The Guardian 2024-02-23 10:31:12


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

Sydney police officer Beau Lamarre charged with murder of TV presenter Jesse Baird and his partner 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 Sen Const Beau Lamarre 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, detectives alleged.

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

He appeared before Waverley local court on Friday afternoon, dressed in a black t-shirt and escorted by two police officers.

He was expressionless, blinking slowly as he looked around the courtroom.

He didn’t apply for bail, and the matter has been adjourned to 23 April to give police time to prepare a brief of evidence.

Lamarre’s lawyer did not answer questions outside court.

Det Supt Daniel Doherty of the New South Wales homicide squad said Lamarre was part of a specialist team within the police force.

A white van sought by police was located on Friday morning. Investigators believe it was hired from Mascot about 9.30pm on Monday.

Doherty said it would be alleged in court that the van was used “to transport the bodies and dispose of the bodies”.

Timeline of the disappearance of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies. Graphic Mike Hohnen

Doherty said the 28-year-old officer “hasn’t assisted us to date” as investigators sought information. The bodies of the two men have not been located.

“From the evidence we’ve gleaned today we believe that the fate of both Luke and Jesse was at the house in Paddington and at some stage the white van was [allegedly] used to transport their bodies to another location,” Doherty said.

“That’s why we’re keen to find out where that location is. It’s important we get the movements in relation to that van as hopefully we can find the bodies and this is important for the family.”

Doherty said the families of Baird and Davies were “devastated by the news”.

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 was treated as suspicious after bloody possessions belonging to both men were found in a skip bin in Cronulla on Wednesday. Police then examined 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.

Police executed a search warrant and “seized a number of items” from the Balmain home at 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.”

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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The volunteer force helping Victoria’s Beaufort bushfire evacuees

‘It’s just what you do for people’: the volunteer force helping Victoria’s Beaufort bushfire evacuees

Thousands of people are under evacuation warnings due to a 11,000ha fire burning west of Ballarat and locals have opened their homes to help

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Jane Boot knows how it feels to be surrounded by a bushfire. Her 3,000 acre property in Stoneleigh, 70km west of Ballarat, burned 11 years ago.

“We ended up with a lot of fire brigades protecting the house. We know what it’s like to be in a situation where your home, property and animals are under threat,” she says.

So when an out-of-control blaze hit the Pyrenees region on Thursday, her family didn’t think twice about welcoming evacuees into their home.

“We were about 20kms south of all the spot fires,” she says. “The wind changed later in the day which saved us, but with every wind change, it impacts others and it went to Beaufort.

“We put out the call to friends and let them know they were more than welcome to come our way, well out of the fire. We ended up with a house full of cats and dogs.

“It’s just what you do for people in the country.”

Thousands of people in 28 communities were advised to evacuate on Thursday as a fire burning in the Mount Buangor state park, about 60km west of Ballarat, spread rapidly in extreme fire danger conditions. As of Friday afternoon it had grown to 12,000ha and was still not under control.

Officials have confirmed that some homes have been lost.

More than 200 people sought refuge in relief centres across Ballarat, Ararat and Maryborough. Volunteers, businesses and community groups rallied to help.

Dozens of people offered paddocks and driven trailers to move horses and other livestock out of harm’s way – but some evacuations were more specialised.

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Mel Vincent is an avian behaviourist and the practice manager at Birds Vet Melbourne. She drove to Ballarat on Thursday to assist with the evacuation of 180 birds from Beaufort rescue organisation AviRescue.

“AviRescue moved [to Beaufort] really recently so they don’t have a volunteer network out there, which complicates things,” she says. “But we had about 20 people come out putting birds in cars, bringing fruit and vegetables and putting food in bowls, and there were so many offers of help for fostering birds too, which is great.”

The evacuation effort began as soon as smoke was seen on the horizon.

“You always worry about smoke inhalation so you have to leave a lot earlier, and the birds were panicking. They knew,” she says. “I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to catch an angry macaw, but I’m just glad [the owner] has still got all her fingers.”

Sarah Beaumont is the co-owner of Eurambeen, an historic homestead and set of gardens 9km from Beaufort. She is among those who fled to Jane Boot’s home. Her partner, Ian Glover, stayed to defend their property with the help of some friends.

Beaumont says the community support has been “one of the loveliest things”.

