The Guardian 2024-02-27 04:31:38


Human remains found at Bungonia amid search for bodies of Sydney couple

Human remains found at Bungonia amid search for bodies of Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

NSW police say remains found near Goulburn four days after officer Beau Lamarre charged with murders of ex-Channel 10 TV presenter and Qantas flight attendant

Human remains have been found during the search for missing Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

The discovery comes four days after serving police officer Beau Lamarre was charged with their murders.

Detectives on Tuesday afternoon said a crime scene had been established at a second property at Bungonia near Goulburn.

Earlier in the day, investigators had been searching in the Royal national park south of Sydney and canvassing at Grays Point oval near Cronulla.

The police commissioner, Karen Webb, said on Tuesday morning that divers concluded their search of dams at another property at Bungonia which was first searched on Sunday.

Sen Const Lamarre was charged on Friday with the murder of Baird – a former Channel Ten presenter – and Qantas flight attendant Davies, 29, Baird’s new partner.

Police allege the couple were killed last Monday by Lamarre at a home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs using his force-issued handgun. Lamarre then hired a white van to dispose of their bodies, police allege.

The deputy commissioner Dave Hudson told reporters on Monday that Lamarre was not cooperating with investigators in the search.

Police will allege that Lamarre made “partial admissions” about the killings last Tuesday to an acquaintance who is alleged to have accompanied Lamarre to the first Bungonia property.

The pair allegedly bought an angle grinder and padlock and drove to the gates of a property, where the acquaintance said she waited for half an hour at the entrance while Lamarre entered the property, having cut the lock. The new lock was placed on the gates before the pair returned to Sydney, Hudson said.

Police alleged at that time it was possible Lamarre had later returned and moved the bodies to another location.

Police said the acquaintance was fully cooperating with police and they believed she was “an innocent agent”.

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Commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to missing Sydney couple

NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to missing Sydney couple

Karen Webb was speaking to media about murder charges against police officer Beau Lamarre over Jesse Baird and Luke Davies disappearance

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The New South Wales police commissioner, Karen Webb, is facing fresh criticism for referencing a Taylor Swift lyric in a media interview where she attempted to defend her response to the alleged murders of Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Webb was asked on Seven’s Sunrise program on Tuesday about her delay in speaking publicly after the alleged murders and whether she should face criticism over her handling of the case.

“There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor [Swift] says?” Webb told the program.

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“This, though, of course is a complex matter. All we need to do now is find Jesse and Luke so their families know where they are. That’s my priority.”

NSW police have been searching for the bodies of Baird and Davies who were allegedly murdered by a serving police officer. On Tuesday, police established a crime scene at a property in Bungonia, south-west of Sydney.

Webb also told Sunrise she had the confidence of the state premier and that the ongoing investigation was about Baird and Davies’ family and friends, “and the gay community who are all wondering what has happened here … We’re all looking for the answers”.

Webb also came under fire for her choice of wording about the alleged murders, which she described as a “crime of passion” during her first press conference about the case on Monday.

“What I did say was it is a crime and of course [it is] domestic violence, stalking and murder,” she told Nine’s Today program.

“What I was intending is to say that it’s actually not a gay hate crime.”

When asked whether her Swift comment was an appropriate response, Webb told Sky News: “This is not about me. This is really about Jesse and Luke’s family … If they’re watching this program, I want them to know that the efforts of the NSW police force are focused on finding their family members.”

At a press conference on Monday, Webb responded to questions about taking three days to publicly respond to news of the alleged double murder and whether the delay was because of questions over her leadership.

“No, and that’s offensive,” she told reporters.

Webb said she was in parliamentary budget estimates on Friday, the day the couple’s alleged killer, Sen Const Beau Lamarre, handed himself into Bondi police station. She said she was then in public engagements on Saturday, and on Sunday, she spoke with Baird’s family.

Spokesperson for the Pride in Protest advocacy group, Charlie Murphy, said Webb’s choice of phrasing, quoting Swift in the context of a double murder investigation, was “disgusting, it’s appalling”.

“There have already been multiple failures on their part in relation to recent events and it appears that the police’s number one concern is their own PR,” she said.

But the premier, Chris Minns, stood by the commissioner on Tuesday, saying Webb’s job is “very difficult”.

“I think even the harshest critics would say that [Webb’s leadership is] professional, that she’s got experienced people in the most senior positions, and it has been effective right across New South Wales. And that is the primary performance indicator for any police commissioner in the state,” he said.

The key objective of the commissioner is the investigation of crime, he said. “And Karen Webb does that very well.”

Police have been asked not to march in Sydney’s Mardi Gras parade on Saturday after Lamarre was charged with the alleged murders.

A NSW police spokesperson confirmed the decision by the board of Australia’s premier LGBTQI event on Monday night.

“The NSW police force has been advised that the board of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras has decided to withdraw the invitation to NSW police to participate in this year’s event,” a police spokesperson said in a statement.

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Scott Morrison farewells parliament saying he feels ‘released from any bitterness’

Scott Morrison:

Mr Speaker, I leave this place not as one of those timid souls who no neither victory nor defeat – I leave having given all in that arena, and there are plenty of scars to show for it.

While I left nothing of my contributions on that field, I do believe that, in that arena, will always remain any bitterness, disappointments or offences that have occurred along the way. I leave this place appreciative and thankful, unburdened by offences, and released from any bitterness that can so often haunt post-political lives.

This is due to my faith in Jesus Christ, which gives me the faith to both forgive but also to be honest about my own failings and shortcomings.

