The Guardian 2024-02-18 22:30:58


Perth swelters as WA hottest place in world; asbestos found at seven more Sydney sites

With Perth forecast to reach 43C today, Weatherzone said the city is expected to break its record for the most 40C days in one month. Yesterday was its sixth in February.

A huge swathe of the coast from north of Geraldton down to Margaret River – about 750km – has an extreme fire danger rating today, with a number of total fire bans also in place.

The Bureau of Meteorology said wind gusts up to 80km/h are possible this morning around Perth’s hills and foothills.

Two schools north of Perth – Cervantes Primary School and Jurien Bay District High School – will be closed today due to an increased risk of bushfire. The Department of Fire and Emergency Service said:

No one, including staff, will be allowed on site as it will not be safe. Parents and carers are asked to please ensure supervision arrangements are in place for their children.

Fearsome threesomeHow a trio of climate drivers is baking Australia’s west and leaving the east soaked

Fearsome threesome: how a trio of climate drivers is baking Australia’s west and leaving the east soaked

A rare confluence of El Niño, the Southern Annular Mode and the Indian Ocean dipole is to blame for the country’s unusually polarised weather

The Australian summer has been a tale of two extremes: the west is baking hot, while the east is awash with devastating downpours. While Western Australia’s maximum temperature so far this summer is 1.5C above the long-term 29.5C average, Perth has melted through three heatwaves and smashed February records for the most days hotter than 40C. Last month, the Pilbara town of Marble Bar sweltered through its second-longest hot spell on record, with 23 consecutive days above 43C.

In stark contrast, storms have ravaged the east coast this summer. Ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper caused flooding across vast areas of far north Queensland before Christmas, delivering Australia’s wettest December days on record. One weather station recorded 1.9 metres of rain during five days.

And this week storms brought heavy hail and strong winds to Victoria, causing the temperature to plummet 15C and leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.

As the weather intensity has dialled up, so have the insurance claims. The Insurance Council of Australia says more than 46,000 extreme weather-related claims were lodged between 23 December and 3 January.

So, what’s causing this unusual polarisation? Scientists say it’s down to a rare combination of three climate systems hitting at once.

‘A perfect storm’

A shifting belt of westerly winds in the Southern Ocean is turning the heat dial up on WA while also filling rain gauges on the east coast, Hugh McDowell, a senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology, says.

Meanwhile, the Indian Ocean is hotter than normal and El Niño arrived in the Pacific in September.

Climate scientists are calling it “a perfect storm” that is breaking weather records across the country.

“These three things that usually happen in isolation are happening together and they are all reinforcing each other,” the BoM meteorologist Jessica Lingard says.

Australia’s climate is complicated and influenced by many drivers. The three oceans bordering Australia each have their own sets of natural oscillations in currents and wind patterns, all of which affect the nation’s rainfall and temperatures.

‘Little boy’ and his cousin Sam

One of the best-known patterns is El Niño, Spanish for “little boy”, which weakens trade winds in the Pacific.

But the boy has a southern cousin – the Southern Annular Mode (Sam) – and when it is in a positive mode, it disrupts the strong westerly winds that blow continuously around the globe, pushing them further south and away from Australia.

In the summer, this drags moist tropical air over the eastern states, fuelling intense rainfall and flash flooding.

In the west, a positive Sam causes high-pressure systems and their associated anticlockwise winds to set up camp in the Great Australian Bight. This acts like a hairdryer that blows hot desert easterlies from Australia’s interior over WA.

McDowell says while the Sam has a big effect on opposite sides of the continent, it is normally short-lived and dissipates after a couple of weeks.

“It is not normally a long-term climate driver, but this year, we have had it positive for at least two months and it has been due to a stronger-than-average polar vortex,” McDowell says.

He says El Niño conditions, which occur in the Pacific Ocean, are normally associated with a neutral or negative Sam – not positive.

El Niño weakens trade winds and sloshes warm water from the east of Australia towards South America. La Niña has the opposite effect and piles warm water around northern Australia, according to the Australian Research Council.

“The last three La Niña years we saw positive Sam at play, we saw warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures all across the east, but we have those things and we have El Niño this year, which is very unusual,” McDowell says.

“That is probably why we have seen so much rainfall across the east this summer.”

The role of the dipole

The third and final player in the trio is the Indian Ocean dipole, which features fluctuations in sea surface temperatures between the Horn of Africa and Indonesia.

Right now, McDowell says, this dipole is also in positive mode, leading to less rainfall for north-west WA.

“It is unusual that we are seeing those three things together. It is a pretty usual situation, giving a bit extra to the heat and a twist with the wet east,” McDowell says.

“Sam has had an influence on Western Australia with the drier and warmer weather … that coupled with El Niño … [and] the positive Indian Ocean dipole, has given us every single climate driver going in the direction of heat and dryness across Western Australia,” McDowell says.

‘More extremes’ with climate change

The state’s fire and emergency services commissioner, Darren Klemm, says WA has experienced a 38% rise in bushfires compared with this time last year. His personnel attended 2,706 fires so far, many in the metropolitan area.

In late November, a blaze in Wanneroo on Perth’s north-eastern outskirts destroyed 18 homes after a pine forest caught fire.

Earlier this month, BoM released its January drought summary. It found that soil moisture was very much below average for large areas of WA and in parts of the Northern Territory and South Australia.

“The extent of areas with rainfall deficiencies, including those with record-low rainfall, expanded in Western Australia, particularly in the Pilbara and Gascoyne districts, but generally eased in eastern Australia,” the summary said.

In contrast, much of Victoria and large parts of NT experienced rainfall in the highest 10% since 1900. Victoria received double its average rainfall. January records were smashed in the state’s North Central district and the NT’s Gregory district.

The WAFarmers president, John Hassell, says the state’s extreme dry has meant some farmers were not able to plant crops this year.

“That was quite devastating for a major part of the north-eastern wheatbelt … It is reflected in the total tonnages that we are delivering – we are back down to 12m tonnes from 25m last year.” The average is 16m tonnes.

Lingard says the usual climate drivers occurring at once are most likely related to climate change and will happen more as the climate warms.

“With climate change, we expect to see more extremes in weather, both good and bad. We will see more extreme hot days, more extreme dry days, we will see more extreme flooding events and stronger cyclones.”

When will this end?

McDowell says it looks like it will continue to be warm in the west.

“I’m sorry to say it, but there is a very strong signal still of above-minimum and maximum temperatures [for the west coast] all the way out to June.”

The bureau says Sam should return to neutral in the next two weeks. Long-range forecaster Masoud Edraki says the above-average east coast rainfall is not likely to continue.

“There is no clear signal for March and April that rainfall will be above or below average for most of the east coast.

“North-east Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory are likely to be drier than average from March to May,” he says.

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Help-to-buy legislationAlbanese signals Labor won’t negotiate with Greens on housing

Albanese signals Labor won’t negotiate with Greens on housing help-to-buy legislation

PM says government will put scheme to parliament without guaranteed support, as Greens housing spokesperson says scheme will make housing crisis ‘worse for 99.8% of renters’

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Anthony Albanese has challenged the Greens to vote against Labor’s shared equity scheme for housing, rebuffing the minor party’s demands to horse-trade in return for cutting housing tax concessions.

On Sunday the prime minister said the government would put its help-to-buy legislation to parliament, where “the Greens can vote for it, or they can vote against it”.

“It’s as simple as that,” Albanese told reporters in Nowra after the New South Wales Country Labor conference.

The comments signal Labor may seek to call the Greens’ bluff and avoid a second round of fractious negotiations over housing by putting the bill to a vote without having secured a guarantee of support.

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In 2023 the Greens voted with the Coalition to delay the Housing Australia Future Fund (Haff) prompting threats from Albanese of a double dissolution election.

The Haff bill passed in September after the government agreed to invest $3bn more in social and affordable housing, which the Greens claim proves withholding their 11 Senate votes can help win demands which now include a nationally coordinated rent freeze and cuts to negative gearing and the capital gains tax concession.

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

On Sunday Albanese claimed that “people are seeing through the Greens, where they offer nothing positive”.