“I don’t know how many text messages I got,” she says. “People reached out and said ‘come here, there’s a bed’. It helped me knowing that people are caring and they want us to be okay.

“As I was leaving the property to go to Jane’s, there were loads of utes coming in the opposite directions to help, so that was absolutely fantastic. It was a heartening feeling for sure.”

More than 1,000 firefighters from around the state have been fighting the blaze since it first started on Thursday morning, supported by 24 water-bombing aircraft. A wind change late Thursday swung the fire front to the north-east, threatening the communities of Amphitheatre, Elmhurst and surrounds, with towns around Avoca urged to stay on high alert.

The Victorian Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, told reporters on Friday the cause of the fire was still under investigation.

“This is a large fire,” he says. “Getting intelligence to the people that are trying to contain the fire is a real priority and will remain a priority today and, in fact, tonight as well.”

The state’s premier, Jacinta Allan, says Thursday night was a “really tough night” for towns west of Ballarat and thanked those who had supported fire-affected communities.

Pat Millear, a group officer with the Victorian Country Fire Authority Westmere, says the volunteer contribution had been “outstanding”.

“There are hundreds of volunteers from people doing administrative work through to the captains and officers and those at the back of the truck that go away on the strike teams,” he says.

“It’s a massive team effort and it’s all about protecting our communities.”

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‘It’s been refreshing to just walk around like a regular person’

Interview

Nathan Cleary: ‘It’s been refreshing to just walk around like a regular person’

Donald McRae

Penrith’s Kangaroos superstar is in England for the World Club Challenge. He talks fame, the Panthers and using his voice

“It’s been very refreshing, actually, to just walk around like a regular person,” Nathan Cleary says as a drab February morning in Manchester becomes something different to the revered Australian. It might feel to the rest of us that we’re locked in an endless English winter but, for the folk hero of the Penrith Panthers who is described by many as the best rugby league player in the world, the grey anonymity feels uplifting.

“Obviously I’m in a very privileged position back home, with a lot of interest, but it’s nice to be here,” he continues. “It’s such a refreshing feeling.”

Wherever Cleary is in Australia, and especially in Penrith, on the grittier outskirts of Sydney, his fame can be consuming. The hardcore rugby league fraternity in the north-west of England has shown respect and even awe this week, and Cleary has done his share of selfies and autograph sessions at scheduled events, but the rest of Manchester has left him in peace. Most people in the UK have no idea that Cleary produced one of the great sporting stories of last year, with a sustained 14-minute streak of brilliance and clarity to overturn a 24-8 deficit against the Brisbane Broncos and help the Panthers win an historic third straight grand final.

They are also oblivious to the fact that Cleary was one of the key supporters of a bid to enshrine an Indigenous voice in parliament and that he and Mary Fowler, a star for the Matildas in the women’s football World Cup last year, have become one of Australia’s most discussed celebrity couples. In his low-key way Cleary is happier talking away from the cameras and the masses as he prepares for Saturday night’s World Club Challenge against Wigan.

There is also a steely little edge because, a year ago, Penrith lost the equivalent match between the respective champions of the NRL and the Super League. Defeat stung even more as they were shocked by a 13-12 home defeat to St Helens. It was the first time an English team had won the competition away from home since Wigan beat the Broncos in 1994.

“That hurt,” Clearly says bluntly, “so we’re going to try and turn that around this week. We knew St Helens were a great side and we totally respected them. I also know a fair bit about Wigan as I’m a Super League fan. Obviously Wigan were on fire last year and my good friend Tyrone May played for Catalans Dragons against them in the final. I got up to watch that and they can strike from all around the park, with a lot of speed.”

Are the English clubs closing the gap on their traditionally superior NRL rivals? “I think so. There’s just that discrepancy between the top and bottom teams. But the top three or four Super League teams are great sides with great players. So we look at the challenge of playing Wigan away as an opportunity to do something special. Everyone was psyched when they saw the game was sold out and we’ve spoken about managing the atmosphere and the conditions.”

Cleary was icy cool in the searing heat of his third successive grand final win. The match was hailed as the greatest comeback in NRL history. Facing a crushing defeat, Cleary entered that mysterious space where sporting icons find the composure and conviction to create something transcendent. “I definitely get recognised more since that game,” he says, “but I wouldn’t change that. It was such a great experience.”