Covid vaccineMandate ‘unlawful’ for Queensland emergency services, court rules

Covid vaccine mandate ‘unlawful’ for Queensland emergency services, court rules

Police and ambulance workers given unlawful directions to get vaccinated or face potential disciplinary action, supreme court finds

Covid-19 vaccine mandates for Queensland police and ambulance workers were made unlawfully, the state’s supreme court has found.

The court on Tuesday delivered its judgments in three lawsuits brought by 86 parties against Queensland’s police ambulance services for their directions to workers issued in 2021 and 2022.

The judgments did not make a ruling or attempt to make a decision about the transmissibility of a particular variant of Covid or the efficacy of a particular vaccine.

The prior directions required emergency service workers to receive Covid vaccines and booster shots or face potential disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

The court found the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, failed to give proper consideration to human rights relevant to the decision to issue the vaccine mandate.

The former Department of Health director general Dr John Wakefield was unable to prove he issued the vaccine mandate under an implied term of the employment agreements for ambulance service workers.

As a result, both vaccine mandates were found by the court to be “unlawful” and to have no effect.

The court also found the directions limited the human rights of workers because they were required to undergo a medical procedure without full consent but it was reasonable in all the circumstances.

The senior judge administrator, Glenn Martin, said the police and ambulance services were trying to prevent their employees from suffering infection, serious illness and life-changing health consequences.

“The balance between the importance of the purpose of the limitation and the importance of preserving the human right … is complicated by the fact that these directions were given in what was, by any measure, an emergency,” he said.

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Essential pollCoalition leads for first time since election as Albanese’s trust ratings tumble

Guardian Essential poll: Coalition leads for first time since election as Anthony Albanese’s trust ratings tumble

Exclusive: Labor’s change of position on stage-three tax cuts appears to have hit the prime minister’s personal favourability

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The Coalition has pulled narrowly ahead of Labor for the first time since the election in the Guardian Essential poll, with a big hit to Anthony Albanese’s trustworthiness a further cause for concern to the government.

In a sign the Albanese government’s poll honeymoon may have drawn to an end and only days out from a byelection in the Melbourne seat of Dunkley, the latest poll shows Coalition leads with 48% of the two-party-preferred vote, ahead of Labor on 47%. A further 4% are undecided, according to the poll of 1,105 people.

On primary votes, the Coalition leads on 35%, with Labor down to 30%, followed by the Greens (13%), independents or other minor parties (8%), One Nation (7%) and the United Australia party (2%).

Despite earlier polls showing support for Labor’s decision to redirect the stage-three tax cuts more towards low- and middle-income earners, the change of position appears to have hit Albanese’s personal favourability.

Just over a third (37%) said that Albanese was trustworthy, down 15 points since March 2023, while the number of respondents who said the prime minister was visionary (34%) was also down 12 points.

A majority of voters said Albanese “changes his opinion depending on who he thinks is listening” (65%, up 11 points since March), is “out of touch with ordinary people” (60%, up 10 points) and “narrow-minded” (53%, up 17 points).

The poll found 47% of respondents disapprove of Albanese’s performance, compared with 42% who approve.

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Dutton’s net favourability is similar, with 44% disapproving and 40% approving of the job he is doing as opposition leader. Dutton rates similarly to Albanese on trustworthiness (38%), narrow-mindedness (52%) and being out of touch (58%).

Dutton was considered to be more aggressive, with 50% describing the opposition leader that way compared with just 29% for Albanese.

Albanese beat Dutton on a series of less conventional metrics of popularity, with an 11-point lead on the leader you “would most like to have babysit your children”, an eight-point lead in “more likely to stop and help if your car was stranded” and “most likely to go to the pub for a beer with”.

But Dutton was favoured to give financial advice by 31% of respondents, up nine points on Albanese’s 22%.

A majority of voters (56%) thought there had been no change in the Coalition under Dutton, on culture in the party and behaviour of politicians, policies and vision for the country. Just a quarter (25%) said the Coalition had changed for the better on these metrics, while about 20% said they had changed for the worse.

While Labor is favoured to handle wages by 41% of respondents to 28% for the Coalition and also fared better with voters on climate change (31% to 25%), the Coalition now leads on reducing cost-of-living pressures (33% to 28%) and keeping borders secure (41% to 23%).

Although Labor MPs insist the latter is not being raised with them as a major vote changer, the poll found two-thirds of people (66%) were aware of a recent boat arrival in Western Australia and three in five (61%) were aware of releases from immigration detention as a result of the NZYQ high court decision.

A majority (59%) said Labor was moving too slowly to put former detainees back into detention and did not have suitable policies on asylum seekers; a slim majority (51%) went as far as to say the Albanese government is “losing control of the borders”.

But Dutton’s stance to vote against more workplace rights for casuals, labour hire and gig workers was less popular, with 35% opposed and 30% in favour.

Since Dutton announced the Coalition would repeal the right to disconnect, Labor has targeted him in question time by arguing he wants Australians to “work longer, for less”.

Although there is no detail yet on Labor’s propose to criminalise doxxing, there was strong support (62%) for this measure when respondents were told the “government is intending to make the public release of personally identifiable data (phone numbers, addresses, social media details) with malicious a criminal offence, known as doxing”. Just 19% opposed new doxxing laws.

Voters were also in favour of random alcohol and drug testing of politicians, with 75% in support and just 8% opposed.

According to separate polling released on Tuesday, about four in five Australians support a ceasefire in Gaza.

The YouGov polling of 1,060 Australian adults was commissioned by humanitarian organisations, including Plan International Australia, Oxfam Australia and Caritas Australia. When asked “Do you support a ceasefire in Gaza?” 81% of respondents agreed and 19% disagreed.

