The Guardian 2024-02-23 04:31:12


‘Groundbreaking’ move to tackle university sexual violence; NSW police officer charged with murder

Student safety advocates have applauded education ministers for adopting reforms to tackle university sexual violence.

(See this previous post for all the details on this).

End Rape On Campus Australia and Fair Agenda – leading national advocates on sexual violence in university communities – have been campaigning for the recommendations in the action plan for seven years.

Sharna Bremner, founder and director of End Rape on Campus, said the measures were groundbreaking and would transform the sector.

Until now, the quality of responses and support victim-survivors have received from their university when they’ve reported their rape has been determined by which staff member they encounter. This plan changes all that.

Renee Carr, executive director of Fair Agenda, said universities and residencies had “failed their students” for years, with some neglecting to deliver quality prevention efforts and others causing additional harm in their reporting processes.

This plan delivers reforms that will require higher ed providers to do better; and put in place oversight and accountability mechanisms to mean there’s actual monitoring and consequences if they don’t.

The significance of this reform cannot be overstated. The collective efforts of numerous individuals spanning many years have brought us to this moment.

‘Leave now’Homes and sheds lost as blaze heads towards Elmhurst in Victoria’s west

Victoria bushfires: homes and sheds lost as blaze heads towards Elmhurst in state’s west

Thousands of residents from almost 30 communities near Ballarat told to ‘leave now’

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Victoria’s premier says homes have been lost to a huge bushfire in the state’s west, after a “tough night” in which two fire trucks broke down.

Emergency warnings remained in place for about 30 communities west of Ballarat on Friday morning, including in Amphitheatre, Elmhurst and Mount Cole, where residents have been told to “leave immediately” before “conditions become too dangerous”.

“It has been a tough night, a really tough night for communities,” Jacinta Allan told reporters from the state control centre on Friday morning.

“Despite there being a cooler change that has that has come through the area, the fire that started yesterday in the Bayindeen-Rocky Road area was extremely active overnight, [and] remains active today.”

Allan said while extent of property damage was yet to be assessed, due to the difficult terrain in the region, authorities believed homes were destroyed.

“Sadly, we are hearing reports of property loss that are starting to come through, given the active nature of the fire and the difficult terrain in the area,” she said.

Emergency Management Victoria’s commissioner, Rick Nugent, confirmed at least one home has been lost.

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“Many other structures are likely to have been destroyed and we will understand further what that the impact of the fire has been once these rapid impact assessment teams get in and start to have a look at the area,” Nugent said.

He said there were 59 aircraft in Victoria, including three from New South Wales, supporting about 1,000 firefighters on the ground.

“That aerial support has potentially saved up to 50 properties in that fire ground,” Nugent said.

He said 12 people stayed overnight at the relief centre set up in Ararat, while 200 people visited another in Wendouree, near Ballarat. At that centre, he said many people chose to sleep outside in caravans and cars so they could be with their pets.

Several aged care residents were also transported to the centres, he said. Prisoners with health conditions that make them vulnerable to smoke had also been taken away from the Langi Kal Kal prison, which is near the fire.

V/Line trains on the Ararat Line remained suspended between Ararat and Wendouree.

The Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said it was still not known what caused the blaze, which was about 11,000 hectares in size.

He said it was his hope firefighters would contain the blaze by Friday, with a return to milder conditions at the weekend before a forecast spike in Victoria’s fire activity mid-next week.

“February is traditionally a hot month for Victoria and is when Victoria has its most traditional worst bushfires in the state,” Heffernan said.

It comes as the United Firefighters Union reported two Fire Rescue Victoria vehicles broke down on the way to the fires on Thursday night.

In a statement, its branch secretary, Peter Marshall, said a 15-year-old tanker that had been deployed broke down on the Western Highway in Ballan.

A second pumper tanker, also 15 years old, sent to replace that vehicle overheated and was unable to leave the Beaufort Fire Station.

In a letter to the emergency services minister, Jaclyn Symes, Marshall demanded urgent action to address FRV’s ageing fleet.

On Friday, Symes said: “We have dedicated mechanics that are on the fire ground side by side with our firefighters to respond to any issues in response to the fleet. We have more than 175 fire trucks fighting that fire today.”

Firefighters have also been battling bushfires in parts of Tasmania, with a watch and act warning issued for the Dee community and surrounds over a fire in the remote central highlands, with residents told to prepare to leave.

A high fire danger alert had been issued for parts of central and south western New South Wales in addition to the Greater Hunter region.

Hot conditions on Friday were likely to be focused on northern and eastern NSW, according to Bureau of Meteorology meteorologist Dean Narramore.

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Big spendersRightwing group Advance mounts ‘unprecedented’ campaign against Labor in Dunkley

Rightwing political group Advance mounts ‘unprecedented’ campaign against Labor in Dunkley

Lobby group made a mark during voice vote and is outspending the Liberals in byelection. Will its tactics work again?

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aThe rightwing political group Advance is running a third-party campaign “unprecedented” for an Australian electoral contest, outspending the Liberal party on social media ads in an effort to wrestle the seat of Dunkley from Labor.

The strategy, being orchestrated by the team behind the referendum’s no vote, is focused on criticising Anthony Albanese over the cost-of-living crisis and community safety. Labor believes it may be among the biggest push mounted by an activist group in a single seat outside a general election.

Dunkley is Advance’s first electoral project since the voice, with the mortgage belt seat a field test of whether its brand of populist, incendiary campaigning honed in the during the voice can have an impact in a standard ballot rather than the binary choice of a referendum.

The group’s rolling billboards – which it calls “truth trucks” – circle the Victorian electorate, imploring voters to “put Labor last”. But despite Advance’s deep links with – and prior work for – the Liberal party, it is not explicitly campaigning for the Coalition candidate, Nathan Conroy, as much it is campaigning heavily against the government. The group plans on “hammering letterboxes” with anti-Labor flyers; it ran full-page ads in Victorian newspapers about asylum seekers; and its paid social media ads are targeted solely at Dunkley.

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Senior Labor sources remain confident of retaining the seat, held previously by the late Peta Murphy, but are wary of Advance’s novel tactics in a live electoral contest – especially since the absence of One Nation and United Australia party candidates could hand the Liberals a greater share of the rightwing vote.

Advance’s controversial referendum campaign – which drew criticisms of racism and misinformation from opponents and some Liberal MPs – has Labor alive to the challenge, with no less than the party’s national president, Wayne Swan, and secretary, Paul Erickson, continually emailing supporters, asking for donations to “fight Advance”.

Albanese claimed the group wants to “frighten” people with its messaging about crime and asylum seekers. “This group is certainly very partisan,” he told 3AW on Thursday. “They spread a whole lot of misinformation.”

Sophisticated digital operation

Advance reported $5.2m in donations in 2022-23, double its takings for the previous year. It also declared $4.5m on election expenditure in the year to July 2023, before the main period of official referendum campaigning.

Guardian Australia’s investigations throughout the referendum campaign highlighted Advance’s sophisticated digital operation, including a network of Facebook pages highlighting different criticisms of the Indigenous voice, as well as a “Referendum News” page which portrayed itself as a neutral news source. That page rebranded as “Election News” shortly after the byelection date was confirmed, posting only content related to Victoria and Dunkley.

Analysis of Meta’s ad library, which tracks ads across Facebook and Instagram, shows Advance is outspending the Liberal party but splashing far less than Labor in Dunkley.

In the 30 days to 22 February, Advance’s main page and Election News combined spent about $25,000 boosting its Dunkley-related posts. Ads boosted by Conroy and the Victorian Liberal party came to only $20,600.

Meanwhile, Labor spent closer to $50,000 on Dunkley ads on its national Facebook page, according to ad library. Candidate Jodie Belyea spent $7,200 boosting ads.

Advance’s ads, targeted at Dunkley postcodes, have garnered between 1.37m and 1.64m impressions, according to Meta’s ad library tool (which gives a range, rather than a specific number).

Byelection ‘a referendum on the prime minister’

Advance is almost entirely focused on criticising Labor to galvanise a “protest vote” in Dunkley. Its Facebook messaging targets concerns about rising prices and the release of asylum seekers from indefinite detention. “How many in Dunkley?” the online and newspaper ads read, demanding the government reveal if any of the detainees freed after a high court ruling live in the electorate.

Asked about the ad on 3AW, Albanese defended his government’s response. “I think people will have a look at that ad, which is designed to frighten and scare people, and see it for what it is,” he said. “It’s unfortunate because I don’t want to see Australia go down the American road, where there’s so much polarisation.”

Asked for response to the comments from Albanese and Labor, an Advance spokesperson replied that the prime minister “didn’t answer the question” on 3AW, and shrugged off his criticisms.

In an email to supporters on 2 March, Advance’s director, Matthew Sheahan, claimed that the byelection was “a referendum on the prime minister”, urging “hard-working Aussies who live in Dunkley” to “fire a warning shot across the prime minister’s bow”.

“If we convince voters in this one seat to put Labor last on March 2, the pressure will pile on Anthony Albanese in ways he can’t imagine,” he wrote. “It will be a political earthquake.”

In a 14 February email, Sheahan spruiked a “brutal shock and awe political campaign in Dunkley”. He said Advance was seeking $275,000 in donations to finance social media advertising, “rolling truth trucks out on to every major road in Dunkley”, and “hammering letterboxes with eye-catching leaflets”.

Sources on the ground in Dunkley say the trucks are a constant presence on main thoroughfares, with a black-and-white photo of a grumpy looking Albanese as people stand in a kitchen, looking over bills and appearing stressed. “We’ve all had enough,” the signage reads.

