The Guardian 2024-02-19 10:30:54


Albanese signs GST pledge on reporter’s arm and signals possible support for state’s nickel miners

Albanese signs WA GST pledge on reporter’s arm and signals possible support for state’s nickel miners

PM says federal government will make ‘no changes’ to Western Australia GST payments, which could hit $50bn over a decade

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

The federal government is considering “time-limited support” for the nickel industry in Western Australia as it faces growing international competition from Indonesian producers, Anthony Albanese has said.

The prime minister also pledged to maintain WA’s lucrative share of GST payments by signing a promise on a newspaper front page and on a reporter’s arm in marker pen, before encouraging the journalist to get it tattooed on his body.

Albanese said the soaring payments to WA, which could hit $50bn over a decade under a sweetheart deal inked by the former Coalition government, were set “in stone” and would not change, even as leading economists criticise the arrangement.

The federal cabinet has once again been taken to Perth by the prime minister, in a bid to further underscore the importance of the state to the Australian economy and the government’s electoral fortunes after a surprisingly strong showing at the last election.

Nickel miners have called for government support, including tax and royalty relief or emergency funding, after sharp falls in mineral prices. Asked about the issue in Perth, Albanese signalled federal help was under consideration with the WA premier, Roger Cook.

“This is something that has happened over a very short period of time. Indonesia has gone from supplying 5% of the international market to supplying 50% of the international market. And that’s led to a significant reduction in price,” he told 96FM.

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

“What we need to do is to make sure that we get through this with a calibrated, targeted and time-limited response. And that’s something that my government is certainly prepared to do.”

At a press conference, Albanese declined to give specifics but said the government was looking at “smart, time limited support” to ensure “an ongoing industry in nickel”.

The resources minister, Madeleine King, last week listed nickel on Australia’s “critical minerals” list, meaning it became eligible for extra support.

She said on Perth radio last week the nickel industry was “looking for widespread assistance”. King said relief on the mining royalties which companies pay “is one part of the puzzle” but that it was a state government issue, and the federal government was looking at “other means”.

The shadow resources minister, Susan McDonald, was upset the government had taken so long to list nickel on the critical resources list.

“Whilst this announcement now opens the door to support for the industry, it may be too little too late for the thousands of Australian workers at risk of losing their jobs thanks to the inaction from Labor,” McDonald said last week.

The other major political flashpoint from the cabinet’s visit to Perth is the GST formula. When prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull oversaw reforms to the distribution carve-up which guaranteed no state would get less than 70 cents from every dollar it collected in GST, in a bid to shore up support in WA, which was facing a shortfall in its funding at the time.

Since then, the latest mining boom has seen WA enjoy surging mining royalties as well as soaring iron ore prices. The formula set by Turnbull’s government also guaranteed no state would be worse off under the deal until 2026 – an arrangement extended by the Albanese government to 2030.

The deal has come under renewed scrutiny in recent times after the Australian Financial Review reported economists Saul Eslake and Chris Richardson had estimated the deal would cost the federal government $50bn over a decade.

Asked repeatedly whether his government would alter the deal, Albanese on Monday said “no, exclamation mark”.

“We’ll make no changes to it. We’ve made that very clear. And what’s more, we have put in place the funding for the other states and territories to make sure that they are not worse off as well,” he told 6PR radio.

“It’s fair to say that there’s not a cheer squad for this policy in other states, but the measures that we put in place ensures that that is confirmed going forward. And every premier and chief minister signed off as well at the national cabinet in December.”

The West Australian newspaper’s front page on Monday carried a mockup of a pledge for Albanese to sign, which it described as a “political gimmick” and “a bit cheeky”. The prime minister took the opportunity when asked at a press conference by the West Australian reporter Dylan Caporn.

“I reckon you should get a tat and get a signature on the tat. I’m happy to sign your arm if you like,” he said.

Albanese pulled a pen from his pocket, scrawling “NO CHANGE TO WA GST” and his signature in blue ink on Caporn’s arm.

The reporter – a former staffer for the Labor MP Patrick Gorman, the assistant minister to the prime minister – tweeted a photo after the press conference.

Explore more on these topics

  • Western Australia
  • Australian politics
  • GST
  • Business
  • Mining
  • Tax
  • Anthony Albanese
  • news
Reuse this content

Fatal attack on baby by family dog shows danger of relying on breeders for details, inquest hears

Fatal attack on baby by family dog shows danger of relying on breeders for details, inquest hears

Inquest into fatal dog attacks in NSW hears family’s dog, suspected to be a pit bull, was advertised on Gumtree as American staffordshire terrier

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

A family dog that killed a baby has demonstrated the danger of dog owners and vets relying on breeders to provide accurate details of animals, the NSW coroner’s court has heard.

The deputy state coroner, Carmel Forbes, is investigating seven dog attacks that resulted in fatalities, including the death of a baby who cannot be identified for legal reasons.

In his opening address on Monday, senior counsel assisting the coroner David Kell detailed how the family dog suspected of being a pit bull took a baby from his mother’s arms and killed him on 11 July 2021.

