The Guardian 2024-02-28 10:31:16


Australian politician ‘sold out’ to foreign regime after being recruited by spies, Mike Burgess says

Australian politician ‘sold out’ to foreign regime after being recruited by spies, Asio boss says

Mike Burgess outlines activities of spy network dubbed ‘the A-team’ in annual threat assessment, without naming former politician nor the country involved

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A former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by spies for a foreign regime, according to Australia’s domestic intelligence agency.

The head of Asio, Mike Burgess, made the allegations as he outlined the prolific activities of a spy network he labelled “the A-team”, although he did not name the former politician nor the country involved.

Delivering his annual threat assessment on Wednesday evening, Burgess said Asio confronted the spy network last year and was now speaking publicly about it because “we want the A-team to know its cover is blown”.

He said more Australians were being targeted for espionage and foreign interference than ever before and people needed to understand the threat was “deeper and broader than you might think”.

Burgess alleged there was an “aggressive and experienced” team in a particular foreign intelligence service with a focus on Australia. “We are its priority target,” he said in a speech at Asio headquarters in Canberra.

“We will call them ‘the A-team’ – that’s not a compliment by the way – the Australia team.”

Burgess said members trawled professional networking sites looking for Australians with access to privileged information.

They looked to recruit students, academics, politicians, businesspeople, researchers, law enforcement officials and public servants at all levels of government, while using false, anglicised personae to approach their targets.

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“Some of the names they adopt include Sophy, Amy, Ben and Eric, but the team can and does use others,” Burgess said. “The spies pose as consultants, head-hunters, local government officials, academics and think tank researchers, claiming to be from fictional companies such as Data 31.

“Most commonly, they offer their targets consulting opportunities, promising to pay thousands of dollars for reports on Australian trade, politics, economics, foreign policy, defence and security.”

Burgess said the A-team was “offering Australian defence industry employees money in return for reports on Aukus, submarine technology, missile systems and many other sensitive topics”.

Former politician targeted

Without naming the individual, Burgess said the A-team “successfully cultivated and recruited a former Australian politician”. He said this occurred “several years ago”.

“This politician sold out their country, party and former colleagues to advance the interests of the foreign regime,” Burgess said. “At one point, the former politician even proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member into the spies’ orbit. Fortunately that plot did not go ahead but other schemes did.”

Burgess said that in one alleged plot, “leading Australian academics and political figures were invited to a conference in an overseas country, with the organisers covering all expenses including airfares”.

He said members of the A-team used the conference to build relationships with Australians, openly asking who had access to government documents.

Burgess said another Australian – described as an aspiring politician – “provided insights into the factional dynamics of his party, analysis of a recent election and the names of up-and-comers”.

Asio disrupted this scheme and confronted the Australians involved, he said.

“We helped the unaware ones extract themselves, and severed the links between the others and the foreign intelligence service. Several individuals should be grateful the espionage and foreign interference laws are not retrospective.”

This comment indicates the allegations span many years, as Australia’s tough new laws against espionage and foreign interference passed the parliament in 2018.

Burgess said his agency confronted the A-team directly late last year, when a team leader “thought he was grooming another Australian online” but was actually speaking with an Asio officer.

“You can imagine his horror when my officer revealed himself and declared, ‘we know who you are.’”

Burgess said he had declassified the case because Australians needed to understand what the threat of foreign interference “looks like so they can avoid it and report it”.

But he said this “real-world, real-time disruption” was also intended to signal that Asio would make foreign interference “as difficult, costly and painful as possible”.

Burgess said he was not naming the country involved because numerous countries conducted espionage and foreign interference and he wanted Australians to be alert to “red flags” regardless of the source.

Asked to explain the consequences for the former politician, Burgess said: “We’re a rule-of-law country and they’re not doing it now. If we see them go active again, I can guarantee they’ll get caught. Personally, I don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to repeat it.”

Threats to dissidents

Burgess said the counter foreign interference taskforce – led by Asio but also comprising the Australian federal police and other agencies – sought to “stop attempts to monitor and harass members of Australia’s diaspora communities”.

It had conducted more than 120 operations to mitigate threats against communities, political systems and classified information since mid-2020.

“In a sign of how the threat has grown, successful disruptions have increased by 265%, and continue to increase exponentially,” he said.

Burgess said the taskforce last year “uncovered and disrupted an individual working on behalf of a foreign government who wanted to physically harm an Australia-based critic of the regime”.

“The individual tried to identify his target’s home address and bank details, hired a subcontractor to take photos of the house and even asked how much money would be required to get the subcontractor to ‘take severe action’ against the dissident,” Burgess said.

“Even more recently, a foreign intelligence service tried to find an Australian who would be willing to make a different dissident quote ‘disappear’.”

Burgess said he was also “aware of one nation state conducting multiple attempts to scan critical infrastructure in Australia and other countries, targeting water, transport and energy networks” although it was not believed to be actively planning sabotage.

Australia’s terrorism threat level remained unchanged at “possible”, but Burgess said that did not mean “negligible”, with conflict in the Middle East “resonating” and Asio “carefully monitoring the implications for domestic security”.

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News Corp journalist offered to write article defending Zachary Rolfe two days after he shot Indigenous man dead, inquest hears

News Corp journalist offered to write article defending Zachary Rolfe two days after he shot Kumanjayi Walker dead, court hears

Kristin Shorten from The Australian told former police officer to ‘ignore the leftist reporting’, inquest into Indigenous man’s death hears

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A journalist at The Australian told Zachary Rolfe only two days after he shot and killed Kumanjayi Walker that she could “write an article in your defence” because “I know what you did was totally warranted”, a court has heard.

