The Guardian 2024-02-26 10:31:03


Icac findings based on ‘depressing and unrealistic view of life’, lawyer says

Icac findings against Gladys Berejiklian based on ‘depressing and unrealistic view of life’, lawyer says

Ex-premier’s barrister says ‘notion that having an attachment is itself a standing potential for impropriety can only be regarded as a black view’

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Gladys Berejkilian’s barrister in her case against New South Wales anti-corruption watchdog findings has argued that viewing a relationship as a “standing potential for impropriety” is a “black, depressing and utterly unrealistic view of human life”.

The former premier is arguing in the NSW court of appeal that findings against her by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) of serious corrupt conduct were invalid because the assistant commissioner in charge of the probe was no longer at the commission when they were finalised.

Berejiklian did not appear in court on Monday for the first day of the two-day judicial review of the Icac findings that she engaged in serious corrupt conduct when an MP.

The former premier’s legal team focused in large part on the role of former judge Ruth McColl who was appointed an assistant commissioner of Icac to preside over the high-profile hearings.

McColl was yet to complete the report at the end of October 2022 when her term was due to expire. She was given an extension to work as a consultant until she handed her report to the three-person commission in June 2023.

Berejiklian’s barrister Bret Walker SC told the court on Monday that findings were invalid because McColl’s role as assistant commissioner was over when the report was completed.

“The whole of the report was delivered in excess of jurisdiction,” he said. “The designated decision maker really must be the decision maker.”

Representing Icac, Stephen Free SC said McColl had been brought on as an assistant commissioner to run the inquiry but she was “never delegated the function of making a report”.

He said McColl provided a draft report to the commission in February 2023 before she met with members of the commission about their “concerns, suggestions and recommendations” from the draft.

“The final version of the report was issued by the chief commissioner on behalf of the commission,” he said.

“[That] reflects the chief commissioner being fully satisfied that the contents of the report reflect the findings that he’s making.”

Icac had initially been looking into former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire who was also found to have engaged in serious corrupt conduct. Maguire was alleged to have used his position to conduct a business helping property developers.

After Berejiklian was heard on phone taps, she was called to give evidence at Icac and admitted she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Maguire for several years, which she had not disclosed to colleagues or family.

Icac then investigated a number of grants she had been involved in approving for Wagga Wagga as well as her state of knowledge of Maguire’s business dealings.

Berejiklian has maintained she served the public interest “at all times” while in office.

On Monday, Walker argued that ministers would always have personal attachments but those relationships did not automatically equate to corruption.

“The notion that having an attachment is itself a standing potential for impropriety can only be regarded as a black, depressing and utterly unrealistic view of human life,” he said.

He said politicians who had elderly family members could make policy decisions that impacted elderly people because “having attachments” was not corrupt in and of itself.

He said the notion that the “ministry has to be composed of people without attachments” was “nonsense”.

Walker also argued that there was no evidence that Berejiklian wanting to maintain or progress her relationship with Maguire had played a role in her decision-making relating to matters impacting his electorate.

“There’s a difference between being disappointed with a decision somebody you love has made and saying, ‘I’m not going to be your special friend if you don’t make the decision this way’,” he said.

“There’s no evidence of any of that at all.”

He also argued against Icac’s finding that the then premier had breached her duty by failing to tell the public the Wagga Wagga MP was her boyfriend, insisting that something could not be a conflict of interest if “simply” disclosing it would remove that conflict.

Free argued there were reasons to believe that the former premier had been influenced by her relationship in decisions.

“The commission places weight on the fact that there was a history between Mr McGuire and Ms Berejiklian of Mr McGuire pushing Ms Berejiklian to assist him in getting what he wanted and her doing so, influenced by the interpersonal dynamics, so wanting to appease him,” Free told the court.

Last year, Icac found the former premier’s failure to declare a personal conflict of interest in relation to funding for the Australian Clay Target Association (Acta) and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music was a breach of public trust.

