kenny said at the time it was easy to get critics of the ABC on Sky but he couldn’t find any supporters of Aunty prepared to talk to him. It was former ABC broadcaster Quentin Dempster who fronted up last time, but we haven’t heard back from Sky about who will plead the case on Sunday.

Perpetual error

Channel Nine has distanced itself from a potential misstep by producers of an upcoming documentary about the mushroom lunch that left three people dead and a fourth fighting for his life.

Erin Patterson has been charged with murdering three people at the lunch in her home in the rural Australian town of Leongatha on 29 July and the proceedings are ongoing. She has consistently denied the charges and maintains her innocence.

The production company Perpetual Entertainment published a blurb on its website complete with a title that experts say had the potential to run foul of Australian contempt laws, material which we have decided not to repeat.

The University of Sydney’s Prof David Rolph, an expert in media law, told us: “Where a matter is before the courts, the principle of sub judice contempt apply. It is risky to publish material about a criminal case which will be tried by a jury. Even if the material talks in terms of allegation, there is still a risk that a fair trial may be prejudiced.”

When we contacted Pepetual Entertainment, they said the website blurb was a mistake and it was immediately taken down.

“We are in production of a documentary called The Deadly Mushroom Mystery that details the events surrounding that fatal lunch,” they said.

“Obviously it cannot be broadcast in Australia at the moment whilst the trial is pending.

“I am having that error corrected now.”

Nine sources said the broadcaster had no hand in producing or naming the program and it would not be broadcast in Australia before a criminal trial was over.

A spokesperson for Nine said questions about the content or title should be directed to the production company.

Hairy moment

We’ve seen plenty of videos of TV reporters being harassed by passers-by as they do stand-ups to camera but this wholesome interaction between Channel 9’s Darwin reporter Georgie Dickerson and a woman devoted to fixing her hair was charming.

Climate coverage win

The Walkley Foundation says it has “listened to the many journalists” and decided to add a new award category for coverage of science and the environment to the mid-year Walkleys.

When the Walkleys categories were reviewed last year, recommendations for a separate science and environment were rejected, sparking dismay among climate and environment reporters.

Now journalists covering medical and advanced science, innovation, climate change, environmental degradation, biodiversity loss, deforestation and air, earth and water pollution, across all forms of media, will be able to enter.

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Crisis hits Sydney as hazardous material found in mulch at parks and schools

Asbestos crisis hits Sydney as hazardous material found in mulch at parks and schools

More than 20 sites contaminated with asbestos-laden mulch, forcing school closures and the cancellation of a Mardi Gras celebration

An asbestos contamination crisis in Sydney has forced the cancellation of a major Mardi Gras party and the closure of popular parks and schools, as authorities scramble to get on top of the ballooning public health emergency.

The New South Wales government and environmental watchdog have set up a taskforce to coordinate a major investigation after a child took home a piece of bonded asbestos from a playground at Rozelle parklands, in the city’s inner west.

Since the discovery in early January, mulch from more than 20 sites across Australia’s most populous city has returned positive results for asbestos, including a supermarket and a hospital. Hundreds more sites are yet to be tested.

Most of the asbestos found so far is classified as bonded, which is a less dangerous form of the material. One piece of the more concerning friable asbestos was found at a public park in the inner city suburb of Surry Hills.

This week, the City of Sydney council announced it had told organisers of the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras to cancel its Fair Day event after bonded asbestos was found in the park where it was to be held on Sunday.

“This cancellation is a setback, however it presents us with an opportunity to unite and support one another more strongly,” Mardi Gras chief executive Gil Beckwith said.

The event, at Victoria Park in Camperdown, was expected to attract a crowd of more than 70,000 people ahead of the parade on 2 March.

Lord mayor Clover Moore said it was “incredibly disappointing” to cancel the event that was a pivotal part of the Mardi Gras calendar, but that safety needed to come first.

The council has since announced parts of more than 50 parks and garden beds across the inner city would be cordoned off after contact tracing found they also contained mulch that could be contaminated.

Surry Hills resident Peta, who only gave her first name, said she was particularly concerned about the friable asbestos found at Harmony Park where she often takes her dog and grandchild.

“That was concerning because it’s a very popular park,” she said. “It’s a dog-friendly park. There are always dogs digging around in the mulch. Mothers and babies use it.”

The investigation by the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is its biggest ever, with more than 130 investigators working to uncover how the asbestos got into the mulch and to trace it through the supply chain.

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

“To date, all of our positive detections are connected through a common thread of this supplier,” he said this week.

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.

While most of the mulch has been traced to public parks and projects including landscaping around train stations, it has also been discovered at schools and in a number of private homes. One primary school has been closed, and its 700 students relocated.

