The Guardian 2024-02-21 10:31:02


Family of young Indigenous woman who took her own life in Melbourne hospital call for investigation

Family of young Indigenous woman who took her own life in Melbourne hospital call for investigation

Makalie Watts-Owens, a 24-year-old Tagalaka, Kukatja and Worimi woman, voluntarily admitted herself to St Vincent’s before her death

WARNING: this story contains distressing content

The family and friends of a young Aboriginal woman who took her own life in a Melbourne hospital within hours of presenting seeking psychiatric help are calling for a full investigation into her treatment.

Makalie Watts-Owens, a 24-year-old Tagalaka, Kukatja and Worimi woman who was working in the Victorian Office of Public Prosecutions and studying law, voluntarily admitted herself to St Vincents hospital on Thursday 15 February and was seen that evening.

Makalie’s mother, Sharon Watts-Owens, said her daughter was admitted and given medication to help her sleep, but was left alone in a hospital room long enough to end her own life. By the time staff returned and discovered her, she could not be revived, her mother said.

Watts-Owens, who lives in Adelaide, said she had spoken with her daughter as usual on Thursday but the first she knew of her daughter’s admission was when she received a call to say Makalie was unresponsive in ICU.

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“From what they told us, she was put into a room where they gave her medication to help her sleep, closed the door and left her, and she hung herself. They left her alone, with no intervals of 10 minutes to check on her, with no one checking on her to see if she’s OK,” Sharon Watts-Owens said.

She travelled to St Vincent’s and arrived on Friday evening, but Makalie could not be revived and died on Monday 19 February.

Watts-Owens said her family are devastated and heartbroken, and now want answers about how Makalie could have taken her own life in a hospital psychiatric ward.

“She should have been watched, there should have been systems put into place given that suicide rates are so high among our people, [she] should have been monitored, she shouldn’t have been left alone and she should have felt culturally safe,” Watts-Owens said.

“That system has let my child down and I’m now grieving because I have lost a daughter, her siblings have lost a sister, we’ve lost a friend, we’ve lost an auntie.

“We’ve lost everything.

“You had a duty of care, you failed. You failed to protect my child. You failed to keep her safe. You failed to keep her culturally safe. My child is now gone. And I can’t bring her back,” Watts-Owens said.

Makalie’s friend Miriama Pearce-Wikatene said her preventable death represents a failure of Victorian healthcare, especially since the 2021 royal commission into Victoria’s mental health system, which made several recommendations about the need for urgent and significant reforms.

“Our girl deserves justice,” Pearce-Wikatene wrote in an Instagram post on Wednesday. “The healthcare system failed her.

“I will not let my friend become another Blackfulla suicide statistic when she was under hospital ‘supervision’,” she wrote.

“She asked for help in the best way she knew how and didn’t get it. Shame on St Vincent’s Melbourne.”

Victoria’s health department clinical practice guidelines for emergency departments and mental health services working with suicidal patients state that a person who is hospitalised because of imminent suicide risk should be continuously monitored.

“Vigilance through direct observation and supervision by a calming support person is necessary to prevent possible suicide attempts by newly admitted patients,” the guidelines state.

The Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (Vaccho) said it has contacted the state government and the hospital expressing their concerns and requesting further information.

Vaccho chief executive, Jill Gallagher, said the unexpected death of another member of the Aboriginal community in hospital is deeply distressing.

“When people present to a hospital they do so because they need help, they do so because they want to be cared for,” Gallagher said.

“It is completely unacceptable that we continue to see our loved ones and community members die whilst accessing systems that are supposed to support them.

“This latest tragedy is a reminder that urgent changes are required to systems that are clearly failing to support the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.”

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s said the hospital could not comment on the matter, which has been referred to the state coroner.

“St Vincent’s offers its sincere and deep condolences to the family and loved ones following the tragic passing of a First Nations woman in our services on Monday 19 February.

“St Vincent’s has reported the matter to the relevant authorities, including the Victorian coroner, and is unable to make further comment while investigations are ongoing,” the spokesperson said.

  • For information and support in Australia call 13YARN on 13 92 76 for a crisis support line for Indigenous Australians; or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Mensline on 1300 789 978 and Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636. International helplines can be found at befrienders.org

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Morrison ally faces push to expel him from NSW Liberals amid fresh party turmoil

Morrison ally Alex Hawke faces push to expel him from NSW Liberals amid fresh party turmoil

State council will also consider motion pushed by the conservative faction to reopen preselection challenge against frontbencher Paul Fletcher

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The New South Wales Liberal party faces fresh turmoil with a renewed push to expel the federal MP and Scott Morrison ally Alex Hawke and to reopen a preselection challenge to Paul Fletcher.

The NSW Liberal state council on Saturday will consider several motions pushed by the conservative faction that reopen wounds related to accusations that Hawke delayed preselections ahead of the 2022 election.

These include a motion to expel Hawke, brought by the Artarmon branch, first revealed by Guardian Australia in July, and a motion to reinstate Matthew Camenzuli, the member who launched a high court challenge against a federal intervention in the NSW Liberal party.

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Hawke, the former immigration minister, was accused of failing to attend nomination review committee meetings before the 2022 election, delaying preselections. The delay triggered federal intervention that allowed a three-person panel, including Morrison and then premier Dominic Perrottet to choose nine handpicked candidates.

Other motions on the agenda, seen by Guardian Australia, include an attempt to expel Jean Haynes, a conservative who attempted to challenge the deputy Liberal leader Sussan Ley’s preselection.

The conservative Roseville branch is seeking to reverse a 30 September state executive decision blocking a preselection challenge by Paul Nettelbeck against the shadow communications minister, Paul Fletcher.

In July one Liberal source told Guardian Australia that Hawke was a “deeply unpopular figure” in the party but some fear the motion to expel him sets a “dangerous precedent”.

Ahead of Saturday’s Liberal party state council Hawke’s faction and moderates are lobbying against the motion, which a senior Liberal described as “a bad idea that won’t die”. “A lot of people are very angry with the right wing for all these motions.”