“This is more than just a byelection: it’s a chance to rearrange the political landscape,” Advance’s donations page claims.

Wayne Swan ‘concerned’ about rise of Advance

After Guardian Australia reported on Advance’s fundraising drive, Labor’s president, Wayne Swan, put his name on an email to party supporters accusing Advance of “trying to import a permanent Trumpist style culture war” and “using the politics of race, gender and identity”.

Swan said he was “concerned” about Advance being “one of the fastest growing campaign organisations in the country”, calling it a “nasty organisation”. The email asked for donations to “fight Advance”.

Labor’s vice-president, Mich-Elle Myers, sent a similar fundraising email, claiming Advance was “trying to buy Dunkley for Peter Dutton”.

Advance, in turn, used it as a fundraising opportunity of their own. In an email on Wednesday, Sheahan claimed “Albo has hit the panic button” and was “running scared”.

“They’re so rattled, former federal treasurer Wayne Swan has written to all Labor members. He warned them that your powerful ADVANCE campaign in Dunkley is about to overwhelm them.”

On Thursday Erickson – a mastermind of Labor’s 2022 election triumph – sent his own donations email, blasting Advance’s mobile billboards as a “truck of lies”.

“They’re not going to stop until they’ve bought the seat of Dunkley for the Liberals,” he claimed, requesting cash to “fight Advance”.

Advance campaign spend ‘unprecedented’

Advance has operated in several election campaigns, to little success, since launching in 2019 with plans to be the “rightwing GetUp”. Its 2019 campaign to save Tony Abbott in Warringah failed, as did its 2022 campaigns against the Labor party, and the independents David Pocock and Zali Steggall, all of whom were elected.

But Advance’s 2023 referendum campaign, portraying the Indigenous voice as an elitist and complicated proposal saw the group emerge as a powerful third-party force in Australian politics, despite the protests of voice supporters, who branded some parts of their campaign a “lie”.

Advance’s campaign has differed from its referendum push but still retains some flavours of its first major success. The group homed in on comments from Labor’s candidate, Jodie Belyea, after last year’s referendum, when she called the no result “the display of what I can only describe as the worst of white privilege in this country”.

Dunkley voted no by a margin of 56% to 44%.

Advance posted several links to Belyea’s comments on social media, writing: “Labor thinks you voted No to the Voice of Division because of your ‘white privilege’. Does Albo’s cost of living crisis make you feel ‘privileged’? What a joke.”

It also dusted off and rebranded its Referendum News page, which lay dormant for months after its last post on 13 October, the day before the referendum vote. Its next online activity wouldn’t be until 29 January, when the page name was changed to Election News – 10 days after the Dunkley byelection date was announced, and the same day the writs for the poll were issued.

Advance posted four articles in quick succession about cost-of-living issues in Victoria: rising electricity bills, housing issues, a spike in shoplifting cases linked to the cost of living, and economic pressures facing families. All four articles were weeks or months old – the latest had been published in December 2023, the oldest in May 2023, about eight months before Advance posted it. A fifth article was also posted on 29 January, critical of the Albanese government’s handling of asylum seekers freed from indefinite detention.

Since the beginning of 2024, Election News has targeted every one of its posts solely at people living in the Frankston area, specifically blanketing postcodes and suburbs in the Dunkley electorate.

Labor sources said they were surprised, however, that Advance hadn’t leaned more heavily into Google and YouTube advertising. The ALP has strongly utilised the platforms, while Advance has only boosted Google ads with less than $1,000 in spending.

Labor sources say it is “unprecedented” for Advance to outspend the Liberals on advertising, as appears to be the case. Some question whether GetUp – which has run focused campaigns against Peter Dutton in Dickson and Abbott in Warringah at general elections – had ever poured such substantial resources into a byelection.

Veteran campaign experts say it’s unknown how effective a group like Advance might be in a normal electoral contest but that its large campaign war chest, as well as techniques and supporter lists refined through the referendum, combine to make a formidable political machine.

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Private educationFive schools spent as much on new facilities in one year as 3,000 Australian public schools

Five private schools spent as much on new facilities in one year as 3,000 Australian public schools

Australian Education Union report finds a $31.8bn divide in capital spending over 10 years

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Five elite private schools spent about the same amount of money on new facilities in 2021 as governments gave to more than half of Australia’s public schools for building works, new research has found.

A report released by the Australian Education Union (AEU) on Friday found the average annual capital spending per student in private schools in the decade to 2021 was more than double what was spent on public schools, equating to a $31.8bn divide.

Under the current arrangements, the commonwealth is responsible for the majority of non-government school funding (80%) with states and territories contributing the rest. The reverse is in place for public schools, with the states and territories responsible for the remaining 80% of funding.

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Private schools also receive the bulk of their revenue from private contributions and fees but they are also topped up by governments, leading 98% of the sector to be overfunded when measured against the Schooling Resource Standard.

The union’s report highlights what education advocates have described as an infrastructure divide that they say must be urgently addressed.

It found $175.6m was spent across five private schools in Victoria and NSW in 2021 alone, which was in excess of what the federal and state or territory governments spent on capital works to upgrade 3,372 – or about half of all – public schools ($175.4m).

One prestigious Sydney boys school, Cranbrook, funnelled more into a new pool and expanded fitness and drama facilities ($63.5m) in 2021 than the NT and Tasmanian governments’ combined spending on new and upgraded schools.

Barker and Abbotsleigh Colleges in NSW spent more than $25m each, while Caulfield Grammar in Victoria spent $23.6m and Loreto Mandeville Hall spent $37.7m on capital works on 2021.

Barker College has since announced plans to spend an additional $150m building a performing arts and exam centre and an aquatic and tennis centre, while Loreto has a $130m redevelopment plan under way.

The union has released the report on the same day education ministers will meet in Melbourne for negotiations on the next bilateral school funding agreement.

Non-government schools have been allocated $1.25bn since 2017 in commonwealth funds as part of a capital grants program.

If the scheme remains in place, private schools will get almost $1bn in capital funding from the federal government over the next four years.

Only the NT and WA receive ongoing capital funding in public schools. The remaining jurisdictions are now sharing in a $216m building grants program that is spread across more than 6,700 public schools. The one-year fund was introduced by the Albanese government in the 2023 budget and is set to expire.

The AEU federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said state and territory governments had been lobbying for both capital and recurrent funding to be extended to public schools.

“Only 1.3% of public schools are fully funded compared to 98% of private schools and that inequity in recurrent funding is contributing to an unacceptable $30bn divide in spending on new and upgraded schools,” Haythorpe said.

Some private schools were able to spend on lavish facilities due to government overfunding while public schools were “increasingly left with demountable classrooms to cope with rising enrolments”, Haythorpe said.

The report also found more than $40m from a federal government capital grants program, designed to support private schools in disadvantaged areas, had instead been directed into wealthy private schools.

Already $250,000 had been funnelled to Loreto Normanhurst as part of the program, which charges fees of over $31,000 a year, while Newington College also received $150,000.

In total, commonwealth overfunding helped private schools divert $2.5bn of their recurrent income into capital projects between 2019 and 2021, the report said.

The AEU is calling for a $1.25bn injection into government schools to make up for the axing of capital funding to the public system by the former Coalition government in 2017, which the union says has led to a backlog of building maintenance.

The Greens leader, Adam Bandt, will back the demands at an address to union’s federal conference on Friday, saying the party is prepared to use its numbers if funding legislation is brought before parliament this year.

In November, the productivity commission released a draft report recommending ending the tax deductibility for donations to private school building funds.

Asked whether Labor would legislate capital funding for public schools and end tax deductibility for the private system, the education minister, Jason Clare, said his focus was working with states and territories to get all government schools to their “full and fair funding level”.

“Draft recommendations by the Productivity Commission are not government policy,” he said.

The convener of the public school advocacy group Save our Schools, Trevor Cobbold, said double standards were in place that ensured private school funding privileges were “sacrosanct”.

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NSW police officer and ex-celebrity blogger charged with murder of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

NSW police officer Beau Lamarre charged with murder of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

Police allege ballistic testing reveals police firearm was discharged and they claim white van used to ‘dispose of the bodies’ has been located

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A 28-year-old serving police officer has been charged with two counts of murder during an investigation into the disappearance of former Channel Ten presenter Jesse Baird and his Qantas flight attendant partner Luke Davies.

Police on Friday alleged that ballistic testing at the Paddington home of Baird – a partner of the officer until a couple of months ago – found evidence a police firearm had been discharged. This included the discovery of one cartridge case, as well as a large amount of blood at the home.

The firearm used was later placed in a police gun safe.

Const Beau Lamarre, a former celebrity blogger, handed himself in at Bondi police station about 10.30am on Friday.

Detective superintendent Daniel Doherty of the New South Wales crime command’s homicide squad said the officer was part of a specialist team within the police force.

A white van sought by police has been located, and Doherty said it will be alleged in court that the van was used “to transport the bodies and dispose of the bodies”.

Doherty said the 28-year-old officer “hasn’t assisted us to date” as investigators seek information.

Bodies of the two men have not been located.

Police earlier raided a home in the Sydney suburb of Balmain – understood to be Lamarre’s family home – after announcing they were searching for a third person potentially linked to the disappearance of Baird, 26 and now an AFL goal umpire, and Davies, 29, who vanished from Sydney’s east on Monday.

Their disappearance is being treated as suspicious after bloody possessions belonging to both men were found in a skip bin in Cronulla on Wednesday, leading police to Baird’s blood-stained sharehouse 30km away in Paddington.

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Lamarre ran a now-defunct celebrity website called the Australian Reporter which was deregistered in 2016.

In videos posted online, he can be seen interviewing celebrities including Russell Crowe.