Journalist Kristin Shorten, who Rolfe said was a friend because her partner was a fellow police officer, texted Rolfe in November 2019 asking if he was OK after the incident and telling him to “ignore the leftist reporting”, the inquest into Walker’s death heard on Wednesday.

Rolfe shot Walker three times while trying to arrest him in Yuendumu, about 300km from Alice Springs. The 19-year-old Warlpiri man stabbed Rolfe with a pair of scissors shortly before he was shot by the then constable three times.

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

Rolfe is giving evidence in Alice Springs this week as part of the inquest.

The counsel assisting, Peggy Dwyer SC, asked Rolfe questions on Wednesday afternoon about why he had not mentioned in multiple accounts to people prior to his murder trial that Walker had put his hand on his police handgun shortly before he was shot and killed.

Shorten first sent a text to Rolfe after the shooting at 10.34pm on 11 November 2019 – two days after the shooting.

“Hey mate heard the news, hope you and the shoulder are ok. Ignore the leftist reporting in the media, hopefully catch up soon,” she wrote.

Rolfe replied that his shoulder was OK, and that he didn’t “pay attention to the losers anyway”.

Shorten responded: “So glad you’re ok, could have been much worse, I know what you did was totally warranted. If you ever want me to write an article in your defence, with or without naming you, say the word.”

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Rolfe replied that he had already thought about if he wanted to put his side out there, and that he would come to her if he decided to do so.

Shorten said: “Ps if or when you want I can name it without naming you or quoting you so it sounds like we never spoke.”

Rolfe said he was “down for that”, to which Shorten responded she could do it any time.

Rolfe agreed with Dwyer that he knew Shorten would be a “very sympathetic journalist” when he sat down for an interview with her on 5 December 2019.

The story based on the interview was published in March 2022, at the completion of his trial.

Shorten is believed to no longer work at The Australian.

Dwyer put it to Rolfe that in the interview with Shorten, in entries Rolfe had made in a police notebook, and conversations he had with colleagues, he had failed to mention that Walker attempted to grab his gun shortly before he was shot.

She put it to Rolfe that he had made up that evidence at trial to make it appear more credible that he had shot Walker a second and third time, the incidents which formed the basis of the murder charge.

When directly asked if it was a lie, Rolfe responded: “It’s definitely not.”

He added that he had recalled that Walker attempted to grab the gun after the instances referred to by Dwyer, adding that there had not been any evidence called during the inquest in relation to how memory works in critical incidents.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rolfe failed in a last-ditch bid to avoid answering questions about the night he shot dead Walker.

Lawyers for the former police officer applied for Coroner Elisabeth Armitage not to be able compel Rolfe to answer questions regarding the shooting.

Michael Abbott KC, for Rolfe, argued that his client should not be forced to answer questions about the shooting on several grounds, including that he may be prosecuted in relation to the first shot, which had previously been ruled by the director of public prosecutions as fired in self-defence, and that there was a possibility of ongoing civil claims against his client.

Patrick Coleridge, counsel assisting, said that while Abbott had foreshadowed an objection against Rolfe answering questions, he had given no prior notice of the application to be made to Armitage.

He told the inquest that there was only a remote possibility that Rolfe would be prosecuted. He noted that Rolfe was not protected from giving evidence in the inquest because of the possibility it could be used in civil claims under Northern Territory law.

Armitage granted Rolfe a certificate which protects him from criminal prosecution based on his evidence but meant he must answer the questions.

She said the possibility of Rolfe being charged was remote, and that even if he was the certificate meant his evidence at the inquest could not be used against him.

The inquest had been expected to be completed in three months but has now stretched on for almost 18 months since it started in September 2022.

The hearing continues.

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Matildas v Uzbekistan: Paris Olympics qualifier, second leg – live

59 mins: Fowler drifts in from the left with that elegant swaying style of hers, feinting to go to the outside only to continue on a straight line towards goal before letting fly with her right foot and sending a powerful shot over the bar.

NSW police commissioner Karen Webb moves to dismiss alleged killer from force

NSW police commissioner Karen Webb moves to dismiss alleged killer Beau Lamarre from force

Police continue searching Bungonia property and say Lamarre drew ‘a bit of a map’ showing where to find bodies

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The New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb has moved to dismiss alleged killer Beau Lamarre from the force.

Webb told the ABC on Wednesday night the senior constable had been served with a show cause notice – the first step in his dismissal from the state’s police force.

“I actually today read a segment of his file,” Webb told ABC’s 7:30 on Wednesday.

“It has been served today in custody, a show cause notice for his dismissal, and that particularises some things, but it may not be a complete picture.”

Meanwhile, New South Wales police will continue searching a remote property at Bungonia, potentially for weeks, where human remains were discovered on Tuesday that are believed to be alleged murder victims Luke Davies and Jesse Baird.

The discovery came four days after serving police officer Beau Lamarre, 28, was charged with the murders of Davies and Baird. Baird was a former Channel Ten presenter and Davies, his partner, was a Qantas flight attendant.

The crime scene had been established on Tuesday afternoon, the second to be established in Bungonia during the investigation. Later that day, two bodies were found at the remote property in surfboard bags.

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NSW police assistant commissioner Michael Fitzgerald alleged on Wednesday that Lamarre moved the bodies to a second location after his “inability to dispose of them” at a previous site.

On Tuesday Lamarre had told police where to find the bodies, Fitzgerald said.

“The accused drew a bit of a map, or at least a bit of a visual, to describe where to go,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Wednesday.

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, told ABC radio on Wednesday there would be ongoing investigations at Bungonia “for many many days and maybe even weeks”.