He had made mistakes and the Panthers were reeling and trailing by 16 points with just 18 minutes left. Cleary laughs when I ask what he was thinking in that difficult moment. “I said to myself, and excuse my French: ‘Fuck it. It can’t get much worse than this so I may as well go down swinging.’ I didn’t want to come off the field with any regrets as the way I started the second half was really poor. We always had belief in each other and I knew we just needed a bit of momentum.”

Cleary made a searing break to set up a try for Moses Leota, drove the Broncos back with a booming 40-20 kick, conjured up another try for Stephen Crichton and then nailed a difficult conversion from an acute angle. With two minutes left on the clock he cut past four Broncos to score the match-winning try which he converted to seal an extraordinary 28-26 victory. On these pages it was described as “an otherworldly performance. Coming into the game, Cleary had been a legend. But those 14 minutes made him something more” and “like some higher being. Merciless. Instant.”

The half-back looks mortal, and even shy, in Manchester. “Yeah, it’s interesting because it felt like an out-of-body experience. I felt so calm and in control. I wasn’t stressed about the score-line or even thinking too much about the clock. I was just playing each play as it happened and I didn’t even feel like there was a crowd for most of it.”

Does he often reach that eerie state of calm? “No. That was definitely the most in control of my mind I’ve ever been. We do a lot of work on the mental side and to feel that in control on the biggest stage made me happy. It’s quite hard to reach that place but a lot of it is self-taught. Sometimes just taking a breath and staying in the moment, rather than worrying too much about what has happened, or might happen, is all it takes. The whole aftermath is a blur for me, a sort of euphoric feeling, but now I’m trying to move on and create more memories. That’s all in the past.”

Yet it should be pointed out that Cleary played a large chunk of that game with a badly injured knee which required considerable treatment when the Panthers were losing. “It wasn’t the best but the adrenaline took over,” he says. “After the game it was pretty swollen and I don’t think drinking alcohol helped! I ended up wearing a brace for a month.”

Cleary’s dad, Ivan, is the Panthers’ quietly driven head coach. While Cleary Sr does not make grandstanding speeches he has already built a legacy with the Panthers, who have established themselves as one of the great teams in NRL history. “Last year he spoke about the opportunity that was there in terms of no NRL team winning three grand finals in a row. We looked at great teams from other sports like the Chicago Bulls [who won three successive NBA titles from 1996 to 1998] and Hawthorn [winning three AFL championships between 2013 and 2015]. So our theme towards the end of last season was ‘Undisputed’. But we’re now focusing on winning the next one rather than talking about four in a row.”

Penrith is a tough and close-knit community so how did Cleary feel when, at the age of 14, he and his family moved there after his dad became the Panthers coach for the first time in 2012? “Penrith are a very looked-down-on community at times, and seen as outsiders, but I loved it. It’s a working-class town to the rest of Sydney and when I first moved there people were saying how shit it was all the time. But to immerse ourselves in the community was amazing. It’s just full of good, genuine and tight-knit people. I think what we’ve done as a team makes them even more proud to say they’re from Penrith. That’s been a massive motivation for us.”

Is his father tougher on him than his teammates? “Yeah, I’d say he is,” Cleary says with a grin. “He’s not going to give me a compliment in front of the group. But he would never insult me either. He would just pull me aside and let me know. But the best thing about having him as a coach is we’ve got full trust in each other and have those honest conversations. And, on the quiet, he will say if I’ve done well. If we go all right, he’ll be pretty proud.”

Their perennial quest for sporting domination has been well-suited to Manchester City’s training ground where they have worked this week. “It’s a whole other world and on a different scale to what we’re used to in Australia,” Cleary says of City’s facilities. “It’s been like a dream to train there – even for me as a Man United fan.”

Cleary laughs but he sounds rueful when lamenting the fact that his girlfriend, Fowler, who plays for Manchester City in the WSL, is in Melbourne this week on national team duty. “She’s playing for the Matildas at the moment so that’s unfortunate timing.”

The 26-year-old is thoughtful when addressing the way in which his relationship with Fowler has intensified the scrutiny on both of them. “It’s definitely been a different dimension and we’re both quite private people. So it’s been something to navigate through. I’m quite used to people being interested in my football but to have a private life in the public eye is different. But we have to live with it and try and keep as much of it as private as we can.”

