The Guardian 2024-02-29 10:31:07


Assault charges to be dropped against released detainee hours after Dutton question time attack

Assault charges to be dropped against man released from indefinite detention hours after Dutton question time attack

Police say CCTV footage indicates another man, not the 44-year-old former detainee, involved in alleged sexual assault in Melbourne

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Victoria police has moved to withdraw assault charges against a man released due to the high court’s ruling on indefinite detention just hours after Peter Dutton used the incident to launch a question time attack on the Albanese government, linking it to the Dunkley byelection.

On Thursday Victoria police revealed a 44-year-old Richmond man who had been released as a result of the politically controversial court ruling had been charged with sexual assault, stalking and two counts of unlawful assault.

The charges were weaponised in question time by the opposition leader, who noted the government was yet to make an application to re-detain any of the 149 people released as a result of the high court’s NZYQ decision.

The arrest and charges followed “two incidents in Richmond on [Tuesday] 27 February 2024, where a woman was allegedly assaulted and another woman allegedly stalked”, Victoria police said in its original statement.

But later on Thursday afternoon, police revealed they had “since notified the Richmond man’s legal representation and the process has commenced to formally withdraw the charges”.

“Detectives today returned to an address in Richmond and identified a man on CCTV who they now believe is the person who was involved in the incidents,” Victoria police said in a new statement.

“That man has not been arrested at this time. The investigation into the two incidents in Richmond remains ongoing.”

On Thursday evening, Victoria police commander Mark Galliott, apologised for the error, and said it was too soon to say whether the man will be compensated.

“I wouldn’t say it was a blunder, the investigators had sufficient information to make the arrest. “There was an error in arresting the person and remanding him and as I said, as soon as we found out about that we’ve rectified it. We apologise sincerely for what’s occurred.

Galliot said that the GPS data from the man’s ankle bracelets, which released detainees have been required to wear indefinitely, and CCTV data when corroborated together had placed the man at the scene. However investigators have found he was not connect with the incident.

“The person identified and the 44-year-old male are very much alike in their appearance,” Galliot said.

“It was race, age, height, clothing at the time and the quality of the CCTV at the time and better CCTV today, and the fact that we’re able to go to a wider area and actually track this person’s movements satisfied the investigators today that another person was involved.”

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Guardian Australia understands that there is nothing to indicate that the second man now believed to be involved in the incidents is a former detainee released by the high court ruling.

Earlier, the immigration minister, Andrew Giles, told the House of Representatives that although he would not “comment on the individual case” he noted media reports that the man – against who charges have been withdrawn – “was subject to both electronic monitoring and curfew, as well as other strict visa conditions”.

Giles said that “because of the strict visa conditions … the location of every individual in this cohort is known”.

Dutton told the house that Giles “is a disaster”, arguing his decisions have “put Australians at risk and women in Victoria are alleged to have been sexually assaulted”.

The prime minister, Anthony Albanese, countered with a series of quotes from Coalition frontbenchers accepting the decision of the high court, which was that non-citizens cannot be indefinitely detained where it is not practical to deport them.

“I’ll tell you what strength is not,” he said. “Strength is not asking for responses that would endanger judicial processes.”

Asked if Giles enjoyed his full confidence, Albanese replied: “Yes.”

Labor and the Coalition believe the Dunkley byelection, in Melbourne’s south-east, is neck and neck.

In addition to the merits of the Labor candidate, Jodie Belyea, who is up against the Frankston mayor, Nathan Conroy, the government has campaigned on cost-of-living relief, particularly its $359bn tax package delivering bigger tax cuts to low- and middle-income earners on less than $147,000.

Labor has come under attack from rightwing campaign group Advance over cost of living, which is regarded as voters’ number one issue, and the release of people from detention due to the NZYQ decision.

Both major parties are engaged in expectations management, with the prime minister claiming since the Hawke era the average against the government in byelections is 7%, which the Coalition disputes. Labor’s Peta Murphy held the seat on a 6.3% margin.

Dutton said since the second world war “the average swing against the government in a federal byelection is 3.6%, about half of what the prime minister is claiming” while the average swing against a first-term government is 1.5%.

“No first-term government has lost a seat in a byelection since world war two,” he told 2GB radio.

Dutton noted Victoria was “traditionally a tough market for the Liberal party”.

“We would expect a swing of about 3% in a seat like that … 3% would be a big outcome, it would be bad for the government.”

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Alex Turnbull says he may have been targeted in espionage attempt revealed by Asio

Alex Turnbull says he may have been targeted in espionage attempt revealed by Asio

Spy agency says former Australian politician recruited by foreign regime once ‘proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member’ into their orbit

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The son of former Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull says he may have been a target of suspected Chinese intelligence agents, as the federal government urged politicians to “wake up” to spying threats.