Additionally, Icac found Berejiklian engaged in corrupt conduct by failing to report suspicions that Maguire had engaged in corrupt conduct.

The hearing continues.

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Antoinette Lattouf escalates legal battle with new federal court claim

Antoinette Lattouf escalates legal battle against ABC with new federal court claim

Journalist is suing broadcaster for allegedly ‘sacking her without a proper basis and without due process’, adding to existing claim at Fair Work Commission

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The journalist Antoinette Lattouf has escalated her fight against the ABC to the federal court, suing the public broadcaster for allegedly breaching its employee enterprise agreement by “sacking her without a proper basis and without due process”.

Lattouf has already lodged an unlawful termination application with the Fair Work Commission claiming she was sacked from a casual presenting role on Sydney’s Mornings radio program over her political views and her race.

The broadcaster was three days into a five-day radio hosting contract with ABC Sydney when she said she was told not to return for the final two shifts. The ABC has said she “failed or refused to comply with directions that she not post on social media about matters of controversy during the short period she was presenting”.

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Lattouf had shared a post from Human Rights Watch alleging Israel was using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza. The ABC had reported on the Human Rights Watch claim.

Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said in a statement on Monday that Lattouf was suing the ABC for breaching its employee enterprise agreement by “sacking her without a proper basis and without due process”.

Lattouf is seeking “reinstatement, compensation, pecuniary penalties against the ABC and orders that ABC management undergo training to ensure they comply with their EA obligations”, the statement said.

The statement of claim lodged with the federal court last week said the ABC had breached the enterprise agreement by terminating her employment for misconduct when she had not engaged in misconduct and “had complied with guidance provided to her by management”.

It accused the ABC of failing to advise Lattouf in writing of the nature of her alleged misconduct and said the broadcaster did not give her an opportunity to respond to or explain her actions.

The ABC has argued that because Lattouf was a casual employee she was not sacked, and that she was paid for the full five days.

The Maurice Blackburn Lawyers principal lawyer Josh Bornstein said Lattouf’s case alleged that the ABC panicked when it dismissed Lattouf and did not comply with its own disciplinary regime.

“Antoinette Lattouf is the first Australian journalist to be sacked for communicating a fact; the very same fact that the ABC was reporting on,” he said.

“The ABC’s conduct was a textbook example of what can go wrong when an organisation applies brand management techniques instead of being guided by principle, proper process and legal obligations.”

The ABC declined to comment.

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High school accidentally emails out students’ confidential health and welfare information

Sydney high school accidentally emails out students’ confidential health and welfare information

Email containing private information of about 30 year 11 students was case of ‘unfortunate human error’, P&C chair of Sydney Secondary College says

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A Sydney high school has accidentally emailed confidential information on students’ health conditions and welfare to staff, students and parents.

A staff member at the Blackwattle Bay campus of Sydney Secondary College sent the email on Friday, intending to include a weekly newsletter, but instead attached a pdf titled “Welfare Watch”, marked as confidential, which contained personal and private information on about 30 year 11 students.

The subject line of the email and the pdf was correctly titled “Term 1 Week 5a” for the school’s weekly newsletter called Buzz on the Bay. But once recipients clicked into the document the heading read “Welfare Watch”.

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After the email was sent, steps were reportedly taken to have it removed from accounts where possible.

“The school is deeply apologetic for the breach and understands it is completely at odds with the high importance it gives to respecting and safeguarding the private information of its students and their families,” the NSW education department said on behalf of the school.

A workplace practices investigation is under way, led by the department, with assistance from its cybersecurity team.

The school has apologised individually to families for the breach of privacy and was in the process of speaking to every student affected, the department said.

The school’s principal, Leiza Lewis, wrote to all parents to apologise soon after the initial email was sent, and said a work practices investigation and disciplinary inquiry were under way, the department confirmed.

“The message mistakenly sent … contained personal, private information about a group of students at our school – it should be deleted immediately, and not copied or forwarded,” Lewis wrote.