Cleary has been more comfortable in taking a public role politically and, last year, he supported the Yes campaign in a bid to win the vote for an Indigenous voice in Australia’s parliament. “It was easy for me to talk about it positively,” he says, “and I wasn’t too worried about any backlash. I knew it would divide opinion, unfortunately, but the way it was explained to me made it quite a simple decision. I’m definitely not a politics expert but I’m happy to use my voice for the right causes.”

Voicing his support for Ukraine over the last two years of the Russian invasion has also felt natural. “Both of my mum’s parents were from Ukraine,” he explains. “My nan was born in a German concentration camp and then fled to Australia. She hasn’t spoken too much about it but Ukraine is definitely in our blood. All that has happened has given us motivation to learn more about our heritage and do anything we can to help and connect with Ukraine.”

More mundane sporting stories have trailed him recently with Eddie Jones, before he was sacked as the Wallabies coach, leading the call to persuade Cleary to switch codes to rugby union. “It’s hard not to hear about those things in Australia,” he admits. “It’s an interesting prospect but not something I’ve given much thought to. I’m just so happy with what I’m doing at the moment.”

Cleary is inspired most by American greats, and he discusses the achievements of Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James with real enthusiasm. But his love for his chosen sport runs deep and his face lights up again at the prospect of playing his first game, on Saturday night, since that miraculous grand final four months ago.

Wigan, and the DW Stadium, will be seething with noise and fervour but Cleary will be in his element after such a refreshing week of relative anonymity. “Rugby league has been my passion since I was able to walk,” he says simply. “I just love it.”

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  • Facing facts: ABC pulls the plug on RMIT factchecking collaborationAmanda Meade

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 Thomson 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 Thomson 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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Teen’s killers jailed for second time over Brisbane stabbing death

Family ‘traumatised’ as 15-year-old’s killers jailed for second time over Brisbane stabbing death

Parents of Angus Beaumont, who died during a knife fight in 2020, have endured a multi-year ordeal in the legal system

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A woman has said the youth justice system has failed after she listened to her teenage son’s killers being sentenced for a second time in less than two years.

Angus Beaumont, 15, died just over an hour after he suffered a stab wound to the chest at 8.10pm on 13 March 2020 in a car park in Redcliffe, north of Brisbane.

Two teenagers were given detention orders in the supreme court in Brisbane on Friday over Angus’s death during a knife fight beside a suburban road.

Angus’s mother, Michelle Liddle, attended the hearing, which marked the end of an ordeal that included both teens being found guilty of murder by a jury in June 2022.

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Liddle, crying at times, said the judge was restricted in the length of sentences they could hand down by the laws in Queensland.

“They said the [offenders] were traumatised; our family is traumatised … I can’t believe this is how the system runs,” she said.

The teenagers successfully appealed against their convictions in July 2023 and were granted a retrial.

A judge-only trial in December 2023 found one teen, aged 14 at the time and given the pseudonym TAZ by the court, guilty of murder.

The other, a 14-year-old known as SED, was found guilty of manslaughter.

TAZ was on bail for armed robbery and SED was on probation when Angus was killed.

SED bought a $25 “stick” of cannabis from Angus and his 16-year-old friend at a skate park.

TAZ later emerged from a nearby toilet block with a knife and demanded their money back, claiming the drugs were underweight.

TAZ and SED chased Angus and his friend through the park until they reached Anzac Avenue.

Angus was handed a knife and knuckle duster by his friend moments before a fight with TAZ and SED, which lasted just seconds.

Justice Sean Cooper found SED aided TAZ in the fight but did not expect him to kill or inflict grievous bodily harm.

The prosecutor, Chris Cook, told the court on Friday that TAZ had committed serious offences while on bail.

Cook said Angus’s parents did not want to go through the trauma of writing another victim impact statement.

“Nothing can bring Angus back … their sentence is one for life,” he said.

TAZ’s barrister, Patrick McCafferty, said his client was genuinely remorseful and had stated “if I could take it back, I would”.

“His childhood was horrendous. He was exposed to what no child should be exposed to: drugs and domestic violence,” McCafferty said.

Cook said SED had also committed offences while on bail and had been involved in at least 27 violent incidents while in detention.

SED’s barrister, Jacob Robson, said prosecutors had turned down his offer to plead guilty to manslaughter.

Cooper said TAZ and SED were the aggressors in the knife fight as Angus just told them to go away.

“A mistaken belief that you were ripped off … had tragic consequences and a devastating impact on Angus’s family,” the judge said.

