The Guardian 2024-02-23 22:31:18


KPMG rejects claims it assessed ‘the wrong company’ before $423m payment to Paladin

‘Incredible failure’: KPMG rejects claims it assessed ‘the wrong company’ before $423m payment to Paladin

Exclusive: Firm’s denial comes after weeks of intense criticism, including accusations that it misled parliament

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Consultancy firm KPMG Australia has rejected claims it conducted due diligence on “the wrong company” before the federal government gave nearly half a billion dollars to a controversial company with no track record.

The firm’s objection to comments by a member of a Senate inquiry examining its conduct come after weeks of intense criticism and accusations it repeatedly misled parliament over its use of so-called power maps, which identify influential decision makers within departments.

KPMG Australia was asked to provide advice to the home affairs department in 2017 before it awarded $423m to security contractor Paladin for work on Manus Island. The closed contract has been the subject of scrutiny ever since, including a recent investigation by former Asio boss Dennis Richardson.

During the final public hearing of the Senate inquiry on Friday, Labor senator Deborah O’Neill accused the firm of an “incredible failure” when advising the government on the outsourcing of security services.

“An EY audit shows that KPMG investigated the wrong Paladin entity,” O’Neill told officials from Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand, an oversight body. “I’m watching jaws proverbially hit the floor as you hear me tell you this, because that is an incredible failure.”

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The EY audit of the Paladin procurement, published in 2019, found KPMG Australia provided a financial assessment of Paladin Solutions, a PNG-based company, rather than Paladin Holdings, a Singapore-based company that was awarded the contract. KPMG PNG had a business relationship with the PNG-based company.

“The financial strength assessment report obtained by the department is not relevant to the financial strength of its contracted service provider – Paladin Holdings,” the EY audit said. “The department noted that Paladin Holdings did not have financial statements.”

When asked for a response to senator O’Neill’s criticism, a KPMG spokesperson said: “We did not conduct the assessment on the wrong entity.”

“[The EY review] found KPMG conducted the financial strength assessment on ‘Paladin Solutions’ at the request of the commonwealth, based on the financial statements provided to the department,” the spokesperson said.

During a Senate estimates hearing last week, O’Neill also accused the firm of “a failure” to manage a conflict of interest. But a KPMG spokesperson said the EY report found it “declared the PNG firm’s business relationship with Paladin Solutions to Home Affairs”.

However, the EY audit also found “there was no specific records of the department assessing and agreeing to this conflict declaration”. The report also criticised the veracity of KPMG Australia’s report to government, which warned Paladin Solutions was a “moderate/high risk”.

“The Financial Strength Assessment of Paladin Solutions PNG ltd report by the commercial advisors was based on information extracted from unaudited financial statements, without a statement of cash flows,” the EY report said.

KPMG’s defence comes as the Senate inquiry prepares to make recommendations for tougher regulation of the sector and after criticism from senator O’Neill and Greens senator Barbara Pocock.

The firm was criticised after initially telling the Senate inquiry that it did not produce maps of government departments that identify influential public servants, before being provided with evidence that it did.

Earlier this month, KPMG Australia’s chief executive, Andrew Yates, apologised to the inquiry for taking a “too literal” approach to senator O’Neill’s question about power maps. Senator Pocock was not convinced by the apology.

“You have lied to us,” Pocock told an estimates hearing on 9 February. “That’s my view. You’ve lied to us more than once. You’ve misled us perhaps four times and probably more times that I don’t know about.”

Yates told the inquiry that was not his intention.

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Taylor Swift defies huge storm to wow Sydney crowd

Taylor Swift Sydney Eras concert: superstar wows 81,000 crowd after huge storm delays the start

Thunderstorm prompts a short evacuation and axing of support act Sabrina Carpenter, but Swifties still treated to three-hour show from their idol

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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 her opening act but around 7.45pm Swift took the stage to a huge roar from the 81,000 crowd.

“Sydney you are making me feel absolutely phenomenal,” she told the crowd before launching into her opening song, The Man.

An array of hits such as 22, I Knew You Were Trouble and Love Story duly followed to keep the audience, which included celebrities such as Toni Collette, Baz and Lillian Luhrmann, and Katy Perry, in raptures.

While performing 22, she called a young girl from Perth named Scarlett, who is suffering from brain cancer, forward to the stage and gave her the hat she was wearing.

Later, Carpenter joined Swift on stage for a mashup of White Horse and Coney Island.

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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The case of two missing men that horrified Sydney

A grim find led to a worse end: the case of two missing men that horrified Sydney

Police officer Beau Lamarre has been charged with two counts of murder, but the bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies are yet to be found

It began when some blood-covered clothes, a phone, watch and wallet were discovered in a skip in the beachside suburb of Cronulla in Sydney’s south on Wednesday morning.

A day after announcing that the find had raised “grave concerns” for two missing men in a relationship, New South Wales police charged one of their own constables – a former partner of one of the men – with two counts of murder.