“A work practices investigation into how this mistake was made is being conducted and the behaviour of the staff member will be subject of a disciplinary enquiry,” the letter said.

The chair of the Blackwattle Bay campus P&C, Jocelyn Prasad, said the incident was “a very unfortunate case of human error” and the P&C looked forward to considering the findings of the investigation.

“Our experience is that the school is run by deeply committed and passionate teachers who put the interests of students first and foremost, often with limited resources. Rather than target individuals, we hope the investigation creates robust systems in all schools so breaches like this don’t happen again,” she said.

Prasad said the P&C was available to support parents and students who wanted to contact them, but had not sought contact details of those affected for privacy reasons.

Blackwattle Bay campus, in Glebe, is the year 11 and 12 component of Sydney Secondary College, which also comprises 7-10 campuses at Balmain and Leichhardt.

NSW government schools act in accordance with the Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act 1998, and the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002 – laws intended to minimise the risk of any misuse of personal and health information and to protect privacy.

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UK age rating raised to PG due to discriminatory language

Mary Poppins’ UK age rating raised to PG due to discriminatory language

British Board of Film Classification lifts it from U certificate almost 60 years after film was first released

Mary Poppins has had its age rating lifted to a PG by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) almost 60 years after it was first released.

The film’s rating has been upgraded from U – which signifies no material likely to offend or harm – to one advising parental guidance due to the use of discriminatory language, the Daily Mail reported.

It was changed because of a derogatory term for the Khoikhoi, a group of people who were among the first inhabitants of southern Africa.

Classifiers picked up on the term used by the character Admiral Boom – first as a reference to people not onscreen, then as a reference to the film’s child stars when their faces are blackened with soot.

“We understand from our racism and discrimination research … that a key concern for … parents is the potential to expose children to discriminatory language or behaviour which they may find distressing or repeat without realising the potential offence,” a BBFC spokesperson told the Mail.

“Content with immediate and clear condemnation is more likely to receive a lower rating.”

The reclassification affects only the cinema version of the film, with home entertainment versions still rated U, according to the BBFC. The word in question is “Hottentot”, an adopted name for the Khoikhoi used by Dutch settlers, thought to imitate their language, which is considered offensive. It would later be used to refer to all black people.

It is not the first classic film to have its rating upgraded in recent years. According to the BBFC’s 2022 annual report, the 1978 animated film Watership Down merited a PG rating as classifiers sought to “remain in step with societal standards”.

They said: “In their exile, the rabbits meet various challenges, some of which result in bloody bite and claw injuries caused by animals fighting. In one scene, a bird tells one of the rabbits to ‘[pee] off’.”

They added: “When we viewed the film under the current guidelines we reclassified it PG in line with our current policies for violence, threat, injury detail and language.”

The 1979 film Star Trek: The Motion Picture was also upgraded from a U to a PG that year as a result of its “very mild language, mild violence and threat”, the BBFC said.

When deciding on how to classify a film, the BBFC considers scenes that might show dangerous behaviour, discrimination, and references to drugs and sex. It also considers the language used in the film, scenes of nudity and of threat, horror and violence.

Classifiers particularly look out for discriminatory language or behaviour that is “unlikely to be acceptable unless clearly disapproved of, or in an educational or historical context, or in a particularly dated work with no likely appeal to children”.

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Andrew Forrest labels Coalition push for nuclear energy a ‘new lie’

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest labels Coalition push for nuclear energy ‘bulldust’ and a ‘new lie’

Mining billionaire says cost of nuclear will be four to five times that of renewables and opposition’s policy is ‘an excuse for doing nothing’

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The mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has labelled the Coalition’s push for nuclear energy “bulldust” and a “new lie” that would delay the clean energy transition and harm regional Australia.

The executive chair and founder of mining company Fortescue and the renewable energy investor Tattarang on Monday urged the opposition to stop advocating expensive and unfeasible alternatives to renewables.