Australia’s domestic intelligence agency sparked an intense round of political intrigue after alleging that a former Australian politician “sold out their country, party and former colleagues” after being recruited by spies for a foreign regime.

The Asio boss, Mike Burgess, said this occurred “several years ago” and he did not name the country or the individual.

“At one point, the former politician even proposed bringing a prime minister’s family member into the spies’ orbit,” Burgess said in his annual threat assessment speech on Wednesday evening.

“Fortunately that plot did not go ahead but other schemes did.”

Alex Turnbull, whose father was prime minister from 2015 to 2018, told news.com.au he did not know whether he was the family member referred to by Burgess, but said his experience fit that account.

He told the outlet that he was contacted around 2017 and offered equity in a company.

“It was just so brazen,” Alex Turnbull told news.com.au. “My reaction was to express no interest and forward the details immediately to the authorities.”

Alex Turnbull subsequently told Guardian Australia it would be good for Asio to train the family of politicians to be alert to foreign interference.

“Inoculation is cheap and good. Not everyone is going to be as attuned to the risks,” he said.

“If you spend your whole life in Australia, this stuff is pretty foreign and not something you normally have to think about. Asio needs to sit people down for a half day of training.”

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by Alex Turnbull.

The former federal treasurer Joe Hockey had said earlier that it was it is “absurd” that the former politician who “sold out” to a foreign regime was able to remain anonymous..

“I can only think that the head of Asio was fully aware that there would be calls for that person to be named, because it is absolutely inconceivable that you would have a former politician representing their community, representing the country, who then goes and engages with a foreign adversary, and somehow they’re allowed to walk off into the sunset without having their name or their reputation revealed,” Hockey told ABC radio.

Hockey called on Burgess to name the ex-politician immediately and said if he didn’t, he was allowing all former and current politicians to be smeared and would risk creating distrust among Australia’s allies.

“The idea that you can make an allegation like that and say nothing, pretend it didn’t happen, is absolutely ridiculous. It’s crazy, and it’s unsustainable,” Hockey said.

But the minister for home affairs, Clare O’Neil, supported Burgess’s judgment in not naming the former politician and said the speech aimed to “elevate public understanding about what foreign interference is and what it looks like”.

Responding to Hockey, O’Neil said she was “not remotely offended by what the director general has shared with the public” because it was “very important political leaders, business leaders and, in fact, ordinary Australians understand they are likely to be the targets of this behaviour”.

“The director general is trying to encourage politicians – and I’m trying to encourage politicians – to wake up and realise this is a real threat to our country,” she told ABC TV.

The shadow minister for home affairs, James Paterson, told reporters that the alleged conduct occurred “before the passage of the espionage and foreign interference legislation in 2018, which means they couldn’t be charged for offences because it was not retrospective”.

Asked on Wednesday night to explain the consequences for the former politician and why they were not named, Burgess said: “We’re a rule-of-law country and if they’re not doing it now they’re not breaking the law.”

Burgess said authorities would investigate “if we see them go active again”.

“Personally, I don’t think they’ll be stupid enough to repeat what they’ve done in the past,” Burgess said.

In Senate question time on Thursday, Malcolm Roberts asked the government to name the individual.

Roberts complained that the individual may still have access to Parliament House, although Burgess has not made clear what level of government the former politician was elected to.

The government’s acting Senate leader, Katy Gallagher, said the government respected Burgess’ judgment and “he has our 100% support”.

“If he were to choose to name an individual, that’s a matter for him,” Gallagher told the Senate.

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The opposition leader, Peter Dutton, backed the call for more identifying information to be released, arguing that it was “pretty rough” to “besmirch” all former MPs.

“If you’re putting that detail out there, as Mr Burgess has done, I think it’s incumbent to give a little bit more criteria, a little bit more of a hint about who the person is because it’s unfair on a lot former MPs who are patriotic, as 99.9% on both sides are,” Dutton told 2GB Radio.

“If there’s one who is not, frankly, that person should be outed and shamed.”

The Labor minister Anika Wells said there might be “legal issues” that precluded Burgess from naming the ex-politician.

“It is a glimpse of the sophistication with which they [foreign spies] are all operating now and we are all, clearly, going to have to be far more vigilant,” she told Nine’s Today show.

AAP contributed to this report.

