The Guardian 2024-02-27 16:31:14


Peak Muslim bodies in NSW and Victoria reject invitations to premier’s iftar dinners

Peak Muslim bodies in NSW and Victoria reject invitations to premier’s iftar dinners

Exclusive: Australian National Imams Council and Islamic Council of Victoria say they will not attend Ramadan events amid ‘frustration’ in Muslim communities over response to Gaza conflict

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Two peak Muslim bodies have rejected invitations to premier’s iftar dinners in New South Wales and Victoria, as members of the community turn against state governments over their response to the war in Gaza.

The Australian National Imams Council (Anic) and the Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) have told Guardian Australia they will not attend the annual events, with the latter calling for Jacinta Allan’s first iftar as premier to be cancelled altogether.

“Out of respect for the suffering of the Palestinians, it just would not be appropriate to hold such an event,” said Adel Salman, the president of the ICV.

“There is a level of frustration with Labor in the community at the moment, at every level, in relation to Israel and the war in Gaza.

“What we want to see from the state government is clear statements of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

An Anic spokesperson told Guardian Australia they were “deeply disappointed with the Minns government’s lack of response to the distress of the Muslim and Arab communities in NSW.”

“Anic hopes that the Minns government will take a more just and considerate approach to acknowledging the distress of the communities in NSW and the suffering of the Palestinian people,” they said.

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Government-hosted iftar dinners during Ramadan have become popular, and have been attended by politicians, Muslim community leaders, senior clerics of all faiths and consul generals. In Victoria, the premier has hosted the event annually since 2015, though the ICV also boycotted the event in 2017.

Salman said he would like to hear the Allan government “actually listen” to community sentiment.

“Large sections of our community agree that such an iftar is inappropriate right now, and now would be a good time for the premier to take on advice her government has received from Muslims,” he said.

It came as the death toll in Gaza is likely to pass the grim milestone of 30,000 this week.

Sheik Wesam Charkawi, a community organiser and academic from Sydney, said “anger” from the Muslim community made the event untenable.

“There is an outright refusal from any imam or community leader to attend the event,” he said.

“I’ve never seen the level of anger in the community as high as it is right now. There is zero appetite from the community to meet with the premier or his ministers.”

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, has previously criticised pro-Palestine rallies and their cost to police, and decided to light the sails of the Opera House in support of Israel last October.

This month, he criticised Labor MPs for making comments about Gaza, saying they should run for federal politics if they want to express strong views on international affairs.

Charkawi said the premier’s positions had shifted the Muslim community into action, with many seeking to hold the Minns government accountable at the next election.

“Palestine is the line in the sand, its the point of no return for the Muslim community,” he said.

“We still have not seen any condemnation, we haven’t seen any change from the government.”

A spokesperson for Minns said the event would go ahead.

“The premier will be hosting the annual iftar dinner with an intimate event,” they said.

Soon after the 7 October attack by Hamas, Allan led a motion that stated parliament stood with Israel and recognised its “inherent right to defend itself”. The motion also recognised that “Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people, nor their legitimate needs and aspirations”.

Last week, she told parliament she supported Anthony Albanese’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire.

A Victorian government spokesperson said the premier’s iftar dinner would have a different tone this year.

“We understand the heartbreak that Palestinian and Muslim Victorians are feeling as the Gaza conflict continues, and the premier supports the prime minister in calling for a humanitarian ceasefire,” they said.

“Premier’s iftar dinners are an important tradition in Victoria. We’re working closely with leaders of Victoria’s Islamic community to ensure that everybody’s voices are heard, recognising that this year’s event will be a more solemn and respectful occasion.”

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Minister released friend of Bob Hawke on visa that did not include ankle bracelet or curfew

Immigration minister released friend of Bob Hawke from detention on visa that did not include ankle bracelet or curfew

Safwat Abdel-Hady released from Villawood detention centre by Andrew Giles on a bridging visa E

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The immigration minister, Andrew Giles, released a Saudi businessman on a visa that did not include an ankle bracelet and curfew conditions, despite him being identified as likely affected by the high court decision on indefinite detention.

Guardian Australia understands that Safwat Abdel-Hady was released from Villawood detention centre on 13 February on a bridging visa E with conditions including reporting his address and reporting at a specified place.

But Abdel-Hady, who had been convicted of offences related to drink spiking, was not subjected to the stricter conditions imposed on most of those released as a result of the high court’s NZYQ decision.

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That was despite the home affairs department’s submission to Giles warning that if he did not intervene to release Abdel-Hady then he was likely to be released because of the high court decision ruling indefinite detention is unlawful.

Guardian Australia understands Abdel-Hady has been given a six-week visa to allow the government to attempt to arrange a special charter flight to deport him despite his complex medical needs.

According to court documents obtained by Guardian Australia, Abdel-Hady is a citizen of Austria, born in the Gaza Strip, who came to Australia in 1997.

In 2009 Abdel-Hady was convicted of unlawfully causing two people to take a stultifying drug with intent to commit an act of indecency against one of them. The convictions were quashed on appeal.

At a re-trial in November 2012 Abdel-Hady pleaded guilty to lesser charges of using poison to endanger life or inflict grievous bodily harm. He was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison, but released on the basis of time already served.

The Daily Telegraph reported that former Labor prime minister, Bob Hawke, attended Abdel-Hady’s appeal and had written a character reference saying he had often entertained Abdel-Hady at home and found him to always be “respectful” towards women.

According to reports, Hawke and Abdel-Hady had worked together on two business ventures, Australian Gulf Mineral Resources Corporation and International Fuel Corporation.

Guardian Australia is not suggesting that Giles was doing a favour for Abdel-Hady because he was a friend of Hawke.

Release on a bridging visa E was intended as an interim step before extraordinary measures to deport Abdel-Hady and to reduce legal risk associated with his claim to be NZYQ affected.

In February 2013 Abdel-Hady, who was married to an Australian, was granted a partner visa despite failing the character test due to his “substantial criminal record”.

In February 2015 he was convicted of assault occasioning actual bodily harm on 8 November 2012, and a common assault on 23 July 2012, but prison sentences were suspended on the condition he enter into good behaviour bonds. Abdel-Hady was also subject to an apprehended violence order for two years.

On 31 March 2017, the immigration minister, Peter Dutton, cancelled Abdel-Hady’s visa. He was detained in Villawood from 22 August 2017 and lodged unsuccessful appeals in the federal court and high court.

In his high court case Abdel-Hady’s lawyers submitted that he was “medically unfit to fly by aeroplane and cannot be removed from Australia to Austria” due to heart disease, nerve damage, deep vein thrombosis and diabetes.

They argued he was subject to “arbitrary and indefinite detention” because the commonwealth was unable to deport him.

Abdel-Hady’s lawyers unsuccessfully requested the high court reopen and overturn Al-Kateb, the precedent case of 2004 in which it had held indefinite immigration detention is lawful even where there is no prospect of deportation.

In November, the high court unanimously ruled in the NZYQ case that immigration detention is unlawful where there is “no real prospect” of it becoming practical to deport the person “in the reasonably foreseeable future”.

The immigration minister is required to table a statement in parliament by September disclosing his use of personal powers in section 195A of the Migration Act in the first half of the year.