The Coalition is yet to produce a costed energy policy, despite arguing to lift Australia’s ban on nuclear energy and recent comments from the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, that expanded rooftop solar could be rolled out instead of large-scale renewables.

The Liberals and Nationals have complained that large-scale renewables and transmission projects will ruin agricultural land, despite experts debunking the extent of this claimed impact.

Forrest told the National Press Club that “even the fossil fuel industry has taken responsibility” for global heating, and that “doing nothing” is not an option, with Australia to face tariffs from the European Union if it doesn’t reduce emissions.

Forrest told politicians who “claim to represent the bush” – a reference to the Nationals – to “stop dividing us with the false hope that we can cling to fossil fuels for ever … We can’t. So, please stop betraying the bush.”

“If we swallow this new lie that we should stop the rollout of green energy and that nuclear energy will be our fairy godmother, we will be worse off again,” he said.

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Forrest said it was “hopeless” that politicians are asking Australians “to wait for new technology in 20 years’ time that may never happen”.

“It’s just an excuse for doing nothing. This is the straight admission that fossil fuels have to go, but their solutions risk leaving us destitute.”

According to energy department estimates for the Albanese government, replacing Australia’s coal power plants with nuclear would cost $387bn.

Forrest said he had “done the numbers” and nuclear will cost four to five times more than renewables, which can reduce emissions within a few years.

“A leader will remind the farming community offline that global warming is real and that all their customers are taking it very seriously,” he said.

“Instead of knocking a slow-moving, gracious wind turbine, try a nuclear power plant or a belching coal plant next door.

“The fact that we can feel climate change already despite the ocean soaking up most of out heat-generated emissions means Australia has finally run out of time.

“We get the next few years wrong and Australia’s economy and the rest of us cook. We get it right, and Australia enjoys decades of economic growth, full employment and reinvigoration of its natural environment.”

Forrest backed the proposal for a carbon solutions levy to raise $100bn, advanced by Ross Garnaut, a leading economist during the Hawke government, and Rod Sims, a former head of the competition watchdog.

Forrest also called for a green hydrogen tax credit to grow the industry, on top of the $2bn hydrogen head start fund, and a climate trigger to block approval of major projects if they contribute to global heating.

Forrest announced that Squadron, his renewable energy venture, will create an industry fund for decommissioning wind turbines so landowners can have “peace of mind” that the landscape will not be harmed if turbines are not renewed and extended.

Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens environment spokesperson, said that “business leaders like Forrest can see that, for the sake of our environment and economy, we need to stop expanding fossil fuels”.

“Forrest backed the growing call for a climate trigger in environment law and I hope that Labor were listening.”

Earlier on Monday the shadow energy and climate change minister, Ted O’Brien, told reporters in Canberra there was “no doubt that the experts are advising us that one of the best places to locate zero-emissions nuclear reactors would be where coal plants are retired”.

O’Brien accused Labor of “steamrolling regional communities” to build renewables, but could not say what the Coalition would do if communities around existing coal power stations objected to nuclear power.

O’Brien was unable to say how much nuclear power would cost, responding that “a lot of questions that can only be answered once we release our policy”.

“We have been formulating an all-of-the-above [technologies], balanced policy for Australia’s future energy mix.”

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Andrew Forrest labels Coalition push for nuclear energy a ‘new lie’

Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest labels Coalition push for nuclear energy ‘bulldust’ and a ‘new lie’

Mining billionaire says cost of nuclear will be four to five times that of renewables and opposition’s policy is ‘an excuse for doing nothing’

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The mining billionaire Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest has labelled the Coalition’s push for nuclear energy “bulldust” and a “new lie” that would delay the clean energy transition and harm regional Australia.

The executive chair and founder of mining company Fortescue and the renewable energy investor Tattarang on Monday urged the opposition to stop advocating expensive and unfeasible alternatives to renewables.