The father of the child had bought what he was told was an American staffordshire terrier years earlier. The seller had advertised the dog on the Gumtree website.

About one month before the attack, council rangers claimed the dog, called Bully, was a pit bull. Rangers were called after Bully killed a cocker spaniel from a neighbouring property.

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

The council issued the owners a notice that it would declare the animal a restricted breed and impose control measures on Bully. The owners, who had recently celebrated the birth of a child, asked for more time to respond.

Days later, Bully dragged the baby from his mother after she fell asleep in the evening.

Bully’s microchip data said he was an American staffordshire terrier.

However, vet Dr Emetia Cull said veterinary professionals had to enter the breed they were told when microchipping a pet.

“You have to go with what the owners told you, unless you do DNA,” she told the first day of the inquest at Lidcombe coroner’s court.

The inquest is investigating possible improvements to laws by examining the circumstances of dog attacks that led to seven deaths.

Cull said a DNA test cost about $180 and could take weeks before the breed was confirmed.

Earlier, Central Coast council ranger Christine Carlin told how it was not uncommon to find dogs whose listed breed did not seem accurate. She agreed with Kell that it was possible some breeders were deliberately stating breeds inaccurately to avoid restrictions on their animals.

She recalled a time she found five dogs roaming a property. While the dogs were not listed as pit bulls, Carlin said they had the identifying features.

The inquest also heard of flaws in the process of determining whether a dog is a restricted breed.

If a council serves a notice to declare a dog a restricted breed, owners may contest this by arranging a breed and temperament assessment. If the dog fails both, it is declared a restricted breed. Carlin said assessors do not need to provide reasons for their claims.

“It’s just a box they tick,” she said. She agreed with Kell this would be a good area for regulatory reform.

The inquest continues on Tuesday.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Dangerous dogs
  • New South Wales
Reuse this content

Has the ecosystem of the UK’s largest lake collapsed?

Lough Neagh’s flies were seen as a nuisance. Now their sudden disappearance is a startling omen for a lake that supplies 40% of Northern Ireland’s water

  • Photographs by Alexander Turner
by Tommy Greene

Declan Coney, a former eel fisher, knew there was something wrong when the famed swarms of Lough Neagh flies failed to materialise. In past years, they would appear around the Northern Irish lake in thick plumes and “wisps” – sometimes prompting mistaken alarm of a fire incident, Lough Shore residents say.

Clothes left out on a washing line “would be covered in them”, Coney says. So would any windshield on a vehicle travelling around the lough’s 90-mile shoreline. Conservationists marvelled at their courtship dances, hovering above treetops.

Last spring the flies never arrived. “This is the first year ever that, if you walked up to the Cross of Ardboe or the area around there, you’d find there’s no flies,” Coney says.

The flies were long considered a nuisance. Now, however, alarm is growing. “People have really been scared,” he says, by the rate of accelerated change to the lough’s ecology that their absence signals. “It’s just happened. Like the flip of a switch, it’s gone.”

“Lough Neagh fly” can refer to various non-biting midges, but these crucial insects support fish and wildfowl that are endemic to the lough system, as well as frogs and predatory insects. The loss of these keystone species, alongside sharp reductions of others, the spread of invasive species like zebra mussels, and a long-term deterioration in water quality, indicates deep trouble across the lough’s entire ecology. It also raises the prospect that this shallow body of water and its surrounding wetlands may have shifted beyond a state of decline into cascading ecosystem collapse.

Lough Neagh – the largest freshwater lake in the UK – supplies more than 40% of Northern Ireland’s drinking water, and hosts the largest wild eel fishery in Europe. It is considered a cultural and archaeological “jewel” that reaches “way back” into the very beginning of shared memory on the island.

Last summer, a vast “bloom” of blue-green algae – a thick, photosynthesising blanket that deprives the lake of oxygen, choking aquatic life – brought the lough’s accelerating biodiversity crisis into sharp focus. It prompted considerable public outcry and is expected to return in “more severe” form this coming summer.

The toxic algal growth – described by local people as appearing like something otherworldly due to its brilliant green or blue appearance – has since disappeared from the surface of the lough, but remains visibly suspended just underneath.

The problems have been exacerbated by the paralysis of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions, which have been dormant for 40% of the period since they were formed by the Good Friday agreement, including almost all of the past two years. Members of the devolved assembly only began debating the management of the lough last week. As the politicians gathered, new reports emerged of a thick, pale scum appearing on the lough’s waterways.


From the mouth of the River Blackwater, Ciarán Breen rows out on to Lough Neagh. Breen has spent about three decades working on this body of water. His vessel is a cot, a small wooden boat he helped to build by the shores of Maghery, a village near Portadown on the lough’s southern end.

Breen pauses to take stock of the losses he has witnessed since he began work here as a wildlife ranger in 1986.

“In the winter, we did an annual wildfowl count – a colleague and I did this particular section,” he says, gesturing towards an area of several square kilometres between Coney Island and Kells Point.

“We got about 50,000-60,000 diving ducks. So many that people – our bosses, I mean – came out of Belfast to take a look for themselves, since they didn’t believe us at first.”