Asbestos was used extensively over the past century to make cement sheeting, roofing and drainage pipes. In the 1960s and 1970s loose fibre asbestos was used in parts of home roof insulations across NSW.

Researchers then discovered that if asbestos was inhaled into the lungs over a long period of time, it could lead to a form of cancer called mesothelioma – or the chronic lung disease known as asbestosis. It has since been banned in Australia.

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Storm forms off Australia’s north, while Queensland woman dies in flood waters

Tropical Cyclone Lincoln forms off Australia’s north, while Queensland woman dies in flood waters

Body of 28-year-old recovered from state’s north-west, with more heavy rain forecast for Brisbane

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A woman has died after her car became submerged in floodwaters as rain-lashed northern Australia braces for its third cyclone in as many months.

The weather bureau issued a warning on Friday afternoon for Tropical Cyclone Lincoln which has formed over the south-west of the Gulf of Carpentaria.

Lincoln was expected to cross the southern gulf coast on Friday afternoon with potential 110km/h gale-force winds and heavy rainfall.

The storm is expected to weaken as it moves inland, before heading west across the central Northern Territory over the weekend and then over northern Western Australia bringing with it heavy rainfall.

On Thursday, a 28-year-old woman was found dead inside a car spotted in the flooded Malbon River at Duchess, just south of Mt Isa in Queensland’s northwest.

The region is still reeling from flooding caused by the remnants of ex-Tropical Cyclone Kirrily in January.

In the NT people have been relocated from the Beswick community south of Katherine while more than 60 residents have been evacuated from Burketown.

Communities across Borroloola, Groote Eylandt and Mornington Island in the NT are set to be affected.

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Burketown has already recorded 135mm of rain in the last 24 hours but the bureau said totals of up to 250mm are possible.

“Many of these areas have had major flooding in the past couple of weeks associated with ex-tropical cyclone Kirrily,” meteorologist Angus Hines said of the cyclone warning region.

“In a number of these spots particularly in north Queensland the floodwaters are still easing from the last round of flooding.

“Of particular concern are the Doomadgee and Burketown regions where many roads are closed and communities are still isolated – further flooding is a possibility in those hard-hit regions.”

Flood watches are current for Queensland’s northwest and for the NT’s Daly and Katherine Rivers.

It will be the third cyclone to hit northern Australia in recent months, following Kirrily and Tropical Cyclone Jasper in mid-December.

Queensland’s southeast has also been lashed with heavy rain on Friday, bringing flash flooding in Brisbane.

There were widespread falls in excess of 100mm overnight, with the suburb of Rosalie recording 197mm in the last 24 hours, including 151mm in six hours.

Brisbane and Bowen Hills have recorded 135mm in the same period, and 148mm inundating Mount Cootha.

The SES has received about 60 calls for help across the state from midnight on Friday, with almost 50 of those in the southeast region.

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Bureau of Meteorology forecasting hot autumn nights for most of the country

Bureau of Meteorology forecasting hot autumn nights for most of Australia

The country has at least double the chance of experiencing unusually warm weather in the months ahead

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Most of Australia has at least double the chance of experiencing unusually warm days and nights this coming autumn, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest long range forecast.

The bureau put the extra warmth in its forecast down to the climate crisis and the warming ocean surface that was tending to push up temperatures.

Last week the bureau confirmed that Australia has warmed by 1.5C since its long-term temperature record started in 1910.

For the two weeks starting on 20 February, the bureau’s outlook showed that Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin all had at least a 60% chance of seeing higher than usual maximum temperatures. Overnight temperatures were forecast to be warmer than normal almost everywhere.

Much of Western Australia is in the middle of a low-intensity heatwave from Friday until Sunday.

Australia’s women’s cricket team played through temperatures in the low 40s during day one of a Test match against South Africa in Perth on Thursday.

While the forecast for Friday was only 30C, temperatures in the WA capital are set to climb to 36C on Saturday and 43C on Sunday.

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For the autumn months of March, April and May, the bureau’s long range outlook showed an elevated chance for all capitals experiencing unusually warm maximum and minimum temperatures.

The bureau classifies “unusually warm” as temperatures that are in the top 20% of those ever recorded in each place.

Caitlin Minney, a bureau climatologist said: “The climate change signal and those warmer oceans and warmer air temperatures are why we are consistently seeing that signal above the median.”

Sea surface temperatures have been consistently above average along Australia’s east coast since January. Australia has seen above average annual sea surface temperatures every year since 1995.

Minney said: “When we see warmer than average sea surface temperatures the impact on temperature tends to be more in the coastal regions of the north. It’s warmer than average [in the ocean] almost everywhere.”