Social media photographs depict Lamarre with a range of showbiz personalities including Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus.

In 2014, when he was a teenager, Lamarre was at a Lady Gaga concert in Sydney when he reportedly threw a note on the stage in which he came out as gay. He was later invited backstage by the singer, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in 2014.

Lamarre was also identified as the police officer who Tasered a man at close range during an arrest in 2020, an incident that was filmed and later went viral online.

The incident was investigated and Lamarre was cleared of wrongdoing.

On Thursday night NSW police said a third person could be involved. The ABC and several Sydney news outlets reported that the third man being sought was a serving police officer, Lamarre, who had previously been in a relationship with Baird.

“Investigations into the matter are ongoing,” police said before the man was taken into custody on Friday morning.

“Detectives are looking at a line of inquiry that a third person may be able to assist with the investigation. Police are currently trying to locate him.”

Police executed a search warrant and “seized a number of items” from the Balmain home about 11.30pm on Thursday.

Shouting had been heard by neighbours of Baird’s home in Paddington on Monday but that was not reported to police until they arrived on Wednesday afternoon.

Baird’s WhatsApp account was active as late as Tuesday night, leading detectives to appeal for him to come forward if he were able to.

Police said on Thursday evening: “Detectives will continue to look at all past relationships and associations. Anyone with information about Luke Davies and Jesse Baird’s whereabouts – or who may have information relevant to the investigation – should contact Crime Stoppers.”

Det Supt Jodi Radmore told reporters on Thursday she was open to the possibility that someone else was involved in the couple’s disappearance.

Police found blood when searching Baird’s Paddington home and discovered that furniture had been moved. Radmore said the amount of blood suggested someone had suffered a significant or major wound.

As well as presenting on the morning program Studio 10, Baird had taken to the field of AFL and VFL games as a goal umpire.

Photos from his and Davies’ social media accounts show them together at a Pink concert in Sydney the previous week.

One snap of the pair taken at the lighthouse at Palm Beach earlier this month reads: “Perfect start to a long weekend.”

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Taylor Swift and other superstars bring new crowds to Australian stadiums

Universal appeal of Taylor Swift and other superstars threaten sport’s supremacy at Australian stadiums

Music contests sport’s throne as stadiums aspire to be cultural hubs and economic engine rooms for cosmopolitan cities

The Melbourne Cricket Ground – the 171-year-old sporting coliseum – provided an unlikely surprise for Taylor Swift fans last week.

“I hate cricket so I’ve never been,” said one fan, asked to reflect on the experience. “I was honestly impressed at how big it was,” his friend – another first-time visitor – said. “And it was perfect for a concert like that.”

A total of 96,000 people turned up on Friday. Then 96,000 on Saturday. And 96,000 on Sunday, highlighting the increasing popularity of arena spectaculars. Globally, shows in the top 100 stadiums grossed US$3.6bn ($5.5bn) in 2023 according to live music trade publication Pollstar, up 35% on the year before and more than double 2019, the year before the pandemic set in.

With every passing concert – and every glowing wristband handed out – the role of stadiums in the community is slowly being transformed, according to those working in the sector. From exorbitant athletic indulgences, or worse, white elephants, large venues are aspiring to be cultural hubs and economic engine rooms for cosmopolitan cities.

But in an environment with scarce public resources and cost of living pressures, there is justified pushback. In Brisbane, a planned rebuild of the Gabba appears likely to scrapped, and the merits of a modern, enclosed stadium in Hobart has become central to the coming state election. The combined estimated cost of the two projects was close to $4bn. Their ultimate budgets? Elvis only knows.

And so the almost universal appeal of Swift, alongside Pink, Coldplay and other superstar artists, has become a powerful argument for an infrastructure class long viewed suspiciously by those from outside sport.

Swift will play at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium – now named after hotel chain Accor – on Friday night with, fittingly, American football-playing boyfriend Travis Kelce in the audience.

Kerrie Mather, chief executive of Venues NSW and the woman ultimately in charge of Friday’s Swift concert, said the stadium hadn’t been as busy since the 2000 Games. “And with Taylor Swift comes a vastly different audience to what our home teams and sports normally attract,” she said. “The broader the range of events, whether sporting, cultural or major concerts, the better they are serving their communities.”

Infrastructure expert and Western Sydney Leadership Dialogue chair, Christopher Brown, said he had seen a shift of influence inside large venues from sporting clubs to promoters. Brown was on the advisory board for the Olympic Stadium for close to a decade until just prior to the pandemic. He said concerts in that period represented “ancillary income”.

“Fill in the gaps, because football was king,” he said. Now, the throne is contested. “Music has taken a supremacy over sport to some extent, or at least rebalanced it.”

In the competition among neighbouring metropolises, stadiums today are being designed with concerts at the forefront. Declan Sharkey, senior principal for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at stadium architects Populous, says designs are evolving “from functional buildings, generally used once a week to host sport, to cultural, civic and economic assets”.

The two most recently built large Australian venues, Allianz Stadium in Sydney and Optus Stadium in Perth were both designed with features focused on improving the fan experience and logistics around hosting concerts.

And governments are doing what they can to unlock the potential of existing publicly owned venues. A cap on concerts at Allianz has been in place since a noisy 1995 Rolling Stones concert at the neighbouring Sydney Cricket Ground annoyed residents. The state government finally lifted it from four events a year to 20 this year. “We’ll be bringing the best artists from across the world to NSW, helping to revive our nightlife and our economy,” NSW premier Chris Minns stated in January. “It’s a no brainer.”

In Brisbane, the Queensland government is seeking to do a similar thing, lifting the concert cap at the 52,000-seat Suncorp Stadium from six a year to 12, to meet demand for stadium-based concerts.

The busier calendar is testing the ability of ground staff, and patience of traditional tenants: sporting teams. The MCG hosted an AFL match a little over a week after an Ed Sheeran concert last year, prompting complaints from some players. Chief operating officer at A-League club Brisbane Roar, Zac Anderson, said his club – despite suffering from sub-standard pitch conditions this season – accepted it needed to share his city’s primary venue with concerts. “There’s going to be blocks of the year especially with the cap potentially increasing that concerts are on,” he said. “So it is a juggling act, but it’s also something that we will deal with, because we want to be playing at Suncorp.”

These teething issues are seen as a small price to pay as the venues seek greater social acceptance, and greater investment. Brown said there would always be an “anti-sport” perspective, but this consolidation meant stadiums were better positioned to have broader support. “You can’t be building a stadium for one footy team, that’s five games a year, that’s a waste,” he said. “Governments have a role to invest their hard earned money in public good, and public benefit. And you know, I spent four weeks hounding to find a ticket to Tay Tay for my niece … and for her, there’s no greater thing in her life.”

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‘Rain or shine’ Taylor Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert to go ahead despite thunderstorm warning

Taylor Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert to go ahead ‘rain or shine’ despite thunderstorm warning

BoM forecasting ‘possibly severe’ thunderstorms for Friday afternoon and evening, with the show to kick off at 6.20pm

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Taylor Swift fans are scrambling to adjust their plans after Sydney’s wild weather has forced flights to be cancelled.

Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert will go ahead “rain or shine”, Accor Stadium has said – unless the expected severe weather threatens people’s safety.

But the severe storms predicted mean Airservices Australia has limited the number of Sydney arrivals and departures, leading to cancellations and delays.

Qantas has put on an Airbus A380 from Melbourne to Sydney – carrying about three Boeing 737 flights’ worth of passengers – to get more people to Sydney on time.

That 5pm flight replaces three 4pm flights, so Qantas said it was unlikely passengers were travelling to Sydney for the 6.20pm concert, but that it would help deal with Friday’s high demand.

Qantas said in a statement that all customers affected have been contacted and that customers travelling from other airports might be able to switch to an earlier flight.

Sydney Airport arrivals information shows Jetstar flights from the Gold Coast and Melbourne on Friday afternoon have been cancelled, alongside Virgin flights from the Gold Coast and Canberra, and Qantas flights from the Gold Coast and Port Macquarie.

The Bureau of Meteorology predicted “possibly severe” thunderstorms for Friday afternoon and evening, and emergency services are warning people to be careful while travelling.

Swift’s hotly anticipated gig is scheduled to kick off at 6.20pm, with gates opening at 4.30pm.

The forecast is for a hot day with a maximum of 36C at nearby Parramatta. “A thunderstorm likely during this afternoon and evening, possibly severe with damaging winds, heavy falls and large hail,” the BoM forecast said.

Qantas said all its passengers affected by cancellations had been booked on to alternative flights.

Jetstar said in a statement it had added two extra flights from Melbourne and Brisbane on Saturday morning, and was offering free moves to earlier flights or alternative flights from other airports.

“We’re doing everything we can to get affected customers on their way as soon as possible,” Jetstar said.

Virgin said they were trying to let customers know in advance of any rescheduling, but that guests should check their flight status.

No umbrellas are allowed in the stadium but jackets or rain ponchos are fine.

BoM meteorologist Helen Reid said the storms were likely to hit just as crowds were settling in for the show.

“For the crowds heading to Olympic Park, the afternoon will still be hot after temperatures get to around 36C in the early afternoon,” she said.

“Thunderstorm development during the afternoon will become more widespread with timing at Olympic Park likely to coincide with crowds settling into the concert.

“A cool southerly change is expected as the sun is disappearing over the horizon, with some more rain to come with it. Today’s thunderstorm activity will ease overnight.”

Olympic Park was caught up in Sydney’s asbestos scare last week but has since been given the all clear.

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The New South Wales State Emergency Service has urged people to make “safe and sensible decisions”.