These fleets of pochard, scaup and goldeneye made Lough Neagh an internationally significant site for overwintering birds in the 1980s. In the years since, their numbers have plummeted. A 2013 study found that the number of these winter migratory birds at the lough had dropped nearly 80% in a decade – from 100,000 to fewer than 21,000.

“We’re looking out there – at the same spot – now,” Breen says. “There’s a wee flock of coot and no ducks. None. So there’s been a catastrophic collapse in duck numbers from when I started.”

Overwintering whooper swans from Iceland used to arrive as December approached. “For many years, they would herald the winter coming in,” says Tom McElhone, who lives near a disused freshwater laboratory at Traád Point on the lough’s north-western shore – its last major research facility, which closed in the early 2000s.

“I remember lying in bed and hearing these swans calling out to each other, up and down the lough, having this magnificent conversation at all hours of the night. That’s all gone.”

Even when they move away from it, Lough Neagh courses through the veins of those like Coney, raised on its south-western shores, who have worked the water or resided within one of its many tight-knit local communities.

The 53-year-old believes, however, that many of the social ties and customs that helped fuse together these shoreline villages, parishes and townlands have unravelled during his lifetime, mirroring a progressive decline of the lough’s central fishing industry.

As the number of boats fishing the waters has dwindled – from more than 200 in the 1980s to a few dozen today – so too, he says, have the summer fairs and “lough shore tug of wars”, the ad-hoc music sessions, hyperlocal vernacular – even residents’ familiarity with the water body itself.

“The local knowledge is not there any more,” he says. “And that sense of togetherness along the lough shore is just gone.”


Along the walls of the Toome Canal, at the north-western tip of Lough Neagh, chalk-like bright blue residue from the algal blooms was visible for weeks after the thick sludge of surface algae had disappeared from sight. Warning signs have remained in place at sites such as Ballyronan throughout the Christmas holidays and into early 2024.

The algal growths have robbed people not only of this year’s summer craic – families around the lough, say – but also of something calming, restorative, even “healing”.

And they have also prompted a belated “awakening” to the lough’s plight, in the words of the lough shore resident and former MP for Mid-Ulster, Bernadette McAliskey (nee Devlin).

She and other veteran civil rights leaders – who took up the cause of the area’s disfranchised fishers in the 1960s – have been speaking up for the lough once again.

Addressing a rain-drenched demonstration by the same canal in late November, just a stone’s throw from the eel fishery’s headquarters, McAliskey cited talks to bring the lough into a community co-operative trust nearly a decade ago. It was one of a number of lost opportunities for public ownership over the past 50 years.

“Our evidence was [that] people look after what belongs to them,” she said.


Ownership of Lough Neagh has a long and contentious history. The aristocratic Shaftesbury family has claimed the lough’s bed, banks and soil since the 19th century, having been given the asset by the Chichester family, whose territorial claim dates back to the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600s.

The lough’s fishing communities were once bound together by a history of struggle in defending public rights to fish the lough that, in the words of House of Lords judges at a key 1911 appeal case, had been exercised “from time immemorial”. But now, Coney says, many have become despondent due to mismanagement of the water body, and a “lack of industry support” or apparent outside interest.

Those who fish for the increasingly emaciated, scattered eels only managed three weeks last season, which would usually run from May to late October.

The lough’s ecological and economic decline is now playing out amid fragmented management structures, and a lack of key scientific data – ecological “baselines”.

Local communities fear that the lough may be sold on to a new private owner – a prospect the 12th Earl of Shaftesbury has not ruled out publicly. Among many, there is a profound lack of trust or confidence in management and governing bodies.

“The priority has to be sustaining the life of the lough,” McAliskey told the Toome rally. “Because if we sustain the life of Lough Neagh together, Lough Neagh will sustain the rest of us. So long as we work in harmony with her, there is a living [here] for everybody.

“This whole lough could be an income generator that keeps all of our young people from emigrating to the cities and emigrating out of the country. We could have a really good life around this lough, while supporting the rest of the ecology.”

But Breen, who has also worked in government, is less optimistic.

“They’re hoping this will blow over, now the algae’s disappeared from sight”, he says of decision-makers and government, “and that it’ll be back to business as usual.”

Explore more on these topics

  • The age of extinction
  • Northern Ireland
  • Water
  • Wildlife
  • features
Reuse this content

Bullet train food carts become Japan’s latest must-have

On a roll: bullet train food carts become Japan’s latest must-have

Rail company inundated with requests after putting up for sale 50 of the disused trolleys from the Tokyo-Osaka shinkansen route

They are simple, practical items that have rolled seamlessly along bullet train aisles for decades, carrying snacks to millions of hungry travellers as they are whisked along at speeds of around 300km/h (186mph).

But now the humble food and beverage trolleys of one of Japan’s shinkansen routes have become an unlikely must-have item in canteens and household kitchens across the country.

The carts – which can hold up to 50kg of food and drink – were put up for sale in January after Central Japan Railway Company discontinued food and drink sales on the popular Tokyo to Osaka shinkansen route, citing staff shortages and lack of demand from passengers who buy their supply of snacks for the 500km journey from railway station outlets before boarding.