Asked whether they supported “the Australian Government taking more action to achieve a ceasefire in Gaza”, 53% said yes, 25% said no and 22% said they did not know.

However, only 30% of respondents said support for a ceasefire would be an issue they would consider at the next election, compared with 43% who said they would not.

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Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Gender pay gap: Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Finance minister’s calls come after Sussan Ley says she rejects backbencher’s comments that Workplace Gender Equality Agency report is ‘annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive’

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Katy Gallagher has called on Peter Dutton to distance himself from comments made by Matt Canavan after the opposition senator called the release of a national gender pay gap report “useless data” that “breeds resentment and division”.

The government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency released the individual gender pay gaps at nearly 5,000 businesses across Australia on Tuesday for the first time.

“The Gender Pay Report is useless data because it does not even correct for basic differences like hours worked,” Canavan posted on social media platform X on Tuesday morning.

“The Gender Pay Report is now the annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive. It just breeds resentment and division. Andrew Tate is so popular because governments and corporates push a simplistic, divisive and clearly incorrect gender narrative. This creates a massive vacuum for the likes of Andrew Tate to fill.”

Andrew Tate is a former kickboxer and online influencer who has been banned from various social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. Tate is currently facing charges in Romania of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. He claims that prosecutors have no evidence against him and that there is a political conspiracy to silence him.

Gallagher, the finance minister, said on Tuesday that she “completely” rejected Canavan’s assertions. “I would say that this is data that’s been collected for 10 years. It did pass the parliament unanimously with the support of the opposition … This is important data and I hope that Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley will distance themselves from those comments as well.”

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Guardian Australia reached out to Dutton for comment. When asked about Canavan’s comments at a press conference, Ley, the deputy Liberal party leader, said she disagreed with his comments.

“I reject all those comments, but again, people are entitled to express their views,” she said of Canavan’s claims.

“We are working hard to demonstrate to the women who didn’t support us at the last election that we are a different party, that we have their needs and aspirations front and centre.”

Ley expressed surprise at being asked several questions about Canavan’s stance.

“I’m not sure why everyone thinks one particular backbencher’s comments need to be clarified,” she said.

“The senator is entitled to express his views.”

WGEA has been collecting gender pay gap data from companies for a decade, but has only been allowed to publicly release the data showing industry-level pay gaps, not the pay gaps at individual employers. This changed after the workplace gender equality amendment (closing the gender pay gap) bill 2023 passed last year.

The results published on Tuesday showed that more than 3,000 employers, or 61.6% of the total, had a gender pay gap that favoured men. Meanwhile, 30.1% (1,493 employers) had a neutral gender pay gap – defined as a gap of 5% or lower – and just 412 employers, or 8.3% of the total, had a pay gap that favoured women.

The pay gaps are based on the median remuneration for men and women in each business – that is, the middle value when the pay of male or female employees within a company is listed from lowest to highest – and are mostly to do with male employees being concentrated in higher-paid parts of the business. They do not indicate men being paid more than women for doing the same job.

Despite Canavan’s claims, the data published by WGEA does account for part-time and casual employment, by annualising the salaries of every employee, unlike some other methodologies used for calculating pay gaps.

“There is a substantial problem in this country when you’ve essentially got two-thirds of businesses with a gender pay gap that favours men,” said Gallagher.

“It’s not about shaming or naming, it’s not about saying men should be paid less, it’s about driving change in those organisations so women get a fair crack at opportunity. It’s complex. There’s no silver bullet but this is part of the response.”

Nationally, the gender pay gap sits at 19%; over the course of a year, the median pay for women is $18,461 less than the median pay for men.

“This is a call for action on gender equality,” said Mary Wooldridge, the chief executive of WGEA. “Behind every piece of data, every number, is an employee who is having a better experience as that gender pay gap decreases. We want to achieve a reduction in the gender pay gap, an improvement in the employee experience so everyone at work can be equally and fairly valued and rewarded.”

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Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Gender pay gap: Katy Gallagher calls on Dutton to reject Matt Canavan’s comments calling report ‘useless data’

Finance minister’s calls come after Sussan Ley says she rejects backbencher’s comments that Workplace Gender Equality Agency report is ‘annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive’

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Katy Gallagher has called on Peter Dutton to distance himself from comments made by Matt Canavan after the opposition senator called the release of a national gender pay gap report “useless data” that “breeds resentment and division”.

The government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency released the individual gender pay gaps at nearly 5,000 businesses across Australia on Tuesday for the first time.

“The Gender Pay Report is useless data because it does not even correct for basic differences like hours worked,” Canavan posted on social media platform X on Tuesday morning.

“The Gender Pay Report is now the annual Andrew Tate recruitment drive. It just breeds resentment and division. Andrew Tate is so popular because governments and corporates push a simplistic, divisive and clearly incorrect gender narrative. This creates a massive vacuum for the likes of Andrew Tate to fill.”

Andrew Tate is a former kickboxer and online influencer who has been banned from various social media platforms for expressing misogynistic views and hate speech. Tate is currently facing charges in Romania of human trafficking, rape and forming a criminal gang to sexually exploit women. He claims that prosecutors have no evidence against him and that there is a political conspiracy to silence him.

Gallagher, the finance minister, said on Tuesday that she “completely” rejected Canavan’s assertions. “I would say that this is data that’s been collected for 10 years. It did pass the parliament unanimously with the support of the opposition … This is important data and I hope that Peter Dutton and Sussan Ley will distance themselves from those comments as well.”