“On this issue, on help-to-buy, we’ll literally help Australians into home ownership by having a shared equity scheme that works successfully, in WA, in Victoria, here in New South Wales, our … scheme will allow for up to 40% of shared equity being taken by the commonwealth,” he said.

Albanese claimed the Greens “won’t talk about this particular legislation” because they want to “talk about something else”.

“Well, just like they held up support for increased investment in social homes, in public housing, and affordable housing, now they’re saying they’re going to hold up increased home ownership.”

“We have a comprehensive plan for housing, they just have slogans.”

On Saturday the Greens housing spokesperson, Max Chandler-Mather, told Guardian’s Australian Politics podcast the help-to-buy scheme “will actually make the housing crisis worse for 99.8% of renters”.

“That’s because every year, only 0.2% of renters would be able to access the government scheme,” he said. “And for every other renter trying to buy a home, this will push up the price of housing, even marginally.”

“The reality is you’re just not going to fix the housing affordability crisis while the government is dishing out something like $39bn a year in tax handouts for property investors that allow them to beat up the price of housing and lock out so many first home buyers.”

At the 2022 election the Coalition opposed Labor’s help-to-buy scheme, arguing that homeowners will be “forced to sell” if a pay rise pushes their income above the eligibility threshold of $90,000 for a single or above $120,000 for a couple.

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Western Australia boat arrivalsWhat are the current laws and policies on asylum seekers?

Explainer

Western Australia boat arrivals: what are the current laws and policies on asylum seekers?

Both Labor and the Coalition support boat turnbacks, offshore detention and third-country resettlement. Are there any policy differences between the two major parties?

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The arrival of an asylum seeker boat in Western Australia has reanimated political debate about asylum policy and the treatment of people who arrive by boat seeking protection.

At least 40 men, believed to be from Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, have arrived by boat on the northern Kimberley coast. Border Force has not confirmed details, only that it was “undertaking an operation in the north-west of Western Australia”.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, said Australia’s asylum policies were unchanged: “Our position on Operation Sovereign Borders is very clear, and people who attempt to arrive here by boat will not settle here.”

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But the opposition leader and former home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, said the Labor government had “lost control” of the country’s borders.

“I know exactly how these people smugglers work,” Dutton said. “They will react to a weak prime minister and to a weak minister. If they see vulnerabilities, they will exploit them, and that’s exactly what has happened here.”

What is Operation Sovereign Borders?

Operation Sovereign Borders refers to a military-led response to asylum seekers and refugees arriving in Australia by boat, proposed by the Tony Abbott-led opposition in mid-2013 and then enacted by the Coalition once in government.

According to the Coalition’s policy document, the main measures were to:

  • Reintroduce temporary protection visas for people found to be refugees

  • Hold asylum seekers in detention on Manus Island and Nauru while processing their refugee claims

  • Instruct the Australian defence force to turn back boats “where it is safe to do so”

Did Labor always support this?

No. In 2007 Labor was elected promising to end the “Pacific solution” of offshore processing, and instead hold asylum seekers at Christmas Island while processing their refugee applications.

After the number of asylum seeker boats arriving began to increase again, Labor reintroduced offshore processing on both Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. This element of the policy has had bipartisan support since before the 2013 election.

In 2016 Australia’s offshore processing regime on Manus was found to be unconstitutional by the PNG supreme court and the next year the Australian government was forced to pay more than $70m in compensation to those who had been illegally detained there. Australia and Nauru retain an agreement for an “enduring” form of offshore processing on the Pacific island state.

TPVs?

The difference that remains between Labor and Coalition concerns temporary protection visas. Labor abolished temporary protection visas (and the temporary “safe haven enterprise visas” for more than 19,000 people in February 2023, fulfilment of an election pledge.

But these only applied for asylum seekers who arrived by boat before 19 July 2013, and so belong to a different cohort, who were not sent offshore. Since 19 July 2013, both Labor and Coalition agree that asylum seekers who arrive by boat to claim protection will never resettle in Australia.

(Asylum seekers who arrive by plane are able to apply for permanent protection visas.)

Boat arrivals

The number of people arriving by boat has waxed and waned since the 1970s. There was an uptick in arrivals over 1999-2001 (peaking in 2001 at 5516), followed by an even larger increase in 2012-13 (20,587 people, on 300 boats arrived in 2013).

The numbers since then have been substantially lower. Zero in 2021, 199 people on seven boats in 2022 and 74 people on four boats in 2023.

Plane arrivals

And the context is important also. The number of people arriving in Australia by plane who then make an asylum claim (known as an “onshore claim”) consistently dwarfs the number of those arriving by boat.

Last year, according to home affairs statistics, 22,916 people made an onshore asylum claim (boat arrivals cannot make an onshore claim). In October 2,322 people made an onshore claim, a rate of 74 a day.

What about third-country resettlement?

Both Labor and the Coalition support the resettlement of refugees sent to offshore processing in so-called “third countries”. These are most commonly the US, Canada, and New Zealand, though resettlement to all three is slow (exacerbated by Covid restrictions for a number of years). There remain more than 50 refugees still held in PNG, having been sent there more than a decade ago by Australia to the now-shuttered Manus Island offshore processing centre.

New Zealand has a standing offer to resettle 150 people a year from Australia’s offshore program. This was rejected for years by the Coalition government, which argued it could provide a “back door” for entry to Australia. The Coalition reversed its position just before the 2022 election and resettlement to NZ is continuing.

Verdict

Since 2013 Labor and the Coalition have been in agreement that nobody who arrives by boat seeking protection will be resettled in Australia. There is bipartisan support for boat turnbacks, offshore detention and third-country resettlement.

The only remaining disagreement is TPVs, a policy plank that is sometimes argued by the Coalition to be part of Operation Sovereign Borders. It is however, not practically connected to Sovereign Borders – and its promoted deterrent effect – because under current policies, no one who arrives by boat will be resettled in Australia.

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Ex-senior watchdog staffer says it was ‘destined to happen’ after decade of regulatory failure

Ex-senior watchdog staffer says NSW asbestos crisis ‘destined to happen’ after decade of regulatory failure

Exclusive: Former compliance officer Jason Scarborough criticises Environment Protection Authority and industry over ‘lost opportunity’ to prevent contamination

  • Testing regime meant to stop toxic chemicals going into NSW landscape products gamed by suppliers
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A former senior New South Wales environment watchdog officer says the state’s widening asbestos contamination crisis was “destined to happen” after the regulator failed to act on problems in the waste recovery sector uncovered more than a decade ago.

Jason Scarborough was a senior waste compliance officer at the NSW Environment Protection Authority from 2009 t0 2018. He now runs his own consultancy providing advice on regulatory matters.

“The primary reason I’ve decided to speak out is concern for the community,” he said.

“It’s one of those situations, and I’ve had a few of them in my career, where you just want to grab all of the parties concerned and clunk their heads together and say surely you could have figured this out before now.”

Scarborough, in an exclusive interview with Guardian Australia, said:

  • “Both the regulator and industry were fully aware of these issues” in waste recovery for more than 10 years.

  • The EPA abandoned much-needed reforms in 2022 for one type of recycled soil product without explanation other than saying, “We’ve heard what industry had to say”.

  • The regulator must now focus on “protecting the community’s health” over “saving a dollar”.

In 2013, while at the EPA, Scarborough wrote a report summarising findings his team made after investigating facilities producing a type of soil fill known as “recovered fines”. This type of soil fill is made from the processing of construction and demolition waste, including skip bin residue, after all large recyclable material has been removed.

That report concluded there was an “industry-wide deficiency” in complying with rules meant to limit the spread of contaminants such as lead and asbestos into the community. It also detected poor practices including repeated retesting of samples to obtain a result that complied with contaminant limits.

A follow-up investigation in 2019, which Scarborough was not involved in, reached similar conclusions and also found 57% of facilities had asbestos in their recovered fines.

Soil fill made from construction and demolition waste can be used in NSW for construction projects and landscaping.