“Police are still on the ground conducting a forensic examination of that whole scene, as well as officers that are doing a line search looking for other evidence,” she said.

Webb suggested investigations were continuing at the other crime scene in Bungonia, as well as around the wider Sydney area.

“Police will be interviewing other witnesses that are still coming forward or who have come forward, and responding to Crime Stoppers information that has been coming through.”

Webb said the remains were moved to a morgue at Lidcombe overnight, where there would be a postmortem examination.

“We strongly believe they are the remains of Jesse and Luke,” she said. “It won’t be until [after the postmortem] that we’re able to determine time and manner of death.”

The police commissioner said one victim’s family had travelled to the Bungonia area “to understand where their loved one was”.

Police will allege Lamarre killed the two men on 19 February at Baird’s Paddington home using his force-issued handgun, before hiring a white van to dispose of the bodies.

Det Supt Danny Doherty said police would allege there was “some type of relationship at some stage” between Lamarre and Baird that “did not end well”.

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.

Webb told ABC TV she called the review because “clearly there’s a problem” with how Lamarre was able to access his police firearm in the way police allege. However, she alleged he was “manipulative” in gaining access to it.

“We do have policies and processes in place and what we’ll allege is that the accused has been manipulative in the way he’s reported that to get access to the firearm,” she said.

“What I have asked for in the review is the review of our whole policies and processes around this to understand how we can tighten this. We need to tighten it, we cannot have this happen again.”

The NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, told Sunrise the alleged murders had sent “a shiver right throughout the whole of the NSW police force”.

“They don’t expect one of their own to commit an alleged murder,” she said. “But at the end of the day they do their job and they demonstrated that by being so dedicated to this search and finding the bodies.”

Catley said police will be continuing their conversations with the Mardi Gras board on Wednesday after it voted to un-invite police from marching in Saturday’s parade.

“The board have asked that those conversations remain confidential and I will honour that,” Catley said. “But we will continue to talk today and as soon as we find out we will hopefully both together, the board and the police, be able to let you know where we land on that.”

The assistant police commissioner defended Webb against criticism over her public statements on the case.

“I’m grateful that we’ve removed some heartache from the family,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very surprised with the criticism the commissioner’s got – she’d been nothing but supportive and she’s given us every resource.”

– with Australian Associated Press

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NSW police commissioner Karen Webb moves to dismiss alleged killer from force

NSW police commissioner Karen Webb moves to dismiss alleged killer Beau Lamarre from force

Police continue searching Bungonia property and say Lamarre drew ‘a bit of a map’ showing where to find bodies

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The New South Wales police commissioner Karen Webb has moved to dismiss alleged killer Beau Lamarre from the force.

Webb told the ABC on Wednesday night the senior constable had been served with a show cause notice – the first step in his dismissal from the state’s police force.

“I actually today read a segment of his file,” Webb told ABC’s 7:30 on Wednesday.

“It has been served today in custody, a show cause notice for his dismissal, and that particularises some things, but it may not be a complete picture.”

Meanwhile, New South Wales police will continue searching a remote property at Bungonia, potentially for weeks, where human remains were discovered on Tuesday that are believed to be alleged murder victims Luke Davies and Jesse Baird.

The discovery came four days after serving police officer Beau Lamarre, 28, was charged with the murders of Davies and Baird. Baird was a former Channel Ten presenter and Davies, his partner, was a Qantas flight attendant.

The crime scene had been established on Tuesday afternoon, the second to be established in Bungonia during the investigation. Later that day, two bodies were found at the remote property in surfboard bags.

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NSW police assistant commissioner Michael Fitzgerald alleged on Wednesday that Lamarre moved the bodies to a second location after his “inability to dispose of them” at a previous site.

On Tuesday Lamarre had told police where to find the bodies, Fitzgerald said.

“The accused drew a bit of a map, or at least a bit of a visual, to describe where to go,” he told Sydney radio station 2GB on Wednesday.

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, told ABC radio on Wednesday there would be ongoing investigations at Bungonia “for many many days and maybe even weeks”.

“Police are still on the ground conducting a forensic examination of that whole scene, as well as officers that are doing a line search looking for other evidence,” she said.

Webb suggested investigations were continuing at the other crime scene in Bungonia, as well as around the wider Sydney area.

“Police will be interviewing other witnesses that are still coming forward or who have come forward, and responding to Crime Stoppers information that has been coming through.”

Webb said the remains were moved to a morgue at Lidcombe overnight, where there would be a postmortem examination.

“We strongly believe they are the remains of Jesse and Luke,” she said. “It won’t be until [after the postmortem] that we’re able to determine time and manner of death.”

The police commissioner said one victim’s family had travelled to the Bungonia area “to understand where their loved one was”.

Police will allege Lamarre killed the two men on 19 February at Baird’s Paddington home using his force-issued handgun, before hiring a white van to dispose of the bodies.

Det Supt Danny Doherty said police would allege there was “some type of relationship at some stage” between Lamarre and Baird that “did not end well”.

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.

Webb told ABC TV she called the review because “clearly there’s a problem” with how Lamarre was able to access his police firearm in the way police allege. However, she alleged he was “manipulative” in gaining access to it.

“We do have policies and processes in place and what we’ll allege is that the accused has been manipulative in the way he’s reported that to get access to the firearm,” she said.

“What I have asked for in the review is the review of our whole policies and processes around this to understand how we can tighten this. We need to tighten it, we cannot have this happen again.”

The NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, told Sunrise the alleged murders had sent “a shiver right throughout the whole of the NSW police force”.

“They don’t expect one of their own to commit an alleged murder,” she said. “But at the end of the day they do their job and they demonstrated that by being so dedicated to this search and finding the bodies.”