The bureau’s outlook shows almost the entire continent has an 80% chance or greater of seeing maximum temperatures above normal.

The forecast warmth for March, April and May across the country comes after Australia experienced its third-hottest January on record.

The picture is more mixed for rainfall for autumn.

The bureau said below usual rainfall was likely for WA’s northern coastline, the northern and eastern parts of NT away from the Top End, most of Queensland away from the south-east and parts of South Australia’s north-east pastoral areas and parts of eastern and far north-west NSW and southern Victoria.

There was “no consistent wet or dry signal” for the rest of the country over autumn.

The El Niño weather pattern in the tropical Pacific was weakening, the bureau said, with conditions expected to return to neutral over the autumn.

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Bureau of Meteorology forecasting hot autumn nights for most of the country

Bureau of Meteorology forecasting hot autumn nights for most of Australia

The country has at least double the chance of experiencing unusually warm weather in the months ahead

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

Most of Australia has at least double the chance of experiencing unusually warm days and nights this coming autumn, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest long range forecast.

The bureau put the extra warmth in its forecast down to the climate crisis and the warming ocean surface that was tending to push up temperatures.

Last week the bureau confirmed that Australia has warmed by 1.5C since its long-term temperature record started in 1910.

For the two weeks starting on 20 February, the bureau’s outlook showed that Sydney, Canberra, Hobart, Brisbane and Darwin all had at least a 60% chance of seeing higher than usual maximum temperatures. Overnight temperatures were forecast to be warmer than normal almost everywhere.

Much of Western Australia is in the middle of a low-intensity heatwave from Friday until Sunday.

Australia’s women’s cricket team played through temperatures in the low 40s during day one of a Test match against South Africa in Perth on Thursday.

While the forecast for Friday was only 30C, temperatures in the WA capital are set to climb to 36C on Saturday and 43C on Sunday.

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

For the autumn months of March, April and May, the bureau’s long range outlook showed an elevated chance for all capitals experiencing unusually warm maximum and minimum temperatures.

The bureau classifies “unusually warm” as temperatures that are in the top 20% of those ever recorded in each place.

Caitlin Minney, a bureau climatologist said: “The climate change signal and those warmer oceans and warmer air temperatures are why we are consistently seeing that signal above the median.”

Sea surface temperatures have been consistently above average along Australia’s east coast since January. Australia has seen above average annual sea surface temperatures every year since 1995.

Minney said: “When we see warmer than average sea surface temperatures the impact on temperature tends to be more in the coastal regions of the north. It’s warmer than average [in the ocean] almost everywhere.”

The bureau’s outlook shows almost the entire continent has an 80% chance or greater of seeing maximum temperatures above normal.

The forecast warmth for March, April and May across the country comes after Australia experienced its third-hottest January on record.

The picture is more mixed for rainfall for autumn.

The bureau said below usual rainfall was likely for WA’s northern coastline, the northern and eastern parts of NT away from the Top End, most of Queensland away from the south-east and parts of South Australia’s north-east pastoral areas and parts of eastern and far north-west NSW and southern Victoria.

There was “no consistent wet or dry signal” for the rest of the country over autumn.

The El Niño weather pattern in the tropical Pacific was weakening, the bureau said, with conditions expected to return to neutral over the autumn.

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Uncertainty reigns at Melbourne Rebels with no tickets on sale for round one

Uncertainty reigns at Melbourne Rebels with no tickets on sale for Super Rugby round one

  • No agreement in place yet to sell tickets for first match next week
  • Victorian club lays off staff after being placed in administration

Uncertainty hangs over next week’s Super Rugby kick-off, as financial problems at Melbourne Rebels deepen, and fans, players and officials remain in the dark about the club’s future.

Tickets for the first game of what could the Rebels’ final season are not yet available, less than a week out from the match.

The Victorian Super Rugby franchise has been placed in administration following financial turmoil, and laid off 10 staff this week including its chief executive, Baden Stephenson.

Rugby Australia has pledged to meet costs to allow the club to compete in the competition this year, which starts next Friday. After the Chiefs play the Crusaders in New Zealand, the Rebels host the ACT Brumbies in Melbourne.

But Victorian fans eager to snap up tickets have been left confused, with no links to tickets on the Rebels’ website and AAMI Park’s website directing people to join a “waitlist” with Ticketek.

A RA spokesperson confirmed tickets were not yet available because there was no agreement in place to sell them.

“We are in the process of finalising a new agreement with the venue – until that is completed we cannot go on sale,” they said on Friday. “We’re hopeful that this will be done by tomorrow [Saturday] at the latest.”

Tickets for the Rebels’ second round match, as part of the Super Round to be held in Melbourne, are available from Ticketek.