The source said the motion is “going to be close” due to a large block of unaligned votes and possible absences from the state council. Even if unsuccessful, a protest vote of 40 or 50% – short of the 60% threshold required for expulsion – would still be embarrassing for Hawke.

The Liberal source took aim at the shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, for backing conservatives in favour of the motion in internal elections, arguing that Peter Dutton’s representative on the state executive should have done more to shut down the push against Hawke.

In December 2022, the Liberals’ election review noted delayed preselections had harmed the party in NSW, where “potentially attractive candidates” were discouraged and the party “did not present the candidate with the strongest possibility of winning”.

Delays caused the barrister Jane Buncle to withdraw from the Warringah contest, resulting in the preselection of Katherine Deves, the controversial campaigner against trans inclusion in sport.

Earlier in February, Guardian Australia revealed the Liberal party state council will consider a motion to adopt an industrial relations policy to water down unfair-dismissal protections and abandon annual wage rises for middle- and high-income earners on award safety nets.

Other policy motions, which are nonbinding, propose to call to send F/A-18 fighters to aid Ukraine and to back Dutton’s push for nuclear energy.

The Balgowlah/Fairlight branch has proposed that the state council agree “that the age of criminal responsibility should be raised from 10 years to 14 years forthwith” – a stance that would conflict with recent attacks on Labor in question time for coordinating a raise in the age of responsibility.

Guardian Australia contacted Hawke and Taylor for comment.

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Some vehicles use 20% more fuel than claimed – which models are the worst?

Some vehicles on Australian roads use 20% more fuel than claimed – which models are the worst?

BMW X3 has biggest gap between manufacturer’s laboratory consumption claims and real-world testing in latest Australian Automobile Association data

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Cars driven in Australia consume up to 20% more petrol than manufacturers are claiming, according to a program that tests “real-world” on-road fuel efficiency with laboratory calculations.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) testing – funded by the federal government – also found four of the 13 vehicles tested in its latest round of compliance checks exceeded regulatory limits for oxides of nitrogen or carbon monoxide.

The testing of passenger cars, small and medium SUVs and larger people movers found that seven of the 13 vehicles delivered fuel consumption within 5% of the claims made by manufacturers.

However, five cars exceeded their lab results by between 9% and 20% when tested on the road. One car performed 7% better than claimed by the manufacturer.

The testing included averaging the results of drives conducted on urban and rural roads as well as motorways at various speeds.

The testing was conducted in Victoria’s Geelong region in December 2023 in conditions the AAA said were strictly controlled and in line with European Union legislation that “ensures fuel consumption and CO2 results are repeatable and minimises the influence of human factors such as driving style and changing traffic flows”.

According to the automobile association, the worst offenders in the second round of its testing were:

BMW X3

It had the largest discrepancy of vehicles tested. The AAA found that in real-world testing, the 2021 model of the SUV required 8.9 litres of fuel to drive 100km – 20% more than the 7.4 litres per 100km reported by the manufacturer from its lab test.

MG3

The MG3 was found to use 19% more fuel than its mandated lab result of 6.7 litres per 100km in tests of the 2023 model of the compact car.

Audi Q5

Audi’s Q5 SUV was found to consume 17% more petrol than claimed, with a real-world performance result of 5.6 litres per 100km on the 2022 model compared with its mandated lab test result of 4.8 litres.

Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid

Toyota’s Yaris Cross Hybrid used 12% more petrol than its claimed efficiency of 3.8 litres per 100km, tests of its 2021 model found.

Conversely, some cars performed better than the manufacturer’s claims.

Testing of the Kia Carnival found its 2023 model used 7% less fuel on the road than its mandated lab result, with the AAA claiming its real-world fuel efficiency was 6 litres per 100km.

Pollution from vehicles was also tested. Four of the 13 vehicles recorded pollutant results that exceeded Australian regulatory limits for lab tests.

Three exceeded the limits for oxides of nitrogen: the Kia Carnival, the Hyundai Staria and the Kia Sportage, the AAA said, while the MG3’s on-road carbon monoxide emissions were 85% higher than the regulated lab test limit.

The AAA managing director, Michael Bradley, said the real-world testing program provided consumers with greater transparency and would “drive down demand for models that over-promised and under-delivered”.

“When comparing vehicles, consumers cannot assume that better lab performance will translate into real-world savings,” Bradley said.

“This information could help a new car buyer save hundreds of dollars a year while cleaning up our light vehicle fleet.”

The Australian government-backed testing scheme was put into place after a 2015 scandal involving Volkswagen, which found the manufacturer had misled consumers who may have deliberately bought vehicles based on incorrect claims of lower emissions.

BMW, MG, Audi and Toyota were contacted for comment.

The first tranche of real-world testing found fuel consumption rates of up to 13% higher than lab tests.

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Fuel savingsMore efficient cars could almost halve yearly petrol costs, analysis shows

More efficient cars could almost halve Australians’ yearly petrol costs, new analysis shows

Australians spending much more at bowser than most overseas drivers but government’s proposed fuel efficiency standards could change that

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Australians could save, on average, almost half of their yearly petrol costs if proposed rules forcing carmakers to make more fuel-efficient vehicles are adopted, new analysis shows.

Fresh figures from the Climate Council, released on Wednesday, show Australians are spending more at the bowser to drive the same distance as their American and European counterparts, in countries where fuel efficiency standards have been in place for years.

A new car sold in Australia uses, on average, 6.9 litres of fuel per 100km compared with new cars in Europe and the US that use 3.5 litres and 4.2 litres, respectively.

The difference means Australians are spending, on average, almost $1,500 a year on fuel compared with $886 in the US and $738 in Europe.

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When it comes to utes and SUVs, Australians are also hit with less fuel efficient vehicles. On average, Australia’s light commercial vehicles use 9.9 litres per 100km, costing about $2,878 a year, while in the US the average figure drops to 6.1 litres per 100km or $1,773 a year.

Light commercial vehicles in Europe and China are the most fuel efficient, both averaging 5.6 litres per 100km or $1,628.