A spokesperson for Giles declined to say if he had used the power in the week before 13 February to grant a bridging visa E.

The spokesperson told Guardian Australia “there are 149 people who have been released as a result of the high court’s decision in NZYQ”.

“Each of these people have been placed on a Bridging visa R (BVR) with strict conditions,” they said.

“The government has complied with the orders of the high court which required the immediate release of these individuals – as any government would have to.

“In line with their ministerial responsibilities, immigration ministers are required to finalise hundreds of cases of ministerial intervention every year.

“As is longstanding practice of successive governments, the government does not comment on individual cases.”

The Coalition has targeted Giles in question time throughout February sittings, including querying on Wednesday 14 February whether he had released any people “likely” affected by the NZYQ decision on visas other than bridging visa R, which generally carries the stricter conditions.

“We have complied with the orders of the court and complied with the law,” he replied.

Departmental data tabled in Senate estimates revealed that 36 people of the 149 released due to the NZYQ decision are not required to wear ankle bracelets.

Dutton has called for Giles’ resignation over his handling of the NZYQ case.

“You need somebody who can make tough decisions and can act in our national interest and keep Australians safe,” Dutton told 2GB Radio on 15 February.

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How the queer community feels let down by NSW police

‘A lot of hurt and anger’: How the queer community feels let down by NSW police

Despite a 26-year tradition of officers marching at Mardi Gras, the Paddington murders have brought growing discontent with the force to a head

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Two decades after intense police brutality against Australia’s queer community at Sydney’s first Mardi Gras in 1978, police began marching in the parade in a gesture of solidarity.

But that 26-year tradition was broken on Monday after Mardi Gras asked the police not to march following allegations that a police officer allegedly murdered two men – Jesse Baird, who the officer had had a prior relationship with, and Baird’s partner Luke Davies.

Advocates who have been calling for police to no longer march in the parade for years say the alleged stalking and subsequent murder of the couple was the final straw amid growing discontent with police presence at the annual event.

“Its the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Evan Zijl from Pride in Protest.

Last Friday, the day after police revealed they had grave concerns for Davies and Baird’s whereabouts after their personal possessions were found covered in blood in a skip bin in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, Sen Const Beau Lamarre was charged with the killings.

Police allege the couple were killed last Monday by Lamarre at Baird’s home in Sydney’s eastern suburbs using his force-issued handgun. Police also allege Lamarre hired a white van to dispose of their bodies, which have now been found.

The case, just days out from the nation’s biggest celebration of LGBTQI+ rights, has left the queer community reeling.

After concerns were voiced in the wake of the tragedy over the participation of police in the parade, Mardi Gras announced it had requested police to not march in the 2024 parade to give the community space to mourn and grieve.

“It is almost impossible to describe the feeling in the community at the moment, [it] is an overwhelming amount of grief and anger,” Charlie Humphries from Pride in Protest told reporters on Tuesday.

Then came controversial comments made by New South Wales police commissioner, Karen Webb, inflaming an already tinderbox atmosphere.

On Monday, Webb described the case as a “crime of passion”. She later apologised after the comments drew fierce criticism, saying they were intended to distinguish the case from a gay hate crime. But the damage was already done.

“The comment suggests that there is a fundamental misunderstanding from police on how relationships in domestic violence works,” Zijl says.

Webb again drew criticism after she responded to criticisms over her delay in speaking publicly after the alleged murders by quoting Taylor Swift lyrics.

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

Police ‘unnecessarily defensive’

Justin Ellis, a criminologist at the University of Newcastle who has focused on gay hate crimes, said the decision to disinvite police after the alleged murders can not be viewed in isolation.

He says a number of other issues have sown discontent and recalibrated the queer communities relationship with police.

“It’s all coalescing around the 2024 Mardi Gras parade,” says Hill.

One of these was the scathing findings of a world-first inquiry into gay hate crimes that examined cases in New South Wales between 1970 and 2010. The inquiry found police failed to properly investigate potential gay hate crimes and must rebuild trust with the LGBTQ+ community.

Justice John Sackar, who presided over the inquiry, was critical of police conduct during, saying the force had “in significant respects” engaged with the inquiry in a way that was “adversarial or unnecessarily defensive”, including by belatedly requesting extensions and not acknowledging poor historical record keeping.

The police are yet to commit to implementing the recommendations of the report, but on Sunday, Webb apologised for police conduct into investigating the deaths via a statement sent to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Some, like 78er – the term used for the protesters in the first Mardi Gras – Diana Fieldes, were suspicious at the timing of the apology: “They didn’t offer one when the report came down at the end of last year.”

Tension between police and Mardi Gras has been escalating. In December, two-thirds of Mardi Gras members voted to abandon a memorandum of understanding with the NSW police, established in 2014 – which allows Mardi Gras to have input into police presence at the festival.

The accord was set up after the brutal arrest of teenager Jamie Jackson Reed at Mardi Gras in 2013. Reed had been slammed on to the pavement in a leg sweep manoeuvre by police.

“The point was to establish a more formal relationship with police and to facilitate better dialogue on how Mardi Gras was policed, but I think what we see is that could only go so far in addressing concerns of community,” Hill said.

Hill said this there was also anger at police use of drug detection dogs at Mardi Gras.

“This is really about a reevaluation of norms about how the community is policed and the role of police,” he says.

‘There’s a lot of hurt and anger’

The state’s premier, Chris Minns, backed police marching, saying not doing so would be a step backwards. Alex Greenwich, Independent MP for Sydney and a member of the LGBTQI+ community said he respects the decision of the Mardi Gras board, adding it would not have been a decision made lightly, but he also believes police should march.

“There’s a lot of emotions coming to the surface here. There’s a lot of hurt and anger within the community and Mardi Gras as a board is entitled to reflect that in what they have done. That said, the only way we move forward is by walking hand in hand towards the safe in New South Wales for the LGBTQ community,” he said.

It comes as the Australian Federal Police issued a statement late Tuesday saying its officer would not march in the parade.

“The AFP had planned to march with NSW Police in this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade,” the spokesperson said. “Noting news reports that the Sydney Mardi Gras board had asked NSW Police not to march, the AFP has also made the decision not to march.”

“This decision was not taken lightly, but we acknowledge how some in the community are feeling about the blue uniform.”

For Queensland police officer, Michael Gardiner, whose wife took him to his first Mardi Gras parade in 2004 days after he had come out to her as gay, he fears the decision by Mardi Gras could unfairly “punish those who are working hard to bring change”.

But he’s also seen how such a decision can be a catalyst for change.

In 2021, Brisbane Pride disinvited uniformed police from marching in the cities parade. Gardiner, who works as an officer in Brisbane, said at first he was upset by the news, but then he realised the decision likely wasn’t without reason.

It later led to the Queensland police force apologising to the queer community for historic laws which criminalised homosexual acts between consenting adults.

“It was a really effective catalyst for us, it was like ‘OK well we haven’t done enough in this space’, and it did allow us to drive things forward,” Gardiner says.

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Jesse Baird and Luke DaviesBodies found at Bungonia

Bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia four days after serving officer charged with murder

NSW police say remains found near Goulburn after Sen Const Beau Lamarre charged with murders of former Channel Ten TV presenter and Qantas flight attendant

Two bodies have been found south-west of Sydney during the search for missing couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

The discovery came four days after the serving New South Wales police officer Beau Lamarre, 28, was charged with their murders.