The firm had planned to discard the items but was persuaded to put them up for sale by train lovers who wanted to secure a slice of Japanese railway history – for ¥100,000 (£528) per trolley.

When online bids to secure one of the 50 carts available ended earlier this month, the firm said it had received 1,942 bids for a total of 2,432 carts.

Enthusiasts, who were limited to a maximum of two bids each, reportedly include school cafeterias and individuals hoping that the contraptions will one day grace their kitchen.

The 110cm high, 33cm wide trolleys became a mainstay of high-speed rail travel shortly after the shinkansen, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, went into service ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

They feature rear brakes that automatically locked when catering staff removed their hands from the steering lever, while the front wheel could be manoeuvred to overcome uneven surfaces between train carriages, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

The carts carried more than 60 items, including soft and alcoholic drinks, bento boxes, and chocolate and snacks. But many travellers on the route will remember them for their “too hard” ice-cream – refrigerated using dry ice so it could be eaten slowly on long journeys – with some resting it on top of a sealed hot coffee to soften it.

Lovers of bullet train coffee and ice-cream can now buy the items from vending machines installed on platforms.

Explore more on these topics

  • Japan
  • Asia Pacific
  • news
Reuse this content

Bullet train food carts become Japan’s latest must-have

On a roll: bullet train food carts become Japan’s latest must-have

Rail company inundated with requests after putting up for sale 50 of the disused trolleys from the Tokyo-Osaka shinkansen route

They are simple, practical items that have rolled seamlessly along bullet train aisles for decades, carrying snacks to millions of hungry travellers as they are whisked along at speeds of around 300km/h (186mph).

But now the humble food and beverage trolleys of one of Japan’s shinkansen routes have become an unlikely must-have item in canteens and household kitchens across the country.

The carts – which can hold up to 50kg of food and drink – were put up for sale in January after Central Japan Railway Company discontinued food and drink sales on the popular Tokyo to Osaka shinkansen route, citing staff shortages and lack of demand from passengers who buy their supply of snacks for the 500km journey from railway station outlets before boarding.

The firm had planned to discard the items but was persuaded to put them up for sale by train lovers who wanted to secure a slice of Japanese railway history – for ¥100,000 (£528) per trolley.

When online bids to secure one of the 50 carts available ended earlier this month, the firm said it had received 1,942 bids for a total of 2,432 carts.

Enthusiasts, who were limited to a maximum of two bids each, reportedly include school cafeterias and individuals hoping that the contraptions will one day grace their kitchen.

The 110cm high, 33cm wide trolleys became a mainstay of high-speed rail travel shortly after the shinkansen, which marks its 60th anniversary this year, went into service ahead of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

They feature rear brakes that automatically locked when catering staff removed their hands from the steering lever, while the front wheel could be manoeuvred to overcome uneven surfaces between train carriages, according to the Asahi Shimbun.

The carts carried more than 60 items, including soft and alcoholic drinks, bento boxes, and chocolate and snacks. But many travellers on the route will remember them for their “too hard” ice-cream – refrigerated using dry ice so it could be eaten slowly on long journeys – with some resting it on top of a sealed hot coffee to soften it.

Lovers of bullet train coffee and ice-cream can now buy the items from vending machines installed on platforms.

Explore more on these topics

  • Japan
  • Asia Pacific
  • news
Reuse this content

Russia-Ukraine war live: Navalny’s mother denied access to his body, spokesperson says; Estonian minister calls Putin a ‘murderer’

Alexei Navalny’s mother and his lawyers were not allowed into the morgue in the Russian town of Salekhard, near the prison colony where authorities said he died, Navalny’s spokesperson, Kira Yarmysh, said.

“One of the lawyers was literally pushed out,” Yarmysh wrote on X, adding that morgue staff would not answer a question about where Navalny’s body was.

Navalny’s mother, Lyudmila Navalnaya, and his lawyer travelled over the weekend to the notorious “Polar Wolf” IK-3 penal colony in Russia’s Arctic north, where Navalny had been held since last year, to track down his body, but received contradicting information from various institutions over its location and left without recovering or seeing her son.

Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who was a fierce Kremlin critic, had been serving a decades-long prison term on various charges, the latest of which was a 19-year sentence on six counts, in the remote penal colony within the Arctic Circle. He had been behind bars since returning from Germany in January 2021 for charges that he rejected as politically motivated.

The 47-year-old former lawyer fell unconscious and died on Friday after a walk at the “Polar Wolf” penal colony in Kharp, about 1,900km (1,200 miles) northeast of Moscow, the prison service said.

Navalny’s mother was told on Saturday at the prison colony that he had died from “sudden death syndrome”, a vague term for different hearth conditions that end in death, according to Navalny’s team.

Yarmysh said Lyudmila Navalnaya, 69, and lawyers were told that the official verification of the cause of death had been extended and that it was unclear how long it would take.

“The cause of death is ‘undetermined’,” Yarmysh said, adding that the Russian authorities were lying and stalling.