Meanwhile, the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, has continued the Coalition’s scare campaign against the new standards, labelling the move a “car and ute tax”.

The Albanese government released its proposal for a national vehicle efficiency standard in early February, with plans to introduce legislation before July that will take effect from January 2025.

The standards would place a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia to encourage carmakers to supply low and zero-emissions vehicles and penalise companies that do not.

Australia, along with Russia, remains one of the few countries in the OECD without a standard.

The policy aims to reduce emissions produced by the transport sector, which account for about 10% of Australia’s total emissions, by 60% by 2030.

Nicki Hutley, an economist at the Climate Council, said the policy, if passed, would save Australians more money on fuel and provide greater choice in car yards.

“When you use less petrol you pay less for petrol. It’s pretty simple,” she said.

“In managing their emissions of the fleet, [car manufacturers] will actually need to provide greater choice to the market rather than less and that’s really good for consumers.”

The introduction of a fuel efficiency standard has been a key point of attack for the opposition in the Dunkley byelection.

Dutton and the Liberal candidate for Dunkley, Nathan Conroy, have warned voters about the changes, saying it will place a “big burden on the local tradies”.

“Albo’s ute tax is going to drive up the cost of buying a ute but it’s also going to drive down the choice that consumers have, because some of the dealers, some of the manufacturers, are likely to withdraw some of those heavy emission vehicles from the market,” Dutton said earlier this month.

Hutley described the claims as “fear-mongering”, pointing to a 2023 study in the US that found vehicle prices did not increase substantially between 2003 and 2021.

“There is no evidence to suggest that that is the case,” she said. “In fact, the evidence suggests the opposite will happen – that there will be no price impact across the market.”

The statistical analysis by Consumer Reports found no increase in costs over the two-decade period after adjusting for inflation, while the average fuel economy improved by 30%.

The study found consumers paid about US$6,200 (A$9,500) less on fuel for utes and almost $11,600 less on fuel for SUVs than they would have if fuel economy had remained at 2003 levels.

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Lab tests v the real worldHow does the fuel consumption of Australian SUVs compare?

Lab tests v the real world: how does the fuel consumption of Australian SUVs compare?

The Australian Automobile Association has found some SUVs use up to 20% more fuel on the road than reported in laboratory tests. Is your vehicle underperforming?

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A real-world testing program at the Australian Automobile Association has revealed that some SUVs consume more petrol than their manufacturers claim.

The government-funded program, which compares the fuel consumption and emissions of vehicles in Australian driving conditions with each vehicle’s laboratory test result, has so far shown some SUVs use up to 20% more fuel on the road than reported in laboratory tests.

It comes after a report by the Global Fuel Economy Initiative found that motor emissions could have fallen by more than 30% without the SUV trend, which means they now have a 51% share of the world market.

In Australia, fuel-thirsty SUVs are surging in popularity, with not a single sedan or hatchback ranked in the top 10 most-bought cars in Australia in 2023.

The AAA’s testing was conducted in Victoria’s Geelong region. The organisation said conditions were strictly controlled and in line with European Union legislation that “ensures fuel consumption and CO2 results are repeatable and minimises the influence of human factors such as driving style and changing traffic flows”.

The AAA is testing vehicles in tranches. Here, Guardian Australia lists the SUVs the AAA has driven so far:

BMW X3 2021

The 2021 BMW X3 required 8.9 litres of fuel to drive 100km – 20% more than the 7.4l per 100km reported by the manufacturer from its lab test.

The SUV with the 2l, four cylinder turbo petrol engine also emitted 208g of CO2 per km in real world tests – 23% more than the 169g/km recorded in its mandated lab tests.

Audi Q5 2022

The 2022 Audi Q5 SUV was found to consume 17% more petrol than claimed, with a real-world performance result of 5.6l per 100km on the 2022 model compared with its mandated lab test result of 4.8l.

The 2l, four cylinder SUV with a turbo diesel engine also emitted 18% more CO2 in the real world tests – 147 g/km – compared with its lab test result of 125 g/km.

Toyota Yaris Cross Hybrid 2021

The 2021 Yaris Cross Hybrid used 4.3l of petrol per 100km in real world tests, 12% more than its claimed efficiency of 3.8l per 100km from lab tests.

It also emitted 14% more CO2 than claimed – 98g/km in the real world tests compared with the 86g/km claimed in its mandated lab tests.

Mitsubishi Outlander 2023

The 2023 Mitsubishi Outlander used 7.9l of fuel per 100km in its real world tests, 4% more than its lab recording of 7.6l.

It was also a worse polluter in the real world tests, emitting 183 grams of CO2 per kilometre, 6% more than its lab test claim of 172 grams.

Volvo XC40 2023

The 2023 Volvo XC40 used 9% more fuel in real world tests – 7.6l per 100km – compared with its lab result of 6.9l.

The 2l, four cylinder turbo engine also emitted 12% more CO2 in real world tests – 177g/km compared with its lab result of 158g/km.

MG HS 2022

The MG HS 2022 model consumed 7.4l of fuel per 100km in its real world tests – 1% more than its lab results of 7.3l.

It also emitted more CO2 in the real world test – 173g/km, or 2% more than the 170g/km figure claimed by lab tests.

Kia Sportage 2023

The fuel consumption of the 2023 model was 6.6l per 100km in its real world tests, 5% higher than its lab results of 6.3l per 100km.

Its carbon emissions were also poorer. It emitted 173g/km of CO2 in its real world test, 6% higher than its lab result of 163g/km.

Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross 2023

The 2023 model used 7.6l per 100km in its real world test, or 3% more than in mandated lab tests where it was found to use 7.3l/100km.

The SUV with a 1.5l, four cylinder turbo petrol engine also emitted 5% more CO2 – 173g/km – in the AAA’s tests than its lab result of 165g/km.

Ford Puma 2022

The 2022 Ford Puma used 8% more fuel, and emitted 10% more CO2, than mandated lab tests. The 1L three-cylinder SUV recorded 5.3L per 100km in lab tests, but returned 5.7L per 100km in the real-world testing program.