Detectives on Tuesday afternoon said a crime scene had been established at a second property at rural Bungonia near Goulburn, about 160km south-west of Sydney, where the bodies were found in surfboard bags.

“Today … at that location, we believe we have located two bodies,” the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, told reporters. “The families have been notified. We are very confident we have located Luke and Jesse.”

Webb said the discovery of the bodies had been made with the assistance of the accused.

The police assistant commissioner Michael Fitzgerald said Tuesday morning was the first time since he had been arrested that Lamarre had “willingly told us information”, after he obtained a lawyer.

Fitzgerald said Sen Const Lamarre – a former celebrity blogger whose full name is Beaumont Lamarre-Condonwas forthcoming with detectives about the location when interviewed at Silverwater jail in western Sydney, where he is on remand.

Det Supt Danny Doherty said the bodies were found under a fence at a driveway on the property on Jerrara Road and it appeared attempts had been made to cover them with rocks and debris.

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

Webb said on Tuesday morning that divers concluded their search of dams at another property at Bungonia which was first searched on Sunday. The bodies were found about 20 minutes away from that initial search location, police said.

Lamarre was charged last Friday with the murder of 26-year-old Baird – a former Channel Ten presenter – and Qantas flight attendant Davies, 29, Baird’s new partner.

Doherty said police would allege in court that there was “some type of relationship at some stage” between Lamarre and Baird.

Police said the relationship “did not end well”.

Police allege Lamarre killed the couple on Monday 19 February at Baird’s share house in Paddington, in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, using his force-issued handgun. Lamarre then hired a white van to dispose of their bodies, police allege.

The alleged use of a police handgun will be the subject of an internal NSW police review with oversight from the Law Enforcement Conduct Commission (Lecc) as well as Victoria police.

“We’re in this position that a police firearm was used, and that can never happen again,” Webb said on Tuesday. “So we’ve got to look to ways to mitigate that risk in whatever way we can.”

Webb said Baird’s and Davies’ families had arrived from interstate and she had spoken to them.

“Each day, each hour was an agonising wait. So I’m relieved for the families … That’s what parents want – they want to know where their children are.”

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 alleged murders to an acquaintance who is alleged to have accompanied Lamarre to the first Bungonia property on Wednesday 21 February.

The pair allegedly bought an angle grinder and padlock and drove to the gates of the 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 said on Tuesday they would allege Lamarre returned to the property and moved the bodies sometime in the early hours of the morning on Thursday 22 February.

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

Lamarre allegedly drove the van to Newcastle and used a hose belonging to a second acquaintance to wash out the vehicle.

The NSW premier, Chris Minns, said this week had been one of the “toughest imaginable” for everyone who loved Baird and Davies.

“Our heart goes out to everybody hurting right now,” he said. “We only hope they can find some peace and closure in the certainty of this sad news.”

Lamarre will remain in custody until he next appears in court on 23 April, while police prepare a brief of evidence.

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Blood, a van and a rural propertyHow the search for victims unfolded

Explainer

Blood, a hire van and a remote property: a timeline of the search for Jesse Baird and Luke Davies

Here’s everything we know so far about the Sydney couple, whose bodies police say they have found in Bungonia, and their alleged murderer Beau Lamarre

New South Wales police say they have found the bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies four days after one of their officers, Sen Const Beau Lamarre, was charged with murdering the two men.

The story has horrified Sydney and Australia. Police previously said Lamarre was not assisting them with inquiries but that on Tuesday he disclosed the location of Baird’s and Davies’ bodies.

Here’s a timeline of what we know about the Sydney couple’s disappearance and the alleged involvement of Lamarre.

Friday 16 February

Lamarre allegedly took a force-issued handgun from storage at the Miranda police station in south Sydney.

Lamarre signed the gun to work at a “protest activity” happening on Sunday 18 February, police say. It is unclear whether he actually worked at the event.

It was a “user pays” event where police officers are hired for private events – such as music festivals and rallies. Organisers pay for policing services.

Monday 19 February

9.50am – Neighbours hear gunshots at Baird’s home in Paddington, police say. The shots were not reported to police until days later.

9.54am – An emergency call is made to triple zero from Davies’ phone but is terminated before being connected to an operator.

Later that evening – Lamarre allegedly hires a white Toyota HiAce van from Sydney airport.

Tuesday 20 February

Lamarre allegedly makes “partial admissions” about the killings “to an acquaintance of having been involved in the deaths of two individuals”, police say.

Police allege at some point between Tuesday and Wednesday morning, Lamarre drove the hired van to Cronulla and discarded some personal items of former TV presenter and AFL umpire Baird, 26, and Qantas flight attendant Davies, 29.

Wednesday 21 February

11am – Bloodied clothing and personal items are found in a skip bin in Cronulla, which leads police to launch a missing person investigation. The homicide squad is notified.

1pm – Police discover a large amount of blood when examining Baird’s home in Paddington.

Later that afternoon – Investigators search Davies’ home in Waterloo.

During the same day – Police allege Lamarre attends a Bungonia property near Goulburn with an acquaintance. The acquaintance is described by police as “an innocent agent”.

Lamarre and the acquaintance allegedly buy an angle grinder and a padlock from a hardware store in the area before driving to the gates of the property in the NSW southern tablelands.

Lamarre allegedly cuts the padlock with the grinder and proceeds into the property in the hired van. The acquaintance says they wait at the entrance at the top of the property for about half an hour.

After Lamarre places a new padlock on the property’s gate, the pair drive back to Sydney later that afternoon, police say.

Police say the acquaintance who visited the property with Lamarre is a “long-term friend of the accused” and “we don’t believe she was fully aware of what had taken place”.

Detectives say they believe the Bungonia property was previously visited by Lamarre through a former relationship.

11pm – Lamarre allegedly buys weights from a department store.

Police allege Lamarre then returns to the rural property near Goulburn during that evening or overnight. Lamarre allegedly acquires two torches from the acquaintance before he returns.

Thursday 22 February

4.30am – Lamarre allegedly leaves the Bungonia area again in the hired white van and drives back to Sydney.

It is believed Lamarre drove to the city and remained in that area before he attended another acquaintance’s home in Newcastle.

Lamarre didn’t disclose anything to this acquaintance but asked for access to a hose to clean the van, police allege.

11.30pm – Detectives say a third person – later identified as Lamarre – “may be able to assist with investigation”. They raid a home in Balmain thought to be connected to Lamarre.

Friday 23 February

5am – Lamarre is believed to have stayed in the Newcastle area until early Friday morning.

6.15am – Lamarre returns to Sydney.

10.39am – Lamarre hands himself in at Bondi police station while wearing a black T-shirt and cap. A few hours later, police charge Lamarre with two counts of murder.

4pm – Lamarre appears before Waverley local court. He does not apply for bail and the matter is adjourned to 23 April.

Saturday 24 February

Morning Police search waterways in the Newcastle suburb of Lambton. Detectives believe Lamarre visited the city north of Sydney before turning himself in at Bondi.

Sunday 25 February

Police, including specialist divers, begin searching the rural Bungonia property near Goulburn looking for the bodies of the missing Sydney couple.