Scarborough’s 2013 report, and other later analyses by EPA officials, recommended a series of reforms to tighten regulations for recovered fines. But the proposals were abandoned by the watchdog in 2022 in favour of an education and monitoring campaign after pushback from industry.

The industry warned the proposed changes would force up the cost of landfill disposal, drive more waste into rubbish dumps and force skip bin companies out of business.

Scarborough said he had been watching the unfolding asbestos-contaminated mulch crisis – which has closed parks, schools and other sites across Sydney – with “a feeling of inevitability because this was something that was destined to happen”.

“I’m loathing the missed opportunity back in 2013 to deal decisively with those issues,” he said.

Scarborough said he was worried about the damage the crisis would do to the government’s broader goals of resource recovery and achieving circular economy targets.

“I’m surprised the issue reared its head in mulch first, I thought it would be recovered fines because of the observations we made in the 2013 investigation, and there has been little to no change since,” he said.

“The very nature of the material is high-risk because it contains contaminants such as lead, other heavy metals and potentially asbestos.”

The asbestos-contaminated mulch that has been identified across Sydney is a different type of recycled product from recovered fines and covered by a separate set of regulations. Greenlife Resource Recovery, which produced the mulch at the centre of the biggest environmental investigation in the EPA’s history, has said it is confident mulch leaving its facility was free from asbestos and it was not responsible for the contamination.

The EPA says the use of recycled products is regulated under the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014.

“There are very different requirements for mulch and recovered fines, which are not the same material,” a spokesperson told Guardian Australia.

“Under the mulch order and exemption, mulch should be clean, free from contamination such as plastics, glass and generated from timber offcuts, forestry materials and logs.

“Recovered fines are residues from construction and demolition activities, and different rules apply.”

There are no specific requirements that suppliers test mulch for contaminants, Guardian Australia reported last week. There are also no specific steps the supplier must take to ensure mulch contains no asbestos.

Scarborough said recycled mulch products and soil fill products made from processed construction waste were captured by the same legal framework for waste recovery.

Within this system common problem areas had been identified, he said, including in quality control, testing standards and traceability of the final product.

“There’s a regulatory failure there but the industry shares a lot of the blame as well for being very shortsighted.”

Scarborough said when the 2013 investigation into producers of recovered fines was launched, officials were acting on concerns raised with the regulator about the quality of the material being produced and whether testing requirements were being adhered to.

The report recommended soil fill products made from skip bin residue only be used as cover material at rubbish dumps. It also recommended that the regulations be amended to explicitly prohibit recovered fines from being sold to landscapers and landscape material suppliers.

Scarborough said this was because officials working on the investigation formed the view that landscaping companies “weren’t equipped” to manage the risks associated with the material. He said the fill was often sold under generic names such as “turf underlay” or “cheap fill” – and once potentially contaminated product entered the supply chain it was difficult to track.

Inspections of facilities for the 2013 investigation found only about 50% of facilities producing the product were keeping records of who they had supplied it to, he said. When there were records, they often didn’t contain all of the necessary details.

“For example, there would be a record just with a registration number for a trailer or a truck,” he said.

Scarborough said given the extensive body of evidence gathered by “objective, science-based and risk-focused” EPA officials in the 2013 and 2019 investigations, he “was at a loss to explain” why various proposed reforms were not acted on.

“They were going down a pathway [of reform] that made sense but then suddenly to do a complete about-face with essentially zero explanation other than ‘we’ve heard what industry had to say about it’ – it’s unusual.

“It’s not in keeping with the culture of the organisation I was once part of. I [used to] say let’s go and look at what it says on the front door of the building – environment protection – that’s our job.”

The EPA’s spokesperson said the organisation had made changes to the regulation of the construction and demolition sector since 2013 “to improve the quality of the industry and reduce the risk of asbestos”.

They include changes that introduced requirements for closer inspections of waste upon its arrival at waste facilities.

The spokesperson said changes had also been made to strengthen existing prohibitions on the recycling, reuse and unlawful disposal of asbestos waste, including by increasing maximum penalties.

Scarborough said the EPA’s responsibility was ultimately to the community and the environment first – not the profitability of industry.

“I think the focus needs to be drawn back to risk and fitness for use,” he said.

“Yes, there are cost implications involved in making changes. But what’s more important: saving a dollar or protecting the community’s health?”

  • Do you know more? Email lisa.cox@theguardian.com

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AsbestosThousands of NSW students to stay home after contaminated mulch found at two more Sydney schools

Thousands of NSW students to stay home after asbestos found in mulch at two more Sydney schools

Positive tests recorded at schools in Marsden Park and Orchard Hills takes total number of sites to have tested positive to 34 since early January

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Thousands of New South Wales students will be forced into remote learning for a week after asbestos was found at another two Sydney schools, as testing continues across the city.

The state’s environment watchdog confirmed the additional positive results on Sunday while investigators continued to trace and test mulch that may be contaminated with asbestos.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) chief executive, Tony Chappel, announced that Sydney would be ready to welcome Taylor Swift next week after testing at her venue returned negative results.

“All of our tests at Olympic Park are negative,” he said.

“I can say with certainty that the harbour city is ready to welcome Taylor Swift with open arms.”

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Asbestos was found in mulch at two more schools over the weekend, taking the total number of sites to have tested positive to 34 since early January.

About 2,000 students at St Luke’s Catholic college at Marsden Park will be forced to learn from home for the next week while the site is remediated after testing confirmed the presence of bonded asbestos.

The NSW Department of Education secretary, Murat Dizdar, said approximately 30 cubic metres of mulch was spread across the campus so a “very precautionary” approach was being taken.

“It’s quite widespread throughout the school and that was difficult to cordon off and contain,” he said.

Contaminated mulch was also found at Penrith Christian school at Orchard Hills but the school would not close because the mulch was in a heap away from students.

Dizdar said recycled mulch contaminated with asbestos going into schools had been “a great shame”.

“There shouldn’t be recycled mulch and there should not be certainly mulch that has any remnants of any asbestos,” he said.

Dizdar said all contractors working on NSW public schools had been reminded of their obligations. Testing was under way at a further four schools.

The EPA’s investigation is being 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.

Chappel said the investigation was still assessing “all lines of inquiry”.

“It’s certainly unhelpful at this point for anyone to attribute blame,” he warned on Sunday.

“This is a complex supply chain and the investigation is ongoing. When we’ve concluded, we will release the full report to the public as well as any potential court processes that follow.”

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Australia’s best known carbon-neutral farm can no longer offset its emissions

Saturation point: Australia’s best known carbon-neutral farm can no longer offset its emissions

Trees and soil on Jigsaw Farms in western Victoria have now passed peak sequestration – reflecting the challenge for the broader red meat industry

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Mark Wootton and his wife, Eve Kantor, were the carbon-neutral pioneers of Australia’s red meat industry.

Years before the Paris agreement to keep global heating below 1.5C, and a decade before the Australian government committed to reaching net zero emissions, their family farm in south-western Victoria was declared carbon-neutral.

“In the early 2010s we were pretty cocky that we had conquered this thing,” Wootton says. “We thought we’d cracked the formula.”

Jigsaw Farms, a mosaic of lush pastures, eucalypt plantations, wildlife corridors and wetlands about 250km north-west of Melbourne, near the town of Hamilton, was the envy of the industry. It was lionised by the media, a favoured photo opportunity by politicians and held up by the red meat sector as a vision of the future.

The farm’s carbon-rich soils, 20% of which were forested, sequestered enough CO2 to offset its annual emissions from wool, lamb and beef production.

Or at least it did. The latest report tracking Jigsaw’s emissions, which is now undergoing peer review, confirmed that since about 2017 – the same year the industry body Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) announced a target of net zero emissions by 2030 – Jigsaw Farms has been emitting more greenhouse gases than it could sequester.

“Cows and sheep are still there producing the same amount of methane [every year], but the trees grow up and carbon sequestration slows down,” says the report author, Prof Richard Eckard.

Eckard is an agricultural economist and the director of the school of agriculture, food and ecosystem sciences at the University of Melbourne. He became involved in measuring Jigsaw’s emissions a decade ago.