TAZ was convicted and sentenced to a nine-year detention order with release after serving 60% of the term.

SED was convicted and sentenced to a detention order for five years and six months with release after 50% of the term.

Liddle said Angus had made a silly mistake and tried to protect his friends.

“[Angus] was somebody who had a future. He wanted to have a small business; he wanted to do things with his life – he never wanted to go out and kill people,” Liddle said.

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National ombudsman set to tackle sexual assault at universities

‘Breathtaking’: education ministers approve national ombudsman to tackle sexual assault at Australian universities

Announcement comes after student survey found one in 20 students had been sexually assaulted since starting university and one in six had reported being sexually harassed

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Australia’s first independent watchdog to tackle gender-based violence on university campuses has been given the green light by education ministers – in a move hailed as “breathtaking” by student safety advocates.

The national ombudsman, tasked with overseeing sexual assault complaints at universities, was the key pillar of a plan commissioned by the federal government to address student safety concerns.

The Our Watch chief executive, Patty Kinnersly, put together the plan which was delivered to education ministers in November. It was approved on Friday.

The plan recommended greater accountability of institutions, enhanced oversight of student accommodation providers and preventive mechanisms. It aims to avoid retraumatising victim-survivors by forcing them to tell their stories multiple times.

If the plan is implemented, students will be able to escalate complaints about sexual harassment, assault and violence. The ombudsman would determine whether action taken by providers was reasonable or whether additional steps were needed. It could share information with relevant regulators.

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Addressing sexual assaults at universities was one of five priorities in the Australian Universities Accord interim report. The final report is due to be handed down on Sunday.

A separate report into consent laws released last year delivered a searing reproach to the tertiary sector for failing to provide adequate support services to those who had faced sexual violence.

The federal education minister, Jason Clare, said universities weren’t just for study and work – students often lived on campus too.

“Not enough has been done to tackle sexual violence in our universities and for too long students haven’t been heard,” he said on Friday. “That now changes.”

The latest National Student Safety Survey, released in 2021, found one in 20 students had been sexually assaulted since starting university and one in six had reported being sexually harassed.

Universities Australia, the peak body for the sector, will hold another national survey in 2024 after backlash over its response to student safety.

Its chief executive, Luke Sheehy, said the body welcomed the education ministers’ decision adding universities were “committed to addressing this serious issue on campus”.

“We have not shied away from dealing with this major issue but we can do more – that’s what our students deserve,” he said.

The acting CEO of Our Watch, Cara Gleeson, said it was an “almost breathtaking” day. Victim-survivors would see an “immediate improvement in response and support”, she said.

“Change does take time, but we’re seeing such positive momentum. Universities have a duty to create that culture of safety.”

Experiences aren’t isolated to students. A survey released by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) in 2023 found sexual harassment in higher education workplaces had jumped more than 50% since their last survey in 2018, with 29% of respondents reporting personal experiences of sexual harassment.

The NTEU national president, Dr Alison Barnes, said sexual harassment and violence had reached “crisis levels” as a result of university leaders playing down the problem.

“Universities must give this national plan their unqualified support if they are serious about ending sexual harassment and violence towards staff,” she said.

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

Sharna Bremner, the founder 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,” she said. “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 with reporting processes.

Research released by the Australian Human Rights Institute this week found about half of students at Australia’s 39 universities knew nothing or very little about where to make a sexual harassment claim or seek assistance.

At the same time, a third of Australia’s universities didn’t have governance mechanisms in place to tackle ongoing sexual violence on campuses.

  • If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.

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Main show goes on but opener Sabrina Carpenter does not perform amid huge storms

Taylor Swift Sydney Eras concert: main show goes on but opener Sabrina Carpenter does not perform amid huge storms

Predicted thunderstorm arrives at Homebush venue less than an hour before show’s scheduled 6.20pm start, prompting a short evacuation

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Taylor Swift fans were briefly evacuated from the floor and lower bowl of Accor Stadium in Sydney after a huge storm with nearby lightning strikes hit the area less than an hour before the show was to begin on Friday evening.

Accor Stadium posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the start time had been delayed, and asked fans in the venue to stay undercover until “further notice”.

The delay meant support act Sabrina Carpenter did not perform but around 7.45pm Swift took the stage to a huge roar.

Earlier the stadium said Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert would go ahead “rain or shine”, unless the expected severe weather threatened people’s safety.