Divers scour the area and dams behind the home.

Monday 26 February

The NSW deputy commissioner Dave Hudson provides more details of the police case against Lamarre.

These details include:

  • The Glock pistol Lamarre allegedly used for Monday’s murder may have been stored at the Balmain police station after the alleged shootings before being returned to storage at Miranda police station.

  • There were “approvals within the organisation for firearms to be stored at home as well”.

  • A break-in allegedly occurred at Baird’s house in August 2023 – at the time, Lamarre and Baird were still in some form of a relationship.

  • Police allege Lamarre sent messages using Baird’s phone pretending to be him after the alleged murders – telling his housemates he was potentially moving to Western Australia and to deal with his property.

  • Investigators allege Lamarre’s crimes followed months of “predatory behaviour” that culminated in the fatal double shooting.

Tuesday 27 February

11am – Detectives interview Lamarre at Silverwater jail in western Sydney, where he is on remand.

1pm – Human remains found at Bungonia.

2pm – Investigators announce they have established a crime scene at a second property at Bungonia about 20 minutes from the first property.

3.30pm – The police commissioner, Karen Webb, says at a press conference “we believe we have located two bodies”. She says: “The families have been notified. We are very confident we have located Luke and Jesse.”

Webb says the discovery of the bodies was made with the assistance of the accused.

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NSW policeCommissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response

NSW police commissioner criticised for quoting Taylor Swift while defending response to alleged double murder

Karen Webb was speaking to media about Jesse Baird and Luke Davies who were allegedly murdered by police officer Beau Lamarre

  • LATEST UPDATE: bodies of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies found at Bungonia
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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 had been searching for the bodies of Baird and Davies who were allegedly murdered by a serving police officer. Police said on Tuesday that they had located two bodies 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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How one work site increased its female workforce fivefold

‘We’ve seen the culture change’: how one Australian work site increased its female workforce fivefold

Kimberly-Clark’s toilet paper mill was looking down the barrel of a 100% male workforce when they decided to shake up their strategy – and culture

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When Adam Carpenter took over as manager at Kimberly-Clark Australia’s Millicent mill in South Australia in 2019, he knew they were in trouble.

At the time, there were just 12 women working on the floor of the mill out of a workforce of 300. The mill, which is about 45 minutes from Mount Gambier, produces Kleenex toilet paper and Viva hand towels and is the main employer for the region.

Carpenter conducted a review and found that in 2018 the mill had not hired a single woman, and had also not had a single female applicant for any job.

“The reality was, if the trend continued, we would end up with a 100% male-dominated workforce,” he said. “So we really dug into, well, why is this occurring?”

On Tuesday, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency released the pay gaps at every employer in the country for the first time. The data painted a confronting picture, with more than 60% of companies having pay gaps in favour of men, and some of the country’s most recognisable employers, including banks and airlines, posting gender pay gaps of 30-40%.

While improving the gender pay gap within a company can be complex, WGEA chief executive Mary Wooldridge says that “creative employers” are taking steps to address the inequity at their companies, and that this process should start, as Kimberly-Clark’s did, with an audit of the company, to see where the blocks were to female participation and promotion.

At the mill, Carpenter found that their hiring practices were working against women – many new hires were coming from employee referrals, and employees were only referring people they had previously worked with, who were all men. When the company did advertise jobs, the job ads had a strong focus on technical and trade skills.

“So we stripped the ads back,” he said. “We keep the ads fairly simple and behavioural … I mean, technical skills are easy to teach compared to behaviours, which are often pretty ingrained in people when they become adults.”

They also conducted a media campaign in the local area to make sure the community knew they were actively seeking female applicants for jobs.

“We immediately got an uplift in women applying; it went from nothing to 10-20% of applicants being women,” he said.

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Since 2019, the number of female employees at the mill has increased fivefold, from 12 to 60 out of 300. Though at 20% of the workforce, this is still below gender parity.

Carpenter acknowledges that getting women into the workforce is only part of the challenge.

“We didn’t get it 100% right to begin with,” he said. Initially, management rostered women on to shifts without regard for gender, meaning there might be just one woman working on a particular shift or in a particular part of the mill. They changed this, and started rostering women in groups, to reduce the risk of isolation.

“We also embarked on a lot of respectful workplace training,” he said, particularly in light of some pushback from older men at the mill.

Kimberly-Clark Australia still has a pay gap in favour of men of 11.6%, which is not within the target range of 5% considered as a “neutral” pay gap by WGEA, but is considerably lower than the national pay gap at 19% and the average for the manufacturing sector of 18.1%.

“We would be the first to acknowledge that we’re on a journey of continuous improvement around gender equity and inclusion and diversity, and there is still much we can do,” said Belinda Driscoll, managing director for Kimberly-Clark Australia.

But the impacts at the Millicent mill are already being felt.

“Interestingly we now have husband and wife employees, father and daughter employees here at the mill. It really has changed the feel of the workplace, and we’ve seen the culture change in a positive sense to a far more respectful, friendly, accepting workplace,” says Carpenter.

And it has helped business too. “We are the largest employer in a regional area. By employing women as equally as men, you increase the size of your labour pool. I think when we were looking at, particularly through the tighter times in the last 12-18 months around getting labour, that has been something that’s really served us well.”

Carpenter’s advice to other businesses looking to reduce gender disparity is that it is possible, but needs to be deliberate.

“Approach it with a clear plan. It’s not going to happen without some active engagement in solving this issue.”

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How one work site increased its female workforce fivefold

‘We’ve seen the culture change’: how one Australian work site increased its female workforce fivefold

Kimberly-Clark’s toilet paper mill was looking down the barrel of a 100% male workforce when they decided to shake up their strategy – and culture

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

When Adam Carpenter took over as manager at Kimberly-Clark Australia’s Millicent mill in South Australia in 2019, he knew they were in trouble.

At the time, there were just 12 women working on the floor of the mill out of a workforce of 300. The mill, which is about 45 minutes from Mount Gambier, produces Kleenex toilet paper and Viva hand towels and is the main employer for the region.

Carpenter conducted a review and found that in 2018 the mill had not hired a single woman, and had also not had a single female applicant for any job.

“The reality was, if the trend continued, we would end up with a 100% male-dominated workforce,” he said. “So we really dug into, well, why is this occurring?”

On Tuesday, the Workplace Gender Equality Agency released the pay gaps at every employer in the country for the first time. The data painted a confronting picture, with more than 60% of companies having pay gaps in favour of men, and some of the country’s most recognisable employers, including banks and airlines, posting gender pay gaps of 30-40%.

While improving the gender pay gap within a company can be complex, WGEA chief executive Mary Wooldridge says that “creative employers” are taking steps to address the inequity at their companies, and that this process should start, as Kimberly-Clark’s did, with an audit of the company, to see where the blocks were to female participation and promotion.

At the mill, Carpenter found that their hiring practices were working against women – many new hires were coming from employee referrals, and employees were only referring people they had previously worked with, who were all men. When the company did advertise jobs, the job ads had a strong focus on technical and trade skills.

“So we stripped the ads back,” he said. “We keep the ads fairly simple and behavioural … I mean, technical skills are easy to teach compared to behaviours, which are often pretty ingrained in people when they become adults.”