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Mother condemns murderer Luay Sako’s ‘outrageous’ sentence and vows to fight to keep him behind bars

Celeste Manno’s mother condemns murderer Luay Sako’s ‘outrageous’ sentence and vows to fight to keep him behind bars

Sako avoids life sentence for stabbing former colleague to death at her Melbourne home after stalking and harassing her

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The mother of Melbourne woman Celeste Manno, who was stalked and viciously stabbed to death while sleeping in her bed, has vowed to fight to keep her daughter’s murderer behind bars after he avoided a life sentence.

Luay Sako, 39, was sentenced in the Victorian supreme court on Thursday to a minimum of 30 years in prison. He pleaded guilty last year to murdering his former colleague in 2020. The killing had followed a campaign of stalking and harassment of Manno, 23, that had been carried out over about 18 months.

Speaking outside court, Manno’s mother, Aggie Di Mauro, said she hoped the Director of Public Prosecutions and the court of appeal “recognised true justice in this case demands a life sentence”.

“It’s outrageous, absolutely unbelievable, that the court decided to grant him mercy even though he showed Celeste none,” she said.

“Quite clearly, his right to mercy was more important than her right to life.”

A visibly angry Di Mauro said her daughter was an “innocent young woman” who had “done nothing to him [Sako]”.

She said anything less than a life sentence was a “grave injustice” to Manno and “absolutely fails the community’s expectations in this case”.

Justice Jane Dixon said Sako carried out the murder of Manno with “chilling efficiency” and had committed an “appalling crime”. She said he expressed no remorse about the murder.

“Crimes such as this are profoundly disturbing for all to hear about in the community and must be denounced,” she said.

She told the court Sako’s offence did not warrant life imprisonment but a “very stern sentence”, triggering murmurs through the court room.

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“I have kept in mind the devastating impact of your offence on Celeste’s family and friends … but your psychiatric condition at the time of the offending reduces your moral culpability,” she said.

Dixon said Sako’s extreme personality disorder and major depressive disorder “caused a significant impairment” of his mental functioning at the time of the offence. But she said he was capable of knowing the difference between “right and wrong”.

She said his prospects for rehabilitation were limited, but could be improved with adequate psychiatric treatment over the lengthy sentence.

Dixon sentenced Sako to 36 years in jail and said he must serve at least 30 years before he could apply for parole.

She described Manno as an “an exceptional young woman who until her untimely death had the world at her feet”.

“Celeste’s family and friends are unable to fathom losing her in this horrific and senseless way,” she said.

During a plea hearing last month, Di Mauro shouted at her daughter’s killer, calling him a gutless coward.

The court had heard Di Mauro had been sleeping in another room when Sako broke into their Melbourne home in the early hours of 16 November 2020.

She woke to the sound of Sako leaving the property, and ran to the bedroom to find her daughter’s lifeless body.

She previously told the court she “desperately” tried to bring her daughter back.

Sako had worked with Manno at a Serco call centre in Melbourne’s north-east for only a few months before he was fired for performance issues.

Dixon said Sako became “infatuated” with Manno despite the feelings not being reciprocated.

Sako created multiple Instagram accounts to circumvent Manno’s attempt to block him from contacting her, the court heard. The messages, in which he professed his love, became increasingly vulgar and degrading over a 12-month period, the court heard.

Manno went to police and obtained an interim intervention order against Sako, but it did not stop him from contacting her. His contact with Manno ceased when he was charged with breaching the order.

On the night before her death, Manno posted a photo of her boyfriend on Instagram. Dixon said that photo was the final trigger for Sako.

On 16 November, Sako drove to her Mernda home, scaled a fence and smashed her bedroom window with a hammer.

Breaking into the room where Manno slept, he stabbed her multiple times with a kitchen knife, the court heard.

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Jeremy Rockliff pledges to open protected native forests to logging

Tasmanian premier Jeremy Rockliff pledges to open protected native forests to logging

Liberal leader’s plan criticised by political opponents, environmentalists and industry representatives

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The Tasmanian Liberal party has promised to open 40,000 hectares of protected native forests to logging if re-elected next month, prompting accusations it is playing politics with forestry workers’ jobs and planning to accelerate damage to the environment.

The premier, Jeremy Rockliff, said the Liberals would allow logging in 27 areas that had been protected since a 2012 “forest peace deal” struck by the timber industry, conservation groups and unions. The areas are in the state’s north-east and north-west.

Rockliff contrasted his plan with the bans on native forest logging introduced this year in Victoria and Western Australia after the industry became environmentally and economically unviable. He said Tasmania would boost supply of native forest sawlogs to local sawmillers by up to 10%.

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The plan was criticised by political opponents, environmentalists and some industry representatives. A forestry lobby group said the plan was disappointing, nothing like what it had asked for and accused the government of using the industry as a “political football”.