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Guardian Australia reached out to Dutton for comment. When asked about Canavan’s comments at a press conference, Ley, the deputy Liberal party leader, said she disagreed with his comments.

“I reject all those comments, but again, people are entitled to express their views,” she said of Canavan’s claims.

“We are working hard to demonstrate to the women who didn’t support us at the last election that we are a different party, that we have their needs and aspirations front and centre.”

Ley expressed surprise at being asked several questions about Canavan’s stance.

“I’m not sure why everyone thinks one particular backbencher’s comments need to be clarified,” she said.

“The senator is entitled to express his views.”

WGEA has been collecting gender pay gap data from companies for a decade, but has only been allowed to publicly release the data showing industry-level pay gaps, not the pay gaps at individual employers. This changed after the workplace gender equality amendment (closing the gender pay gap) bill 2023 passed last year.

The results published on Tuesday showed that more than 3,000 employers, or 61.6% of the total, had a gender pay gap that favoured men. Meanwhile, 30.1% (1,493 employers) had a neutral gender pay gap – defined as a gap of 5% or lower – and just 412 employers, or 8.3% of the total, had a pay gap that favoured women.

The pay gaps are based on the median remuneration for men and women in each business – that is, the middle value when the pay of male or female employees within a company is listed from lowest to highest – and are mostly to do with male employees being concentrated in higher-paid parts of the business. They do not indicate men being paid more than women for doing the same job.

Despite Canavan’s claims, the data published by WGEA does account for part-time and casual employment, by annualising the salaries of every employee, unlike some other methodologies used for calculating pay gaps.

“There is a substantial problem in this country when you’ve essentially got two-thirds of businesses with a gender pay gap that favours men,” said Gallagher.

“It’s not about shaming or naming, it’s not about saying men should be paid less, it’s about driving change in those organisations so women get a fair crack at opportunity. It’s complex. There’s no silver bullet but this is part of the response.”

Nationally, the gender pay gap sits at 19%; over the course of a year, the median pay for women is $18,461 less than the median pay for men.

“This is a call for action on gender equality,” said Mary Wooldridge, the chief executive of WGEA. “Behind every piece of data, every number, is an employee who is having a better experience as that gender pay gap decreases. We want to achieve a reduction in the gender pay gap, an improvement in the employee experience so everyone at work can be equally and fairly valued and rewarded.”

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Pay gap explorerWhere does your employer rank?

Australia’s gender pay gap explorer: where does your employer rank?

Search the data to find the gender pay gap for any employer in Australia with more than 100 employees

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Australia has for the first time released data reflecting the gender pay gap at nearly 5,000 companies – every private company with 100 employees or more.

The data paints a stark picture, with some of the country’s biggest and most recognisable employers posting gender pay gaps of 30-40% in favour of male employees.

In this interactive graphic you can see the pay gap for every employer listed in the Workplace Gender Equality Agency’s newly released data.

Each dot is an employer, and shows the median gender pay gap by total remuneration. This is the percentage difference between the median of what a man is paid and the median of what a woman is paid within an organisation.

The pay gaps are not reflective of companies paying male and female employees different amounts for the same work, which has been illegal for more than 50 years, but mostly represent men working in higher-paid roles within a company.

Negative values indicate a pay gap in favour of women, or organisations in which women are paid more, while positive values indicate a pay gap in favour of men, or organisations in which men are paid more.

Use the search bar to find specific companies, or the other controls to explore the data. Employers are able to post public statements to accompany their pay gap results, which you can find at WGEA’s website here.

You can read more about specific companies and the new data in our news story here.

*Notes

This graphic uses the total remuneration pay gap from WGEA.

The WGEA explains its methods for calculating the pay gap as follows:

WGEA used remuneration information supplied by employers in the 2022-23 employer census to calculate employer gender pay gaps. Part-time and casual salaries are converted into annualised full-time equivalent earnings.

This year, the data excludes salaries of CEOs, heads of business, casual managers, employees who were furloughed, and employees reported as non-binary as this comparison is between women and men.

See WGEA’s Employer Gender Pay Gap Technical Guide for further information on how WGEA calculates employer gender pay gaps.

The WGEA scores pay gaps as “in favour of men” > 5%, “in favour of women” < -5%, and “neutral”, where neutral is within -5% and 5%, and they further describe the “neutral” category:

A gender pay gap of +/-5% allows for normal business fluctuations and employee movements, while signifying that an employer has a focus on gender equality and is taking action to ensure there is gender equality at all levels of their organisation.

More than 30,000 evacuations urged ahead of Wednesday’s bushfire risk

Victoria fires: more than 30,000 evacuations urged ahead of Wednesday’s bushfire risk

About 100 schools, early childhood facilities to close ahead of what could be worst fire day in Victoria in four years

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More than 30,000 Victorians have been urged to leave their homes ahead of what authorities fear could be the worst fire day for the state in four years, with temperatures forecast to reach the mid 40s in some areas.

Authorities on Tuesday urged people living in a potential fire impact zone between Ballarat and Ararat, in Victoria’s west, to leave their homes overnight or by Wednesday morning.

Victoria’s Emergency Management commissioner, Rick Nugent, said about 30,000 people in the area, including in the towns of Amphitheatre, Beaufort, Clunes, Elmhurst, Lexton, Glenbrae and Learmonth, would be notified via text message on Tuesday to leave.

He said hot and windy conditions forecast for Wednesday would probably cause an exisiting bushfire at Bayindeen, north-west of Ballarat, to spread, potentially affecting the towns.