Hotel owner forced to sell business after gambling watchdog finds payout error cover-up by staff

Mornington Peninsula hotel owner forced to sell business after gambling watchdog finds payout error cover-up by staff

Owner of Rye hotel hit with $80,000 fine and required to sell business after staff falsified records to cover up an erroneous cash payout

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

The owner of a Victorian hotel has been fined $80,000 and will be forced to sell the business after staff tried to cover up an illegal gambling payout.

Senior staff at the Rye hotel on the Mornington Peninsula falsified records to cover up an erroneous cash payment of $2,039 to a patron, Victoria’s gambling watchdog has said.

The venue also issued a cheque to a non-winning pokie player who did not produce identification, in a separate integrity breach.

An investigation was launched by the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission after it received a complaint from a member of the public.

Under Victorian law, venues must pay any winnings above $2,000 by cheque or eftpos and can only process payments to a pokies player after an identity check.

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

As well as the hefty fine, the commission has required an undertaking from the owner to sell the hotel and exit the gambling industry.

The hotel has 30 pokies and wagering facilities such as TAB and Keno.

The penalty sends a clear messages to venue operators and owners on the consequences of falsifying records and concealing misconduct, the watchdog’s chief executive, Annette Kimmitt, said.

“We know that honest mistakes happen,” she said.

“However, venue operators that attempt to cover up breaches will be caught and face serious repercussions.”

The 1927-built venue has been under the ownership of the Houghton family since 1954, with Peter Houghton listed as its managing director.

In May, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission announced it was reviewing a proposal for drinks and hotel giant Endeavour Group to buy the family-owned business.

The national competition watchdog confirmed it would not block the deal in December.

The hotel has been contacted for comment.

Explore more on these topics

  • Victoria
  • Gambling (Australia news)
  • Gambling (Society)
  • Business
  • news
Reuse this content

Barnaby Joyce says he has given up alcohol for Lent as Perin Davey admits having two drinks before Senate hearing

Barnaby Joyce says he has given up alcohol for Lent as Perin Davey admits having two drinks before Senate hearing

New England MP accuses opponents of exploiting issue for political gain, while footage emerges of deputy Nationals leader appearing to slur her words

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

Barnaby Joyce says he’s giving up alcohol for Lent while accusing political opponents of seeking to exploit the issue of parliamentarians’ consumption of alcohol, as the conduct of politicians again falls under the spotlight.

The shadow veterans affairs minister made the comments on Monday after the deputy Nationals leader, Perin Davey, admitted she had two drinks before a Senate committee hearing in which she appeared to slur and stumble over words.

A cross-party taskforce of politicians has recommended new rules to prevent members and senators from being adversely affected by drugs and alcohol while on the job.

The taskforce’s submission to parliament’s independent human resources body has suggested politicians should be free from impairment while conducting official duties and that disciplinary action be taken for any breaches. The content of the submission was first reported by Nine Newspapers and has been independently verified by Guardian Australia.

Guardian Australia has contacted Davey, who sits on the taskforce alongside the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, and Warringah MP Zali Steggall for comment.

The new rules, if adopted, would form part of a broader suite of measures targeting issues with parliament’s workplace culture, including the establishment of an enforcement body later this year.

Steggall, however, wants to take it a step further and is calling for random drug and alcohol testing within Parliament House.

Steggall told Guardian Australia the drinking culture within the building was pervasive and that without random testing, change wouldn’t happen.

“It is a little bit like drunk driving without testing, how is it genuinely able to be assessed?” she said.

“We’re not talking one-offs, like the Christmas party at the end of the year. We’re talking pretty much every day the parliament is sitting, events at lunch, afternoon and evening.

“People in positions of leadership need to set the example and comments that essentially capitalise or trivialise the problem show that culture change is still a long way off in those parties.”

The discussion around politicians’ consumption of alcohol has dominated headlines since Daily Mail Australia published night-time footage of Joyce in Canberra lying face up on the pavement with his feet on a planter box, having a phone conversation and uttering profanities.

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

Last week Joyce stared down calls from the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, to take personal leave after the episode.

On Monday Joyce was asked on Channel Seven’s Sunrise about Davey and a possible booze ban in parliament.

“I’ve given up two things for Lent, one is drinking, the other one’s talking about other people in regards to that,” Joyce replied.

“I’ll let other people deal with the issues that are personal to them, and I won’t be adding commentary to it, and sometimes I do get a sense of, ‘Let’s exploit this issue politically for all the purpose we can get.’ That’s an issue for the parties to decide, I’ll let them have that discussion.”

Joyce was criticised in the Nationals party room over the footage.

It was unclear whether Joyce’s comments about exploiting the issue were directed at internal or external critics.

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said: “People shouldn’t be drunk at work.

“And I really think adults need to think very hard about their consumption of alcohol in the workplace. I don’t really see any cause for it at all.”

But Plibersek, also on Sunrise, said she wasn’t sure if “a booze ban is the way to fix that” and noted that “the truth is most parliamentarians don’t drink at work”.

“What you see is a few high‑profile cases that I suppose give the impression that we’re all out there, you know, on the turps every night. It’s simply not the case.”

Davey had told Sky News she “did have a drink” before speaking at a Senate environment and communications committee hearing last Tuesday.