The Liberals claimed power in 2014 promising to tear up the forests peace deal, which was struck in an effort to end the decades-long conflict known as the “Tasmanian forest wars”. The party designated 356,000 hectares of forests to be protected under the deal as a “wood bank” that could be accessed in future.

Those areas – branded as “future potential production forest” – have not been logged. Timber business leaders have repeatedly warned attempts to fell the trees could reignite widescale protests and market campaigns that would damage the industry.

In a statement on Thursday, Rockliff said the Liberal party’s intervention in 2014 had “rescued” the areas from being “permanently locked up”, and set them aside “for a rainy day”.

“That rainy day has now arrived,” Rockliff said. “The Liberals are the strongest supporters of Tasmania’s high-value native forestry industry.”

Interviewed on ABC radio, the state’s resources minister, Felix Ellis, said the government had been working with “a range of different people from the industry” in developing the policy, but repeatedly declined to name a Tasmanian sawmiller that backed its position and would take timber from the forest.

The Labor leader, Rebecca White, said that nobody in the industry had publicly backed the plan, suggesting it had been “cooked up overnight” and designed to reignite the forest wars. Labor said it would release a forestry policy “in the coming days”.

The Tasmanian Greens leader, Rosalie Woodruff, said the Liberal policy was appalling but not surprising, and that government-backed logging had pushed endangered species such as the swift parrot towards extinction.

She said the ALP must say whether it supported protecting high conservation-value native forests or the Liberals’ plan to have them logged. “There’s no avoiding this question for Labor,” she said.

John Tucker, a conservative independent MP who quit the Liberal party in the last term of parliament, said Rockliff’s plan would “not deliver one extra log to any mill in Tasmania” and would put native forestry jobs at risk by inviting a backlash. He said the announcement was “a cruel hoax designed to deceive voters”.

“It ignores the market power of major retailers, which was a crucial factor in the agreement reached in 2012,” he said.

The government policy follows projections suggesting a drop in available native forest timber for sawmills after 2027. Nearly 90% of the timber produced in Australia comes from plantations. Tucker said the hardwood timber industry had been trying to secure access to sawlogs from plantations, but the premier was not interested. “The industry is facing a very bleak future,” he said.

The Tasmanian Forest Products Association, a lobby group, said the plan was disappointing and accused the government of using the industry as a political football during an election campaign. Its chief executive, Nick Steel, said some of the area in question was not suitable for forestry, and called for “a full examination of the land” with input from forestry, Indigenous groups and environmental agencies.

Matthew Torenius, a spokesperson for the Tasmanian Sawmillers Association, said the organisation had reservations about the policy and hoped the Liberals would provide more information.

Bob Brown, the former Greens leader and longtime activist, who was recently arrested for trespass in a logging zone, said the policy “may see me, for one, spending time in jail for peacefully defending those forests and their wildlife”.

An EMRS poll of 1,000 Tasmanians released on Wednesday suggested the Liberals were most likely to be in a position to form a government after the 23 March election, but could struggle to win a majority of seats. The Liberals had 39% support, Labor 26%, independents 14%, the Greens 12% and the Jacqui Lambie Network 9%.

The lower house is expanding from 25 to 35 MPs, with seven to be elected in each of the state’s multi-member electorates.

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Collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed, court finds

Collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed, court finds

Youpla Group schemes, formerly known as Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, left thousands families unable to pay for funerals

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A collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed when that was not the case, according to a full court decision handed down on Thursday.

The Youpla Group schemes, formerly known as the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF), failed in 2022, leaving thousands of mainly low-income families unable to pay for funerals.

Customers who bought the plans paid fortnightly premiums so that their family members would be covered for funeral expenses, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic), which pursued the case.

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A judge previously imposed a $1.2m penalty on ACBF for wrongly telling plan holders that they would receive a lump sum payment of their chosen benefit amount. The court found last year that the scheme was only ever designed to reimburse funeral-related expenses up to the benefit amount and upon production of proof that those expenses had been incurred.

The decision of the full court on Thursday was triggered by an Asic appeal. The judgment means ACBF was also found to have misrepresented to Aboriginal consumers that it was Aboriginal owned or managed.

The trial judge will now consider an appropriate penalty.

The Asic deputy chair, Sarah Court, said on Thursday the regulator took the case because of the harm caused to Aboriginal families.

“Today’s decision provides some formal acknowledgment of that harm and will be a deterrent to anyone who tries to mislead Aboriginal consumers about whether a business is Aboriginal owned or managed,” Court said.

The federal government has set up a financial support program for the thousands of people affected by the collapse of the scheme.