“Fire, spot fires and ember attack are quite possible in these areas; these could result in loss of homes, closure of roads and isolating [of] communities,” Nugent told reporters.

“If you are located in these areas, we ask you to leave.”

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Nugent said the Bayindeen bushfire had burnt through 21,300 hectares, and destroyed six homes and 10 outbuildings since it started on Thursday.

“Its devastating for families to lose all of those possessions but they can be replaced; a life can’t,” he said. “This is all about saving lives.”

Two relief centres have been set up in Ararat and Maryborough for people planning to leave, while residents of aged care communities in the area and all prisoners from the Langi Kal Kal prison have already been evacuated.

Nugent said anyone in bushfire risk areas in the Wimmera region in the state’s west, which now has a catastrophic fire danger rating, or the five other regions where an extreme fire danger is forecast should also consider leaving.

“Essentially, half of our state is in our high fire danger rating tomorrow,” he said.

“If you are in a bushfire risk area, please leave and leave early.”

The Country Fire Authority’s chief officer, Jason Heffernan, said any fire that begins in the Wimmera on Wednesday could become “uncontrolled very quickly”.

“No homes are designed to withstand those catastrophic conditions,” he said.

The premier, Jacinta Allan, said Wednesday would be “incredibly difficult” with temperatures soaring to the mid-40s in north-west Victoria, and to the high 30s and low 40s for the rest of the state. An afternoon cool change was predicted to bring wind gusts of up to 80km/h and dry lightning.

“Tomorrow is likely to be one of the most dangerous fire days Victoria has experienced in recent years,” she said.

About 110 firefighters from New South Wales have been deployed to Ballarat and Halls Gap, alongside thousands of Victorian firefighters and more than 60 aircraft.

Allan said about 100 schools and early childhood facilities will close on Wednesday as a precaution, with the department to notify affected families.

In Melbourne, the mercury is expected to reach 38C on Wednesday, with north to north-easterly winds of up to 50km/h shifting west to south westerly in the late evening.

There is a chance of a thunderstorm in the afternoon and evening but authorities do not expect to see a repeat of the destructive storms that left more than half a million homes without power in Victoria.

The energy minister, Lily D’Amrobosio, on Tuesday announced longtime consumer advocate Rosemary Sinclair would chair a review into the response by energy companies to the storm.

Gerard Brody, the former chief executive of the Consumer Action Law Centre, and Kevin Kehl, former electrical engineer and executive leader at Powerlink Queensland and Energy, are also on the panel, which is expected to deliver an interim report to the minister in June and final report in August 2024.

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Statue outside Melbourne’s Cook’s Cottage toppled amid spate of attacks

Captain Cook statue outside Melbourne’s Cook’s Cottage toppled amid spate of attacks

City of Melbourne council says CCTV footage shows a group cutting down statue early Monday in third attack on a Captain Cook memorial in Melbourne this year

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A bronze statue of Captain James Cook has been toppled outside the explorer’s namesake cottage in the heart of Melbourne, after a series of recent attacks on statues and monuments bearing his name.

Victoria police confirmed it was investigating criminal damage to the statue in East Melbourne, which caused it to fall to the ground early Monday.

The City of Melbourne said CCTV captured four people cutting down the statue at Cook’s Cottage at about 3.45am on Monday. The council provided the footage to Victoria police and was assessing the damage to the statue to see if it could be repaired.

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Video posted to social media by an anonymous activist account appeared to show a person sawing one of the statue’s ankles before it fell to the ground.

The Victorian premier, Jacinta Allan, said the government would support the council if it wanted to reinstate the statue.

“I think it’s important too, as people consider how to express their views – we have the right to express our views – to make sure that there’s respect for public property,” she said.

“Remember that someone’s got to come in and clean up. Someone’s got to come in after these sorts of acts of vandalism and clean up the mess. That’s not a way to get the message across.”

Allan said people should express their views “peacefully and respectfully.”

It’s the third time this year a Cook memorial has been damaged in Melbourne.

A statue at St Kilda’s Jacka Boulevard was also sawn off at the ankles before 26 January, and the words “the colony will fall” were written in red spray paint on a stone plinth underneath where the statue usually stands.

The same day, a statue of Queen Victoria at Queen Victoria Gardens near the city was covered in red paint and graffiti.

A second monument to Captain Cook at Edinburgh Gardens in Fitzroy was found broken and covered in graffiti on the Australia Day long weekend.

Melbourne’s Port Phillip council has vowed to repair and reinstate the monument at St Kilda, but a decision has not yet been made about the future of the Edinburgh Gardens monument.

A Victoria police spokesperson said officers were told “unknown offenders” attended Fitzroy Gardens between 5pm on 25 February and 7am on 26 February.

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Zachary Rolfe’s lawyer says people should be arrested over confrontation outside inquest

Zachary Rolfe’s lawyer says people should be arrested over confrontation outside inquest

Michael Abbott KC alleged it was unacceptable for his client to be intimidated while leaving Kumanjayi Walker inquest

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A former Northern Territory police officer has told a court he had a short fuse and was miserable in the force in the lead-up to him shooting dead an Aboriginal man in an attempted arrest, but said he had been good at “compartmentalising” in a way that did not impact his work.

Zachary Rolfe shot Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker three times while trying to arrest him on 9 November 2019 in the remote community of Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs.

Walker, 19, stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before he was shot by the then constable.

Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

He is giving evidence in Alice Springs this week as part of the inquest into Walker’s death.

Rolfe was being questioned by counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer SC, about a series of incidents and text messages he exchanged in the months leading up to the shooting.