Catley said police will be continuing their conversations with the Mardi Gras board on Wednesday after it voted to un-invite police from marching in Saturday’s parade.

“The board have asked that those conversations remain confidential and I will honour that,” Catley said. “But we will continue to talk today and as soon as we find out we will hopefully both together, the board and the police, be able to let you know where we land on that.”

The assistant police commissioner defended Webb against criticism over her public statements on the case.

“I’m grateful that we’ve removed some heartache from the family,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very surprised with the criticism the commissioner’s got – she’d been nothing but supportive and she’s given us every resource.”

– with Australian Associated Press

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Sydney Mardi Gras NSW police to march in plainclothes in parade after deal reached

NSW police to march in plainclothes at Sydney Mardi Gras after deal reached

Commissioner is ‘delighted’ by outcome but decision angers some activists in wake of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird murder investigation

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NSW police will be allowed to march in plainclothes in Saturday’s Sydney Mardi Gras after an agreement with the event’s board was reached.

After police Sen Const Beau Lamarre was charged with the murder of Luke Davies and Jesse Baird, the Mardi Gras board this week asked the force not to march in the parade for the first time since 1998.

But in a statement on Wednesday, the NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, said the police – who generally march in uniform – had agreed to march in plain clothes “in consideration of the sensitivities”.

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“I am delighted that our LGBTQIA+ officers, as well as our other police who are allies and supporters, will be allowed to march this year as they have done for the past 20 years,” Webb said.

“The Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras is an important event on the NSW police calendar and as commissioner, I am committed to continuing to strengthen the relationship between my organisation and the LGBTQIA+ community.

“I thank the Mardi Gras Board for the cordial discussions over the past few days.”

The latest decision drew a fierce reaction from members of Pride in Protest who have long advocated for police to not march in the parade. In a statement posted to social media the group said the decision had betrayed the community and accused the Mardi Gras board of “cracking under police pressure”.

“Whether in uniform or not, police participation in the Mardi Gras parade is unacceptable,” they wrote.

“The revelations of continuing incompetence and disregard for community safety, as seen in the case of officer Lamarre, are only the latest demonstration that NSW police are not suitable, deserving or welcome to take part in the queer community’s premier annual celebrations.”

David Abello, a 78er – the term used for the group of protesters who started the first Mardi Gras in 1978 – said views on police participating in the parade were varied in the community.

“Personally, I don’t mind who is in the Mardi Gras, I think its a nice idea for police to march in plain clothes,” he said. “There are people who are very against this, but there are some who think that having police march is good for the community.”

James Breko, a former board member of Mardi Gras, said “neither side got exactly what they wanted”.

“I am happy for the enthusiastic members of the force who really wanted to march are getting to do so,” he said. “Whether it’s a good idea or the police should have just had a respectful break this year I think is something we will reflect on outside of this very tragic moment post Mardi Gras.”

The NSW police minister, Yasmin Catley, told Sydney radio station 2GB she was pleased officers would be able to march, adding: “The police have been marching for 20 years, and it really has gone a long way to help their relationship [with the LGBTQI+ community] and we didn’t want to break that.”

The independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, also welcomed the news that police will march in the parade.

“This is significant step in the LGBTQ community and police working together to improve community safety,” he wrote on X. “The focus must now shift to what supports are needed to improve the wellbeing of LGBTQ people across NSW.”

The Australian federal police released a statement on Tuesday announcing its officers would not march in the parade following the request from Mardi Gras for police not to join. It has yet to confirm whether it will reverse this decision.

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What does Queensland’s mandates ruling mean for other vaccines and other states?

Explainer

What does Queensland’s Covid-19 mandates ruling mean for other vaccines and other states?

The state’s supreme court found the vaccine rules for police were unlawful and those for paramedics were ineffective. Here’s what the judgment means

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The Queensland supreme court has thrown out the state’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate for paramedics and police, on the basis of the Human Rights Act.

Guardian Australia spoke to a range of human rights experts to understand the ramifications of Tuesday’s decision.

What does the decision mean?

It means 74 named applicants to the court, who are current employees of the ambulance and police services, cannot be fired or otherwise disciplined as a result of not following the vaccine mandate.

What was the basis for the decision?

There were essentially two different reasons for the decision, depending on whether applicants worked for the police force or Queensland health.

Senior judge administrator Glenn Martin ruled that police commissioner, Katarina Carroll, didn’t follow the right process under the Human Rights Act and “failed to give proper consideration to human rights relevant to those decisions. As a result, those decisions were unlawful”.

The court’s decision was even more technical with regard to the ambulance service. That application succeeded because the health service was unable to provide sufficient evidence to show that the order was a power contained in an employment contract. The ambulance service order was not unlawful, just ineffective.

Griffith University human rights law professor Sarah Joseph described it as a “procedural” rather than “substantive” breach of the act, and a narrow decision.

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Is the decision final?

Not necessarily. It could be appealed in the supreme court of appeal. Both Queensland health and the Queensland police said on Tuesday they were considering their legal options.

How did this happen in the first place?

The applicants challenged two decisions in 2021 and 2022 by the commissioner of police, and the then director general of Queensland health, Dr John Wakefield, that staff must be vaccinated against Covid-19 or else face disciplinary action or even sacking. Both mandates were quashed, in December 2022 and September 2023, respectively.

After a 21-month wait, a joint judgment was handed down on Tuesday at the Queensland supreme court. It’s the first time a vaccine mandate has failed in court in Australia.

What does this mean for other states?