But Davey denied being drunk, saying she had only had two glasses of red wine at a staff function.

“I wouldn’t say I was under the weather,” she reportedly said. “I stumbled over my words. If you want to pick on people who stumble over their words, there are plenty of Labor MPs [who do that].”

The Coalition spokesperson Simon Birmingham told the ABC on Monday that “every member of parliament is responsible for themselves” and defended Davey.

“I know Perin works very hard in agitating for her communities in New South Wales and there are many different functions hosted in the parliament, and everyone needs to make sure in attending those functions and then going back into parliamentary duty they are mindful of being at their best performance and capacity in how they conduct themselves,” he said.

Asked whether it was a good look, Birmingham said he had not seen the footage.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said he understood voters “hold those of us in public life to a higher standard, and that’s appropriately so” and also defended the Nationals senator.

“I know Perin well, she’s a very decent person,” he said.

“She has a real burning desire to help people, particularly in regional areas. She’s made a mistake in this instance, she’s owned up to it and her other colleagues should learn from it as well. People can have a drink in moderation, you can catch up with friends, you can attend social functions.”

On Sunday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told reporters in Nowra that “people will look at that footage, or other footage that went around recently, and make up their own mind”.

Asked about a potential booze ban, Albanese said that parliamentarians were “accountable for their actions” because “they’re up for election every three years”.

“But I think that when you are a member of parliament, you’re by definition an adult.

“You’re someone who has a great deal of responsibility, and it’s important that we show respect for the people that sent us to parliament.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Barnaby Joyce
  • Australian politics
  • Tanya Plibersek
  • Peter Dutton
  • Anthony Albanese
  • National party
  • Alcohol
  • news
Reuse this content

Barnaby Joyce says he has given up alcohol for Lent as Perin Davey admits having two drinks before Senate hearing

Barnaby Joyce says he has given up alcohol for Lent as Perin Davey admits having two drinks before Senate hearing

New England MP accuses opponents of exploiting issue for political gain, while footage emerges of deputy Nationals leader appearing to slur her words

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

Barnaby Joyce says he’s giving up alcohol for Lent while accusing political opponents of seeking to exploit the issue of parliamentarians’ consumption of alcohol, as the conduct of politicians again falls under the spotlight.

The shadow veterans affairs minister made the comments on Monday after the deputy Nationals leader, Perin Davey, admitted she had two drinks before a Senate committee hearing in which she appeared to slur and stumble over words.

A cross-party taskforce of politicians has recommended new rules to prevent members and senators from being adversely affected by drugs and alcohol while on the job.

The taskforce’s submission to parliament’s independent human resources body has suggested politicians should be free from impairment while conducting official duties and that disciplinary action be taken for any breaches. The content of the submission was first reported by Nine Newspapers and has been independently verified by Guardian Australia.

Guardian Australia has contacted Davey, who sits on the taskforce alongside the finance minister, Katy Gallagher, and Warringah MP Zali Steggall for comment.

The new rules, if adopted, would form part of a broader suite of measures targeting issues with parliament’s workplace culture, including the establishment of an enforcement body later this year.

Steggall, however, wants to take it a step further and is calling for random drug and alcohol testing within Parliament House.

Steggall told Guardian Australia the drinking culture within the building was pervasive and that without random testing, change wouldn’t happen.

“It is a little bit like drunk driving without testing, how is it genuinely able to be assessed?” she said.

“We’re not talking one-offs, like the Christmas party at the end of the year. We’re talking pretty much every day the parliament is sitting, events at lunch, afternoon and evening.

“People in positions of leadership need to set the example and comments that essentially capitalise or trivialise the problem show that culture change is still a long way off in those parties.”

The discussion around politicians’ consumption of alcohol has dominated headlines since Daily Mail Australia published night-time footage of Joyce in Canberra lying face up on the pavement with his feet on a planter box, having a phone conversation and uttering profanities.

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

Last week Joyce stared down calls from the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, to take personal leave after the episode.

On Monday Joyce was asked on Channel Seven’s Sunrise about Davey and a possible booze ban in parliament.

“I’ve given up two things for Lent, one is drinking, the other one’s talking about other people in regards to that,” Joyce replied.

“I’ll let other people deal with the issues that are personal to them, and I won’t be adding commentary to it, and sometimes I do get a sense of, ‘Let’s exploit this issue politically for all the purpose we can get.’ That’s an issue for the parties to decide, I’ll let them have that discussion.”

Joyce was criticised in the Nationals party room over the footage.

It was unclear whether Joyce’s comments about exploiting the issue were directed at internal or external critics.

The environment minister, Tanya Plibersek, said: “People shouldn’t be drunk at work.

“And I really think adults need to think very hard about their consumption of alcohol in the workplace. I don’t really see any cause for it at all.”

But Plibersek, also on Sunrise, said she wasn’t sure if “a booze ban is the way to fix that” and noted that “the truth is most parliamentarians don’t drink at work”.

“What you see is a few high‑profile cases that I suppose give the impression that we’re all out there, you know, on the turps every night. It’s simply not the case.”

Davey had told Sky News she “did have a drink” before speaking at a Senate environment and communications committee hearing last Tuesday.