The Coalition is yet to produce a costed energy policy, despite arguing to lift Australia’s ban on nuclear energy and recent comments from the Nationals leader, David Littleproud, that expanded rooftop solar could be rolled out instead of large-scale renewables.

The Liberals and Nationals have complained that large-scale renewables and transmission projects will ruin agricultural land, despite experts debunking the extent of this claimed impact.

Forrest told the National Press Club that “even the fossil fuel industry has taken responsibility” for global heating, and that “doing nothing” is not an option, with Australia to face tariffs from the European Union if it doesn’t reduce emissions.

Forrest told politicians who “claim to represent the bush” – a reference to the Nationals – to “stop dividing us with the false hope that we can cling to fossil fuels for ever … We can’t. So, please stop betraying the bush.”

“If we swallow this new lie that we should stop the rollout of green energy and that nuclear energy will be our fairy godmother, we will be worse off again,” he said.

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Forrest said it was “hopeless” that politicians are asking Australians “to wait for new technology in 20 years’ time that may never happen”.

“It’s just an excuse for doing nothing. This is the straight admission that fossil fuels have to go, but their solutions risk leaving us destitute.”

According to energy department estimates for the Albanese government, replacing Australia’s coal power plants with nuclear would cost $387bn.

Forrest said he had “done the numbers” and nuclear will cost four to five times more than renewables, which can reduce emissions within a few years.

“A leader will remind the farming community offline that global warming is real and that all their customers are taking it very seriously,” he said.

“Instead of knocking a slow-moving, gracious wind turbine, try a nuclear power plant or a belching coal plant next door.

“The fact that we can feel climate change already despite the ocean soaking up most of out heat-generated emissions means Australia has finally run out of time.

“We get the next few years wrong and Australia’s economy and the rest of us cook. We get it right, and Australia enjoys decades of economic growth, full employment and reinvigoration of its natural environment.”

Forrest backed the proposal for a carbon solutions levy to raise $100bn, advanced by Ross Garnaut, a leading economist during the Hawke government, and Rod Sims, a former head of the competition watchdog.

Forrest also called for a green hydrogen tax credit to grow the industry, on top of the $2bn hydrogen head start fund, and a climate trigger to block approval of major projects if they contribute to global heating.

Forrest announced that Squadron, his renewable energy venture, will create an industry fund for decommissioning wind turbines so landowners can have “peace of mind” that the landscape will not be harmed if turbines are not renewed and extended.

Sarah Hanson-Young, the Greens environment spokesperson, said that “business leaders like Forrest can see that, for the sake of our environment and economy, we need to stop expanding fossil fuels”.

“Forrest backed the growing call for a climate trigger in environment law and I hope that Labor were listening.”

Earlier on Monday the shadow energy and climate change minister, Ted O’Brien, told reporters in Canberra there was “no doubt that the experts are advising us that one of the best places to locate zero-emissions nuclear reactors would be where coal plants are retired”.

O’Brien accused Labor of “steamrolling regional communities” to build renewables, but could not say what the Coalition would do if communities around existing coal power stations objected to nuclear power.

O’Brien was unable to say how much nuclear power would cost, responding that “a lot of questions that can only be answered once we release our policy”.

“We have been formulating an all-of-the-above [technologies], balanced policy for Australia’s future energy mix.”

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Nationals MP takes leave from parliament after being filmed lying on Canberra footpath

Barnaby Joyce takes leave from parliament after being filmed lying on Canberra footpath

David Littleproud says his colleague is ‘having the week off’ after incident Joyce described as a ‘big mistake’

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Barnaby Joyce will take the week off from parliament after being filmed lying on a Canberra footpath earlier this month in an incident he described as a “big mistake”.

The Nationals leader, David Littleproud, on Monday confirmed his frontbench colleague had notified him he wouldn’t be coming to Canberra for the sitting week.

“He’s having the week off, which we gave him the opportunity to undertake with his family. And I respect that. And I hope he went to church yesterday and all he had was altar wine,” Littleproud told Nine’s Today show on Monday morning.