Its lab results showed it emitted 121g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 134g/km.

GWM Haval Jolion 2023

The 2023 GWM Haval Jolion recorded more positive results compared with most of the tested SUVs: it used 2% less fuel, and emitted 2% less CO2, than the mandated lab tests.

The 1.5L four-cylinder SUV had recorded 8.1L per 100km in lab tests, and returned 7.9L per 100km in the real-world testing program.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 186g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 183g/km.

Hyundai Kona 2022

The 2L four-cylinder SUV used 13% more fuel and emitted 9% more CO2 than mandated lab tests.

It recorded 6.2L per 100km in lab tests and returned 7.0L per 100km in the real-world testing program.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 148g of CO2/Km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 161g/Km.

Hyundai Tucson 2022

The Tucson actually posted a positive result, with the real-world test results coming very close to lab results. The SUV used 1% less fuel, but emitted 1% more CO2 than mandated lab tests.

The 2L four-cylinder SUV recorded 6.3L per 100km in lab tests and returned 6.2L per 100km under real-world tests.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 163g of CO2/km, only a slight discrepency compared to the AAA test where it emitted 164g/km.

MG ZS 2023

The 2023 MG ZS used 8% more fuel and emitted 5% more CO2 than mandated lab tests. The 1.5L four-cylinder SUV recorded 7.1L per 100km in lab tests, but returned 7.7L per 100km under real-world tests.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 165g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 174g/km.

Mitsubishi ASX 2022

In very similar results to the MG, the 2022 Mitsubishi ASX also used 8% more fuel and emitted 6% more CO2 than mandated lab tests.

The 2L four-cylinder SUV had recorded 7.6L per 100km in lab tests, but returned 8.2L per 100km under real-world tests.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 176g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 186g/km.

Nissan X-Trail 2023

In a more positive result, the 2023 Nissan X-Trail returned results that showed it used 2% less fuel and emitted 4% less CO2 compared to mandated lab tests.

The 2.5L four-cylinder SUV had recorded 7.4L per 100km in lab tests and returned 7.3L per 100km in the real-world testing program.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 174g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 168g/km.

Toyota Rav4 Hybrid 2022

The Rav4 was the only hybrid on the list to post results that were very close to its mandated lab test results, using only 2% more fuel and emitting 3% more CO2 in the real-world test.

The 2.5L four-cylinder SUV had recorded 4.7L per 100km in lab tests, but returned 4.8L per 100km under real-world tests.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 107g of CO2/km, compared against its AAA test emissions of 111g/km.

Toyota Rav4 2022

Unlike its hybrid sibling, the Rav4 returned a greater discrepancy between real-world and mandated lab test results. The 2L four-cylinder SUV used 13% more fuel and emitted 13% more CO2 than it showed in the lab.

The SUV had recorded 6.0L per 100km in lab tests, but returned 6.8L per 100km in the real-world testing program.

Its lab results also showed it emitted 137g of CO2/km, but in the AAA test, it emitted 155g/km.

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Taylor Swift eats in restaurant – and we missed the story

Scoop: Taylor Swift eats in restaurant – and we missed the story

Small crowd gathers as pop star enjoys night out at Pellegrino 2000 – a tiny Sydney restaurant just steps from the Guardian Australia office

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It takes less than a minute to walk from Guardian Australia’s office to Pellegrino 2000, a tiny Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

So it could be safely assumed that when Taylor Swift dined at the eatery on Tuesday evening it would be well documented by our crack team. Or not.

The US megastar, whose movements in Sydney for the sold-out Eras Tour are a guarded secret, managed to evade the eyes of the press for an evening of revelry at the restaurant.

But it wasn’t only Guardian Australia who didn’t realise pop royalty was just metres away.

Chris Melotti didn’t think twice when he arrived at Pellegrino 2000 for his birthday dinner at about 7.30pm and his party was seated in the restaurant’s main room instead of the downstairs cellar where he’d booked.

But he clocked something was afoot at about 9pm. He looked outside and saw a line of people, many wearing Taylor Swift merchandise, staring at him through the window.

“Then it was literally like two minutes later, we were about to leave then the staff asked if we could wait a moment,” he recalls. “Then we saw her bodyguards and then she appeared.”

It was the first time Swift – who dined at the restaurant with her support act, Sabrina Carpenter – had been publicly spotted since she landed in Sydney for the second stop on her Eras Tour in Australia after performing in Melbourne last weekend.

“A lot of people have been jealous because they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re not even that much a Swift fan and there you were,’” Melotti says.

Also conspicuously present outside the restaurant on Tuesday night was a small footpath garden bed cordoned off with safety tape and a sign warning of “possible asbestos” in the mulch.

Swift’s arrival in Australia has coincided with a widespread health and safety scare across Sydney and regional New South Wales, as authorities investigate possible asbestos-contaminated mulch at hundreds of locations.

Sydney Olympic Park, the precinct where Swift is due to perform to about 300,000 fans over four days, was also swept up in the crisis last week amid an asbestos scare at a nearby median strip. (Authorities subsequently gave it the all-clear.)

The ‘Swift effect’

Pellegrino 2000 may soon be hit by the so-called “Swift effect”. In New York, it has become a feat to get a reservation where the singer has dined.

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The surrounding restaurants in Surry Hills are hoping they will benefit from the overflow.

“I joked this morning that we should change our name to ‘the restaurant next door to where Tay Tay dined’,” says Rebecca Yazbek, owner of Nomad, a restaurant across the road.

Yazbek says her staff were also none the wiser until they heard the commotion as Swift exited the restaurant, then saw her car drive past.

“We’ve been joking like ‘Oh she saw us!’,” Yazbek says. “Hopefully she was like ‘Oh that restaurant looks cool, that can be the next one.’”

Like Melotti, Yazbek is not a self-proclaimed Swiftie, but is enthralled by the buzz around her visit. Especially when compared to when Dua Lipa dined at Nomad in 2022 – the hype around that tour and the superstar’s movements paled in comparison to the Swift effect.