The 3,378-hectare farm spans six titles, bought by Wootton and Kantor between 1996 and 2003. Hardwood timber plantations cover 295 hectares, 24 hectares is remnant forest and a further 268 hectares are set aside for biodiversity. It hosts a fine wool merino operation with about 20,000 ewes, and 550 head of cattle.

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Initially, the hundreds and thousands of trees they planted, combined with a switch to perennial grasses, significantly increased the amount of carbon sequestered on the property.

But those trees have now matured and passed peak sequestration, meaning they absorb less C02 year-on-year, and the soil is so carbon rich it can’t sequester any additional C02 from the atmosphere.

“Ten years later it all slows down because carbon saturation,” Eckard says. “It’s just the law of diminishing returns.”

The latest Jigsaw study estimated that in 2021, the farm sequestered 70.3% to 83.2% of its annual emissions. By 2031, as the farm’s forests grow older, models predict it will absorb just over half of what it did when carbon sequestration peaked in 2012.

The dilemma Jigsaw now faces reflects the broader challenge of decarbonising Australia’s red meat industry, Eckard says.

The industry claims it has reduced its emissions by 65% compared with 2005 levels, but this reduction relies on recorded decreases in deforestation and increases in forest regrowth, which some analysis suggests is overstated.

“Carbon sequestration through forestry is a short-term buy out of trouble,” Eckard says. “You can plant your way out of trouble and, like Jigsaw, get seven years of net zero, but ultimately, unless you do something about the methane, you’re not going to stay net zero.”

Climate neutrality v the ‘seaweed solution’

Other efforts to reduce the industry’s carbon footprint have focused on attempting to reduce the amount of methane expelled from the rumen, which accounts for 80% of the sector’s emissions. MLA has put more than $180m towards the problem, with no solution forthcoming. The results from the longest running commercial trial of a seaweed cow-feed, which aimed to cut methane by more than 80%, were lacklustre.

Selective breeding and dietary changes can help, says Eckard, but it’s slow going.

“It took the animal 50m years to evolve to produce meat and eat grass the way it does,” he says. “That can’t be overcome in three-year funding rounds.”

But he says that if producers adopt current best practices that will reduce their emissions intensity per kilogram of meat produced while research finds the “seaweed solution”.

On Jigsaw Farms, high reproductive rates, fast-growing livestock due to genetic selection and ample feed, and grazing stock at double the density of other farms in the district helps reduce the emissions that go into producing each animal.

“If that lamb or calf grows faster, so it gets to market quicker, so it grows faster, so, to be brutal, it can die and be eaten – your carbon intensity is dropping,” Wootton says.

This allows Jigsaw to sell its wool, lamb and beef at a premium in a market that is increasingly looking for farmers who can demonstrate strong environmental credentials.

This is particularly important for the export-focused Australian market, Eckard says. Seventy per cent of Australian-grown beef is sold into global supply chains ruled by international corporations, all of whom have net zero targets.

That’s the impetus behind the MLA’s “world leading” net zero target. This month Guardian Australia reported that the industry body described the target as “aligning the industry” towards improvement and said it did not need to be met, though it remains committed to the goal. Environmental scientists say reporting on the goal is based on unreliable land clearing data.

David Jochinke, the president of the National Farmers Federation, says the target is about the “aspiration” towards decarbonisation.

“We’ve always said at the NFF, we’re not going to reduce production in an attempt to get to net zero,” he says. “Will we make it? I’m not really sure, but we are going to give it a red hot go.”

A 2023 CSIRO report found the industry would fall short of the net zero goal and recommended a “climate-neutral” target be adopted instead, which would theoretically be achieved by reaching a point where the sector no longer causes any additional warming to the planet.

Australia’s peak cattle body, Cattle Australia, has also called for a shift to climate neutrality. But both Eckard and Wootton say the industry shouldn’t change course.

“I fear that if the industry fiddled with the metric what they would be effectively saying is ‘methane is no longer an issue so we don’t have to worry about it’,” Eckard says.

The director of the Australian National University Institute for Climate, Energy and Disaster Solutions, Mark Howden, says that unachievable or “false [climate] targets” are ineffective and can alienate both industries and the public.

He says the red meat sector’s goal is “in a sense the wrong target”. “We do need to go net zero in terms of C02, but in the case of methane we need to reduce it by about two-thirds in the long term to effectively meet the Paris agreement,” he says.

Wootton says the benefits of their regenerative approach to farming persist even if the farm’s carbon accounts are now in the red.

They did not initially set out to be carbon-neutral. The timber plantations were established on Jigsaw Farms to offer an alternative source of income. They planted permanent native vegetation to encourage biodiversity and shelter belts to protect livestock, and dug deep dams so they would always have a secure water supply.

A bird survey in 1996 found 46 bird species on the land. Today, there are 174. The land is healthier – that is, ironically, why carbon sequestration has stabilised.

“People come to us and go, shit, if they can’t go carbon-neutral, what does that mean for us,” Wootton says.

“It means you’ll have to do some of what we’ve done, do things differently from what we’ve done, and do some other things that we don’t even know we can do yet.

“There’s no silver bullet here, but there’s some silver buckshot, hopefully.”

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Oppenheimer takes top gongs – but Poor Things and Zone of Interest also triumph

Oppenheimer takes top Baftas – but Poor Things and Zone of Interest also triumph

Christopher Nolan’s film wins best picture, director, leading and supporting actor, while Emma Stone named best actress – and The Zone of Interest surprises to take three

  • Fox, Grant and Perry: who were the real stars of this year’s Baftas?
  • The complete list of Bafta winners
  • Peter Bradshaw’s verdict
  • Baftas 2024: the red carpet, the ceremony, the winners – live!
  • Red carpet in pictures: peek-a-boo corsets and a feast of salmon

Christopher Nolan, one of the most celebrated and successful British film-makers of the century, has finally won his first Bafta award, as his biopic of the man behind the atomic bomb took best picture and best director.

Nolan, 54, has previously been nominated for eight Baftas but – bar an honorary award in 2010 – was yet to win one. On Sunday night, Oppenheimer, his Imax epic starring Cillian Murphy as nuclear physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, dominated the British film industry’s most prestigious prizes, taking seven Baftas, including leading actor for Cillian Murphy and supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr.

Nolan said he felt his film – which concludes with Oppenheimer voicing his fear that the atomic bomb has hastened the end of the world, rather than helped save it – ends with “a dramatically necessary note of despair”. But, he added, many people and organisations had successfully helped further nuclear disarmament, with a 90% reduction since 1967.

That, said Nolan, has now “gone the wrong way. But it’s important to acknowledge their work, which shows the necessary and potential of efforts for peace.” The victories further cement Oppenheimer’s position as frontrunner at next month’s Oscars, where the film is also in the running for 13 awards.

However, the evening’s awards were shared more widely than many expected. Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos’s steampunk fantasy starring Emma Stone as a woman with the brain of a child, took five awards, including leading actress.

Concluding her speech, Stone thanked her mother, “because she’s the best person in the world. Without her, none of this would exist, including my life. So thank you, mom!”

Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest took three awards, for best sound, outstanding British film – and best film not in the English language. A radical drama about the domestic utopia created by Hedwig and Rudolph Höss in their home just outside the wall of Auschwitz, where he was camp commander, the film was made by Film4 and a British production team, with a German cast and shot entirely in Poland.

On stage, the film’s producer James Wilson highlighted the film’s message about the perils of selective empathy. A friend had recently written to him, he said, explaining that they “couldn’t stop thinking about the walls we construct in our lives which we choose not to look behind”.

Wilson continued: “Those walls aren’t new from before or during or since the Holocaust, and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen in the same way think about innocent people killed in Mariupol or in Israel. Thank you for recognising a film that asks you to think in those spaces.”

The words were warmly greeted in the room. Earlier, a Stop the War Coalition poster bearing the message “Gaza: Stop the Massacre” was borne on the red carpet by Ken Loach and his fellow The Old Oak film-makers.

Meanwhile, 20 Days in Mariupol, a harrowing look at the first three weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the eyes of the local reporters for the Associated Press, won best documentary.