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Daily Mail Australia this month published footage of Joyce in Canberra lying face up on the footpath with his feet on a planter box, having a phone conversation and uttering profanities.

Joyce later explained it was a “big mistake”, which happened after he had mixed alcohol and prescription drugs during an event at Parliament House.

Shortly after the footage became public, Littleproud asked the former deputy to take personal leave, alluding to “other driving forces” relating to personal and family circumstances that had not been made public, playing a part.

The party’s leader said the choice was Joyce’s to make before adding: “If he doesn’t want to take it, he’ll want to demonstrate to us that he can continue on unimpeded and I think that’s important and he’s made big steps towards that.”

Joyce has since said he is giving up alcohol for Lent but lashed out at his critics, accusing them of seeking to exploit the issue of parliamentarians’ consumption of alcohol.

“Sometimes I do get a sense of, ‘Let’s exploit this issue politically for all the purpose we can get.’ That’s an issue for the parties to decide, I’ll let them have that discussion,” he said.

The deputy Nationals leader, Perin Davey, was similarly criticised in the following weeks after footage emerged of her appearing to slur and stumble over her words during a late-night Senate estimates committee hearing.

Davey admitted to drinking two glasses of wine before the appearance but insisted she was not drunk. Davey later explained a 2019 medical incident had left her with ongoing speech issues and was a contributing factor to her estimates appearance.

The incidents coincide with recommendations by a cross-party taskforce of politicians to implement new rules that would prevent members and senators from being adversely affected by drugs and alcohol while on the job.

Guardian Australia has contacted Joyce for comment.

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Use of hotels as detention centres was unlawful, refugee’s lawyer argues in appeal

Australia’s use of hotels as detention centres was unlawful, refugee’s lawyer argues in appeal

Federal court hears appeal after finding Mostafa ‘Moz’ Azimitabar’s Melbourne detention ‘lacked ordinary human decency’ but did not breach law

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The commonwealth’s detainment of a Kurdish refugee in hotels that “deprived” him of his liberty was unlawful, a lawyer for the former detainee has argued in an appeal against a federal court decision.

Kurdish refugee Mostafa “Moz” Azimitabar, who was detained in two Melbourne hotels for more than 14 months, launched an appeal after he lost his federal court case last year that argued his treatment was unlawful.

In July, the court ruled the Australian government’s detention of Azimitabar in Melbourne hotels as alternative places of detention (Apods) “lacked ordinary human decency” but did not breach federal laws.

Lisa de Ferrari SC, representing Azimitabar, on Monday said the hotels where Azimitabar was held for more than a year were “de facto detention centres” but he was not lawfully detained.

“There was no power, no power to make that a place where somebody could be deprived of their liberty,” she said.

Ferrari said there was nothing in the Migration Act to empower the commonwealth to establish alternative places of detention and said this is not implied in the legislation – as ruled in the original judgment.

“Implying a power is, again, something quite extraordinary. In a case where there’s an express power elsewhere, which regulates with limitation, the very same thing… that is why it’s wrong,” she said.

Azimitabar’s legal team argued that the government had unlawfully created Apods by relying on provisions in the definitions section of the legislation.

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Graeme Hill SC, appearing for the commonwealth, argued that an implied power under the legislation was “a power under the act as much as an expressed power”.

The commonwealth last year successfully argued that the immigration minister, via a delegate, could establish detention centres in a range of different buildings if they met the definition of a detention facility.

While finding the policy lawful, the federal court justice Bernard Murphy last year handed down a scathing rebuke of the policy and said his judgment should not be seen as an endorsement.

In 2022, Azimitabar launched legal action against the commonwealth to challenge the lawfulness of Apods under the Migration Act and sought compensation.

Azimitabar, a Kurdish musician, fled persecution in Iran and was held in Australia’s offshore detention system from 2013 on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea for more than six years. Azimitabar had severe asthma and was struggling to breathe even before he was transferred to Australia under the medevac laws for treatment.