“From my 38-year-old brain it’s just so wonderfully ludicrous, it just makes me smile and makes me laugh,” she says.

The Nomad Group have already benefitted from Swiftonomics (where Swift goes, businesses bloom) in Melbourne last weekend during the Eras Tour.

“Our restaurants in Melbourne over the weekend were jammed, and we absolutely think that’s because of Tay Tay being in town.”

“I’m hoping we see an uptick in people going to the teeny tiny restaurant that is Pellegrinos, which we love, but being across the road hopefully we get some overflow. … get our little Tay Tay uptick.”

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Taylor Swift eats in restaurant – and we missed the story

Scoop: Taylor Swift eats in restaurant – and we missed the story

Small crowd gathers as pop star enjoys night out at Pellegrino 2000 – a tiny Sydney restaurant just steps from the Guardian Australia office

  • Get our weekend culture and lifestyle email

It takes less than a minute to walk from Guardian Australia’s office to Pellegrino 2000, a tiny Italian restaurant in Sydney’s Surry Hills.

So it could be safely assumed that when Taylor Swift dined at the eatery on Tuesday evening it would be well documented by our crack team. Or not.

The US megastar, whose movements in Sydney for the sold-out Eras Tour are a guarded secret, managed to evade the eyes of the press for an evening of revelry at the restaurant.

But it wasn’t only Guardian Australia who didn’t realise pop royalty was just metres away.

Chris Melotti didn’t think twice when he arrived at Pellegrino 2000 for his birthday dinner at about 7.30pm and his party was seated in the restaurant’s main room instead of the downstairs cellar where he’d booked.

But he clocked something was afoot at about 9pm. He looked outside and saw a line of people, many wearing Taylor Swift merchandise, staring at him through the window.

“Then it was literally like two minutes later, we were about to leave then the staff asked if we could wait a moment,” he recalls. “Then we saw her bodyguards and then she appeared.”

It was the first time Swift – who dined at the restaurant with her support act, Sabrina Carpenter – had been publicly spotted since she landed in Sydney for the second stop on her Eras Tour in Australia after performing in Melbourne last weekend.

“A lot of people have been jealous because they’re like, ‘Wow, you’re not even that much a Swift fan and there you were,’” Melotti says.

Also conspicuously present outside the restaurant on Tuesday night was a small footpath garden bed cordoned off with safety tape and a sign warning of “possible asbestos” in the mulch.

Swift’s arrival in Australia has coincided with a widespread health and safety scare across Sydney and regional New South Wales, as authorities investigate possible asbestos-contaminated mulch at hundreds of locations.

Sydney Olympic Park, the precinct where Swift is due to perform to about 300,000 fans over four days, was also swept up in the crisis last week amid an asbestos scare at a nearby median strip. (Authorities subsequently gave it the all-clear.)

The ‘Swift effect’

Pellegrino 2000 may soon be hit by the so-called “Swift effect”. In New York, it has become a feat to get a reservation where the singer has dined.

  • Sign up for the fun stuff with our rundown of must-reads, pop culture and tips for the weekend, every Saturday morning

The surrounding restaurants in Surry Hills are hoping they will benefit from the overflow.

“I joked this morning that we should change our name to ‘the restaurant next door to where Tay Tay dined’,” says Rebecca Yazbek, owner of Nomad, a restaurant across the road.

Yazbek says her staff were also none the wiser until they heard the commotion as Swift exited the restaurant, then saw her car drive past.

“We’ve been joking like ‘Oh she saw us!’,” Yazbek says. “Hopefully she was like ‘Oh that restaurant looks cool, that can be the next one.’”

Like Melotti, Yazbek is not a self-proclaimed Swiftie, but is enthralled by the buzz around her visit. Especially when compared to when Dua Lipa dined at Nomad in 2022 – the hype around that tour and the superstar’s movements paled in comparison to the Swift effect.

“From my 38-year-old brain it’s just so wonderfully ludicrous, it just makes me smile and makes me laugh,” she says.

The Nomad Group have already benefitted from Swiftonomics (where Swift goes, businesses bloom) in Melbourne last weekend during the Eras Tour.

“Our restaurants in Melbourne over the weekend were jammed, and we absolutely think that’s because of Tay Tay being in town.”

“I’m hoping we see an uptick in people going to the teeny tiny restaurant that is Pellegrinos, which we love, but being across the road hopefully we get some overflow. … get our little Tay Tay uptick.”

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Police poised to charge taekwondo instructor after ‘loving family’ slain

Police poised to charge taekwondo instructor after ‘loving family’ slain in Sydney

Bodies of woman, 41, and boy, 7, discovered in Lion’s Taekwondo Martial Arts Academy in North Parramatta after 39-year-old man found dead in Baulkham Hills home

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A young student and his mother walked into a taekwondo studio in Sydney with no warning they’d soon be killed.

After overpowering the pair, their alleged killer got in his victim’s car and allegedly proceeded to kill the boy’s unsuspecting father at the nearby family home.

The alleged events were detailed on Wednesday by homicide detectives poised to charge the seven-year-old boy’s taekwondo instructor over the murders of the Korean-Australian family on Monday night.

New South Wales police said the 49-year-old alleged killer, a taekwondo master at a martial arts school in North Parramatta, went to Westmead hospital with stab or slash wounds to his chest, arms and stomach on Monday just before midnight.

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He is expected to be charged with three counts of murder, detectives said on Wednesday.

NSW police will allege he assaulted the woman, 41, and the child with “murderous intent” at Lion’s Taekwondo Martial Arts Academy on Daking Street on Monday night.

Police will allege he then drove her white BMW to Baulkham Hills and fatally stabbed the 39-year-old father of the child, before taking the car to hospital.

All three victims were South Korean nationals.

The alleged killer was placed under arrest once the bodies were discovered on Tuesday.

The 49-year-old accused said he sustained his wounds when attacked in the car park of a North Parramatta supermarket on Monday evening, police said.

Homicide commander Det Supt Daniel Doherty said the chain of events and circumstances were “not only tragic … but the consequences were cataclysmic”.

“This was a loving family,” Doherty told reporters.