But Davey denied being drunk, saying she had only had two glasses of red wine at a staff function.

“I wouldn’t say I was under the weather,” she reportedly said. “I stumbled over my words. If you want to pick on people who stumble over their words, there are plenty of Labor MPs [who do that].”

The Coalition spokesperson Simon Birmingham told the ABC on Monday that “every member of parliament is responsible for themselves” and defended Davey.

“I know Perin works very hard in agitating for her communities in New South Wales and there are many different functions hosted in the parliament, and everyone needs to make sure in attending those functions and then going back into parliamentary duty they are mindful of being at their best performance and capacity in how they conduct themselves,” he said.

Asked whether it was a good look, Birmingham said he had not seen the footage.

The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, said he understood voters “hold those of us in public life to a higher standard, and that’s appropriately so” and also defended the Nationals senator.

“I know Perin well, she’s a very decent person,” he said.

“She has a real burning desire to help people, particularly in regional areas. She’s made a mistake in this instance, she’s owned up to it and her other colleagues should learn from it as well. People can have a drink in moderation, you can catch up with friends, you can attend social functions.”

On Sunday the prime minister, Anthony Albanese, told reporters in Nowra that “people will look at that footage, or other footage that went around recently, and make up their own mind”.

Asked about a potential booze ban, Albanese said that parliamentarians were “accountable for their actions” because “they’re up for election every three years”.

“But I think that when you are a member of parliament, you’re by definition an adult.

“You’re someone who has a great deal of responsibility, and it’s important that we show respect for the people that sent us to parliament.”

Explore more on these topics

  • Barnaby Joyce
  • Australian politics
  • Tanya Plibersek
  • Peter Dutton
  • Anthony Albanese
  • National party
  • Alcohol
  • news
Reuse this content

Four people ‘knocked unconscious’ as Sydney train network faces delays after storm

Sydney lightning strikes: four people ‘knocked unconscious’ and train network faces delays

About 75,000 lightning strikes were detected across the city and afternoon commuters facing delays with T1 Western and T9 Northern lines affected

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

Four people have been taken to hospital with burns after being struck by lightning in Sydney’s botanic gardens.

A spokesperson for New South Wales Ambulance said the quartet was standing underneath a tree when struck at about 12.45pm on Monday.

Multiple crews treated the patients including a teenage boy, a woman in her 20s and a man and woman both in their 30s.

The four were “knocked unconscious” when struck by the lightning but regained consciousness shortly afterwards, the ambulance spokesperson said.

Whether the injuries were sustained from a direct lightning strike or from being under the tree when it was hit remained “unclear at this point”, the spokesperson said.

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

The teenager and the woman in her 20s were taken to the Royal Prince Alfred hospital where they remained in a stable condition. The older man and woman were taken to St Vincent’s hospital where they were in a stable condition on Monday night.

The four patients sustained “some burns” from the lightning. They were being monitored for cardiac issues.

Transport for NSW later on Monday afternoon said the severe weather had affected train equipment at North Sydney with no trains running between that station and Gordon.

Passengers were told to avoid or delay trips on the T1 North Shore line and that replacement buses would be in service.

Passengers already travelling should allow plenty of extra travel time, listen to announcements and check indicator boards.

Transport for NSW also said the T1 Western and T9 Northern would experience significant delays in the evening peak.

The T2 Inner West and T3 Bankstown Line would also be affected.

The runway at Sydney Airport had earlier reached a near-standstill as more than 30 departures were cancelled and 340 services in and out were delayed.

Delays at times exceeded an hour for arriving flights.

More than 10,000 households and businesses lost power in the northern suburbs.

On Monday afternoon, there had been about 75,000 lightning strikes detected within a 100km radius of Sydney, Weatherzone’s meteorologist Ben Domensino reported.

The NSW State Emergency Service (SES) urged people in the eastern parts of the state to stay across weather warnings amid severe thunderstorms and heavy rain forecasts, which could bring on flash flooding in low-lying areas.

The NSW SES assistant commissioner Sean Kearns said there was potential for isolated heavy falls of 50 to 100mm.

“The NSW SES has prepositioned personnel throughout the region, and we are well-resourced to respond to any calls for assistance,” Kearns said.

“I would encourage the public to follow the advice of emergency service personnel on the ground and not to drive through flood water.”

Near-stationary storms also caused downpours over Blacksmiths in Newcastle with 65mm falling in less than six hours.

The storms that hit Sydney caused a severe thunderstorm warning for areas near Orange, Mudgee and Bathurst.

A separate severe thunderstorm warning was in place for northern NSW ranging from Taree and Kempsey along the coast, to Coonabarabran and Inverell inland.

The storms were likely to produce damaging winds, large hailstones and heavy rainfall that were predicted to lead to flash flooding on Monday afternoon.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia news
  • Australia weather
  • New South Wales
  • Sydney
  • news
Reuse this content

Perth breaks records with seven February days above 40C

WA heatwave: Perth breaks records with seven February days above 40C

Extreme temperatures see WA have top 15 hottest places in world over past 24 hours with heatwave expected to peak on Tuesday with 47C weather forecast

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

Perth baked through a record-breaking seventh 40C-plus February day on Monday as Western Australia’s extreme heatwave saw the state lock up the top 15 hottest places in the world over a 24-hour period.