The prediction of severe storms meant Airservices Australia limited the number of Sydney arrivals and departures during the day, leading to cancellations and delays.

Qantas 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 replaced 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 had been contacted and customers travelling from other airports might be able to switch to an earlier flight.

Airservices Australia said it was “delighted to be assisting our key customer Qantas in ensuring Swifties can get to Sydney before the inclement weather impacts the airport”.

“Airborne and ground delays are expected. It is recommended that passengers reach out to their airlines,” the spokesperson said.

Sydney Airport arrivals information showed Jetstar flights from the Gold Coast and Melbourne on Friday afternoon had 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 warned people to be careful while travelling.

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

The forecast was 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.”

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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 was 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.

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 with good training who could 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 in 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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Main show goes on but opener Sabrina Carpenter does not perform amid huge storms

Taylor Swift Sydney Eras concert: main show goes on but opener Sabrina Carpenter does not perform amid huge storms

Predicted thunderstorm arrives at Homebush venue less than an hour before show’s scheduled 6.20pm start, prompting a short evacuation

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

Taylor Swift fans were briefly evacuated from the floor and lower bowl of Accor Stadium in Sydney after a huge storm with nearby lightning strikes hit the area less than an hour before the show was to begin on Friday evening.

Accor Stadium posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, the start time had been delayed, and asked fans in the venue to stay undercover until “further notice”.

The delay meant support act Sabrina Carpenter did not perform but around 7.45pm Swift took the stage to a huge roar.

Earlier the stadium said Swift’s first Sydney Eras concert would go ahead “rain or shine”, unless the expected severe weather threatened people’s safety.

The prediction of severe storms meant Airservices Australia limited the number of Sydney arrivals and departures during the day, leading to cancellations and delays.

Qantas 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 replaced 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 had been contacted and customers travelling from other airports might be able to switch to an earlier flight.

Airservices Australia said it was “delighted to be assisting our key customer Qantas in ensuring Swifties can get to Sydney before the inclement weather impacts the airport”.

“Airborne and ground delays are expected. It is recommended that passengers reach out to their airlines,” the spokesperson said.

Sydney Airport arrivals information showed Jetstar flights from the Gold Coast and Melbourne on Friday afternoon had 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 warned people to be careful while travelling.

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

The forecast was 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.”

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

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 was 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.

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 with good training who could 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 in 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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Australia cruise to 72-run T20 win over New Zealand and retain Chappell-Hadlee Trophy

Australia cruise to 72-run T20 win over New Zealand and retain Chappell-Hadlee Trophy

  • Josh Hazlewood leads superb bowling effort at Eden Park
  • Australia posted 174 with Travis Head’s 45 the star turn

Australia have retained the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy after a superb bowling effort, defending 174 for a 72-run win at Eden Park to clinch the three-game T20 series.

Sent in by Kiwi skipper Mitchell Santner, Australia’s batting effort appeared well under par for the diminutive Auckland ground.

Only Travis Head (45 off 22) and Pat Cummins (28 off 22) batting number eight to steady the ship, impressed with the bat on Friday night.

It mattered not as an understrength Black Caps side never got going in their chase, held to 102 by a ferocious Aussie attack.

Josh Hazlewood (1-12 off four) claimed the key wicket of opener Finn Allen in the first over, before producing a rare T20 maiden in the powerplay.

Australia’s attack in the field was typified by returning gloveman Matthew Wade, who sprinted for Will Young’s skied effort and caught it in the outfield to have the Kiwis wobbling at 2-14.

New Zealand – already without Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell – did not risk Rachin Ravindra due to a sore knee, and were beset by further bad fortune.

Opener Devon Conway was unable to bat after a wicketkeeping injury which forced him to hand over the gloves to Allen and sent him to hospital for scans during New Zealand’s innings.

Hazlewood produced six dot balls in the fifth over as Australia turned the screws, with Nathan Ellis (2-16 off three), one of three changes to the Australian line-up, bowling Santner in the sixth over.

As the Black Caps attempted a salvage job from 4-29, Adam Zampa (4-34 off four) then bowled Josh Clarkson and Adam Milne in consecutive balls to scuttle their chances.

Glenn Phillips (42 off 35) was their best, attempting to anchor the innings before becoming Zampa’s third victim, caught at long-on.