Its weary-sounding director, Mstyslav Chernov, highlighted the recent fall of Avdiivka into Russian hands, saying: “Mariupol is a symbol of everything that happens, of struggle, of faith. Thank for empowering our voice, and let’s keep fighting.”

Barbie, Oppenheimer’s running mate – and rival – in last summer’s extraordinary box office phenomenon, left the awards empty-handed, as did Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Celine Song’s Past Lives and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro.

There was some disappointment for The Holdovers, Alexander Payne’s 1970s-set comedy, which missed out on leading actor for Paul Giamatti, but did take the casting award for Susan Shopmaker and supporting actress for Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who made a rousing and emotional acceptance speech.

Randolph has won every award in the category this season, and her victory in London, beating homegrown stars such as Rosamund Pike (for Saltburn) and Emily Blunt (for Oppenheimer) cements her position as the surest Oscar bet in recent memory.

There was a surprise in the best debut category, as former GB volleyball player Savanah Leaf won for Earth Mama over the much-fancied Molly Manning Walker, writer-director of How to Have Sex. The star of that film, Mia McKenna-Bruce, took the rising star award, which is voted for by the public.

The Bafta fellowship went to Samantha Morton, who dedicated her award to “every child in care today, or who has been in care, or who is suffering, or who didn’t survive”.

The ceremony was hosted by David Tennant, who played it safe with a script whose jabs were mostly confined to friends such as Michael Sheen. In attendance was Bafta president Prince William, sitting next to Cate Blanchett, in the absence of his wife, Kate. A standing ovation met Michael J Fox, the subject of Bafta-nominated documentary Still, who presented the best picture award.

This year’s Oscars take place in three weeks, on 10 March. Although there is considerable overlap between the almost 8,000 Bafta voters and the 10,000 Oscar voters, last year’s winners diverged dramatically from the Academy Awards, when German-language war film All Quiet on the Western Front swept the former, while madcap comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once dominated the latter.

Cate Blanchett and Austin Butler won leading actor awards at the Baftas, for Tár and Elvis, while The Whale’s Brendan Fraser and Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Yeoh took the equivalent Oscars.

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Oppenheimer takes top gongs – but Poor Things and Zone of Interest also triumph

Oppenheimer takes top Baftas – but Poor Things and Zone of Interest also triumph

Christopher Nolan’s film wins best picture, director, leading and supporting actor, while Emma Stone named best actress – and The Zone of Interest surprises to take three

  • Fox, Grant and Perry: who were the real stars of this year’s Baftas?
  • The complete list of Bafta winners
  • Peter Bradshaw’s verdict
  • Baftas 2024: the red carpet, the ceremony, the winners – live!
  • Red carpet in pictures: peek-a-boo corsets and a feast of salmon

Christopher Nolan, one of the most celebrated and successful British film-makers of the century, has finally won his first Bafta award, as his biopic of the man behind the atomic bomb took best picture and best director.

Nolan, 54, has previously been nominated for eight Baftas but – bar an honorary award in 2010 – was yet to win one. On Sunday night, Oppenheimer, his Imax epic starring Cillian Murphy as nuclear physicist J Robert Oppenheimer, dominated the British film industry’s most prestigious prizes, taking seven Baftas, including leading actor for Cillian Murphy and supporting actor for Robert Downey Jr.

Nolan said he felt his film – which concludes with Oppenheimer voicing his fear that the atomic bomb has hastened the end of the world, rather than helped save it – ends with “a dramatically necessary note of despair”. But, he added, many people and organisations had successfully helped further nuclear disarmament, with a 90% reduction since 1967.

That, said Nolan, has now “gone the wrong way. But it’s important to acknowledge their work, which shows the necessary and potential of efforts for peace.” The victories further cement Oppenheimer’s position as frontrunner at next month’s Oscars, where the film is also in the running for 13 awards.

However, the evening’s awards were shared more widely than many expected. Poor Things, Yorgos Lanthimos’s steampunk fantasy starring Emma Stone as a woman with the brain of a child, took five awards, including leading actress.

Concluding her speech, Stone thanked her mother, “because she’s the best person in the world. Without her, none of this would exist, including my life. So thank you, mom!”

Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest took three awards, for best sound, outstanding British film – and best film not in the English language. A radical drama about the domestic utopia created by Hedwig and Rudolph Höss in their home just outside the wall of Auschwitz, where he was camp commander, the film was made by Film4 and a British production team, with a German cast and shot entirely in Poland.

On stage, the film’s producer James Wilson highlighted the film’s message about the perils of selective empathy. A friend had recently written to him, he said, explaining that they “couldn’t stop thinking about the walls we construct in our lives which we choose not to look behind”.

Wilson continued: “Those walls aren’t new from before or during or since the Holocaust, and it seems stark right now that we should care about innocent people being killed in Gaza or Yemen in the same way think about innocent people killed in Mariupol or in Israel. Thank you for recognising a film that asks you to think in those spaces.”

The words were warmly greeted in the room. Earlier, a Stop the War Coalition poster bearing the message “Gaza: Stop the Massacre” was borne on the red carpet by Ken Loach and his fellow The Old Oak film-makers.

Meanwhile, 20 Days in Mariupol, a harrowing look at the first three weeks of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through the eyes of the local reporters for the Associated Press, won best documentary.

Its weary-sounding director, Mstyslav Chernov, highlighted the recent fall of Avdiivka into Russian hands, saying: “Mariupol is a symbol of everything that happens, of struggle, of faith. Thank for empowering our voice, and let’s keep fighting.”

Barbie, Oppenheimer’s running mate – and rival – in last summer’s extraordinary box office phenomenon, left the awards empty-handed, as did Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon, Celine Song’s Past Lives and Bradley Cooper’s Maestro.

There was some disappointment for The Holdovers, Alexander Payne’s 1970s-set comedy, which missed out on leading actor for Paul Giamatti, but did take the casting award for Susan Shopmaker and supporting actress for Da’Vine Joy Randolph, who made a rousing and emotional acceptance speech.

Randolph has won every award in the category this season, and her victory in London, beating homegrown stars such as Rosamund Pike (for Saltburn) and Emily Blunt (for Oppenheimer) cements her position as the surest Oscar bet in recent memory.

There was a surprise in the best debut category, as former GB volleyball player Savanah Leaf won for Earth Mama over the much-fancied Molly Manning Walker, writer-director of How to Have Sex. The star of that film, Mia McKenna-Bruce, took the rising star award, which is voted for by the public.

The Bafta fellowship went to Samantha Morton, who dedicated her award to “every child in care today, or who has been in care, or who is suffering, or who didn’t survive”.

The ceremony was hosted by David Tennant, who played it safe with a script whose jabs were mostly confined to friends such as Michael Sheen. In attendance was Bafta president Prince William, sitting next to Cate Blanchett, in the absence of his wife, Kate. A standing ovation met Michael J Fox, the subject of Bafta-nominated documentary Still, who presented the best picture award.

This year’s Oscars take place in three weeks, on 10 March. Although there is considerable overlap between the almost 8,000 Bafta voters and the 10,000 Oscar voters, last year’s winners diverged dramatically from the Academy Awards, when German-language war film All Quiet on the Western Front swept the former, while madcap comedy Everything Everywhere All At Once dominated the latter.

Cate Blanchett and Austin Butler won leading actor awards at the Baftas, for Tár and Elvis, while The Whale’s Brendan Fraser and Everything Everywhere All At Once’s Yeoh took the equivalent Oscars.

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Ceasefire hopes fade as Netanyahu rejects calls to halt Rafah offensive

Gaza ceasefire hopes fade as Netanyahu rejects calls to halt Rafah offensive

Diplomatic efforts stall amid Israeli opposition to what it calls ‘unilateral recognition’ of a Palestinian state

  • Middle East crisis – live updates

Hopes of a ceasefire in the war in Gaza are fading amid Benjamin Netanyahu’s repeated rejection of calls to hold off on a Rafah ground offensive, and a vote by his cabinet that Israel will formally oppose international efforts at what it called the “unilateral recognition” of a Palestinian state.