Ballistic tests showed he had used a force-issued handgun, police alleged. They believe he then hired a white van to dispose of their bodies.

Beau Lamarre, 28, turned himself in to colleagues at a local police station and was charged with the murder of Jesse Baird – his ex-boyfriend and a former Channel Ten presenter – and Baird’s new partner, 29-year-old Qantas flight attendant Luke Davies.

But police said Lamarre had not assisted them as they sought more information.

The bodies of Baird and Davies had not been found by Friday evening, as Lamarre appeared in court for the first time.

The selfie-enthused former celebrity blogger turned member of a specialist police force spoke only once during the five-minute hearing – to clarify the date of his next court appearance.

He did not apply for bail and will remain behind bars for the next eight weeks while police prepare a brief of evidence and search for the bodies of his alleged victims.

‘Grave concerns’

Baird, a 26-year-old AFL goal umpire, had previously presented on the morning program Studio 10, but finished up at Channel Ten in January.

He had only recently entered into a relationship with Davies – police believe Baird and Lamarre had broken up only a couple of months ago. Baird’s former workplace, Channel Ten, reported Lamarre had struggled with Baird’s decision to end their relationship.

Photos from the social media accounts of Baird and Davies show them enjoying life together in Sydney, including at a Pink concert in February.

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

Police did not get wind of the couples’ disappearance until Wednesday morning, but they believe the alleged murders took place on Monday in Baird’s Paddington terrace share house in the city’s east.

At about 9.30pm that night, Lamarre is alleged to have hired a white van from the southern suburb of Mascot to move their bodies.

“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,” Det Supt Daniel Doherty, of the New South Wales homicide squad, told reporters on Friday.

Lamarre did not report for duty on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Police have now located the van – a white Toyota HiAce – but are still seeking CCTV footage or other information about where it was between Monday evening and when it was found at Grays Point, not far from Cronulla, on Friday.

“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.

Exactly what happened between Monday evening and Friday is still the subject of investigation.

Officers arrived at Baird’s Paddington home – a 30km drive from Cronulla – shortly after the bloodied possessions were found.

There police found “a large amount of blood” as well as the casing of one bullet, and by 1pm had established a crime scene.

Police alleged ballistic tests later showed the firearm that had allegedly been discharged was owned by police, and had been returned to a storage locker at a station after Monday’s alleged murder.

Locals interviewed on Wednesday reported having heard shouting from the vicinity of the house on Monday morning, police alleged.

That afternoon, investigators searched Davies’ home in nearby Waterloo, but found no trace of him or Baird.

Neither had used their bank accounts in recent days. Baird’s WhatsApp account had shown as active on Tuesday night, which led police on Wednesday to issue a plea for him to come forward.

It would prove fruitless.

By Thursday, police said they were looking for a third person in connection with the couple’s disappearance. They suspected it was someone known to the couple, announcing investigators would “continue to look at all past relationships and associations” of the pair.

That evening, reports emerged that a police officer was involved.

Detectives executed a search warrant at a home in Balmain, which property records suggest was Lamarre’s family home.

Officers seized a number of items during the raid just before midnight.

On Friday, waking up to a 36C and humid Sydney with his face all over the newspapers as a suspect, Lamarre turned himself in.

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

He reported to Bondi police station at 10.30am wearing a black T-shirt and cap, footage later released by police shows.

Hours later, police charged Lamarre with two counts of murder, announcing they believed they had sufficient evidence.

Unorthodox route

The path of Beaumont Lamarre-Condon, as he is formally known, to the NSW police force was unorthodox.

He ran a now defunct celebrity website called That’s The Tea and another called the Australian Reporter, which was deregistered in 2016.

In videos posted online he can be seen interviewing celebrities, including Russell Crowe, at red carpet events.

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

On one occasion in 2013, he attended a media call for a Qantas gala dinner, interviewing celebrities such as Miranda Kerr about her love for the airline and career plans.

“What is it that you love about Qantas airways?” he asked John Travolta at the event. “Well, uh, everything,” Travolta told Lamarre.

His first notable brush with fame came 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.

“Through your music, you have helped and will continue to set free many people. If possible, I would love to come and personally give you a hug and thank you backstage for finally setting me free. My life will then be forever complete,” Lamarre wrote to the pop star. “Gaga, you’re not just my idol but LITERALLY my saviour,” he said.

Lamarre did not shy away from his identity as a gay man or a police officer. He was pictured in the police contingent marching in the Sydney Mardi Gras parade in 2020.

Lamarre appeared before Waverley local court for an initial hearing on Friday afternoon, accompanied by two police officers.

He was expressionless, blinking slowly, as he sat in the dock.

Meanwhile, the family of Baird and Davies are “devastated”, police said.

“His talent was undeniable and energy infection,” one of Baird’s former colleagues, Channel Ten reporter Lachlan Kennedy, said on Friday. “For years we chatted footy, utes and country music,” he said of Baird who “had the brightest of futures stolen from him”.