“We may see some very poor weather this afternoon and evening across parts of Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Illawarra, parts of the South Coast and eastern parts of the Southern Tablelands,” chief superintendent Dallas Burnes said.

“The weather expected may make things like travelling hazardous, with high end heavy rain and flash flooding a possibility.

“We hope everyone has a very enjoyable time at these events but ask people to plan ahead so they can get there safely.”

The SES is preparing for an increase in incidents, he said, and advised people to download the Hazards Near Me app to get warnings about severe weather, floods, tsunami and fires.

Swift has form singing in the rain – in November, she performed during a deluge in Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro.

At that show she paid tribute to a fan who had died at her concert two days earlier, during an intense heatwave. The next night’s concert was cancelled because of the heat, and the night after that the rains came.

In the wake of that incident, Milad Haghani, a senior lecturer in public safety, disaster resilience and urban mobility at the University of New South Wales, warned that with climate change, extreme weather would pose more risk to mass gatherings.

Reid said the weather would be better for Swift’s next three shows, which will be attended by a total of about 300,000 fans.

“Conditions for the concerts over the weekend and Monday will be more stable with cooler temperatures,” she said.

“Saturday itself will start with some rain but this will clear in time for the concert. Sunday and Monday will be mostly sunny with little chance of rain.”

Narelle Yeo, who teaches voice and stagecraft at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, said Swift was a true professional who has had good training and can cope with difficult conditions. Any physical danger aside, the weather could still affect parts of her performance, she said.

“The only issue, really, is that storms change barometric pressure and that makes physiological changes,” she said. “You can still sing but the condition in which you sing slightly changes.

“When you climb a mountain, your voice does go up a pitch so changes in atmospheric pressure do impact your voice but not so much you’d notice.

“Her voice sounds very healthy, so there’s no risk to her voice – I’m not at all concerned for her to do a gig under hard conditions.”

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Facing facts: ABC pulls the plug on RMIT factchecking collaboration

Facing facts: ABC pulls the plug on RMIT factchecking collaboration

Amanda Meade

Decision to switch to in-house verification unit comes after broadcaster caught up in voice referendum culture war between university and Sky News. Plus: hubbub over Hubbl as News Corp launches streaming device

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The ABC is getting out of the business of factchecking politicians, and who can blame them?

A seven-year collaboration between RMIT and the broadcaster has ended abruptly, with the ABC telling the university it was withdrawing the $350,000 a year it contributed to the RMIT ABC Fact Check unit.

RMIT ABC Fact Check, which will end in June, has a brief to determine “the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate”.

The ABC’s decision to pull the plug comes after the broadcaster was caught up in a culture war between Sky News Australia and RMIT over factchecking claims during the voice referendum campaign.

Campaigners for a no vote including the Sky host Peta Credlin, the Liberal senator James Paterson and the rightwing thinktank the Institute for Public Affairs claimed RMIT FactLab – a separate operation from the RMIT ABC collaboration – was biased, and demanded Facebook remove it from its program which aims to tackle online misinformation.

Despite the distinction, The Australian reported that both the RMIT ABC Fact Check and RMIT FactLab departments “came under fire” when it was only the latter which was involved, and the story said Paterson had called for the ABC to stop “wasting taxpayers’ money”.

RMIT FactLab was suspended in August, but reinstated in November.

Some critics paid little heed to the distinction between RMIT FactLab and RMIT ABC Fact Check.

RMIT launched the fact check unit in partnership with the ABC in 2017 after the ABC Fact Check unit was axed in the wake of Coalition budget cuts.

In the 11 years the ABC has been involved in factchecking it has been a regular target of politicians, with ABC MDs being grilled about it in Senate estimates.

‘Not for the faint of heart’

Following the lead of the BBC’s Verify, which was set up to address the growing threat of disinformation, the ABC will now set up ABC News Verify, to verify “information in online communities”. It will be led by the ABC’s investigative journalism chief, Jo Puccini. But there is no mention of factchecking politicians’ claims as RMIT ABC Fact Check has done, labelling them variously “overblown”, “spin”, “splitting hairs” or “fanciful”.

The founding director of RMIT ABC Fact Check and RMIT FactLab, Russell Skelton, told Weekly Beast ABC Fact Check had an “unblemished” seven-year record and “fact check” had become a household term because of the work of the team.

That was a legacy “we will always be proud of”, he said.

“Factchecking is not for the faint of heart, and it’s been a privilege to have the courage and unwavering support of RMIT at our back,” he said.

“Since it was launched not a single verdict was overturned following a complaint.”

Unlimited space for Hubbl

When you have a new product to launch it helps if you have the enthusiastic cooperation of significant sections of the media. And so it was when the Foxtel Group launched Hubbl on Wednesday night and sparked an avalanche of coverage in the Murdoch press and Sky News Australia.

The headlines on dailytelegraph.com.au alone tell a story: “Foxtel launches revolutionary platform ‘Hubbl’ for TV and streaming”; “Forget Hamish and Andy: Duo takes on name change”; “Stars step out for Aussie streaming launch”; “Incredible new streaming service launches”; “Hubbl ‘revolution’ off to a flying start”; “Huge change coming to streaming”; “Hubbl to ‘reshape’ TV, with key apps under one roof”; “Foxtel reveals exciting new TV technology”; “Hubbl to simplify streaming experience”.

Not content with the guaranteed coverage in the News Corp outlets, Foxtel put on a media event at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on Sydney harbour, which insiders say left not much change from $1m once guests were flown in from around the country and Hamish and Andy were paid for endorsing the new brand. (Even the line of rubbish bins facing the harbour were dressed for the occasion.)

Hamish and Andy, Channel Nine multimillionaire stars, have filmed seven TV commercials for Hubbl – the first time they have endorsed a commercial product together.

With a view of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the city skyline, guests were shown a live demo of Hubbl on the giant outdoor cinema screen and Hamish dressed up as Hubbl in a giant foam box.

Demonstrating the importance of Hubbl to News Corp, even its global chief executive Robert Thompson was in the crowd, as well as The Australian boss Michael Miller, chair of the Herald & Weekly Times Penny Fowler, national executive editor Peter Blunden, CEO of Sky News Australia Paul Whittaker and Daily Telegraph editor Ben English.

Lachlan Murdoch, who was also in town for a News Corp board meeting, was not in attendance.

Free-to-air fights its corner

Hubbl’s chief executive, Patrick Delany, was keen to show off the collegiate spirit of the venture, with stars from free-to-air TV as well as Foxtel walking the blue carpet and network CEOs James Warburton (Seven), Beverley McGarvey (Ten) and James Taylor (SBS) among the guests.

Hubbl promises to put live TV, free-to-air and streaming on one easy-to-use device and both pay and free TV have embraced the product.

But just two days later the free-to-air mob were at odds with Delany over a different issue at a Senate committee examining draft legislation that is designed to guarantee local, free-to-air TV services are easy for audiences to find.

Delany has been campaigning against the bill, claiming it is an attempt by the government to control your TV.

On Friday morning the networks asked the government to reduce the “unjustifiable delay” in implementing the laws, which currently come into play only 18 months after the legislation passes.

Taylor told the senators SBS had been “threatened” by smart TV manufacturers that SBS On Demand would be hard to find on their devices if a fee was not paid.

All about the woke

The Institute of Public Affairs had an idiosyncratic take on the resignation of the Woolworths chief executive, Brad Banducci, days after a spectacular meltdown on the ABC’s Four Corners.

Banducci briefly walked away from the television interview after becoming frustrated during questions from reporter Angus Grigg about market power.

“The resignation of Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci is a warning to woke corporates and the elite director class to stop disrespecting mainstream values and running down Australia,” the IPA’s deputy executive director, Daniel Wild, claimed.

The IPA was furious the supermarket chain made a decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise in its stores.

Wild claimed mainstream Australians have “had a gutful of big corporates dividing our nation and denigrating our culture and history”.

“Credit must go to Peter Dutton who showed critical leadership, often lacking in Canberra, in holding Woolworths to account for their divisive intervention on a key cultural issue, and has been proven right to call for its boycott.”

Low-key farewell

Ita Buttrose held her final board meeting as chair of the ABC on Thursday, and dined with fellow board members in the evening ahead of her final day in the job on 6 March. But her long-planned farewell event, a four-hour cocktail function with invited guests, was postponed earlier in the month after invitations had gone out. The note said it had been postponed “due to unexpected circumstances”.

No date for a new event has been set but one is promised.

We are assured the event was not postponed due to ill health. The recent onslaught of bad press due to Antoinette Lattouf’s Fair Work claim is likely to have scared the horses. Buttrose’s departure after five years at the helm has been overshadowed by the controversy and an event celebrating her legacy may have been hijacked by negative press.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Kim Williams as chair has been signed off by the governor-general and he will take up the role in a fortnight.

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Facing facts: ABC pulls the plug on RMIT factchecking collaboration

Facing facts: ABC pulls the plug on RMIT factchecking collaboration

Amanda Meade

Decision to switch to in-house verification unit comes after broadcaster caught up in voice referendum culture war between university and Sky News. Plus: hubbub over Hubbl as News Corp launches streaming device

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

The ABC is getting out of the business of factchecking politicians, and who can blame them?

A seven-year collaboration between RMIT and the broadcaster has ended abruptly, with the ABC telling the university it was withdrawing the $350,000 a year it contributed to the RMIT ABC Fact Check unit.

RMIT ABC Fact Check, which will end in June, has a brief to determine “the accuracy of claims by politicians, public figures, advocacy groups and institutions engaged in the public debate”.

The ABC’s decision to pull the plug comes after the broadcaster was caught up in a culture war between Sky News Australia and RMIT over factchecking claims during the voice referendum campaign.