The decision is very narrow and based on the state Human Rights Act, which only applies in Queensland. It is also based entirely on the way Queensland decision-makers issued that specific mandate.

The only other state with a Human Rights Act is Victoria, which has a similar requirement for government to consider human rights when making decisions. The ACT also has a Human Rights Act.

Theoretically, lawyers in those jurisdictions could make out a similar case that their state decision-makers failed to consider human rights properly before imposing vaccination mandates.

Does it mean all vaccine mandates are illegal?

Definitely not.

In fact the court has explicitly ruled otherwise.

Queensland health has imposed all sorts of vaccine mandates on its staff for a very long time. Nurses, doctors, paramedics and even health volunteers have to be vaccinated against various diseases, ranging from tuberculosis to whooping cough, to keep their job. They still do and these rules are all still legal.

On Tuesday, the health minister, Shannon Fentiman, told media the decision did not affect the health directive imposed on the broader community of employees of Queensland health, including doctors and nurses, only employees of the ambulance service.

Martin was asked to rule that the mandate violated rights against discrimination, to equality before the law, against torture, to freedom of political thought and belief, to privacy, to life, to take part in public life and the right to liberty and security, among others. He ruled none of these rights were limited at all.

The only right that was impeded, he found, was the right not to be subjected to medical treatment without consent. Martin found public servants were coerced into vaccination because they feared loss of employment and income.

However, the state’s Human Rights Act does allow rights to be limited, the limits just need to be “demonstrably reasonable”.

Martin ruled that the restriction of that right was reasonable given the circumstances of the pandemic.

However, the act doesn’t just require a decision-maker to come to the right decision – they also have to do it the correct way, and document this process.

Some lawyers say if the police commissioner had done so, the court might have ruled a different way on the police element of the case.

Does it mean sacked police and paramedics can sue for compensation?

Billionaire businessman Clive Palmer – who says he provided millions for the successful case – said he would be “happy” to fund future legal action, potentially a class action lawsuit.

Lawyers for the police applicants also hinted at civil litigation in the future.

Human rights professor Sarah Joseph said she couldn’t predict how compensation claims would play out, but said “the chances of winning a litigation lawsuit against the government today are much bigger than they were yesterday”.

Benedict Coyne, who acted for many of the police service employees in the case, said the case would have a “significant impact” on others outside the group of litigants, including officers who were sacked as a result of the mandates.

What does this mean for the state Human Rights Act?

Human rights advocates have celebrated the outcome.

In a state without an upper house, Queensland has often been said to have an accountability deficit in its government.

It’s now clear the act is capable of acting as a check on the actions of governments.

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.

“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.

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Senator says she was trying to speak about cousin’s death in custody during Senate chaos

Lidia Thorpe says she was trying to speak about cousin’s death in custody during Senate chaos

Independent senator told to ‘sit down’ by Louise Pratt after repeated interjections that saw the chamber adjourn early

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The independent senator Lidia Thorpe says she was trying to deliver a statement from the mother of an Indigenous man who died in custody when she was barred from speaking for yelling over other senators, prompting the chamber to shut down early.

On Tuesday night the upper house erupted over which senators were granted the right to speak and how much time they were given to conclude their remarks.

Thorpe had been seeking the call and had furiously interjected a number of times while other senators delivered their speeches, prompting the acting deputy president, Louise Pratt, to demand she “sit down now”.

Thorpe continued to interject as the Labor senator Helen Polley delivered a speech on dementia and concussion, accusing Pratt of being asleep in the chair.

“Wake up, because you’ve been asleep in that chair and I have a mother who lost a son to your system,” Thorpe said.

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Pratt denied the accusation, saying she had been “listening intently” to the speeches.

Thorpe continued interjecting even after the Senate president, Sue Lines, returned to the chair, attempting to defuse the situation. Thorpe was eventually barred from raising points of order, as is usually a parliamentarian’s right.

Ultimately, the chamber’s proceedings were adjourned to prevent further escalation.

On Wednesday morning, Thorpe said she had been trying to deliver a statement from the mother of her first cousin, Josh Kerr. She added she would be talking to the government to prevent the issue around speaking times in the Senate from happening again.

Kerr, a 32-year-old Yorta Yorta and Gunnaikurnai man whose coronial inquest finished last week, died in custody in 2022.

A state coroner’s court has heard Kerr was “visibly unresponsive” for 17 minutes before receiving medical treatment, after having earlier called out “I’m dying” with no action from prison staff.

Lines labelled Thorpe’s conduct on Tuesday night as “appalling” in a statement before question time on Wednesday.

“It is never in order to yell at the chair or yell over the chair when the chair is attempting to maintain order,” she said. “It is never in order to yell at other senators.”

Thorpe delivered the speech on Wednesday shortly after midday. She called on the Albanese government to do more about Indigenous deaths in custody by implementing in full the recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody report and the 1997 Bringing Them Home report.

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New online tool reveals how much homes spend on food, care and services

New online tool reveals how much Australian aged care homes spend on food, care and services

Exclusive: Anika Wells says ‘Dollars to Care’ tool which allows users to compare homes on key metrics will ‘hold providers to account’

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Aged care residents and their families will be able to see exactly how their home spends their money on food, care and services through a new online tool the Albanese government says will hold providers to account for how they spend taxpayer money.

The government is also using increased levels of data about aged care homes to monitor whether providers are passing on the full wage rise granted to staff by the federal government.

The federal government’s “Dollars to Care” tool, which launched on Wednesday night on the My Aged Care website, allows users to compare individual homes across Australia on key care metrics and see how they fare against sector averages.