“It was out of the blue, it was not something that was forewarned or flagged”

The boy is believed to have regularly attended the martial arts school and was at the centre for a lesson on Monday.

The three victims knew the alleged attacker and homicide detectives were searching for a motive, Doherty said.

“Three people from one family, it’s devastating,” he said.

“It’s been a harrowing experience for the family and friends of the three victims, they’re still dealing with this so I’m not going to speculate on any motive at this stage.”

The 49-year-old suspect had surgery and remained under police guard in hospital.

Soon after the woman and child were found, emergency services draped plastic over the large windows of the martial arts studio.

Doherty sought further assistance from the public and encouraged anyone in the vicinity of the taekwondo studio on Monday night who might have seen or heard something to contact investigators.

Anyone with footage of the BMW on Monday night is also asked to contact police.

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Immigration minister accuses Coalition of fearmongering over visas issued to Palestinians

Immigration minister Andrew Giles accuses Coalition of fearmongering over 2,000 visas issued to Palestinians

Labor hits back after opposition frontbencher questions ‘how we can be doing adequate checks’ of Gaza residents seeking to come to Australia

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The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, has accused the Coalition of trying to “whip up anger and fear” because “they think there’s votes in it” after an opposition frontbencher questioned whether visas were being issued to Palestinians without sufficient checks.

The Coalition’s home affairs spokesperson, James Paterson, told Sky News on Tuesday night that more than 2,000 visas had been issued to Palestinians recently, described Gaza as a “war zone controlled by a terrorist organisation” and suggested he did not know how “we can be doing adequate checks on the ground”.

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But government officials have stressed such visas carry stringent security checks, and Giles and the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, hit back on Wednesday, backing the due diligence carried out by public servants.

Giles has been a heavy target of opposition criticism in recent weeks over the government’s response to the release of asylum seekers held indefinitely in immigration detention.

On Wednesday he claimed the Coalition “want to whip up anger and fear in the Australian community because they think there’s votes in it for them”.

Giles labelled Dutton “divisive” and claimed the opposition leader thought “dirty politics will make him prime minister”.

Government data shows between 7 October – the day of the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel – and 6 February, Australia issued 2,415 visitor visas to people declaring Israeli citizenship and 2,273 visitor visas to people declaring Palestinian citizenship.

460 visitor visas for Palestinian applicants were refused in the same period.

O’Neil and Giles also pointed to data showing the former Coalition government had at times granted 500 visas granted a week to Syrians fleeing that country’s civil war in 2015, and more than 12,500 in total. In 2021, the Coalition government also approved 5,000 visas for Afghan citizens in a single month.

“We back our professional public servants and intelligence agencies who assess risk every day,” O’Neil said.

“Senator Paterson is once again showing there’s nothing the opposition won’t play for political gain.”

The Albanese government has voiced strong concerns about social cohesion in Australia related to the Gaza conflict, with fears of rising Islamophobia and antisemitism leading to a heightened scrutiny on the comments of public figures and politicians.

Responding to Giles’ criticisms, Paterson told Guardian Australia he was concerned about the speed that some visas had been approved.

“The government publicly assured Australians all the necessary security checks have taken place on the more than 2,000 visas they granted to Gaza residents since s, but Home Affairs officials admitted in estimates this month that some were granted in as quickly as one hour,” he said.

“It’s up to the government to explain how they can adequately check the identity and associations of someone coming from a war zone controlled by a terrorist organisation in just 60 minutes.”

“We already have an antisemitism crisis in this country – it won’t do much for social cohesion if supporters of Hamas slip through the cracks.”

Paterson had told Sky News on Tuesday night: “Let’s remember, this is a war zone controlled by a terrorist organisation. I don’t know how we can be doing adequate checks on the ground of those people. So essentially, we’re relying on the documentation they provide online and taking it at face value.

“I’m deeply concerned that, at very least, among these 2,000 people will be sympathisers and political supporters of Hamas, which frankly, I think is bad enough and who we wouldn’t want in our country, let alone the risk that actually there are people who have direct terrorist associations in that group, which is, of course, a risk when you’re dealing with a jurisdiction like this.”

The foreign minister, Penny Wong, dismissed similar concerns raised by Paterson last year, saying: “Just as not everybody from Afghanistan is linked with the Taliban, not everybody who is Palestinian is a member of a terrorist organisation.”

“I would emphasise, and I’ve seen the opposition out making certain assertions, I would emphasise very clearly that the usual security checks, the usual identity checks, the usual character checks, were undertaken on this cohort as they are in relation to all cohorts.”

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YouTube mom vlogger sentenced to Utah prison for child abuse

Ruby Franke, YouTube mom vlogger, sentenced to prison for child abuse

US woman, 42, and collaborator arrested after Franke’s malnourished son escaped from window looking for food

Ruby Franke, a mother of six who gave online parenting advice via a popular YouTube channel, was sentenced to four prison terms of between one and 15 years each, on aggravated child abuse charges on Tuesday.

Franke, 42, who had 2.3 million followers on her now-deleted 8 Passengers video channel, was arrested in the southern Utah city of Ivins last August after her malnourished 12-year-old son, with open wounds and bound with duct tape, climbed out of a window at the home of Jodi Hildebrandt, owner of a self-improvement counseling business, to ask for food and water from a neighbor.

One of Franke’s daughters was later found in a similar malnourished condition in Hildebrandt’s home. After Franke’s arrest, her eldest daughter Shari Franke, aged 20, shared a now-deleted Instagram image of police officers with the caption: “Finally.”

Franke and Hildebrandt, who collaborated on parenting and relationship advice videos posted on Hildebrandt’s life coaching service ConneXions, pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated child abuse in December. Hildebrandt was also sentenced to to the same prison terms as Franke on Tuesday.

At her sentencing, Franke apologized to her children, saying she had “believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you. I took from you all that was soft, and safe and good.”

Franke also told the court: “For the past four years, I’ve chosen to follow counsel and guidance that has led me into a dark delusion,” she said. “My distorted version of reality went largely unchecked as I would isolate from anyone who challenged me.”