He was detained at the Mantra Bell City, in Preston, in Melbourne’s north, from November 2019 for 13 months before being transferred to the Park hotel in Carlton.

During this time, he was heavily guarded, prevented from going outside or opening a window and often stayed in his room for up to 23 hours a day.

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers were also transferred to Australia from offshore detention in Papua New Guinea and Nauru under the medevac policy based on doctor’s advice before it was repealed in 2019. The immigration minister, via a department officer, approved hotels as alternative places of detention.

While Apods are no longer used for long-term detention of refugees detained offshore, human rights advocates argue there is nothing stopping the commonwealth or future federal governments from reinstating the policy.

Azimitabar was released from the Park hotel in January 2021 and is required to reapply for a bridging visa every six months.

The full bench of the federal court reserved a judgment.

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Aboriginal man died after being ‘erroneously’ diagnosed with drug-related illness, inquest hears

Aboriginal man died after being ‘erroneously’ diagnosed with drug-related illness, inquest hears

Ricky Hampson Jr, 36, died of perforated stomach ulcers less than 24 hours after being discharged from Dubbo base hospital in 2021

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A doctor who incorrectly diagnosed an Aboriginal man with drug-related side-effects less than 24 hours before he died of perforated stomach ulcers has admitted his diagnosis was “without foundation”, an inquest has heard.

Ricky Hampson Jr, a Kamilaroi-Dunghutti man known and referred to in the inquest as Dougie, died on 16 August 2021, less than 24 hours after leaving Dubbo base hospital.

The 36-year-old father of eight and grandfather to one presented to the hospital in western New South Wales complaining of a “tearing” and “popping” sensation in his stomach on 14 August 2021, at the peak of a Covid wave.

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In the opening statement of the inquest held at the Dubbo courthouse on Monday before the deputy state coroner Erin Kennedy, the counsel assisting, Simeon Beckett SC, said Dougie was admitted to the isolation ward of the Dubbo base hospital after testing positive to Covid before admission.

He was then diagnosed with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome (CHS), after telling hospital staff he had smoked marijuana that day and methamphetamine two days prior. Beckett said Dougie told hospital staff he “just wanted pain relief” and described his pain level as “10 out of 10”.

He was sedated and woke “screaming” and “writhing in pain” several times over the course of 18 hours, Beckett said. He was discharged just after midday on 15 August and given ibuprofen and paracetamol, and told to return if his pain worsened. No scans or X-rays were performed, Beckett said.

Dougie then caught a taxi to the house of a relative, where he was last seen alive at 3.30am. He was found dead on their couch six hours later.

His medical file stated he was discharged into the care of the medical officer for the Wellington Correctional Centre, which was listed as his next of kin. He had been in the correctional centre but was released 11 months earlier.

Beckett said Dougie was seen clutching his stomach when he walked out of hospital, but told nurses he was suffering from constipation and “just wanted to go home”.

An autopsy ruled Dougie’s death was caused by perforated duodenal (stomach) ulcers, which can present with symptoms including splitting and sudden abdominal pain. He also tested positive postmortem to staphylococcus, streptococcus and E coli.

A pathologist found two ulcers, measuring 0.9cm and 1.5cm in diameter, near the join between the stomach and small intestine. The coroner heard the mortality rate for perforated ulcers of this size was between 1.3 and 20%.

Beckett said the treating doctor who diagnosed Dougie with CHS later admitted the diagnosis was “without foundation” and “erroneous”.

“Hyperemesis requires lots of vomiting and nausea, his symptoms did not meet this,” Beckett said.

The doctor is scheduled to give evidence at the inquest later this week.

The inquest will investigate whether Dougie’s use of drugs, along with his time in prison and his Aboriginality influenced the treatment received at the rural hospital, and whether further medical investigation would have revealed the ulcers.