Qantas said it was providing support to Davies’s colleagues.

Davies’s brother, Jermaine, paid tribute to the couple on X.

“Jesse … You would’ve fit in so well as a friend of the household,” he wrote. “Rest, darling.”

The case will next be heard on 23 April.

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Beau LamarreNSW police officer 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”.

Beverley McGarvey, head of Paramount in Australia and New Zealand, said: “Our hearts go out to Jesse Baird’s family and friends at this devastating time.

“Jesse’s genuine kindness, warmth and sincerity cannot be overstated as well as his innate ability to make people feel special and valued.”

Police earlier raided a home in the Sydney suburb of Balmain – understood to be Lamarre 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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Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Paul Karp

Australian truth in advertising laws might help weed out absolute howlers and set a norm – but the media has a role to play too

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Have you heard the one about the new car and ute tax? What about $600m of funding cuts weakening Australia’s borders?

If you did, then the joke is on our political system – because these are the latest two opposition lines of attack, completely untethered from reality, infecting the discourse.

The first is Peter Dutton’s claim that fuel efficiency standards amount to a tax on less efficient cars.

While it’s true that carmakers could be penalised if they exceed a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia, this isn’t a tax. Claims of cars costing thousands more are based on an assumption of no change in behaviour.

The Federal Chamber of Automative Industries has contradicted the basis of the fear campaign in its own briefing paper, projecting that cars will get greener even without the new standards. When standards are improved the result is using less petrol and consumer savings.

The second claim, about Operation Sovereign Borders, has been comprehensively debunked: funding is up relative to the Coalition’s last budget, not down, and the $600m cut is an illusion conjured by comparing projected funding with one expensive reference year.

A reduction in surveillance flights is due to issues with the contractor, crew shortages and aircraft maintenance, not decisions of government.

The Albanese government is getting better at calling out lies.

This was difficult in the referendum campaign because Dutton sowed doubt before settling on outright opposition, and Labor wanted to preserve bipartisanship as best it could.

But this week the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, warned that matters of fact such as border force funding “should not be the subject of any further conjecture by politicians or journalists around this country”.

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The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was similarly sharp – arguing that Dutton was encouraging boats, and on Thursday that the fear and negativity were designed to distract from tax cut defeat.

We and several other outlets ran factchecks on the border cut claim but others settled in for the usual round of he-said-she-said that rewards wreckers who don’t care if facts are not on their side.

Relentless negativity and even outright porkies are nothing new in politics.

Remember claims about a $100 roast due to carbon pricing? Or that time is running out to save Medicare from privatisation? Or Labor’s plans to introduce a death tax?

But the potency of such campaigns is growing in a world where people get more news from social media, and alienation and political polarisation mean they’re encouraged to respond emotionally rather than seek common ground with others, or at least common facts.

The electoral matters committee wants truth in political advertising laws to tackle the problem, giving a tick to an idea also backed by the special minister of state, Don Farrell.

It’s better than nothing, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up too far.

The South Australian truth in political advertising laws – on which a federal law is likely to be based – doesn’t apply to statements of opinion. In previous rulings, claims a political opponent is “soft on crime” have been given the green light. So Labor is “weak on borders”-type rhetoric would probably still be fine.

Advance Australia is advertising in the Dunkley byelection, warning the Albanese government “let loose 149 criminals” and “paid for lawyers to argue for their release”.

It’s un-nuanced, ignoring the fact the former was done to comply with the high court’s order in the NZYQ case, and the latter was an intervention by the independent Australian Human Rights Commission, not the commonwealth’s position. But it would be allowable even under a tougher regime.

I’m not sure statements about the future would be caught either. Was it possible to say, at the time the claim was made, that the $100 roast, privatised Medicare and a death tax would not come to pass?

Any regime that attempted to block those as lies might also have done the same with warnings before the 2022 election that Labor would not implement the stage three tax cuts.

After all, the tax cuts were legislated and Labor had committed not to repeal or reform them – what more evidence could be needed to disprove a claim about the future?

Except the Albanese government did eventually change its position and change the tax cuts. Surely political opponents should have the freedom to warn about that possibility in advance.

Nevertheless, truth in political advertising laws would still be worthwhile – to try to weed out absolute howlers, and to try to set a norm.

But better discourse will take more than a souped up Australian Electoral Commission truth unit seeking court orders to remove false political ads.

It requires a media ethic to move past superficial, horse-race journalism towards seeking truth, or else we will be complicit in serving up misleading nonsense like the mythical $100 roast.

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Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Political porkies are becoming ever more brazen. We all need to call them out

Paul Karp

Australian truth in advertising laws might help weed out absolute howlers and set a norm – but the media has a role to play too

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

Have you heard the one about the new car and ute tax? What about $600m of funding cuts weakening Australia’s borders?

If you did, then the joke is on our political system – because these are the latest two opposition lines of attack, completely untethered from reality, infecting the discourse.