That round is being administered independently by sports promoters TEG Sport under license from Super Rugby, with the support of the Victorian government.

RA’s chief executive, Phil Waugh, said the Rebels will also push ahead with a Super W team in the women’s competition due to start in March, but there was “a lot of work” to do.

“We need to accelerate the conversation on 2025 and beyond, because players need certainty, staff need certainty, high-performance staff need certainty,” he said.

“The sooner we can get to an outcome with all the different stakeholders on what the path forward looks like for 2025, the better it’s going to be for our people.”

Rebels fans have expressed sadness and a sense of resignation about the likely death of their club.

The club posted a season launch video to its 104,000 followers on Facebook on Thursday, saying: “We don’t just come back, we run back.”

The post prompted mixed emotions from supporters, with one replying: “Foundation member, proud to be. Not sure what I will do if we lose this team.”

Another person said: “Put on a good season lads. If it’s going to be your last, go down swinging.”

A third added: “Win every game and hopefully the Victorian government will save you.”

– with AAP

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Australia v South Africa: one-off women’s Test, day two – live

91st over: Australia 381-5 (Sutherland 125, Gardner 55) Onto the attack goes Sutherland, inside out over cover against the spinner. Hits Mlaba on the up, off a length. Then charges and threads one! Between mid off and cover, staggered field, mid off deeper, but she threads the needle.

Former LNP candidate fronts court accused of giving false details to electoral commission

Former LNP candidate Vivian Lobo fronts court accused of giving false details to Australian Electoral Commission

Candidate in 2022 federal election facing up to 12 months’ prison if found guilty of knowingly providing false or misleading information

A Liberal National party candidate in the last federal election has faced court accused of providing false information about his residential address to the electoral commission.

Vivian Rakesh Lobo was issued a summons to appear in Brisbane magistrates court on Friday after a federal police investigation followed a referral from the Australian Electoral Commission.

The 41-year-old is accused of providing false details regarding his residential address on forms submitted to the commission.

A submission from Lobo’s lawyer was likely to be received by the prosecution next week, the court was told.

Lobo has bail on his own undertaking and is due to have his case mentioned in the same court on 15 March.

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He is facing four counts of knowingly providing false or misleading information to the commission, an offence carrying 12 months’ prison as the maximum penalty.

Lobo contested the north Brisbane seat of Lilley in the 2022 federal election.

A review of his enrolment and candidate nomination forms prompted a referral to federal police, the Australian Electoral Commission said before the May 2022 election.

“There is concern as to whether the information provided by him regarding his residential address on these forms is false,” the commission added in a statement.

At the time Lobo said he enrolled in the Lilley electorate as he had signed a lease in Everton Park with the intention to move in straight away.

“However, due to my campaign commitments and difficulty with getting tradespeople to the home, I was delayed moving in,” he told media.

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Police examine tractor after man charged with domestic violence murder

Police examine tractor after Queensland man charged with domestic violence murder

The 44-year-old called emergency services to say his wife had died at their Woodhill farm

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Police have seized a tractor from the property of a Queensland man who has been charged with the murder of his wife in what paramedics described as a “farm machinery incident”.

Emergency services arrived at the rural property at Woodhill, south of Brisbane, at 9.15am on Thursday where they found the 41-year-old woman dead.

The Queensland Ambulance Service said the woman’s fatal injuries came after “a farm machinery incident”.

A 44-year-old man has been charged with murder (domestic violence offence) and interfering with a corpse.

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Police on Friday confirmed the pair were married and had two teenage children together.

Detective inspector Chris Knight said on Friday the man had made the initial report to emergency services that his wife had died.

Knight alleged there were “some factors” that had led police to believe there “may have been some manipulation of the crime scene”.

“Any potential for domestic violence will form part of our investigation,” Knight said.

“Any history that may or may not exist will be subject to our investigation.”

Police removed two vehicles from the property, a sedan and a farm tractor.

He said the farm was a privately owned family property that had sugar cane and animals on it, along with multiple dams that police planned to search.

Knight said it was “a complex crime scene” as there were multiple structures on the property, a lot of farm equipment and a large stretch of open land with heavy ground cover.

Forensic officers and detectives were photographed at the scene on Thursday examining a tractor that appeared to have been towing a grass slasher.

Knight said about 50 volunteers had assisted police search coordinators as of Friday morning.

Police have spoken to those living in neighbouring houses who live some distance away.

Detectives will also be speaking to friends and family members as part of the investigation, Knight said.

The man has been refused bail and was due to appear in Beenleigh magistrates court on Friday.

Queensland police have urged anyone with information to contact them on Policelink or by calling 131 444.

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