The funeral insurance scheme used marketing materials in the distinctive red, black and yellow colours of the Aboriginal flag, and were active at community events and conducted door-to-door sales.

The corporate regulator has also started civil proceedings against five former directors and officers of ACBF and Youpla, alleging breaches of their duties.

Those proceedings are chiefly concerned with the scheme’s alleged use of an offshore insurer, the Vanuatu-based Crown, which Asic said was controlled by two of its directors.

Asic is arguing that the size of the Crown policies weighed on the funeral scheme’s financial position. It also alleges that by continuing to insure with Crown, there was a risk that the funeral scheme would be left with insufficient reserves to meet ongoing liabilities to pay death benefits to members.

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Collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed, court finds

Collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed, court finds

Youpla Group schemes, formerly known as Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund, left thousands families unable to pay for funerals

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

A collapsed funeral fund misrepresented itself as Aboriginal owned or managed when that was not the case, according to a full court decision handed down on Thursday.

The Youpla Group schemes, formerly known as the Aboriginal Community Benefit Fund (ACBF), failed in 2022, leaving thousands of mainly low-income families unable to pay for funerals.

Customers who bought the plans paid fortnightly premiums so that their family members would be covered for funeral expenses, according to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (Asic), which pursued the case.

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

A judge previously imposed a $1.2m penalty on ACBF for wrongly telling plan holders that they would receive a lump sum payment of their chosen benefit amount. The court found last year that the scheme was only ever designed to reimburse funeral-related expenses up to the benefit amount and upon production of proof that those expenses had been incurred.

The decision of the full court on Thursday was triggered by an Asic appeal. The judgment means ACBF was also found to have misrepresented to Aboriginal consumers that it was Aboriginal owned or managed.

The trial judge will now consider an appropriate penalty.

The Asic deputy chair, Sarah Court, said on Thursday the regulator took the case because of the harm caused to Aboriginal families.

“Today’s decision provides some formal acknowledgment of that harm and will be a deterrent to anyone who tries to mislead Aboriginal consumers about whether a business is Aboriginal owned or managed,” Court said.

The federal government has set up a financial support program for the thousands of people affected by the collapse of the scheme.

The funeral insurance scheme used marketing materials in the distinctive red, black and yellow colours of the Aboriginal flag, and were active at community events and conducted door-to-door sales.

The corporate regulator has also started civil proceedings against five former directors and officers of ACBF and Youpla, alleging breaches of their duties.

Those proceedings are chiefly concerned with the scheme’s alleged use of an offshore insurer, the Vanuatu-based Crown, which Asic said was controlled by two of its directors.

Asic is arguing that the size of the Crown policies weighed on the funeral scheme’s financial position. It also alleges that by continuing to insure with Crown, there was a risk that the funeral scheme would be left with insufficient reserves to meet ongoing liabilities to pay death benefits to members.

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Aboriginal man ‘very scared’ of hospital before fatal misdiagnosis, inquest hears

Aboriginal man ‘very scared’ of hospital before fatal misdiagnosis, inquest hears

Junior doctor says he would have treated Ricky Hampson Jr differently had he known he was Indigenous because it’s a ‘more vulnerable’ population

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An Indigenous man who died after being wrongly diagnosed with a drug-related condition once wrote to a sick relative saying he didn’t visit because he was “really scared” of hospitals, an inquest has been told.

Ricky Hampson Jr, known to his family and referred to throughout the inquest as Dougie, died on 16 August 2021, from two perforated duodenal ulcers less than 24 hours after being discharged from Dubbo hospital in western NSW.

The 36-year-old Kamilaroi-Dunghutti man went to the emergency department on 14 August, writhing in pain after feeling a popping sensation in his abdomen.

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Emergency doctor Sokol Nushaj has told the inquest he misdiagnosed Dougie with cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome.

The condition can be seen in cannabis users and generally features vomiting and nausea, accompanied by abdominal pain.

Deputy state coroner Erin Kennedy will consider whether racism and prejudice were factors in his treatment.

Jamee McBride was the overnight emergency registrar on 14 August, managing as many as 65 patients during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

McBride said Nushaj, who was his senior colleague, mentioned the diagnosis of the drug-related syndrome in his handover.

The junior doctor said he did not know Dougie was Indigenous and he would have approached treatment differently if he did.

“We’re all taught and aware that Indigenous people are a more vulnerable population,” he told the inquest in Dubbo on Thursday.

“But also, personally, for me being Indigenous, I understand the complexities of being an Indigenous person seeking healthcare.”

Callan O’Neill, the barrister for some of the Hampson family, said Dougie wrote to a sick relative in 2017 apologising for not visiting because he was “really scared” of hospitals.