The first is Peter Dutton’s claim that fuel efficiency standards amount to a tax on less efficient cars.

While it’s true that carmakers could be penalised if they exceed a yearly cap on the emissions output for new cars sold in Australia, this isn’t a tax. Claims of cars costing thousands more are based on an assumption of no change in behaviour.

The Federal Chamber of Automative Industries has contradicted the basis of the fear campaign in its own briefing paper, projecting that cars will get greener even without the new standards. When standards are improved the result is using less petrol and consumer savings.

The second claim, about Operation Sovereign Borders, has been comprehensively debunked: funding is up relative to the Coalition’s last budget, not down, and the $600m cut is an illusion conjured by comparing projected funding with one expensive reference year.

A reduction in surveillance flights is due to issues with the contractor, crew shortages and aircraft maintenance, not decisions of government.

The Albanese government is getting better at calling out lies.

This was difficult in the referendum campaign because Dutton sowed doubt before settling on outright opposition, and Labor wanted to preserve bipartisanship as best it could.

But this week the home affairs minister, Clare O’Neil, warned that matters of fact such as border force funding “should not be the subject of any further conjecture by politicians or journalists around this country”.

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

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, was similarly sharp – arguing that Dutton was encouraging boats, and on Thursday that the fear and negativity were designed to distract from tax cut defeat.

We and several other outlets ran factchecks on the border cut claim but others settled in for the usual round of he-said-she-said that rewards wreckers who don’t care if facts are not on their side.

Relentless negativity and even outright porkies are nothing new in politics.

Remember claims about a $100 roast due to carbon pricing? Or that time is running out to save Medicare from privatisation? Or Labor’s plans to introduce a death tax?

But the potency of such campaigns is growing in a world where people get more news from social media, and alienation and political polarisation mean they’re encouraged to respond emotionally rather than seek common ground with others, or at least common facts.

The electoral matters committee wants truth in political advertising laws to tackle the problem, giving a tick to an idea also backed by the special minister of state, Don Farrell.

It’s better than nothing, but we shouldn’t get our hopes up too far.

The South Australian truth in political advertising laws – on which a federal law is likely to be based – doesn’t apply to statements of opinion. In previous rulings, claims a political opponent is “soft on crime” have been given the green light. So Labor is “weak on borders”-type rhetoric would probably still be fine.

Advance Australia is advertising in the Dunkley byelection, warning the Albanese government “let loose 149 criminals” and “paid for lawyers to argue for their release”.

It’s un-nuanced, ignoring the fact the former was done to comply with the high court’s order in the NZYQ case, and the latter was an intervention by the independent Australian Human Rights Commission, not the commonwealth’s position. But it would be allowable even under a tougher regime.

I’m not sure statements about the future would be caught either. Was it possible to say, at the time the claim was made, that the $100 roast, privatised Medicare and a death tax would not come to pass?

Any regime that attempted to block those as lies might also have done the same with warnings before the 2022 election that Labor would not implement the stage three tax cuts.

After all, the tax cuts were legislated and Labor had committed not to repeal or reform them – what more evidence could be needed to disprove a claim about the future?

Except the Albanese government did eventually change its position and change the tax cuts. Surely political opponents should have the freedom to warn about that possibility in advance.

Nevertheless, truth in political advertising laws would still be worthwhile – to try to weed out absolute howlers, and to try to set a norm.

But better discourse will take more than a souped up Australian Electoral Commission truth unit seeking court orders to remove false political ads.

It requires a media ethic to move past superficial, horse-race journalism towards seeking truth, or else we will be complicit in serving up misleading nonsense like the mythical $100 roast.

Explore more on these topics

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New hopes of ceasefire as Israeli negotiators head to Paris

New hopes of Gaza ceasefire as Israeli negotiators head to Paris

Pressure mounts on Israel and Hamas to make a deal before threatened Rafah offensive

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An Israeli negotiating team arrived in Paris on Friday for talks about a potential ceasefire in Gaza in the latest sign of tentative progress towards an agreement that could end the five-month-old war.

The Israeli delegation, which includes the heads of its internal and external intelligence services, will meet the director of the CIA, Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s most senior intelligence official for talks over the weekend in what appears to be the most serious push for weeks to halt the fighting.

Pressure on Hamas and Israel to conclude a deal is mounting. There are widespread concerns among observers that an imminent Israeli offensive on the city of Rafah in southern Gaza will cause further extensive civilian casualties and that the start of Ramadan in less than three weeks could ignite widespread unrest in the occupied West Bank and exacerbate risks of a regional conflagration.

Israel says Hamas has four battalions of militants in or around Rafah and that its offensive will go ahead if no ceasefire deal is reached soon. Washington has called on its close ally not to launch an assault on a city packed with more than 1 million people displaced from elsewhere in Gaza.

Rafah is also the entry point for much of the desperately needed aid that is reaching Gaza, and any further disruption to the already inadequate flow of assistance would worsen an acute humanitarian crisis.