Hildebrandt, 54, also offered a statement, saying she desired for the children to “heal physically and emotionally”.

“One of the reasons I did not go to trial is because I did not want them to emotionally relive the experience which would have been detrimental to them. My hope and prayer is that they will heal and move forward to have beautiful lives,” she added.

The case has brought renewed attention to what is described as “sharenting”, or when parents broadcast and promote their parenting skills, while aiming to make money from such a venture. Critics of the practice warn of the dangers of invading a child’s privacy and ethical violations.

Last August, Illinois passed a law broadly mirroring California’s 1939 Coogan Act, that protects the earnings of child performers, to protect children whose lives are shared on social media for profit.

Ahead of her arrest, Franke’s severe parenting style had led some viewers to report her to authorities. Insider reported that some viewers called child protective services in 2015 when their son Chad, then 15, said he had slept on a beanbag for seven months.

In another, Franke said she and her husband, Kevin, told their two youngest children they would not receive gifts from Santa Claus because they had been selfish and did not respond to punishment, including being kept home from school and cleaning the floorboards.

Attorneys for Franke claimed Hildebrandt had “systematically isolated” her from her family and caused their client to adopt a “distorted sense of morality”. After husband Kevin filed for divorce in December, lawyers for Franke said their client Ruby was “devastated” but that she understood his reasoning and respects his decision.

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YouTube mom vlogger sentenced to Utah prison for child abuse

Ruby Franke, YouTube mom vlogger, sentenced to prison for child abuse

US woman, 42, and collaborator arrested after Franke’s malnourished son escaped from window looking for food

Ruby Franke, a mother of six who gave online parenting advice via a popular YouTube channel, was sentenced to four prison terms of between one and 15 years each, on aggravated child abuse charges on Tuesday.

Franke, 42, who had 2.3 million followers on her now-deleted 8 Passengers video channel, was arrested in the southern Utah city of Ivins last August after her malnourished 12-year-old son, with open wounds and bound with duct tape, climbed out of a window at the home of Jodi Hildebrandt, owner of a self-improvement counseling business, to ask for food and water from a neighbor.

One of Franke’s daughters was later found in a similar malnourished condition in Hildebrandt’s home. After Franke’s arrest, her eldest daughter Shari Franke, aged 20, shared a now-deleted Instagram image of police officers with the caption: “Finally.”

Franke and Hildebrandt, who collaborated on parenting and relationship advice videos posted on Hildebrandt’s life coaching service ConneXions, pleaded guilty to second-degree aggravated child abuse in December. Hildebrandt was also sentenced to to the same prison terms as Franke on Tuesday.

At her sentencing, Franke apologized to her children, saying she had “believed dark was light and right was wrong. I would do anything in this world for you. I took from you all that was soft, and safe and good.”

Franke also told the court: “For the past four years, I’ve chosen to follow counsel and guidance that has led me into a dark delusion,” she said. “My distorted version of reality went largely unchecked as I would isolate from anyone who challenged me.”

Hildebrandt, 54, also offered a statement, saying she desired for the children to “heal physically and emotionally”.

“One of the reasons I did not go to trial is because I did not want them to emotionally relive the experience which would have been detrimental to them. My hope and prayer is that they will heal and move forward to have beautiful lives,” she added.

The case has brought renewed attention to what is described as “sharenting”, or when parents broadcast and promote their parenting skills, while aiming to make money from such a venture. Critics of the practice warn of the dangers of invading a child’s privacy and ethical violations.

Last August, Illinois passed a law broadly mirroring California’s 1939 Coogan Act, that protects the earnings of child performers, to protect children whose lives are shared on social media for profit.

Ahead of her arrest, Franke’s severe parenting style had led some viewers to report her to authorities. Insider reported that some viewers called child protective services in 2015 when their son Chad, then 15, said he had slept on a beanbag for seven months.

In another, Franke said she and her husband, Kevin, told their two youngest children they would not receive gifts from Santa Claus because they had been selfish and did not respond to punishment, including being kept home from school and cleaning the floorboards.

Attorneys for Franke claimed Hildebrandt had “systematically isolated” her from her family and caused their client to adopt a “distorted sense of morality”. After husband Kevin filed for divorce in December, lawyers for Franke said their client Ruby was “devastated” but that she understood his reasoning and respects his decision.

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Tax commissioner says Albanese government could wipe $15bn in debts

Tax commissioner says Albanese government could wipe $15bn in robotax debts

Chris Jordan tells National Press Club the ATO is legally obliged to recoup historical debts affecting up to 1.8 million taxpayers

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The Australian Taxation Office’s outgoing commissioner says a decision to wipe more than $15bn in decades-old debts affecting up to 1.8 million taxpayers is in the Albanese government’s hands.

Guardian Australia revealed on Tuesday the ATO has plans to expand a controversial scheme – dubbed robotax – to recoup more than $15bn in old debts from older Australians and low-income earners, marked to be scraped from tax refunds.

Exemptions had previously filtered out debts from being pursued if they were very old, small, or the taxpayer was aged over 70 years or earning a taxable income of less than $50,000, ATO documents released under freedom of information showed.

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The Albanese government has maintained the program is a matter for the ATO. The ATO recently paused the program to extract older debts from tax refunds amid community backlash. The amounts are still owing and have not been cancelled.

Chris Jordan, whose term ends this month after a decade in the role of tax commissioner, said on Wednesday the tax office had been reluctant to start pursuing the smaller and older debts because it “didn’t make sense”.

But shortly after debt collection resumed during a brief pause at the height of the pandemic, the Australian National Audit Office told the tax office it needed to pursue the debts in order to be compliant with the law, Jordan said.

“We cannot spend the money to chase 5 cents, $2. It’s ridiculous. And they gave us a negative finding on our accounts and said, we are not conforming with the law,” Jordan told the National Press Club.

“As a regulator, we can’t purposely not conform with the law,” he said. “We have to. So, we’re working our way through [it] … we didn’t want to do it.”