They also conducted a media campaign in the local area to make sure the community knew they were actively seeking female applicants for jobs.

“We immediately got an uplift in women applying; it went from nothing to 10-20% of applicants being women,” he said.

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

Since 2019, the number of female employees at the mill has increased fivefold, from 12 to 60 out of 300. Though at 20% of the workforce, this is still below gender parity.

Carpenter acknowledges that getting women into the workforce is only part of the challenge.

“We didn’t get it 100% right to begin with,” he said. Initially, management rostered women on to shifts without regard for gender, meaning there might be just one woman working on a particular shift or in a particular part of the mill. They changed this, and started rostering women in groups, to reduce the risk of isolation.

“We also embarked on a lot of respectful workplace training,” he said, particularly in light of some pushback from older men at the mill.

Kimberly-Clark Australia still has a pay gap in favour of men of 11.6%, which is not within the target range of 5% considered as a “neutral” pay gap by WGEA, but is considerably lower than the national pay gap at 19% and the average for the manufacturing sector of 18.1%.

“We would be the first to acknowledge that we’re on a journey of continuous improvement around gender equity and inclusion and diversity, and there is still much we can do,” said Belinda Driscoll, managing director for Kimberly-Clark Australia.

But the impacts at the Millicent mill are already being felt.

“Interestingly we now have husband and wife employees, father and daughter employees here at the mill. It really has changed the feel of the workplace, and we’ve seen the culture change in a positive sense to a far more respectful, friendly, accepting workplace,” says Carpenter.

And it has helped business too. “We are the largest employer in a regional area. By employing women as equally as men, you increase the size of your labour pool. I think when we were looking at, particularly through the tighter times in the last 12-18 months around getting labour, that has been something that’s really served us well.”

Carpenter’s advice to other businesses looking to reduce gender disparity is that it is possible, but needs to be deliberate.

“Approach it with a clear plan. It’s not going to happen without some active engagement in solving this issue.”

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  • Gender pay gap
  • Industrial relations
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Full StoryWill shaming employers close the gender pay gap?

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This week the gender pay gaps at thousands of Australia’s largest employers were made public for the first time. And the data paints a stark picture, with some of the country’s most recognisable companies posting gender pay gaps of 30-40% in favour of male employees

Reporter Kate Lyons tells Nour Haydar which companies have the most work to do and whether public accountability will drive change

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Billionaire claims ‘great victory’ in challenge to Queensland’s Covid vaccine mandate

Clive Palmer claims ‘great victory’ in funding challenge to Queensland’s Covid vaccine mandate

Billionaire says he gave $2.5-$3m towards case, with supreme court finding police and ambulance workers were unlawfully directed to get vaccines

Billionaire Clive Palmer claims to have set a worldwide precedent after funding a successful challenge to Queensland’s Covid-19 vaccine mandates, while raising the prospect of further legal action.

The state’s supreme court on Tuesday found police and ambulance service workers were unlawfully directed to receive vaccines or face potential disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment.

“We have had a great victory for all Australians, especially those who were illegally coerced into taking the vaccine,” Palmer said outside the supreme court in Brisbane.

Palmer said he provided between $2.5m and $3m towards the case.

“We can celebrate because this is the first precedent in the western world where a trial has gone the full distance and the court has found a trampling of human rights,” he said.

Palmer said he would be “happy” to provide financial backing for future legal challenges and raised the prospect of a class action.

“We could look at the class action for the ambulance workers and the police workers who have been subjected to harassment by their colleagues at the police department on the direction of the government to try to drop this case,” he said.

“But this case was never going to be dropped because I’m behind it … I don’t scare easily.”

It’s not yet clear whether scores of police and ambulance staff laid off or forced out by Queensland’s pandemic-era vaccine mandate will have to be reappointed after the supreme court found the orders to be “unlawful” on Tuesday.

The senior judge administrator, Glenn Martin, found that the police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, failed to meet her obligations under Queensland’s Human Rights Act when making two orders that police be vaccinated or face disciplinary action.

“Commissioner [Carroll], in making the decisions … failed to give proper consideration to human rights relevant to those decisions. As a result, those decisions were unlawful,” Martin found.

The judgment means dozens of police and ambulance staff will keep their jobs and cannot be disciplined for breach of the order. The ruling is open to appeal by the state government. It does not require rehiring other officers who were sacked. Another group – officers who were forced to get vaccinated against their will in order to keep their job – will also be watching the outcome of the case carefully.

The Sibley Lawyers director, Justin Sibley, represented 54 employees of the police service in the case, most of them uniformed officers.

He said the “draconian” pace of implementation of the mandate and the extended legal process had taken a significant toll on his clients. All were threatened with being put on unpaid disciplinary leave, he said, though there was a stay against sacking them as the case went on.

Sibley said some of his clients had spent nearly two years on paid leave, while others were allowed to continue to serve while the case was continuing.

“They were treated very poorly, in my view. And even those were suspended with pay were obviously unable to perform duties that they’d enjoyed and found very fulfilling,” he said.

“Those that were able to stay in the role were obviously treated very differently to those who had complied with the mandates.”

Sibley said it would be difficult for many of his clients to return to the service that spent the better part of two years trying to sack them and called on senior police to rebuild relationships within the service.

“The coercion that was used in this case is something that I’ve never seen before … to put the absolute fear into people that if they did not comply, they would have their salaries stopped, potentially within a week,” he said.

“The outcomes that have been meted out to others outside of this applicant group have been extreme.

“People have had that outcome where they’ve been very quickly – in fact before Christmas of 2021 – had their incomes suddenly ceased.”

Sibley said he would not be surprised if many would be considering civil litigation.

The health minister, Shannon Fentiman, said the decision was a technical one about processes and not a judgment on the merits of the vaccine mandate.

“We’re considering the decision, but it was a decision about how directions were issued not the fact that mandatory Covid vaccinations were contrary to human rights,” she said.

Both police and health department mandates have already been quashed, in December 2022 and September 2023. Fentiman invited the health staff who were laid off under the rules to reapply for a job in the department.

The ambulance order was not ruled to be unlawful, just to be of no effect.

Carroll’s decision-making criticised

Martin criticised Carroll for “poor” recollection and a lack of familiarity with some of the documents at the heart of the case. He also criticised the deputy commissioner Doug Smith, who prepared a memorandum on the issue for the commissioner, for giving “evidence which was unsatisfactory in many respects”.

At one stage Carroll was asked to close a folder containing a human rights compatibility assessment in front of her before answering questions relating to which human rights she considered would have been limited by her direction.

“She did not appear to have given her evidence much thought before she entered the witness box,” the judge said.

“She frequently had to peruse documents, sometimes at length, and sometimes when she was being asked questions unrelated to any documents.”

In his ruling, Martin said Carroll “strangely” had presented as evidence to the court her own letter sent to the health department director general created after she made her decision.

“It was said to have been a document she considered in arriving at her decision,” the ruling said.

Ultimately, the court found Carroll had made a decision to issue the directive before being presented with crown law advice laying out the implications for the state’s Human Rights Act.

The former health department 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.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Queensland police service said the organisation would “carefully consider the judgment and our options moving forward”.