The data, which was collected by the government and has been available to the sector for some time, is being made public for the first time – with users able to see statistics including the amount of money spent on food each day, resident satisfaction and feedback from staff, whether food is prepared fresh or off-site, the average pay for nurses and care workers, the income of the facility and whether it made recent profits.

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It will also show the results of resident experience surveys including what kind of meals residents can expect each day, highlight issues that staff surveys raise as of “most concern” and “most complimented”, and outline areas the facility is focused on improving.

The aged care minister, Anika Wells, said that while most facilities were doing the right thing, “we have to shine a light on those who aren’t and take action”.

Wells said the latest tool would “hold providers to account for how they spend taxpayer money, and ultimately help people make informed decisions about their care”.

Better transparency tools were a key recommendation of the royal commission into aged care.

Government data collected quarterly shows the total amount of care given to each resident and total spending on daily care rose significantly between mid-2022 and mid-2023. The average care minutes for each resident each day rose from 187 minutes to 196 minutes over that period, with the total care labour costs also rising from $173 to $206.

The data collected by the government is also being used to monitor which homes are passing on the Fair Work Commission’s 15% pay rise. Providers who are not passing on the increased government funding meant for wage rises will be referred to aged care regulators.

The new tool will show the types of staff employed at homes such as dietitians, podiatrists, recreation workers, nurses and speech pathologists, and how much the facility spends on care for each resident. It will also reveal how much the facility spends on administration, cleaning, Covid infection control and maintenance.

Spending on aged care will again come under the microscope with the impending release of the long-awaited report from the government’s aged care taskforce, which investigated the future sustainability of the sector. The report is expected to recommend moving towards more of a user-pays model, where residents with greater wealth or means will be asked to contribute more to their care.

Anthony Albanese recently appeared to rule out changing means tests around the family home, but sources in the aged care sector said they expected changes to other settings and means tests such as around superannuation, or adjustments to the basic daily fee charges to residents.

Aged care industry sources said they expected the report to be released in mid-March, with a government response to follow some time afterward.

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New online tool reveals how much homes spend on food, care and services

New online tool reveals how much Australian aged care homes spend on food, care and services

Exclusive: Anika Wells says ‘Dollars to Care’ tool which allows users to compare homes on key metrics will ‘hold providers to account’

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

Aged care residents and their families will be able to see exactly how their home spends their money on food, care and services through a new online tool the Albanese government says will hold providers to account for how they spend taxpayer money.

The government is also using increased levels of data about aged care homes to monitor whether providers are passing on the full wage rise granted to staff by the federal government.

The federal government’s “Dollars to Care” tool, which launched on Wednesday night on the My Aged Care website, allows users to compare individual homes across Australia on key care metrics and see how they fare against sector averages.

The data, which was collected by the government and has been available to the sector for some time, is being made public for the first time – with users able to see statistics including the amount of money spent on food each day, resident satisfaction and feedback from staff, whether food is prepared fresh or off-site, the average pay for nurses and care workers, the income of the facility and whether it made recent profits.

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

It will also show the results of resident experience surveys including what kind of meals residents can expect each day, highlight issues that staff surveys raise as of “most concern” and “most complimented”, and outline areas the facility is focused on improving.

The aged care minister, Anika Wells, said that while most facilities were doing the right thing, “we have to shine a light on those who aren’t and take action”.

Wells said the latest tool would “hold providers to account for how they spend taxpayer money, and ultimately help people make informed decisions about their care”.

Better transparency tools were a key recommendation of the royal commission into aged care.

Government data collected quarterly shows the total amount of care given to each resident and total spending on daily care rose significantly between mid-2022 and mid-2023. The average care minutes for each resident each day rose from 187 minutes to 196 minutes over that period, with the total care labour costs also rising from $173 to $206.

The data collected by the government is also being used to monitor which homes are passing on the Fair Work Commission’s 15% pay rise. Providers who are not passing on the increased government funding meant for wage rises will be referred to aged care regulators.

The new tool will show the types of staff employed at homes such as dietitians, podiatrists, recreation workers, nurses and speech pathologists, and how much the facility spends on care for each resident. It will also reveal how much the facility spends on administration, cleaning, Covid infection control and maintenance.

Spending on aged care will again come under the microscope with the impending release of the long-awaited report from the government’s aged care taskforce, which investigated the future sustainability of the sector. The report is expected to recommend moving towards more of a user-pays model, where residents with greater wealth or means will be asked to contribute more to their care.

Anthony Albanese recently appeared to rule out changing means tests around the family home, but sources in the aged care sector said they expected changes to other settings and means tests such as around superannuation, or adjustments to the basic daily fee charges to residents.

Aged care industry sources said they expected the report to be released in mid-March, with a government response to follow some time afterward.

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Former Coalition government accused of ‘pork barrelling at public’s expense’ after scathing audit

Former NSW government accused of ‘pork barrelling at public’s expense’ after scathing audit

The $5bn post-pandemic spending program ‘not informed by robust research or analysis’ auditor general finds

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Labor has accused the former New South Wales Coalition government of “pork barrelling at the public’s expense” after the auditor general found the design of a $5bn scheme to funnel money into areas worst hit by Covid lockdowns “lacked integrity”.

In a report released on Wednesday, Margaret Crawford found that more than $1bn was allocated to “low or moderate merit” infrastructure projects in western Sydney as part of the massive post-pandemic spending program WestInvest.

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She found the program was “not informed by robust research or analysis” to justify the massive spend.

The fund was announced in September 2021 under the previous government to pay for “transformational” infrastructure projects across 15 local government areas in western Sydney, funded through the sale of the WestConnex motorway.

At the time, Gladys Berejiklian was the premier and Dominic Perrottet was the treasurer. Shortly thereafter, Pettottet took the top job and Matt Kean was promoted to treasurer.