New Zealand’s early innings woe was in complete contrast to Australia’s, which started like a wildfire but lost energy.

Powered by Head (45 off 22), Australia raced to 2-103 off eight overs and looked set for a monster total.

From that point they collapsed, with the returning Steve Smith among the failures.

Smith, without an Indian Premier League contract, needed runs to prove his worth for June’s T20 World Cup, with coach Andrew McDonald admitting how he performed in Auckland would “dictate what happens” with his World Cup place.

The 34-year-old made an unconvincing 11 before falling lbw to the stellar Lockie Ferguson (4-12 off 3.5 overs) on a night where most batters struggled.

Australia were too often tempted by the tonk given the short boundaries, with four of the top six caught attempting to slog.

Glenn Maxwell (six) and Marsh (26) holed out to Trent Boult at long-on within three deliveries, with Josh Inglis (five) and Wade (one) following shortly after.

Alongside Ferguson, Kiwi paceman Ben Sears (2-29 off four) impressed.

Despite the lack of partnerships, late-innings contributions from Tim David and particularly Cummins meant Australia posted a score the Kiwis couldn’t match.

The game-two stroll was a sharp contrast to the opener in Wellington, won by Australia when David conjured a last-ball four.

The result means game three, also at Auckland’s Eden Park, is a dead rubber.

After the T20 series, Australia will turn their attention to a two-match Test series, beginning at Wellington’s Basin Reserve on Thursday.

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Just one Australian beach ranked in TripAdvisor’s top 25 beaches of the world

Just one Australian beach ranked in TripAdvisor’s top 25 beaches of the world

Sydney’s Manly beach was chosen from about 8m Tripadvisor reviews with Mediterranean beaches taking top three places

Tripadvisor has named Sydney’s Manly beach the seventh best in the world, and the only Australian beach in the top 25.

Zali Steggall, the MP for Warringah, which includes Manly, said the announcement simply confirmed “the world knows what we’ve known all along”.

Manly beach won points for being wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, and for its plethora of gift shops and food and drink options.

Tripadvisor reviewers praised Manly’s cleanliness, with one visitor describing the water as “so clean you can nearly drink it”. Others commended the beach’s lifeguards, the number of playgrounds and parks in walking distance to the beach, and the ferry from Circular Quay.

One reviewer described Manly’s golden soft sand as a “luxury”, compared to the “relative mediocrity” of European beaches.

Nevertheless, European beaches topped the list, with the top three being Praia de Falesia (Portugal), Spiaggia dei Conigli (Italy), and La Concha (Spain).

Tripadvisor’s Traveller’s Choice list recognises 25 beaches – picked from about 8m – that received a high volume of “above and beyond” reviews over a 12-month period.

The list features world-renowned attractions as well as relatively unknown sights from all corners of the globe.

Last year, Broome’s Cable Beach was third in the Tripadvisor list, Australia’s highest placing.

Earlier this month Tourism Australia named Victoria’s Squeaky beach the best in Australia, with Manly – and all Sydney beaches – failing to make the top 10.

The top 25 beaches as voted by TripAdvisor contributors were:

1. Praia de Falesia (Portugal)

2. Spiaggia dei Congili (Italy)

3. La Concha Beach (Spain)

4. Ka’anapali Beach (Hawaii)

5. Grace Bay Beach (Grace Bay, Turks and Caicos)

6. Anse Lazio (Praslin Island, Seychelles)

7. Manly Beach (Australia)

8. Eagle Beach (Aruba)

9. Fiesta Beach (Florida)

10.Varadero Beach (Cuba)

11.Playa Pilar (Cuba)

12.Balandra Beach (Mexico)

13.Reynisfajara Beach (Iceland)

14.Poipu Beach Park (Hawaii)

15. Seven Mile Beach (Cayman Islands)

16. Playa De Las Canteras (Spain)

17. Impanema Beach (Brazil)

18. Playa Manuel Antonio (Costa Rica)

19. Falassarna Beach (Greece)

20. Nungwi Beach (Tanzania)

21. Kelingking Beach (Indonesia)

22. Nissi Beach (Cyrpus)

23. Myrtos Beach (Greece)

24. Playa Norte (Mexico)

25. Muro Alto Beach (Brazil)

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

Samantha Murphy: police ‘very doubtful’ missing Ballarat woman still alive amid suspicion ‘one or more parties’ involved

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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