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In the year before the shooting, Rolfe had texted colleagues, friends and family, including his mother, about his concerns with the job, and was involved in several incidents with Aboriginal men and youths that had resulted in reports being made about his use of force, the court heard.

Rolfe also agreed he broke rules in the force regarding the use of bodyworn cameras, including not sharing footage taken from them improperly.

In a text to his mother, Deborah Rolfe, Rolfe said he was so concerned about his “short fuse” that he had stopped going out drinking, in case someone antagonised him and he went too far.

He also repeatedly texted people about his frustrations with the force, including not being admitted to the tactical response group, to which he had passed his admission training at the top of his cohort.

But he said he was successful at “compartmentalising” these frustrations and his short fuse so that it did not affect his work.

Rolfe again expressed contrition for some of the language he used in text messages and his behaviour in sharing bodyworn camera footage of him pushing over two Aboriginal men who were trying to fight each other while heavily intoxicated.

Among the text messages he was asked about was an exchange he had with a fellow officer in which they discussed the fact he was known for “towelling up locals”.

Rolfe said that he was “talking shit” and venting in a professional capacity, something he considered healthy so that officers did not allow their feelings to affect their work.

He denied it exhibited the development of a bad attitude towards Aboriginal people.

The hearing was again punctuated by moments of frustration between the parties.

At one point, Rolfe exclaimed, “Whoa, let’s fucking figure this out, yeah?” when Dwyer mentioned the name of a civilian who had exchanged texts with him.

There had been an understanding in the court that the identities of civilians who had messaged Rolfe, with some possible exceptions, would not be named.

Rolfe later apologised, explaining he had been concerned that people associated with him may be subjected to threats or violence, as he had been outside court but also since the shooting of Walker.

Lawyers for Rolfe objected on about 20 occasions to Dwyer’s questioning.

“It’s not a royal commission into Mr Rolfe, it’s an inquiry into a death,” Michael Abbott KC, for Rolfe, said.

“I have found nothing discourteous in the way he’s been treated and the manner of the examination,” the coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, responded.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbott said police should arrest the Aboriginal people who threatened and abused his client outside court the previous day.

Abbott said it was unacceptable for Rolfe, his lawyers and supporters to be intimidated as he left court and tried to get into a taxi.

Abbott told the hearing that a group of “Aborigines” had shouted insults at Rolfe and one tried to strike him with a shoe.

He told the inquest that Northern Territory police should arrest those responsible and urged Armitage to ensure Rolfe’s security.

“He is absolutely entitled to feel safe leaving court,” Armitage said.

Dwyer said she would also help with any concerns Rolfe and his lawyers had. Dwyer told the inquest that she, her legal team and NT police cared about Rolfe’s welfare while he appeared as a witness.

Guardian Australia witnessed Monday’s incident, which occurred near the Yapa/Warlpiri camp opposite the court. Community members have gathered at the camp throughout the inquest and adorned it with signs, including some reading “Justice for Walker”.

Footage of the incident was captured by multiple media outlets, which Abbott said should be provided to police.

The hearing continues.

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Zachary Rolfe’s lawyer says people should be arrested over confrontation outside inquest

Zachary Rolfe’s lawyer says people should be arrested over confrontation outside inquest

Michael Abbott KC alleged it was unacceptable for his client to be intimidated while leaving Kumanjayi Walker inquest

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

A former Northern Territory police officer has told a court he had a short fuse and was miserable in the force in the lead-up to him shooting dead an Aboriginal man in an attempted arrest, but said he had been good at “compartmentalising” in a way that did not impact his work.

Zachary Rolfe shot Warlpiri man Kumanjayi Walker three times while trying to arrest him on 9 November 2019 in the remote community of Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs.

Walker, 19, stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before he was shot by the then constable.

Rolfe was found not guilty in March 2022 of murder and manslaughter relating to Walker’s death.

He is giving evidence in Alice Springs this week as part of the inquest into Walker’s death.

Rolfe was being questioned by counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer SC, about a series of incidents and text messages he exchanged in the months leading up to the shooting.

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

In the year before the shooting, Rolfe had texted colleagues, friends and family, including his mother, about his concerns with the job, and was involved in several incidents with Aboriginal men and youths that had resulted in reports being made about his use of force, the court heard.

Rolfe also agreed he broke rules in the force regarding the use of bodyworn cameras, including not sharing footage taken from them improperly.

In a text to his mother, Deborah Rolfe, Rolfe said he was so concerned about his “short fuse” that he had stopped going out drinking, in case someone antagonised him and he went too far.

He also repeatedly texted people about his frustrations with the force, including not being admitted to the tactical response group, to which he had passed his admission training at the top of his cohort.

But he said he was successful at “compartmentalising” these frustrations and his short fuse so that it did not affect his work.

Rolfe again expressed contrition for some of the language he used in text messages and his behaviour in sharing bodyworn camera footage of him pushing over two Aboriginal men who were trying to fight each other while heavily intoxicated.

Among the text messages he was asked about was an exchange he had with a fellow officer in which they discussed the fact he was known for “towelling up locals”.

Rolfe said that he was “talking shit” and venting in a professional capacity, something he considered healthy so that officers did not allow their feelings to affect their work.

He denied it exhibited the development of a bad attitude towards Aboriginal people.

The hearing was again punctuated by moments of frustration between the parties.

At one point, Rolfe exclaimed, “Whoa, let’s fucking figure this out, yeah?” when Dwyer mentioned the name of a civilian who had exchanged texts with him.

There had been an understanding in the court that the identities of civilians who had messaged Rolfe, with some possible exceptions, would not be named.