McBride said that was consistent with the experience of Aboriginal people and it was important for health staff to know if someone is Indigenous.

Dubbo hospital has since introduced an icon that appears on an Indigenous patient’s computerised records.

The use of the icon led to small changes, but challenges remained, McBride said.

“There seems to be a lack of understanding and awareness for what it means for an Indigenous person to present to a hospital,” he said.

“That level of fear that exists in our community, the mistrust, the lack of trust or no trust in the hospital system (is) quite a complex topic that stems back to the history of this country.”

Earlier in the week, Nushaj acknowledged he made a mistake when diagnosing Dougie, particularly because he did not have the key symptom of vomiting.

“It is a matter of deep regret,” he said.

The doctor said “cognitive bias” led to the misdiagnosis because he observed an agitated patient and closed his mind to other alternatives.

“It’s just the brain recognising the pattern when the patient came in,” Nushaj said.

Some members of the Hampson family walked out of the courtroom when Nushaj apologised on Wednesday.

The inquest continues.

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Firms say new standards will make it harder for AI to protect online safety

Tech firms say new Australian standards will make it harder for AI to protect online safety

The standards target generative AI’s misuse potential but Microsoft says its ability to flag problematic material could be hurt too

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Tech companies say new Australian safety standards will inadvertently make it harder for generative AI systems to detect and prevent online child abuse and pro-terrorism material.

Under two mandatory standards aimed at child safety released in draft form by the regulator last year, the eSafety commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, proposed providers detect and remove child-abuse material and pro-terrorism material “where technically feasible”, as well as disrupt and deter new material of that nature.

The standards cover a variety of technologies, including websites, cloud storage services, text messages and chat apps. They also cover high-impact generative AI services and open-source machine learning models.

In a submission to the consultation on the standards published on Thursday, WeProtect Global Alliance, a non-profit consortium of more than 100 governments and 70 companies targeting child sexual exploitation and abuse online, highlighted the nature of the problem eSafety is trying to address. It said open-source AI is already being used to produce child abuse material and deepfakes, and the proposed standards capture the right platforms and services.

“By focusing on the potential for misuse, the threshold reflects the reality that even machine learning and artificial intelligence models with limited direct exposure to sensitive data or datasets containing illicit data may still be misused to create illegal content, such as ‘synthetic’ child sexual abuse material and sexual deepfakes.”

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But tech companies including Microsoft, Meta and Stability AI said their technologies were being developed with guardrails in place to prevent them being used in such a way.

Microsoft warned that the standards, as drafted, could limit the effectiveness of AI safety models being used to detect and flag child abuse or pro-terror material.

“To ensure that AI models and safety systems (such as classifiers) can be trained to detect and flag such content requires that the AI is exposed to such content and evaluation processes are put in place to measure and mitigate risks,” Microsoft said.

“Entirely ‘clean’ training data may reduce the effectiveness of such tools and reduce the likelihood they operate with precision and nuance.

“One of the most promising elements of AI tooling for content moderation is advanced AI’s ability to assess context – without training data that supports such nuanced assessment, we risk losing the benefits of such innovation.”

Stability AI similarly warned that AI would play a large role in online moderation, and overly broad definitions could make it harder to determine what must be picked up in order to comply with the proposed standards.

Facebook’s parent company Meta said while its Llama 2 model had safety tools and responsible use guides, it would be difficult to enforce safeguards when the tool is downloaded.

“It is not possible for us to suspend provision of Llama 2 once it has been downloaded nor terminate an account, or to deter, disrupt, detect, report or remove content from models that have been downloaded,” the company said.

Google recommended that AI not be included in the standards and instead be considered wholly as part of the current government review of the Online Safety Act and the Basic Online Safety Expectations.

The tech companies also echoed comments made by Apple last week that the standards must explicitly state that proposals to scan cloud and message services “where technically feasible” will not compromise encryption, and technical feasibility will cover more than simply the cost to a company to develop such technology.

In a statement, Inman Grant said the standards would not require industry to break or weaken encryption, monitor texts or indiscriminately scan large amounts of personal data, and the commissioner was now considering potential amendments to clarify this point.

“Fundamentally, eSafety does not believe industry should be exempt from responsibility for tackling illegal content being hosted and shared freely on their platforms. eSafety notes some large end-to-end encrypted messaging services are already taking steps detect this harmful content,” she said.

Final versions of the standards will be tabled in parliament for consideration later this year, Inman Grant said.