It will also consider whether the coroner should make recommendations around the treatment of Aboriginal patients at Dubbo hospital and any specific directives for hospital staff.

At a smoking ceremony outside the court before the hearing began, Dougie’s father, Ricky Hampson Sr, said he hoped there would be “serious changes” across the state’s healthcare system to prevent any other First Nations families from losing a loved one.

“There have been so many inquests into Aboriginal deaths in the health system and we are tired of families having to go through the same thing over and over,” he said.

Hampson said he wanted to see “a health system that Aboriginal people can trust, one that we can attend and know we can get culturally safe care”.

“Our people are tired of burying our children and other family members,” he said.

The inquest is scheduled to run for two weeks.

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India confronts Google over Gemini AI tool’s responses

India confronts Google over Gemini AI tool’s ‘fascist Modi’ responses

Junior minister accuses tech firm of violating country’s IT laws with ‘downright malicious’ answers

A response from Google’s AI platform suggesting that some experts believe the policies of the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, polices to be “fascist” has provoked a confrontation between the company and the government.

The journalist Arnab Ray last week put the question as to whether Modi was a fascist to Google’s generative AI platform, Gemini. He received the answer that Modi was “accused of implementing policies some experts have characterized as fascist”.

Gemini said the reasons for this characterisation were the ruling party’s “Hindu nationalist ideology, its crackdown on dissent and its use of violence against religious minorities”.

Ray keyed in similar prompts on the former US president Donald Trump and the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and received more benign answers.

For Trump the answer was “elections are a complex topic with fast changing information. To make sure you have the most accurate information, try Google Search.” For Zelenksiy, it said it was “a complex and highly contested question, with no simple answer”. It added: “It’s crucial to approach this topic with nuance and consider various perspectives.”

When the journalist posted the screenshots on X, another person in the media was so annoyed with Gemini’s answer on Modi that he reposted it and urged the junior information technology minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar to take note of what he described as the “downright malicious” response.

Chandrasekhar promptly accused Google of violating India’s laws on information technology. He wrote on X that the unreliability of AI platforms could not be used as an excuse for them to be considered exempt from Indian laws.

“The Government has said this before – I repeat for attention of @GoogleIndia … Our Digital Nagriks (citizens) are NOT to be experimented on with “unreliable” platforms/algos/model …`Sorry Unreliable’ does not exempt from the law,” he said.

Google replied by saying it had addressed the problem and that it was working to improve the system.

“Gemini is built as a creativity and productivity tool and may not always be reliable, especially when it comes to responding to some prompts about current events, political topics, or evolving news,” Google said in a statement.

Last week, X said the government had ordered it to take down posts expressing support for farmers in north India who are demanding higher prices for their crops. X said it had complied with the orders but did not agree with them as they curtailed freedom of expression.

The latest clash is part of an ongoing conflict between big technology firms and the Indian government, which has made clear that it will not tolerate what it sees as “anti-Indian” content.

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Woman attacked by shark off Sandland Island near Jurien Bay

Woman attacked by shark off Sandland Island near Jurien Bay in Western Australia

St John Ambulance WA spokesperson says two rescue crews dispatched to town 220km north of Perth

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A woman in her 40s has been attacked by a tiger shark at a small island near Jurien Bay in Western Australia.

The woman was bitten by a two-metre tiger shark while she was in waist-deep water off Sandland Island, north of the town of Jurien Bay, the state’s Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development said.

Paramedics received a call at 11.45am local time on Monday, and sent two road crews to Jurien Bay harbour, about 220km north of Perth, a St John Ambulance Western Australia spokesperson told Guardian Australia.

“She is in a serious condition,” the spokesperson said.

Sandland Island is about 300m offshore and about two hectares in size.

Authorities said beaches in the area have been closed.

The WA Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is investigating the reported shark bite. SharkSmart – the WA government shark activity tracker – has urged locals to “take additional caution in the Jurien Bay area”.

More to come.

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