The current state treasurer, Daniel Mookey, said on Wednesday the report was a “devastating indictment” on the previous government and the scheme was “a classic in the genre of pork barrelling at the public’s expense”.

“This is another example of the Liberal party playing politics with the public’s money,” he said.

The scathing audit of the scheme found the money was not evenly spread across the region and advice from the public service about the grants was not followed.

“Funding allocations through the NSW government projects round did not follow the advice of the agencies that administered the program and were not aligned with the stated objectives of the WestInvest program,” the audit found.

It also found that while the $5bn commitment was presented as a post-pandemic stimulus measure, there was “no business case or other economic analysis conducted to support consideration of the potential benefits and costs of the program”.

The government “did not have sufficient regard to the implications for the state’s credit rating” and the program was designed in the then treasurer’s office without consulting affected communities, the auditor found.

The auditor found state Treasury had been asked to provide advice on the scheme in the week before it was announced, which limited any chance for “thorough analysis”.

The scheme was split into three sections. There was $3bn for NSW government agency projects, $1.6bn for competitive grants to councils and community groups, and $400m for non-competitive grants to councils.

The auditor found many projects funded in the government projects round had “no clear link to the purpose” of the scheme, and advice from the seeing committee about the eligibility and merits of projects “was not followed consistently by the then treasurer”.

“Justifications for the funding decisions made by the treasurer were not documented,” the audit found.

It found a third of projects – nine out of the 27 – were assessed by the committee as having low or moderate merit before they were allocated combined funding of $1.1bn.

At the state election last year, the program was altered and rebranded as the Western Sydney Infrastructure Grants Program.

The auditor found the new Labor government decided not to fund 11 of the projects that had been announced previously and shifted money to 17 other projects. Fifteen of those did not have complete business cases, as required.

Addressing the media after the report’s release on Wednesday, Kean accused Mookhey of hypocrisy and rejected the claim the Coalition’s administration of WestInvest amounted to pork barrelling.

“If I had my time again, I’d do it all over,” Kean told reporters.

“I don’t think that the funding of air conditioning in classrooms in western Sydney has low merit.”

Kean suggested the responsibility for the design of the scheme lay with the senior public servants who ran the Premier’s Department and Treasury at the time, rather than the former government.

The auditor recommended that advice to cabinet from government agencies should be “clearly identified” and kept apart from advice provided about political considerations.

The government was also advised to consider whether competitive grants were the best way to achieve the purpose of the fund and to create guidelines moving forward.

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Authorities on alert as strong winds develop amid 40C heat and catastrophic conditions

Victoria fires: authorities on alert as strong winds develop amid 40C heat and catastrophic conditions

Residents across state’s west told to take action while bushfire continues to burn near Ballarat

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Authorities were on high alert for bushfires as temperatures rose across Victoria on Wednesday afternoon, with the state’s control centre warning the state was not “out of the woods”.

An emergency warning for a grass fire located at Kleins Road, Dereel was issued on Wednesday evening.

Residents of Corindhap, Dereel, Enfield, Mount Mercer, and Rokewood were told to “leave now, if you are not prepared to stay” as at 7.5opm.

Renewed calls for residents in Beaufort, Brewster, Ercildoune, Glenbrae, Langi Kal Kal, Trawalla and Waterloo to “leave now” were issued at 8pm, with an update that a bushfire at Bayindeen-Rocky-Road is “still active” and “not yet under control”.

Strong westerly winds have the potential to make fire fighting difficult, the update said. “Do not wait until the bushfire spreads closer before moving to a safer location.”

“The fire could grow significantly and may become uncontrollable.”

Catastrophic conditions had been forecast in the Wimmera region, in the state’s west, on Wednesday afternoon, while half the state was under an extreme fire danger rating. Emergency authorities had on Wednesday morning issued a final warning for residents in the state’s west to leave.

The Victorian State Control Centre spokesperson, Luke Hegarty, told the ABC that authorities were on high alert as cloud cover lifted, temperatures increased and winds picked up late Wednesday afternoon.

“We’re seeing conditions starting to develop in south-west Victoria and through the Wimmera that are matching up with what the forecast was,” he said.

“We still have a couple of hours before we settle to a point where we say we are confidently out of the woods.”

The Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Stephanie Miles said temperatures were still rising just before 5pm on Wednesday, while western Victorian had recorded “gusty conditions”.

“We were expecting some wind gusts around 60-80km/h and that’s definitely what we’ve seen so far,” she said.

“It’s probably going to stick that way until we get the westerly change and it’s probably going to come through those parts, especially around the [Bayindeen] fire, after 6pm.”

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According to the BoM, Walpeup, in north-west Victoria, hit 43.5C just before 4pm, while Hopetoun, 400km north-west of Melbourne, reached 42.6C shortly after 3.15pm.

The Country Fire Authority’s (CFA) chief officer, Jason Heffernan, on Wednesday morning asked anyone left in the area who was planning to defend their home to reconsider, stressing no houses were designed to survive catastrophic conditions.

“Unless your property is immaculately prepared and you have firefighting resources available, and that you are fit and mentally capable to sustain a long-duration firefight in protecting your own home, my strong advice to community is leave early,” he told the ABC.

A cool change was expected in central parts of Victoria after 8pm, but was predicted to bring wind gusts of up to 80km/h and dry lightning.

Authorities on Wednesday said the Bayindeen bushfire, north-west of Ballarat and about 22,000 hectares in size, had been contained, but firefighters were on alert for risks posed by windy conditions forecast for later in the day.