Rolfe later apologised, explaining he had been concerned that people associated with him may be subjected to threats or violence, as he had been outside court but also since the shooting of Walker.

Lawyers for Rolfe objected on about 20 occasions to Dwyer’s questioning.

“It’s not a royal commission into Mr Rolfe, it’s an inquiry into a death,” Michael Abbott KC, for Rolfe, said.

“I have found nothing discourteous in the way he’s been treated and the manner of the examination,” the coroner, Elisabeth Armitage, responded.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abbott said police should arrest the Aboriginal people who threatened and abused his client outside court the previous day.

Abbott said it was unacceptable for Rolfe, his lawyers and supporters to be intimidated as he left court and tried to get into a taxi.

Abbott told the hearing that a group of “Aborigines” had shouted insults at Rolfe and one tried to strike him with a shoe.

He told the inquest that Northern Territory police should arrest those responsible and urged Armitage to ensure Rolfe’s security.

“He is absolutely entitled to feel safe leaving court,” Armitage said.

Dwyer said she would also help with any concerns Rolfe and his lawyers had. Dwyer told the inquest that she, her legal team and NT police cared about Rolfe’s welfare while he appeared as a witness.

Guardian Australia witnessed Monday’s incident, which occurred near the Yapa/Warlpiri camp opposite the court. Community members have gathered at the camp throughout the inquest and adorned it with signs, including some reading “Justice for Walker”.

Footage of the incident was captured by multiple media outlets, which Abbott said should be provided to police.

The hearing continues.

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Police investigate allegation singer’s father hit paparazzi photographer after Sydney Eras concert

Police investigate allegation Taylor Swift’s father hit paparazzi photographer after Sydney Eras concert

NSW police claim an alleged incident occurred around 2.30am on Tuesday and the photographer did not require medical attention

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New South Wales police are investigating allegations Taylor Swift’s father assaulted a member of the paparazzi in Sydney, hours after the sold-out Eras Tour wrapped up in Australia.

NSW police have been told that Scott Swift, 71, allegedly assaulted photographer Ben McDonald, 51, at the Neutral Bay wharf around 2.30am on Tuesday.

McDonald told Guardian Australia that Taylor Swift and her entourage were cruising the harbour on a superyacht late at night after completing her final Australian show.

The superstar got off the boat and walked down the wharf, surrounded by security, who McDonald alleges pushed umbrellas into his face and camera.

Once she was in her car, McDonald alleges a man struck him in the face before also getting in the car and driving away.

“I didn’t realise it was her dad at the time,” McDonald said. “It was a bit of a shock but I’ll leave the police to do their job.”

McDonald said he used images he had taken to identify the man as Scott Swift.

He made the allegation to police and inquiries were under way by officers at the North Shore police area command. Police said McDonald did not require medical attention.

No charges have been laid.

A Taylor Swift spokesperson did not respond directly to questions about the allegation against Swift’s father but claimed that two unidentified individuals were “aggressively pushing their way towards Taylor, grabbing at her security personnel, and threatening to throw a female staff member into the water”.

Taylor Swift wrapped up the Australian leg of her Eras Tour in Sydney on Monday night.

She performed to her largest crowd ever at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 16 February, performing two more times in Melbourne and wowing audiences at four shows at Sydney’s Accor Stadium.

An estimated 600,000 people watched her perform over the last two weekends in Australia.

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Macron refuses to rule out putting troops on ground in call to galvanise Europe

Macron refuses to rule out putting troops on ground in Ukraine in call to galvanise Europe

French president admits no consensus exists on such a move as he urges fellow European leaders to take action rather than wait for US aid

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France’s President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday he refused to rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine, but said no consensus existed on the step, at a meeting of 20 mainly European leaders in Paris convened by Macron to ramp up the European response to the Russian military advances inside Ukraine.

Protecting France’s strategic ambiguity he said “there is no consensus to officially back any ground troops. That said, nothing should be excluded. We will do everything that we can to make sure that Russia does not prevail.”

He pointed out that past shibboleths such as sending long-range missiles and planes had been cast aside, adding “people used to say give them just sleeping bags and helmets”. He said: “We must do whatever we can to obtain our objective.”

It is the first time there has been such open discussion of nation states collectively looking at providing troops to support the depleted Ukrainian military manpower.

Speaking at the end of the meeting, Macron warned: “There is a change in Russia’s stance. It is striving to take on further territory and it has its eyes not just on Ukraine but on many other countries as well, so Russia is presenting a greater danger.”

Among those present at the meeting were the German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz, the UK foreign secretary, Lord Cameron, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, and the Dutch prime minister, Mark Rutte. Relatively junior officials attended from the US and Canada.

French officials have become worried there has been no single galvanising western force responding to Vladimir Putin putting his economy on such an effective war footing, and insufficiently clear practical responses had emerged from the west.

He said the meeting, called in haste by Macron in the wake of the Ukrainian frontline starting to crumble, had agreed to focus on five key action areas: cyber defence, joint production of military weapons and ammunition in Ukraine, defence of countries directly threatened by Russian offensives such as Moldova, greater military protection for Ukraine on its border with Russian-backed Belarus, and the demining of Ukraine. He also announced a new coalition to provide long and medium-range strike missile capability.

Insisting Russia’s defeat is absolutely essential for peace and security in Europe, he said it was necessary for Europe to move from words into action so clear decisions are made to build a European defence pillar independent of America.