Hamas is waiting to see what mediators from the US, Qatar and Egypt bring back from the weekend talks with Israel in Paris, an official from the militant group said on Friday.

“We discussed our proposal with [the Egyptians] and we are going to wait until they return from Paris,” he said.

About 150 of 250 hostages seized by Hamas during its attack on southern Israel in October were released in a swap for Palestinian prisoners during a weeklong ceasefire in November. The attack, which triggered the Israeli offensive in Gaza, also killed 1,200 people, mostly in their homes or at a music festival.

At least 29,514 Palestinians have been killed and 69,616 injured in Israeli strikes on Gaza since the beginning of the war, the Gaza health ministry said in a statement on Friday. Israel blames civilian deaths on Hamas, which has ruled the territory since 2007, saying it uses residents as a human shield.

Though talks on a new deal involving a series of phased ceasefires – each involving the release of a batch of the about 100 hostages still held by Hamas – have repeatedly broken down, both sides may now make concessions, observers say.

Hamas has seen that allied groups such as Hezbollah, the Lebanon-based militant Islamist movement, are not ready to risk all-out war with Israel to support it and has suffered significant casualties, even if no senior leaders have yet been killed in the Israeli onslaught.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, needs to improve increasingly fractious relations with Washington and answer accusations inside Israel that he has sacrificed the return of hostages for his own political survival, analysts say. Between 30 and 50 of the hostages are now thought to be dead and representatives of relatives say time is running out for the remainder.

But a deal would involve painful concessions by Israel – such as the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners from its jails – and a withdrawal from Gaza, so would be opposed by far-right politicians whose support allows Netanyahu to remain in power.

Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, a mass-market newspaper, columnist Nahum Barnea said the chances of reaching an agreement were about 50%.

“No agreement has been reached yet about an exchange deal – responsible sources put the chances at 50% – but a resumption of negotiations appears to be near at hand. After almost a month of impasse, there is hope,” Barnea said.

Throughout the conflict, Netanyahu has said military pressure on Hamas would force concessions and the early return of the hostages.

Israeli planes and tanks continued airstrikes and bombardments overnight, residents and health officials said. The Gaza health ministry said 104 people had been killed and 160 others wounded in Israeli military strikes in the past 24 hours.

Late on Thursday, Netanyahu presented his security cabinet with an official plan for Gaza after the war.

According to the document, Israel would maintain security control over all land west of Jordan, including the occupied West Bank and Gaza – territories where Palestinians want to create an independent state. Any rehabilitation of Gaza, much of which has been reduced to ruins during the war, is conditional on “complete demilitarisation”.

Netanyahu proposes an Israeli presence on the Gaza-Egypt border in the south of the territory and cooperation with Egypt and the US in that area to prevent smuggling attempts, including at the Rafah crossing.

To replace Hamas rule in Gaza while maintaining public order, the plan proposes working with local representatives “who are not affiliated with terrorist countries or groups and are not financially supported by them” and calls for shutting down UNRWA, the UN Palestinian refugee agency, and replacing it with other international aid groups, emphasising that Israel expects to maintain security control over the territory.

The proposed new administration may involve local clan or community leaders but there is no role for the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank – the preferred option of Washington.

A spokesperson for Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, told Reuters that Netanyahu’s proposal was doomed to fail, as were any Israeli plans to change the geographic and demographic realities in Gaza.

The last time similar ceasefire talks were held in Paris, at the end of January, they produced an outline for the first extended ceasefire of the war, approved by Israel and the US. Hamas responded with a counterproposal, which Netanyahu then rejected as “delusional”.

The current talks in the French capital are aimed at establishing procedural rules for further negotiations that will hammer out a deal, Israeli media reported.

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Just one Australian beach ranked in TripAdvisor’s top 25 in 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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Wisconsin ethics panel calls for felony charges against fundraising group

Wisconsin ethics panel calls for felony charges against Trump fundraising group

Commission says Save America Joint Fundraising Committee evaded campaign finance laws in effort to oust Trump foe

Donald Trump’s legal woes continue in Wisconsin, where the state’s ethics commission has recommended felony charges against Trump’s Save America Joint Fundraising Committee for its alleged role in a plot to bypass campaign finance limits.

Trump is already facing 91 felony charges in criminal cases across multiple states related to his political and business dealings. The newest allegations in Wisconsin were first reported on Friday by the news site WisPolitics.

The bipartisan ethics commission, which oversees the enforcement of campaign finance and lobbying laws in the state, recommended the charges in connection with a fundraising effort to target the Republican state assembly speaker, Robin Vos, during a 2022 primary challenge.

Vos, who is the longest-serving assembly speaker in the state’s history, has been a consistent target of Trump and his allies since refusing to aid Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin. Trump personally urged Vos to decertify the Wisconsin election results and, when the speaker said he could not do it under the state’s constitution, released a statement accusing Vos of “working hard to cover up election corruption”.