Campaigners for a no vote including the Sky host Peta Credlin, the Liberal senator James Paterson and the rightwing thinktank the Institute for Public Affairs claimed RMIT FactLab – a separate operation from the RMIT ABC collaboration – was biased, and demanded Facebook remove it from its program which aims to tackle online misinformation.

Despite the distinction, The Australian reported that both the RMIT ABC Fact Check and RMIT FactLab departments “came under fire” when it was only the latter which was involved, and the story said Paterson had called for the ABC to stop “wasting taxpayers’ money”.

RMIT FactLab was suspended in August, but reinstated in November.

Some critics paid little heed to the distinction between RMIT FactLab and RMIT ABC Fact Check.

RMIT launched the fact check unit in partnership with the ABC in 2017 after the ABC Fact Check unit was axed in the wake of Coalition budget cuts.

In the 11 years the ABC has been involved in factchecking it has been a regular target of politicians, with ABC MDs being grilled about it in Senate estimates.

‘Not for the faint of heart’

Following the lead of the BBC’s Verify, which was set up to address the growing threat of disinformation, the ABC will now set up ABC News Verify, to verify “information in online communities”. It will be led by the ABC’s investigative journalism chief, Jo Puccini. But there is no mention of factchecking politicians’ claims as RMIT ABC Fact Check has done, labelling them variously “overblown”, “spin”, “splitting hairs” or “fanciful”.

The founding director of RMIT ABC Fact Check and RMIT FactLab, Russell Skelton, told Weekly Beast ABC Fact Check had an “unblemished” seven-year record and “fact check” had become a household term because of the work of the team.

That was a legacy “we will always be proud of”, he said.

“Factchecking is not for the faint of heart, and it’s been a privilege to have the courage and unwavering support of RMIT at our back,” he said.

“Since it was launched not a single verdict was overturned following a complaint.”

Unlimited space for Hubbl

When you have a new product to launch it helps if you have the enthusiastic cooperation of significant sections of the media. And so it was when the Foxtel Group launched Hubbl on Wednesday night and sparked an avalanche of coverage in the Murdoch press and Sky News Australia.

The headlines on dailytelegraph.com.au alone tell a story: “Foxtel launches revolutionary platform ‘Hubbl’ for TV and streaming”; “Forget Hamish and Andy: Duo takes on name change”; “Stars step out for Aussie streaming launch”; “Incredible new streaming service launches”; “Hubbl ‘revolution’ off to a flying start”; “Huge change coming to streaming”; “Hubbl to ‘reshape’ TV, with key apps under one roof”; “Foxtel reveals exciting new TV technology”; “Hubbl to simplify streaming experience”.

Not content with the guaranteed coverage in the News Corp outlets, Foxtel put on a media event at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair on Sydney harbour, which insiders say left not much change from $1m once guests were flown in from around the country and Hamish and Andy were paid for endorsing the new brand. (Even the line of rubbish bins facing the harbour were dressed for the occasion.)

Hamish and Andy, Channel Nine multimillionaire stars, have filmed seven TV commercials for Hubbl – the first time they have endorsed a commercial product together.

With a view of the Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the city skyline, guests were shown a live demo of Hubbl on the giant outdoor cinema screen and Hamish dressed up as Hubbl in a giant foam box.

Demonstrating the importance of Hubbl to News Corp, even its global chief executive Robert Thompson was in the crowd, as well as The Australian boss Michael Miller, chair of the Herald & Weekly Times Penny Fowler, national executive editor Peter Blunden, CEO of Sky News Australia Paul Whittaker and Daily Telegraph editor Ben English.

Lachlan Murdoch, who was also in town for a News Corp board meeting, was not in attendance.

Free-to-air fights its corner

Hubbl’s chief executive, Patrick Delany, was keen to show off the collegiate spirit of the venture, with stars from free-to-air TV as well as Foxtel walking the blue carpet and network CEOs James Warburton (Seven), Beverley McGarvey (Ten) and James Taylor (SBS) among the guests.

Hubbl promises to put live TV, free-to-air and streaming on one easy-to-use device and both pay and free TV have embraced the product.

But just two days later the free-to-air mob were at odds with Delany over a different issue at a Senate committee examining draft legislation that is designed to guarantee local, free-to-air TV services are easy for audiences to find.

Delany has been campaigning against the bill, claiming it is an attempt by the government to control your TV.

On Friday morning the networks asked the government to reduce the “unjustifiable delay” in implementing the laws, which currently come into play only 18 months after the legislation passes.

Taylor told the senators SBS had been “threatened” by smart TV manufacturers that SBS On Demand would be hard to find on their devices if a fee was not paid.

All about the woke

The Institute of Public Affairs had an idiosyncratic take on the resignation of the Woolworths chief executive, Brad Banducci, days after a spectacular meltdown on the ABC’s Four Corners.

Banducci briefly walked away from the television interview after becoming frustrated during questions from reporter Angus Grigg about market power.

“The resignation of Woolworths CEO Brad Banducci is a warning to woke corporates and the elite director class to stop disrespecting mainstream values and running down Australia,” the IPA’s deputy executive director, Daniel Wild, claimed.

The IPA was furious the supermarket chain made a decision not to stock Australia Day merchandise in its stores.

Wild claimed mainstream Australians have “had a gutful of big corporates dividing our nation and denigrating our culture and history”.

“Credit must go to Peter Dutton who showed critical leadership, often lacking in Canberra, in holding Woolworths to account for their divisive intervention on a key cultural issue, and has been proven right to call for its boycott.”

Low-key farewell

Ita Buttrose held her final board meeting as chair of the ABC on Thursday, and dined with fellow board members in the evening ahead of her final day in the job on 6 March. But her long-planned farewell event, a four-hour cocktail function with invited guests, was postponed earlier in the month after invitations had gone out. The note said it had been postponed “due to unexpected circumstances”.

No date for a new event has been set but one is promised.

We are assured the event was not postponed due to ill health. The recent onslaught of bad press due to Antoinette Lattouf’s Fair Work claim is likely to have scared the horses. Buttrose’s departure after five years at the helm has been overshadowed by the controversy and an event celebrating her legacy may have been hijacked by negative press.

Meanwhile, the appointment of Kim Williams as chair has been signed off by the governor-general and he will take up the role in a fortnight.

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US returns to lunar surface for first time in over 50 years

US returns to lunar surface for first time in over 50 years: ‘Welcome to the moon’

Intuitive Machines’ spacecraft Odysseus lands after a 73-minute descent, touching down near moon’s south pole

The United States has returned to the lunar surface for the first time in more than 50 years after a privately-built spacecraft named Odysseus capped a nail-biting 73-minute descent from orbit with a touchdown near the moon’s south pole.

Amid celebrations of what Nasa hailed “a giant leap forward”, there was no immediate confirmation of the status or condition of the lander, other than it had reached its planned landing site at crater Malapert A.

But later Intuitive Machines, the Texas-based company that built the first commercial craft to land on the moon, said the craft was “upright and starting to send data”.

The statement on X said mission managers were “working to downlink the first images from the lunar surface”.

The so-called “soft landing” on Thursday, which Steve Altemus, the company’s founder, had given only an 80% chance of succeeding, was designed to open a new era of lunar exploration as Nasa works towards a scheduled late-2026 mission to send humans back there.

“Welcome to the moon,” Altemus said when touchdown when the 5.23pm touchdown was eventually confirmed, after about 10 minutes in which Odysseus was out of contact.

It was the first time any US-built spacecraft had landed on the moon since Nasa’s most recent crewed visit, the Apollo 17 mission in December 1972, and the first visit by commercial vehicle following last month’s failure of Peregrine One, another partnership between the space agency and a private company, Astrobotic.

“Today, for the first time in more than a half century, the US has returned to the moon. Today, for the first time in the history of humanity, a commercial company, an American company, launched and led the voyage up there,” Bill Nelson, the Nasa administrator, said.

“What a triumph. Odysseus has taken the moon. This feat is a giant leap forward for all of humanity.”

There was no video of Odysseus’s fully autonomous descent, which slowed to about 2.2mph at 33ft above the surface. But a camera built by students at Florida’s Embry-Riddle aeronautical university was designed to fall and take pictures immediately before touchdown, and Nasa cameras were set to photograph the ground from the spacecraft.

The 14ft (4.3 metres) hexagonal, six-legged Nova-C lander, affectionately nicknamed Odie by Intuitive Machines employees, is part of Nasa’s commercial lunar payload services (CLPS) initiative, in which the agency awards contracts to private partners, largely to support the Artemis program.

Nasa contributed $118m to get it off the ground, with Intuitive Machines funding a further $130m ahead of its 15 February launch from Florida’s Kennedy space center on a Falcon 9 rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

The IM-1 mission, like the doomed Peregrine effort, is carrying a payload of scientific equipment designed to gather data about the lunar environment, specifically in the rocky region chosen as the landing site for Nasa’s crewed Artemis III mission planned for two years’ time.

It is a hazardous area – “pockmarked with all of these craters”, according to Nelson – but chosen because it is believed to be rich in frozen water that could help sustain a permanent lunar base crucial to future human missions to Mars.

Scientists announced last year that they believed tiny glass beads strewn across the moon’s surface contained potentially “billions of tonnes of water” that could be extracted and used on future missions.

The risks are worth it, Nelson told CNN on Thursday, “to see if there is water in abundance. Because if there’s water, there’s rocket fuel: hydrogen, and oxygen. And we could have a gas station on the south pole of the moon.”

The planned operational life of the solar powered lander is only seven days, before the landing site about 186 miles from the moon’s south pole moves into Earth’s shadow. But Nasa hopes that will be long enough for analysis of how soil there reacted to the impact of the landing.