Diplomatic efforts led by Egypt, Qatar and the US are also stalling: on Sunday, Qatari officials acknowledged that indirect talks in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which restarted last week, had “hit an impasse”. Washington has also signalled it will veto this week’s expected new push for a UN security council resolution on a ceasefire.

The diplomatic impasse was met with dismay by the 2.3 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, where almost 29,000 people have been killed, 85% of the population displaced from their homes and one in four are starving, according to the UN.

The four-month-old war was triggered by Hamas’s attack on Israel on 7 October last year, when 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage. Of the remaining 130 hostages still in Gaza, about 30 are presumed dead, according to Israeli officials.

Airstrikes on Gaza City, Khan Younis and the strip’s southernmost border town of Rafah – Gaza’s last place of relative safety – killed at least 18 people overnight, according to local officials, including a family of seven, a relative, Sayed al-Afifi, told the Associated Press. The Israeli military blames Hamas for civilian casualties, saying it uses Gaza’s population as human shields.

Israel’s ground offensive continues to target the central town of Khan Younis, where Nasser hospital, previously the territory’s largest functioning healthcare facility, has gone offline after Israeli ground forces launched a raid on the premises on Thursday.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the head of the World Health Organization, said in a tweet on X on Sunday that a WHO team had not been allowed to enter the medical complex on Friday or Saturday to deliver fuel for generators. Seven patients on ventilators had died due to the lack of electricity, the health ministry in the Hamas-run territory said on Saturday.

About 200 patients remained trapped in the hospital without food and water, including 20 who needed urgent referrals, Ghebreyesus added. A spokesperson for Gaza’s health ministry said only 25 staff remained to care for the sick and injured.

Israeli attacks on struggling healthcare facilities across Gaza, which also became de facto shelters for civilians who have fled their homes, have been widely criticised as war crimes. The Israel Defense Forces say Hamas’s use of medical sites to hide out or use as bases for launching operations makes them legitimate targets.

On Sunday, the IDF said it had arrested more than 100 suspected Hamas militants in the Nasser hospital compound. Gaza’s health ministry said 70 medical personnel were among those detained, as well as patients in hospital beds.

The Israeli offensive shows no sign of slowing or stopping despite mounting international pressure to hold back from a ground push on Rafah, on the Egyptian border, where more than half of Gaza’s population has sought shelter.

In his weekly press conference on Saturday night, Netanyahu pushed back at international criticism, saying those who were against a Rafah offensive were effectively telling the country to “lose the war” against Hamas.

The prime minister also indicated that troops would go in as part of Israel’s hunt for the Hamas leadership regardless of whether a hostage release was agreed. “Even if we achieve it, we will enter Rafah,” he said.

While the US, Israel’s most important ally, has provided crucial military support and diplomatic cover for the Israeli war effort, relations between Joe Biden and Netanyahu have reached a nadir over the colossal, and growing, death toll in Gaza.

On Sunday, Netanyahu forcefully dismissed Washington’s proposal for after the war, which could include the creation of an independent Palestinian state in return for normalisation between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The Israeli leader’s cabinet adopted a declaration on Sunday saying Israel “categorically rejects international edicts on a permanent arrangement with the Palestinians” and would “continue to oppose unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state”.

“Such recognition, following the October 7 massacre, will award an immense and unprecedented prize to terrorism, and prevent any future peace agreement,” a government statement said.

Egypt, Qatar and the US have spent weeks trying to broker a ceasefire and hostage release in hopes of stabilising Gaza and dampening the escalating violence the war has triggered around the Middle East.

However, large gaps remain between the parties on the number and identity of Palestinian prisoners who could be released from Israeli jails in return for the remaining Israeli hostages held in Gaza.

Hamas’s exiled leadership in Qatar has said it will not release hostages without a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, demands Netanyahu has called “delusional”. Yahya Sinwar, the group’s leader in Gaza, is believed to have been incommunicado for at least 10 days, further complicating ceasefire efforts.

Netanyahu said on Saturday night that while he had sent a delegation to ceasefire talks in Cairo last week at Biden’s request, he did not see what would be gained by sending them again. His comments were met with fury by protesters at what is now a weekly rally in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, where family members of the hostages accused the prime minister of putting his political interests ahead of the fate of their loved ones.

It is widely believed that Netanyahu is slow-walking the ceasefire talks because he is likely to be ousted from office in new elections when the war ends. The longtime leader faces several corruption trials.

Thousands of anti-government protesters marched in Tel Aviv on Saturday night to demand early elections, where some demonstrators scuffled with police, set off fireworks, and attempted to block roads.

At the United Nations, the security council is to discuss a draft resolution circulated by Algeria demanding an immediate ceasefire and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, which on Saturday was rejected by the US ambassador to the international body, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Washington has used its security council veto on similar widely supported previous resolutions.

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60% of parents and carers surveyed say social media is their biggest concern for kids

‘Out of control’: 60% of Australian parents and carers surveyed say social media is their biggest concern for kids

Experts say algorithm-based feeds are damaging young people’s interpersonal skills and contributing to anxiety and depression

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Jane’s* 14-year-old daughter, Grace*, used to be able to sit through a movie with her but her addiction to social media and online games has meant her daughter no longer has the focus.

“We were watching Romeo and Juliet, the Baz Lurhmann one, and she really wanted to sit and watch that with me but she couldn’t watch it to the end,” Jane said.

Less than 20 minutes into the movie, Jane looked over to see Grace playing solitaire on her phone.

Jane said her daughter’s addiction to technological devices “got out of control” during the Covid lockdowns when her devices were her only means to connect with friends. “Now, I just couldn’t take the device away. She would actually get very aggressive with me, like very aggressive.”

It has also begun to affect her schoolwork. “She used to do really well. She can still do maths because that’s usually a quick fix, but things like English and grammar that she needs to really focus on … she can’t do any more.”

Almost 60% of parents and carers are worried about how social media affects their teens’ mental health and wellbeing, according to a new report.

Answering open-ended questions about their concerns for their children’s wellbeing, parents and carers chose social media as a top issue of concern more frequently than any other issue (35%) in a survey by the mental health service ReachOut.

In a nationally representative survey of 631 parents and carers living in Australia and caring for 921 young people aged 12 to 18, which was carried out in April 2023, 59% said their teens’ social media use was of concern.

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Of those who expressed concerned, more than one in two (55%) said it had a significant impact on the wellbeing of the teenagers they care for.

The findings from the report Parenting in the Digital Age, released on Monday, are contrasted with a previous ReachOut study, which showed young people were less likely to be concerned about social media use than their parents.

The study, released last year, asked young people about their concerns and showed 34% of young people thought social media was an issue of concern.

The interim chief executive at ReachOut, Jackie Hallan, said parents had four key concerns in the area: the amount of time young people were spending on social media, the safety of platforms, the limited parental controls and the type of content that the young people were accessing.

“Parents and carers were concerned that the young people they care for are developing unhealthy self-images or body-image concerns, or are missing out on opportunities to develop the social skills they would need in the ‘real world’,” the report said. “They saw these things as contributing to young people’s social isolation or loneliness, which, in turn, contribute to anxiety and depression.”

Dr Rachael Sharman, a senior lecturer in psychology at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said the survey’s findings have been reflected in research “time and time again but it is interesting to hear that even the parents now are noticing this at the coalface”.

Sharman said there has been a the rise of what researchers are now referring to as “autism-like symptoms … poor emotion recognition and poor interest in humans, full stop.”

A study that tracked 80,000 mother and child pairs in Japan across several years found a clear link between screen time and diminished social skill development, Sharman said. “If we fast forward to adolescence, what we’re definitely seeing is the rise and rise to teenagers with absolutely poorer emotion recognition,” she said.

Young people’s interpersonal skills were being further damaged by social media algorithms, which deliberately fed their own opinions back to them and prevented them from encountering views different to their own.

“This is where we’re seeing people fall apart,” Sharman said. “We’re seeing teenagers in particular respond with anxiety when they see information or a viewpoint that is not their own.”