Perth hit 42.3C on Monday afternoon, bringing the number of days above 40C this month to seven – well beyond the previous record of four days, set in February 2016. Geraldton exceeded predications, reaching a top of 47.7C in the early afternoon.

The state has suffered severe heatwaves for three weeks, with the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) issuing an extreme heatwave warning on Friday and extending it until Wednesday. Parts of WA’s west and north are worst affected.

The heat has prompted bushfire warnings along WA’s south-west coast, with Cervantes primary school and Jurien Bay District high school closed on Monday due to the increased bushfire risk. No major bushfires were burning as of mid-morning on Monday, the Department of Fire and Emergency Services said.

“It’s been a long, hot slog for the folks in the western part of the state,” Jess Lingard, of the weather bureau, said.

Heatwave conditions have been driven by three “relentless” west coast troughs which deliver warm and dry air, she said. The consecutive troughs have been prevented from moving east and making way for cooler conditions as usual.

“The troughs sat on the coast for close to a week each, as opposed to the normal one day. I liken it to an atmospheric traffic jam,” Lingard said.

The heat is expected to peak on Tuesday when much of the western part of the state will reach 46C and 47C. Agricultural areas inland from Perth will top 45C, the bureau forecast.

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

With consistently high temperatures around the clock, the heatwaves are taking their toll, Lingard said.

“It’s rough. We’re seeing very, very warm temperatures at night – we really need the nighttimes to be cool in order to allow the body to recover. These super warm nights make it really tricky,” she said.

The El Niño weather pattern, climate change and the Indian Ocean dipole all play a part in the heatwaves, she said. Record-breaking weather – from sweltering heat to extreme rainfall – across Australia has been caused by a “perfect storm” of events, climate scientists say.

On Sunday, Carnarvon, close to mainland Australia’s most westerly point, reached 49.9C, becoming the second highest temperature ever recorded in Australia in February and the country’s equal eighth highest temperature on record, according to Weatherzone meteorologist Ben Domensino.

Carnarvon’s new record is 2.1C above the town’s old record, set on 20 Jan 2015. The same day set a record for Shark Bay which was also toppled on Sunday when the temperature hit 49.8C – a full 2.5C higher than the record.

“When you take into account the geography of Shark Bay – it is on a peninsula, surrounded by water – to get to nearly 50C is incredible,” Lingard said. “Usually, records are broken by small amounts. To smash the old record by 2.5C – it is outstanding.”

The highest temperature ever recorded in Australia in February was 50.5C in Mardie in WA on 19 February 1998. Lingard said the state’s interior temperature would have exceeded 50C “without a doubt” on Sunday, but that data is limited by the locations of recording stations.

A total fire ban covers a stretch of coastal WA from the south of Margaret River to the north of Geraldton and inland to the east of Mount Palmer.

A storm warning has been issued in the Ord River region with severe weather forecast for parts of the Kimberley.

Explore more on these topics

  • Australia weather
  • Western Australia
  • Climate crisis
  • Perth
Reuse this content

Woman committed to stand trial charged with murder of her baby

Woman committed to stand trial in Queensland charged with murder of her baby

Both Noemi Kondacs and the baby’s father, Reinhardt Bosch, have been charged over son Rhuan’s death in Yugar, near Brisbane, in 2022

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

A woman accused of murdering her seven-month-old baby boy has been committed to stand trial in a Brisbane court.

Noemi Kondacs was charged with murder and torture after her arrest on the day Rhuan Immanuel Bosch died in November 2022.

The torture charge against the 23-year-old was withdrawn by crown prosecutor Elise Adams in Brisbane magistrates court on Monday.

The charge was replaced with one count of failing to supply the necessities of life for the boy between 11 April and 3 November, 2022.

The baby’s father Reinhardt (Ryan) Albert Bosch was committed in October to stand trial on one count each of murder, torture and assault occasioning bodily harm.

Prosecutors allege the pair murdered Rhuan on 2 November in the small rural town of Yugar, about 30km northwest of Brisbane.

After adjourning to read statements and a witness and exhibit list submitted by the crown, magistrate Ross Mack committed Kondacs to stand trial in the Brisbane supreme court.

“I am of the opinion that the evidence adduced is sufficient to put you on trial for an indictable offence,” he said.

Mack told Kondacs, who was self-represented, that he encouraged her to at least investigate the availability of a lawyer funded by Legal Aid.

Bosch was born in Pretoria, South Africa and worked as a youth carer, while Kondacs is from Stuttgart in Germany, court documents show.

Paramedics called officers to the Yugar home about 6.45am on 2 November in relation to an unresponsive boy, police said at the time.

“The investigations uncovered injuries to the child that are enough for us to charge with murder,” Det Insp David Jackman said.

An indictment is yet to be presented for Bosch, with both accused due to appear in the Brisbane Supreme Court on a date yet to be set.

Explore more on these topics

  • Queensland
  • news
Reuse this content