Other instruments will focus on space weather effects on the lunar surface, while a network of markers for communication and navigation will be deployed.

“Odysseus, powered by a company called Intuitive Machines, launched upon a SpaceX rocket, carrying a bounty of Nasa scientific instruments, is bearing the dream of a new adventure in science, innovation, and American leadership in space,” Nelson said.

Through Artemis, Nasa’s return-to-the-moon program that also has longer-term visions of crewed missions to Mars within the next two decades, the US seeks to stay ahead of Russia and China, both of which are planning their own human lunar landings.

Only the US has previously landed astronauts, in six Apollo missions between 1969 and 1972, while five countries have placed uncrewed spacecraft there. Japan joined the US, Russia, China and India last month when its Smart Lander for Investigating the Moon (Slim) made a successful, if awkward touchdown after a three-month flight.

Two further Intuitive Machines launches are scheduled for later this year, including an ice drill to extract ingredients for rocket fuel, and another Nova-C lander containing a small Nasa rover and four small robots that will explore surface conditions.

  • This article was amended on 22 February 2024. An earlier version wrongly attributed the ‘Welcome to the moon’ quotation to Intuitive Machines mission director Tim Crain.

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Indigenous leader Mick Gooda says referendum failed because of ‘crash through or crash’ strategy

Mick Gooda says voice referendum failed because of ‘crash through or crash’ strategy

Indigenous leader says yes campaign lacked necessary bipartisanship and federal reform for Aboriginal people has ‘come to a complete standstill’

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Indigenous leader Mick Gooda will blame a flawed “crash through or crash” strategy for the failed voice to parliament referendum, arguing in a speech that the result has seen federal reforms for Aboriginal people “come to a complete standstill”.

In a speech to be delivered at the National Aboriginal Press Club in Brisbane on Friday, the co-chair of the Queensland Interim Truth and Treaty Body, planned to say the yes campaign’s strategy lacked necessary bipartisanship or detail, while criticising the negative tactics used by the no campaign, which he believed received funding from people or groups in the US.

In the text of the speech, released in advance, Gooda said the yes campaign should have aimed to establish legislated local voices, a proposal which he believed had the support of the Morrison government.

He also contrasted a lack of action at the commonwealth level with progress at the state level, thanks to a legislated compromise option in Queensland, based on bipartisanship. All but four state MPs voted for the treaty bill in May, including the entire LNP opposition.

“Four months after the referendum and at the federal level things seem to have come to a complete standstill,” Gooda’s speech said. “It’s almost as if some form of paralysis has taken over.

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“I have heard of vague rumours that some local/regional structure will be established, we have heard the prime minister’s close the gap statement last week about more jobs in remote Australia and a revamped CDP [community development program] but what we are not seeing is a narrative, a vision of where we go to from here.”

Gooda claimed the no campaign had also “imported” from the US a tactic to “deny, attack, and reverse [the] victim and offender” and criticised the Northern Territory senator Jacinta Nampijinpa Price for saying there were no negative ongoing impacts of British colonisation on Indigenous Australians.

“This is particularly the approach to history in the US where there is a denialism around racism and an attempt at rewriting history around slavery. There are now views espoused where slaves actually benefited from slavery,” he said in the speech.

“The equivalent here in Australia was when Jacinta Price put forward a view that colonialism benefited Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

“If her family benefited from the colonisation process, more power to them, but as the old saying goes, you are entitled to your own opinion but you are not entitled to your own facts. The research around the world, and not just in Australia, shows that it is the Indigenous peoples who bear the overwhelming cost of colonisation.”

Queensland returned the lowest yes vote in the country, with a 31% yes vote and a 68% no vote. The state government continues to pursue a legislated pathway to treaties with Aboriginal people, although the Liberal National party withdrew its support in the immediate aftermath of the voice referendum, partly due to the potential cost.

Gooda said he would defend the need for compensation as an option during the process.

The legislation would soon take effect with the establishment of a years-long treaty institution and inquiry, he said.

In a career of advocacy spanning decades, Gooda served on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission, as co-commissioner for the royal commission into detention of children in the Northern Territory and on the senior advisory group to co-design the voice to parliament, among others.

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Mar-a-Lago co-defendant seeks dismissal of charges in documents case

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago co-defendant seeks dismissal of charges in documents case

The club’s maintenance chief asks judge to throw out parts of indictment that charge him with conspiring to obstruct justice

Lawyers for Donald Trump’s second co-defendant in the criminal case involving his retention of classified documents have asked a federal judge to throw out the parts of the indictment charging him with conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI.

Carlos De Oliveira, who worked as the maintenance chief at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, was charged last year with taking part in an alleged effort to delete security footage of boxes containing classified documents being moved out of a storage room to be hidden.

In a 19-page court filing on Thursday, lawyers for De Oliveira argued that the specific obstruction counts he was charged with should be tossed because De Oliveira was not aware that a grand jury subpoena had been issued for the footage, or of the compliance obligations the subpoena required.

The filing also asked the judge to force special counsel prosecutors to produce a more detailed breakdown of the nature of the obstruction charges against him, ahead of a potential trial, in the event the motion to dismiss was denied, and to schedule a hearing on the matter.

De Oliveira’s lawyers are likely to face an uphill struggle to toss the charges, in large part because the filing raised arguments about facts in the case, which is left up to a jury, as opposed to issues of law, where the judge has discretion to decide legal standards.

The request might also not be immediately resolved. The presiding US district judge, Aileen Cannon, could take the filing “under advisement” and only make a decision when a jury is seated. Were she to dismiss the charges then, it could prevent prosecutors from challenging such a ruling.

In the superseding indictment filed last year in federal district court in Florida, prosecutors alleged that De Oliveira participated in an effort to conceal the attempt by Trump to retain classified documents for which the government had issued a subpoena seeking their return.

The surveillance footage has long been considered key to the case because it allegedly shows Trump’s valet Walt Nauta removing boxes from the storage room just before Trump’s lawyer was scheduled to go through the boxes and pick out any classified materials to comply with the subpoena.

The surveillance tapes were ultimately handed over to the government as the subpoena required. But the episode became of special interest to prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, who regarded it as an attempt to obstruct the criminal investigation.

According to the indictment, Trump appeared to instruct Nauta to have the tapes destroyed. Nauta then enlisted the help of De Oliveira, and they walked to a security booth where the camera angles were displayed on monitors before walking down to the cameras and pointing them out with flashlights.

The following week, De Oliveira asked the director of IT at Mar-a-Lago, described as “Trump Employee 4” but understood to be identified as Yuscil Taveras, how long surveillance footage was stored for and then told him “the boss” wanted the server deleted.

When Taveras replied that he did not know how to delete the server and suggested De Oliveira ask the security supervisor at the Trump Organization, De Olivera again insisted that “the boss” wanted the server deleted, the indictment said.

The motion to dismiss for De Oliveira broadly rested on two arguments: that he could not have obstructed justice because he was unaware about the subpoena and its compliance obligations, and that his denial to the FBI about moving boxes in a voluntary interview was misconstrued.

On the allegation about the boss wanting the tapes deleted, De Oliveria’s lawyers wrote: “That interaction fails to support the allegations of obstruction … that Mr De Oliveira knew that a subpoena had been issued, that the data in question was responsive to the subpoena.”

And on the allegation about lying to FBI, De Oliveria’s lawyers contended De Oliveira was not sure what exactly prosecutors were asking about when he told agents he did not know about boxes being moved into Mar-a-Lago and where items would have been stored.

“Mr De Oliveira’s point – obviously – was that he had no real involvement in that move and had no idea what went where once it arrived at Mar-a-Lago, and he had no knowledge of classified documents, which, as stated in count 42, was what the agent told Mr De Oliveira the FBI was investigating,” the filing said.

Lawyers for Trump were also due Thursday to file motions to dismiss the charges, including one on the grounds of presidential immunity and another claiming selective and vindictive prosecution, although the filings are not expected to be public until redaction requests are litigated.

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Mar-a-Lago co-defendant seeks dismissal of charges in documents case

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago co-defendant seeks dismissal of charges in documents case

The club’s maintenance chief asks judge to throw out parts of indictment that charge him with conspiring to obstruct justice

Lawyers for Donald Trump’s second co-defendant in the criminal case involving his retention of classified documents have asked a federal judge to throw out the parts of the indictment charging him with conspiring to obstruct justice and making false statements to the FBI.

Carlos De Oliveira, who worked as the maintenance chief at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, was charged last year with taking part in an alleged effort to delete security footage of boxes containing classified documents being moved out of a storage room to be hidden.

In a 19-page court filing on Thursday, lawyers for De Oliveira argued that the specific obstruction counts he was charged with should be tossed because De Oliveira was not aware that a grand jury subpoena had been issued for the footage, or of the compliance obligations the subpoena required.

The filing also asked the judge to force special counsel prosecutors to produce a more detailed breakdown of the nature of the obstruction charges against him, ahead of a potential trial, in the event the motion to dismiss was denied, and to schedule a hearing on the matter.

De Oliveira’s lawyers are likely to face an uphill struggle to toss the charges, in large part because the filing raised arguments about facts in the case, which is left up to a jury, as opposed to issues of law, where the judge has discretion to decide legal standards.

The request might also not be immediately resolved. The presiding US district judge, Aileen Cannon, could take the filing “under advisement” and only make a decision when a jury is seated. Were she to dismiss the charges then, it could prevent prosecutors from challenging such a ruling.

In the superseding indictment filed last year in federal district court in Florida, prosecutors alleged that De Oliveira participated in an effort to conceal the attempt by Trump to retain classified documents for which the government had issued a subpoena seeking their return.