Hallan recommended that parents and carers should check in with their teenagers about their social media use. She said choosing an environment like going for a walk or a drive for that conversation could be less challenging than sitting down face to face.

Katherine, a year 10 student, has never had any social media accounts but she said her mother, Rachel, never banned her from them.

Katherine really wanted to get into social media at the tail end of primary school, as all her friends were getting phones and starting to use social platforms. But as a teacher, Rachel saw the negative impacts of social media regularly – including antisocial behaviours, online bullying and the platform’s addictive nature taking up too much of children’s time.

“She never said, ‘You just can’t have social media,’ and walked away without explanation. She was like, ‘Katherine, I get this is something you want but can we talk about it, can I understand your point of view, and you’ll understand mine?’” Katherine said.

Rachel said, “I knew it was much better to put in place boundaries and conversations early, rather than do something and then feel the need to wind it back.”

Katherine and Rachel will have another conversation about her social media use when she turns 16 at the end of the year.

*Names have been changed

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Former PM tells tells Sydney rally against antisemitism he is praying for a ‘great miracle’ in Middle East

Scott Morrison tells rally against antisemitism he is praying for a ‘great miracle’ in Middle East

Former PM begins speech by saying the date of Hamas’ 7 October attack five times

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Scott Morrison has said he will continue praying for a miracle in the Middle East as the former prime minister joined fellow Christians and Sydney’s Jewish community to rally against antisemitism.

Religious songs and hymns at the Never Again Is Now event on Sunday bookended speeches referencing the horrors of Nazi Germany and highlighting a rapid rise in antisemitism since October.

Beginning his speech by saying the date of Hamas’s 7 October attack five times, Morrison said peace was impossible while the Palestinian cause was championed by terrorists and those prepared to excuse acts of terrorism and antisemitism.

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“But I’ve always believed in miracles,” he told the crowd of a few thousand people in The Domain. “And I will continue to always pray for a great miracle in the Middle East.”

Antisemites came in many forms including by denying the Jewish people their right of self-determination by claiming the existence of Israel was a racist endeavour, Morrison said.

Those living under the freedom of Australia’s democracy had also called for the extinction of the state of Israel “from the river to the sea”. “That’s antisemitism,” he said.

The dean of Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral said Jewish Australians had to be comfortable to enjoy life without disruption or hesitation.

“It’s utterly unacceptable that Jewish people are subjected to attacks because of their Jewishness,” the Rev Sandy Grant said. “We don’t accept it, we won’t accept it.”

Drawing supportive booing, the federal MP Julian Leeser attacked the far left for a perceived ideological hostility towards people of all faiths and pointed to worsening antisemitism on university campuses.

“This isn’t a faraway land, this isn’t the 1930s, this is Australia in 2024 and it’s not the Australia that gives me hope,” he said.

Inspired by the UK’s Christian Action Against Antisemitism, the organisers of Never Again Is Now include the Anglican pastor Mark Leach, who has Jewish heritage.

Reports of antisemitism in Australia jumped eight-fold in the months after the 7 October attacks, when Hamas-backed militants burst into southern Israel from Gaza, killing more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

More than 28,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s subsequent military action in the densely populated Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Sydneysiders also rallied on Saturday to oppose the Israeli bombing of Rafah, a small city in southern Gaza that has swelled to a population exceeding 1 million.

“We will not sit by while a genocide plays out in front of our eyes, a genocide disgracefully aided and abetted by the Australian and US governments,” said a Palestine Action Group spokesperson, Josh Lees.

“We must fight to save Rafah. All people of conscience must stand with us.

“History will judge what people did in this crucial, desperate moment.”

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Former PM tells tells Sydney rally against antisemitism he is praying for a ‘great miracle’ in Middle East

Scott Morrison tells rally against antisemitism he is praying for a ‘great miracle’ in Middle East

Former PM begins speech by saying the date of Hamas’ 7 October attack five times

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

Scott Morrison has said he will continue praying for a miracle in the Middle East as the former prime minister joined fellow Christians and Sydney’s Jewish community to rally against antisemitism.

Religious songs and hymns at the Never Again Is Now event on Sunday bookended speeches referencing the horrors of Nazi Germany and highlighting a rapid rise in antisemitism since October.

Beginning his speech by saying the date of Hamas’s 7 October attack five times, Morrison said peace was impossible while the Palestinian cause was championed by terrorists and those prepared to excuse acts of terrorism and antisemitism.

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

“But I’ve always believed in miracles,” he told the crowd of a few thousand people in The Domain. “And I will continue to always pray for a great miracle in the Middle East.”

Antisemites came in many forms including by denying the Jewish people their right of self-determination by claiming the existence of Israel was a racist endeavour, Morrison said.

Those living under the freedom of Australia’s democracy had also called for the extinction of the state of Israel “from the river to the sea”. “That’s antisemitism,” he said.

The dean of Sydney’s St Andrew’s Cathedral said Jewish Australians had to be comfortable to enjoy life without disruption or hesitation.

“It’s utterly unacceptable that Jewish people are subjected to attacks because of their Jewishness,” the Rev Sandy Grant said. “We don’t accept it, we won’t accept it.”

Drawing supportive booing, the federal MP Julian Leeser attacked the far left for a perceived ideological hostility towards people of all faiths and pointed to worsening antisemitism on university campuses.

“This isn’t a faraway land, this isn’t the 1930s, this is Australia in 2024 and it’s not the Australia that gives me hope,” he said.

Inspired by the UK’s Christian Action Against Antisemitism, the organisers of Never Again Is Now include the Anglican pastor Mark Leach, who has Jewish heritage.

Reports of antisemitism in Australia jumped eight-fold in the months after the 7 October attacks, when Hamas-backed militants burst into southern Israel from Gaza, killing more than 1,200 people, according to Israeli authorities.

More than 28,000 Palestinians have died in Israel’s subsequent military action in the densely populated Gaza Strip, according to the local health ministry.

Sydneysiders also rallied on Saturday to oppose the Israeli bombing of Rafah, a small city in southern Gaza that has swelled to a population exceeding 1 million.

“We will not sit by while a genocide plays out in front of our eyes, a genocide disgracefully aided and abetted by the Australian and US governments,” said a Palestine Action Group spokesperson, Josh Lees.

“We must fight to save Rafah. All people of conscience must stand with us.

“History will judge what people did in this crucial, desperate moment.”

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Rightwing mega-donors drift back as election rematch looms

Rightwing mega-donors drift back to Trump as election rematch looms

Former president is enjoying some success in courting sceptical funders but some, such as Peter Thiel, have spurned his advances

Donald Trump’s efforts to court and cajole rightwing billionaires into financing his presidential campaign are bearing fruit as even sceptical conservative mega-donors face up to the prospect he will again be the Republican candidate.

Trump is winning back some donors who supported him four years ago but then gave their money to the former US president’s primary rivals this year, fearing he will again lose to Joe Biden in November or the chaos that will ensue if he wins. But some other former ultra-wealthy supporters, including the tech billionaire Peter Thiel, have spurned Trump’s advances.

Trump’s campaign is pushing the inevitability of his victory over the former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, the last remaining challenger in the Republican primaries, in order to shift the focus to the general election as he pursues Wall Street and Silicon Valley money.

Trump successfully wooed the biggest donor to the Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s failed presidential campaign during a visit to Las Vegas last month, the billionaire developer Robert Bigelow. After meeting Trump and then joining his motorcade through Las Vegas to a political rally, Bigelow pledged $20m to the former president’s campaign – the same amount he gave to DeSantis – along with another $1m toward the mounting costs of his myriad legal problems.

Trump also won commitments from other well-heeled donors on the Las Vegas trip while the billionaire investor John Paulson held a dinner for the former president and major Republican party contributors earlier this month, according to Politico.

Two years ago, some mega-donors were backing away from Trump after the Republicans fell short of expectations in the midterm congressional elections and candidates backed by the former president did badly. The hedge fund magnate Kenneth Griffin publicly threw his support behind DeSantis, calling Trump a “three-time loser”.