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Family and friends to honour Jesse Baird and Luke Davies at Sydney vigil

‘Light and love’: family and friends to honour Jesse Baird and Luke Davies at Sydney vigil

Darlinghurst event will celebrate lives of former TV presenter and Qantas flight attendant who were allegedly murdered by Sen Const Beau Lamarre

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The grieving families of Jesse Baird and Luke Davies will join friends at a vigil to honour the men as Sydney’s LGBTQ+ community attempts to come to terms with their alleged murders.

Friends of 26-year-old Baird – an AFL umpire and former television presenter – and 29-year-old Davies – a Qantas cabin attendant – organised Friday evening’s memorial event in Darlinghurst’s Green Park with the blessing of the men’s families.

“Thank you to everyone who has reached out for a community vigil for Luke and Jesse,” said New South Wales independent MP Alex Greenwich, who helped secure use of the park, adding that condolence books will be available to sign at the event.

Separately, a floral tribute was continuing to expand at Baird’s Paddington home where the couple were allegedly shot and killed by serving police officer Beau Lamarre 10 days ago. Flowers overflowed from the terrace’s front steps on to the leafy street in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

On Thursday, two men – who had flown from Brisbane but did not want to be named – paid their respects at the Paddington site where their close friend Davies was allegedly killed.

“He was the love of our friendship group,” one of them told Guardian Australia. “He was the light and love and laughter of everyone around him. He was a humble, beautiful man and he was a brother to many.”

Davies had worked with Tigerair Australia for seven years before he joined Qantas, the friend said. The airline ceased operations in late 2020.

“Tiger was his family. He touched so many people. He just had this thing about him,” the friend said.

Among the tributes left outside Baird’s home were scores of bright bouquets and candles. There was an AFL shirt and a maroon Qantas uniform scarf. Small Qantas and Tigerair model planes were nestled among the flowers.

One card, signed “A neighbour”, echoed the sadness of many: “Terribly sorry that your lives have been taken so young. Impossible to imagine the grief of your families. RIP together.”

Attached to a bunch of sun-wilted flowers, another read: “Lukey and Jesse. Rest in peace boys. We will miss you. So much.”

The alleged double murder has affected many beyond the pair’s immediate friendship group.

A bunch of flowers was left at the Paddington terrace with two mini bottles of Smirnoff vodka, balloons and a card that stated: “I didn’t know you guys but the love and legacy adored by your loved ones will be cherished for eternity.”

Qantas will honour former employee Davies on their Mardi Gras float on Saturday night. NSW police officers will not wear uniforms when they march after striking a deal with event organisers.

After Lamarre was charged with the alleged murders of Baird and Davies, the Mardi Gras board initially asked the force not to march in the parade for the first time since 1998.

The NSW police commissioner, Karen Webb, said on Wednesday the force had agreed to march in plain clothes “in consideration of the sensitivities”.

The Australian federal police has confirmed that its officers will not be participating in Saturday’s parade.

“The AFP is pleased NSW police and organisers of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade have found a way forward for this year’s march,” an AFP spokesperson said.

“After careful consideration, the AFP will not march in this year’s parade, however it is likely our members will continue to cheer on the sidelines and will participate in other events.”

Advocacy group Pride in Protest has organised a rally on Friday night after the vigil. The event at Taylor Square – the centre of the weekend Mardi Gras celebrations – will call for an end to police violence.

“We need justice for Jesse, for Luke … and for every victim of the police,” protest spokesperson Evan Van Zijl said on Thursday.

On Tuesday, about 60 people gathered at Bronte beach to hold a silent vigil for the two men after their bodies were discovered in surfboard bags hidden on a rural property at Bungonia about 160km south-west of Sydney.

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Transnistria appeals to Russia for ‘protection’, reviving fears for breakaway region

Transnistria appeals to Russia for ‘protection’, reviving fears for Moldova breakaway region

US says it is closely watching situation in key region on Ukraine border after officials asked Moscow for help against the government in Moldova

The US has said it is closely watching the situation in the breakaway Moldovan region of Transnistria, after pro-Russian officials in the territory appealed to Moscow for “protection”.

Transnistria, which borders war-stricken Ukraine to the east, has maintained autonomy from Moldova for three decades with support from Russia, which has more than a thousand troops stationed there since a brief war in 1992.

Since Moscow began its full-scale assault on Ukraine, Chișinău has been concerned the Kremlin could use Transnistria to open a new front in the south-west, in the direction of Odesa.

The request for Russia to help Transnistria’s economy withstand Moldovan “pressure” was made after a meeting of hundreds of officials in the unrecognised region.

The resolution came a day before the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, on Thursday makes his annual address to Russian lawmakers and as Ukraine suffers setbacks on the battlefield. There are suggestions Putin might bring up the Transnistrian request in his speech and express support for the region.