The surveillance footage has long been considered key to the case because it allegedly shows Trump’s valet Walt Nauta removing boxes from the storage room just before Trump’s lawyer was scheduled to go through the boxes and pick out any classified materials to comply with the subpoena.

The surveillance tapes were ultimately handed over to the government as the subpoena required. But the episode became of special interest to prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, who regarded it as an attempt to obstruct the criminal investigation.

According to the indictment, Trump appeared to instruct Nauta to have the tapes destroyed. Nauta then enlisted the help of De Oliveira, and they walked to a security booth where the camera angles were displayed on monitors before walking down to the cameras and pointing them out with flashlights.

The following week, De Oliveira asked the director of IT at Mar-a-Lago, described as “Trump Employee 4” but understood to be identified as Yuscil Taveras, how long surveillance footage was stored for and then told him “the boss” wanted the server deleted.

When Taveras replied that he did not know how to delete the server and suggested De Oliveira ask the security supervisor at the Trump Organization, De Olivera again insisted that “the boss” wanted the server deleted, the indictment said.

The motion to dismiss for De Oliveira broadly rested on two arguments: that he could not have obstructed justice because he was unaware about the subpoena and its compliance obligations, and that his denial to the FBI about moving boxes in a voluntary interview was misconstrued.

On the allegation about the boss wanting the tapes deleted, De Oliveria’s lawyers wrote: “That interaction fails to support the allegations of obstruction … that Mr De Oliveira knew that a subpoena had been issued, that the data in question was responsive to the subpoena.”

And on the allegation about lying to FBI, De Oliveria’s lawyers contended De Oliveira was not sure what exactly prosecutors were asking about when he told agents he did not know about boxes being moved into Mar-a-Lago and where items would have been stored.

“Mr De Oliveira’s point – obviously – was that he had no real involvement in that move and had no idea what went where once it arrived at Mar-a-Lago, and he had no knowledge of classified documents, which, as stated in count 42, was what the agent told Mr De Oliveira the FBI was investigating,” the filing said.

Lawyers for Trump were also due Thursday to file motions to dismiss the charges, including one on the grounds of presidential immunity and another claiming selective and vindictive prosecution, although the filings are not expected to be public until redaction requests are litigated.

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Police ‘very doubtful’ missing Ballarat woman still alive amid suspicion ‘one or more parties’ involved

Samantha Murphy: police suspect ‘one or more parties’ involved as targeted search begins for missing Ballarat woman

New mobile data leads police to comb Mount Clear area for clues nearly three weeks after 51-year-old was last seen

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Victoria police suspect “one or more parties” were involved in the disappearance of Samantha Murphy nearly three weeks ago, saying it was “very doubtful” she was still alive amid a renewed ground search.

Mobile phone data has provided a new lead in the search for Murphy, with a previously examined area the subject of a targeted hunt for clues as to her disappearance.

The 51-year-old mother of three left her home at Eureka Street in Ballarat East on 4 February to go jogging and has not been seen since.

Up to 40 detectives were to search the Mount Clear area – about 7km south of Murphy’s home, on Friday due to the new phone data.

Det acting Supt Mark Hatt said there was nothing to indicate that Samantha left the area of her own accord and ruled out a medical incident.

Hatt said he held grave concerns for Murphy.

“Unfortunately, given the time and the fact we’ve found no trace of her, we do have severe concerns and are very doubtful that she’s still alive,” he said.

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Hatt said police had previously searched the Mount Clear area, but would return to look for “more intricate details” of what occurred on 4 February.

“We’re absolutely looking for a phone, we haven’t yet found that. We’re looking for a body,” he said.

He said police were also investigating the possibility that Murphy had been removed from the local area.

Hatt said police believed Murphy left her family’s home and ran to the nearby Woowookarung Regional Park, known by locals as the Canadian forest, and then made her way to Mount Clear.

He declined to say whether police suspect someone known to Murphy was involved in her disappearance, but said no evidence suggested that there was a risk to anyone else in the community. He said detectives were speaking to “everyone” in her life.

But Hatt said Murphy’s husband, Michael, was not being treated as a suspect.

Extensive searches have been conducted throughout the Canadian forest area since Murphy’s disappearance but no trace of her has been found. A community led ground search planned for Saturday will focus on the bushland areas surrounding Murphy’s home.

Experienced detectives from a number of units across the force’s crime and counter-terrorism command have been deployed to join the missing persons squad, which has been leading the investigation.

Investigators were in the process of reviewing about 12,000 hours of CCTV footage and following up more than 500 separate pieces of information.

Police continued to ask everyone in the Ballarat East and Mount Helen areas, particularly around the Canadian forest, to check their CCTV for any possible sightings over the past three weeks.

Detectives are also urging anyone travelling through the area, particularly between 7am and 7pm on Sunday, 4 February, who may have dashcam footage to also check this for possible sightings.

Hatt moved to reassure Ballarat locals and Victorians on a broader scale that detectives were doing all they could to provide some answers to Murphy’s family.

“I encourage anyone who does have information that could be relevant to this investigation – whether that’s a person or vehicle seen in the area on that day, something unusual such as a damaged vehicle or property – to please come forward and speak to police or provide the information via Crime Stoppers,” he said.

Murphy was last seen on CCTV footage, captured in her family home’s driveway at about 7am on 4 February, wearing a maroon or brown coloured singlet and black leggings.

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Project’s fortunes might finally be turning as drilling gets back on track

Snowy Hydro’s 2.0 fortunes might finally be turning as drilling gets back on track

Just over half of the project’s construction is already complete as the project’s previously stalled 2,500-tonne tunnelling machine returns to the grind

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Each year on 4 December, Snowy Hydro invites a local Catholic priest to bless a small statue at the entrance to the tunnels of its giant 2.0 pumped hydro project to mark Saint Barbara, the patron saint of tunnellers and miners everywhere.

Those working underground are “reasonably superstitious people”, jokes Dennis Barnes, Snowy Hydro’s affable chief executive, as he leads a media tour of a project whose budget had soared sixfold to $12bn and won’t start supplying power to the grid until the end of 2028 or seven years later than original touted.

Snowy 2.0’s fortunes, though, might finally be turning.

The 2,500-tonne tunnel boring machine dubbed “Florence” ended its year-long stall in soft rock two days after the priestly visit from Father Mark Croker. It’s now picking up pace half a kilometre into a 16km tunnel near the upper dam at Tantangara, deep within the Snowy Mountains.

“Florence not moving was a lightning rod for the project … having its difficulties,” Barnes said at end of Wednesday’s tour. “All of the other work fronts just kept going when Florence was paused.”

Barnes, who took over as Snowy’s boss a year ago, also recast the deal with Italy’s WeBuild, the main contractor, making it “cost-plus” rather than a fixed price. While the move shifted most of the risk to Snowy, it ended the haggling “on every point”.

“We want everybody to be successful,” he said. “We want the contractor to be very successful.” Having WeBuild losing money “just isn’t a great place for anybody”.

While more engineering challenges lie ahead, just over half the construction is complete, with most of the 2,700-odd workers unimpeded by Florence’s woes.

Crews excavating the main power station cavern, about a kilometre underground, say rock conditions couldn’t be better. Six turbines will be installed there to generate 2,200MW for a total of 350GW-hours – enough to power 3m homes for a week.

They can then reverse to pump water from a lower reservoir at Talbingo back up to Tantangara at times when electricity is cheap in a closed loop.

“In addition to providing security of supply and competition, we are very much required to enable the decarbonisation of the electricity system,” Barnes said. By aiding more renewable energy to be added, Snowy 2.0 will help cut carbon emissions in the national electricity market by 19.4m tonnes of CO2-equivalent a year.

Snowy Hydro also pledges to reduce damage to the Kosciuszko national park, including shrinking its footprint to a 10th of its current construction size once the project is completed. Whether the stocky galaxias fish survives, among other endangered species, remains to be seen.

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However, for Mark Barrett, a senior engineer working on Florence, “it’s been fantastic” for workers’ morale to have Florence boring again. “It makes such a difference when there’s productivity.”

Florence’s current six metres a day, though, will have to quicken to at least twice that pace if the key headrace tunnel is going to meet Snowy’s revised goal.

About 6km to 7km in, the machine is also expected to hit some natural asbestos, requiring extra safety measures. A bigger problem further on, however, may come about 2.5km from the power station when the tunnel’s path crosses the so-called long plain fault, a zone of fractured ground that runs about 250km from Victoria into New South Wales.

Dave Evans, 2.o’s project director, said while the fault was “nothing like” the soft earth that stalled Florence near Tantangara, geologists anticipate a testing patch of at least 500 metres long.

“We’re going through options right now on de-risking [it],” Evans said.

Those alternatives include Snowy buying a fourth tunnel boring machine (TBM) at the cost of more than $100m, or reverting to drill and blasting techniques.

“I expect the decision we’ll make will mean that we won’t be relying on the TBMs for that zone,” Barnes said.

While engineers have more than two years to resolve the fault zone issue, a more immediate challenge will be drilling the 9.8 metre-diameter tunnel at a 25-degree incline up from the power station towards Tantangara.

“A tunnel boring machine of this size has never done it before,” Evans said. Kirsten, as the designated machine is dubbed, will be elongated to 210 metres long – or 50% longer than Florence. The concrete segments and grouting will need to withstand as much as five times the usual water pressure.

“The good thing is now is that we’re ahead of risks, so we’re thinking about risks that are upcoming rather than reacting,” Barnes said. “We get more and more confident every day.”