“There is a real risk this fire could breach containment lines and those communities could be impacted by fire or smoke or they’re cut off from essential services,” the CFA incident controller Jarrod Hayse said.

Hayse said firefighters were monitoring the perimeter of the fire, that began last Thursday and had destroyed six homes.

Authorities on Tuesday urged more than 30,000 Victorians living in the potential fire zone, between Ballarat and Ararat in the state’s west, to leave their homes overnight or by Wednesday morning.

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

Extreme fire danger was also expected for much of eastern South Australia on Wednesday, with the emergency services minister, Joe Szakacs, warning the state’s firefighters were facing some of the harshest weather this summer.

Seven South Australian districts had an extreme fire danger rating on Wednesday.

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Activists condemn four-star general rank for presumed president

Indonesia activists condemn four-star general rank for presumed president

Outgoing president confers honour on presumed successor, Prabowo Subianto, who is accused of human rights violations

Human rights experts have condemned a decision by Indonesia’s outgoing president to award the rank of honorary four-star general to his presumed successor, Prabowo Subianto, a controversial figure accused of human rights violations.

Prabowo, 72, a former son-in-law of the dictator Suharto and a special commander under his regime was dismissed from the military over allegations he was involved in kidnapping and torturing pro-democracy activists in 1998.

Prabowo, who has since softened his image by presenting himself as a harmless grandpa, is presumed to have won this month’s presidential election. His campaign was boosted by the tacit support of Indonesia’s president, Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, whose son was his running mate.

Wahyu Susilo, whose brother, the poet and activist Wiji Thukul, disappeared under Suharto’s regime, described Jokowi’s decision as “a sign that Indonesia is entering the dark ages again”.

“For victims’ families like mine, this is Jokowi’s betrayal of his political promises to resolve past human rights violations,” he said.

Jokowi said the award was “a form of appreciation as well as confirmation of one’s complete devotion to the people, nation and state”. A four-star general is Indonesia’s second-highest military rank, usually held by the officer who leads the country’s military.

Prabowo admitted in a 2014 interview with Al Jazeera that he was involved in kidnappings of activists during Suharto’s era, but said he was under orders and that his actions were legal.

Of more than 20 activists kidnapped in 1998, 13 are still missing.

Prabowo is also accused of involvement in rights abuses in Papua and Timor-Leste, which he has denied.

He was banned from entering the US for two decades over allegations of rights abuses, until he was appointed defence minister under Jokowi.

Gufron Mabruri, the executive director of the Indonesian rights group Imparsial, told the Associated Press the decision to award Prabowo with an honorary four-star title would “embarrass the honour and dignity of the Indonesian military”.

Prabowo’s campaign benefited significantly from the unofficial support of Jokowi, and the outgoing leader has been accused of interfering in the election to protect his legacy and establish a dynasty.

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for Human Rights Watch, said Jokowi was “using his presidential authorities to accumulate power for himself and his family, of course, using the military honour rule to serve his narrow interest and misleading the public about military service”.

According to unofficial tallies by polling agencies, based on millions of ballots sampled from the across the country, Prabowo secured more than 55% of the vote in on 14 February. Such counts have proved reliable in past elections.

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Rapper sued by estate of Donna Summer over ‘stealing’ I Feel Love

Kanye West sued by estate of Donna Summer over ‘stealing’ I Feel Love

Estate of late star files lawsuit claiming rapper was denied sample for Vultures album, but tried to circumvent them with interpolation

The estate of the late Donna Summer has filed a lawsuit against Kanye West and Ty Dolla $ign, alleging that the musicians “decided they would simply steal” her song I Feel Love, “and use it without permission” on their album Vultures.

The lawsuit is being brought by Bruce Sudano, Summer’s widower and executor of her estate. It states that the pair were not authorised to use I Feel Love for their song Good (Don’t Die), which has been removed from streaming services following an earlier complaint by the Summer estate.

The lawsuit states that West and Ty Dolla $ign requested to sample I Feel Love in January, before the release of Vultures on 10 February. The estate turned down the request, citing “the immense commercial value of the I Feel Love composition, but also the potential degradation to Summer’s legacy. West is known as a controversial public figure whose conduct has led numerous brands and business partners to disassociate from him … the Summer estate sought to protect the valuable intellectual property … from any public association with the negative publicity surrounding West” – a reference to how Adidas, Gap and others cut ties with West after he made antisemitic comments in 2022.

The lawsuit claims that West and Ty Dolla $ign then sought permission via Universal Music Group, but were again denied. It adds: “In the face of these repeated denials, West and co-defendants attempted to get around this roadblock by instead making an unauthorised interpolation. West and his co-defendants used the song’s iconic melody as the hook for their infringing song and essentially re-recorded almost verbatim key, instantly recognisable portions of I Feel Love using a singer soundalike to Summer, with slight changes to the lyrics (also done without permission).”

The plaintiffs claim the suit is “about more than defendants’ mere failure to pay the appropriate licensing fee for using another’s musical property. It is also about the rights of artists to decide how their works are used and presented to the public, and the need to prevent anyone from simply stealing creative works when they cannot secure the right to use them legally.”

West and Ty Dolla $ign have not commented on the lawsuit. The Guardian has requested comment via their press representative.

Vultures was beset with other issues prior to release. Ozzy Osbourne said he refused permission for West to sample Black Sabbath “because he is an antisemite and has caused untold heartache to many”; Nicki Minaj blocked the release of the song New Body which she featured on and which had previously leaked, saying: “Why would I put out a song that has been out for three years?” It was also frequently delayed from an initial 15 December release date.

Since its release, Vultures has been a commercial success, with the track Carnival currently the second-most popular song globally on Spotify.

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