A spokesperson for the health department said it was also considering the decision.

“The decision relates to matters raised by some Queensland ambulance service and Queensland police employees and does not impact doctors, nurses and other employees of Queensland Health,” they said.

Civil liberties advocates celebrate

Civil liberties advocates celebrated the decision as a win for human rights and the state’s 2019 Human Rights Act.

Under section 58 of the legislation, public service employees must give proper consideration to human rights before making a decision.

Michael Cope, the president of the Queensland Council for Civil Liberties, said some elements of the judgment represented the first time sections of the Human Rights Act had been tested in the supreme court, blazing a precedent for future cases.

He said the finding proved that authorities must demonstrate that they have taken into account the rights of others before overruling them, and that Carroll did not.

“This is a reminder to everybody that that is the law in this state and if you don’t do it, you can have your decision declared to be in breach of the Human Rights Act,” Cope said.

Griffith law school’s Prof Susan Harris Rimmer – an advocate of the Human Rights Act – said she was shocked by the court’s finding.

Rimmer said it put senior public servants “on notice” about human rights.

“Senior decision makers have to take human rights into consideration when making decisions and have to do it rigorously,” she said.

Neither the police nor the health department could give the number of staff sacked or forced out as a result of the mandates on Tuesday, but about 1% of the broader health workforce left on that basis.

– With reporting by Australian Associated Press

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Premier League viewers in Australia bombarded with ads for offshore gambling firms

Premier League viewers in Australia bombarded with ads for offshore gambling firms thanks to loophole

Billboards displayed ads that would otherwise be banned from Australian screens, according to a complaint against Optus Sport to the media watchdog

A loophole is allowing Australian fans of the English Premier League to be bombarded with betting ads for offshore gambling companies that would otherwise be banned from screens, according to a complaint to the media watchdog.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (Acma) is investigating a complaint against Optus Sport by gambling researcher and investigative journalist Jack Kerr, who alleges gambling ads featured in every single minute of a Premier League match between Aston Villa and Manchester City broadcast in December.

Optus Sport has been broadcasting EPL games in Australia since 2016 and the company recently spent about $600m to retain the lucrative rights until the 2027-28 season. The streaming service has more than 1 million subscribers in Australia.

There is no suggestion the gambling companies advertising their products or the Premier League clubs are accused of breaking any laws by using the loophole.

In his complaint, Kerr wrote that “interactive gambling companies are one of the most frequently seen products on these pitch-side billboards” and said the clubs “typically show ads for multiple betting companies throughout a match”. The pitch-side advertising boards are controlled by the clubs and can be tailored for different markets.

The Interactive Gambling Act prohibits offshore gambling companies from offering bets to people based in Australia and bans the promotion of their services. But an exemption is offered if an ad is “an accidental or incidental accompaniment to the publication of other matter”.

“These ads are neither incidental nor accidental,” the complaint said. “Their prominence clearly demonstrates this. Doubledecker digital billboards that wrap around the venue and which promote a product that Australians can access cannot be considered as ‘incidental’; they are there to grab viewers’ attention and lure them in.”

One of the gambling companies routinely advertised during Manchester City home games was targeted by Acma in 2022 for providing an unlicensed service to Australians. 8XBet recently signed a commercial partnership to become Manchester City’s official wagering partner in Asia.

“Although 8XBet is not on the Acma blacklist and no longer accepts Australian customers, it should still be considered a ‘prohibited interactive gambling service’ or an illegal service under the Interactive Gambling Act, as it is an online gambling service that does not have an Australian licence,” the complaint said.

An Acma spokesperson said the agency was “considering the information provided, including the context in which the content was alleged to have occurred”.

“Acma has previously investigated the 8XBet service and found it in breach of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. Consequently, the 8Xbet service has withdrawn from the Australian market,” the spokesperson said.

An Optus spokesperson said the company “complies with the relevant Australian laws in its coverage of all rights and content. Australian gambling advertising laws contain exemptions for pitch-side advertising”.

“It is standard in sports rights agreements to be required to transmit the original feeds in full, without editing, and Optus Sport’s arrangements are no different,” the spokesperson said. “Optus Sport is prohibited by the rights owners from replacing any pitch-side ads using virtual advertising or otherwise.”

Gambling companies are attracted to the EPL due to its huge global reach, which allows them to boost their brand recognition. The league is broadcast to an estimated 800m homes in almost 190 countries. It also has a huge following in Asia, which is also an emerging market for online gambling worth billions of dollars.

Kerr’s complaint also cites examples including the gambling company W88, which promotes itself online as “a famous online casino and sports betting destination for Australians”, despite not being licensed in Australia. The company’s logo is promoted at Burnley home games.

Other examples include Parimatch and Kaiyun advertising at Chelsea home games, 6686 ads at Wolverhampton Wanderers home games and ads from the gambling company BK8, which is an official partner of Aston Villa.

Last year, Premier League clubs agreed to ban match-day front-of-shirt sponsorship deals with gambling companies from the summer of 2026.

Eight of the 20 clubs have betting companies as front-of-shirt sponsors. The collective value of those contracts is about £60m (A$116m) a year. Aston Villa and Wolverhampton wear betting-related sleeve adverts.

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Republican cites 25th amendment in bid to remove ‘too old’ Biden from office

Republican cites 25th amendment in bid to remove ‘too old’ Biden from office

Congressman Ken Buck introduces resolution claiming president is incapable of executing duties – but it has little chance of success

A Colorado Republican introduced a congressional resolution calling for Kamala Harris to invoke the 25th amendment to the US constitution and remove Joe Biden because he is too old.

The resolution from the US House member Ken Buck has little chance of success.

John Dean, who was White House counsel under Richard Nixon, the president who resigned under pressure from his own party, said: “Just when you think there may be a few normal Republicans, you discover they are all crazy.

“This man [Buck] is leaving public office. He is the person with the cognitive problem not Joe Biden.”

Section four of the 25th amendment provides for the replacement, by the vice-president, of a president deemed incapable. It has never been used. Calls for its use intensified in 2021, after the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, which Donald Trump incited in an attempt to stay in the Oval Office.

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, rejected a House resolution. Just one Republican, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, backed it.

Buck, 65, contends that Biden – at 81, only three and a half years older than Trump, his probable challenger for re-election – has become mentally incapable.

The vice-president, Buck’s resolution said, should “convene and mobilise the principal officers of the executive departments of the cabinet to activate section four of the 25th amendment to declare President Joseph R Biden incapable of executing the duties of his office”.

Biden, Buck’s resolution says, “has been televised wandering aimlessly at events … frequently speaks publicly in an incoherent and indiscernible manner [and] has repeatedly fallen while walking up stairs”.

Trump has been televised wandering aimlessly, speaking incoherently and struggling to maintain balance.

Buck’s resolution also cites controversial observations by the special counsel Robert Hur in his report on Biden’s retention of classified information, about the president’s age and mental capacity.

Experts said Hur was wrong to cast doubt on Biden’s abilities while declining to charge. Trump faces 40 charges related to his own retention of classified information, lodged by another special counsel, Jack Smith.

Buck’s resolution also cites verbal mistakes by Biden, including mixing up the presidents of Mexico and Egypt.