Moldova’s pro-European government dismissed the appeal as a propaganda event to gain headlines.

The region, long seen as a potential flashpoint with Russia in Europe, held a “congress of deputies of all levels” after Moldova said it would require Transnistrian companies to pay import duties to the central budget from January.

At the meeting, the congress passed a resolution saying it would appeal to both houses of Russia’s parliament “with a request to implement measures to protect [Transnistria] in the face of increasing pressure from Moldova”.

Russian officials responded by saying that one of its “priorities” was to protect the thin sliver of land, which has been de facto controlled by pro-Russian forces since the collapse of the Soviet Union but is internationally recognised as part of Moldova.

US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Wednesday: “Given Russia’s increasingly aggressive role in Europe, we are watching Russia’s actions in Transnistria and the broader situation there very closely.”

After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, tensions surged around the separatist region, which says it has 220,000 Russian citizens. Relations between Moldova and Russia have also frayed as the government in Chișinău has steered a pro-European course.

Moldova’s president, Maia Sandu, in Albania for a summit of south-east European countries, said her country remained committed to a peaceful resolution of the Transnistrian conflict. “What the government is doing today is making small steps for the economic reintegration of the country,” she said.

Polish prime minister Donald Tusk said tensions in Transnistria were dangerous for the region. The problem “is not a new one”, he said, adding that the “threat of Russian intervention or at least some provocation there is something permanent”.

The call for help from Moscow has fuelled comparisons with February 2022, when Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine called for protection against what they said were relentless attacks and shelling by Kyiv’s forces.

Russia and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Frustrated fans say they’re still waiting for refund to delayed Australian shows

Frustrated Donald Trump Jr fans say they’re still waiting for refund to delayed Australian shows

Ticket holders for postponed 2023 Brisbane and Melbourne events accuse organiser of not responding to emails

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Some Australian fans who paid for tickets to Donald Trump Jr’s Australian tour in 2023 are still waiting for refunds, with one fan saying the organiser has failed to respond to emails for close to a month.

The eldest son of the former US president and Republican frontrunner for the 2024 US presidential election was due to speak at events in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne in July last year but the event was postponed to September amid claims of difficulty securing a visa.

Organisers said in September that the event had been postponed because of a “scheduling conflict” with Trump Jr to December. In early December, ticket holders received another email stating the event would be moved to 2024.

Brian, a fan who bought two general admission tickets for the Queensland show for $190, said the company had not responded since the end of January.

“Now it’s just incommunicado … there’s nothing,” he said.

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Brian said he has sent multiple email refund requests but they have gone unanswered. In the last communication on 30 January from the organisation, seen by Guardian Australia, the organisation said: “We’ll be in touch when your refund has been processed.”

Since then, Brian has attempted to contact the organisers, as well as the ticket sellers, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), but has had no luck in getting a refund.

Customers had also tried to contact the organisers on their social media accounts.

“My cancelled Donald Trump jr ticket from May still hasn’t been refunded. It’s been 8 months now and I’ve sent multiple emails to them,” another customer on Facebook posted on Turning Point Australia’s Facebook page in January.

One signatory to a Change.org petition earlier this month claimed they had been attempting to get a refund for months but had no luck.

Turning Point Australia has not been posting on its social media accounts since November last year. Its founder, the rightwing influencer Joel Jammal, has not posted on Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, YouTube, X/Twitter or TikTok since November.

The Turning Point Australia website also no longer has a contact form. The site announcing the Trump Jr tour now says it is a “Gavin McInnes and Tommy Robinson” tour site that is currently being updated.

Jammal told Guardian Australia via email he is in the process of working through Trump jr’s availability for this year, and the logistics for venues.

“We will be making an announcement in March regarding this,” he said.

He put the responsibility for ticketing on the ticketing companies, saying all money was held by those organisations.

“We have had several complaints from ticketholders that ticketing agencies are being slow in refunding tickets, and we are doing our best to investigate each case,” he said. “We have given each request an undertaking that their case will be dealt with and are holding the ticketing agencies to account on each case. We have successfully resolved and refunded over 2,000 individual cases to date.”

Ticketek was responsible for sales for the Sydney show, while a US-based company, Ticketbud, managed the other two shows. It is understood that Ticketek has either processed refunds or is in communication with those customers who had bought tickets to the Sydney show.

The Ticketek event is no longer listed, while the Melbourne Ticketbud event is still online, but listed for the December 2023 date.

Ticketbud did not respond to a request for comment.

Brian said he did not blame Trump Jr for the difficulty in obtaining a refund. Guardian Australia has been unable to contact Trump Jr.

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