The commission alleges Adam Steen, Vos’s primary challenger, coordinated with state Republican party chapters to evade Wisconsin’s $1,000 limit on individual campaign donations by having individuals funnel earmarked donations through the county parties, which face no limits on campaign spending. The commission found the effort generated more than $40,000 to benefit Vos’s primary opponent.

The state representative Janel Brandtjen, a vocal proponent of Trump’s election lies in the Wisconsin legislature, was also implicated in the alleged scheme. Brandtjen allegedly helped coordinate donations earmarked for Steen’s campaign from the Save America committee into multiple Republican party county chapters.

Vos survived the primary attempt, but barely. Steen, who earned Trump’s endorsement, lost by a mere 260 votes.

Election-denying activists have most recently backed a campaign to recall Vos, which is still gathering petition signatures and has drawn the attention of national figures in the Maga movement, including the conspiracy theorist and MyPillow CEO, Mike Lindell. Lindell headlined an event and has promoted the effort on social media, writing that Vos had “blocked our efforts to secure our elections” in a post on the social media site X (formerly Twitter).

The ethics commission also investigated a $4,000 donation by Lindell to a county party, but did not charge him, citing insufficient evidence the funds were directed to Vos’s primary challenger.

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Wisconsin ethics panel calls for felony charges against fundraising group

Wisconsin ethics panel calls for felony charges against Trump fundraising group

Commission says Save America Joint Fundraising Committee evaded campaign finance laws in effort to oust Trump foe

Donald Trump’s legal woes continue in Wisconsin, where the state’s ethics commission has recommended felony charges against Trump’s Save America Joint Fundraising Committee for its alleged role in a plot to bypass campaign finance limits.

Trump is already facing 91 felony charges in criminal cases across multiple states related to his political and business dealings. The newest allegations in Wisconsin were first reported on Friday by the news site WisPolitics.

The bipartisan ethics commission, which oversees the enforcement of campaign finance and lobbying laws in the state, recommended the charges in connection with a fundraising effort to target the Republican state assembly speaker, Robin Vos, during a 2022 primary challenge.

Vos, who is the longest-serving assembly speaker in the state’s history, has been a consistent target of Trump and his allies since refusing to aid Trump in his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Wisconsin. Trump personally urged Vos to decertify the Wisconsin election results and, when the speaker said he could not do it under the state’s constitution, released a statement accusing Vos of “working hard to cover up election corruption”.

The commission alleges Adam Steen, Vos’s primary challenger, coordinated with state Republican party chapters to evade Wisconsin’s $1,000 limit on individual campaign donations by having individuals funnel earmarked donations through the county parties, which face no limits on campaign spending. The commission found the effort generated more than $40,000 to benefit Vos’s primary opponent.

The state representative Janel Brandtjen, a vocal proponent of Trump’s election lies in the Wisconsin legislature, was also implicated in the alleged scheme. Brandtjen allegedly helped coordinate donations earmarked for Steen’s campaign from the Save America committee into multiple Republican party county chapters.

Vos survived the primary attempt, but barely. Steen, who earned Trump’s endorsement, lost by a mere 260 votes.

Election-denying activists have most recently backed a campaign to recall Vos, which is still gathering petition signatures and has drawn the attention of national figures in the Maga movement, including the conspiracy theorist and MyPillow CEO, Mike Lindell. Lindell headlined an event and has promoted the effort on social media, writing that Vos had “blocked our efforts to secure our elections” in a post on the social media site X (formerly Twitter).

The ethics commission also investigated a $4,000 donation by Lindell to a county party, but did not charge him, citing insufficient evidence the funds were directed to Vos’s primary challenger.

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Nationals deputy leader could face official complaint over apparent slurring in Senate

Nationals deputy leader Perin Davey could face official complaint over apparent slurring in Senate

Exclusive: Davey says she is aware complaint may be lodged, which could lead to her party membership being cancelled or suspended if upheld

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The Nationals’ deputy leader, Perin Davey, is facing the prospect of an official complaint from a party member over an incident in which she slurred and stumbled over words in a Senate hearing.

According to the NSW Nationals’ constitution, complaints that a member’s “general behaviour, public utterances, or writings, have been such as to bring or attempt to bring discredit or undue embarrassment to the party” can be grounds to cancel or suspend their membership.

Guardian Australia understands that Steve de Gunst, a Nationals member in New England, notified Davey that he intends to make the complaint with the New South Wales Nationals.

Gunst and members of the NSW Nationals ethics committee contacted on Friday declined to comment.

Davey has said she had two drinks at a social function before the hearing, but denied being drunk and blamed residual effects from a medical incident in 2019 for her speech difficulties.

A spokesperson for Davey said: “The Senator has been made aware by the complainant that a complaint may be lodged, in which case, The Nationals have confidential processes in place and it would be inappropriate for her to comment further.”