Trump’s gaffes are just as familiar. Last week, he appeared to get his wife’s name wrong at the CPAC conference.

“You got to take a look at the other guy, he’s about as old as I am, but he can’t remember his wife’s name,” Biden told the NBC host Seth Meyers on Monday.

Set to retire this year, Buck is a stringent conservative but has nonetheless rejected Trump’s claims of election fraud. He has expressed skepticism about Republicans’ attempt to impeach Biden over alleged corruption, saying he did not think “tit-for-tat” impeachments were a good idea. But he defended Trump against an attempt to remove him from the ballot in Colorado, for inciting an insurrection.

In a statement about his resolution, Buck said: “The Hur report officially addressed what many Americans have long witnessed with their own eyes – that President Biden is no longer fit to successfully discharge the critical duties of his office.

“Numerous instances were articulated in the report, and have played out in full public view, showing President Biden’s apparent cognitive decline and lack of mental stamina.”

Biden was the oldest president ever inaugurated and would be 86 by the end of a second term. Polling shows majorities of voters believe he is too old. The White House has pushed back aggressively on the matter.

On Monday, Biden told NBC the election would be about “about how old your ideas are”, and he said Trump “wants to take us back”.

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Republican cites 25th amendment in bid to remove ‘too old’ Biden from office

Republican cites 25th amendment in bid to remove ‘too old’ Biden from office

Congressman Ken Buck introduces resolution claiming president is incapable of executing duties – but it has little chance of success

A Colorado Republican introduced a congressional resolution calling for Kamala Harris to invoke the 25th amendment to the US constitution and remove Joe Biden because he is too old.

The resolution from the US House member Ken Buck has little chance of success.

John Dean, who was White House counsel under Richard Nixon, the president who resigned under pressure from his own party, said: “Just when you think there may be a few normal Republicans, you discover they are all crazy.

“This man [Buck] is leaving public office. He is the person with the cognitive problem not Joe Biden.”

Section four of the 25th amendment provides for the replacement, by the vice-president, of a president deemed incapable. It has never been used. Calls for its use intensified in 2021, after the deadly January 6 attack on Congress, which Donald Trump incited in an attempt to stay in the Oval Office.

Mike Pence, Trump’s vice-president, rejected a House resolution. Just one Republican, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, backed it.

Buck, 65, contends that Biden – at 81, only three and a half years older than Trump, his probable challenger for re-election – has become mentally incapable.

The vice-president, Buck’s resolution said, should “convene and mobilise the principal officers of the executive departments of the cabinet to activate section four of the 25th amendment to declare President Joseph R Biden incapable of executing the duties of his office”.

Biden, Buck’s resolution says, “has been televised wandering aimlessly at events … frequently speaks publicly in an incoherent and indiscernible manner [and] has repeatedly fallen while walking up stairs”.

Trump has been televised wandering aimlessly, speaking incoherently and struggling to maintain balance.

Buck’s resolution also cites controversial observations by the special counsel Robert Hur in his report on Biden’s retention of classified information, about the president’s age and mental capacity.

Experts said Hur was wrong to cast doubt on Biden’s abilities while declining to charge. Trump faces 40 charges related to his own retention of classified information, lodged by another special counsel, Jack Smith.

Buck’s resolution also cites verbal mistakes by Biden, including mixing up the presidents of Mexico and Egypt.

Trump’s gaffes are just as familiar. Last week, he appeared to get his wife’s name wrong at the CPAC conference.

“You got to take a look at the other guy, he’s about as old as I am, but he can’t remember his wife’s name,” Biden told the NBC host Seth Meyers on Monday.

Set to retire this year, Buck is a stringent conservative but has nonetheless rejected Trump’s claims of election fraud. He has expressed skepticism about Republicans’ attempt to impeach Biden over alleged corruption, saying he did not think “tit-for-tat” impeachments were a good idea. But he defended Trump against an attempt to remove him from the ballot in Colorado, for inciting an insurrection.

In a statement about his resolution, Buck said: “The Hur report officially addressed what many Americans have long witnessed with their own eyes – that President Biden is no longer fit to successfully discharge the critical duties of his office.

“Numerous instances were articulated in the report, and have played out in full public view, showing President Biden’s apparent cognitive decline and lack of mental stamina.”

Biden was the oldest president ever inaugurated and would be 86 by the end of a second term. Polling shows majorities of voters believe he is too old. The White House has pushed back aggressively on the matter.

On Monday, Biden told NBC the election would be about “about how old your ideas are”, and he said Trump “wants to take us back”.

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Australia needs body to investigate people accused of international crimes like genocide, legal experts claim

Australia needs dedicated body to investigate people accused of international crimes like genocide, legal experts claim

Government accused of failing in its international obligation to prioritise investigation of alleged international crimes

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Australia needs a specialist investigations unit to probe allegations of international crimes such as genocide, or it risks becoming a “safe haven” for individuals alleged to have been involved, legal experts and former prosecutors have said.

Reports from the Guardian and Four Corners on Monday that the Rwandan government has issued indictments for two men in Australia it accuses of participating in the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, have re-animated debate about Australia’s commitment to investigating and prosecuting international crimes such as genocide.

One of the men, who lives in Brisbane, has said allegations against him are “false” and “smears”; the family of the second man says he is innocent although they insist he is not in the country.

The Guardian/Four Corners investigation does not suggest the two men are guilty, only that serious allegations deserve further investigation by an appropriate authority.

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Rwanda has requested the men’s arrest and extradition to Rwanda to face fresh trials, or for Australia to prosecute the men domestically.

Rawan Arraf, executive director of the Australian Centre for International Justice, speaking generally, said the lack of a dedicated investigative body in Australia for international crimes risks making Australia “a safe haven” for alleged perpetrators “of the worst crimes against humanity, and the AFP has been left without appropriate resources or skills, or indeed, encouragement from the Australian government, to prioritise the investigation” of such alleged crimes.

“This is a failure of Australia’s international obligations.”

Australia was laggard in making genocide a crime under domestic law, failing to adopt legislation until 2002; and the laws passed were not retrospective, so a charge of genocide pre-dating that time could not be prosecuted under the Criminal Code without legislative change.

Australia does not have an extradition treaty with Rwanda, and has never extradited anybody there.

While there are multilateral treaties under which Australia could extradite a person to Rwanda, Australia’s courts, or the government, might be reluctant to return someone to a country with a questionable human rights record, and, some observers argue, a compromised criminal justice system.

According to Human Rights Watch, the Rwandan government manipulates elections by arresting or assassinating critics and obstructing opposition parties, and polls are marred by allegations of voter intimidation and electoral fraud.

Some of Rwanda’s community members in Australia have said that the indictment against the two men here is politically motivated, or, at least, has been raised by the Rwandan government as a way to silence dissent.

The Australian Centre for International Justice argues Australia has a “chequered and inconsistent history of international crimes investigation”.

The Australian Federal Police’s Counter Terrorism and Special Investigations Command has responsibility for the investigation of alleged international crimes like war crimes and genocide. But the ACIJ argues that the “lack of specialisation and expertise” for alleged atrocity crimes “within these generalist teams raises crucial concerns about the efficacy of investigations”.

“Where a generalist unit within the AFP has been involved in international crimes investigations, it has proven ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of these investigations and lacks the expertise required.”