Asked why the ATO didn’t ask the federal government to wipe the debts – a possible avenue for the tax office – Jordan said it seemed a “bit unfair” to those who had already paid their tax back but said it still remained an option.

“That is one of the alternatives – clean it up and say, going forward, this is the not going to happen again,” Jordan said.

“But it would be a significant amount of money and it is the minister for finance that would have to exercise their discretion to write that off. But it is one of alternatives we’re looking at.”

While individual tax debt waivers are typically a matter for the finance minister, it’s understood a decision to wipe the billions in debt would be a decision for the whole government. The assistant treasurer, Stephen Jones, said on Monday the program was a matter for the ATO but the government welcomed the ATO’s review.

In correspondence with the government released to Guardian Australia, the ATO considered but ultimately elected not to seek a reprieve for older Australians and those on low incomes from the program, with its reasoning including that clients could “directly seek a waiver from the minister of finance”.

The program has drawn comparison to the flawed robodebt compliance program that relied on automated processes. The new initiative has been described as “brutal” by taxpayers, including those who say they do not know how the debts were incurred and no longer have documents required to challenge them.

The amounts are often linked to old business activity statements, GST payments, PAYG instalments and non-lodgement fines applied to those living overseas, with many of the debts unknowingly accrued and invisible to taxpayers for years.

An ATO spokesperson said on Wednesday the agency had “heard the concerns raised by the community”.

“The ATO has paused all action in relation to debts placed on hold prior to 2017 whilst we review and develop a pragmatic and sensible way forward that takes into account concerns raised by the community,” the spokesperson said.

“It was never our intention to cause frustration or concern.”

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Trump compares his legal troubles to the persecution of Russian opposition figure

Trump compares his legal troubles to the persecution of Alexei Navalny

Despite prompts from the host, the former US president did not mention Putin when asked about Navalny in the Fox News town hall event

Donald Trump has used an interview with Fox News to compare his own legal troubles to the persecution of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who died in prison last week.

In the interview on Tuesday, the former US president said Navalny was “a very brave man” who probably should not have returned to Russia, but did not assign any blame for the Russian opposition leader’s unexpected death.

President Joe Biden and other western leaders have blamed Russian president Vladimir Putin for Navalny’s death, as has Nikki Haley, who trails far behind Trump as his sole remaining rival for the Republican presidential nomination.

In the hour-long appearance broadcast on Fox News, Trump railed against the $355m fine meted out to him in a New York fraud trial, saying “it’s a form of Navalny.”

“It is a form of communism or fascism,” he added.

Despite prompts from host Laura Ingraham, Trump did not mention Putin when asked about Navalny.

“He was a very brave guy because he went back. He could have stayed away, and frankly, probably would have been a lot better off staying away and talking from outside of the country.”

Trump added: “It’s happening in our country, too. We are turning into a communist country in many ways. I have eight or nine trials all because of the fact that … I’m in politics.”

The Kremlin has denied involvement in Navalny’s death and said western claims that Putin was responsible are unacceptable.

On Sunday, Trump wrote in a Truth Social post that Navalny’s death in an Arctic penal colony last week had made him “more aware of what is happening” in the United States. Trump did not elaborate, but he has frequently dismissed the 91 criminal charges against him as politically motivated, a claim prosecutors deny.

Biden on Tuesday issued a blistering critique of Trump’s post on Navalny’s death, saying, “Why does Trump always blame America? Putin is responsible for Navalny’s death. Why can’t Trump just say that?”

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Combining three healthy behaviours can lower IBS risk, study finds

Combining three healthy behaviours can lower IBS risk, study finds

People who tick at least three out of five boxes including not smoking and good sleep are found to have 42% lower risk

Combining three healthy behaviours can reduce the risk of irritable bowel syndrome by 42%, a study suggests.

IBS affects the digestive system and its symptoms include stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation. People can suffer for days, weeks or months at a time, and symptoms can come and go. IBS is thought to affect up to one in 10 people worldwide.

It is not known exactly what causes the condition but studies have suggested that oversensitive nerves in the gut, stress and a family history of IBS can play a role.

Previous research has linked individual lifestyle factors with a heightened risk of IBS, and researchers wanted to find out if a combination of several measures could ward off the condition.

The study, published in the journal Gut, found that leading a healthy lifestyle was strongly linked to a lower chance of developing the condition.

Five healthy behaviours – not smoking, good sleep, enough exercise, healthy diet and lower alcohol consumption – were all studied.

Three of these – not smoking, vigorous exercise and getting at least seven hours of sleep a night – appeared to have the biggest effect individually.

When looking at the healthy behaviours combined, people who had three or more of the five were the least likely to develop IBS.

Researchers looked at 64,286 people – with an average age of 55, and of whom just over half were women – from the UK Biobank medical database. None had a diagnosis of IBS at the start of the study period, and all had completed at least two 24-hour questionnaires on their diets.

Over 12 and a half years, 961 cases of IBS were noted (1.5% of the sample). Of all those in the study, 7,604 people (12%) did not have any of the five healthy lifestyle behaviours, 20,662 (32%) reported one, 21,901 (34%) reported two and 14,101 (22%) reported three to five.

After accounting for factors that could influence the results, such as a family history of IBS, people who were healthiest had the lowest risk of IBS.

Having one healthy behaviour was associated with a 21% lower risk, having two was associated with a 36% lower risk, and having three to five was linked to a 42% lower risk.

Individually, never smoking was linked to a 14% lower risk, a high level of physical activity was associated with a 17% lower risk, and a good night’s sleep was linked to a 27% lower risk.

The researchers from the University of Hong Kong cautioned that they could not prove cause and effect due to the observational nature of the study.

The findings relied on self-reporting, which may not always be accurate, and the sample group was older, so the findings may not be applicable to younger age groups. Nor was it possible to account for any lifestyle changes over time during the monitoring period.

The researchers concluded: “Adhering to a higher number of the five healthy lifestyle behaviours is significantly associated with a lower IBS incidence in a middle-aged population. Our findings suggest the potential of lifestyle modifications as a primary prevention strategy for IBS.”

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