In October, Trump’s representatives were pointedly excluded from a meeting of the American Opportunity Alliance, a conservative donor network founded by Griffin and another Wall Street billionaire, Paul Singer, while aides from rival Republican primary campaigns were present. In 2016, Singer was the biggest donor to a super political action committee (Super Pac) focused on stopping Trump winning the Republican nomination.

But, in a sign that at least some donors have shifted their focus to November, Trump’s aides were invited to an AOA meeting in Florida last month. The New York Times reported that a majority of those donors still backed Haley, including Griffin after he lost confidence in DeSantis’s inept campaign. But the presence of the former president’s representatives was taken as evidence that they were going to have to support him if they wanted to lever Biden out of the presidency.

Donor concerns about the chaos Trump brings will not have been allayed by recent comments that appeared to abandon some members of Nato to the Russians and the writer E Jean Carroll’s $88m award for defamation by the former president. Neither will donors have been encouraged by Trump’s threat on his social media platform, Truth Social, to blacklist those who give money to Haley’s campaign.

But, for some donors at least, whatever dangers Trump poses to democracy are subordinate to their opposition to taxes funding welfare, laws to protect the environment, worker rights and anti-monopoly laws.

The Wall Street financier Omeed Malik, who previously backed DeSantis and the independent candidate Robert F Kennedy Jr, told told NBC news on Wednesday that he plans to raise millions of dollars for Trump because of what he regarded as government overreach during the Covid pandemic that prompted him to move to Florida.

“It’s starting to become prime time here between Biden and Trump, and this is when I can be much more effective,” he said.

Brendan Glavin, deputy research director of the transparency group Open Secrets, which tracks the influence of money on politics, said that while Trump is highly effective at raising money online from grassroots supporters to keep campaign offices and other parts of the election machine running, as well as pay his mounting legal bills, he is in need of the billionaire donors to cover a huge surge in spending on advertising blitzes as the general election nears.

“When you’re dealing with these mega-donors, they can come in and drop tens of millions of dollars. Then that money can be allocated very quickly to wherever they need to spend it, where they want to spend on ads,” he said.

“In 2020, Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam gave $90m to the Super Pac Preserve America to support Trump. They didn’t do that until the last three months of the election but it paid for ads supporting Trump at the last minute when it had an impact.”

Glavin said that the news that a Biden-supporting group was planning to spend $250m in what the New York Times described as “the largest single purchase of political advertising by a Super Pac in the nation’s history” will have added to “pressure on Trump to ramp up his mega-donors”.

The Adelsons were Trump’s single largest donor at the last election and the former president has held regular meetings with Miriam Adelson to ensure that continued support since her casino magnate husband, Sheldon, died three three years ago. It’s highly likely that Miriam, who is estimated to be worth more than $30bn, will support Trump again principally because of his position on Israel.

Miriam, who is Israel’s richest woman, has praised Trump for his policies as president such as recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv as well as cancelling the Iran nuclear deal which had been strongly opposed by the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. In 2018, Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Trump will also be looking to the billionaire industrialists Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein. The couple have been among the most enthusiastic financial backers of political groups and elected officials pushing conspiracy theories that the 2020 presidential election was stolen. They were the largest conservative donors in the 2022 midterm elections, giving about $90m according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Once he has formally secured the Republican nomination, Trump is unlikely to want for financial supporters. Forbes found that 133 billionaires or their supporters donated to his 2020 campaign.

But some mega-donors appear to have turned away from the former president for good.

The chief executive of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman, who was one of Wall Street’s biggest donors to Trump’s previous campaigns, declared he would not back him again, saying that the Republican party needed a new generation of leaders.

The tech billionaire Peter Thiel gave $1.25m to support Trump in 2016. But the co-founder of PayPal and the data analytics firm Palantir told the Atlantic in November that he turned down an appeal from the former president for $10m because Trump’s first term was so chaotic.

“It was crazier than I thought. It was more dangerous than I thought. They couldn’t get the most basic pieces of the government to work,” he said.

Thiel said that Trump told him “he was very sad, very sad” at the refusal to contribute, and that he later heard the former president had called him a “fucking scumbag”.

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Israeli swimmer booed at world championships as GB’s Colbert wins gold

Israeli swimmer Gorbenko booed at world championships as GB’s Colbert wins gold

  • 20-year-old won silver in 400m individual medley
  • Jeers were partially drowned out by cheers and applause

Israeli swimmer Anastasia Gorbenko was jeered by some of the crowd after finishing second in the women’s 400m medley on the closing day of the World Aquatics Championships in Qatar on Sunday.

The 20-year-old Gorbenko was being interviewed after the race when the jeers rang out at the Aspire Dome in Doha. She smiled and then sighed when she was booed again, this time as she mounted the podium at the medal ceremony. Others in the crowd clapped and cheered, partially drowning out the jeers.

The presence of Israeli swimmers in Qatar has been criticised by some protestors in Doha amid the ongoing Israel-Gaza war. The website SwimSwam said the booing was audible when Gorbenko’s name was announced in English, but not when it was called in Arabic. Soldiers have been attached to the Israeli team as a security measure during the championships.

“I’ve been here a week. I heard all these noises, but I’m with earplugs. I’m in my zone. I’m here to do what I love to do, which is sports,” Gorbenko said. “I’m here to represent my country … And I’m doing this with the Israeli flag, and I’m proud of that. And whoever doesn’t like it, it’s just not my problem.”

Great Britain’s Freya Colbert won the race in 4 minutes, 37.14 seconds. Gorbenko clocked 4:37.36 and Italy’s Sara Franceschi was third in 4:37.86.

Colbert claimed gold after overtaking Gorbenko in the final 10m of the race. She had been sixth after the opening butterfly leg of the race.

“It’s so amazing, I’m still in a bit of disbelief. I knew I could do it, that was probably one of the first races that I’ve gone into at this level with total confidence in myself and my race plan,” Colbert said. “I just trusted that, not following the girls out on the butterfly, keeping true to what I know my strengths are and it really paid off at the end. I am so pleased.”

Gorbenko’s silver was Israel’s first-ever swimming medal at the World Aquatics Championships. She was born in Israel to parents who immigrated from Ukraine. She won two gold medals at the 2021 short-course world championships.

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Former president’s daughter says he would be ‘appalled’ by current political tenor

Ronald Reagan’s daughter says he would be ‘appalled’ by current political tenor

‘He didn’t understand lack of civility. He didn’t understand attacking another person,’ says Patti Davis of former US president

The daughter of former president Ronald Reagan has hit out at contemporary White House politics, saying she thinks her late father would be “appalled” by the personal tenor of current political discourse.

“I think he’d be appalled … it was just more civilized,” Patti Davis told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday. “He didn’t understand lack of civility. He didn’t understand attacking another person. … He didn’t understand cruelty. And that’s what we’re dealing with now.

“I think he would be really scared for our democracy,” Davis added.

Davis, 71, supposed that her father – a former Republican California governor who served two terms as president beginning in 1980 and gained a reputation as “the great communicator” – would have sought to address voters rather than opposing candidates.

“I think he would address the American people at what has divided us,” Davis – the author of a new book, Dear Mom & Dad – told Meet the Press. She added that she thought Reagan would interpret contemporary political division as fear that had translated into anger.

“There are people on the public stage and on the political front who understand very well that synergy between fear and anger and who are masterful at exploiting it,” Davis remarked.

Reagan was 69 when he took office and 77 when he stepped down – four years younger than Democratic incumbent Joe Biden and the same age as the presumptive Republican nominee to challenge him, former president Donald Trump.

Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 1994 but may have been suffering from aspects of dementia during his second term.

Davis said that cognitive tests for presidential candidates was “probably” appropriate.

Her comment on cognitive tests came as the Biden White House continued to push back on a special counsel Robert Hur, who assessed the president to be a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory” in a report declining to prosecute Biden over his retention of some classified documents before his presidency.

Trump, too, has faced questions about his mental acuity after, for instance, confusing Biden with Barack Obama as well as his fellow Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley with former Democratic US House speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Davis said: “We know about what age can do. It doesn’t always do that, but it would probably be a good idea.”

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