Bob Reid was a senior member of Australia’s now defunct Special Investigations Unit, established in 1987 to search for former Nazi war criminals alleged to have emigrated to Australia. He also spent nearly two decades at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Reid said Australia was an outlier in not having a specialised, permanent unit dedicated to investigating alleged international crimes, such as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

“If you look at countries like Germany, France, Sweden, Norway, UK, Spain, even the US, they all have dedicated teams. I mean, the European countries, they leave us for dead.”

He said Australia risked becoming a “haven” for alleged international criminals.

“To just close your eyes and say, ‘Oh well, Australia is a long way away, they won’t come to Australia’ is just very naive.”

A spokesperson for the AFP rejected suggestions it lacked expertise and resources to adequately investigate alleged international crimes.

“Members of the AFP’s CTSI Command are highly experienced investigators, many of whom have undertaken specialised training, including through the Institute of International Criminal Investigations in The Hague,” an AFP spokesperson said.

“The AFP works closely with foreign law enforcement agencies, international bodies and mechanisms” who prosecute alleged international crimes to ensure alleged perpetrators “with a connection to Australia are held to account.”

The AFP confirmed Australia has jurisdiction, under the criminal code, to investigate alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocides that occur offshore after 26 September 2002. For alleged offences pre-dating that, the Geneva Conventions Act, a 1957 law, may apply.

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Police find scores of guns at home of French film legend

Police find scores of guns at home of French film star Alain Delon

Prosecutors say actor, 88, does not have permit for any of the 72 weapons seized from his home south of Paris

Police have seized 72 firearms from the home of French screen legend Alain Delon, who doesn’t have a permit for any of them, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Officers also found more than 3,000 rounds of ammunition and a shooting range in the actor’s rural home in Douchy-Montcorbon, 84 miles (135km) south of Paris.

Delon, 88, “has no authorisation that would allow him to own a firearm”, said local prosecutor Jean-Cédric Gaux.

The star played gun-toting gangsters in several of his most famous films, including Borsalino and is credited with creating the Hollywood trope of the mysterious cerebral hitman in the 1967 film The Samurai.

Delon has been in poor health since a stroke in 2019 and has recently been the centre of an escalating family feud.

The search was ordered after a court-appointed official sent to his home noticed a weapon and alerted a judge.

Delon has rarely appeared on screen since the 1990s and his last major public appearance was to receive an honorary Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival in 2019.

He did, however, attend the Paris funeral of his friend and fellow star Jean-Paul Belmondo in September 2021.

Last month Delon’s youngest son filed a complaint against his sister accusing her of exploiting Delon’s frailty.

The feud went public after Delon’s oldest son, Anthony Delon, told the Paris Match magazine that his father was in a “weakened” state.

Delon senior, through his lawyer, said he was “shocked” and would file a complaint for defamation.

Concerns were first raised about him last year when his three children filed a complaint against his former live-in assistant Hiromi Rollin, accusing her of harassment and threatening behaviour.

Delon is estimated to be worth millions. He sold about 80 works of art at auction in June for more than €8m (£6.8m).

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Royal pulls out of godfather’s memorial service over personal matter

Prince William pulls out of godfather’s memorial service over ‘personal matter’

Prince of Wales will not attend service for Constantine the former king of Greece at Windsor Castle

The Prince of Wales has pulled out of attending a memorial service at Windsor Castle for for one of his godfathers due to a “personal matter”.

Kensington Palace would not elaborate further but said the Princess of Wales, who is recovering from abdominal surgery, continued to be doing well.

William was due to deliver a reading at the service in St George’s chapel for Constantine II of Greece, who died in January last year.

The Prince of Wales called the former Greek king’s family, who are attending the service, to let them know he was unable to attend.

Kate is away from official royal engagements until after Easter after undergoing surgery in January.

King Charles will also miss the service as he continues treatment for an undisclosed form of cancer.

Charles, who has been staying at Windsor Castle, is due to leave the Berkshire residence at some point on Tuesday morning.

Dozens of foreign royals travelled to Windsor to attend the service but the king was not expected to meet them privately.

Constantine’s eldest son, Pavlos, is to step in to give the reading in William’s place.

The Duke of York led family members including his former wife Sarah, Duchess of York, Princess Beatrice, the Princess Royal and Zara and Mike Tindall, who arrived at the chapel after being driven to the castle quadrangle by coach.

The final member of the British royal family to arrive was the queen, who was driven down from the castle to the 15th-century chapel. She was greeted by the dean of Windsor, the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth, at the Galilee Porch.

The king was said to be close to Constantine, his second cousin and a first cousin once removed and sailing partner of the late Duke of Edinburgh. Constantine died at the age of 82 in January last year, decades after being toppled from the throne in a military coup.

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Glasgow Willy Wonka experience called a ‘farce’ as tickets refunded

Glasgow Willy Wonka experience called a ‘farce’ as tickets refunded

Event billed as immersive ‘celebration of chocolate’ cancelled after children left in tears at sparsely decorated warehouse

It was billed as a “celebration of chocolate in all its delightful forms” but ended up a tragic tale worthy of an Oompa-Loompa song.

Police were called to a venue in Glasgow last weekend after furious families who had spent hundreds of pounds on the Willy’s Chocolate Experience complained about the “awful” event that left children in tears and was abruptly cancelled midway through.

The event organiser, House of Illuminati, which charged up to £35 for tickets, promised an “immersive experince” based on the Warner Bros film Wonka, which stars Timothée Chalamet as the young chocolate entrepreneur and was an instant hit with children and grownups over the festive period.

The event publicity promised giant mushrooms, candy canes and chocolate fountains, along with special audio and visual effects, all narrated by dancing Oompa-Loompas – the tiny, orange men who power Wonka’s chocolate factory in the Roald Dahl book which inspired the prequel film.

But instead, when eager families turned up to the address in Whiteinch, an industrial area of Glasgow, they discovered a sparsely decorated warehouse with a scattering of plastic props, a small bouncy castle and some backdrops pinned against the walls.

After an immediate and angry response from early arrivals who demanded their money back, organisers called a halt to the event only hours after opening, but failed to inform later attenders, some of whom had travelled substantial distances and are now demanding their train costs be refunded too.

A Facebook group has been set up by furious families, who described their children crying with disappointment at the event which was scheduled to run on Saturday and Sunday and lambasted the event as a “farce” and the organisers as “cowboys”.

Police Scotland confirmed that officers had been called to the venue after complaints.

Paul Connell, an actor who had been hired by the company to perform at the event, told STV News of his shock when he arrived at the warehouse and realised that the rubric he had been given was impossible to fulfil because none of the promised props or special effects were there.

“My heart sank looking around … I just felt sad because I was aware of how many kids were going to be coming through.

“We were told to hand the kids a couple of jelly beans and a quarter cup of lemonade at the end.”

Connell said that when he asked the organisers what he should do with the script he was told to improvise.

In a statement, House of Illuminati apologised to customers for the “very stressful and frustrating day”.

“Unfortunately, last minute we were let down in many areas of our event and tried our best to continue on and push through and now realise we probably should have cancelled first thing this morning instead,” it said.

The organisers confirmed that full refunds would be given to customers, which could take up to 10 days.

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