While Snowy 2.0 faces engineering challenges, the project’s financial returns – including delivering a net present value of $3bn more than its costs – depend on it being linked to the grid on time.

Costs of the 500-kilovolt HumeLink, being built by Transgrid – with the tab to be picked up by NSW consumers – may top $5bn. Some landholders oppose construction towers with a height maximum of 76 meters crossing their properties.

“We don’t build the transmission line,” Barnes said. “The most recent advice from Transgrid was that HumeLink would be finished at the end of 2027 and that’s what we expect them to do.” Transgrid says the Snowy component will be ready by the end of 2026.

Time, perhaps, to find a patron saint for transmission builders to have blessed.

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Liz Truss takes aim at left ‘deep state’ at CPAC

‘We need a bigger bazooka’: Liz Truss takes aim at left ‘deep state’ at CPAC

Hawking a book to many empty seats, former UK prime minister spoke at Maryland’s Conservative Political Action Conference

Liz Truss, the former British prime minister, has made a fresh bid for political relevance by addressing a far-right conference in the US, railing against Joe Biden, transgender rights and a so-called leftwing-run deep state.

Truss was greeted by gentle applause and dozens of empty seats when she walked on stage at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the National Harbor in Maryland. CPAC styles itself as the biggest and most influential gathering of conservatives in the world but is now widely seen as a glorified Donald Trump campaign rally, drawing speakers only from the populist right of the Republican party.

“Conservatives are now operating in what is a hostile environment and we essentially need a bigger bazooka in order to be able to deliver,” Truss said in a 15-minute speech entitled Taking Back Our Parties. “We have got to challenge the institutions themselves. We’ve got to challenge the system itself, and we’ve got to be prepared to take that on as conservatives.”

CPAC provides a safe space for Truss, far from the ridicule that she faces in other arenas at home and abroad. Many Americans are aware that her 50-day premiership was outlasted by a 60p ($0.70) head of iceberg lettuce in a competition set up by a British newspaper with a webcam. When she arrived at CPAC on Wednesday, the liberal commentator Molly Jong-Fast responded on X with four lettuce emojis.

The incentives are commercial as well as ideological. Truss’s public relations offensive in the US coincides with the publication of her book Ten Years to Save the West. “I’ve written a book which is coming out very soon and you can pre-order it,” she told CPAC in what critics might identify as the key line of the speech.

A giant advert for the book was prominently displayed at the conference venue alongside one for a biography of Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who recently conducted a sycophantic interview with Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin. Elsewhere at CPAC a virtual pinball game featured photos from the 6 January 2021 insurrection, which many attendees regard as a heroic protest.

Truss’s appearance here followed those of a series of far-right politicians and media personalities who asserted that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump, described Biden as a “desiccated old husk of a former human being” who might be replaced by Michelle Obama, and characterised the “transgender industry” as a “monster”.

Apparently at ease in such company, Truss insisted that western values are being undermined. “Our history is being challenged, even our biology is being challenged,” she said. “Can you imagine? Could you imagine 10 years ago that we’d be talking about what a woman is or what a man and having a serious argument about it. It’s incredible.

“And yet every issue the left win, they push it even more. They push it to even more extreme. Meanwhile, we’ve seen President Biden asleep at the wheel in the White House.” She also complained: “We’ve got a new kind of economics in the west. It’s called ‘wokenomics’.”

Truss went on to push a narrative modelled on that of Steve Bannon, the former White House chief strategist linked to global far-right nationalist movements, who at CPAC in 2017 called for the “deconstruction of the administrative state”. She argued that the left has infiltrated public and private institutions in “the deep state” and sabotaged her efforts to cut taxes and reduce the size of government.

“I’m not saying I’m a perfect person or I did everything exactly right,” she said of her time as prime minister. “But I faced the most almighty backlash for those conservative policies that I tried to put in place from the usual suspects in the media, from the usual suspects in the corporate world and also from people that were meant to run the government.”

She added: “Even the IMF [International Monetary Fund] intervened and even President Biden intervened to have a go at my policy. Now, can you imagine being attacked on your economic policy by the inventor of ‘Bidenomics’? Talk about offensive.”

Truss took office after winning a Conservative party leadership contest to replace Boris Johnson. Her plan to spur economic growth with a mini-budget containing £45bn ($54bn) in unfunded tax cuts – including an income tax reduction for the highest earners – unleashed economic chaos. She resigned in October 2022, becoming the country’s shortest-serving prime minister.

Truss went on to call for Republicans to win back the White House, Senate and House of Representatives but stopped short of explicitly endorsing Trump, whose plans to “drain the swamp” coincided strongly with Truss’s critique.

The ex-PM’s speech at CPAC, which earned ripples of applause but not the cheers that some speakers receive, follows her recent launch of the popular conservatism movement in London as she seeks to rehabilitate her image. Attendees welcomed her presence at a conference where Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, is still revered.

Harry Maynard, 71, from Tallahassee, Florida, said: “It’s great that she’s here. I’m sorry she only lasted six weeks. She was hijacked and so was Boris – Bo Johnson – whatever his name is.”

Emmett Geul, 19, a student and a member of the army national guard in Ohio, was excited about Truss’s appearance. “I feel like London and England as a whole needs to be on a more conservative track,” he said. “I know there’s a housing crisis going on; the cost of living is rising. But I just feel if we have strong conservative voices all over the world, things oftentimes are more mellow. We’re not getting involved in wars.”

Geul endorsed Truss’s critique of the deep state. “It’s a lot of nepotism. They often look out for each other and they have their own interests at heart. They’re not oftentimes looking out for the people’s interests that ultimately got them elected.”

Katelyn Meeks, 21, a student, said Truss had been unfairly treated in Britain: “It’s definitely hard to go up against the bureaucracy in the deep state when you’re fighting something you don’t know, the what’s known or unknown. You never know your next step or your next plan or your next move.”

Polling by the market research company Savanta shows that Truss remains one of the least popular frontline politicians in Britain. Her favorability numbers are at -54%, trailing Boris Johnson at -25% and Rishi Sunak at -27%, its survey found.

Later, Truss appeared alongside Bannon on Real America’s Voice, a far-right TV channel, in a hallway outside the main conference auditorium.

When Bannon raised recent comments by Nigel Farage warning of a radical Islamic party gaining seats in the British parliament, Truss replied: “There’s going to be a byelection in the next few weeks, and it could be a radical Islamic party win in that byelection. So that is a possibility.”

Questioned by Bannon, she clarified that she was referring to Rochdale in northern England. Former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway is standing for the Workers’ party in Rochdale.

Bannon asked the audience if Truss is “tough enough” to turn the situation in Britain around and some people cheered: “Yes!”

But the former prime minister added: “I need a few more friends, though, to be frank. I need a few more people to help me.”

She told Bannon: “Once you’ve sorted out America, you come over to Britain and sort us out.”

Bannon quipped: “I think I would be banned there.”

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Company to layoff hundreds of workers and stop publishing on its site

Vice Media to lay off hundreds of workers and stop publishing on its site

Memo sent by Bruce Dixon, the Vice Media chief, talks of transition to ‘studio model’ as employees term move ‘very upsetting’

Vice plans to lay off hundreds of employees next week and stop publishing on Vice.com, according to a memo sent to staffers by Bruce Dixon, the Vice Media chief.

On Friday, Dixon confirmed that “several hundred” staffers would be laid off and that the brand “will no longer publish content on vice.com”. He said the company is transitioning to a “studio model”.

“This decision was not made lightly,” Dixon wrote, adding that those affected will be “notified about next steps early next week”.

The memo also noted that Refinery29, another media brand owned by Vice, “will continue to operate as a standalone diversified digital publishing business, creating engaging, social first content”.

“As you know, we are in advanced discussions to sell this business, and we are continuing with that process. We expect to announce more on that in the coming weeks,” Dixon said.

Reports of the layoffs come less than a year after the media company was rescued from bankruptcy by being acquired by a consortium of buyers from Fortress Investment Group.

The Hollywood Reporter revealed on Thursday that multiple employees at Vice were concerned that the company was considering closing down its news website. Various Vice editors reportedly met with staff members and told them that management has yet to provide clarity on the situation.

Speaking to staff members in a conference call on Thursday, Josh Visser, the Vice News executive editor, said that he had asked the company’s executives to clarify emerging rumors of a potential website closure but had not yet received a response.

“I don’t know more than you guys besides being able to read faces and notice who is not replying to my messages,” Visser said, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Visser described the situation as “very upsetting”, adding: “Our website and our work being pulled down would be completely reprehensible … I cannot even understand any business reasons why you would do something like that,” the Hollywood Reporter reports.

After previous cuts to several shows and dozens of layoffs in November last year, Vice Union said on Twitter/X: “We can no longer express shock and surprise that VICE has determined its only way forward is to lay people off.

“As has been the case in previous layoffs, VICE has once again decided to let go of the very same people who have worked tirelessly to turn it into a respected, award-winning media company.”

Writing on X on Thursday, Vice senior staff writer Anna Merlan said: “Working at Vice has been … so interesting and I will certainly look back on it … I think the ruckus today and the digging by media reporters encouraged a lot more transparency and more quickly than the company would have otherwise done, so thank you all for that.”

In recent weeks, the media industry has gone through sweeping layoffs, with major cuts at NowThis and the Intercept. In a statement last week, the NowThis Union revealed that nearly 50% of the workforce was laid off while the Intercept cut 15 positions.

Last fall, Condé Nast, which owns multiple outlets including the New Yorker, Vogue, Wired, Vanity Fair and Architectural Digest, said that it was laying off 5% of its employees. Similarly, Vox Media said that it was cutting approximately 4% of its workforce after slashing its headcount by 7% at the beginning of 2023.

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