“As part of our complaints handling process the NSW Nationals will not confirm or deny if a complaint has been received on any particular matter.”

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The party’s constitution states that its central council may call upon the person facing the complaint to “show cause why membership should not be cancelled or suspended”. “After due consideration, during which the person may be heard in defence, Central Council may cancel or suspend forthwith the membership, or dismiss the complaint or deal with the Member or Associate Member in any other way.”

On Tuesday Davey told 2BS Bathurst Radio that her apparent slurring was the result of two emergency operations and an 11-day stint in hospital after an abscess erupted behind her tonsils in 2019.

“I acknowledge when I’m tired or if I’ve had a glass of wine, or if I’m stressed, my throat catches, I can, sometimes a bit of mucus will fall down my throat and I’ll have a coughing fit, sometimes I slur words,” Davey said.

Davey said she felt personally attacked by the saga and claimed someone “selectively” clipped a video of her appearance to imply she had been incoherent throughout the hearing.

The Davey incident followed another in which Barnaby Joyce was filmed lying face up on the pavement with his feet on a planter box swearing down his phone.

Joyce, the shadow veterans affairs minister, admitted he made a “mistake” and blamed the incident on Lonsdale Street in the Canberra suburb of Braddon on the combination of medication and alcohol.

Joyce said this week he has given up alcohol for lent, but so far has stared down encouragement by the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, to take leave after the incident.

The Joyce incident sparked criticism in the Nationals party room and a crossbench push spearheaded by independent MP Zali Steggall for random alcohol and drug testing in parliament.

Earlier in February Joyce told Guardian Australia he was walking from parliament to his accommodation late on Wednesday 7 February when he fell over next to a planter box while on the phone with his partner, Vikki Campion.

“If I knew someone was filming me I probably would have got up quicker before I walked home. I was swearing at myself,” Joyce said.

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Female pro golfer films mansplainer at driving range

‘You shouldn’t be doing that’: female pro golfer films mansplainer at driving range

Man offers PGA player Georgia Ball uninvited advice and talks over her explanation of technique

It is an experience that will be familiar to many women. A professional golfer has published video footage of a man giving her unsolicited advice on her technique, citing as his qualification to lecture her his 20 years of playing the game.

Georgia Ball, a PGA pro, was filming her swing at a driving range when the man stepped in uninvited to tell her where she was going wrong.

Posted on Instagram with the caption “Can you believe he said this?”, Ball can be seen glancing towards the camera and laughing politely, but incredulously, at the man’s tips.

“Excuse me, what you’re doing there, you shouldn’t be doing that. You should be … right through. Swing and follow through,” the man told Ball after she had fired a ball down the range. Referring to her backswing, he told her: “You’re … too slow on the way up.”

Ball, 26, who added the caption: “So, the guy next to me tried to give me swing advice”, tried to explain to him she was working on developing a new technique, so was working through each component of her swing slowly.

Undeterred, the man pressed on. “No, I know. What you’re doing there is you’re coming back too slow,” he told the professional coach, before delivering the killer line: “I’ve been playing golf for 20 years.”

As Ball shot a look at the camera, he added: “What you need to do is follow through a lot quicker than you’re doing there.” Ball appeared to disengage from the conversation, before deciding to try once more to explain she was playing that way because she was working on changing her swing.

But, interrupting her, the man suggested she have another go. Ball, flashing her eyes at the camera as she turned away from him, hit a second shot. She could not help “laughing in shock” when he suggested that shot, which she said was about as good as the first one, was “much better”.

Ball decided to try one more time to explain she was deliberately going through her swing slowly. But, interrupting again, the man reminded her that he has been “playing golf for 20 years”.

Alongside tips, the man offered encouragement. “Keep doing that, anyway,” he said.

“Thanks for your advice,” Ball replied.

While people commenting on her video argued that she could have put the man in his place by telling him that she was a professional golfer, Ball told BBC Radio 4 that she was a “humble person” who would not go looking for an argument.

“For me to turn around and say ‘I’m a PGA pro’ … it’s not in me to do that,” she said. “I have a lot of interaction with males and females every single day. And I’d say it’s mostly always positive.

“For me personally, it’s just … get everyone involved in the game, work together on it, we just want to grow golf as much as we can.”

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The oldest person in the US dies aged 116

Edie Ceccarelli, the oldest person in the US, dies aged 116

Born in 1908, Ceccarelli loved to dance and died a little over two weeks after her hometown threw her a huge birthday party

Edie Ceccarelli, who was the oldest person in the US and the second oldest person on Earth, died on Thursday.

Ceccarelli died a little over two weeks after her home town – the small, redwood-crested northern California town of Willits – threw her a huge birthday bash, as is their yearly tradition.

Ceccarelli’s birthday had become a bit of a holiday in Willits, attended by everyone from the mayor and the fire department, to the local dog walker and his many four-legged charges. Well into her 100s, Ceccarelli would throw herself birthday parties, inviting the whole town to celebrate and dance with her. In recent years, as she slowed down, the town took over – organizing a yearly parade.