Asked about the possibility of continuing to support Ukraine in the context of the US presidential elections this November, he said: “We cannot wait for the outcome of the American elections to decide what our future is going to be. It is the future of Europe that is at stake so therefore it is up to the Europeans to decide. If others want to join in and help, fantastic, but that is just an added bonus.”

He said this was necessary not because Europe was pessimistic, defiant or fearful but simply because it is Europe’s future at stake

Russia, he said, “cannot win this war. It is the sole aggressor. It is the sole country that instigated this war. Russia is now clearly affecting our own safety and security through both traditional and hybrid war.” But he added “we are not at war with the Russian people”.

At present, 30% of all funding for Ukraine came from Europe, Macron said, but added that it was possible to increase this through further bilateral and EU-level agreements so that ammunition supplies could be increased threefold overall.

He admitted Europe had failed to meet its over-optimistic promise to provide Ukraine with a million rounds of ammunition. He said the provision of ammunition was now the “top priority”, pointing to gunpowder shortages creating bottlenecks. But he asserted European countries had room for manoeuvre both to increase production in Europe, and also to purchase surplus ammunition stocks outside Europe to hand to Ukraine, a proposal advanced by the Czech Republic.

He again supported the Estonian plan for the EU to issue defence bonds to guarantee long-term defence markets for industry, a proposal that has not yet found favour in Germany or the Netherlands, two countries traditionally opposed to the issuance of EU debt. “There is a geopolitical shock coming from one side and that justifies what the Estonians have proposed.”

The objective, he said, was to ensure Ukraine can negotiate peace and return to full territorial sovereignty.

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Bleach smell alerts Italian priest to apparent mafia threat

Poisoned chalice: bleach smell alerts Italian priest to apparent mafia threat

Father Felice Palamara notices unusual aroma after consecrating vessel for eucharist

A parish priest in southern Italy was about to take a sip from a chalice of wine when he realised it was laced with bleach in what is believed to have been a mafia-related threat.

Father Felice Palamara had just consecrated the chalice of water and wine before celebrating the eucharist during evening mass on Saturday at San Nicola di Pannaconi church in Cessaniti, a small town in the Calabria region, and as he prepared to drink from it he notice a strange smell.

The mass was interrupted and laboratory tests later confirmed that the mix contained bleach, triggering a police investigation.

Palamara, who has often spoken out against the ‘Ndrangheta, the mafia organisation that originated in Calabria, told local media that he had received several death threats during his time at the church. His car has been vandalised twice in recent months.

The priest, who now has a police escort, wrote on social media: “My revenge is called love, my shield forgiveness, my armour mercy … I will not dwell on obstacles, nor will I be frightened by the darkness.”

The local bishop, Attilio Nostro, said the diocese was “experiencing a moment of suffering due to acts of intimidation that have nothing to do with the normal Christian life of the parishes”.

He added: “For this reason, I appeal anew to the Christian communities not to be discouraged by this language of violence. We must not cede to this logic, allowing ourselves to be tempted by unease and anger.”

Palamara is not the only local priest to be the target of the alleged mafia threats. Father Francesco Pontoriero, of the San Basilio Magno parish, found a dead cat on the bonnet of his car as he returned from dinner in Cessaniti.

It is not uncommon for priests in Italy to live under police protection. Father Maurizio Patriciello, a priest in Caivano, close to Naples, who for years has fought against mafia-related crime, has two bodyguards.

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Billionaire makes ‘things good’ with California bakery after $3,000 pie fiasco

Elon Musk makes ‘things good’ with California bakery after $2,000 pie fiasco

Tesla had ditched an order for 4,000 mini pies, but the X owner paid the debt after the incident received attention

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A California bakery that claimed Tesla did not pay an order worth thousands of dollars said the outstanding bill has been settled, after billionaire Elon Musk promised to “make things good” following press coverage of the incident.

Musk’s company Tesla had ditched an order for 4,000 mini pies from Giving Pies, a Black-owned bakery in San Jose, in central California, bakery owner Voahangy Rasetarinera said on the cafe’s Instagram account five days ago.

In an email to the Guardian on Monday, Rasetarinera confirmed: “Tesla just paid the $2k that I was out of.” This came after Musk responded to the story on X, formerly Twitter, stating: “Just hearing about this. Will make things good with the bakery.”

The incident occurred after Rasetarinera’s bakery received a last-minute order for 2,000 pies from Tesla on Valentine’s Day – a $6,000 catch for the small business, KTVU reported. Tesla doubled the order to 4,000 pies before ultimately canceling the order without paying, Rasetarinera said.

In her Instagram post, Rasetarinera said to fulfill the order she had to turn down other Black History Month catering inquiries, purchase additional supplies and prepare her staff for a “demanding production schedule” – for which she was not compensated.

“To me, it was clear that Tesla’s corporate culture prioritized convenience over accountability, disregarding the livelihoods of small business owners like myself,” she said.

“This experience serves as a stark reminder of the vulnerability faced by small businesses when dealing with larger corporations. Despite our best efforts to uphold our commitments and provide quality service, we are often left at the mercy of decisions made in corporate boardrooms.”

Following media coverage of the incident, Giving Pies has seen an influx of support in person and from around the world, according to reports from NBC Bay Area. Over the weekend, hundreds of customers lined up at the store to buy pies. Rasetarinera said she was “blown away” by the response. In her initial Instagram post, Rasetarinera said the incident allowed her to reflect on her journey as a business owner.

“As I reflect on this ordeal, I am reminded of the resilience and determination that have propelled me forward as a black woman entrepreneur,” she said. “While Tesla’s actions may have caused temporary setbacks, they will not deter me from pursuing my passion and serving my community with integrity and pride.”

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