“I’m just so happy we could celebrate with her,” said Suzanne Picetti-Johnson, a longtime Willits resident who coordinated the events. “And then her time here was done.”

At 116 years and 16 days, Ceccarelli had lived through two world wars and two of the deadliest global pandemics. Theodore Roosevelt was president when she was born, in the year that Henry Ford introduced the Model T.

She had outlived two husbands, a daughter and three granddaughters. Born Edith Recagno, on 5 February 1908 to Italian immigrant parents, she was the first of seven siblings – raised in a house that her father built by hand. She graduated high school in 1927, and married her high school sweetheart, Elmer “Brick” Keenan, with whom she adopted a daughter, Laureen.

While Keenan worked as a typesetter for the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat, the regional paper, the family moved to the larger city of Santa Rosa nearby. But they returned to Willits after Keenan’s retirement. She was remarried to Charles Ceccarelli, and the couple enjoyed five years together before he died.

“She was such a big part of this town,” Evelyn Persico, a cousin by marriage and one of Ceccarelli’s closest friends, told the Guardian.

Ceccarelli loved people, and she loved to dance, her friends and family said. She was known for taking walks around town – impeccably made up and dressed in a hat and gloves. She was also a fixture at community dances at the local senior centre.

“I danced with her when she was in her 100s, and I couldn’t keep up,” said her cousin Chuck Persico. “She sure did love to dance.”

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Cat killer guilty of murdering stranger as he walked home in Oxford

Cat killer guilty of murdering stranger as he walked home in Oxford

Scarlet Blake, 26, brutally attacked Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, and left him to drown in July 2021

A woman who livestreamed herself killing, dissecting and blending the body of a cat before brutally attacking a man and leaving him to drown to death in a river months later has been convicted of murder.

Scarlet Blake, 26, targeted Jorge Martin Carreno, 30, as he walked home from a night out in Oxford in July 2021.

She led him to a secluded riverbank where he was hit on the back of the head with a vodka bottle, strangled and then pushed into the River Cherwell where he drowned, Oxford crown court heard.

Blake denied murder but was convicted on Friday. She showed no emotion as the verdict was returned.

Prosecutors said Blake, who is transgender, killed the BMW worker, who was a stranger to her, because she had a “fixation with violence and with knowing what it would be like to kill someone”.

The murder came four months after Blake livestreamed the horrific killing of a cat. Blake told the family pet: “Here we go, my little friend. Oh boy, you smell like shit. I can’t wait to put through the blender.”

After the killing, Blake dissected the animal, removed its fur and skin, and placed its body in a blender.

During the video, the New Order song True Faith played in the background, which the court heard was in homage to a Netflix documentary called Don’t F**k with Cats about a man who killed felines and murdered a human.

Blake “boasted” about the killing to others and told of “her desire to open up a person like her ‘little cat friend’”.

During the trial, the court heard Carreno had been out with co-workers in Oxford city centre and was trying to get home when Blake found him sitting in the street.

She was seen on CCTV walking the streets of Oxford wearing a heavy military-style hooded jacket, face mask and carrying a rucksack, looking for a victim.

Prosecutors suggested she was carrying a “murder kit” in her rucksack, including a garotte and leopard-print dressing gown cord, which she rejected. Giving evidence, Blake denied she was looking for a victim and instead had gone for a walk because she could not sleep.

She said she walked with Carreno to an area called Parson’s Pleasure at the riverside and left him there alive to go home, telling the jury she did not know how he died.

Suggestions that Carreno may have killed himself were rejected by his friends and by a Home Office pathologist who said he did not believe the Spanish national died accidentally.

Prosecutors said Blake had an “extreme interest in death and in harm” and got sexual gratification from violence and killings.

At one point, jurors were shown a disturbing video of Blake consensually tying a ligature around her then partner’s neck from behind and pulling it tight until she appeared to fall unconscious.

The trial heard that Blake, who was previously known as Alice Wang, came to the UK from China aged nine, and came out to her parents as transgender at the age of 12.

She said it had “caused a large emotional rift” and made her parents unhappy.

The court also heard that Blake had developed an online relationship with Ashlynn Bell, another trans woman, in the US.

The court heard Blake confessed to her former partner Bell, who lives in the US and told jurors she is also sexually stimulated by violence, that she had killed Carreno with a homemade garotte before throwing his body in the water.

Blake told jurors she had made up the details of the killing because Bell wanted her to kill someone after making her livestream the killing of the cat.

“I wasn’t interested or willing … she was wanting to make me do this thing and I was … at a limit after going through the killing of the cat.”

During her evidence, Blake claimed she had a fragmented personality, which included being a cat, and miaowed at the jury to show how she would interact with friends.

“With friends I know quite well who are aware of this part of me, I miaow at them in greeting,” she said.

Blake will be sentenced on Monday.

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